There has been an interesting discussion going on that began with a little mockery of Obama’s propensity for offering collective apologies around the world for various things out of the American past or present. I am a big proponent of apologies- but they must be prudent and truly repentant- not some mixed-motive posturing like former President Clinton seemed inclined. A great Catholic example of what I am seeking is found in a great book entitled “Guatemala Never Again!”. This is no Leftist diatribe, this is (REMHI) the Recovery of Historical Memory Project. This is the Official Report of the Human Rights Office, Archdiocese of Guatemala. Let me quote from the back cover:
“As a church, we collectively and responsibly assumed the task of breaking the silence that thousands of war victims have kept for years. We opened up the possibility for them to talk, to have their say, to tell their stories of suffering and pain, so they might feel liberated from the burden that has been weighing down on them for so many years.”
“With these words, on April 24, 1998, Bishop Juan Gerardi, coordinator of the Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese of Guatemala, released an historic study of human rights abuses in Guatemala, the work of the church’s Recovery of Historical Memory project. Two days later, Bishop Gerardi was murdered by unknown assailants.”
The report is a very detailed accounting of the abuses of human rights, the massacres, the tortures, rapes, and notorious disappearances- most of these were directly or indirectly the responsibility of Guatemala’s governmental leaders As the report indicates. The Guatemalan church looks primarily at Guatemalan responsibility [ and offers recommendations for the path to social reconciliation], but there are parts which look at America’s “critical role”.
“In 1953, Dwight Eisenhower became president of the the United States, John Foster Dulles was named secretary of state, and Joseph McCarthy entered the Senate. At the same time, the influence of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had grown in the wake of the successful operation that overthrew the Iranian regime. U.S. Ambassador John Peurifoy, who arrived in Guatemala that same year, was the point person for U.S. policy. During his first meeting with President Arbenz, the ambassador demanded the expulsion of all communists from the government.
The business sector and anticommunist groups quickly joined the anti-government crusade. The Chamber of Commerce and Industy joined an international campaign against the regime. The CIA’s ‘Operation Success’ was launced in October. On December 24, the Tegucigalpa Plan was ratified, unifying the National Liberation Movement. In May 1954, with the conspiracy already in its advanced stages, the United States signed military aid pacts with Honduras and Nicaragua, whence it was already preparing to launch a military invasion of Guatemala.”
For more detail on the U.S. role I recommend the book – Bitter Fruit-. The point here is that the national Catholic church took ownership and leadership in Guatemala, to open the book on the past and to lay out the truth. The key role of “Memory” is something all Catholics should appreciate due to it’s importance in our spiritual theology. The Guatemalan church even looked honestly at her own leadership over the years of violence. The church won the praise of all people of goodwill in opening this process when all the major political factions were still locked down. An international memory-type inquiry took place later on, but the church’s efforts laid the groundwork.
Now I would propose that the American Catholic Church play a similar role- instead of finding more ways to prove how ‘patriotic’ we are as Catholics- how proud we are to be mainstream liberals or conservatives, I would like to think that Catholic Americans should play the role of truth-teller, of conscience-guides “Lights” “Salt”. As Scott Hahn has said- “the best gift we can give America is our Catholic faith”.
I would like the Catholic bishops or some prominent Catholic Lay organizations to open up the memory of our nation. We could go back to the origins, or we can go back only a century or so to revisit the era of imperialism, of Super Power globalism, Cold War abuses, Neo-colonial economic and political interventions in other sovereign nations undermining the democratic/economic institutions in weaker nations, and being a direct or indirect cause of systemic human rights abuses- such as in the cases of Guatemala and Iran noted above. I would also open an inquiry into Planned Parenthood, the American eugenics movement, the abortion genocide, taking down the testimonies of the many women and men permanently harmed by their role in the killing of their own unborn children, for example.
In short it is time for the Church to turn her gaze on the sins of liberals and conservatives, the nationalists, the militarists, the abortionists, the imperialists and racists- the whole lot of “us”- if we are ever going to truly repent and move progressively forward as a nation, we had better clean up our act sooner rather than later- we don’t need to wait for the Vatican to scold us. I don’t see America thriving as a nation or as a people for the long-run, because I don’t see how we are so very different from the Great Empires of the past( I cling to the hope that we can become a more Christ-Like global force)- all of which are in various states of ruin or severe decline. The key is the moral- not primarily the technological, the military or the economic superiority( Though long-term blessings come more so with virtue than vice). How can we talk about the role of subsidiarity when we won’t talk about the history of coups and support for all kinds of militant movements around the world- to include the building up of radical and violent Islamist jihadists during the Cold War?
I think that there is a more meaningful way to be patriotic- to love one’s country is to tell the truth about her- good and bad, and to help her reform her bad ways (not just keep offering up cliched praises over and over). This is how our souls work- truth in love- love in truth (sound familiar?). To criticize American imperialism, over-the-top consumerism/commercialism, and promotion of the slaughter of innocents here and abroad through abortion/contraceptive material supports- this is hardly being anti-American. If that is all one can say or conclude from my comments- then so be it. I appeal to those who are free of the ideological and nationalistic prisons of thought and moral reflection. I hope that many American Catholic bloggers are made of such spiritual stuff!