Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Santa Rosa priests support Father Melo


I hate the one who does evil, he will not gather together with me. Far from me is the twisted heart; I will not approve the evil doer.(Psalm 100)

The Priests of the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán, having learned of the information about the threats put forth by various media against Father Ismael Moreno (Padre Melo) to national and international communities, make it known that:
  1. We are in solidarity with Father Ismael Moreno, out brother in the ministerial priesthood of Jesus Christ.
  2. The defense of the virginity and the chastity of a young woman, in the history of the church, led to martyrdom for missionary priests and bishops, for example, the Salesians Bishop Luis Versiglia and Father Caravario.
  3. We are firmly convinced that the action of Father Ismael Moreno is based in the defense of the dignity of the human person and of the human rights of Miss Irma Melissa Villanueva.
  4. Sexual assault of women is brutish conduct which intends to demonstrate superiority and brute force as a way to intimidate and to caution all those who think differently.
  5. The judicial and police authorities of Honduras ought to act in adherence to the law and to justice against the police who committed lewd acts against and sexual rape of Irma Melissa Villanueva, and hopefully they will not go unpunished as on past occasions; for example, the police who wounded with bullets the demonstrators in Colonia 6 de Mayo, in Macuelizo, Santa Bárbara, June 17, 2006.
  6. The competent authorities ought to process the formal accusation which Father Valentín Menéndez, S.J., superior of the Jesuits, presented to the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights of San Pedro Sula, dated April 17, 2010.
  7. He have taken the word of Mr. Oscar Álvares, Minister of Security, and President Porfirio Lobo Sosa, who have publicly affirmed that in this government corruption and criminal police forces will not be tolerated.
  8. With this message we call upon all the bishops, priests, deacons, seminarians, and all the base ecclesial communities to join with us in one soul and one heart to defend the Catholic Church seriously threatened in terms of the moral and physical security of several priests.


Santa Rosa de Copán, April 30, 2010.
Presbytery (the priests) of the Diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán [Honduras]

The original Spanish can be found on my Spanish language blog.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Jesuit statement regarding threats to Padre Melo

Statement of the Jesuits of Honduras

The superiors of the Society of Jesus in Honduras, in the face of the threats and duress that repeatedly target Father Ismael Moreno, S.J. (Padre Melo), we declare the following before national and international public opinion:

First: We denounce the fact that in the last few weeks Padre Melo has been the object of death threats by unknown persons through text messages and calls to his dell phone. Such threats are related to the humanitarian decision to provide protection for the young woman Irma Melissa Villanueva in a case already known by the Public Ministry’s District Attorney’s office and by various national and international human rights organizations.

Second: we affirm that the relation of Padre Melo with Irma Melissa and her family is exclusively in terms of the actions that occurred on August 14 in Choloma, the day Irma Melissa accused various policemen of having raped her on the occasion of a march of the Resistance in that city. The action of Padre Melo is in the framework of a Christian commitment in the face of situations that require the humanitarian accompaniment of members of religious communities such as he.

Third: we note that the threats against Padre Melo don’t refer only to him. The Society of Jesus denounces the fact that Gerardo Chévez, Radio Progreso reporter, also is receiving threats and intimidation for his informative work in the Radio.

Fourth: we note that on Friday, April 17, Father Valentín Menéndez, S.J., superior of the Jesuits in El Progreso, Yoro, presented a formal complaint (denunciation) to the Special District Attorney for Human Rights in San Pedro Sula in which he asked that there be an ongoing investigation of the threats and duress against Padre Melo.

Fifth: we demand that the national authorities conduct a diligent and effective investigation of the deeds which have been denounced and we make an urgent appeal to national and international human rights organizations to follow up on this case.

Released in the city of El Progreso, in the department of Yoro, the nineteenth of April, 2010.

Valentín Menéndez S.I.
Superior of the Jesuits of El Progreso.
Carlos Solano S.I.
Superior of the Jesuits of Yoro
Juan José Colato S.I.
Superior of the Jesuits of Tocoa.

Spanish original can be found at the Radio Progreso blog or at my Spanish language blog.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Trujillo clergy question a press report


The Priests Council of the Diocese of Trujillo to the communications media and public opinion in general:

In the newspaper LA PRENSA on March 1, 2010, on page 4 of the Investigation Series, there is a citation from a military intelligence report in possession of that newspaper which, according to the authors of the article, “is already in the hands of the government authorities.”

Referring to the assistance and indoctrination of armed campesino groups who have occupied various African palm plantations in Bajo Aguán, the citation from the military intelligence report, supposedly taken from the text, states that the aid and indoctrination comes from “an established structure in the region which comes from non-governmental organizations in the region of a socialist bent, priests of the Jesuit order who hawk liberation theology in every community, leaders of the teachers, and radical leftist teachers, even including local means of communication with communist ideological biases.”

Further on in the article the following paragraph is cited: “It is important to stress that the dominant Catholic order in the department is the Jesuits, followers of liberation theology which is a Marxist vision of the Gospel. Out of this order have come all the guerrilla priests of the Church including Guadalupe Carney.

We consider it necessary to make the following clarifications?

1. The priests who belong to the Society of Jesus, founded by Saint Ignatius Loyola, popularly called “Jesuits,” have accompanied the poorest families of the department of Colon who for the most part comprise the campesino population, to assist them in the defense of their rights and to attain the goals of their own development.

2. This work of the Jesuit priests is in accord with the preferential option for the poor which the church in Latin America has made for several decades. In the document “In search of human development n Honduras which is integral, just, and in solidarity,” dated January 6, 2010, the Jesuit priests who work in our country, affirm, “It is clear that the option for the poor is an intrinsic way of making our faith concrete and in it we play out the meaning of our life. This option has to be personal and communitarian, it has to connect the concrete person and the structures, it has to pass through the heart and it has to be expressed in actions in history.”

Pope Benedict XVI himself in his inaugural address at the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American bishops in 2007 explained it in this way: “In the effort to know the message of Christ and to make it the guide of one’s own life, one has to recall that evangelization has always been united to human promotion and authentic Christian liberation.” (Inaugural Discourse, 3) Integral liberation for which the Jesuit priests and the whole Catholic Church work is not Marxist action nor an action which belongs to a political ideology. It is action inspired by the Gospel which demands that we work against every ideology which manipulates the people. And this is what the Jesuit priests do in our diocese of Trujillo. We are clear about the effort the Jesuit priests make and which the whole diocese does for some eighteen years so that the campesinos do not sell their lands which now are the reason for this violent conflict. Likewise, in no moment have we promoted recovery of lands by the campesinos.

3. Also the report in LA PRENSA recalls the following quote from the military intelligence report: “Authorities of the Catholic Church in the area have strong ties with campesino groups in the department, officially to promote environmental and indigenous groups but it is believed that they are also to strengthen their party (the Christian Democrats).

Aiding political parties is a individual right of every citizen. Nevertheless, no member of the Hierarchy of the Catholic church in the Diocese of Trujillo, which is composed of the departments of Colón and Gracias a Dios, has any commitment with any political party and therefore not with the Christian Democratic Party. We share the words of Pope Benedict XVI when he affirmed in the same inaugural discourse noted above, “If the Church would begin to be transformed directly in political affairs, it would not do more for the poor and for justice but would do less, because it would lose its independence and its moral authority, identifying itself with a single political way and partial opinions and positions. The church is the advocate (lawyer) of justice and the poor precisely by not identifying itself with politician nor with party interests.” (Inaugural Discourse, 4)

Having cleared up these points, we believe it necessary to ask for some clarifications.

a) To the Military Intelligence of the Armed Forces of Honduras and to the authorities of the National Police:
  • We ask you to inform the people about the victims who up to this moment have been affected by this conflict and those responsible for these bloody deeds.

  • We ask you, in the name of the population which believes in peace and respects life, to inform us of the general disarmament which was announced before the general elections of last November; of the results and the objectives, as well as the intentions of the military and police authority to not pursue aggressively the arms traffic when it seems that, these very authorities, warn us about the danger of the organization of a guerrilla cell in Bajo Aguán.
b) To the authorities responsible for the struggle against drug-trafficking, we urge them to clear up the movements of the various drug cartels which have invaded the departments of Colón and Gracias a Dios and of their participation in the agrarian conflicts. It is a question so that the population can know what is at risk and what is being protected in regard to the unforeseen, illegal, immoral and even violent consequences which are brought about by being involved in this activity [drug-trafficking] which is destroying so many lives and which intends to convert Honduras into a narco-state.

c) We ask Military Intelligence that it justify how a supposed internal unpublished document has come into the hands of a member of the communications media.

d) To the means of communication we ask them to be more careful in citing unpublished sources which provoke misinformation and confusion in public opinion, attacking the good name of persons and institutions.

The Catholic Church defends the life and dignity of every human being. It rejects every form of violence and also every judgment which, without being tied to the truth, can defame or discredit persons and institutions. It is desirable, if the military report is authentic, that the Military Authorities revise and publish their information.

We trust that the dialogue that the President of the Republic, Don Porfirio Lobo Sosa
proposes as the democratic path will serve in this conflicts to show the legal ways with which it ought to be resolved. We ask the parties in litigation to put aside weapons in order that the force of reason, common sense and legality may finally dominate.

Given in the city of Trujillo, March 2, 2010.

The original in Spanish can be found on my blog in Spanish and at Honduras en lucha.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Honduran Bishops Conference, February 2010


“Live praying and supplicating. Pray at all times as the Spirit inspires you. Watch together and persevere in your praying without ever being disheartened, interceding for the holy ones, your brothers [and sisters].” (Ephesians 6: 18)

February 9 to 12 we held the first ordinary meeting of the Honduras Bishops Conference for the current year, 2010.

Together we have given thanks to God for the devotion to Mary shared with the People of God and shown on the feast of Our Lady, the Virgin of Suyapa, the Patron of Honduras.

We have also given thanks for the tenderness of God toward those who are sick as we commemorate the Virgin Mary under the advocacy of Our Lady of Lourdes, during the 18th World Day of the Sick.

We shared with the representatives of ADVENIAT their interest in the Delegates of the Word of God, while thanking them for the generous aid that this institution of the German Catholic Church offers to the Church in Honduras so that we can provide better fruits in our task of evangelizing.

In an atmosphere of prayer and communion we examined the prophetic and evangelizing attitude which the Catholic Church ought to have in the face of the political, economic, and social reality which our country is living at this time when a new stage of its history is beginning with a new government.

Consistent with our faith we consider it a moral today that all of us believers commit ourselves according to our vocation and personal status to participate in the democratic life which the people of Honduras has chosen; and that we work as instruments of the reconciliation which we urgently need in all areas of our social life together.

As citizens we ought to know how to demand of the new authorities, within legal channels, action which is transparent and base on the principle of Social Justice which the Social Doctrine of the Church insists in all its teachings. We ought to demand a just and preferential attention to the poor who are the majority of our people so that all that is promised is fulfilled.

We bishops have discerned that the Catholic Church can and ought to face the difficult realities which are perpetuated beyond [the scope of] the governments which steer our path and which sometimes become much more acute because of their inability [to respond to them]. We are thinking about the increasing action and power of drug traffickers and organized crime, the corruption which is so difficult to eradicate, the considerable fiscal deficit, the legislative delay which permits situations which harm our people, natural resources and the environment.

We the bishops of Honduras commit ourselves to continue working in our respective dioceses together with the priest, religious men and women, missionaries and the faithful to respond to the challenges noted.

We renew the preferential option for the poor. A consequence of this option is the task to reorganize and strengthen the Social Ministry at all levels – national, diocesan, and parish, so that, as the Document of [the Latin American Bishops Conference Meeting at] Aparecida says, it might be “structured, organic and integral that with projects of assistance [and] human promotion, if might make itself present in the new realities of exclusion and marginalization which the most vulnerable groups live, where life is most threatened” (Document of Aparecida, #401)

Seeing that we are approaching the season of Lent, we exhort all the faithful to initiate a path of conversion which permits us to recognize our weaknesses and limitations in order to make reconciliation possible within the heart of the Church and society; a way of grace that allows us to discover the Love of Christ which becomes the way to lead us to glory going through the cross. To live Lent definitively, as a privileged time which brings us to the joy of the Pasch/Passover of the Lord, whose joy no one can take away from us (cf. Juan 16:22).

Honduran Bishops Conference

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Honduran Jesuits statement, January 2010

Statement of the Society of Jesus in the face of the national reality

Toward the search for an integral human development,
which is just and in solidarity in Honduras.

We are on the eve of a new public administration and, under normal circumstances, this event is always an opportunity to awaken hopes for society as a whole. Nevertheless, the constitutional rupture which happened after the coup d’etat on June 28, 2009, brought to a head a conflict which had been building up for many years. The assumption of a new public administration can only be a real opportunity for all of the society if it is situated in the fundamental national challenge of seeking a true route to the deep division and polarization which are eating away the entire Honduran family.

[The year] 2010 receives us with the entire human, social, political and religious fabric broken. We need to open new paths through a route where all sectors of society commit our words and our hearts because consensuses have disappeared and we need to commit our fate to a new National Convocation around a New Social Compact which leads us to a new project for peace with the purpose of remaking the broken fabric and orienting ourselves along a path of authentic reconciliation.

To advance toward this convocation of a New Social Pact, the members of the Society of Jesus in Honduras (Jesuit priests and brothers) suggest that we take into account the following factors so present in the current national crisis:

1. Conversion:

“Social institutions do not guarantee by themselves, in a mechanical way, the good of all: “the interior renewal of the Christian spirit” ought to precede the commitment to better society.1 In the face of the current national situation, we consider that a starting point ought to be the recognition that in this Honduran crisis no one is exempt from responsibility and no one can blame everyone else, much less consider themselves to possess the truth. To seek a way out, a condition to make this possible is that each person and each sector of the country move away from its position to encounter the positions of the others. If we all move away from our own positions, we will be able to advance toward the construction of a path which would be the expression of shared consensuses. From our Christian faith that self-critical recognition of openness and moving toward listening and discernment of what others believe and think, are characteristic expressions of an authentic conversion: a conversion which leads to decisions to change in the interior of the heart being expressed in not only sensing, looking at and listening to how everyone lives but ends up accepting the way others live, the others we normally categorize as our adversaries and enemies. Without a decision which is the fruit of authentic conversion, whatever agreement over a way out of the current crisis would always be only a partial way out, which in fact would signify letting conflict in the state and in society always keep its place.

We recall the words of Pope John Paul II in his message for the 1997 World Day of Peace:

“the weight of the past which can not be forgotten can be accepted only in the presence of a pardon which is received and offered reciprocally: it is a question of a long and difficult journey, but it is not impossible.”2

“Reciprocal pardon does not negate the demand for justice, and much less does it obstruct the path which leads to truth: justice and truth, instead, represent the concrete requirements for reconciliation.”3

2. Economic Model

“Experts in economics, workers in sectors, and those responsible in politics ought to pay attention to rethinking the economy, considering on the one had the dramatic material poverty of missions of persons and on the other hand the fact that by means of the current economic , social, and cultural structures it is very difficult to take charge of the demands of authentic development.”4 A true way to resolve the present conflict ought to include historical and verifiable signs of transforming the present economic model which causes an increasing gap, which presently appears unstoppable, between the rich and the poor. While this model supported by social exclusion will always be a decisive factor in regard to political instability and will produce violence. Let us remember that “underdevelopment … is an unjust situation which promotes tensions which conspire against peace.”5 Whatever may be a true and wide-reaching way out of the conflict it ought to have the will of all sectors to transform the bases of the current model, starting with a commitment, also verifiable, with those sectors of society which find themselves with fewer advantages to move their lives forward with respect and dignity.

3. Preferential option for the poor.

To decenter ourselves from our own interests in order to seek a way out which has as its center the life and dignity of the most defenseless sectors is what we in our Christian faith take as the Mystery of the Incarnation, the mystery of a God who saves all of humanity by becoming flesh in the weakest of this world 6 and which, from the perspective of the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean we call the preferential option for the poor. This option “is one of the characteristics which mark the physiognomy of the church in Latin America and the Caribbean(…) If this option is implicit in christological faith7 we Christians as disciples and missionaries are called to contemplate in the suffering faces of our brothers and sisters the face of Christ which calls us to serve him in the,: the suffering faces of the poor are the suffering faces of Christ…8 Everything that has to do with Christ has to do with the poor and everything related to poor calls out to Jesus Christ…” 9

It is clear that the option for the poor is an intrinsic making our faith concrete and in is one judges the sense of one’s own life. This option has to be personal and communitarian, has to intersect with the person in concrete and with structures, has to come from the heart and has to be expressed in actions in history.

4. Truth Commission:

“The truth will make us free.”10 A true way out in order to resolve the present conflict would be to go through a commitment to know the truth about what in fact happened, in regard to human rights violations, crimes of treason [insulting humanity] and of violation of freedom of expression before, during and after the events of June 28, 2009. If we really want to advance toward a way out that leads to reconciliation within the whole Honduran family, we must thoroughly investigate and scrutinize those deeds where abuse of power left human injuries which cannot be healed while the victims are not recognized [do not receive their dignity] and those responsible are not held accountable by a serious and impartial judicial process. For this, an independent authority [instancia] is indispensable, made up of very credible persons and sectors, national and international, who are impartial in their judgments so that, in the space of ninety days from when it is set up, it offers to the government and society at large an initial report about what happened in the period noted, identifying the deeds, the authors and victims, and with the commitment on the part of the state to bring to judgment those responsible for these barbarous situations.

5. Political Corruption

For a way out of the conflict with an enduring and decisive reach, there must exist a commitment, with verifiable mechanisms to confront the political corruption of the state in which factors are involved which link various sectors which are responsible for the political and business life of the country. Political corruption is one of the most acute illnesses which our country suffers, and its damage is so profound that in many occasions those who most often speak about it and propose measures to combat it are the very ones who are most questionable in their commitment to it. In our country, many things don’t work, or work only halfway or work poorly. Nevertheless there is an authority [instancia] which has functioned faultlessly, the two party system [bipartidismo] with its impressive capability to obtain monetary advantage [capitalize] in its favor by means of all the reforms it makes. For the most part the institutions which are created to diminish corruption end up being made up of members elected or named by the elites of the political two party system.
This is called political corruption and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church identifies very well the dangers and damages which this corruption represents for society: “Among the deformities of the democratic system, political corruption is one of the most serious because it betrays at one and the same time both moral principles and the norms of social justice. It compromises the correct functioning of the State, having a negative influence on the relationship between those who govern and the governed. It causes a growing distrust with respect to public institutions, bringing about a progressive disaffection in the citizens with regard to politics and its representatives, with a resulting weakening of institutions. Corruption radically distorts the role of representative institutions, because they become an arena for political bartering between clients' requests and governmental services. In this way political choices favor the narrow objectives of those who possess the means to influence these choices and are an obstacle to bringing about the common good of all citizens.” 11

6. Depoliticization and social oversight [vigilance]

To combat corruption, we value as necessary strengthening of institutional order [institutionality] and the Rule of Law for the purpose of fulfilling accepted position [currency] that all citizen are equal before the law and that there are no privileges because the Rule of Law guarantees that no one is above the law. In this sense, we see that it is necessary to remember that “the authority ought to issue just laws, that is, conforming to the dignity of the human person and according to the dictates of right reason…when on the other hand the law is against reason it is called a wicked law; in that case, it ceases to be law and becomes, rather, an act of violence.”12

Likewise, we consider it necessary that mechanisms be created which guarantee the institutional independent of the state from the political parties and that control organs of the state be formed of members whose election does not depend on the leaders of the political parties; we likewise suggest that it is necessary to create authorities [instancias] of diverse sectors of society, connected with the state’s control organs with the function of social oversight over national and municipal budgets and the budgets of autonomous and semiautonomous authorities/agencies of the state.

7. Insecurity and violence:

For a true way out of the conflict which holds us polarized, we consider the need to move forward toward a commitment in the face of the problem of the insecurity of citizens and the violence which affect the lives of the entire society and which has managed to establish itself with expressions of viciousness and cruelty as an extreme manifestation of the deterioration and contempt for the life and dignity of human beings. We do not believe that the signs and manifestations of violence are solved with public policies that stress coercive means and even less do we believe that violence is solved by legislative decisions that criminalize specific social sectors on the base of the single fact that they are young people and live in urban areas or in marginalized rural areas. We do not believe in public policies that give a priority to harsh responses instead of preventive response because, instead of advancing toward solving violence, they generate environments of revenge. We want to aim at the root causes which produce violence and insecurity. Therefore, we propose that the state promote and put into action policies which revive the agricultural sector in order to thus avoid the immigration of youth into the cities, policies for ongoing and worthwhile/dignified production and employment in the cities as well as in the countryside; that they put into action strong measures for a true purification and formation of the structures and personnel of the police, beginning with the officers; reforms of the penal system; putting into action new and decisive policies against drug-trafficking and illicit enrichment which runs through the social fabric of our nation.

In this way, the Society of Jesus confirms its commitment to the service of faith and the promotion of justice in Honduras and declares its interest in seeking ways which bring a true peace, the fruit of justice.

Given in Honduras, on January 6, 2010, the day of the Epiphany of the Lord Jesus.

1 Pius XI, Quadragesimo anno, 218.
2 Cfr. John Paul II, Message for World Peace Day, 1997
3 Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 518
4 John Paul II, Encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis (1988), 570
5 Second General Conference of Latin American Bishops. Medellin (1968), p. 109
6 Cfr. Juan 1,14
7 Cfr. Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est (2005)

8 Benedicto XVI, Discourse at CELAM Aparecida (2007). Cf. 2 Cor 8,9.

9 Fifth General Conference of Latin American Bishops, Aparecida (2007) # 391, 393
10 John 8: 32.
11 Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 411
12 Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, I-II, Ed. Leon 7, 164
13 Isaiah 32, 17

Translation mine. Suggested corrections are most welcome.

The Spanish text can be found at Vos El Soberano