Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Reformed Catholic Church of Venezuela - well, it's in Venezuela...

I could write about one of two things:

So, which of these two items is more significant to the world as a whole?

The church's doctrine has been covered in the noted theological journal the Miami Herald:

Although it has adopted many of the symbols and rites of Roman Catholicism, the new Reform Catholic Venezuelan Church departs from traditional belief in some key ways....

For example, reformists consider that ''homosexuality and bisexuality are not sins in and of themselves.'' Divorce is allowed and priests do not take vows of chastity.

The church, which was publicly announced last week, also lines itself up squarely behind Chávez's ''Bolivarian Revolution'' and its socialist agenda....

''We completely support the socialist project led by Chávez,'' said Enrique Albornoz, one of the new church's first bishops....

According to its leaders, the reformist church seeks to establish an institution that is ``inclusive, participatory and with a strong Bolivarian spirit that recognizes Jesus Christ as the Lord of History. He is present in the revolutionary process that is occurring in Venezuela.''

A former Roman Catholic priest, Jon Jen Siu Garcia, was elected coadjutor, and noted to the Venezuelan press that his mission is to ``liberate people from capitalist values.''

''We are learning to see the lower classes like Hugo Chávez, who has cared to attend to their necessities,'' said Leonardo Marin Saavedra, bishop of the Anglican Latin American Church. A resident of Canada, he was invited to Venezuela especially to attend the upcoming ceremonies. ``We are struggling against exploitation and the empire of the United States.''

Now I know that this will incense some patriots, but they do have a point in a way. Jesus Christ was not an American citizen, and He did not say "Heaven and earth will pass away except for the United States of America."

However, you don't take the earth-centered theory of capitalism and replace it with the earth-centered theory of socialism. Back in 1984, some Roman Catholic guy named Joseph Ratzinger wrote about liberation theology:

An analysis of the phenomenon of liberation theology reveals that it constitutes a fundamental threat to the faith of the Church. At the same time it must be borne in mind that no error could persist unless it contained a grain of truth. Indeed, an error is all the more dangerous, the greater that grain of truth is, for then the temptation it exerts is all the greater....

The idea of a turning to the world, of responsibility for the world, frequently deteriorated into a naive belief in science which accepted the human sciences as a new gospel without wanting to see their limitations and endemic problems. Psychology, sociology and the marxist interpretation of history seemed to be scientifically established and hence to become unquestionable arbiters of Christian thought....

At this point we come to...the new philosophical climate of the late sixties. In the meantime the marxist analysis of history and society was largely accepted as the only "scientific" one. This means that the world must be interpreted in terms of the class struggle and that the only choice is between capitalism and marxism. It also means that all reality is political and has to justify itself politically. The biblical concept of the 'poor" provides a starting point for fusing the Bible's view of history with marxist dialectic; it is interpreted by the idea of the proletariat in the marxist sense and thus justifies marxism as the legitimate hermeneutics for understanding the Bible.

Since, according to this view, there are, and can only be, two options, any objection to this interpretation of the Bible is an expression of the ruling class's determination to hold on to its power. A well-known liberation theologian asserts: "The class struggle is a fact; neutrality on this point is simply impossible."

This approach also takes the around from under the feet of the Church's teaching office: if she were to intervene and proceed against such an interpretation of Christianity, she would only prove that she is on the side of the rich and the rulers and against the poor and suffering, i.e., against Jesus himself: she would show that she had taken the negative side in the dialectic of history.

I wonder if Che Guevara will join Simon Bolivar as one of the patron saints of the new Reformed Catholic Church of Venezuela. If so, then there will be more doctrinal worries than any concern about Adam and Steve:

It is customary for followers of a cult not to know the real-life story of their hero, the historical truth. It is not surprising that Guevara's contemporary followers, his new post-communist admirers, also delude themselves by clinging to a myth -- a myth firing up people whose causes for the most part represent the exact opposite of what Guevara was.

Guevara might have been enamored of his own death, but he was much more enamored of other people's deaths. In April 1967, speaking from experience, he summed up his homicidal idea of justice in his "Message to the Tricontinental": "unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective and cold-blooded killing machine."

During the armed struggle against Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista, and then after the triumphant entry into Havana, Guevara murdered or oversaw the executions of scores of people: proven enemies, suspected enemies and those who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The "cold-blooded killing machine" did not show the full extent of his rigor until, immediately after the collapse of the Batista regime, Fidel Castro put him in charge of La Cabaña prison, where he oversaw mass executions. José Vilasuso, a lawyer and a professor at Universidad Interamericana de Bayamón in Puerto Rico, who belonged to the body in charge of the summary judicial process at La Cabaña, said recently that "Che's guidelines to us were that we should act with conviction, meaning that they were all murderers and the revolutionary way to proceed was to be implacable."

Javier Arzuaga, a Basque chaplain who gave comfort to those sentenced to die and witnessed dozens of executions, spoke to me recently. A former Catholic priest, now 75, he recalls that Guevara "never overturned a sentence."

"I pleaded many times with Che on behalf of prisoners," said Arzuaga. "I remember especially the case of Ariel Lima, a young boy. Che did not budge. Nor did Fidel, whom I visited. I became so traumatized that, at the end of May 1959, I was ordered to leave the parish of Casa Blanca, where La Cabaña was located and where I had held Mass for three years. I went to Mexico for treatment."

How many people were killed at La Cabaña? Vilasuso told me that 400 people were executed between January and the end of June in 1959 (at which point Guevara ceased to be in charge). Secret cables sent by the American Embassy in Havana to the State Department in Washington spoke of "over 500."

But, returning to number 250 on the FriendFeed list, I have to ask - which Lutherans got involved? Well, I found one:

[T]he Rev Enrique Albornoz, a former Lutheran minister who helped create the independent church told the Associated Press, “We don't side with any political banner, but we cannot fail to recognize and support the socialist achievements of this government," and “back the social programmes of this revolutionary government."

Someone at Democratic Underground did some digging:

"Enrique Albornoz" claims to be a "former Lutheran" but searching for his name merely produces a few hits like this webpage:


Most of the links from that page are broken, as are most links from the parent directory


which says "While we are reconstructing our site, due to changes in the host's capabilities and policies, please GOOGLE the International Lutheran Fellowship Apostolic Succession." But at present, searching "International Lutheran Fellowship Apostolic Succession" leads only back to the page which suggested the search

I'm a Lutheran. I have never ever heard of "International Lutheran Fellowship." Searching did lead to the following

A Little Lecture on Little Little-Known Lutheran Synods

by: E. C. Fredrich
... To round off this report, mention could be made of an International Lutheran Fellowship with an imposing name but not so imposing statistics. Three pastors serve some 300 members in three congregations. Beyond this, little information about the International Lutheran Fellowship is available ...

But if Rev. Albornoz now describes himself as a former Lutheran, apparently the doctrine of the ILF - whatever it was - was too severe for him.

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