Linking the Church With Torture Is Unfair, Insist Argentine Bishops

Deny a Reported Claim by Former Military Leader

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BUENOS AIRES, SEPT. 3, 2003 ( The Argentine episcopal conference denied news reports in which a former de facto president of the country linked unnamed bishops with the approval of torture for political reasons.

In the documentary «Death Squadrons: The French School,» prepared by journalist Marie Monique Robin and transmitted by Canal Plus, the de facto president, General Reinaldo Bignone, said that some Argentine bishops approved the torture of those who disappeared and of political prisoners during the 1976-1983 dictatorship.

Bignone also said that during the dictatorship, 8,000 people disappeared, as opposed to the 30,000 reported by humanitarian organizations.

«It is absolutely false and unacceptable to link the Church with this type of crimes which it has always condemned with all clarity and energy,» reads a statement published Monday and signed by the secretary-general of the episcopate, Bishop Sergio Fenoy.

The bishop’s conference recalled an earlier letter sent March 17, 1977, to the military junta.

In it, the episcopate’s Permanent Commission expresses its protest «over the situation of many prisoners at the disposition of the National Executive Power and of other detainees under prosecution, who according to their statement or those of their relatives, have been subjected to illegal pressures of such quality and characteristics, which we would have judge inconceivable in the Argentine way of behaving and, needless to say, are unacceptable in conscience for the Christian.»

The statement also explains that in a 1972 declaration the Argentine bishops said: «We feel obliged to reiterate the permanent teaching of the Church, in a brief, clear, and firm way: To subject a person to torture to wring information or confessions from him/her, not only when it is used against the innocent, but also when it is used against suspicious persons and even those known to be guilty of political or common crimes, is always illicit.»

Moreover, in March 1995, the Permanent Commission said that «if a member of the Church, no matter what his condition, should have endorsed with his recommendation or complicity any of these deeds, he would have acted under his personal responsibility, erring or sinning gravely against God, humanity and his conscience.»

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