Cardinal Maradiaga on Poverty and Optimism, Part 2

Interview With Honduran Prelate, President of Caritas

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ROME, JAN. 11, 2011 ( According to Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, Latin America faces a host of problems ranging from corrupt politicians to anti-life pressure from international organizations. And yet, he says, Latin American young people and the poor themselves are a reason for hope and optimism.

The cardinal explained this perspective in an interview with the television program “Where God Weeps” of the Catholic Radio and Television Network (CRTN) in cooperation with Aid to the Church in Need.

Part 1 on the interview was published Monday.

Q: We’ve seen recently in Latin America a shift to more socialist governments, for example Chávez in Venezuela and Morales in Bolivia. Can one say that these governments have come into power out of frustration — precisely frustration with a lack of social justice and poverty? Is that what is driving this shift?

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: Yes, but the main reason, from my perspective, is the corruption of the politicians. The biggest illness of our countries in Latin America is that most of the politicians lose the real concept of politics and so they see the state as a “booty for pirates.” So they go into politics and after a period in the government they can be rich and live the rest of their lives without working and without any consequences from justice. This concept of a nation like a business and politics as a business is wrong, and this is why we are so corrupt.

Q: I would like to present to you a contradiction — which I think is self-evident for you as well: We see these socialist governments that have been elected on the basis of their option for the poor. The Church has always had this option for the poor and yet these socialist governments are starting to attack, more and more, the Church in these countries. What is the explanation for this?

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: The contradiction is when they start these kind of governments, the first thing that disappears is freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of information. For instance, in Venezuela all the media that are not with the government have been confiscated or have had life made impossible for them. Because the government has only one goal and there is no place for dissent. There is no place for freedom of movement and organizing. So when the Church sees these things, it has to denounce them. And so these kinds of governments look at the Church as an enemy because the Church is not obedient to their purpose.

Q: Can one say then that there is persecution of the Catholic Church occurring in these countries?

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: Yes and I say that because we meet frequently with the bishops from the various parts of the world. I visited Ecuador for a missionary congress and I have witnessed these kinds of persecutions. I was in Peru and I met with some bishops from Bolivia who spoke about it. I’ve even met, here in Rome, bishops from Venezuela and we see that there are indeed these persecutions.

Q: What can the Church do as a response to this present situation particularly in a country where the Church is persecuted?

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: What we can do is to be in solidarity with them and also to denounce these politicians. I have done this sometimes and I’ve been attacked by President Chávez but I don’t care because it is necessary to tell the truth. And of course this is another aspect of these kinds of governments: They do not tolerate the idea that somebody can think differently than them. They think that they alone have the exclusive concept of the truth, but it is all lies. Look at a nation that is so rich and yet poverty and hunger is on the rise. That is a contradiction and it is truly ridiculous. So this is a consequence of the lack of political education among most of our people. In some places votes are bought. In my country, people, during most of the year, do not see a single penny until after the harvest. Some politicians come and offer them, let us say $50. So they vote for them and this is unfortunately the situation.

Q: You have said that we are not going to have peace as long as poverty is increasing. Are we in for a rough ride since — as we’ve been discussing — poverty is increasing throughout Latin America?

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: When you have no work and you have to feed your family, what can you do? Migrate. Go to the promised land of the north to increase your poverty? Now they have all these walls, barriers and all these legislations against migrants. They are in hiding and unable to work and employers are fined heavily if they employ these migrants. So they are unable to send back remittances to their home country. Once our economy was dependent on these remittances, but not anymore. It’s going down very fast. So people resort to violence, get involved in gangs, the drug trade — which is flourishing in Latin America, unfortunately — and kidnapping is now an industry. There is no social peace. This is tragic, and we have lost this peace because of injustice, because there is no avenue to earn a living honestly.

Q: Some Latin American countries have focused their strategies of poverty reduction through birth control. Can you tell us, is this a misguided approach and where is this approach coming from?

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: This has been going on for a very long time — perhaps 50 years — in the U.N. population department. They decided that we were growing too fast. Of course we did in Honduras! There were only 1.5 million Hondurans in 1959 and now there are 7 million, but we were under populated because of civil wars. We had a century of civil wars and sickness. When health conditions improved we started to grow, but we are still under populated as a country. We need labor to develop. There is a nation in South America that started birth control in the beginning of the 1950s. What is the result? They never grew. And there is no industry that succeeds without consumers. They are so dependent on the bigger countries that surround them. This is a mistake. What we need is not to reduce the guests at the table but to increase the seats so people can sit at the table to eat.

Q: You just mentioned that the U.N. has had a hand in this. Would you say that the influence on birth control policy is coming from within the local government or is it coming from organizations such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation, that are external but imposing their policy on the continent?

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: That is one of the worst organizations and I have no fear in denouncing them because they are using very dirty methods and even insulting those who do not agree with them. They’re paying, sometimes bribing and misinforming the population. We do not need this. We need help for development. We do not need bribes to corrupt the people in government. We need resources to be employed in favor of the people and not destroying the people.

Q: What might be the motives for the IPPF and other organizations? What might be their agenda in a continent like Latin America?

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: They have decided that we are not good partners for their businesses because, as you know, since our continent is mainly a Catholic continent, we will never accept their “philosophy,” which is against Creation, against God. We are not comfortable with their reasoning, and of course, I’ve said it truly, and I have said it in the U.N.. For example my country decided that marriage is something according to natural law — the union between a man and a woman. Since there are lobbyists who do not agree with this they will press our congresses, they will attack the Church saying that we are wrong but we know that we are not wrong and that we want to live in peace like human beings with no deviations.

Q: Abortion is a big issue at the moment. There is great pressure on many of the Catholic countries in Latin America to entrench abortion in the law. Can one say
that we are losing the battle in this regard? Do you see that the governments in the countries in Latin America will impose abortion?

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: They are trying to do it every two or three years and we have to be always alert. I’ve been a bishop for 30 years and I’ve been always opposing and talking in a reasonable way to the representatives of the Congress and until now we were able to stop that kind of law because once you accept abortion, the next step will be to accept euthanasia. This is their global plan. So what is the purpose? It is to destroy life. This is the culture of death that John Paul II was always warning us about.

Q: And yet you have said that you see and consider Latin America as being the renaissance of faith and the renaissance of the Catholic Church in the world. How can you be so optimistic with so many “blows” that are coming at you?

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: Because we are a people of faith. Especially the poor. The Church has always made an option for the poor, since Medellin in 1968 there was this preferential option. These are the people who come to our Churches. They support the catechesis, the sacraments and so they will ask the Church to guide them, not the U.N..

Q: In light of this idea of optimism, you told a story to your seminarians about the falling tree in the forest. Can you tell us about this?

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: We are a very young nation. Forty-two percent of our population is under the age of 15. And so many people say that the young are lost. There are too many in gangs. I said “no.” That is what is publicized because there is more noise from a falling tree in the forest than from the multitude of trees growing up. Of course we hear the big noise but we don’t see that the majority of our young people are good and they are following Christ. I celebrate the sacrament of confirmation every year and we have nearly 10,000 — and this is beautiful because these are not kids but young men and women who have decided to follow Christ and live their Christian life. So our main challenge is how to accompany them after confirmation in order to make an option for life — for marriage or consecrated life. There are many, many reasons for hope and most of the young people want to follow Christ.

Q: You said once: “We have to be like stained glass windows.”

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: Yes, because you know, we are just like stained glass windows that reflect the light that comes from Christ and we have to be like those beautiful stained glass windows in the big cathedrals; plenty of light and plenty of color in order to present the beauty of the Christian life to the young.

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This interview was conducted by Mark Riedemann for “Where God Weeps,” a weekly television and radio show produced by Catholic Radio and Television Network in conjunction with the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Part 1 of this interview:

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