Tuesday, January 25, 2011

LA Times Obit- Bishop Samuel Ruiz Versus Pope John Paul the II?

A very important and indeed controversial Mexican Bishop has passed on. That is Bishop Samuel Ruiz who was Bishop of the "Mayans".

Perhaps I should have drank my third cup of coffee before writing this post. Perhaps I am over sensitive? However a obit has rubbed me the wrong way

The LA Times has a Obit that while informative I think is a tad one sided. In the background is the issue of Liberation Theology of course.

What gets me about this OBIT is it seems to try to set up some conflict between John Paul the II and Bishop Ruiz

It was also a period of great change in the Roman Catholic Church. Reformers inspired by the Second Vatican Council that ended in 1965 sought to make the church more accessible to native populations, a trend especially strong in Latin America where "liberation theology," which favors political activism on behalf of the poor, took root (before being reined in by Pope John Paul II).

To say the least that is a very simplistic view of the situation. John Paul the II , as well as Cardinal Ratzinger, were concerned about certain extreme elements in the Liberation movement. For instance political activism that portrayed Jesus as some Marxist leading revolutionaries with a machine gun. More on this in a bit.

His promotion of the rights and culture of the indigenous put him on a collision course with the local land barons and entrenched corrupt governments that exploited them. He once said he had received more death threats than he could count. In 1993 several Vatican officials attempted to force him to resign.

Well that could very well be true.

We then learn this sinister note:

Ruiz turned 75 at the end of 1999, the mandatory retirement age for bishops. The pope sometimes makes exceptions, but not in his case. Ruiz retired in 2000 and remained bishop emeritus of San Cristobal de las Casas until his death.

It is never quite explained why Ruiz should have got an exception but one is lead to believe something sinister is going on by that sentence.

The picture is again a lot more complex. This 1999 Tablet article that highlight the John Paul II visit to Mexico paints a a different picture for instance.

Also as the Tablet mentions is one of the most important documents of the John Paul the II era that was issued on this visit.

That is ECCLESIA IN AMERICA which was addressed to all of the AMERICAS. Of note are the of course are the addresses and homilies that John Paul the II gave in Mexico.

In that document that is important on many levels John Paul the II said:

Her moral vision in this area “rests on the threefold cornerstone of human dignity, solidarity and subsidiarity”. (202) The globalized economy must be analyzed in the light of the principles of social justice, respecting the preferential option for the poor who must be allowed to take their place in such an economy, and the requirements of the international common good. For “the Church's social doctrine is a moral vision which aims to encourage governments, institutions and private organizations to shape a future consonant with the dignity of every person. Within this perspective it is possible to examine questions of external debt, internal political corruption and discrimination both within and between nations”......

58. “The Church in America must incarnate in her pastoral initiatives the solidarity of the universal Church towards the poor and the outcast of every kind. Her attitude needs to be one of assistance, promotion, liberation and fraternal openness. The goal of the Church is to ensure that no one is marginalized”. (213) The memory of the dark chapters of America's history, involving the practice of slavery and other situations of social discrimination, must awaken a sincere desire for conversion leading to reconciliation and communion.

Concern for those most in need springs from a decision to love the poor in a special manner. This is a love which is not exclusive and thus cannot be interpreted as a sign of partiality or sectarianism; (214) in loving the poor the Christian imitates the attitude of the Lord, who during his earthly life devoted himself with special compassion to all those in spiritual and material need............

BUT Later!!!

As I have already noted, love for the poor must be preferential, but not exclusive. The Synod Fathers observed that it was in part because of an approach to the pastoral care of the poor marked by a certain exclusiveness that the pastoral care for the leading sectors of society has been neglected and many people have thus been estranged from the Church. (251) The damage done by the spread of secularism in these sectors — political or economic, union-related, military, social or cultural — shows how urgent it is that they be evangelized, with the encouragement and guidance of the Church's Pastors, who are called by God to care for everyone........

Some had some very valid concerns about the Bishop's Indian Theology. However that did not mean the very "conservative" John Paul the II need not see the truth that was contained in some elements.

In the opening paragraphs of his MEETING WITH THE REPRESENTATIVES
. he said:

A thousand years ago, in the year 999 of our era, the fury of those who worshiped a violent god, calling themselves his representatives, did away with Quetzalcóatl, the prophet-king of the Toltecs, because he was against using force to settle human conflicts. As he neared death, he clutched in his hands a cross which symbolized for him and his followers the agreement of all ideas in the search for harmony. He passed on these lofty teachings to his people: "Good will always prevail over evil". "Man is the centre of all creation". "Weapons will never be companions of the word; it is the word that dispels the storm-clouds, so that we may be filled with divine light" (cf. Raúl Horta, El Humanismo en el Nuevo Mundo, chap. II). In these and in other teachings of Quetzalcóatl we can see a "preparation for the Gospel" (Lumen gentium, n. 16), which many of your ancestors would have the joy of accepting 500 years later.

In other words the thought that God was present in some form to all peoples even before the Europeans arrived was not some foreign radical concept.

At the HOMILY OF JOHN PAUL II Hermanos Rodríguez Racetrack in Mexico City
Sunday, 24 January 1999

With great affection I greet the many indigenous peoples from various regions of Mexico who are attending this celebration. The Pope feels very close to all of you; he admires the values of your cultures and encourages you not to lose hope in surmounting the difficult situations you are experiencing. I invite you to strive to achieve your own development and to work for your own advancement. Build your future and that of your children with responsibility! For this reason, I ask all the faithful of this nation to commit themselves to helping and supporting the neediest among you. Each and every one of the children of this land must have what they need to live a dignified life. All the members of Mexican society have equal dignity since they are God's children; for that reason they deserve full respect and have the right to fulfil themselves in justice and in peace.


There is much to commend to about the life of Bishop of Ruiz and indeed there is some thing to be the focus of legitimate criticism. Also see this fun post from Mark In Mexico in 2006.

There is saying the Church that the Church embraced the poor and the poor embraced the Pentecostals. Well there is some truth to that as we see. Of course the effort by some to paint the Pentecostals and the Evangelicals as agents of the rich is folly too.

However it does bring up the need of "balance" in approach. Something I think John Paul the II hits well in his Letter to the Americas.

As usual history and the characters in it are a tad more complex. I hope in the years ahead we can examine the Life of Bishop Ruiz and his teaching without having to put everyone in black versus white us versus them categories.

No comments: