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Brazilian Dialogue

Lies seem able to take on a life of their own

A lie, once it's been accepted as a truth, takes on a life of its own no matter how often it is refuted.

A letter to the editor in the Jan. 26 Catholic New Times titled "Behind Harry Potter . . . the devil," repeats it again, quite casually, as a universally accepted truth: "Essentially, then, evil is personified in the series as being subjectively a good thing. It is comparable in the real world to 'liberation theology,' which seeks freedom from oppression through violence."

By chance, I'm rereading Malachy Martin's The Final Conclave and on the page I've just come to is written, "Paul (Pope Paul VI) has no answer to those who point out that the leftist-reformers (the libration theologians) always side with the "violent terrorists who include guerrillas and terrorists, and who seek total Marxization of Latin America by violent means.' "

I've read widely the brothers Boff, Gustave Gutierrez, Jos* Comblin, Pedro Casaldaliga, Helder Camara, Oscar Romero, Paulo Freire and others -- all proclaimers and practitioners of liberation theology and I cannot point to one single line in their writings that could give any credence to this charge that they promote social change through violence. Yes, an occasional priest, sister, lay person with church connection may, in desperation, join a guerrilla band, engage in violence. But that is an individual choice and always runs counter to the Good News, the Gospel freedom that liberation theology proclaims.

It's easy to see how regimes like that of Pinochet in Chile, the generals in Argentina and Brazil a generation ago, and their smaller fry emulators in Central America -- it's easy to see how they parrot this line, this calumny.

And it's easy to see how the Thatcher and Reagan/Bush administrations made it a key goal of their turn at power to crush liberation theology and its practitioners.

It's less easy to see how church people can join in such nefarious work. How do they read Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Mary's Magnificat, Jesus' first sermon in Nazareth?

To say nothing of the psalms, the church's official prayer book!

Reread Psalm 55 as an example. It concludes thus: Mercy and faithfulness have met;/justice and peace have embraced./Faithfulness shall spring from the earth/and justice look down from heaven./The Lord will make us prosper/and our earth shall yield its fruit./Justice shall march before him/and peace shall follow his steps.

It was the great (and much maligned) Pope Paul VI who gave Brazil and all Latin America so many great bishops, pastors who courageously worked to make this magnificent vision of the psalmist come to fruition already here on earth, and in our own time.

When will we see their like again!

Al Gerwing