Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Colombian secret service created a network in Spain to spy on opponents of Uribe

What first drew my attention to this story was the laundry list of international figures also targeted for surveillance should they enter Colombia. It includes such prominent figures in liberation theology as Leonardo Boff, François Houtart, Juan José Tamayo, the late bishop of Chiapas Samuel Ruiz, and the late Spanish theologian José María Díez Alegría.

But what made me truly sit up was the revelation that the Colombian DAS waged a disinformation campaign against Colombian NGOs in Spain, alleging that they were working with the guerrilla movements in order to get at their funding sources. I immediately thought of an article that appeared in a local Hispanic paper, El Comercio, in July 2008 in which a prominent local Colombian American made similar allegations about NGOs in DC. Although I was uncomfortable with the allegations, I thought it was just a case of anger leading to imprudent speech...-RG

Paco Simón* (English translation by Rebel Girl)

The secret service of the former president of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe Vélez (2002-2010), created an intelligence network in Spain to spy and try to counter activities they deemed in opposition to the policies of the Colombian government, as has been stated in the internal files seized at the Department of Administrative Security (DAS), the Colombian intelligence agency that reports directly to the President of the Republic. The jobs commissioned from the DAS agents included "intelligence work" at the World Forum on Agrarian Reform held in Valencia in 2004 and the Ibero-American Summit in Salamanca in 2005, infiltrating meetings of exiles and actions denouncing human rights violations committed in Colombia, as well as the interception of communications and tracking refugees, activists and Spanish NGOs in order to "neutralize" their actions.

Documents seized by the Colombian attorney general have led to prosecution in Colombia of the leadership of the intelligence agency for spying and carrying out actions to discredit and intimidate opponents, or those simply critical of the democratic security policy of Uribe -- social leaders, journalists, politicians, judges, etc. -- and several of the defendants have stated that the former president not only knew about their work, but sent them congratulations and urged them to continue. According to this documentation, the DAS was established aimed at "defending democracy and the nation and creating conditions on the consequences of a communist system," for which it designed a plan for "political warfare" against the government's opponents, both inside and outside Colombian borders. The weapons to combat them were "discrediting through the media, leafleting, graffiti (...), books, web page creation (...), sabotage starting with explosive terrorism (...), threats and blackmail", as stated in a report by the attorney general on the documentation found in about a hundred AZ folders at the headquarters of DAS.

To execute this plan, the Special Intelligence Group G-3 was constituted, which, inter alia, coordinated "Operation Europe" -- the allegedly illegal intelligence activities undertaken by its agents in several European countries, including Spain, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland and Sweden. This "operation" was part of an overall strategy to "neutralize the destabilizing actions of NGOs in Colombia and the world" through "the clarification of links with terrorist organizations, seeking their prosecution." Thus, it intended "to neutralize the influence" of these organizations in all European legal and political arenas.

The first job of the DAS recorded on Spanish territory was the infiltration of the Second Meeting of the Colombian Communists in Exile, held in Madrid from August 20 to 22, 2004. In the folder AZ #41, there is a report which claims that one of the objectives of the event was "to spread the communist doctrine in Europe using the` 'alternative media' that the FARC uses to promote the insurgency doctrine" and it includes a "Directory of the support group of the Communist Party" with personal data for Colombian refugees in Spain, France, Switzerland, Belgium and Sweden. The G-3 officer in Europe, Germán Villalba, was ordered to "fully" identify these people, check if they had any registered "intelligence or background notes that link them with terrorist groups", identify "activities currently performed abroad" and establish "if they work clandestinely as spokespersons for Colombian terrorist groups." Villalba was deputy director of the DAS Human Resources and is currently detained and awaiting trial, along with other senior officials of the agency, a branch of the DAS.

A few months after the mission in Madrid, Villalba was charged with "coverage" of the World Forum on Agrarian Reform, which gathered experts from five continents in Valencia in the first week of December 2004. The meeting, organized by the Center for Rural Studies and International Agriculture (CERAI), was closed by Leire Pajin, Secretary of State for International Cooperation on those dates and current Minister of Health. So far it is unknown what information the spy sent to Bogota.

A network for "political warfare"

In early 2005, the DAS undertook to take a quantum leap in the development of its covert operations in Spain. Under the euphemistic title "Information Campaigns About the Colombian Conflict Project", a plan was designed to expand the number of informants and their coverage area on Spanish soil. The document, found in AZ #41, explains that between January and April 2005, seven DAS officials were to move to three Spanish cities to carry out the procedures of the criminal record "within the framework of the regulation of Colombians [sic] in Spain", which "constitutes an opportunity to undertake some informational activities regarding the human rights situation in Colombia and the impact of the actions of the terrorist groups in general." These "activities", apparently of a merely informative nature, had the goals and methodology of the "political war" being waged by the DAS.

The overall objective of the "project", in addition to informing the public about "the reality of the Colombian conflict," was to "raise awareness" in the "Spanish entities that are sending financial support to NGOs that are facades for the guerrilla," that is, linking Colombian social organizations with guerrilla groups to discredit them to their Spanish financiers. Specific goals included "intiating a network of informants on hostile acts against the Government and the Colombian State", "recognizing individuals and organizations engaged in disinformation about the Colombian conflict" and creating a "kardex (file) of contacts for international terrorism links in Colombia."

To meet these goals, a "training program" was established which, among other matters, included the "political war" and the "recruitment and management of Kardex." Two of the proposed trainers to impart this knowledge were Enrique Ariza, director of intelligence of the DAS, who oversaw the G-3, and José Miguel Narváez, deputy director of the DAS and professor at the Escuela Superior de Guerra. Ariza is a fugitive from justice in Colombia since his arrest was ordered in 2009 for having intercepted communications to the opponents of Uribe and selling information to the paramilitary groups. Narvaez faces several trials for the illegal activities of DAS and for his links with paramilitary groups. The attorney general has accused him of being the "ideologue" of these death squads. He taught them a course titled "Why it is permissible to kill Communists in Colombia" and urged them to kill the senator of the leftist Patriotic Union, Manuel Cepeda, and journalist and humorist Jaime Garzón.

The documentation seized from the DAS does not include the range of the intelligence network in Spain, but there is evidence that in January 2005 an alleged Colombian journalist living in Spain was "ready to collaborate with any type of data that can be helpful to our institutional goals." Espionage operations of Colombia's secret service in Spanish territory increased from that date on.

The state spies on its victims

The summer of 2005 was one of intense activity for the DAS agents. Following the steps in Spain of Colombian human rights defenders of the Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo, the spies obtained data from a "usual reliable source with access to information through third parties" about the international seminar "Territorio, Vida y Seguridad Humana frente a Planes Económicos y Militares" ["Land, life, and human safety versus economic and military plans"] held in Alcobendas (Madrid) from June 8 to 11. The conference, which brought together social activists from Latin America, was organized by several Spanish NGOs and institutions with the cooperation of the Basque and Asturian governments and the municipalities of Avilés, Alcobendas, Rivas Vaciamadrid, San Sebastian de los Reyes and San Fernando de Henares.

Days later, agent Germán Villalba in Madrid was ordered to attend the preparatory meeting for the Second National Meeting of Victims of Crimes Against Humanity and Violations of Human Rights, which was to be held in Bogotá from June 23 to 25. This activity, which took place on June 18 at the headquarters of the Spanish Commission for Aid to Refugees (CEAR), was attended by victims of Colombia's security forces and paramilitary groups. "The coverage of that meeting was complicated [sic]. (...) One could only enter by express personal invitation, which made it necessary to make the penetration through an unaware third party, who was extensively interrogated. They also told him when faced with his doubts about why so much mystery (...) that the people who were inside had been threatened and feared for their lives. The fear was that some 'spy' would enter," Villalba explained in the intelligence report he sent to Bogota on June 22 with details of the topics discussed and agenda of actions to be taken by the refugees. The spy was also required to investigate the NGOs organizing the event: Familiares de Asesinados, Torturados y Desaparecidos en Colombia exiliados en España [Relatives of murdered, tortured and disappeared in Colombia in exile in Spain], Colectivo de Refugiados Colombianos en España [Collective of Colombian refugees in Spain] and Comité por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos en Colombia [Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Colombia].

Many of those attending this meeting and the seminar in Alcobendas participated on July 11 in the protest rally in Puerta del Sol in Madrid against President Alvaro Uribe's visit to Spain. Their presence was recorded by an agent who sent a photographic dossier to Colombia.

On September 11, 2005 in Colombia they stabbed to death trade unionist Luciano Romero, who had been hosted by the Programa de Atención a Víctimas de Violaciones a los Derechos Humanos en Colombia del Gobierno autonómico in Asturias until April of that year. On September 13, the organizations Soldepaz Pachakuti, Comité de Solidaridad con América Latina de Asturias, and Colectivo de Refugiados/as Colombianos/as en Asturias called a protest in Gijón about this crime, which they blamed on the paramilitary groups and "the government of Alvaro Uribe". Villalba or a member of the network of informers was among the protesters. On September 20, a "secret" report came to the administration of the DAS that included photographs of those attending the protest and biographical data on the coordinator of the Asturian hosting program. Several DAS agents are currently being prosecuted in Colombia for their involvement in the murder of Luciano Romero.

Intelligence at the Ibero-American Summit

The coordinator of the Special Intelligence Group G-3, Fernando Ovalle, sent a letter to Germán Villalba on September 7, 2005, informing him of the Ibero-American Summit being held in Salamanca on October 15th, "an event in which there will be a demonstration and a festival of solidarity in support of Cuba and Venezuela." Ovalle was required to "deploy intelligence work in order to confirm, refute, or amplify the information," especially to "know if the presidents of Cuba and Venezuela will chair the event," and get "pictures of participants and key contacts."

Ovalle was also responsible for intelligence work against many European NGOs. One of the documents seized from the DAS is a long list of organizations in which it states verbatim: "New List Agencies. Mr. Ovalle inform GV to neutralize. 'Suggest' propaganda e-mail." In the case of Spain, Germán Villalba was responsible for, inter alia, the Asociación Libre de Abogados, ACSUR, CC OO, Fundación de Artistas e Intelectuales por la Defensa de los Pueblos Indígenas de Iberoamérica (Baltasar Garzón sits on their board), Manos Unidas, Cáritas, Taula Catalana per la Pau i els Drets Humans a Colòmbia, Cooperacció, Asociación Catalana por la Paz, Maloka, Intermón, Amnistía Internacional [Amnesty International], Colectivo Sur Cacarica...Several of these entities, and others, were victims of interception of their e-mail and telephone conversations by the DAS. These actions against organizations and against activists and Colombian refugees in Spain are being investigated by the investigating judge no. 46 of Madrid, who has allowed a complaint against former President Uribe, the former DAS director Jorge Noguera, and former agent Germán Villalba for the crime of discovery and revelation of secrets.
So far only the activities documented in 2004 and 2005 are known, but the confessions of several DAS defendants to the Colombian justice system indicate that these practices occurred during Uribe's entire term and even remain in place under the current government of Juan Manuel Santos. Last May 10, a microphone was found in the vehicle assigned by the Colombian Ministry of Interior, as a protective measure, to lawyer and human rights defender Rafael Barrios.

DAS ordered monitoring of the entry into Colombia of Spanish politicians, artists, academics and intellectuals

In April 2005, Deputy Director of Operations of the DAS Carlos Alberto Arzayus requested Deputy Director of Foreign Affairs Lilia María Babat to report "with the greatest possible discretion" when a number of international personalities would enter Colombia, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel, sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos, theologian Leonardo Boff, the [late] bishop of Chiapas Samuel Ruiz and priest and sociologist François Houtart. The list also included Spanish politicians, artists, academics, intellectuals and human rights advocates like Juan José Tamayo (theologian and writer), Uxue Barker (deputy), Carlos Taibo (academic and writer), Jose Luis Galan (lawyer and defender of human rights), Enrique Santiago (lawyer and vice president of the Federación de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos), Manuel Ollé (president of the Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos), the [late] José María Díez Alegría (president of the Comité de Solidaridad Monseñor Óscar Romero), José Angel Cuerda (former mayor of Vitoria), Isaura Navarro (deputy) and Juan Genovés (artist).

All these people were suspicious to the DAS for having sent a letter to President Uribe blaming him for threats and consent to crimes against humanity, such as the massacre of San Jose de Apartado in which the army and paramilitary groups beat and hacked eight peasants to death. They had also already spied on former deputy Navarro in 2004 when she traveled to Colombia to attend a meeting to denounce human rights violations. When deputy Gaspar Llamazares asked about this matter, the Spanish Government replied that it had passed on to its Colombian counterpart its "concern about these alleged illegal activities of the intelligence services and the need to promote a precise investigation in the shortest time possible." The Colombian government's response to this demand is not known.

Among the plans designed by the DAS to "defend democracy and the nation" was “Operación Extranjeros” ["Operation Foreigners"], whose objective was "to neutralize the action of foreign nationals who threaten national security," according to the documents seized by the Colombian attorney general. The actions planned against these individuals included "discrediting", "pressure" and "deportation".

Paco Simón is a journalist and author of Volver a Nacer. Memoria desde el exilio del genocidio contra la Unión Patriótica de Colombia (Fundación CEPS, 2008), a collection of testimonies by Colombian exiles liviing in Spain due to government persecution during the 1980s. There is also a documentary film by the same title.

More information on the Colombian government's spying on human rights activists is available on the Justicia por Colombia Web site. Justicia por Colombia is part of a coalition of human rights groups that filed a complaint in the Spanish courts last fall about the spying.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The joy of being a nun, a feminist and a woman: An interview with Sr. Teresa Forcades

Yesterday (6/23/2011), Benedictine nun and feminist theologian Sr. Teresa Forcades y Vila appeared on a radio program "Mujeres Tomando Te", interviewed by Flor Dessiré León Hernández. Mujeres Tomando Te is a project of CIDHAL: Comunicación, Intercambio y Desarrollo Humano en América Latina, A.C., a Mexican NGO which works to "contribute towards gender equity as the axis for improving quality of life through health, education, communication and information services, stimulating citizen participation and respect for human rights." The program was conducted in Spanish and is in 4 audio segments.

Part 1:


Part 2:


Part 3:


Part 4:


Capitalism's terminal crisis?

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia and in Portuguese on his blog. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

I have been stating that the current crisis of capitalism is more than cyclical and structural. It is terminal. Has the genius of capitalism for always adapting to any circumstance come to an end? I realize that few people hold this view. Two reasons, however, lead me to this interpretation.

The first is the following: the crisis is terminal because all of us, but particularly capitalism, have trespassed the boundaries of Earth. We have occupied it, pillaging the whole planet, breaking its delicate balance and depleting its goods and services to such an extent that it fails to replenish by itself what has been taken from it. Already in the mid-nineteenth century Karl Marx wrote prophetically that the trend of capital was toward destroying the two sources of wealth and reproduction: nature and work. That is what is happening.

Nature is, in effect, being subjected to great stress, as it never was before, at least in the last century, not counting the 15 major decimations it experienced throughout its over four billion year history. Verifiable extreme events in all regions and climate change, which tends toward a growing global warming, support Marx's thesis. Without nature, how will capitalism reproduce itself? It has an insurmountable limitation.

Capitalism jeopardizes or dispenses with labor. There is a lot of development without jobs. The computerized and automated production system produces more and better, with almost no work. The direct consequence is structural unemployment.

Millions of people are never going to enter the world of work, even as a reserve army. Work has gone from depending on capital to being dispensed with. In Spain, unemployment reaches 20% among the general population, and 40% for young people. In Portugal, 12% of the country, and 30% among young people. This means a serious social crisis like the one raging at this time in Greece. The whole society is being sacrificed on behalf of an economy made not to meet human demands but to pay the debt to the banks and the financial system. Marx was right: exploited labor is no longer a source of wealth. The machine is.

The second reason is linked to the humanitarian crisis that capitalism is generating. It used to be limited to peripheral countries. Today it is global and has reached the central countries. The economic problem can't be resolved by dismantling society. The victims, linked by new avenues of communication, resist, rebel, and threaten the existing order. More and more people, especially youth, do not accept the perverse logic of capitalist political economy: the dictatorship of finance that through the market, subjects nations to its interests and the profitability of speculative capital that flows from some pockets to others, making profits without producing anything except more money for its profiteers.

It was capital itself which created the poison that could kill it. By requiring workers to have better and better technical training to be at the level of accelerated growth and increased competitiveness, it unintentionally created people who think. They are slowly discovering the perversity of the system that fleeces people in the name of merely material accumulation, which shows itself to be heartless by demanding more and more efficiency to the point of bringing workers to deep stress, to despair and, in some cases, to suicide, as has happened in other countries and also in Brazil.

The streets of several European and Arab countries, the "indignant ones" who fill the plazas in Spain and Greece are an expression of rebellion against the existing political system in tow behind the market and the logic of capital. Spanish young people are crying, "it's not a crisis, it's a robbery." The thieves are based on Wall Street, at the IMF and the European Central Bank, that is, they're the high priests of global and exploitative capital.

As the crisis gets worse, throughout the world the multitudes will grow who can no longer bear the consequences of the overexploitation of their lives and the life of the Earth and who rebel against this economic system, now dying not of old age but from the strength of the poison and the contradictions it has created by punishing Mother Earth and afflicting the lives of her sons and daughters.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Catholic Climate Covenant

I would like to draw our readers' attention to a Web site, Catholic Climate Covenant, launched at the end of April by the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, a group that was founded in 2006 with the support of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Religious Partnership for the Environment.

The Catholic Coalition on Climate Change members include: The USCCB Departments of Justice, Peace and Human Development and Migration and Refugee Services, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Health Association of the United States, Conference of Major Superiors of Men, National Catholic Rural Life Conference, Franciscan Action Network, National Council of Catholic Women, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, and Carmelite NGO. Its work is funded by the National Religious Partnership for the Environment.

The main purpose of the Web site is to encourage viewers to sign the St. Francis Pledge and thus join the Covenant. The pledge reads:

I/We Pledge to:
  • PRAY and reflect on the duty to care for God’s Creation and protect the poor and vulnerable.
  • LEARN about and educate others on the causes and moral dimensions of climate change.
  • ASSESS how we — as individuals and in our families, parishes and other affiliations — contribute to climate change by our own energy use, consumption, waste, etc.
  • ACT to change our choices and behaviors to reduce the ways we contribute to climate change.
  • ADVOCATE for Catholic principles and priorities in climate change discussions and decisions, especially as they impact those who are poor and vulnerable.

In addition to signing the pledge, viewers can find resources on what Catholics can do to advocate for the environment and environmental justice, Catholic social teachings on environmental issues, and suggested prayers and other liturgical resources. There is also information on what Catholics can do as individuals to reduce their carbon footprint and links to other organizations working on these issues.

So I would like to encourage you to check out this valuable resource and share it with other brothers and sisters in your parishes, maybe through a mention in your parish bulletin or a link from your parish Web site. "Care for Creation" and "Care for the Poor" -- conventional wisdom used to say that those ideas were mutually exclusive, that environmentalism was bad for job creation and would adversely affect poor communities. Now we know that not only is this not so, but that the poor are disproportionately affected by bad environmental practices, whether it's toxic wastes dumped in their communities because they're powerless to prevent it, or shortcuts taken in preventing occupational exposure to chemicals because the workforce is uneducated or undocumented and can't fight back, or contamination of the water and soil in poor and often indigenous communities from careless mining and gas production. These are social sins and, ultimately, "life" issues. As this group makes it clear even in their logo, caring for the poor and the planet must go hand in hand.

NOTA: Para los lectores hispanohablantes, el sitio Web de la Alianza Católica por el Clima está disponible en español:

Walk lightly

Each leaf, each petal,
each grain, each person,
sings your praises,
Creator God.

Each creature on the earth,
all the mountains and great seas
show your glory,
Spirit of love.

And yet the hand of greed
has patented and plundered
your splendour,
has taken and not shared
your gift,
has lived as owner of the earth,
not guest.

And so
the ice is cracked
the rivers dry,
the valleys flooded
and the snowcaps melt.

God our Father, show us
how to step gently,
how to live simply,
how to walk lightly
with respect and love
for all that you have made.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Where are they now?: Msgr. Nicolás Castellanos

Back in July 2009, we published our translation of an interview with this Spanish bishop who resigned from his diocese in Palencia to devote himself full time to ministering to the poor in Bolivia. As we catch up with him again, Msgr. Nicolás Castellanos says he has fallen in love with his adopted land and plans to become a Bolivian citizen.

By Gina Baldivieso (English translation by Rebel Girl)
La Opinión (Bolivia)

Nicolás Castellanos, the Spanish Catholic bishop who resigned two decades ago from the Diocese of Palencia to help the poor in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, in eastern Bolivia, admits he is in love with this country and announces that he will become a naturalized Bolivian.

At 76, the winner of the Premio Príncipe de Asturias de la Concordia in 1998 is getting his bags ready to travel to Spain this Friday in search of financing for new projects, with the promise that he will continue working for Bolivia "as long as the body can bear it," he states in an interview with EFE.

It's easy to get to his house in the Plan 3,000 neighborhood, since everybody knows Castellanos and his work in Santa Cruz, where "60% are poor and 40% live in misery," the priest adds.

His housing is as modest as those around him, on a dirt road, just as it was when he came to live in this neighborhood two decades ago.

The people of Santa Cruz are known for their religious vocation, even now when the relationship between the Catholic Church and Bolivian President Evo Morales has deteriorated due to constant attacks by the nationalist and indigenist ruler.

Castellanos believes those attacks are unnecessary because his church is the institution "with the greatest credibility in Bolivia" because of its work for the poor, as distinct from this government and previous ones which, as he says, have done nothing for them.

If he had the opportunity to meet Morales personally, he says he would ask him for an honest dialogue between all to "seek a solution together to the only problem Bolivia has -- poverty."

Castellanos remembers that his parents, humble laborers, were able "through much effort and work" to give a career path to him and his brothers, Hermógenes y Demetrio, though unlike them -- they were doctors -- he chose the religious life.

"I always had the option for the poor; I believe that for any follower of Jesus of Nazareth, the poor are fundamental," Castellanos explains to EFE, to justify his resignation from the bishopric in 1991 to be a missionary in South America.

The priest had been clear about where he wanted to carry out his apostolate ever since he came to Bolivia for the first time in 1988, while still bishop of Palencia, to give a lecture.

After Pope John Paul II accepted his resignation, Castellanos settled in 1992 in the depressed Plan 3,000, called such because it welcomed that number of families who had remained homeless due to a surge in 1983 in the Piraí river that borders on Santa Cruz.

Today, the Plan now has 300,000 inhabitants, and although Santa Cruz is the most prosperous region in Bolivia, in that neighborhood "the hunger, want and need are gnawing and palpable," Castellanos states.

Moved by the needs of the area, he founded Proyecto Hombres Nuevos, to "restore dignity and leadership to the poor."

Fifteen schools, a cultural and sports complex, a hospital, 65 soccer fields, a center for child laborers, 500 young scholarship students in the university and dozens of churches -- these are a few of the priest's works.

Those who want help from Hombres Nuevos just approach Castellanos and ask him, trusting that he will not disappoint them.

And they're right, since he gets the resources for every work in person, traveling to Switzerland, Italy, Germany and, above all, his native Spain to look for financing.

In the time he has been in Bolivia, he has seen everything, although the hardest moment was in 2009, when four men burst into his house to rob him at gunpoint.

But the satisfactions were greater than the burdens -- the greatest, seeing how 25 lads from Santa Cruz whom he had supported to become professionals, are now the ones who administer Hombre Nuevos, in return for what they had received.

In love with his new country, Castellanos began in May to deal with Bolivian nationality, something that had not occurred to him before because in Santa Cruz he is considered "más camba que la yuca" [Translator's note: this is an idiomatic Bolivian expression meaning roughly "more tropical than yucca"], that is, more a native of Santa Cruz than any of them.

It never ceases to surprise him that they ask him to build churches, since he wasn't thinking about doing it when he came to the country, but every time he went into a neighborhood to ask about their needs, the answer was always the same: a church.

"So we shifted gears and we have built six wonderful churches, without luxury, but functional, where people have a place to meet," Castellanos explains.

Photo: Msgr. Nicolás Castellanos with young people in a community center run by his Hombres Nuevos foundation.

Monday, June 20, 2011

"Benedict XVI has blown up all the bridges to modernity": An interview with Juan José Tamayo

by Cristina Turrau (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Diario Vasco

A theologian who is critical of the current hierarchy of the Catholic Church, Juan José Tamayo has just published the book, Juan Pablo II y Benedicto XVI. Del neoconservadurismo al integrismo ("John Paul II and Benedict XVI: From neoconservatism to fundamentalism", RBA Libros, 2011). He will be speaking today about the thesis he develops in this publication in Donostia, in a talk in the DV Cultural Hall at 8 p.m., in the Kutxa Room on Andía Street, free admission. He's close to liberation theology, and the Spanish Bishops' Conference branded him a "heretic" in 2003. "My criticism is extreme and radical but the Catholic Church is changing from the grassroots."

You've just published Juan Pablo II y Benedicto XVI. Del neoconservadurismo al integrismo. Your thesis seems defined...

Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI move within the same model of Church -- the restorationist conception. They question the Second Vatican Council's way of seeing the Church and retreat to earlier periods and historical times that don't correspond with the present. The dialogue with modernity and atheism, with Christian and non-Christian faiths, is being interrupted. Benedict XVI and John Paul II, in part, have blown up all the bridges of dialogue with modernity, blaming it for the crisis of Christianity. They have also broken the bridges to the world of unbelief and the ecumenical initiatives of previous periods. They have had a condemnatory attitude towards non-Christian religions and, in the case of Benedict XVI, especially towards Islam. Another bridge that they have managed to break is the encounter with the liberation theologies and with the churches committed to the poor in the Third World.

You complain that women in the Church have neither voice nor vote.

It's one of the most serious inconsistencies in the two pontificates. Women are the silent and silenced majority in the Church. The behavior of both popes has been a humiliation for women because they are not recognized as subjects of moral rights. John Paul II used a discourse of excellence: Woman is the most wonderful of God's creation, but she is excluded from all areas of responsibility or management. But the exclusion is strictest in the field of development of doctrine. Women have difficulty gaining access to theological studies, teaching positions in theology and the development of the moral principles of Christianity. Principles that are then imposed on them with respect to the body, sexuality, reproduction and family life, the couple and marriage.

You think that the beatification of John Paul II by Benedict XVI is an "exchange of favors".

It has its own logic. Benedict XVI owes everything to John Paul II with respect to his doctrinal and administrative power in Rome. As saying goes: to be well-bred is to be grateful ("es de bien nacidos ser agradecidos"). John Paul II brought Ratzinger to the Vatican and put him in charge of the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is responsible for monitoring orthodoxy and the theologians who turn away from it are facilely characterized as "heterodox" or "heretics". Cardinal Ratzinger acquired an extraordinary power to control the journals, books, teaching, academic chairs and training of theology students. He had absolute power, as nobody has had in his position or in the previous institution, the Holy Office. During the more than 20 years he ruled the Congregation, he behaved with great harshness and rigidity. He expelled theologians, including colleagues of his, from their chairs for not agreeing with his opinions; he imposed censorship on books, shut down journals and put many theologians in the position of having to give up their intellectual projects. He participated actively in the election of bishops in important dioceses who fully identified with his neoconservative theology. John Paul II appointed him successor 'in pectore'. But there's more...


Behind the beatification of John Paul II by Benedict XVI is an attempt to whitewash crimes. Both were involved up to their necks in the knowledge of cases of pedophilia. For over 30 years of rule by both popes, there have been inhuman crimes against children and youth. And during this time they were complicit by their silence. Cases of this kind were coming before the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which had the direct and sole responsibility to take action.

And it didn't...

No decision was ever made to punish the guilty. There was a complicity of silence, the most serious of all complicities. Faced with the criticism that raged, for example, over John Paul II's permissiveness with Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, the Pope thought that the best way was to declare John Paul II blessed. And thus he washed his own crimes.

Benedict XVI has been characterized by his harshness in condemning pederasty in the Church.

As a partner in the crimes of cover-up, when he became Pope, the time bomb exploded in his hands. There are so many cases and in so many countries, that the situation can't go on. In documents and statements, he blames the pedophiles and the bishops, in Ireland for example. But he has never acknowledged his responsibility, which is the most important. And he has not apologized. The documents are just smoke if these people are not excluded from the priesthood and put in the hands of justice. And there has been obstruction of justice.

You criticize the rapid beatification of Escrivá de Balager.

It's a scandalous case in the Catholic Church. Among the new neoconservative religious movements, Opus Dei and the Legionaries of Christ are located in the social place of the power establishment. These two popes have taken the side of such movements and have moved away from those that are more faithful to Vatican II and more committed to the poor.

Joxe Arregi, who left the Franciscans because of his confrontation with Bishop Munilla, is giving his talk today.

Joxe Arregi's case, like mine 7 years earlier, is the best evidence that the Holy Office continues its work. He is a brave, committed and consistent theologian. I've defended him for his corporate solidarity but, above all, for his solidarity with people who have seen their rights denied or curtailed in the community in which they live. I have suffered this limitation by the Catholic hierarchy, in my own flesh.

Will the Church change?

Despite my hard analysis and my extreme and radical criticism, I think the situation is reversing itself. Reality is changing within the Catholic Church. Not at the top or in the middle, but at the grassroots. And a very promising community-based movement is developing. This happens with ice. Below it, there is water, which emerges through small pores until it becomes a big ocean. The same is happening here. The project of a participatory, egalitarian Church in solidarity with the poor that was designed in the Second Vatican Council is jelling in the collectives and organizations.