After Wednesday’s chaos at the U.S. Capitol, several Catholic leaders from Latin America have expressed concern over the images they saw.
The images are not entirely unfamiliar to most bishops in the region, where protesters and dissidents have long seen such disruptive events as a valid way of voicing grievances. But in the words of President George W. Bush, Wednesday’s images seem more befitting of a “banana republic” than the world’s leading champion of democracy.
“There have been so many scattered incidents of violence in the United States, and around the world, that regrettably it’s not surprising,” said Bishop Alfonso Miranda, Secretary General of the Mexican bishop’s conference.
“This doesn’t mean we should get used to these events, and much less so normalize these actions,” he told Crux Thursday.
From a Latin American perspective, where there have been many violent anti-government revolts in recent years, it’s a source of particular concern to see them in the United States.
“It obviously worries us more to see them in the United States, because the country is always a political and economic world reference, and due to the social repercussions it can have in the rest of the world,” said Miranda, auxiliary of the archdiocese of Monterrey.
On Wednesday, he’d been one of the first Latin American bishops to react to the violence and death that occurred in the Capitol, saying that democracy and the rule of law must prevail over acts of violence.
“To the dead and infected by the pandemic, let’s not add more victims due to riots, insurrections and wars,” he’d written.
Another prelate active on Twitter was Sergio Buenanueva, of Argentina’s San Francisco diocese, who shared the messages of several others- including Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, who wrote that “what has been unfolding at the Capitol today should shock the conscience of any patriotic American and any faithful Catholic. The eyes of the world look in horror as we suffer this national disgrace.”
Among the things he shared is a reflection by Spanish Jesuit Father Alvaro Lobo, who argued that democracy is “under siege.”
Much like Miranda, Lobo- and Buenanueva by extension- argued that Wednesday’s images “can hurt us, scandalize and worry us, however, I think they cannot surprise us.”
“For months the denial of defeat has been a constant” in the U.S. he said. “Violence explodes with weapons, but it begins much earlier, at the moment when politicians pollute the environment when they shout more than they speak, insult more than listen, and provoke more than reflect.”
And it only takes a small spark to create a great explosion, Lobo wrote: “It only takes a bunch of idiots unable to contain their aggressiveness to turn so much verbal hatred into physical violence, and in the latter we [Europeans] are not different from Americans.”
Democracy that doesn’t manage to contain that violence, can fall in disgrace, as it happened a century ago, the priest wrote. It’s not a perfect system, but it requires a strong exercise of responsibility that goes from the election of those in power to accepting the rules, how people receive their news and even the tweets published.
“Hopefully this will serve as a reminder that extremisms don’t help and that it’s not enough to heal the wound: surely, it’s better to stop playing with fire,” Lobo argued.
In his exchange with Crux, Miranda said he’d like to take up the words of the American bishops in calling on the people to resume “the paths of peace building, of defense of democracy, and of continuing to exalt the great values that have historically characterized this sibling country, including freedom, justice and democracy.”
Bishop Ubaldo Santana of the Venezuelan diocese of Carora also went on social media to express concern and to call for an end to violence. The “assault” on the Capitol, he said, is “bad news” for the democratic model based “on the institutions and the rule of law, and a disturbing breeding ground for those who advocate the implementation of personalist and nationalist leaderships.”
“We need more institutions and less personalities, more integration and fewer nationalist regimes. Let’s read the encyclical by Pope Francis Fratelli tutti. There’s a clear route there to reach a world of peace,” Santana said.
Fratelli tutti, a letter on human fraternity, was released by the pontiff last October.
“The nationalist and personalist drift of President Trump does not detract from the validity of pro-life programs, the cultivation in the people of faith, moral and spiritual values, to better face the current crises, programs that he had the wisdom and courage to assume,” the bishop argued.
Another Argentine who was active on Twitter as the events in the Capitol unfolded was Marcelo Figueroa, an evangelical pastor known for being close to Pope Francis and a columnist for the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. Among other things, he wrote an article in 2017 with Jesuit Antonio Spadaro, on Evangelical fundamentalism and Catholic integralism, arguing there’s an “ecumenism of hatred” in the United States.
Referencing the article, Figueroa said that what was said three years ago about hatred ecumenism on Wednesday materialized into an attempted coup.
Sharing a message that showed a cross being put up in front of the Capitol building, the pope’s friend argued that religious fundamentalism, political messianism and denialism are “deep down hatred and intolerance, and can only generate violence and chaos, and even a coup in any country and at all times, even in the United States of today. Attention!”