Statement on the Conflict in Nicaragua, June 12, 1979

Year Published
  • 2013
  • English

Archbishop John R. Quinn
June 12, 1979 

The President of the Nicaraguan Bishops' Conference has said that the depth of the tragedy which his country is today experiencing has been grasped by none of the other nations or organizations of the world. In this judgment, a judgment with which we in this country must regretfully concur, he specifically cited the United States. 

The voice of our brother bishops in Nicaragua reminds us of the increasing interdependence of the globe today, and specifically of the multiple relationship, political, economic, and ecclesial, which bind together the nations of the Western Hemisphere. To adapt the words of John Paul II, the problems of interdependence today constitute "a great drama that can leave nobody indifferent." Ultimately, the people of each nation must decide the fate and future of their country. But interdependence means that we all have not only material but also moral ties to our neighbors. 

Groups of citizens in our country and particularly many in the churches have for long been deeply concerned about the crisis in our sister republic to the south and have worked tirelessly to bring about changes at least in our own government's role there. They have tried to raise the level of public awareness and concern against a sea of apathy and the well-financed activities of the Nicaraguan government's allies in this country. And they have provided a measure of assistance, generous but still inadequate, to the thousands of poor people and youth who have had to flee their homeland. 

But real changes in our government's policies and real awareness among our citizens have come partially and belatedly; the very slowness of this process has convinced some that the change in policy is not real but merely apparent. 

At the end of April and again on May 16, Bishop Manuel Salazar Espinosa of Leon issued an anguished plea to the whole world "to do the impossible in order to find a solution to our problem." In responding to the Bishop's call, we in the United States must bear in mind our past history and present possibilities in Nicaragua.

On the one hand, we have been part of the problem because of an interventionary posture which involved us deeply in determining Nicaragua's destiny in this century. The disastrous consequences of this role for the Nicaraguan people certainly make any suggestion today of military intervention unthinkable. Such a policy would be morally unsupportable. On the other hand, the United States has a unique political role in this Hemisphere and continues to be perceived as the mainstay of the present regime. In the face of such a perception, it is necessary to make our judgment on the present crisis in Nicaragua clearly known. 

In reply to my letter of last October 6 to President Carter, the State Department said that "we will use every appropriate occasion to express our views to the Government of Nicaragua." Surely this is the time to express in the most forceful and unequivocal fashion the utter disgust and horror of our nation for the ruthless terror being visited upon the people of Nicaragua. 

I call upon the President publicly to communicate to General Somoza the revulsion of the American people at what, in several recent statements, Nicaraguan bishops have called: the Calvary of the Nicaraguans, the endless killing, the economic ruin, the growing expansion of the zones of misery, anguish, frustration and the bitterness of our people the attacks on the human dignity of our people a tremendous situation of sin (through which) our country is pulled into a holocaust. In the wake of our government's decision not to oppose the recent IMP loan, and in the light of incessant rumors of a wider war, this is the time for traditional diplomacy to give way to forthright statesmanship and courageous moral leadership. 

We join our prayers with those of the suffering people and persecuted Church of Nicaragua. And we make our own words of Bishop Salazar: "An army of occupation cannot secure everlasting peace since this will only be gained if it exists in a social and economic system based on justice... It is still not too late; peace should exist. Peace is possible." 

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