Statement on Panama Canal Treaties from Bishop Kelly, April 12, 1978

Year Published
  • 2013
  • English

Bishop Thomas C. Kelly
April 12, 1978 

Since 1975 the U.S. Catholic Conference has energetically supported efforts to negotiate new treaties which would return to Panama full and effective sovereignty over the whole of its national territory. Successful conclusion of such efforts can symbolize and initiate a new cooperative relationship between the United States and the nations of Latin America—a relationship characterized by full respect for the sovereignty of each nation, the dignity of its people, and the requirements of international social justice. 

Viewing the agreements negotiated last September as a positive step toward this new relationship, USCC has supported the treaties signed by President Carter and General Torrijos. We welcomed the Senate's passage of the Neutrality Treaty last month. But the attachment of a reservation implying a U.S. right to intervene in the internal affairs of Panama has threatened and may indeed have eroded the respect for sovereignty, dignity, and social justice which the treaties are designed to foster. 

Our concern is till greater in view of reports that attempts may be made to attach further reservations to the basic treaty, which will be voted on April 18. Such reservations could eviscerate the substance of the treaties and lead to a major setback in the hoped-for new relationship. 

The U.S. Catholic Conference therefore urges the President and the Senate to resist firmly any measures which, either explicitly or implicitly, would restrict the legitimate sovereignty of the Republic of Panama. Moreover, in light of the present circumstances, USCC believes there is need for a statement of clarification by an appropriate party, indicating the intent of the reservation to the Neutrality Treaty and making clear that its scope does not exceed the principles contained in the original treaty. Finally, the Conference urges that the U.S. government explicitly reaffirm its intention to adhere fully in its relations with the Republic of Panama to the principles of nonintervention contained in the Charter of the Organization of American States. 

It is USCC's hope at this stage of the ratification process that no effort will be spared to assure that the new treaties do signify and begin an era of justice and peace in the Western Hemisphere.