Summary of Report on Nicaragua by Bishop Pablo Vega, August 4, 1986
Bishop Pablo Antonio Vega of Juigalpa, August 4, 1986
Addressed to "My Brothers in the Episcopacy," the report is entitled "Some reflections in order to clarify the accusations made by President Daniel Ortega to justify my expulsion from my country." It is divided into three principal sections, dealing respectively with the origins of the confrontation, the activity of the Church in favor of socio-political changes, and concluding observations.
I. Origin of the Confrontation
- President Ortega blames the confrontation on the Bishops' denunciation of the regime. On the contrary, the real cause of the confrontation is the effort being made to impose a materialistic concept and way of life, that is, the ideology of the F.S.L.N. ("Fronted Sandinista de Liberation Nacional"), on a people that already possesses its own historical and Christian identity. The materialistic concept and way of life that the Government seeks to impose ignores both of these identities, and moreover, ignores the fundamental rights proper to every individual and to every people. What follows, therefore, is confrontation between totalitarian materialism and Christian revelation. But Christianity does not seek confrontation. Instead, it seeks a way that will lead to socio-political change through the proper balance between the spiritual and material elements.
- The Church has repeatedly asked the F.S.L.N. to give to the people the possibility of freely choosing a form of government. The response of the' authorities has been to try to divide the faithful from their pastors and to undermine their Christian vocation. And if the people do not obey the government's instructions, for example to act as informers, they are threatened with being denounced as "contras." Security forces frequently attach the "contra" label to persons purely for the reason that they are committed Catholics, and Bishop Vega gives the names of some members of his Prelature who have been killed, apparently for that reason.
- The accusation is being made against the Bishops that, by their silence, they are accomplices of the crimes committed by the "contras," and of the anti-Nicaraguan Reagan policy. But it is the F.S.L.N. itself that has reduced the Bishops to silence, permitting them to speak only if they speak in favor of the Government. The Bishop provides various examples of this, including cases of news being manipulated by visitors from other countries. The same silence has been imposed on anyone who might complain or criticize the Government, and priests who do receive complaints about injustices or threats are implored not to reveal the names of those complaining for fear of reprisal.
- It is impossible to know what laws one can appeal for legal protection of one's right to life or of other personal and civil rights. Everything is controlled by emergency laws and by arbitrary decisions. There is talk of pluralism, but it is a pluralism conditioned by the regime and permitted only insofar as reflected by those groups that support the Government, such as the "popular Church," which is merely a strategy of international communism to discredit the Catholic Church. It does not extend to personal initiatives of any kind in the cultural or economic contexts.
II. The Activity of the Church in Favor of Socio-Political Changes
- The Church in Nicaragua has been morally present in the whole process of motivating the people to struggle for greater recognition of their human, personal and collective dignity. This is shown, for example, in the various collective Pastoral Letters issued by the Hierarchy, including those issued during the previous regime. This activity of the Church in favor of social change has been acknowledged even by leftist groups, who recognize that it was not a question of rejection of the faith, but of seeking fundamental rights. In spite of this, the F.S.L.N. has continually intensified its efforts to minimize the Church's prestige, and to exalt Sandinism as the new religion, proclaiming, for example: "Sandino yesterday, Sandino today, Sandino forever." In the face of this, the Church has repeatedly endeavored to promote dialogue, and to halt the oppression of the people. This, the Bishop notes, has been the aim of the Church, and this too, he underlines, has been the substance of the message he wished to convey in the two conferences he gave at the Heritage Foundation in March and June of this year.
- In those conferences, the Bishop stated that all foreign assistance, including military assistance, should be directed not to oppression, but to the promotion of the people's well-being. It is not sufficient, he said, to substitute dictatorships with dictatorships, imperialisms with imperialisms or classes with classes. The Church, he added, cannot support regimes of the extreme left or of the extreme right; it can only, in accordance with the exigencies of faith, seek to promote a social order based on the inalienable rights of man and of peoples. That is the position of the Church now, as it was during the Somoza regime.
- At this point, Bishop Vega includes some points which came to his attention while he was preparing the report.
Referring to statements issued by the Embassy of Nicaragua to the Holy See, Bishop Vega sees in them a confirmation of the totalitarian strategy aimed at reducing everything to its own single-party vision, at being all and at controlling all. That strategy ignores the existence of Christian values, and sees the tensions between Church and State as a mere political conflict destined to result in the creation of a new political model. For the totalitarian materialist, motives of faith or of the natural law have no validity: the only validity lies in sole and absolute power.
With regard to the International Court of Justice's decision against United States aid to the "contras," Bishop Vega was asked for his opinion by a journalist. He replied that:
a. he was not competent to comment on the legal aspects;
b. it seemed strange to him that an international court did not have a more universal and complex vision of the problem;
c. the people are suffering both as a result of the activities of the rebel groups, and as a result of the efforts of the F.S.L.N. to impose its ideology.
Reflecting on the time of Somoza, Bishop Vega notes that he and Archbishop, now Cardinal, Obando were present at many meetings of various opposition groups, including the F.S.L.N. This was known to the authorities, but it was not considered treasonous, and no Bishop was expelled as a result. Moreover, when members of the F.S.L.N. were arrested for the violence which was part of their program, it was frequently the Bishops who intervened on their behalf. It seems strange, therefore, that now the F.S.L.N. wishes to dictate to the Bishops about what they are to say and with whom they are to speak.
- Bishop Vega then recounts the actual events surrounding his expulsion: summoned by the political director of the region, told that he was under arrest, transported to the frontier where the advice given to him was: "Seek another country --among the Contras or with Reagan."
III. Concluding Remarks
- To profess one's faith today it is not sufficient to attend Mass and to perform other ritual formalities. It is necessary to live in the historical present, with a view to external life. Catechesis is not enough: there must be life-building activity in the Christian sense, based on human values.
- Faced with the ideology of materialism, Christians must demonstrate the free, responsible and creative dynamism of the Spirit.
- The Marxists utilize an international network to constantly attack and undermine Christian values, while Christians themselves seem to be confused and uncertain, perhaps because they reduce their faith to mere "rigid schemas," without vision and without creativity, thus overlooking the need to work for the historic redemption of man.