THE YEAR WAS 1985. DANIEL ORTEGA HAD SUCCEEDED IN HIS REVOLUTION IN NICARAGUA.
The President of the NCCB/USCC appointed a special ad hoc Committee of five bishops to visit Nicaragua, El Salvador, the Honduras and Guatamala, speak with the Church’s leaders in those countries and to return and give a report to the Conference of Bishops on the situation of the Church vis-a-vis the spreading communist inspired revolutionary movements in Central America. The members of the Committee were: Cardinals John O’Connor, Joseph Bernardin, James Hickey and Bishops Sean O’Malley and Rene Henry Gracida (me). We met with Cardinal Obanda Bravo in Managua and, at Daniel Ortega’s invitation we met with him and his cabinet. We met also in Tegulcigalpa with the young auxiliary Bishop, Oscar Rodriguez Madariaga. My meeting with Bishop Rodriguez Madariaga on that occasion was the beginning of a long friendship which continues to this day; he has visited Corpus Christi on several occasions.
I have posted several times on this Blog about the scandal of the Obama Administration supporting the Chavez-Zelaya axis in its attempt to subvert democracy in the Honduras. It is with pleasure that I present below this interview with Cardinal Rodriguez Madariaga which reveals his evaluation of the situation in his Country.
The Cardinal and the Constitution
Cardinal Rodriguez says Manuel Zelaya was removed from power constitutionally.
By MARY ANASTASIA O’GRADY
It’s a good 30 minutes by car from here to the Catholic retreat center where I traveled to meet Honduran Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga last week. The brick compound sits just off a dirt road on a hillside in a forest of tall pines. When I arrived the sun was going down, and in the stillness of the early evening the world seemed serene.
Yet for the cardinal, life lately has been anything but peaceful. Ever since then-president Manuel Zelaya began preparing to overthrow the constitution earlier this year so that he could remain in power past his term limit, Honduras has been in turmoil. And the Catholic Church has found itself necessarily involved.
The hard left has argued that the decision to depose Mr. Zelaya was driven by elite antipathy toward his activism on behalf of the poor. But the cardinal, who is an outspoken advocate for the downtrodden and a longtime critic of Central American income disparities, does not share that view. He has supported the removal of Mr. Zelaya. I wanted to hear more about that.
Getty ImagesHonduras’s Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga opposes Manuel Zelaya’s return to power.
“It has been so painful,” Cardinal Rodríguez tells me, emphasizing the last word. The pain, he says, has been generated by those who have attacked the church leadership as “golpistas,” that is, backers of a military coup. In this part of the world, after so many years of military dictatorship, there is hardly a greater insult.
Even though the church backed the decision by Congress to depose Mr. Zelaya, the cardinal insists that from the start it has tried to promote peace. “In our communiqué immediately following the event,” he explains, “we were saying this was a constitutional removal of the president, and that we have to learn from the mistakes, and we were calling for the reconciliation of the country. That’s all that we did, but that very same day we were blamed as golpistas, golpistas.”
Mr. Zelaya’s supporters have put pressure on the church, but despite “constant death threats” the cardinal says he has received, he has not changed his position. In October, he says, all 11 members of the bishops’ conference “made another statement calling for nonviolence and reconciliation.”
Cardinal Rodríguez also feels strongly that Mr. Zelaya should not return to power. “I believe that a person who has been acting as he did no longer has the moral authority to be the president of the nation,” he tells me.
Cardinal Rodríguez is a respected national figure and his words carry weight. Yet he emphasizes that the church has not become involved in the political process surrounding Mr. Zelaya’s fate, and for good reason. “There are many people who are zelayistas in good faith because he was promising a lot of things to the poor. I have to be a bridge of unity for all.”
That hasn’t been so easy, because the cardinal also has a responsibility to care for his flock. And he believes that allowing the president to trample the constitution would be bad for the nation.
This is not to suggest an endorsement of the status quo. Cardinal Rodríguez has plenty of criticism for a system that has left so many Hondurans mired in poverty while a small number live extravagantly. He denounces the lack of equality under the law which has damaged economic mobility. “In Latin America, when you have money, you can buy justice.” Such corruption is what led to “the implosion” of political parties in Venezuela,” he says. “And in the vacuum there was this messiah, Chávez, who came. This is the danger in all our nations.”
Yet the cardinal also recognizes progress since the birth of the constitutional democracy in 1982. “Now the army is respected, because they have dedicated themselves to the constitutional role of defending the law and the borders.” The trouble, he says, is that with the advent of democracy, “the political parties took politics as an industry for enrichment. We need to change that.”
Cardinal Rodríguez sees the rule of law as an important link to development. “The key is to assure justice,” he says, “because if you don’t have legal security, you are not going to invest. Investment is very important. With investments there are more jobs for our people.”
Speaking of investors, the cardinal says, “of course they are not all saints,” and human rights must be protected. “But what should we do without those jobs?” he asks. Then he adds, “Maquilas [assembly plants] are especially important for women, because their jobs have been a source of dignity. When they earn their own money they are no longer slaves to the macho man in their lives, who often is not even their husband.”
Honduras will hold a presidential election on Nov. 29, and many hope Mr. Zelaya will soon be a bad memory. Yet the struggle for liberty, and the social justice that comes from equality under the law, will continue. Cardinal Rodríguez says he hopes the political class has learned a lesson. Amen to that.
Write to O’Grady@wsj.com