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The “Coupist” Cardinal By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Tegucgalpa, Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, has been steadfast in denouncing intervention by Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez into Honduras on behalf of now ousted leftist President Manuel Zelaya. 

For his exertions, the international left has labeled Rodriguez the “cardinal golpista” or coupist cardinal.  The prelate also reports regular death threats against himself.   Undeterred, Rodrigues insists he is not necessarily a supporter of every aspect of Zelaya’s ouster, especially his deportation.  But he is adamant that the Honduran Congress, Supreme Court and military, backed by most Hondurans, accurately saw Zelaya as subverting the constitution, with support from Chavez.

You must know  that we are struggling against a very powerful, very well-financed, campaign, which is being steered by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez -- to the extent that agents of the Venezuelan secret services are active in the country and are organizing the supposed popular protests against the removal of President Manuel Zelaya,” Rodrigues told a German newspaper.  “Weapons have also been brought into the country. Thank God that up to now more blood has not been shed. But not a day goes by without my receiving a death threat.”

For this kind of defense of Honduras, Cardinal Rodriguez has been accused of following his “gods” of “economic power and the armed forces.”  One leftist El Salvador journal berated him for having “set himself against the people” and “against the poor,” and for blessing “those who shoot and kill the people.”  It further intoned:  “The preferential option for the poor is certainly not new, nor it is exclusive to the theology of liberation, it is simply the nature of Christianity.”

“Preferential option” was the buzz phrase for church revolutionaries back in the 1970’s and 1980’s who discerned God’s will in the Sandinista insurgency and other Marxist rebel groups throughout Latin America.  Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution, and its political saplings throughout the region, including Zelaya, have revivified old church leftists in North and South America anxious for a cause.  Naturally left-leaning U.S. church officials, with support from some missionaries, have demanded Zelaya’s return.  They set themselves against Cardinal Rodrigues and most Catholics and Evangelicals in Honduras.  The alignment is not dissimilar to the 1980’s, which U.S. church leftists inspired by Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega aligned against Nicaragua’s anti-Marxist Cardinal Obando y Bravo, who courageously resisted the regime.  

Evidently, Cardinal Rodrigues did not want to wind up like Obando, struggling to uphold the church against a hostile revolutionary government supported by outside forces.   The Catholic Church is “determined to resist foreign powers again taking control of this country: this time, in order to "Bolivarize" it,” Rodrigues told the German newspaper.  “The agents are already working against the church, using the same methods that we have come to know from Venezuela. Last Sunday, holy mass could not be held in any of the three churches in downtown Tegucigalpa, because gangs had ransacked the churches and threatened the faithful.”  Of course, similar Sandinista-mobs had disrupted Nicaragua’s churches 20 years ago.   Then, Fidel Castro and, ultimately, the Soviets, were the patrons of Latin revolution.  Today it is Venezuela’s Chavez.

“There passes no day in which the Venezuelan government does not spread such hints on television, on radio and in the internet,” Cardinal Rodrigues warned about direct intervention into Honduras.  “Here in Central America the recollection of the 70’s and 80’s  is still very alive: civil wars, guerrilla battles, hundreds of thousands dead persons.”  The Cardinal would prefer not to return to those days, though they were halcyon times for church activists who celebrated Marxist revolution as salvation for the poor.   Rodrigues called the OAS “completely discredited” for backing Zelaya, and said “nobody can explain” why the U.S. has backed Zelaya.

Argentine peace activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel publicly denounced Cardinal Rodrigues.  “The road you have chosen of being an accomplice to the military dictatorship is not the way of the Gospel,”  he proclaimed.  “The shepherd who abandons his sheep and allows atrocities and supports dictatorship to defend his economic and political interests, is not worthy of being acknowledged as a Pastor of Christ and for His people.”

Meanwhile, Cardinal Rodrigues told an Argentine newspaper that Zelaya had withdrawn $2 million in cash form government reserves for his planned referendum to prolong his rule.  “Why so much money for a poll?” Rodrigues asked.  “Since when do governments do business in cash? This initiative was plagued by rampant corruption. There was no money for the victims of the earthquake, but there was to buy votes."  Rodrigues said Zelaya’s regime had been “maintained by money from Hugo Chavez and that’s that."

Leftists like Adolfo Pérez Esquivel evidently do not object to Chavez or Zelaya purloining from the people on behalf of revolution.  But critics of that kind of revolutionary thievery are chastised for surrendering economic “interests.”  Seemingly, Cardinal Rodrigues will not be intimidated by angry, pseudo-Marxist rhetoric.  He’s probably heard it all before.  

Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

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