Events are quickly coming to a head in Venezuela, as Father de Souza at Crux tells us:
The Holy See declared itself on Friday against the brutal regime of Nicolas Maduro, capping an extraordinary few months of masterful maneuvering by the bishops of Venezuela. They have preserved the integrity of the Church’s witness in the face of a tyrant that has starved his people and refused to permit foreign aid to help them.
The statement of the Holy See’s Secretariat of State calls on Maduro to abandon his plans to hold a “constituent assembly” to rewrite the constitution in his favour. It calls again for human rights to be respected, and refers to earlier calls for political prisoners to be released and new elections to be held – which, presumably and hopefully – would lead to the end of Maduro’s regime.
Venezuela has been plunged into a lethal crisis by a communist government that has doubled down on totalitarian measures to tighten its grip on power. The collapse of petro-communism in Venezuela is now more severe than the Great Depression in the United States, or the economic decline of Russia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
But it’s wrong to blame falling oil prices, which in any case have recently stabilized. There are no other petro-states in which the citizenry is without food or toilet paper, fleeing as refugees without papers because the government no longer has the capacity to print passports.
Venezuela has descended rapidly into starvation poverty because during the boom years the regime of Hugo Chavez ran up record debts to plug the holes in its failed, corrupt economic policies. Now under his successor, Nicolas Maduro, there is nothing left in the exchequer and little new borrowing to be had. The economic catastrophe has undermined the regime’s support, which is why Maduro has resorted to lethal violence, rampant thuggery and totalitarian measures to change the constitution to preserve his hold on power.
In the aftermath of Sunday’s vote for Maduro’s new constituent assembly – boycotted by the opposition – the government seized opposition leaders and continued its killing of protesters in the streets. The Venezuelan bishops stood with the opposition, and with the protesters. Indeed, one extraordinary photo shows Venezuelan priests facing armed government forces in the streets, pleading for them to allow medical care for a young man they had shot. The government forces let him die.
The country’s bishops made clear by name the cause of Venezuela’s agony, tweeting on Sunday a prayer to “free our homeland from the claws of communism and socialism.” It is not a matter of a clumsy bureaucracy, or of squabbling factions, or unfortunate economic shocks; Venezuela has been brought low by a failed ideology.
The Venezuelan Church now stands squarely in solidarity with the opposition and the people in the streets against the Maduro regime. In the weeks ahead, we might hope for something like the happy ending of the People Power revolution of 1986 in the Philippines, when the Filipino Church was at the forefront of the protests that brought down the regime of Ferdinand Marcos.
However matters play out in Venezuela, the leading bishops of the country have ensured that the Church’s witness will not be ambiguous. Even a few months ago, the role of the Church was confusing in Venezuela, with the astonishing phenomenon of Maduro repeatedly insisting that the bishops drop their opposition to him out of obedience to Pope Francis, who called repeatedly for dialogue but would not clearly criticize the Maduro regime, as he did yesterday.
Defenders of the previous papal strategy considered it an attempt to keep the lines of communication open, preserving the capacity of the Church to act as a mediator. Critics of the strategy thought it foolish to call for dialogue as between the predator and his prey, when the only path ahead for Venezuela was for Maduro and his socialist/communist regime to go.
Go here to read the rest. It is easy to be cynical about the Church when one views the shenanigans at the Vatican. But the Church is vast and the bishops of Venezuela, at considerable personal risk to themselves, have been covering themselves and the local Church with glory by their brave stance against the oppressors of their flock. May God and we help them.