The Catholic Church in Venezuela: standing up for freedom and liberty.

Cardinal Urosa and Hugo Chavez

In 2006, Hugo Chavez greeted Archbishop Jorge Cardinal Urosa as a head of state when he returned from Rome. I don't think there will be any similar greetings any time soon. (Andrew Alvarez/AFP/Getty Images)

The people of Venezuela delivered a huge blow to the near-hegemonic authority of Venezuelan president (and would-be dictator) Hugo Chavez in September of last year, reducing Chavez’ ruling party to less than two-thirds of the National Assembly, Venezuela’s legislature. The 165-seat National Assembly had been dominated by 139 members of Chavez’ own party, with the opposition party holding only six seats after they boycotted the previous election. With a greater than two-thirds majority, Chavez’ party was able to do mostly anything, which meant Chavez was able to do mostly anything.

But with the opposition winning 65 seats to Chavez’ 98, el presidente was about to experience a significant reduction in control.

Thus, before the new National Assembly was seated on January 4, Chavez asked the legislature to pass a number of laws, especially the Law of Empowerment. This measure gives Chavez the power to rule by decree until the middle of 2012. Chavez claimed that he needed this authority to address the recent flooding in Venezuela. After all, can’t let a good crisis go to waste.

The Catholic bishops of Venezuela objected most strenuously and pointedly in a statement released at the end of their 95th Ordinary Assembly.

According to the CNA/EWTN news article (bolding mine):

The Venezuelan bishops also criticized the outgoing assembly for passing 25 laws in less than one month. The laws, the bishops said, mostly restrict “the rights and guarantees enjoyed by Venezuelans” and also “incorporate proposals for constitutional reform that were rejected by the people in 2007.

“The new laws have very little to do with the real problems of the country,” [“Stimulus,” anyone?] the bishops charged.  “In fact, the situation in Venezuela is very grave due to the incessant increase in the lack of security … the growing national debt, the immense lack of housing and the increase in the cost of living,” they added.

New laws on telecommunications and universities place limits on freedom of conscience, in order to squash dissent and bolster the government’s monopoly on the media, they continued.

Other laws undermine the constitutional authority of governors and mayors, the bishops noted.

They also denounced the unconstitutional confiscation of farms, lands and buildings as violations of the right to own property.  The government cannot assume total control over the lives of its citizens “nor establish conditions to remain perpetually in power,” the bishops said, drawing their statement to a close.

If you recall, Chavez was rebuffed in a 2007 attempt to remove the constitutional barriers that would prevent him from running for president for life, among other initiatives that would have forwarded his desired socialist makeover of the largest oil producer in Latin America.

This is all rather alarming. Chavez protects FARC, the socialist terrorist organization that keeps neighboring Colombia, a strong democracy and friend of the U.S., in a perpetual state of alert. Chavez has nationalized industries at a rate that would make Obama blush. Chavez has shut down media outlets that disagree with him. The Cahtolic bishops are truly the only presence in the country with the organization and power to oppose him outside opposition political parties. But what is to prevent Chavez from nationalizing Church holdings? Arresting priests who preach on social justice and the legitimate right to own property? Arresting or otherwise restricting the abilities of bishops to tend their flock should they run afoul of his new orthodoxy?

The archbishop of the capital city, Caracas, Jorge Cardinal Urosa, addressed the opening of the 95th bishops assembly. According to the report:

He said the bishops’ conference would continue to issue moral judgments about political issues that “affect human rights,” and he lamented that the Venezuelan state has questioned “the right of the bishops and the Church to participate in the political life of the country.”

His brother bishops are standing with him, and promoting the right of Catholic charitable organizations to continue doing the incredible work they have been doing in delivering aid to the flood-ravaged countryside.

And that’s the rub. Socialism, along with all left-wing governments, cannot abide a competitor for the hearts and minds of the populous. That’s why they regimes seek to at least marginalize, if not outright suppress or co-opt the hierarchy and activities of Christian bodies, especially the Catholic Church.

So Chavez, if he is to forward his revolution, must do the same with the bishops of Venezuela. This latest brave stand by the cardinal and his episcopal brethren makes that harder.

The letter from the bishops’ meeting closed with:

“It is contrary to Christian values, human rights and common sense to destroy those who think differently or condemn them to silence.”

Brave words. We should heed them here in the U.S. also, but we are not quite staring at a would-be left-wing dictatorial regime.

Chavez is up for reelection in 2012. Let’s hope and pray that two left-wing presidents are shown the door that year.



  • james wiliams

    -Is there a higher theology for man, than knowing God personally-?

    True Theologians
    “He is not here; for he is risen” (Matthew 28, 6)

    From the island of Cyprus (Acts 13:4,5).

    Beloved Christian brothers and sisters,
    There are those today who live in not so distant places that have a real life person to Person relationship with Lord Jesus!
    These humble words that are shared with brotherly love and respect, point out to the kind of relationship man was made to have with our Lord Jesus Christ. The following paragraphs, where taken from the book of Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos Entreaty” (Paraklitika), and it is knowledge that must be shared with all those who have Lord Jesus Christ as their Heavenly Father.

    “Those who have made their selves worthy to see God are the True Theologians. Saint Gregorios the Theologian taught that those who saw God like Apostle Paul can safely theologize, because the sight of God cleans them from all fantasy, and renders them true preachers of the truth making them explicitly different from philosophers and philosophies”.

    Metropolitan Hierotheos who is member of the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church continues in his book:

    “It is with a lot of awe and fear of God that we dare write here that even today there are Saints (that are alive today) who saw and see Christ in the Light, they converse with him, and stay in His Sight for days and even weeks. We have been blessed by God to personally meet such people who saw Christ in His Divine Light, who attest to the fact that Lord Jesus is a True God, the only Savior of man, our only hope for Eternal Life, our only way out of the dead end that we have reached”. (John 17:3) “And eternal life means knowing you (personally), the only true God, and knowing Jesus Christ, whom you send”

    Saint Gregorios (3rd century) description of his personal experience who saw Christ in His Divine Light is used as an example to describe how the Saints are able (became worthy), to see and know God in His Divine Glory.


    A notion, which Saint Symeon goes to great lengths to clarify in his writings, is that of the Divine Light as personal. It is not simply a sensible radiance—an inanimate luminosity such as one might receive from a lamp, or from the sun. Rather the Divine Light is the very ‘Person’ of the Divinity Himself: it is not simply a product of God, it is God. “Your light, O my God, is You”, he writes, and to this point of emphasis he often returns. Saint Symeon is also known to emphasise in his teachings… “If we don’t see Lord Jesus in this life…we will never see Him ever”!

    There is no other theology higher than being in the presence (union) with God. The object and the purpose of our Christian Life is enabling our selves in His Divine presence by becoming in His Likeness (“Be Holy because I am Holy” (Peter 1, 16) through a THERAPY that was delivered to the Apostles the day of Pentecost ONCE AND FOR ALL 2000 years ago!

    Orthodoxy teaches that it has an unbroken Holy Tradition of spiritual knowledge a way of life (in and out the Church) that leads to the mystical union with God. This mystical union is also known as Sainthood, Supernatural condition, the overcoming of mans mortality state, or being a god by the Grace of God. They also teach that it is not possible for this union to become an object of any kind of an academic study that can “discover” or “deepen” in the knowledge, because Christianity is all about Divine Grace.

    The people of the Nations belonging to Orthodox Christianity will never claim that they have discovered the road (THERAPY) for Salvation. However they will tell you that their prime directive and responsibility has always been to keep everything that was passed down from Jesus (the Holy Spirit) and the Apostles u n c h a n g e d for these methods and teachings that were put forward for the Salvation of all man constitute or sum up the Divine Will of God.

    To know Lord Jesus philosophically is to have a love relationship with an idea “philosophy” and not Lord Himself who appears to his Saints in His Divine Light as a PERSON!

    Interesting relating Internet addresses:
    Lord Jesus did not come to teach philosophically but THERAPEUTICALLY.
    The personal experience of the Saints begotten during conduct with Divine Light is the very base of Orthodox theology.
    The term “Orthodox Psychotherapy” does not refer to specific cases of people suffering from psychological problems of neurosis. Rather it refers to all people, for it is the darkening of the “nous” (mind) a condition disabling man to ever have communion (PERSON to person) with God.

    -Holy Light-

    An awesome miracle on film that takes place Orthodox Saturday Easter (ONLY) during Divine Liturgy each year for about 1670 years at the spot our Lord Jesus was born, in the Temple of Nativity in Jerusalem
    This miracle can be downloaded in -Google Greek- in case you were not able to download it.
    Those who see this film, can reflect back to the Old Testament and clearly understand how the fire did not burn, and how the fire was in essence Gods Holy Light, Gods Holy Fire.
    I belong to no organization and no one pays me.
    God bless,
    your friend and servant

    Constantinos (J.W) 357(Cyprus) 99873390 (mobile)

  • steve j

    Very inappropriate to sully your reporting on Venezuela with cracks about the U.S. Nothing in common between the two situations.

    • Tom Crowe

      Steve J, that wasn’t a crack: it was an observation. I could have made more such observations in the course of the article, but chose not to. But here’s another: both situations have a man in the executive with a hard-left ideology. He is convinced that there is no societal problem that the government cannot fix through wealth redistribution or some overbearing program; and bygolly he’s the guy to do it! They’ve had different levels of success nationalizing companies, imposing new taxes, silencing or marginalizing political opponents, and making fundamental irreversible changes to their country’s structure, but it’s not for lack of trying.

      • Brian C

        The current US president has not (and, I predict, will not) make any efforts to amend the constitution or pass laws extend the term of his presidency, or increase the power of the presidency while he is in office. This is why the two situations are not similar.

        • Tom Crowe

          That’s it? The dissimilarity rests in *doubt* that one would attempt to do one of the more egregious things the other is doing? I’m not sure if you were just being coy and you really meant it’s different because it’s not even something he would think about, but that it’s even a possibility that he would be open to it indicates a *similarity* in the men. If he doesn’t ever try, it would not necessarily be because he doesn’t want it, but more likely because he recognizes our Constitution, present governmental structure, and opposition parties are strong enough that it could not possibly happen. (And, unlike Chavez, our military has contempt for Obama, and thus would not support him if push came to shove.) But I note you don’t deny any of the other similarities in our situations: e.g., nationalizing businesses and industries, attempting to marginalize opposition, running up governmental debt with reckless abandon, being in perpetual campaign mode, marginalizing religion/religious faith except in those instances when it can be seen as politically beneficial, and believing that there is no aspect of society or problem (real or imagined) that the government should not step in and regulate/take over for the good of everyone… you don’t dispute that our situations share all of those similarities. They’re both hard-left ideologues with deep-rooted Marxist tendencies.

          • Brian C

            I believe it is not something he would even think about. I believe it is not something he would be open to. The only reason I spoke in the terms I did is because I have read a few blog posts from Obama critics who are convinced that he will try to remain in power beyond his lawfully elected term(s). I am glad to hear that you are not one of those. I do not deny that any of the other similarities pertain to Obama, except for possibly ‘attempting to marginalize opposition’ (at least unlawfully or to a degree significantly different from his predecessors).
            Big picture, I’m not sure that we are in disagreement that much regarding your post. Perhaps another way to phrase what I originally said is that the structure of our govermnent, with separation of powers and a long history of peaceful transition of power, is what makes these situations dissimilar (and one of the things that makes our country great).

  • Michelle

    Growing up in Venezuela, but now living in the USA, it saddens me to see my beautiful country in the hands of chavistas (supporters of Chavez). All he has done is brought ruin to a great nations. But the Venezuelan spirit is strong, and there are many down there putting up the good fight against his socialist/near comunist regime. Thanks for this post Thomas.



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