I was thinking about the Roman Catholic Pope’s infamous speech where he criticized “Islam” (notwithstanding the fact that he takes the term as a monolith) because it has mixed religion and politics (of violence) stating now is the time to embrace “rationality”. Anyway, horrible speech indeed but more importantly highly ignorant of the very facts of immediate history. It happens that I am reading about the Catholic Church influence in Latin America, and I especially liked reading about priests taking up arms and fighting in Nicaragua on behalf of the poor (and there are many other different cases of involvement in Columbia Venezuela, Chile, Peru, Brazil etc.).
I guess Mr. pope forgot about that. Or maybe he didn’t, maybe because at the time, the Catholic church witnessed a historically exceptional turn to the left, to the point where we used to speak of marxist bishops. These were good days for some people, especially the needy. And maybe he didn’t forget simply because Polish pope Jean Paul, the symbol of post-communism, made the Church turn back to the right (and with the current German baba even more to the right), undermining the foundations of grass root leftist Christian institutional formation in Latin America. In both cases, the Church’s influence institutionally and at least as a social mobilizer is just something Latin American states had to deal with when it came to policy making.
It’s just that in come cases, the Church was really close to the people not just accomodating with the desires of the upper classes. It is exactly what some “Islamists” are about in the Middle East. The religious institution (church, mosque, or hawza to use the more recent institution for mobilizing/educating used by Hizballah, oh and the synagogue, or simply the state of Israel: for some jews), whatever its creed is like any other political institution. First it is indeed political which character/influence/sphere depends on the structure of power relations in a specific setting. Second, it is oscillating between the right and the left, depending on its closeness/relation to the different social classes of a given setting.