By Gerald MacCarthy
WHEN Pope John Paul visits Brazil. Argentina and Chile next June he will face problems similar to those he met with at Puebla. 'There he avoided discussion or structural change and stressed the predicament and rights of the poor.
lie is likely to adopt the same altitude in South America. Radicals in the Church will be hoping for clearer guidance on how the rights of the poor are to be achieved, but the Pope will probably want to stay outside the controversy.
Ile will be presented with the complete spectrum of current attitudes in the Latin American Church, Chile is typical of most countries, its hierarchy is divided, some in favour and some opposed to the regime of General Pinochet as they were to that of President Allende.
They pronounce from time to time on social matters, as they have recently on union law, and condemn infringements of human rights, as they did in November following the discovery of mass graves in clandestine cemeteries. But they are neither at war nor peace with the State, and co-exist as best they can.
Brazil is quite different. Not only is it the world's largest Catholic country, but also one of the most controversial. Since the Latin American Bishops' conference at Medellin in 1968, the Brazilian bishops have been leaders of the new approach to polities and the poor.
They were the first to expose and condemn the doctrine of national security, which they say the government uses as an excuse to infringe human rights.
Recently the Brazilian hierarchy has been concerned about the economic dependence of Latin America. They have warned that the move towards limited democracy may be exploited by foreign investors, the Trilateral Commissions for example, to continue this economic dependence without benefits to the poor.
Argentina is the complete reverse of Brazil. The Argentine hierarchy is a classic example of the conservative position in the Latin American Church. It is almost united in the belief that the Church is best served by associating itself closely with the State, rather in the manner of the Spanish Church at the time of General Franco.
They use their influence to convert the influential classes in Argentina to more Christian attitudes. In this way they hope to bring about a new order dependent on good will without vast upheaval.
They adopted this position after the years following Medellin, when the new ideas of the Church's commitment to the poor caused conflict with government and within the Church itself.