It is with great sadness that we have been observing the war being waged against the Catholic Church in Argentina by President Juan Domingo Peron. Nearly everyday the newspapers bring reports of further outrages perpetrated against the Church. Priests have been arrested for alleged criticism of the regime. Civil servants have been discharged because of their religious loyalties. Divorce and prostitution have been legalized; the teaching of religion has been forbidden in the public schools. Catholic organizations have been debarred from use of the radio; religious processions and meetings have been denied permits. All remember with deep regret the Argentine Government’s refusal last December to allow Mass to be said outdoors at the close of the Marian year. And just this month the traditional Corpus Christi procession suffered the same fate.
In this persecution President Peron has followed the historic pattern. His purpose is to cripple the Church’s influence upon the nation but in the several steps taken towards this goal he has alleged motives that are very far from his real one. When all the religious holydays except Christmas and Good Friday were deprived of their official status, this step was said to have been taken for economic reasons, a motive transparently insufficient in view of the fact that the anniversary of the death of Eva Peron and the Day of Loyalty to Peron remained legal holidays. The arrest of priests was justified on grounds of their “criticism” of his regime; other priests were censured because they were “infiltrating” into the labor movement. And in general the Church is accused of “interference” in political affairs and of failure to confine herself to her own field.
What President Peron really means by “interference” in political affairs is the Catholic Church’s refusal to confine herself to the “internal forum”, and her insistance that temporal things are her concern when they carry moral implications–as they so often do. Peron’s steady march towards complete control on newspapers, education and labor, his reduction to servility of judges, public officials, business and industrial leaders, and of nearly every other influential element of society came to a halt when it undertook to envelope the Catholic Bishops and priests and to interrupt their activities on behalf of student, professional and labor organizations. His hostility to the Church, therefore, is due to her uncompromising moral power which no dictator can permit to stand if he hopes to pursue his absolutism and despotism unimpeded. The Church’s “political” activities are her immutable support of the freedom and inviolability of the individual before the state. The alleged criticism of the Peron regime is simply the voice of the Church insisting that Catholic doctrine and morality be allowed to operate in all phases of the lives of the people.
The Catholics of the Philippines are fully aware of the nature of the events now happening in Argentina. They know that the Catholics of Argentina are being asked to share in that age-old struggle which began with the Roman Emperors and has been reenacted on every continent where the Church has been established. This is the Cross. And since all Catholics are members of the one Mystical Body, when that Body is mutilated and tortured in one country, the members of the Body in other countries must feel the sufferings too.
We, the Catholics of the Philippines, are therefore united with our suffering brethren in Argentina. They are by their sufferings “filling up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ… for his body which is the Church.”(Col. 1:24) They have the support of our prayers and Masses in their trial, and we know, on our part, that their heroism in the cause of Christ cannot but redound to the health of the whole body, and that we in the Philippines benefit from it. We protest in the name of Christianity and humanity against this persecution which is being waged against the Catholic Church in Argentina, and we stigmatize it for what it is — a campaign of tyranny that should be recognized as such by all the world.
Given in Manila, on the 24th day of June, in the year of Our Lord, 1955.
(Sgd.)+RUFINO J. SANTOS, D.D.
Archbishop of Manila
(Sgd.)+LINO GONZAGA, D.D.
Bishop of Palo
(Sgd.)+ALEJANDRO OLALIA, D.D.
Bishop of Lipa
(Sgd.)+JULIO R. ROSALES, D.D.
Archbishop of Cebu
(Sgd.)+HERNANDO ANTIPORDA, D.D.
Auxiliary Bishop of Manila
(Sgd.)+MANUEL YAP, D.D.
Bishop of Bacolod
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