How the U.S. Supported the Protestant Advance against the Liberation Theology Promoted by Catholic Bishops and KGB
The information and disinformation war by the Soviet Union and the United States in the Cold War days was not limited only to the political sphere in Latin America. According to two Catholic bloggers, while the Soviet Union supported the advance of Liberation Theology, the U.S. supported the advance of evangelicals and Pentecostals.
The Soviet Union saw the Catholic Church in Latin America as a natural ally of Marxism and the U.S. saw Protestant and Pentecostal churches, which have always resisted Marxism, as natural allies of the U.S. government.
In his article entitled “La Expansión del Protestantismo Fue Parte del Plan de Guerra de la CIA para América del Sur” (The Expansion of Protestantism Was Part of CIA War Plan for South America), Catholic blogger Jorge Rondón Santos mentions a 1969 memorandum addressed to President Richard Nixon. Drafted by Republican Nelson Rockefeller, Baptist and U.S. vice-president, it said about Latin America: “the Catholic church has ceased to be an ally in whom the U.S. can have confidence.” It is confirmed by Wade Clark Roof, in the page 84 of his book “World Order and Religion” (1991 SUNY Press). Roof was Professor of Religion and Society in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Santos said that Rockefeller and the U.S. government supported the Protestant advance in Latin America. Their strategy was to counter Liberation Theology by promoting Protestant churches that were rivals to the Catholic Church.
Santos uses as special example Guatemala, which according to him will be the first mostly Protestant nation in Latin America. He declares that to counter a devotional revolutionary Catholicism, the U.S. government’s plan was to stimulate Protestant missions, “which with a ‘bread and dollar’ speech drew to themselves thousands of poor people in the countryside and cities who sought spiritual power.”
Former general and former Guatemala President José Efraín Ríos Montt used, during his administration, the national broadcasting network on Sundays to preach and say that the Guatemalan people were the “elected people” and accusing the Catholic Church of being a “collaborator of Marxism,” Santos complained. Montt was a member of a Pentecostal church.
The connection between Protestant missions and CIA was more exposed in the 1980s, when several Latin American military governments expelled the Summer Institute of Linguistics (connected to Wycliffe Bible Translators), accusing its missionaries of being CIA operatives. Nevertheless its anti-Marxism and its pro-U.S. position, the Brazilian military government did not want such intrusion of missionary spies, especially in the Amazonian region, suspecting that these missionaries, funded by the Rockefeller family (unprincipled capitalist executives), were spying on the natural resources of Amazon.
In that time, I thought it was greatly unfair for the Brazilian military government to expel the U.S. missionaries and I wrote a supporting letter to the Summer Institute of Linguistics. I still support their work, but only years later I learnt, through U.S. and Brazilian sources, that actually there were and there are in Brazil American missionaries connected to CIA.
Even though it was very helpful the financial, strategic and logistic support of Nelson Rockefeller for the Protestant and Pentecostal advance in Latin America to counter the religious leftist advance from the Catholic Church, it should not go unnoticed that he was also behind the infamous NSSM 200, or the Kissinger Report, a confidential document written by the U.S. government in 1974 addressing the keeping of resources of other nations for the U.S. interests having as a focus the population reduction of those nations. The purpose of this reduction was to weaken opposition to the U.S. interests.
The harmful effect of Rockefeller’s strategy in NSSM 200 is that the goal of population reduction did not hit only leftist Catholics, but also Protestants and Pentecostals he said that he was supporting and who became equally victims of population reduction propaganda and politics disguised as “family planning.”
Rockefeller’s only success was to identify Liberation Theology as a threat. According to the American leftist Catholic blogger Mike Rivage-Seul, in his article “The First Religious War of the 21st Century”: “The Rockefeller Report of 1969 already identified liberation theology as a threat to the national security of the United States… The [Reagan] administration heeded the advice, and responded both militarily and ideologically.”
According to Rivage-Seul, there was an agreement in which Ronald Reagan would help Pope John Paul II in the campaign against communism in Poland and, in return, the pope would remain silent about U.S. campaigns against Latin American leftist Catholics. The papal collaboration happened also through the gradual replacement of pro-Liberation Theology bishops for conservative bishops. But over three decades later, huge is the number of pro-Liberation Theology Catholic bishops. The substitutions were not enough.
The anticommunist fight itself of John Paul II was imperfect, because he was a great supporter of Yasser Arafat, the founder of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), a terrorist Islamic group fighting the State of Israel. In this fight, the Vatican was more comfortable with PLO, which promoted a Palestine version of Liberation Theology.
Today, the Vatican under Pope Francis is much more aligned with the leftist ideology, having approved the sainthood process for Helder Camara, the founder of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil and patron of the Brazilian Catholic Left.
As if the Brazilian Catholicism were not plagued enough by the leftist ideology, U.S. Catholic missionaries coming to Brazil brought the same ideology. In 2005, U.S. nun Dorothy Stang, who was a Liberation Theology adherent, was murdered in Brazil. She was allegedly killed for political and environmental activities in Brazil since the 1970s.
With the picture of religious war during the Cold War in which the Soviet Union used Catholics and the U.S. used Protestants and Pentecostals, I am surprised then that a Brazilian Catholic blogger said that “Marxism is a Protestant product,” when the reality is that the most Catholic region in the world, Latin America, has been mostly a garner and ally of Marxism, while Protestantism, especially its Pentecostal variants, has mostly resisted Marxism.
Another Brazilian Catholic says that the first totalitarian society (of a Marxist kind) in the Modern Age was Protestantism in Geneva under Calvin.
Yet, by considering the Latin American population growth, especially in Brazil, as a threat to the U.S. national security, Nelson Rockefeller and the U.S. government, as made evident by NSSM 200, harmed both pro-Marxism Catholics and anti-Marxism evangelicals.
NSSM 200 was produced by a U.S. Republican administration, the Richard Nixon administration, in which abortion was nationally legalized from conception until childbirth in 1973. In fact, Rockefeller was also a member of the Republican Party, which supposedly is conservative and does not want to meddle in the internal affairs of other nations.
Even though it has brought huge benefits to Protestants and Pentecostals in Latin America (not in the population control issue), the fight of those worldly-minded Republicans helped in no way to change the fate of the U.S., which has as its current president Barack Obama, raised up as a Muslim and posteriorly mentored in a Liberation Theology Black Protestant church.
Besides, the U.S. government gave support not only to anti-Marxist Protestants (and also Catholics). In the administration of Jimmy Carter, who as a progressive (leftist) Baptist, great was the U.S. support for the World Council of Churches (constituted by leftist Protestants) and Brazilian Catholic bishops. Papers gathered by the Carter administration against the Brazilian military government were used two years ago by the Obama administration to help Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to strengthen her socialist administration against military attempts to destabilize it. But the destabilization, and especially her impeachment, is coming exactly from Pentecostals, traditional enemies of Marxism and friends and allies of U.S. administrations that are honestly conservative.
In fact, Pentecostals can be friends and allies of any government, regardless it is American or not, that are honestly conservative. If a today’s ruler is brave to resist the politically correct trends of valuing abortions and homosexual “marriages,” he will receive support from conservative Christians, especially Pentecostals.
Today’s religious war is not any longer between CIA and KGB. It is not any longer between the Soviet Union and the U.S. Now, it is between pro-life values and pro-abortion impositions; pro-family values and homosexual “marriage” impositions. Pentecostals are more than willing to support the right side in this war.
Yet, Catholics in Brazil, the largest Catholic nation in the world, remain confused by being led for decades by mostly Liberation Theology bishops.
Times have changed. There is no longer a Soviet Union. But the U.S. government, under Obama, could be more than wiling to take advantage of their confusion, a confusion that is engulfing also Pentecostals increasingly mesmerized by the Protestant versions of Liberation Theology.
Portuguese version of this article: A guerra religiosa entre CIA e KGB na América Latina
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.