Wikileaks Shows Vatican Support for Pinochet

Wikileaks strikes again, releasing documents that show that the Vatican strongly supported brutal dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet of Chile after he overthrew Salvador Allende in 1973. And they communicated this to Henry Kissinger, then the secretary of state and also a supporter of Pinochet.

The Vatican once dismissed reports of massacres by Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as “Communist propaganda”, according to US diplomatic and intelligence documents from the 1970s leaked on Monday.

One cable dated October 18, 1973 sent to Washington by the US embassy to the Holy See relayed a conversation with the Vatican’s then deputy Secretary of State, Giovanni Benelli, the leak by whistleblowing website WikiLeaks showed.

Benelli expressed “his and the pope’s grave concern over successful international leftist campaign to misconstrue completely realities of Chilean situation,” read the cable to then US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

“Benelli labelled exaggerated coverage of events as possibly greatest success of Communist propaganda,” it said, adding that the Italian monsignor said this showed “how Communists can influence free world media in future”.

This is hardly a surprise. Pinochet’s brutal policies of imprisoning, torturing and killing his enemies was in line with what the church itself did for centuries when it had political power in Europe.

29 comments on this post.
  1. Trebuchet:

    Fits right in with the tradition of Pope Pius XII.

  2. slc1:

    Of course, the coup that put Pinochet in power was strongly supported by the US Government of Richard M. Nixon at the time. Couldn’t have that dangerous Communist Salvador Allende, who the plotters murdered in the presidential palace, as president of Chile.

  3. Raging Bee:

    They compromise with the Nazis, they compromise with the Chliean and Argentine military juntas, they compromise with child-rapists in their own ranks, and they change their minds about people they excommunicated for refusing to submit to their authority — but when women just want to have some control over whether they get pregnant or not, all of a sudden the Church can NEVER compromise on “God’s will.”

    This would all make for hilarious farce if the human cost weren’t so unfunny.

  4. grumpyoldfart:

    Pinochet’s brutal policies of imprisoning, torturing and killing his enemies was in line with what the church itself did for centuries when it had political power in Europe.

    The Catholics are doing their best to revise history. Check out the details here:
    http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/history/world/wh0007.html

    * The Inquisitors were professionals who adhered closely to the rules.
    * In most cases the verdict was a “just” one in that it seemed to follow from the evidence.
    * A number of cases were dismissed, or the proceedings terminated at some point, when the inquisitors became convinced that the evidence was not reliable.
    * Torture was only used in a small minority of cases
    * Only a small percentage of those convicted were executed — at most two to three percent in a given region.
    * The dreaded Spanish Inquisition in particular has been grossly exaggerated.

  5. d.c.wilson:

    I wonder if the Vatican felt any jealousy that they weren’t allowed to torture and murder people themselves any more. Maybe they were living vicariously through Pinochet.

  6. tbp1:

    I lived in El Salvador for a time in the 70s. The late Archbishop Romero was a hero of mine, one of the few high-ups in the Catholic hierarchy I could stomach. John Paul II treated him like dirt, publicly rebuking him on several occasions, while at the same time keeping largely silent about the murder of leftist priests and nuns, not just in El Salvador, but all over Latin America. He did his best to wipe out liberation theology, largely succeeding. When visiting the grave of this very political martyr, he decried those who would use his death for political purposes.

    JPII was just lucky to have such an avuncular public persona to cover his appalling politics and theology.

  7. Jadehawk:

    Given whom they just elected as pope, this is not even remotely surprising.

  8. Randomfactor:

    Hey, grumpyoldfart, it’s not like anyone they executed complained about it afterwards.

  9. Jadehawk:

    JPII was just lucky to have such an avuncular public persona to cover his appalling politics and theology.

    that, plus a reputation as someone who helped liberate poland from communist oppression.

  10. democommie:

    The only decent pope of the 20th century was John XXIII and I don’t mean his popin’, just the fact that he seemed human.

  11. reverendrodney:

    But why is the Vatican so opposed to communism and even socialism? That baffles me.

  12. Gregory in Seattle:

    The Inquisitors were professionals who adhered closely to the rules.
    And the only rules were, “Get the heretics to convert to the One True Faith at any cost, and make money while doing so.”

    In most cases the verdict was a “just” one in that it seemed to follow from the evidence.
    Because evidence clearly shows that anyone with a birthmark was a servant of Satan, and that anyone not pissing themselves in terror when the Church gave them a stern glance was obviously practicing evil magic.

    A number of cases were dismissed, or the proceedings terminated at some point, when the inquisitors became convinced that the evidence was not reliable.
    At the beginning of the 14th century, official Church doctrine held that there was no such thing as witches, and that the Devil had no power on the earth; therefore, the people making such claims were liars and charges were often dropped. Towards the end of the 15th century, however, official Church doctrine held otherwise, and any Inquisitor who dropped charges would inevitably face identical charges himself.

    Torture was only used in a small minority of case.
    A large minority, actually, and only because the threat of torture was usually enough to get a confession, a list of co-Satanists, and a quick, merciful death.

    Only a small percentage of those convicted were executed — at most two to three percent in a given region.
    Provided you ignore the Church’s own contemporary accounts of entire villages that were put to death for their perceived sins.

    The dreaded Spanish Inquisition in particular has been grossly exaggerated.
    The Spanish Inquisition is only marginally related to the medieval Inquisition and the later Roman Inquisition: it was operated by the Crown of Spain, not the Pope, it oftentimes operated in direct contradiction to the dictates of Rome, and it focused primarily on keeping conversos (Jews and Muslims who had ostensibly converted to Catholicism to avoid harsh persecution) in line.

  13. AsqJames:

    @grumpyoldfart,

    Thanks for the link, clearly I had the inquisition all wrong.

    “In most cases the verdict was a “just” one in that it seemed to follow from the evidence.”

    Oh, well that’s OK then. I mean as long as they had proper evidence that (for example) a person didn’t believe in the divinity of Jesus, I think we can all agree they were justified in imposing some form of punishment. And it’s not as if they tortured everyone they suspected, or killed everyone they convicted, so yeah, I guess the Inquisition wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

    The Inquisition can only be understood within the framework of the centuries of its existence, when religious uniformity and orthodoxy, and obedience to authority, were enforced by almost all political and religious institutions, considered essential for the very survival of society.

    You see, everybody was doing it. And how could the Catholic Church be expected to behave better than any other contemporary body. It’s not like they have access to some kind of eternal truths about morality and what’s right or wrong.

  14. Ulysses:

    But why is the Vatican so opposed to communism and even socialism? That baffles me.

    They were opposing dogmas, particularly communism. In Italy the pro-Church parties were on the political right and the anti-clerical parties were on the left.

  15. Moggie:

    reverendrodney:

    But why is the Vatican so opposed to communism and even socialism? That baffles me.

    You’re talking about political ideologies which often appeal to the poor and downtrodden, giving them a hope of a better life and a more equitable distribution of wealth and power (let’s not get into how realistic this hope is). The church, meanwhile, appeals to that same constituency, but offers them hope of a better life after death; in this life, their lot is to remain poor and powerless, handing over money to enable powerful church figures to live in opulence. Priests “on the ground” may sympathise with the poor, but the further up the church hierarchy you get, the more likely you are to feel that the left is a threat to your power and lifestyle.

  16. democommie:

    Certainly by 1920 the RCC had seen what communism was capable of in Russia and of course there were the several french revolutions/wars in the 1700 and 1800′s where the communards were less than servile to the clerics of the RCC.

  17. slc1:

    Actually, every pope starting with John XXIII was less then thrilled with capitalism. They were really Socialists at heart, wolves in sheep’s clothing.

  18. Ace of Sevens:

    In fairness to JPII, he wasn’t pope until 1978. Te pope at thsi time was Paul VI, who also finished out Vatican II, which was started by John XXIII, which is responsible for all those reforms conservative, traditional Catholics like Mel Gibson hate so much.

  19. steve84:

    Is there a South American dictator they haven’t supported? They’ve always been best buddies with totalitarian regimes in return for privileges. Franco in Spain is a great example.

  20. busterggi:

    In the 4th century the RCC supported Constantine in return for him legitimizing their religion – the RCC position of supporting dictators is nothing new.

  21. oualawouzou:

    To expand on the allusion to Franco by steve84, this story brings to mind that horrible comment from a church official (forgot his actual title, sorry) in Pan’s Labyrinth: “Once their soul is saved, we don’t care what happens to their body.”

  22. haitied:

    I really despise the argument that the inquisitions weren’t that bad because . . . . they just didn’t have the mechanical advantage to commit genocide at that point. If they had machine guns and/or gas chambers they would have done a lot more damage then they mustered with the more personal torture till confession then murder approach. . . . bless their hearts. . . . .

  23. haitied:

    than of course. . . . . and also wtf. . . .

  24. matty1:

    Raging Bee

    They compromise with the Nazis, they compromise with the Chliean and Argentine military juntas, they compromise with child-rapists in their own ranks

    It only counts as a compromise if it was something they didn’t initially want to do. In these cases the less is less compromise more enthusiastic cooperation.

  25. dingojack:

    steve84 – Hugo Chavez & Fidel Castro? Hmm I wonder what they might have in common?
    :D Dingo

  26. Abdul Alhazred:

    No big shocker.

    Fascism properly self so called (not just a leftist term of abuse) has always been Roman Catholic.

    I’m going back to Mussolini and Franco on this.

  27. steve84:

    @matty1
    In case of Nazi Germany, it was something of a compromise for them. The Nazis quickly put all organizations in the country under their control. That included the churches. The Reichskonkordat was a way for the Catholic Church to prevent losing too much power and keep most of its privileges and status. They were so happy with it because as usual they mostly cared about their own power and money. They also knew that it probably wouldn’t last (and indeed the Nazis had long term plans to get rid of the churches, but couldn’t do it during the war), but that without a treaty things would be worse for them.

  28. Nick Gotts (formerly KG):

    steve84 – Hugo Chavez & Fidel Castro? – dingojack

    It’s absurd to call Chavez a dictator: he was repeatedly elected in contests generally recognised as free and fair enough to put the reality of his victory beyond doubt, there is an active and organised opposition putting up a candidate to succeed him, the press has been largely anti-Chavez throughout his rule. Sure, he carried out some authoritarian acts, but nothing on the scale of declaring his right to order the summary execution of Venezuelan citizens.

  29. dingojack:

    Nicky – You know that, I know that, Do you really think the Cardinals know that? Or even if they do, they could care less? Doesn’t help in driving up the fear factor to facilitate fleecing of the flock now, does it?
    Dingo

Leave a comment

You must be