Posted by: aboutalbion | October 21, 2013

A problem for Pope Francis

Well, the debt mountain didn’t erupt last Thursday, and the US continues to have faith in capitalism … at least for the next few months.  However, I note that the former US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has told the BBC in the past day or two that a repeat of the crisis that brought the US close to default is “perfectly conceivable”.

Staying with the US, I am reading about a small Central American country in which the US has taken a special interest.  Something unusual has recently taken place in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador.

Among the many responsibilities of the Archbishop of San Salvador is the management of a human rights legal aid clinic.  In this clinic is the archive of countless witness statements to the human rights violations that occurred in El Salvador during the 1970s and 1980s, of which the 1980 assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the 1981 massacre at El Mozote are perhaps the most well-known.

This clinic was abruptly closed by the Archbishop on Monday September 30 with no advance warning to its employees or anyone else.  The staff were dismissed with immediate effect.  At first, it was said that the clinic was no longer needed in a time of peace.  Then, it was said that the clinic was closed because there was a better way to represent human rights victims.  After that, the story became that the clinic was shut down because of irregularities within the clinic.

The sheer variety of different explanations is likely to fuel speculation that this abrupt action may be linked to the Inter-American Human Rights Court (10 December 2012)  decision to order El Salvador to reverse the 1993 Amnesty Law – by which no prosecutions could be brought in relation to crimes during El Salvador’s civil war.  The Supreme Court of El Salvador is currently re-considering the 1993 Amnesty Law.  Many people of influence in El Salvador would sleep easier if the evidence in the clinic somehow became ‘unavailable’ to the prosecuting authorities.

President Mauricio Funes of El Salvador has expressed his concern over the closing of the human rights clinic because it has made the Roman Catholic Church appear to be no longer accompanying the people in their search for justice.

I can’t help feeling that this is a stern test for Pope Francis, because he will appear compromised if he is seen to be endorsing this clinic closure (by turning a blind eye) at the same time as he is promoting the sainthood of Oscar Romeo.

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