March 9, 1983
Dear Mr. President:
I write as President of the United States Catholic Conference to express concern at recent statements by two of the highest officials of your Administration about the role of the Catholic Church in Central America, and to request further dialogue regarding these complex and delicate matters.
Coming as they did, just prior to the pastoral visit of Pope John Paul II to Central America, the remarks of the Administration officials were at least poorly timed. Certainly for the Holy Father, as for the bishops of Central America and the bishops of the United States, the rationale for the Church’s interest and activity in the moral and religious dimension of the issues at stake. These issues are not purely political, much less military; essentially they are human, moral issues concerning human dignity, social justice, freedom and the protection of the fundamental rights of the people of Central America. In a special way, the Church’s involvement reflects its conscious “option for the poor.”
Any hint that the fundamental pastoral vision and ministry of the Catholic Church are based on an alien ideology or seek to serve its purposes must be rejected. I must insist on this point; even though I recognize that in individual cases members of the Church may depart from and distort the authentic vision of the Church’s ministry.
I am conscious, Mr. President, that many voices are heard in any large institution—whether Church or government—and that you have not personally addressed the issue of the Catholic Church’s role in Central America. Moreover, I recognize that the issues are complex and often emotional. I hope that the recent statements were simply the result of honest misunderstandings of the Church’s ministry. I believe, therefore, that a meeting of representatives of your Administration and representatives of our Bishops’ Conference, or between us personally, would be helpful to clarify the confusion about the Church’s work.
Most Reverend John R. Roach
Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis