August 7, 1986
As the Senate once again takes up the troublesome issue of military aid to the Nicaraguan contras, I would like to re-state the position of the U.S. Catholic Conference on the matter.
Our opposition to such aid has been unvarying since the question first arose. It is not based on our negative assessment of the contras' human rights record, although all are agreed that this continues to be a serious problem. Still less is it based on any positive assessment of the human rights performance of the Nicaraguan government. Quite the contrary, the USCC has consistently denounced specific violations of human rights in Nicaragua and we have vigorously protested government infringement of the rights of the Church.
The silencing of church media, the appropriation of church property and especially the expulsion of foreign church workers remains serious and still unresolved sources of tension between church authorities and the government. To these are now added the unjustifiable expulsion of Bishop Pablo Antonio Vega and the refusal to readmit Msgr. Bismarck Carbillo. We are unalterably opposed to these actions of the Nicaraguan government, considering them legally unjust and morally, wrong, as well as politically ill-considered.
It should be recognized, however, that the Bishops of Nicaragua, in their pastoral letter of April 6, 1986 stated:
"We believe that any form of aid, no matter where it comes from, if it is the cause of destruction, pain or death for our families or of hatred among Nicaraguans is to be condemned." In accord with this position, the U.S. Catholic Conference remains firmly opposed to the use of military force and violence as a means to pressure the Nicaraguan government.
The proposed package of military aid to the contras must therefore, in our view, be rejected. We deplore the recent vote in the House of Representatives approving such and urge that the Senate exhibit the superior wisdom of rejecting it. Furthermore, the legislation passed by the House calling for an additional $300 million to be provided in economic aid to four countries of Central America specifies three possible sources for this added money: un-obligated Food for Peace (P.L. 480) funds, the Emergency reserve for African Famine Relief, and Development Assistance Accounts. We are concerned lest humanitarian and development aid funds be diverted to purposes and regions for which they were not intended. Humanitarian programs must not be converted into mere tools of political expediency.
We urge the Senate to reject the provision of military assistance to the Nicaraguan op-position which, in our view, will only intensify and prolong the conflict, result in much greater death and suffering, and serve no valid political, still less humanitarian, objective. We join our opposition to military assistance, as we have in the past, to support for a political settlement in Central America following the lines of the Contadora process, and a continuing concern for human rights in Nicaragua and the rest of Central America.
Rev. Monsignor Daniel F. Hoye