[Fr. Carlos Mugica (October 7, 1930 – May 11, 1974) was an Argentine “slum priest” and member of the Movement of Priests for the Third World (Movimiento de Sacerdotes para el Tercer Mundo), and praised by Pope Francis in an interview. While he was associated with the Peronist Left, Fr. Mugica took a staunchly non-violent stance. This position led, before his murder in 1974, to a growing distance between him and groups engaged in armed struggle, such as the Montoneros. While some claim he was murdered by the Montoneros, the more widely accepted position is that he was murdered by the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance (Alianza Anticomunista Argentina) death squad.]
[The following text is taken from the last chapter of Fr. Carlos Mugica’s 1973 book Cristianismo y Peronismo.]
Christians are called to give testimony to the truth, and to struggle with all our power against injustice, even if this brings, as a consequence, prison, torture, kidnapping, and eventually death. Faced with this difficult demand that has existed from the beginning of the life of the Church, the vigorous word of Christ constantly encourages us: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Let us fear this new Gehenna that is the consumer society; although it [consists] of the consumption of the few, and hunger for the many; this society [that] closes us, indifferent to the terrible violence that it contains. Let us fear this society which, while submerging the people in hunger and oppression, proposes to a select minority hedonism and eroticism as the key to happiness, forgetting once again Jesus Christ, who warns us: “Man shall not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” [Matthew 10:28]. We live in an obvious state of institutionalized violence, which is only inconspicuous to some functionary with a proscriptive mentality, and insensible to the pain of the Argentine people.
Is it not institutionalized violence that the worker suffers, perhaps, when he barely collects 40.000 pesos per month, needing to pay for the price of milk, meat, or sugar? Is not the increasingly alarming rise in infant mortality, demonstrated by the latest official statistics, institutionalized violence? This increase is explicable, among other reasons, because many workers are incapable of paying essential medical bills for their children. If somebody doubts this claim, let them go down to one of the numerous Villas Miserias [shanty towns/slums in Argentina], hygienically baptized as Villas de Emergencia. They represent the subconscious of Buenos Aires. They are the most overwhelming expression of the institutionalized violence that the people suffer — to have awareness that there, in the city, there are more than one hundred thousand vacant apartments.
The Comisión Permanente del Episcopado Argentino, has pointed out already, this past year, the dramatic situation of the working class in Argentina; the increasing proletarianization of the middle class; [and] the capitulation of a large portion of men of the law, who turn a blind eye to the well-established accusations of torture and abuse that Argentinians suffer. Monseñor Zaspe, archbishop of Santa Fe, well-known for his calm prudence, in his recent pastoral letter, Conciencia política y Evangelio, characterized the solution that we live in this way: “The results of six years of the Argentine Revolution are completely negative” [Revolución Argentina was the name — given by the military leaders themselves — of the military dictatorship which lasted from June 1966 to 1973]. Referring to the governments that have succeeded each other, one after another, he characterizes as very serious events, the suspension of […] constitutional guarantees, the state of siege, the extension of repressive legislation and the death penalty. He continues: “However, no revolutionary transformation was made, only changes in management, implementation of infrastructure, the promotion of gambling, innumerable economic plans […], high cost of living, closure of jobs, inflation, foreign exchange and capital flight, rural exodus, and a shaky economic order.” The recent developments of Mendoza, San Juan, and Tucumán, further darken the outlook.
That said, let us be honest, is this a state of institutionalized violence or not? How is it a surprise then that what emerged as an inevitable consequence is a violent result which can lead, if the causes that engender it are not removed, to a bloodbath among Argentinians? Something that, certainly, the people do not want. Recently, the Comisión Episcopal Argentina, on the occasion of the kidnapping of [Oberdan] Sallustro [an Italian-Paraguayan entrepreneur kidnapped by the Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo/ERP guerilla group] has reflected on Argentine reality, and the necessity of “a just national coexistence”. It pointed out that “as pastors, we ask ourselves to go deeply into the causes that are generating these clashes and hatred.” It is necessary that we also do so — above all, the men who possess power today. It will not be by characterizing as assassins those that respond with violence against the violence of the regime that we will obtain true peace, [which] as Paul VI […] shows, is the fruit of Justice.
If the government eliminates the repressive legislation, and convenes the paritarias [joint organizations] immediately, as established by the law, then […] Argentinians will begin to believe, in a sincere way, in national conciliation. The honesty of the media, castrated by self-censorship, is necessary. [The media], which almost obsessively occupied itself with the kidnapping of Sallustro, paid little to no attention to the kidnapping of a Peronist worker — Eduardo Monti –, taken from police station to police station, subjected to savage torture that prompted his death, when he arrived in the Olmos prison. And now only recently beginning to speak of the situation of Norma Morello, a school teacher detained by order of the II Army Corps [II Cuerpo de Ejército], tortured terribly for having been faithful to her conduct as a Christian militant, and [for] having assumed the requirements of the Gospel.
We, the men of the Church, who have undertaken the enormous responsibility of being the representatives of the message of Christ, even to the ultimate consequences, must be faithful to the call of the Lord and the magisterium. Today, more than ever, we are required to assume the defense of all trampled human beings in their dignity; but, above all, the most poor and oppressed, as stressed by the Synod of Bishops’ Documento de Justicia. Once again, it is to strive to be the voice of those that have no voice. The truth shall make you free (John 8:32).