The Clergy and the Coup
Earlier this week, Mary Anastasia O’Grady shamelessly pulled the God card to defend the Honduran coup. Specifically, she handed her Wall Street Journal column over to the coup-supporting Cardinal Rodriguez to curry favor for the June 28 ousting of President Manuel Zelaya from power. Her article ignores the Church’s troubling historical role in Honduran politics, instead granting this institution legitimacy as the defender of democracy. O’Grady should have known better.
O’Grady’s piece is one in a long line of conservative attempts to justify the overthrow of a democratically-elected president. Christopher Sabatini and I have already debunked these arguments, so I will not do so again here. But this week’s novelty was O’Grady’s use of a deeply controversial Church leader as a mouthpiece for the argument she has been making for months. In her article, she explains why Cardinal Rodriguez supported the coup—what he argues was a “constitutional succession”—namely, that Zelaya undermined the rule of law and therefore lost the “moral authority” to govern the nation.
The Cardinal’s concerns with the rule of the law are legitimate. Manuel Zelaya did not respect the principle of horizontal accountability—a central tenet in liberal democracies. But using the rule of law to justify forcibly removing a president without due process is deeply contradictory. Worse still is the Cardinal’s retreat to “moral authority”—should the military also remove a president at gunpoint for infidelity, supporting abortion rights or promoting secular education?
But the biggest problem with O’Grady’s piece is her uncritical acceptance of the
No one can deny that clergy played an important role in confronting certain military regimes in
The Church in
Even in countries where clergy provided legitimacy for authoritarian rule, however, the Church has retained a great deal of popular legitimacy because of Catholicism’s numerical dominance (increasingly challenged by Evangelicals) and the Church’s considerable charitable infrastructure. The countless Catholic schools and hospitals for the region’s poor have been an important part of this story. In
But charity and humanitarian assistance do not make an institution democratic. The
Daniel Altschuler is a contributing blogger to americasquarterly.org conducting research in
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