Throughout the 1970's and beyond, Argentina was ravaged by a so-called 'Dirty War' between government forces and left-wing guerrillas. The consequences of that conflict still can be felt throughout Argentinian society today, not least of all in people's perceptions of the Church and its role in the war.
Earlier this month Campion Hall hosted a lecture by Gustavo Morello, a Jesuit sociologist from Boston College whose new book, The Catholic Church and Argentina's Dirty War (OUP 2015), looks afresh at this most pivotal episode of recent Argentinian history. Morello was joined in conversation by Dr Austen Ivereigh, noted journalist, author, and coordinator of the media group Catholic Voices.
Over the course of an in-depth and wide-ranging conversation, Morello challenged the typical historical interpretation of the Catholic Church's role in the Argentinian civil war, which tells it as a story of total institutional failure. Undoubtedly, Morello argued, the Church made many mistakes during the conflict, often failing to use its influence to challenge the regime in its most brutal tactics. But in general the Church found itself--at different times and at different levels--on either or neither side of the acrimonious war, with a real variety of opinion among bishops and churchmen about how to understand and react to the ongoing conflict. Internal political dynamics in Argentina at the time, including a late-to-arrive period of secularization, latent Peronist resistance movements, and a long history of political violence, combined to further complicate a conflict that had already exploited many faultlines in the Church. In particular, Morello's acccount benefits from its consideration of the situation inside the Catholic Church at the time (with the struggle between post-Vatican II reformers and reactionaries, for example), a perspective missing from many other sociological examinations of the Dirty War.
A lively period of question-and-answer followed.