Wednesday, December 10, 2008

25th Anniversary of the Death of Father James Carney, S.J., Missionary and Social Revolutionary

Just a few days ago I was speaking to one of my former teachers, a Jesuit, from my days at St. Louis University High School. He reminded me that it was the 25the anniversary of the death of Father James Carney, also a SLUH grad, and one of the most selfless, humble and dedicated social crusaders who has ever lived. He led a truly Christ-like life, living and working among the indigent and helpless of central America. He got caught up in the Honduran rebels fight for freedom in 1983. He was their chaplain, and they affectionately called him Padre Guadalupe. Their fight was against the CIA-backed contras, and Father Carney ultimately lost his life in the fight. I memorialize his struggles and his dedication to the poor in my novel, Murder Of An American Nazi. In it Father Carney is tortured by a CIA agent, Daniel Pfisterr. Here is a passage (pp. 200-202):

"Pfisterr, frustrated by the priest's gentle demeanor and misguided beliefs, became more forceful. 'You completely misunderstand what's really going on down here, don't you? We must not let communism take hold in the western hemisphere. These people don't know what's best for them. We have to determine that for them. What we're doing down here is in their long-term interests.'

" 'You mean, having the CIA intervene to overthrow the leaders they elect...and then empower fascist dictators to starve them off their lands (says Father Carney)'

"Spittle shot from his mouth as Pfisterr furiously sputtered, 'People who believe in God should have nothing to do with communist guerillas. When they win, freedom of religion loses. Real Christianity, like it's practiced in the USA, will become extinct.'

"Padre Guadalupe softly replied, 'You mean real Christians support the oppression and starvation of their fellow man? Maybe that form of Christianity is not worth preserving anyway.'

"Pfisterr seethed with fury. No one had ever had the temerity to speak to him that way, but he felt compelled to answer this insolent Marxist priest. After all, America had to win not only the shooting war against the rebels, but also the war of ideas. 'America is a generous Christian nation, willing to extend a hand to anyone who accepts the precepts on which the nation was founded.'

" 'And what are those?'

" 'That all men are free to pursue their own destiny, in a society unencumbered by a totalitarian regime.'

" 'That's what the Honduran people want.'

" 'What the Honduran people want, or think they want, is to have a communist government parcel out land and goods without concern for who has the means, under a free enterprise system, to pay for those things.'

" 'So it's about riches, then. Freedom for you means free enterprise, and nothing more. The American way is to preserve, at all costs, a system where the wealthiest have the right to own all of the country's resources. And the power to oppress those who want to survive by sharing in a portion of those resources. That's neither just nor righteous. That's the real godless system, not socialism.'

"Pfisterr got so livid he turned red in the face. '...the country you turned your back on is the best country on earth. Where any man, if he works hard enough, can be as rich as he wants.'

"Confident that angels were speaking through him, and at peace with his maker, Padre Lupe serenely quoted from Proverbs, 'Whoever trusts in his riches will fail. Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. When the wicked dies, his hope will perish, and the expectation of wealth perishes too.'

"Pfisterr's last wisp of patience evaporated. 'Enough of the fucking debate,' he shouted. He beat Padre Lupe as he had seen Dornberger beat the Archambeaus and Hughes in Saint Sernin forty years prior--to inflict the maximum amount of pain without fatally harming the prisoner. 'Give me the names of the rebels. Where are they hiding?' he screamed."

Father Carney, aka Padre Lupe, disappeared in the jungles of central America that summer. It is presumed that the CIA murdered him. Documents obtained by his family, under the Freedom of Information Act, cite several reliable witnesses who reveal that Father Carney was pushed out of a helicopter in flight by his CIA executioner.

To our great shame, the story of Father Carney's life and death is little known and seldom remembered. He is on the long, regrettable list of those tortured and murdered by the CIA in the second half of the 20th century, for having the courage to want to change the world.

1 comment:

musictravel said...

I enjoyed your comments about Father James Carney, and I was particularly intrigued by his character in your novel, "Murder of an American Nazi." When your next novel is published, please let me know. I'll be the first to buy it.
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