From a Special Correspondent
CARACAS — Venezuela's Catholic bishops are facing a revolt among Catholic left wingers after trying to ban them from voting for leftist candidates in general elections next December.
Several priests are reportedly planning to stand as Communist candidates for minor posts and Catholic left wing voters are backing presidential candidates supported by Marxist parties. although they have little chance of winning.
Left wing Catholic organisations have denounced the bishops for living "isolated from reality. enjoying i heir comforts in their palaces, without noticing that outside those walls exists a people which hungers and thirsts for justice."
The slashing attack followed a statement by the Venezuelan bishops' conference last July — on the eve orthe election campaign — that "in face of Socialism we must adopt an attitude of rejection." Catholic priests could not stand for elected public office. they added.
Since then, one of the bishops has followed up with a specific yarning that Venezuela's Catholics should not "in conscience" vote for candidates who denied the existence of God and the right of private property.
The statement, in a newspaper interview by Mgr. Jose Rincon Bonilla. the auxiliary. (assistant) Bishop of Caracas. apparently represents the views of the hierarchy. which has remained almost untouched by the "aggiornamento" (bringing Lip to date) of the Church set in motion hy the 1962-65 Vatican Council.
Mgr. Rincon said that Christian Socialism was no more than "Marxism in disguise" and its prophets intellectual snobs. "They can be nothing but an easy basis to bring to power those who will tomorrow become their executioners," he said.
"Those candidates whose ideology denies Christian education and private property. naturally cannot, in conscience, be favoured by Catholic votes," Bishop Rincon declared.
However. left wing Catholics, and even priests, do not appear ready to take such rulings lying down. "The Church hierarchy has always condemned those movements which have brought progress and development for our peoples," organisations grouping left wing Catholics at national, regional and local levels declared in a joint statement last month.
The document said most Venezuelan bishops had maintained a "silence of complicity" under previous dictatorships. Lashing out at the Church they said: "When the people of Latin America ask for freedom the bishops recommend obedience, %% hen they ask for justice they recommend resignation, and when they decide to fight they call them sinners."
For the Latin American Church today, "It is more important to bless the branch of a
bank or the weapons which will be used to repress the people, And to build imposing churches in wealthy suburbs, than to be at the side of those who suffer and to struggle beside those who are forgotten,the document alleged.
One Venezuelan priest. Father Martin Soto from an irnpoverished Caracas parish, has already declared he will stand as Communist candidate for municipal councillor in the capital in the elections on December 9.
Nearly five million Venezuelans will go to the polls in the elections to choose a successor to President Rafael Caldera after his five-year term, and to elect a Congress and municipal councils.
Among the 14 presidential candidates so far registered, Senor Lorenzo Fernandez of the ruling Copei Party and Senor Carlos Andres Perez of Democratic Action, the main opposition party, are given the ,hest chance of victory.