BY A STAFF REPORTER
'THE present Brazilian government acts in defiance of every single tenet of -aChristian social teaching and for Christians the time has come to speak out and, even more, to act, says a document written by a group of jailed Dominican friars in Sao Paolo and published in the current issue of "New Blackfriars."
The friars, who have been imprisoned since 1969, paint a grim picture of brutal repression and secret police methods in South America's largest country. "Since 1964 we have been in a 'State of exception' which becomes ever more violent. Opposition to the government is non-existent. Those who try to oppose are immediately imprisoned, then tortured; many have died."
The document was published in Spanish in Uruguay in September. Entitled "Accusation from prison," it is divided into three parts; first, a theological meditation on the role of the Church in the world; second, an account of the conditions of poverty and terror under which Brazilians live; and third, a justification of the friars' revolutionary standpoint in the face of these conditions.
"We live in a country where 125 of every 1,000 children born die before the age of one: in the Northern Rio Grande province, the number is 525, more than half. The majority of the population suffers from endemic diseases of malnutrition; two-thirds go hungry." says the document, LIFE OF SLAVERY
"The peasant lives in poverty and slavery: totally dependent on the landowners, he is exploited from birth to death. Any attempt at revolt is harshly punished even with death — either by the landowner and his henchmen, or by the so-called 'forces of law and order; who invariably side with the landowner," it continues.
One of the gravest allegations against the Brazilian regime is the extent to which torture is practised. "People are afraid to say what they think, because to do so can mean prison, torture, death. Torture has become a normal means of government: generals and ministers know of its existence. want it to continue, and justify it. Women are raped by their torturers; children are given electric shocks many are permanently maimed. (There are North American agents present at torture sessions,)" In the face of continuing poverty. exploitation and institutionalised violence, say the friars, conscience impels Christians to denounce the injus tices, the "Suppression of Jesus Christ," being perpetrated by
"our violent military dictatorship." This, they say, is the teaching of St. Thomas, of the Vatican Council, and of many Papal encyclicals. "Both Populorum Progressio and the Medellin Document on Peace affirm that revolutions are no more than the consequence of desperate situations of oppression, and this is particularly true of Latin America," they add.
SUBVERSIVE GOSPEL "Priests and bishops have their correspondence censored, their sermons taped, their meetings spied on. The Gospel has become subversive: catechisms are censored by the government, priests are forbidden to say Mass in prison, religious are prevented from renewing their vows and theological books are censored by the military courts. . . . We live under a Nazi-Fascist regime and official statements only confirm this."
"The government would like the Church to stay 'in the sacristy,' to remain 'purely spiritual,' to treat men as though they were angels. It would like the Good Samaritan to concern himself only with the soul of the man who fell among thieves. But then the Church would no longer be the universal sacrament of salvation, continuing the presence of Christ in the world. It would become a negation of Christ and an obstacle to the spreading of His Kingdom," say the friars.
The present situation is unacceptable because it is inhuman, they conclude. And, they say, it is because they are driven by love for their brothers that they work with them for their liberation, following St. Paul. "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand then and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery."