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Apr 29, 2006


Dave C.

To me, this looks about as compelling as the six degrees of Kevin Bacon game.

Or, to look at it another way, it would be about like discrediting any left leaning political movement in the US by linking it to George Soros, then revealing information about how many people's lives were destroyed by his currency manipulations and how much of a megalomaniac he is.

Or, say, looking at some of the immigration reform rallies. You don't have to look very hard to see some hard core leftist organizations with disreputable pasts pushing for these. Does that make what many of the people are pushing for disreputable?

David Loving

I love grassy knoll theories. There is money on both sides of the issue. The reasserters just do not have access to the church treasury and assets. But I am sure the present "in crowd" has its benefactors, too. There are strong feelings both ways.


So, Dave, which of the several dozen facts and citations in Naughton's analysis are untrue? Your try-to-change-the-subject defense "just as bad as X" and "not as bad as Y" is typical of the activist Right when faced with documented factual evidence of its unholy, un-Anglican agenda.

C. Wingate

The problem is, Naughton's article doesn't present such an agenda-- well, maybe the unAglican part, but since right now we're in a battle over what is Anglican, that's not all that compelling.

A past association with Rushdoony is not, in my opinion, sufficient to justify the charge that Ahmanson-- who very clearly does have a dog in this hunt-- is trying to remake the communion according to Rushdoony's program. A lot of the rest seems to do nothing more than express resentment that the Evil Minions Of IRD outmaneuvered the powerful and privileged at Dromontane. Naughton also mispresents Lambeth 1998 by really saying nothing much about it, even though it should be recognized as the turning point in the battle over control of the communion.

And it's not too much to view this as a partisan attack. After all, Naughton writes specifically as the communications officer of the diocese most vocal in its opposition to those whom his article attacks.

C. Wingate

While I'm at it: the article from The Witness is also by by someone connected to the communications office of a liberal diocese. Someone as cynical as I might suspect a conspiracy to discredit the conservatives...

John Wilkins

What is most disturbing to me is not really about raising money. Organizations have a right to do that. What disturbs me, especially, about IRD, for example was their very close tie to that people covering up the violence done against the poor in Latin America.

Like most networks, conspiracies are rarely about people getting into a room and controlling the world. (we'll maybe sometimes). But the nugget of truth is that there are individuals who are egging things on, seeking to divide, who have interests beyond the Word of God.

Phil Snyder

All evidence supporting a conspiracy is evidence that the conspiracy exists and needs to be foiled.

All evidence that a conspiracy doesn't exist is simply evidence on how effective the conspiracy is and that it needs to be foiled.

All evidence that is neutral also shows the effectiveness of the conspiracy and that the conspiracy needs to be stopped.

Phil Snyder

Dave C.


I have no clue if the facts are correct or not. I certainly don't see such pieces as the work of objective individuals simply trying to understand the truth. They are hit pieces, with an overall objective of vilifying someone. My point was that the whole thing is still a logical fallacy whether the facts can be substantiated or not; it is guilt by association with a measure of ad hominem thrown in.

Such hit pieces are more typical of a political dirty tricks campaign than anything having to do with religion.

Bill Carroll

It is certainly a motivated political intervention, which in itself is perfectly acceptable, as is raising funds to support a cause one believes in. I guess it depends on what direction the intervention is supposed to push the conversation in and whether the cause one supports is consistent with the Gospel.

I suppose how effective Naughton's piece will be will depend on (1) how effective efforts to spin it away are and (2) whether or not the allegations are true. I see no one disputing the core facts that Jim has presented. He has done us a real service by researching the financial records to document what many have been alleging, where possible. One can only speculate about what is done under the table, but there is plenty of evidence available about what we know has been done.

Art Deco

IRD, in particular, was formed in response to the sympathies of the religious denominations with those central American Organizations resisting the brutal dictatorships we were allied with.

Please note that "those central American Organizations" were communist paramilitary outfits who had nothing kind in store for the peoples of that region. The methods of the governments of Guatemala and El Salvador were characteristically cruel but counter-partisan warfare is not inherently unjust (and it is the first duty of any government to govern).

By the way, the United States government cut off aid to Guatemala at the end of 1977. It was not restored until the beginning of 1986, by which time the insurgency had been nearly destroyed and its remnants confined to a remote strip of territory in the western portion of the country. The U.S. government is simply not implicated in what occurred there during that rather sanguinary period of time. The situation was hardly ideal in 1986, but refusing a newly-elected Christian Democratic administration any assistance hardly seems a means to any discernable end other than the striking of poses.

With regard to the situation in El Salvador, the U.S. Government was by 1979 at pains to avoid two unpalatable alternatives: a communist victory and the erection of a Castro regime on steroids, or a recapitulation of what occurred in El Salvador in 1932 (and did which occur in Guatemala in 1982-84). Neither Amb. Robert White, nor Elliot Abrams, nor Jose Napoleon Duarte could simply wave a wand and re-create the military and constabulary ex nihilo. People who have to make real political choices making use of institutions with established patterns of social relations do not have the luxury of gazing at their clean fingernails.

John Wilkins

It's easy to justify cruelty, isn't it, Art Deco? Just make it a matter of ideology and make guesses about people the Government conveniently calls "communists?" Compare the Sandinistas to the dictatorships.

But I don't know what that has to do with IRD. It seems that fighting for justice for the poor is a better stance than defending the cruelty of the military. You seem to assume that the US was quite powerless in the situation. That makes no sense.

They cut of all aid to Guatemala? So there was no other aid going to the military? Well they did get aid. It just went through Israel.

So, where is Oscar Romero in your quasi political theology?

Art Deco

It's easy to justify cruelty, isn't it, Art Deco?

I neither did that nor sought to.

Just make it a matter of ideology and make guesses about people the Government conveniently calls "communists?"

The five components of what was called the Unified Revolutionary Directorate and later called the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (the Popular Forces of Liberation, the National Resistance, the Communist Party of El Salvador, the Central American Workers Revolutionary Party, &c.) were communist organizations which had a paramilitary wing and a non-military street organization (the latter suppressed after 1979). They understood themselves as communist organizations, the Cuban and Soviet government understood them in these terms, and the United States government understood them in these terms. There was a social-democratic and Christian-democratic auxilliary to the insurrection but neither Guillermo Ungo's party nor Reuben Zamora's had any men under arms. Prior to about 1988, communist movements varied in their tactics but little in their ultimate political goals. There was a measure of civic and political pluralism left in Guyana and in Nicaragua during this period but not with regard to any other government which made an obnoxious point about its Marxist allegiances.

Politicians and civil servants make decisions prospectively, which means they must make actuarial calculations about events on incomplete information. A political movements stated ideology, allegiances, goals, methods, and idiom had predictive value in 1979 and retain it today. The comprehensive demoralization of communist movements after 1988 and the attendant adjustment of political goals was not foreseen by either by policy-makers or professors in 1979 (or by anyone until it happened).

Both the Carter and Reagan administration were confronted in the period in question with a number of dilemmas and conceivable (not necessarily feasible) options with regard to the crises in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. You could conquer these countries and run them as dependencies for an interim period of time, do nothing and let the political dynamics therein take their course (keeping in mind that other foreign governments were a vector in those dynamics), or attempt to manipulate those dynamics through a set of carrots and sticks in order to achieve some sort of salutary result. Each option has a menu of possible consequences with some level of probability attached to them. If you choose option three, you are attempting to manipulate (one hopes in a salutary direction) extant corporate bodies with an established institutional culture. (Or to establish from the ground up bodies with one hopes an ethical institutional culture). The United States chose option three. The Salvadoran government was willing to cooperate (more or less) after 1979. The Guatemalan government rejected any aid with conditions in 1977 and went on about its bloody business. The Nicaraguan government comprehended within it a set of inconsistent political goals the resultant of which was unacceptable to the U.S. Government. They took money from all comers but manifested no intention of departing from their preferred international allegiances nor from their internal compromise on political goals, though American policy was initially (1979-81) quite accommodating.

Compare the Sandinistas to the dictatorships.

Three different military factions ruled Guatemala in the period running from 1978 through 1986; a succession of ephemeral civil-military juntas ruled El Salvador during the period running from 1979-82; and both sets of governments were succeeded by elected administrations which lacked effective command over the military and security forces for many years. To whom am I supposed to compare the Sandinista directorate?

The goal of the Sandinistas appears to have been the permanent rule of the Sandinista Front as a political machine in the mold of the Mexican PRI (administering a widespread socialization of property and an alignment with hostile extra-hemispheric governments). The Guatemalan and Salvadoran militaries surely had an interim goal of suppressing the insurrections they faced. I could not tell you what the preferred political order of the high command in either country might have looked like and suspect that that was quite mutable. I suppose the political economy as it stood in El Salvador in 1962-71 (the interests of the agrarian oligarchy held harmless and electoral competition occuring within limits fixed by the military) might be a good guess.

But I don't know what that has to do with IRD. It seems that fighting for justice for the poor is a better stance than defending the cruelty of the military.

You have not persuaded me that the establishment of communist governments in the three Central American states in question was or would have been reliably salutary for the interests of any party other than those aspiring to run such governments. If persuing a course of action likely to have at its end a command economy, the coercive suppression of independent public life, and the hypertrophy of the military and the secret police amounts to 'fighting for justice for the poor', I would rather take a pass.

I defended no one's cruelty. I did note that corrupted institutions require time and diligent effort to reform.

You seem to assume that the US was quite powerless in the situation. That makes no sense.

I made no such assumption, nor can that be fairly inferred from what I did write. I merely noted that the Salvadoran Army, National Guard, National Police, and Treasury Police were not playdough in the hands of Amb. White or anyone who came after him.

They cut of all aid to Guatemala? So there was no other aid going to the military? Well they did get aid. It just went through Israel.

How much, for what purposes, and to what effect? At the time, Israel had a population about half that of Guatemala (though its gross domestic product was about 3x larger), a full dance card in its own neighborhood, and severe macroeconomic imbalances driven by public spending. Somehow I suspect that it had little surplus to spare for the Guatemalan government, and little effect on the internal politics therein. I suppose we could look it up.

So, where is Oscar Romero in your quasi political theology?

I offer no theology, just criticism of some assumptions in one of your comments on Latin American politics. I have nothing to say about Oscar Romero at all. He was not a public figure in either Guatemala or Nicaragua, and died during the first year of the civil war in El Salvador which lasted nearly 13 years. He was not, to my knowledge, allied with any political faction in that country.

John Wilkins

Art, I'm impressed. I'm guessing you have a background in political science or specialize in recent political history. I don't have much of a problem with what you say, when reading carefully. And although I'm glad you give mssrs White, Abrams some latitude to make unhappy decisions, I offer the same to those Christian priests who work in the field working with the poor. I still think that their moral universe was truncated by its Manichean worldview.

I think what has been demonstrated is that the premises of many American diplomats - that a potentially elected communist regime would be worse than a dictatorship was probably false (Cuba on Steroids?). We simply don't know. In the place where Cubans did gain some influence, they were soon disliked.

But why should the Christian response - to support organizations responding to the poor - merit the sort of response from the IRD? IRD didn't really offer much of a challenge to the corrupt regimes.

I'm sypathetic to the idea that realpolitik is a different world than the world of churches. That's OK. But the church still holds people accountable, especially those who are in power - even if the decisions seem untenable at the time.

In a world of original sin, I don't think the church should let the powers off the hook so easily. It's instinct should be with those communities who claim to have the interests of the poor at heart.. We don't know if the church would have been mistaken for supporting those who made up the resistance to the regimes.

I would look up Israel's relationship with Guatemala. It is interesting.

I do think, in the end, the church was proved correct in its assessment of who wa responsible for most of the cruelty. But if you are arguing that clean hands is a luxury, then I have no disagreement.

Art Deco

But why should the Christian response - to support organizations responding to the poor - merit the sort of response from the IRD? IRD didn't really offer much of a challenge to the corrupt regimes.

My recollection (and I am working purely from memory here) is that the Institute on Religion and Democracy was founded in reaction to activities of the World Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches, and the central agencies of the United Methodist Church on the part of foreign governments and political movements that the founders of the Institute considered unworthy. IIRC, among the founders not mentioned was Penn Kemble, a veteran of the old Socialist Party of America. I remember being favorably impressed with some of the organization's activities at the time of its founding but have never studied them in detail, so I cannot answer your question.

There are several anomalies in the first two articles that I would point out to you (though they may mean nothing):

They make a point of listing the precise dollar amount of the sum of foundation contributions to the Institute over a period of 20 years. The annual contribution deposited by all of these foundations appears to have been a mean of $230,000. That would be sufficient to pay wages, salaries, and benefits for about four or five employees. Without any effort, I can think of solitary Anglican parishes with larger staffs. I do not think the foundations are buying a good deal of subversion.

The second anomaly is that the article reports that the late Diane Knippers was discredited by an article in Christianity Today but quote not the article but an apparently interested party who read the article.

With regard to the article in The Witness, I cannot help but notice that he cited no social data collection on the distribution of opinion on the part of attending laity and parish clergy on various and sundry departures in the congregation's moral teaching. Whether it is your local historic preservation society, or the Democratic County Committee, or your local neighborhood association, people who invest time as a volunteer in the activities of any organization are a small minority. In my experience, this is less true of religious bodies but quite true with regard to any activity occurring outside of the local congregation. Conventions, standing committees, trusteeships, & c. are composed of people on the payroll and of a small number of volunteers. That the American Anglican Council or Forward in Faith are manned by a small corps of people is unsurprising. In a decade and a half in attendance at Anglican services, I never contributed to any dissident organization much volunteered any time. However, I was a most unhappy camper. For every person licking envelopes, I suspect you might find 29 others grinding their teeth and saying and doing nothing. If the Rev. Mr. Webster is truly of the view that dissension in the Anglican Communion is derived from aught but the machinations of a sinister few, I would suggest he is pleasuring himself.

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