Reverend Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, long-time radical Foreign Minister of the Marxist-inspired Sandinista regime in Nicargua, has had his 29-year long priestly suspension lifted by Pope Francis, allowing the 81-year old priest to say Mass and resume other pastoral activities.
The American-born priest had his priestly faculties removed by the Vatican back in 1985 for violating Canon law, which forbids priests from holding political office. In this country, Father Robert Drinan left his seat in Congress when directed to by the Vatican. D’Escoto, however, refused.
Quite famously, upon his arrival in Managua in 1982, Pope John Paul II wagged his disapproving finger in the face of d’Escoto’s fellow priest and Cabinet Minister Ernesto Cardinal, who was also suspended from priestly faculties. John Paul II said to him on the airport tarmac, “You must straighten out your position with the Church.”
Younger Americans will not remember the heated conflict that pitted American-supported rebels against a heavily entrenched Marxist government supported by Cuba and the Soviet Union in what was one of the final proxy battles of the Cold War.
The Sandinistas were formed as a revolutionary group to overthrow long-time US-backed strongman Anastasio Somoza. After years of violent civil war that left upwards of 50,000 dead, Samoza was driven from power with the victorious Sandinistas taking over in 1979.
Over time it became evident that Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega would turn Nicaragua into a socialist state modeled on Fidel Castro’s Cuba, and a second civil war broke out pitting US-backed Contras against the Marxists in Managua.
Among other things, the Sandinistas declared a state of emergency three years after taking power and began to clamp down on civil rights, including the removal of habeas corpus and shuttering opposition newspapers.
D’Escoto had been a Sandinista supporter during the revolution and became foreign minister for the new government when they took control, an office he held during the whole of the regime from 1979 to 1990.
During his time as Foreign Minister d’Escoto made many startling comments.
According to the Geneva based human rights group UN Watch, d’Escoto:
has implicitly accused the United States of ‘terrorism’, has called former President Ronald Reagan a ‘butcher’, has called for a international boycott of Israel, has stated that the Palestinians were being ‘crucified’ by Israel, has called Israel’s defensive Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip a ‘monstrosity’ and ‘genocide’, has urged the United Nations to use the term ‘apartheid’ in discussing Israeli treatment of Palestinians, has embraced Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after Ahmadinejad delivered an anti-American, anti-Israel address to the United Nations General Assembly, has stated that charges of genocide against Sudanese dictator Omar Hassan al Bashir are ‘racist’, and has declared Fidel Castro ‘World Hero of Solidarity’, stating that Castro ‘embod[ied] virtues and values worth emulation by all of us’.
For his work, d’Escoto received the Lenin Peace Prize in 1985.
D’Escoto came under criticism in the Catholic Church for his support of what is called Liberation Theology, a movement in Latin America that was criticized by Pope John Paul II and then head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI. Leaders in the movement were removed or suspended from priestly ministry, including Gustavo Gutierrez and Leonardo Boff.
But it was for his refusal to leave political office that lead to d’Escoto being stripped of his priestly faculties, preventing him from celebrating Mass, hearing confessions, and administering the other sacraments of the Catholic Church.
Later in his career, d’Escoto was named president of the UN General Assembly and named to a council of advisers that included not only Liberation Theologian Leonard Boff but noted hard-left anti-Americans Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and Ramsey Clark. Oddly, in recent years he was appointed as UN representative for the government of Libya.
In his young pontificate, Pope Francis has begun to rehabilitate radical Latin American priests. He invited Liberation Theology founder Gustavo Guttierrez to meet with him in Rome and now has revived the priestly faculties of a priest who called Ronald Reagan a butcher.