Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Has Chavez Created His Own Church?

Way back in 2006 this blogged looked at rumors that Hugo Chavez was plotting his own church to advance his socialist ideals. It now seems that the ball is in play with the establishment of the Reformed Catholic Church of Venezuela (RCCV).

The RCCV is a bit of a chimera. It uses Catholic titles, catholic sacraments, the Anglican Book of Common Prayers, and was established by rogue clergy of the Anglican, Lutheran, and Catholic Churches. While claiming to be free of politics, the group is openly pro-Chvaez, claims to support the poor, and has liberal views on divorce, celibacy, and homosexuality. Several bishops were ordained (unknown exactly how) in Ciudad Ojeda. It appears the group has about 3,000 members right now.

Meanwhile the Anglican Church denies it is involved in RCCV's founding while the Catholic Bishops of Venezuela have denounced it. Archbishop Roberto Luckert has gone as far as claiming President Chavez is funding the RCCV with oil money.

RCCV combines two legacies in Latin America: Liberation Theology and national governments trying to control the churches. RCCV is clearly an arm of Chavez's goals trying to combine all elements (including God) with remaking society in a communist image. With controlling the churches Chavez continues in the long line of both conservative and leftist governments trying to play politics with the church. Latin American governments have tried to disestablish churches, crush them completely, or use them for their own purposes.

In Venezuela the RCCV should have little impact in part because of the strong Catholic backlash and the fact the Church has played a smaller than Latin American-normal role in Venezuelan affairs in the past. Though if the RCCV plays missionary it could serve as another propaganda/spy arm for Chavez.

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