06 July 2007

Killer priests?

As if pedophile priests haven't embarrassed the Catholic Church enough, now they're having to deal with torturers and murders. Although church bishops condemned the tactics the Argentinian military used to suppress dissent during their 1976-83 dictatorship, not all the priests were on side. One, Christian Von Wernich, is now on trial charged with participating in seven murders, 42 kidnappings, and 31 cases of torture while he was chaplain to the Buenos Aires police force. Apparently, he isn't alone. About 20 other priests are suspected of collaborating with the military during the "dirty war." Von Wernich was extradited from Chile where he was practicing as a priest under the name Cristian Gonzalez.

One ex-policeman,
Julio Alberto Emmed, has testified, "The three ex-subversives who were still alive were taken out. ... the doctor gave them two injections each, directly in the heart... They were loaded on to a van belonging to the unit and were taken to Avellaneda. We went to wash and change our clothes because we were bloodstained. ... Father Von Wernich saw that what had happened had shocked me, and spoke to me telling me that what we had done was necessary; it was a patriotic act and God knew it was for the good of the country. "

A former detainee,
Luis Velasco, stated, "I once overheard Christian Von Wernich reply to a detainee who was begging for his life to be spared that 'the life of men depends on God and your collaboration.' On another occasion he came to me and touching the hair on my chest smiled and said, 'They burned the hairs ...'"

Like the pedophile priests, the accused murderers are aberrations. Nonetheless, Von Wernich's story of persistent evil, of never being appropriately dealt with by the Church, and then simply going on to serve another parish, has disturbing echoes.

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