Cardinal Braz de Aviz v. 2,583 parents. A conflict around clericalism?
Newsroom (07/09/2021 11:00 AM,Gaudium Press ) As has been widely reported, the Heralds of the Gospel received an Apostolic Visitation during the years of 2017-2019: the results were favourable toward this Private Association of the Faithful, and prove no plausible justification for this heavy-handed approach. Yet, inexplicably, on the initiative of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, this investigation was instigated, with the specific involvement of its Prefect, the enigmatic Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, openly known to oppose the institution.
The nominated commissioner, Archbishop Raymundo Damasceno Assis, calmly lead the investigation while taking into consideration the difficulties associated with the onset of the pandemic. Meanwhile, the Heralds of the Gospel were not interrupted in their numerous regular activities, while also taking on the new challenge of distributing food to families disadvantaged by the pandemic.
During this time, however, a malicious Internet campaign against the Heralds had begun and was continuing to spread. Simultaneously, the media was steadily reporting on the allegations and investigation into the group. The Press Office of the Heralds responded fully and accurately, informing the public that the civil accusations against them, whether in Brazil or abroad, were found to be profoundly false, and instead placed the association in an even more favourable light. In effect, the much-vaunted investigation by the Public Ministry was closed last 26 August, “Because,” as stated in the clarification note from the Heralds, “the facts have not been proven, and could not be proven, since they did not occur.”
Parents and guardians know what lies behind the accusations
A decree was issued on 22 June 2021 by Cardinal Braz de Aviz, with the supposed intention to close the schools of the Heralds of the Gospel – schools founded on the inspiration of the Heralds and directed by a group of parents and guardians. The association notes that such a determination cannot be made by any ecclesiastical authority, but rather, by “organizations linked to the Ministry of Education, State or Municipal Secretariats of Education.” In addition, the Heralds explain that the decision to accommodate minors is primarily the responsibility of parents and/or guardians.
The decree alleges that the students attending the association’s schools would not have sufficient contact with their parents. On the contrary, the Heralds of the Gospel inform us that 2,583 (two thousand, five hundred and eighty-three) signatures were collected from the legitimate parents or guardians of the students; parents and guardians who expressly do not feel represented in the aforementioned decision. It is important to note that the unfavourable communications that supposedly reached the Cardinal’s desk certainly do not come from authentic parents, since they overwhelmingly support the permanence of their children in the institution.
By what right is this decree made?
The decree claims an unusual and incorrect deprivation of liberty of those students who may eventually be housed in the residences of the entity. The Heralds, for their part, communicate that the decree violates one of the most sacred of natural rights, that is, the right and the duty of parents to educate their children, according to their convictions; it offends civil law, which protects the ordering of basic education; and is an abject infringement upon Canon Law itself (in particular canon 50) and the Brazil-Holy See agreement, as well as common sense.
For these reasons, the eminent law experts, Dr. Ives Gandra da Silva Martins and Dr. Dircêo Torrecillas Ramos filed, on August 30, 2021, an opinion to Cardinal Braz de Aviz, explaining that the referred decree “is based on generic premises, which do not coincide with the reality of the facts – it interferes in a matter alien to Canon Law”, besides entering “a field whose regulation and respective protection are the attribution of Brazilian civil authorities”. Finally, the legal experts hope that “all efforts will be employed so that justice may be done and dialogue re-established, for the benefit of the Heralds of the Gospel, the parents, society and the CHURCH itself, respecting the Rule of Law.” The Heralds of the Gospel mention that other law consultants have also pronounced their views on the matter.
A historical juridical aberration?
Since the initial media outburst against the Heralds of the Gospel, to the present, no investigation of any kind has been conducted by the Congregation led by Cardinal Braz de Aviz. According to our sources, independent internal investigations have been carried out by the Heralds themselves to ascertain the reality of the facts. All of the allegations have proven to be fraudulent, since they were effectively carried out unlawfully in a coordinated manner, through the obtaining of financial advantages (bribes). The civil power itself has concluded that the accusations are unfounded, and in some cases even leading to legal proceedings against the slanderers.
If the application of the decree were to be confirmed, we would be faced with one of the greatest juridical aberrations in ecclesiastical history. Indeed, the past and present unfortunately are witnesses to the civil persecution of the Church in many places in the world. On the other hand, on certain occasions, the civil power has allied itself with sectors of the Church to persecute innocent people, as in the infamous judgment of Saint Joan of Arc. However, it has never been heard of the Church (or a sector of it) declaring a sanction on an ecclesiastical body when the public power has declared its innocence!
In the famous media blitz against the Base School in São Paulo in 1994, the best-known case of fake news in Brazil, the police representative, when asked what evidence there was against the owners of the school, replied: “The enquiry is the proof.” In this case against the Heralds, there is not even an enquiry, and yet a sentence is imposed!
Strictly against ‘rigidity’
According to our sources, Cardinal Braz de Aviz, in a missive sent to Cardinal Damasceno on February 16, 2021, requested that the judicial actions brought by the parents of the Herald students against the slanderous accusers be terminated. If this is true – and everything indicates that it is – it reveals, without a doubt and at the very least, a prejudicial judgment on the part of the Brazilian cardinal. In truth, for the parents of the students, contact with their children is not lacking. What is notably lacking, however, is contact with the cardinal, who for several years now has refused to meet with them.
In any case, even if the discipline in the Heralds of the Gospel is not according to the wishes of Cardinal Braz de Aviz (according to him, “excessively rigid”), one wonders why Proverbs (23:13) calls out: “Do not take discipline away from young people!” Rather, one wonders: why does he have this difficulty with discipline? Is it to protect corrupt priests who may harm children, as he, himself, has admitted protecting in the past? To quote the words of St Paul to Titus (1:15): “To the pure, all things are pure.” Enough with the impure….
Compiled by Sandra Chisholm