|Police chaplain Christian Von Wernich was convicted in 2008 of particpating in
abductions, torture and murders during the Dirty War. In court he told the
surviving torture victims who gave evidence that they were tools of the devil.
“Of all the national churches in Latin America, Argentina is where ties were closest between the clergy and the military,” says historian Kenneth P. Serbin. Because Argentine history in the 20th century was punctuated by military coups — in 1930, 1943, 1955, 1966 and 1976 — this alliance gave the Church great power.The stage was set for the third coup, after President Juan Perón gave the vote to women, tried to legalize divorce and prostitution and recognize the rights of children born out of wedlock. And that was not all. In May 1955 Catholic religious instruction was abolished in state schools and three bills were introduced to curtail Church privileges: Church property was no longer to be tax-exempt, the fees of all clerics for weddings, baptisms and funerals were to be taxed, and plans were being drawn up for the constitutional separation of church and state.
The Church reacted on June 14 by turning the Corpus Christi procession into an anti-government demonstration. The next day Perón expelled the Bishop and his assistant who had led this, and the day after that, the 16th, Pope Pius XII excommunicated the President. (more...)