Rev.  Rafael Rodriguez is pastor at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Whitewater and a native of Venezuela. After obtaining a law degree in Venezuela, Rev. Rodriguez came to Milwaukee to become a priest. After his ordination he first served as associate pastor in West Bend, Wisc. before coming to Whitewater

In a presentation Oct. 21 at UW–Whitewater, Rev. Rodriguez discussed the importance in Latin America and the Catholic Church of the reforms carried out in the 1960s. The reforms were initiated by the Vatican II Conference presided over in Rome by Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI from 1962 to 1965.  Figuratively, the idea of Vatican II was to “open the doors and windows of the church to let in fresh air”.  A number of reforms sought to make religious life more accessible through such things as sermons in the language of the church’s location rather than in Latin, and welcoming more work by lay members.

In Latin America at a conference of bishops in Medellin, Colombia in 1968 the ideas of  Vatican II inspired church members to focus Latin America’s Catholic Church on social problems of poverty and oppression. This was an innovation in Catholicism offered by Latin Americans that came to be called Liberation Theology. lOne outcome of this was that ay members took the initiative in a burgeoning of what are called Christian Base Communities in poor areas.

With the arrival of Pope John Paul II in 1978 the emphasis of the church shifted to liberating the world, especially those Catholics in his native Poland, from communism. Conversely, the Papacy discouraged Liberation Theology and social activism that often resembled, or openly embraced, Marxism.

Then, and now, Rev. Rodriguez said, the church exists within political movements and struggles. He cited the case of Honduras, where the current Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga supported the ouster of  left-leaning President Manuel Zelaya this past summer.