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Between Religion and Politics: The Military Clergy during the Late Twentieth-Century Dictatorships in Argentina and Chile*


This article analyses the history of the military clergy and contrasts its role in the Argentine and Chilean dictatorships on the basis of new, previously inaccessible sources. It is argued here that, in addition to its ideological orientation, two further factors explain differences in the influence of the military clergy on the two regimes: first, the structural position that the Military Vicariates occupied between the Church and the armed forces, and, second, the two dictatorships’ different needs for legitimisation. The analysis provides information relevant to understanding the public role of the Catholic Church and the dimensions of violence during the regimes.

Este artículo analiza la historia del clero militar y contrasta su papel al interior de las dictaduras argentina y chilena sobre la base de nuevas fuentes previamente inaccesibles. Se señala que, aparte de la orientación ideológica, dos factores más explican las disimilitudes de la influencia del clero militar sobre los dos regímenes: primeramente, la posición estructural que ocuparon los Vicariatos Militares entre la Iglesia y las fuerzas armadas y, en segundo lugar, las diferentes necesidades de legitimización de las dos dictaduras. El análisis provee información relevante para entender el papel público de la Iglesia Católica así como la violencia durante esos regímenes.

Baseado em fontes novas, antes inacessíveis, este artigo analisa a história dos cleros militares argentinos e chilenos contrastando os papéis desempenhados por eles nas ditaduras de ambos os países. Argumenta-se aqui que, além da orientação ideológica, dois outros fatores explicam as diferenças das influências do clero militar nos dois regimes: primeiro, a posição estrutural que o Vicariato Militar ocupou entre a Igreja Católica e as forças armadas e, segundo, as necessidades de legitimação distintas das duas ditaduras. A análise fornece informações relevantes para a compreensão do papel público da Igreja Católica e as dimensões da violência durante os dois regimes.

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Thanks are due to Eliot Jones for his excellent translation of the original Spanish version of this paper.

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1 Argentina, Military Vicariate, Bulletin, 51 (Aug. 1976), p. 23 .

2 Pinochet, Augusto, Política. Politiquería. Demagogia (Santiago: Renacimiento, 1983), p. 58 .

3 Bergen, Doris, ‘Introduction’, in Bergen, Doris (ed.), The Sword of the Lord: Military Chaplains from the First to the Twenty-First Century (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004), p. 16.

4 In the case of Argentina, only the classic studies by Emilio Mignone and Rubén Dri on the Catholic Church during the last Argentine dictatorship mention aspects of the military clergy: see Mignone, Emilio, Iglesia y dictadura: el papel de la Iglesia a la luz de sus relaciones con el régimen militar (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Colihue, 2006); Dri, Rubén R., Teología y dominación (Buenos Aires: Roblanco 1987). Esquivel, Juan Cruz adopts a sociological viewpoint in his article, ‘A marca católica na legislação argentina: o caso da assistência religiosa nas forças armadas’, in Lorea, Roberto Arriada (ed.), Em defesa das liberdades laicas (Porto Alegre: Livraria do Advogada, 2008), pp. 117–28. In the case of Chile, there is a study by Hernán Vidal, who could not gain access to sources belonging to the clergy, and a legal study written by a member of Opus Dei who is now a bishop: see Vidal, Hernán, Las capellanías castrenses durante la dictadura: hurgando en la ética militar chilena (Santiago: Mosquito Comunicaciones, 2005); and Errázuriz, Juan Ignacio González, Iglesia y fuerzas armadas: estudio canónico y jurídico sobre la asistencia espiritual a las fuerzas armadas en Chile (Santiago: Universidad de los Andes, 1994).

5 My thanks to Horacio Verbitsky, who provided me with copies of the Military Vicariate's bulletins from the days of the dictatorship.

6 I have copies of all the documents cited here from the private archive belonging to Mgr Matte Varas (hereafter referred to as MVA).

7 A critical edition of the diary of Mgr Bonamín, the Military Pro-Vicar of Argentina, covering 1976–7, which fell into the hands of two researchers, Lucas Bilbao and Ariel Lede, is due to be published in the first half of 2015. Bilbao and Lede were kind enough to provide me with a copy of the diary, an extremely valuable source when it comes to understanding how the Vicariate worked and what one of its most prominent representatives thought, on the understanding that it should not be quoted prior to publication of their own work. A preliminary reading of the diary confirms the conclusions reached in this article.

8 Wilhelm Graf, Friedrich, Die Wiederkehr der Götter: Religion in der modernen Kultur (Munich: C. H. Beck, 2007), p. 110. For what follows, see ibid., pp. 111–13.

9 Ibid., p. 119.

10 Bourdieu, Pierre, Das religiöse Feld: Texte zur Ökonomie des Heilsgeschehens (Konstanz: UVK Universitätsverlag, 2000), p. 67.

11 Colpe, Carsten, Der ‘Heilige Krieg’ (Bodenheim: Anton Hain Verlag, 1994), p. 10.

12 Willoweit, Dietmar, ‘Verweigerte Toleranz und geheiligte Kriegführung’, in Schreiner, Klaus (ed.), Heilige Kriege: Religiöse Begründungen militärischer Gewaltanwendung: Judentum, Christentum und Islam im Vergleich (Munich: Oldenbourg, 2008), p. 260. Willoweit, like Colpe, refers to ‘Holy War’, not ‘Just War’. To differentiate between the terms, see Friedrich Wilhelm Graf, ‘Sakralisierung von Kriegen: Begriffs- und problemgeschichtliche Erwägungen’, in Schreiner (ed.), Heilige Kriege, pp. 7–8. Nevertheless, the potential of religion as a legitimising force is still valid in the case of just war, as the Argentine dictatorship defined it.

13 The theological concept of just war is based on St Augustine: see Aquinas, Thomas, Summa theologiae. Die deutsche Thomas-Ausgabe, vol. 2 (Salzburg: Anton Pustet Verlag, 1934), 40, pp. 83–9.

14 See Graf, Sakralisierung von Kriegen, p. 9; Palaver, Wolfgang, ‘Vom “gerechten Krieg” zum “gerechten Frieden”. Ein Beitrag aus theologischer Sicht’, in Kreis, Georg (ed.), Der ‘gerechte Krieg’. Zur Geschichte einer aktuellen Denkfigur (Basel: Schwabe Verlag, 2006), p. 104; Angenendt, Arnold, Toleranz und Gewalt. Das Christentum zwischen Bibel und Schwert (Münster: Aschendorff Verlag, 2008), p. 412ff.

15 Assmann does not claim that monotheism brought violence with it, but rather refers to the linguistic legitimisation of violence involved in imposing a single God, which is inherent to monotheism: see Assmann, Jan, Die Mosaische Unterscheidung. Oder der Preis des Monotheismus (Munich and Vienna: Carl Hanser Verlag, 2003); Assmann, Jan, ‘Monotheismus und die Sprache der Gewalt’, in Walter, Peter (ed.), Das Gewaltpotential des Monotheismus und der Dreieine Gott (Freiburg: Verlag Herder, 2005), pp. 1838 ; Assmann, Jan, Monotheismus und die Sprache der Gewalt (Vienna: Picus Verlag, 2006). For a critical discussion of Assmann's ideas, see Klaus Müller, ‘Gewalt und Wahrheit. Zu Jan Assmanns Monotheismuskritik’, in Walter (ed.), Das Gewaltpotential, pp. 74–82; and Erich Zenger, ‘Der Mosaische Monotheismus im Spannungsfeld von Gewalttätigkeit und Gewaltverzicht. Eine Replik auf Jan Assmann’, in Walter (ed.), Das Gewaltpotential, pp. 39–73.

16 See Holzem, Andreas, ‘Krieg und Christentum. Religiöse Gewalttheorien in den Kriegserfahrungen des Westens. Eine Einführung’, in Holzem, Andreas (ed.), Krieg und Christentum. Religiöse Gewalttheorien in den Kriegserfahrungen des Westen (Paderborn: Schöningh, 2009), p. 32ff.; Angenendt, Toleranz und Gewalt, p. 419ff.; Althoff, Gerd, Selig sind die Verfolgung ausüben. Päpste und Gewalt im Hochmittelalter (Darmstadt: Theiss Verlag, 2013), p. 121ff.

17 See Palaver, ‘Vom “gerechten Krieg”’, p. 108; and Angenendt, Toleranz und Gewalt, pp. 481–2.

18 Taylor, Charles, Ein säkuläres Zeitalter (Frankfurt-am-Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2009), p. 15.

19 Casanova, José, Public Religions in the Modern World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), p. 211ff.

20 Quoted in Mallimaci, Fortunato, ‘Les courants au sein du catholicisme argentin: continuités et ruptures’, Archives de Sciences Sociales des Religions, 40 (1995), p. 113.

21 According to Émile Poulat's basic definition, integral Catholicism means a type of Catholicism which is Roman (guided by the vision of the Pope), intransigent (anti-liberal and anti-modern), integral (harbouring the idea of transforming society according to Catholic doctrine) and social (with a popular dimension): see Poulat, Émile, Le catholicisme sous observation (Paris: Le Centurion, 1983).

22 Zanatta, Loris, ‘Religión, nación y derechos humanos: el caso argentino en perspectiva histórica’, Revista de Ciencias Sociales (Buenos Aires), 7: 8 (1998), p. 170ff.; Béliveau, Verónica Giménez and Mallimaci, Fortunato, ‘Argentinien’, in Meier, Johannes and Strassner, Veit (eds.), Kirche und Katholizismus seit 1945, vol. 6: Lateinamerika und Karibik (Paderborn: Schöningh, 2009), p. 400f.

23 See the analyses given in Lida, Miranda and Mauro, Diego (eds.), Catolicismo y sociedad de masas en Argentina, 1900–1950 (Buenos Aires: Prohistoria, 2009). The quotation is from page 13.

24 Di Stefano, Roberto and Zanatta, Loris, Historia de la Iglesia Argentina: desde la conquista hasta finales del siglo XX (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 2009), p. 545ff.; Ghio, José-María, La Iglesia católica en la política argentina (Buenos Aires: Prometeo, 2007).

25 See Touris, Claudia and Ceva, Mariela (eds.), Los avatares de la ‘nación católica’: cambios y permanencias en el campo religioso de la Argentina contemporánea (Buenos Aires: Editorial Libros, 2012).

26 See Pablo Martín, José, Movimiento de Sacerdotes del Tercer Mundo: un debate argentino (Buenos Aires: Universidad Nacional de General Sarmiento, 2010).

27 Levine, Daniel, ‘Camilo Torres. Fe, política y violencia’, Sociedad y Religión, 21: 34/35 (2011), pp. 5991 ; Morello, Gustavo, Cristianismo y revolución: los orígenes intelectuales de la guerrilla argentina (Córdoba: Universidad Católica de Córdoba, 2003).

28 Miguel Donatello, Luis, ‘La última dictadura militar como problema teológico-político’, in Mallimaci, Fortunato (ed.), Modernidad, religión y memoria (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Colihue, 2008), pp. 169–82; Mallimacci, Fortunato, Cucchetti, Humberto and Donatello, Luis, ‘Caminos sinuosos: nacionalismo y catolicismo en la Argentina contemporánea’, in Colom, Francisco and Rivero, Ángel (eds.), El altar y el trono: ensayos sobre el catolicismo político latinoamericano (Barcelona: Anthropos, 2006); Luis Miguel Donatello, ‘Sobre algunos conceptos para comprender las relaciones entre religión y guerrilla en la Argentina de los '60 y '70’, Nuevo Mundo/Mundos Nuevos, available at (last accessed, 20 Nov. 2012); Donatello, Luis Miguel, ‘Aristocratismo de la salvación: el catolicismo liberacionista y los montoneros’, Prismas: Revista de Historia Intelectual, 9 (2005), pp. 241–58.

29 Alberto Romero, Luis, Breve historia contemporánea de la Argentina, 1916–2010 (Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica de España, 2012 edition), p. 200ff.; Vezetti, Hugo, Sobre la violencia revolucionaria: memorias y olvidos (Buenos Aires: Paidós Ibérica, 2009). Two recent articles provide further analysis of the climate of violence and right-wing fear in Argentina in the early 1970s: Carassai, Sebastián, ‘The Dark Side of Social Desire: Violence as Metaphor, Fantasy and Satire in Argentina, 1969–1975’, Journal of Latin American Studies, 47: 1 (2015), pp. xx–xx; Manzano, Valeria, ‘Sex, Gender and the Making of the “Enemy Within” in Cold War Argentina’, Journal of Latin American Studies, 47: 1 (2015), pp. xx–xx.

30 Novaro, Marcos and Palermo, Vicente, La dictadura militar (1976–1983): del golpe de estado a la restauración democrática (Buenos Aires: Paidós Iberica, 2006), p. 33ff.

31 CONADEP, Nunca más: Informe de la Comisión Nacional sobre la Desaparición de Personas (Buenos Aires: Eudeba, 1984), p. 7.

32 Crenzel, Emilio, La historia política del Nunca Más: la memoria de las desapariciones en la Argentina (Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 2008), p. 37; Romero, Breve historia, pp. 207–12.

33 Official bodies currently list 13,500 people as ‘disappeared’: see Strassner, Veit, Die offenen Wunden Lateinamerikas. Vergangenheitspolitik im postautoritären Argentinien, Uruguay und Chile (Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2007), p. 78.

34 Fuchs, Ruth, Umkämpfte Geschichte. Vergangenheitspolitik in Argentinien und Uruguay (Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2010), p. 71.

35 Canelo, Paula, El proceso en su laberinto: la interna militar de Videla a Bignone (Buenos Aires: Prometeo, 2008), p. 43.

36 Obregón, Martín, Entre la cruz y la espada: la Iglesia católica durante los primeros años del ‘Proceso’ (Buenos Aires: Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, 2005), p. 58.

37 Mallimaci, Fortunato, ‘Catolicismo y militarismo en Argentina (1930–1983): de la Argentina liberal a la Argentina católica’, Revista de Ciencias Sociales (Buenos Aires), 4 (1996), pp. 181218 ; Gill, Anthony James, Rendering unto Caesar: The Catholic Church and the State in Latin America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), p. 157ff.; Verbitsky, Horacio, Doble juego: la Argentina católica y militar (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 2006); Di Stefano and Zanatta, Historia, p. 545ff.; Ghio, La Iglesia católica, p. 217ff.

38 See Obregón, Entre la cruz, p. 66ff., who highlights three tendencies; Ghio, La Iglesia católica, p. 230ff.; and Touris, Claudia, ‘Ideas, actores y conflictos en el catolicismo argentino post-conciliar’, Todo es Historia, 401 (2000), pp. 4452 .

39 Smith, Brian H., The Church and Politics in Chile: Challenges to Modern Catholicism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982), p. 210ff.; Veit Strassner, ‘Chile’, in Meier and Strassner (ed.), Kirche und Katholizismus nach 1945, vol. 6: Karibik und Lateinamerika, p. 402ff.

40 Botto, Andrea, ‘Algunas tendencias del catolicismo social en Chile: reflexiones desde la historia’, Teología y Vida, 49 (2008), p. 505ff.

41 Gill, Rendering unto Caesar.

42 See Richard, Pablo, Cristianos por el socialismo. Historia y documentación (Salamanca: Ediciones Sígueme, 1976).

43 Tradición, Familia y Propiedad had its closest contacts in the Navy; see Ruderer, Stephan, ‘Cruzada contra el comunismo: Tradición, Familia y Propiedad (TFP) en Chile y Argentina’, Sociedad y Religion, 22: 38 (2012), pp. 79108 .

44 Members of the armed forces who came out against the coup, such as General Alberto Bachelet, father of a future president, Michelle Bachelet, were eliminated shortly after the coup itself. For the example of the marines opposed to the coup, see Magasich, Jorge, Los que dijeron ‘No’: historia del movimiento de los marinos antigolpistas de 1973, 2 volumes (Santiago: LOM Ediciones, 2008). Unity within the military junta was ultimately achieved with Pinochet's ‘coup’ against the commander-in-chief and until-then member of the junta, Gustavo Leigh, in 1978: see de Zárate, Verónica Valdivia Ortiz, El golpe después del golpe: Leigh vs. Pinochet: Chile 1960–1980 (Santiago: LOM Ediciones, 2003).

45 For a detailed analysis of the dictatorship, see Huneeus, Carlos, The Pinochet Regime (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2007). Also see Rinke, Stefan, Kleine Geschichte Chiles (Munich: C. H. Beck, 2007), p. 158ff.; Collier, Simon and Sater, William F., A History of Chile (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 359ff.

46 See Koch, Max, Unternehmen Transformation: Sozialstruktur und gesellschaftlicher Wandel in Chile (Frankfurt-am-Main: Verwuert, 1998), p. 35ff.; Rinke, Kleine Geschichte, p. 162ff., Collier and Sater, A History, p. 365ff.

47 Ruderer, Stephan, Das Erbe Pinochets: Vergangenheitspolitik und Demokratisierung in Chile 1990–2006 (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2010), pp. 4950 . See also Stern, Steve, Remembering Pinochet's Chile: On the Eve of London 1998 (Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press, 2006), p. 160, in which the author speaks of 3,500–4,500 dead or ‘disappeared’, 150,000–200,000 politically-motivated detentions, and almost 400,000 exiles. Stern provides plausible explanations for his estimates.

48 Rinke Kleine Geschichte, p. 166ff.; Huneeus, The Pinochet Regime, p. 551ff.

49 Smith, Church and Politics, p. 287ff.

50 Ibid.; Cancino Troncoso, Hugo, Chile: Iglesia y dictadura, 1973–1989. Un estudio sobre el rol político de la Iglesia católica y el conflicto con el régimen militar (Odense: Odense University Press, 1997), p. 21ff.; Gill, Rendering unto Caesar, p. 141.

51 Lowden, Pamela, Moral Opposition to Authoritarian Rule in Chile, 1973–1990 (Oxford: St Anthony Press, 1996).

52 Smith, Church and Politics, p. 305ff.; Correa, Enrique, José Antonio Viera-Gallo, Iglesia y dictadura (Santiago: CESOC, Ediciones Chile y América, 1986), p. 90ff.

53 Smith, Church and Politics, p. 294ff.; Cancino Troncoso, Iglesia y dictadura, p. 43ff.; Aguilar, Mario I., A Social History of the Catholic Church in Chile. vol. I: The First Period of the Pinochet Government 1973–1980 (New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 2004), p. 23ff.

54 It should be noted that this refers to the public position of the majority of the Chilean episcopate. This does not mean that the Chilean Church behaved as a homogeneous block. Diverging and contradictory stances, and even outright support for the dictatorship, also existed amongst the bishops. For an ‘inside’ account referring to these differing views, see Hourton, Jorge, Memorias de un obispo sobreviviente. Episcopado y dictadura (Santiago: LOM Ediciones, 2009).

55 The expression comes from Bock, Martin, Religion im Militär. Soldatenseelsorge im internationalen Vergleich (Munich: Sozialwissenschaftliches Institut der Bundeswehr, 1993), p. 180.

56 Acuerdo entre la República Argentina y la Santa Sede, 28 de junio de 1957, in Obispado Castrense de Argentina, Anuario 2006, pp. 21–4.

57 Mignone, Iglesia y dictadura, p. 47.

58 Argentina, Military Vicariate, Bulletin, 52 (Dec. 1976), p. 31.

59 Manual de la capellanía mayor del ejército, 1960, AABA, Legajo 1915 ‘Vicariato castrense’, p. 2.

60 Ibid.

61 Ibid.

62 Ibid., Appendix.

63 Argentina, Vicariato castrense, Boletín 14 (1964), AABA, ‘Vicariato castrense’, p. 64.

64 Ibid.

65 Argentina, Vicariato castrense, Boletín 65 (April 1981), p. 17.

66 Ibid., p. 20.

67 Argentina, Military Vicariate, Bulletin 51 (Aug. 1976), p. 23.

68 Argentina, Military Vicariate, Bulletin 49 (Dec. 1975), p. 1.

69 Argentina, Military Vicariate, Bulletin 68 (April 1982), p. 2.

70 Both quotations from Military Vicariate, Bulletin 49 (Dec. 1975), pp. 21–2.

71 Angenendt, Toleranz und Gewalt, pp. 419–24.

72 Argentina, Military Vicariate, Bulletin 55 (Dec. 1977), p. 30.

73 The term used by Castro Castillo, Marcial, Fuerzas armadas: ética y represión (Buenos Aires: Editorial Nuevo Orden, 1979), p. 13, is ‘oficial combatiente’.

74 Ibid., pp. 25–6. This does not mean that the dissidents against the dictatorship (‘subversion’) were mainly communists. This association only appears in the chaplains' discourse.

75 Ezcurra, Alberto, Moral cristiana y guerra antisubversiva. Enseñanzas de un capellán castrense (Buenos Aires: Santiago Apóstol, 2007), p. 49. (Original manuscript De bello gerendo, 1975).

76 Argentina, Military Vicariate, Bulletin 52 (Dec. 1976), p. 30.

77 This does not mean that the entire Argentine Church shared the theology of Just War, nor that it was not challenged or criticised, but rather, as the two quotations indicate, that significant members of the Military Vicariate and the armed forces accepted such arguments.

78 Given the empirical documentation quoted here, I consider that Mallimaci, ‘Catolicismo y militarismo’, p. 207, underestimates the role of the military chaplains.

79 CONADEP, Nunca más. Informe de la Comisión Nacional sobre la Desaparición de Personas (Buenos Aires: Eudeba, 1984), II.E.

80 González Errázuriz, Iglesia y fuerzas armadas, p. 17ff.

81 Mgr Gillmore, Exposición de Chile, II. Encuentro Latinoamericano de Pastoral Castrense, CELAM, Bogotá, 6–11 March 1977, MVA, p. 2.

82 Mgr Matte Varas, Relación sobre situación del vicariato castrense de Chile presentada a S. S. El Papa Juan Pablo II., 1984, MVA, p. 2.

83 Ibid.

84 Mgr Gillmore, Exposición de Chile, II. Encuentro Latinoamericano de Pastoral Castrense, CELAM, Bogotá, 6–11 March 1977, MVA, p. 3. Emphasis in original.

85 Mgr Gillmore, Circular No. 46, 1971, MVA.

86 Conclusiones de la Quinta Comisión, Jornadas de Pastoral Castrense, 26.02. 1976, MVA, p. 3.

87 Military school chaplain J. M. Cañabate Fernández, ‘La problemática juvenil actual latinoamericana y su repercusión en la pedagogía militar’, 1. 12. 1977, MVA.

88 Riesle Contreras, Hector, ‘La legitimidad de la junta de gobierno’, in Instituto de Estudios Generales (ed.), Fuerzas armadas y seguridad nacional (Santiago: Ediciones Portada, 1973), p. 300.

89 Gillmore, Mgr, ‘Homilía castrense, 11 de setiembre de 1974’, Revista Católica 1030 (1974), pp. 235–6.

90 Ibid., p. 236.

91 See Arriagada, Gennaro, Pinochet: The Politics of Power (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1988), p. 4ff., and Cristi, Marcela, From Civil to Political Religion. The Intersection of Culture, Religion and Politics (Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfried Laurier University Press, 2001), p. 169.

92 Mgr Gillmore, ‘Homilía castrense’, p. 236.

93 The influence of the book in Military Vicariate circles is evident in the conclusions to the second committee of the military clergy in 1976: ‘El libro Iglesia, gobierno, principios del capellán Florencio Infante D., es utilísimo’. Conclusiones de la Segunda Comisión, Jornadas de Pastoral Castrense, 26 Feb. 1976, MVA, p. 3.

94 Infante Díaz, Florencio, Iglesia, gobierno, principio (Santiago: Vicaria Castrense, 1976), p. 7ff. The book has a prologue by Military Vicar Gillmore, which highlights its importance in military circles. Infante himself, while working as a military chaplain, witnessed the execution of victims of the dictatorship by firing squad and, thereby, legitimised such violence. Compare this with Patricio Aylwin's memoirs: Aylwin, Patricio, El reencuentro de los demócratas del golpe al triunfo del No (Santiago: Ediciones B Chile, 1998), p. 41.

95 Infante, Iglesia, gobierno, p. 56.

96 Ibid., p. 58.

97 ‘Reservado – reunión de estudio, conferencia y diálogo presidida por Mons. Augusto Salinas F.’, 23 Feb. 1976, MVA, p. 1.

98 The DINA was the Chilean state intelligence agency at the time.

99 ‘Reservado – reunión de estudio, conferencia y diálogo presidida por Mons. Augusto Salinas F.’, 24 Feb. 1976, MVA, p. 1.

100 Ibid., p. 2. It is not possible to determine individual motivations for the Chilean chaplains to support the dictatorship ideologically. The sources cited show, however, that an internal meeting did not condemn the dictatorship's methods, allowing us to conclude that, as in Argentina and barring specific exceptions, most military chaplains were convinced of their work in legitimising the regime. My colleague, Antje Schnoor, who is writing his doctoral thesis on the Jesuits in Chile, informed me that one Jesuit military chaplain, Leonel Ibacache, left the military clergy during the dictatorship for reasons of conscience. This is the only case that has come to my attention to date. My thanks to Antje Schnoor for the information.

101 Videla always legitimised repression by defending ‘the condition of being a westerner and a Christian’: Rafael Videla, Jorge, Mensajes presidenciales. Proceso de Reorganización Nacional, 2 vols (Buenos Aires: Presidencia de la Nación, 1977), p. 105. Videla repeated this argument every time he referred to the human rights situation: see, for example, Videla, Mensajes presidenciales, vol. 1, 1979, p. 175, p. 181, p. 208, vol. 2, p. 144ff., p. 202, p. 211, p. 240, p. 255.

102 Palaver, Vom ‘Gerechten Krieg’, p. 108.

103 Ruderer, Stephan, ‘“Gerechter Krieg” oder‚ Würde des Menschen’. Religion und Gewalt in Argentinien und Chile. Eine Frage der Legitimation’, Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft 12 (2010), pp. 973–93. This does not mean that the entire Argentine Church thought this way. In fact, the position of the Military Vicariate represented a minority within the Church, albeit a fairly influential one as far as the stance and public image of the Church, and the way in which the armed forces viewed the situation, were concerned.

104 Huneeus, The Pinochet Regime, p. 140.

105 This is not only evident in some of the quotations by chaplains cited in this article, but also in Pinochet's own speeches, which, unlike Videla's, seldom mention being a ‘westerner’ or a ‘Christian’ as a means of legitimising repression: see his speeches in Centro de Estudios Sociopolíticos (ed.), Presidente Pinochet: transición y consolidación democrática, 1984–1989 (Santiago: Centro de Estudios Sociopolíticos, 1989), p. 68ff. Cristi's interpretation of Pinochet's legitimising discourse as an attempt at establishing a civil religion is substantiated when referring to legitimising the coup and the fact that the military stayed in power so long, but does not cover the concrete violence he used: see Cristi, From Civil to Political Religion, p. 165ff. This can also be seen in the quotations on religious legitimisation of the Chilean dictatorship by Chacón and Lagos, which, except for a few exceptional cases, do not refer to the regime's violence: see Chacón, Arturo and Lagos, Humberto (eds.), La religión en las fuerzas armadas y de orden (Santiago: Ediciones Literatura Americana Reunida, 1987), p. 15ff.

106 The end of the principal stage of repression in Chile coincided with greater public criticism by the Catholic Church and a change in the government's discourse of legitimisation, which no longer referred to the defence of ‘Christian order’, but to the regime's economic successes: see Hawkins, Darren, International Human Rights and Authoritarian Regime in Chile (Lincoln, NE, and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2002), p. 77ff. and de Ramón, Armando, Historia de Chile. Desde la invasión incaíca hasta nuestros días (1500–2000) (Santiago: Catalonia, 2003), p. 250ff.

107 There were also attempts at broadening the spectrum of legitimisation in Argentina, but when it came to the violation of human rights, the military almost always returned to religious legitimisation.

* Thanks are due to Eliot Jones for his excellent translation of the original Spanish version of this paper.

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