The Rev. Fernando Cardenal has died, the Nicaraguan priest who was expelled from the Jesuits and prohibited from functioning as a priest for serving as Education Minister of the left-wing Sandinista government of Nicaragua in the 1980s. Like many Latin American priests, he believed in Liberation Theology, which holds that the Church’s job isn’t just to preach salvation in the afterlife, but to help bring justice to the poor in this one. He was born into a well-to-do family in Colombia and later said he had never spoken to a poor person until after seminary and ordination, when he was expected to be a priest to people in their poverty. Pope John Paul II, busy helping the Solidarity movement overthrow the Communist government in Poland, wasn’t having any of that liberation talk, and personally ordered Cardenal’s deposition. As a member of the popularly elected government, Cardenal stayed in his secular post, overseeing a national literacy campaign that raised the readership rate from 15% to 50% in just two years; young volunteers moved into family homes and taught everyone to read. The Sandinista government finally fell due to a U.S.-funded “contra” war; Cardenal later resigned from the party in disgust at the corruption of some of its leaders. In time the Jesuits forgave him, and he was restored to his priestly duties, including writing and giving lectures on theology, politics and the whole deadly affair. (Wikipedia)

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