Rorate Caeli

Forgotten warrior for the faith

Today would have been the 80th birthday of one of the great conservative cardinals of the era of John Paul II, Alfonso Cardinal López Trujillo (Nov. 8, 1935 -- April 19, 2008). He was appointed President of the Pontifical Council for the Family (PCF) exactly 25 years ago (November 8, 1990, his 55th birthday); he remained at this post until his death from cancer in 2008, at the age of 72. It can be argued that it was López Trujillo, even more than Ratzinger, who provided much of the steel behind John Paul II's war on the "culture of death" -- no surprise given the unusual militancy he showed against the Catholic Left and Liberation Theology when he was Secretary General of CELAM from 1972 to 1979 and Archbishop of Medellin from 1979 to 1990. (He was made Cardinal in 1983 at the age of 47.) The international media (particularly the BBC) and EU famously vilified him in 2004 over his remarks against condoms. 

His two successors as head of the PCF, Cardinal Ennio Antonelli (2008 - 2012) and Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia (since 2012), have been virtually mute in comparison. In addition, Paglia has expressed or openly condoned positions on homosexuality and the divorced-and-remarried that would have absolutely horrified López Trujillo. 

Under him the PCF virtually acted like a second CDF, relentlessly issuing documents that opposed liberal and secularist errors on human life, sexuality and the family. Of particular interest for our time are the documents wherein he opposed the trends towards approving of "same sex unions", as well as his outspoken denunciations of condom use. The following is a list of the official documents issued by the PCF during his tenure. Links to the actual documents can be found on the page for Magisterial Documents on the Family on the website of the PCF. The more important documents and many of his own speeches are on the Vatican webpage of the PCF

In the Service of Life, 1992
The Sexual Exploitation of Children, 1992
The Natural Methods for the Regulation of Fertility, 1992
The Rights of the Family and the Media, 1993
The Rights of the Family on the Threshold of the Third Millennium, 1993
The Institutes for the Family and for Bioethics, 1993
25th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae, 1993
The Rights and Care of the Elderly, 1993
The Church and the International Year of the Family, 1993
Family and Adoption, 1994
The Family and the Cairo Conference, 1994
Marriage and the Family in the World, 1994
Ethical and Pastoral Dimensions of Population Trends, 1994
May The Domestic Church be the Sanctuary of Life, 1995
The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality. Guidelines for Education within the Family, 1995
The Family and the Economy in the Future of Society, 1996
The Dignity of the family and Life in American Politics, 1996
The Family and Demography in Europe, 1996
The Family: Gift and Commitment, 1996
Preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage, 1996
Vademecum for Confessors Concerning Some Aspects of the Morality of Conjugal Life, 1997
Liberalization of Drugs?, 1997
The Pastoral Care of the Divorced and Remarried, 1997
Families of Children with Cerebral Impairments, 1997
The Family - Rio de Janeiro, 1997
Declaration on the decrease of fertility in the world, 1998
Human Rights and the Rights  of the Family, 1998
The Family and Human Rights on the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1999
The Family and Life in Europe Today, 1999
The Family and Human Rights, 1999
Declaration on the Resolution of the European Parliament, which Equates the Family with "de facto" Unions, Including Same Sex Unions, 2000
Family, marriage and "de facto" unions, 2000
Cloning: the disappearance of direct parenthood and denial of the family, 2003
Family values versus "safe sex", 2003

Before becoming President of the PCF, Cardinal López Trujillo was best known for his long struggle against liberation theology. Consecrated bishop in March 1971 at the age of 35, he served as Secretary General of CELAM (Consejo Episcopal Latinoamericano, the Latin American Episcopal Conference) from 1972 to 1979 and served as its President from 1979 until 1983. Although he was not able to stop Liberation Theology, he is largely credited with slowing down its advance, especially in his home country of Colombia. In his own Archdiocese (Medellin) he reportedly cleared the seminary shelves of all books that went against the Magisterium.

While he was no Traditionalist there can be no doubt about his leading role in defending the teaching of the Church on moral issues. For this we must be grateful.  

It is unfortunate that within seven years of his death the memory of this Cardinal has fallen into oblivion; even conservatives scarcely quoted him or the documents of his PCF during the long debate over the two Synods on the family. He was momentarily remembered earlier this year by Catholic and secular media only because he had been one of the main "culprits" behind the delay in Oscar Romero's beatification. This virtual "damnatio memoriae", however, should not cause surprise; after all, forgetfulness of past pontificates and a readiness to rewrite (and whitewash) history have become virtues for the Catholic media under the current pontificate.