"The Heaviest Blow"-The Catholic Church and the East Timor Issue

Article excerpt

"The Heaviest Blow"-The Catholic Church and the East Timor Issue. Patrick A. Smy the. Munster: Lit Verlag,2004. Pp. vii, 235. euro29.90.

Does church engagement in political advocacy jeopardize opportunities for evangelization in sensitive contexts? How and why does the church reflect rather than challenge national political and commercial interests? Does church silence in the face of oppression protect, stifle, or compromise Christian witness in different circumstances?

Patrick Smythe, who has served as a diocesan priest for more than thirty years, grapples with these questions as he reflectively examines eight nonunified church responses to the human rights abuses during the Indonesian occupation of East Timor from 1975 to 1999. He historically contextualizes the reactions of church leadership and laity in East Timor, Indonesia, former colonizer Portugal, neighboring Australia, the United States, Japan, England, and the Vatican. Despite individuals' commitments to justice, institutional responses were largely characterized by pragmatic apathy, abandonment, inconsistency, or inaction. While the church inside East Timor showed courageous solidarity with the local suffering (and grew from 30 percent to include 90 percent of the East Timorese population under the occupation), outside actors were prudently complicit, reticent to criticize government policy and endanger their own precarious situations, or unwilling to upset the fragile politics surrounding Indonesia. …

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