Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira


Interview with the Associated Press






Thursday, June 14, 1973 


  Bookmark and Share


AP reporter: To start, can you give me a description of the Society to orient me?

Professor Plinio (PCO): This struggle is not a negative one to counter the socialist and communist onslaught but positive in that we promote the three values that communism most seeks to destroy: Tradition, Family, and Property.

AP: I noticed a phrase in your literature, “Christian civilization.” What is that?

(PCO): To define what Christian civilization is, we must begin by defining what civilization is. Civilization is a set of metaphysical, philosophical, and religious conceptions, a collection of relationships and related institutions. A Christian civilization is that set based on Christian doctrine.

AP: Does it have to be Christian in the sense of Catholicism?

(PCO): Yes, Catholic. We are Catholics. Although the Society is not officially Catholic, all its members are Catholic, so in our vocabulary, the word Christian means Catholic.

AP: You know very well the United States and its politics...

(PCO): I have not been to the United States, but I keep an eye on what’s happening there.

AP: There there is an organization similar to this one in the United States. Which American society or entity would be more similar to this one?

(PCO): The word “similar” is very elastic because to be similar suffices for two things not to be completely different. There are many small groups, American anticommunist organizations, but they are not very large. Insofar as they are anticommunists, they have this trait of resemblance to us. But they’re also significant differences in characteristics. For example, some of them have somewhat Nazi hues. We do not; we fought Nazism a lot. Others intervene somewhat in American [party] politics, whereas we do not interfere in Brazilian politics. So the points of difference are massive.

AP: For example, is the John Birch Society similar or not?

(PCO): It is an anticommunist society. In this sense, I see elements of similarity with us. But it has a more interfaith character and is much broader than TFP from this point of view. Although the TFP is not confessional, our principles are such that only Catholics join. From this standpoint, the John Birch Society is much larger. By the way, José Lúcio knows the John Birch Society well. Can you mention other points of view?

(Mr. José Lúcio: They are pretty different. The TFP works much more with Brazilian Public Opinion. And it does not employ political methods like the JBS.)

AP: You mentioned Nazism. Integralism was a Nazi party here in Brazil. Is that correct? Is this society similar to the Integralist movement?

(PCO): It would be audacious to say that the integralist movement had a Nazi doctrine, but they favored a strong and dictatorial state. In this respect, they were similar to Nazism. Today, integralism no longer exists in Brazil, but when it did, I had many arguments with integralists. We did not understand each other. I had many polemics with them.

AP: About what?

(PCO): Precisely about the character they wanted to give the State. Theirs was a philosophical ideology with a Hegelian background, and we did not accept that ideology. But at that time, our Society did not exist. That was my personal stand.

AP: How does a majority of Brazilians see the United States, what is their opinion about the U.S.?

(PCO): I think the vast majority of Brazilians are sympathetic to the United States in many ways. There is an antiAmerican minority current, primarily for leftist reasons. I am not an expert on economic matters, so I cannot say that everything in their antiAmerican opinion is wrong. But to say the least, I think their criticisms are greatly exaggerated.

 AP: It seems to me that it would be a little difficult for a Brazilian conservative to be a good friend of the United States because there you see many modernist and progressive influences, pornography, and things like that. How can this situation be resolved? We are friends, but some things in the United States are not conservative.

(PCO): Pornography and many other influences come from the United States but also from European countries. It would be an exaggeration to imagine that these influences come primarily or exclusively from the United States. They are one focus among many others. So it would be impossible for us to take a position of international friendship or enmity toward countries based on data like these. There would be no way.

AP: Do you think there is an ongoing wave of pornography in Brazil?

(PCO): There is a big wave of pornography. It used to be bigger and is currently down, but I think it will continue because it is a worldwide wave resulting from very profound, worldwide causes.

AP: For example?

(PCO): The main one, in my view, is religious decadence. Any antipornographic attitude loses its meaning wherever religious principles lose their firmness.

AP: Where does religious decay come from?

(PCO): I wrote a book about it titled Revolution and Counter-Revolution. Spiritual decay began at the end of the Middle Ages with Humanism and the Renaissance.

Compared with the Catholic Religion, Humanism, the Renaissance, and Protestantism represent a step of the human spirit toward naturalism and moral liberalism. Then came the French Revolution, which meant the same position in the political field. And finally came communism, which represents the influence of the same principles in the socioeconomic sphere.

From the religious standpoint, Protestantism denied the Papacy but not the divinity of Christ. The French Revolution rejected the divinity of Christ but denied God’s existence only very briefly. Communism denies His existence.

As you can see, it is a centuriesold process of spiritual decay. By the way, this book has been translated and published by an American publisher.

AP: Was the society of the Middle Ages perfect? In what sense was it a good society?

(PCO): It was not perfect. It had ideal aspirations. In other words, it aimed at a complete application of the doctrine of the Gospel to human relationships. While it did not achieve that full application, it was the historical epoch that tended most seriously toward it.

 AP: If, as I see it, your Society favors capitalism, why would it not be possible to have an age like the Middle Ages with capitalism? Are you opposed to it?

(PCO): Capitalism was born after the Middle Ages. As a phenomenon, it originated at the end of the Middle Ages and developed after it. Not everything born after the Middle Ages is bad. It would be absurd to admit this criterion: ‘It came after the Middle Ages. Therefore, it is bad.’ This cannot be a criterion for judging capitalism.

In itself, capitalism is not contrary to the natural order of things; it has exaggerations. Like all regimes, it has abuses that must be curbed. But contrary to what leftists claim, the capitalist regime as such is not contrary to justice.

AP: But isn’t it an integral part of a centuries old process?

(PCO): Capitalism has been developing for over a hundred years but has no intrinsic incompatibility with Catholic morals, which, by the way, is what Leo XIII said.

Now, it is necessary to distinguish the capitalist regime from the abuses to which capitalism lends itself. Every regime lends itself to abuse, and so does capitalism.

AP: Capitalist abuses?

(PCO): Capitalist abuses. Excessive concentration of economic power in a few hands; insufficient attention to the needs of workers in many places. But these are not objections against the regime itself. They are abuses of the regime.

AP: So has your Society ever protested abuses of capitalism?

(PCO): The Society takes up the task of affirming and promoting little-known truths. Capitalism’s abuses are the subject of a general outcry.

It does not seem necessary for us to insist on what everyone is already pressing on. Now, whenever we talk about private property, we recall that we do not condone the abuses of capitalism.

AP: What kind of treatment does the Society receive from the press? Do you think the left influences the Brazilian press?

(PCO): In it, you find everything. This is not so much about any official attitude of the newspapers but their publishers. Some sympathize with us a lot and give us a lot of publicity. Others do a campaign of silence. Others attack us with successive publications, etc.

Globally speaking, they publish a lot about us. Silence is the worst form of hostility.

AP: So, things [written] against the Society are better than silence?

(PCO): Not better; they are less harmful than silence.

AP: Dividing the thing into three parts: silence, [written] things against you, and other for you, what percentage is in favor of the Society?

(PCO): This question is very American and very little Brazilian. We never did percentage statistics.

AP: My general impression is that most of the press support the Society.

(PCO): Most of the press publishes news items the Society releases about itself, our interviews, reports, etc.

AP: Can you describe what happens in a caravan?

(PCO): You mean, how do young people work in a caravan? They advertise our publications in two ways. They arrive in a city’s central square, make a proclamation and start selling leaflets, books, newspapers, etc. Then they go from house to house doing the same.

Sometimes they reverse this publicity system by going from house to house first and ending up in the central square. They are very well received by the local population, which usually gives them food and lodging.

AP: How long does a caravan last? And how many people participate?

(PCO): Usually, about ten people take part. We typically have rotating caravans so that the young men can take turns.

AP: How long does a caravan last?

(PCO): Caravans have very variable durations. They last longer during vacation time and are shorter during the school year. Large campaigns take very large caravans; in smaller campaigns, caravans are shorter and reach fewer areas. It varies a lot.

 AP: What is the Society’s total membership in Brazil?

(PCO): The Society exists in about fifty cities in Brazil, including the most important.

 AP: Are there sections and subsections?

(PCO): A section is the set of nuclei in a State; a subsection is a nucleus in a city.

AP: So you have more or less 50 subsections?

(PCO): No, there are twenty sections, and some of them have subsections. In some cities, there are several groups. For example, in large cities such as Rio, São Paulo, and Belo Horizonte, there are several subsections. It is very variable, but we have roughly 50 subsections in cities.

AP: What is the total number?

(PCO): The total number of members is not very big; we are heading for a thousand members and volunteers but haven’t reached that number yet.

AP: Is there a difference between members and volunteers?

(PCO): A member is part of the Society’s staff; volunteers are young men who do not belong to the Society properly speaking.

AP: So, you total more or less a thousand?

(PCO): A thousand, including members and volunteers.

AP: What is the process whereby a person becomes a volunteer?

(PCO): For non-Brazilians, the process is very difficult to understand. People get to know each other; they attend a certain number of lectures until they become convinced that they adhere to our principles, and we become convinced they are genuine. There is no curriculum or exam, none of that. In Brazil, things are done in a much more spontaneous way.

AP: Is the Society growing?

(PCO): It is growing, especially among the very young. The younger the generation, the greater the number that joins.

AP: What is the place of women in a Christian civilization and this Society?

(PCO): Christian civilization distinguished itself from previous cultures by rehabilitating women. In pagan civilization, a woman was a slave. In Christian civilization, she became man’s consort in the proper sense of the word. In other words, through Christian civilization, she reached her apogee.

AP: And in the Society?

(PCO): We do not usually receive women volunteers. Women’s groups help us extrinsically, but the Society’s nature does not allow [women members]. That would make no sense with the risks we run, aggressions in street campaigns, [terrorist] attacks on our seats as we have had, etc.

AP: Are there lots of aggressions?

(PCO): They often attack us. Because of this, our young men learn karate and defend themselves energetically.

But they never attack anyone. The watchword is: never attack, never back down, always defend yourselves.

(Dr. Paulo Brito: It took a while to learn karate well; as a result, the number of physical aggressions has decreased a lot.)

AP: In general politics, does the Society consider itself democratic or antidemocratic? What does it like best: democracy or hierarchy?

(PCO): I think democracy is the only possible form of government in the current historical era. But I believe that true democracy does not exclude high-class institutions. In his famous speech on democracy, Pope Pius XII states that true democracy must have institutions of aristocratic inspiration. He mentioned, for example, the French Academy of Letters. I fully accept his point of view.

AP: But I’m talking about a country’s politics, not institutions.

(PCO): We do not intervene in politics. We accept any form of government that is not against the natural order of things.

AP: I don’t know the concept of “natural order.” Is the natural order democratic?

(PCO): No. Church doctrine teaches that any of the classical forms of government, as defined by Aristotle, is according to the natural order of things, meaning they are not contrary to justice. He posited three forms of government: monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy.

(Dr. Paulo Brito: By the way, St. Thomas Aquinas confirmed and complemented Aristotle).

(PCO): In our historical era, the democratic government is the only practicable one. But if another political order were established, we would not oppose it for as long as it did not run counter to justice.

Communism is not a form of government. It is a form of socioeconomic structure fundamentally contrary to justice.

AP: Would Christian civilization be possible in a noncommunist socialist society without private property?

(PCO): I have written a paper about this, titled The Freedom of the Church in the Communist State.

AP: I have it.

(PCO): In it, I prove that this is not possible. The work received a letter of praise from the Holy See. No just order is possible without private property.

(Someone: Private property is inherent...)

(PCO): human nature.

(Someone: And even to animal nature. Try to take a bone from a dog!)

(PCO): Yes, once he appropriates it, nobody takes it away. It is inherent to what is alive.

 (Dr. Paulo Brito: I also sent you Agrarian Reform, a Question of Conscience, the first part of which extensively develops this private property issue.)

(PCO): Proving precisely that Catholic doctrine is incompatible with any suppression of private property.

 AP: Do you think the Church should be pro-capitalist?

(PCO): No, that is going too far because capitalism is not the only possible form of private property. Therefore, we are not pro-capitalist in the sense of imposing the capitalist regime, which we do admit as legitimate.

 AP: You mean the Church should be pro-private property, but not necessarily...

(PCO): Not necessarily pro-capitalist, but not against capitalism.

AP: Does the Society have good relations with the Church in Sao Paulo and its Cardinal?

(PCO): The Society has a Catholic inspiration. It is not a religious society but is founded on Catholic doctrine. Naturally, the Catholic Left has done its best to have it condemned. At the recent plenary bishops’ meeting in São Paulo, the left did its best to have the Society condemned. No condemnation came out because it can’t. Our doctrine is impeccable; they have no objection to make.

 AP: But do you have good relations here in São Paulo?

(PCO): Good relations... We work in our field and were never the target of any objection by them.

AP: Don’t you think that development, material progress, is destroying spiritual values?

(PCO): I think so. Material development is a very delicate problem. Material development should go hand in hand with even more significant spiritual development, and the opposite is happening.

AP: So what’s the solution to this?

(PCO): The solution is to go back to religious roots seriously and profoundly.

AP: Would that be a Church only or also a government solution?

(PCO): I think it behooves the Church and the private sector much more than the government. We have a mania of wanting to involve government action in everything. Government has a part in this, but the private sector and the Church are the ones that must work for this regeneration of society.

AP: Does the Society see the growth of Protestantism in Brazil as a threat?

(PCO): No. To understand my answer, it is necessary to see a little what the spirit of Brazilians is. They are very intuitive, perhaps the world’s most intuitive people. And they know by intuition that the Catholic religion is the true one.

Protestant propaganda achieves small, sporadic results. It is not significant.

AP: But is it not growing fast?

(PCO): It has some growth, but here is the bottom line: The Catholic Church is deteriorating due to its lack of capacity to assist all these people because of insufficient priestly vocations, etc., and the Protestants take advantage of that. But the situation is reversed as soon as you get a Catholic parish working well in a place where Protestantism has progressed.

 AP: Two more things. Why are your volunteers always wearing a suit?

 (Mr. José Lúcio: and tie and short hair?)

(PCO): I could turn the question around: why do hippies never wear suits, ties, and short hair? For the same reason.

Bookmark and Share