- Paperback: 286 pages
- Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (December 7, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0631211993
- ISBN-13: 978-0631211990
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 15 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #273,879 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Torture and Eucharist: Theology, Politics, and the Body of Christ 1st Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
See the Best Books of 2017 So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year so far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
"Cavanaugh begins with an engrossing analysis of the dynamics of torture and disappearance as a mode disciplining the body politic. He judiciously uses psychological and social scientific sources without letting them override the theological focus of the book. He then gives an equally engrossing account of the Church in Chile under Pinochet. His analyses both of Maritain and the 'New Christendom' ecclesiology provide as interesting critique of the failures of the Church to respond to Pinochet's repression, while his concluding chapter on eucharistic theology points towards the source of the successful responses made by the Church. Particularly useful and interesting is the way in which eucharistic theology is tied to concrete eucharistic practice. The book is extremely well written and engaging." Frederick C. Bauerschmidt, Loyola Collage in Maryland
"This is a very important book. It should be mandatory reading for anybody concerned with the issue of torture, and will be of vital interest to all those of us involved in Amnesty International and human rights organisations. It has an appeal and a significance far beyond the classroom. Though it is much more theological than Helen Prejean, in its narrative power it has some affinities with Dead Man Walking and will likewise speak to those outside the church." T. J. Gorringe, University of St Andrews
"Torture and Eucharist not only has superb qualities as a textbook, but is an outstanding piece of creative ecclesiology. Drawing on the work of scholars such as Milbank, Hauerwas, MacIntryre and Lindbeck, Cavanaugh moves ecclesiology out of the realm of the abstract ands ideal into the real world where the Christian Church must struggle to witness to the gospel. In doing so he shifts the Church into a new and much more exciting area of inquiry" Nicholas Healy, St Johns University, New York
"Cavanaugh's achievement is remarkable: profound theology linked with interviews and close social analysis, stimulating argument, and a tight yet imaginative writing style. The book deserves a wide audience." L. Gregory Jone The Divinity School, Duke University
"Why read such a book?....Here is authentic background information relating to the possible extradition and further trial of General Pinochet.....Here is reflection on the church's theological temptation to separate soul from body, spiritual from political."Eleanor Kreider, lecturer in Worship and liturgy, RPC Oxford
"The author... offers an elegantly written reflection on Church, Eucharist, and the politics within the context of the Pinochet regime following the overthrow of Allende in Chile."First Things
"This is theology made flesh in the story of Pinochet's Chile....I greatly acknowledge that it is a great measure of the success of the book that it causes such unease."Peter Cornwell, The Tablet
"His analysis is a closely disciplined, well informed study of the self-discernment and conduct of the Roman Catholic Church under the Pinochet regime in Chile...I found this a hard read, but breath-taking. I have not read anything in a long time that so moved, so disturbed, and so educated." Walter Brueggeman, Columbia Theological Seminary, Theology Today
"...the book has broadened my understanding of the theo-politics of torture. Those who are working against the practice of torture will benefit from reading this well-written book." Eleazar S. Fernandez, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in Religious Studies Review
"Cavanaugh's book combines narrative and argument, is beautifully written and presents us with a creative ecclesiology." International Journal in Philosophy and Theology
From the Back Cover
In this engrossing analysis, Cavanaugh contends that the Eucharist is the Church's response to the use of torture as a social discipline. The author develops a theology of the political which presents torture as one instance of a larger confrontation of powers over bodies, both individual and social. He argues that a Christian practice of the political is embodied in Jesus' own torture at the hands of the powers of this world. The analysis of torture therefore is situated within wider discussions in the fields of ecclesiology and the state, social ethics and human rights, and sacramental theology.
The book focuses on the experience of Chile and the Catholic Church there, before and during the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, 1973-1990. Cavanaugh has first-hand experience of working with the Church in Chile, and his interviews with ecclesiastical officials and grassroots Church workers speak directly to the reader. The book uses this example to examine the theoretical bases of twentieth-century "social catholicism" and its inability to resist the disciplines of the state, in contrast to a truer Christian practice of the political in the Eucharist.
The book as a whole ties eucharistic theology to concrete eucharistic practice, showing that the Eucharist is not a "symbol" but a real cathartic summary of the practices by which God forms people into the Body of Christ, producing a sense of communion stronger than that of any nation-state.
Browse award-winning titles. See more
Top customer reviews
Best of all, Cavanaugh does it in such a manner that a reader who has trouble with John Milbank's dizzying syntax (and I are one) can make it though his book without having to read each paragraph three times.
For people who suspect that neocon political ideology is more sinister than we've been led to think, and for people who believe that the Peace of Christ is neither utopian dream nor otherworldly sigh but practices through which the gracious Father of the universe, incarnated in the Son and empowering peaceable communities through the Spirit, can redeem, even if incompletely, the world which God so loves.
It explores torture as a means of social control. “Disappearance” became the hallmark of oppression in Chile; the euphemistic term for those who had been abducted for torture. Disappearances were sometimes simply random. 46% of those who were disappeared weren’t even politically active. More often disappearances were aimed at those who were politically or socially active and considered in some way threatening to the regime. Those who were killed were rarely ever found. Those who were tortured seldom had any physical scar to witness to the brutality. Disappearance meant that the church didn’t have the martyrs it needed to resist the regime. The state literally possessed the “body” of its people.
Torture wasn’t to illicit information: the questions were themselves part of the method of torture. The torturers often already knew the information they were asking about or didn’t really care about the answers. Torture got them to enact the part of the enemy of the state and, by acting the part, they actually became the enemy which legitimized the authority of the state. Torturers didn’t want the victim to recant anything and didn’t care if they signed a confession of forbidden political activity. It forced the victims to act out the part of the regime’s enemies, to “take on the role of filth, confessing his lowliness,” thereby justifying the government’s oppression. The very act of torture was not meant to discipline enemies of the state, but to create enemies of the state, thereby legitimising the need for the brutal government. Enemies of the regime “are not so much punished as produced in the torture chamber.”
The choice of torture is not random, for it is based in pain, actively destroying language because pain is not something which can be described. Those in severe pain are reduced to the inarticulate sounds of infancy, cries and shrieks. Through pain, the victim is forced to betray friends, beliefs, and all other social connections, e.g. unions, religion, ideologies under torture, then derided as a betrayer by the torturers. By fearing disappearance and pain, society began to lose its social connections. If you live in fear that a neighbour might inform the government should you criticise the regime, or gather for prayer, this could result in disappearance and torture, it isn’t hard to see how social entities are broken down. Even those inclined to talk about what had happened had suffered such psychological trauma that they were unable to describe their own torture.
The end result was the total fragmentation of the society, eliminating everything except atomized, fragmented individuals who had lost the ability to voice their pain, form connections with others and even the ability to feel. Isolated and alone, their only vision of the future was seen darkly through the lens of the regime. Fear gripped the entire society. Everyone cut any social connections, other than superficial ones. So there was no social body, not even the church, which could rival the regime.
Cardinal Silva, influenced by Jacques Maratain ceded all authority to the government without even realizing it because of a dualism which conceives the “soul” as the property of the church but not the body. This division between spiritual and temporal sapped the church’s ability to resist the regime. The torture of the body had so fragmented society that the culture was left without any social body with enough size or power to actually speak out against it.
But the church recovered its ability to resist the the regime when it broke with the ecclesiological distinction between spiritual and temporal and became the true body of Christ. The ability to recover the Eucharist as a bodily act was central to this new self-perception of the church. Cavanaugh sees torture and Eucharist as opposing sacraments. “Where torture is an anti-liturgy for the realization of the state’s power on the bodies of others, Eucharist is the realization of Christ’s suffering and redemptive body in the bodies of His followers.”
So the Chilean church began to see that “Christians are the real body of Christ, and the Eucharist is where the church mystically comes to be.” Through Eucharistic acts of defiance, the church began to exist again. The Eucharist becomes the imagination of the church, what Zizioulas calls a “memory of the future,” which begins to enact the future reign of the kingdom here and now. In this way, Cavanaugh contends that the “church does not simply perform the Eucharist, the Eucharist performs the church,” and builds a social body which is actually capable of resisting the regime.
Three practices of the Chilean church resulted that were particularly effective in resisting the politics of the regime:
Excommunication never came for Pinochet in particular, but there was a general excommunication for all of those who were involved in torture.
The Vicaria’s actions gave physical, bodily witness to torture, disappearance, hunger, poverty and oppression through legal, medical and other relief services to 900,000 people in the first five years of its existence. Through the solidarity of suffering and relief, the church began knitting back together a physical body of Christ.
Sebastian Acevedo set himself on fire outside a church after the disappearance of his two children. A passing priest with a tape recorder captured his final words, “I want the CNI to return my children. Lord, forgive them, and forgive me for this sacrifice.” From this act of defiance sprang the Sebastian Acevedo movement which organized clandestine protests. They would appear out of the crowds in busy areas, voicing the oppressed, saying out loud words no one dared utter, then disappear again into the crowds. Through these protest the “disappeared” were transformed into martyrs because this gathered body spoke their names and made their suffering public.
Is this book a challenge for American evangelicals (though they’ll probably never read, let alone understand it)? The dualistic ecclesiology in Chile has its correlatives in the contemporary church. Temporal and spiritual distinctions are very common - “I’ll Fly Away” longing for a place where “The Soul Never Dies.” Also, most evangelicals have reduced the Eucharist to a sort of commemorative ceremony, not an act of civil disobedience.
Does today’s Church resist the oppressive regimes of individualism, materialism and nationalism?
What about America's own torture program during the Bush administration? The American state claimed it had sole and unrivalled power over those bodies. The questions Cavanaugh helps raise are these: Did the church have any claim over those bodies? Or did the state stand unopposed?
How about the deportation of illegal immigrants? Capital punishment?
William Cavanaugh's dissertation takes the form of a historical case study of the Roman Catholic Church in Chile during the Pinochet regime. He begins by dicussing how torture and disappearance are ecclesiological problems. What he means is that torture and disappearance are not merely horrible abominations enacted upon individuals, but are violence enacted upon social bodies. Who are the victims of torture and disappearance? In once sense, it is those who have been tortured and disappeared, but in another it is all of those who dwell in the society in which this is taking place. This is because torture and disappearance are actions that can happen to anyone at anytime, so all people are kept in fear and an anxiety.
The idea of torture is perhaps the most effective generator of fear, since torture reaches to the very limits of horror, turning the body against the person to such an extent that death become desirable. Fear of torture, fear of death, were concrete fears that only began to articulate the hidden anxieties which lurked beneath the surface of Chilean society. (p. 47, emphasis added)
In this way, torture is liturgical:
Torture may be considered a kind of perverse liturgy, for in torture the body of the victim is the ritual site where the state's power is manifested in its most awesome form. Torture is liturgy...because it involves bodies and bodily movements in an enacted drama which both makes real the power of the state and constitutes an act of worship to that mysterious power. (p. 30, emphasis original)
So Cavanaugh argues that in Chile, torture was an act of violence upon the imaginations of the society. The society as a whole was made to take on the imagination of the state and forget all other narratives.
How Did the Church in Chile respond to these attacks?
Cavanaugh says that the Church in Chile had a deficient understanding of ecclesiology, which led to it being totally unprepared to deal with the violence of the regime. He argues that the Church had allowed itself to be relegated to a private "spiritual" sphere. They viewed the human being as being under two divinely sanctioned authorities, the Church (in regard to spiritual matters) and the State (in regard to social matters). When the state launched attacks upon the imaginations of the people of Chile in the form of torture and disappearance the Church was forced to respond to a state that was refusing to live by the bifurcation that their ecclesiology demanded. "Chapter 2 describes how ill-prepared the official church was to meet this strategy, since its own ecclesiology had already, in effect, disappeared the church as a social body." (p. 120)
So the church's response was to try and recapture its political and social aspects. The church learned how to be oppressed and give voices of dissent to the oppressors. The church began to tell a different story from that of the state, a story that gave the people a new imagination.
Cavanaugh offers several examples of how the church in Chile learned to do just this in the midst of their oppression. Specifically, he focus his study on the Eucharist as the church's response to torture.
"The Eucharist , as the gift which effects the visibility of the body of Christ, is therefore the church's counter-imagination to that of the state." (p. 251)
"The Eucharist is the promise and demand that the church enact the true body of Christ now, in time. Worldly kingdoms have declared the Kingdom of God indefinitely deferred, and the poor are told to suffer their lot quietly and invisibly. In the Eucharist the poor are invited now to come and feast in the Kingdom. The Eucharist must not be a scandal to the poor. It demands real reconciliation of oppressed and oppressor, tortured and torturer. Barring reconciliation, Eucharist demands judgement." (p. 263)
The church in Chile was unable to adequately respond to the abuses of the regime because of its faulty ecclesiology. But after a time the church found within its own structures and liturgy the tools necessary to respond to the actions of the state by proclaiming a parallel narrative. The church learned that it can not separate between the spiritual and the social, between the ecclesial and the political.
May the church in America learn this truth as well.
 Disappearance, as Cavanaugh defines it, is the apprehension of individuals by the regime without the officers of arrest identifying themselves or giving the specifics of the charges. The individual is then held in custody for an extended length of time without trial or knowledge of when his imprisonment and torture will end.