TO BE A REVOLUTIONARY by J. Guadalupe Carney


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The artless, arresting story of how a red-blooded ghetto-Catholic lad was transformed into a leftist guerrilla priest who died fighting (disappeared and presumed dead) two years ago in the jungles of Honduras. James Francis Carney (the adopted name ""Guadalupe,"" and his Honduran citizenship, were symbols of solidarity with the Central American poor) was born in Chicago, in 1924, to a pious, middle-class couple. During WW II service, his anger at the special treatment given officers and the appalling conditions endured by French and Moroccan refugees started him down the road to rebellion. He joined the Jesuits in 1948; taught in Belize (1955-8); and began work as an activist missionary in Honduras in 1961, organizing campesino cooperatives and founding ""basic Christian communities."" Bloody government repression of the peasants and Indians further radicalized Carney, but the CIA-supported coup against Allende pushed him over the edge. ""In the twentieth century,"" he concluded, ""there is no 'third way' between being a Christian and being a revolutionary. . . If you are not a revolutionary, you are not a Christian!"" This belief got Carney expelled from Honduras in 1979, and ultimately led him to leave the Jesuits in 1983 to serve as a (fighting) chaplain with Nicaraguan-based Honduran guerrillas. His death occurred under suspicious circumstances: he may have been starved or tortured, and the CIA may have had a hand in it. At all events, his homely autobiography is a noble document. It shows a simple, decent, passionate man responding to injustice with outrage and selfless heroism. Carney is innocent enough to utter a ""curse"" on two swimming pools built by high-living missionaries, but thoughtful enough to hammer out a theological-political position that challenges practically everything he was ever taught. For all its vivid anecdotes (e.g., two sons of a rich landowner play a fatal game of Russian roulette with a pistol loaded to kill Carney), the book has no grand sustained drama--just an honest, moving self-portrait of an extraordinary ordinary man.

Pub Date: May 22nd, 1985
Publisher: Harper & Row