Moral hypocrisy, St. Benedict’s and Che Guevara

On Monday, 14 November 2011 I happened to open the Evening Standard and saw a short item that was tucked away in the inner pages so that few people will have noticed it. It begins with the surprising affirmation: “Revolution is in the air at top Catholic independent school St Benedict’s, Ealing.”

St Benedict’s was founded in 1902 and is run by Ealing Abbey. It is the only Benedictine day school in England. But this is by no means its only claim to fame. This is the school which, you may recall, was rendered infamous for its implication in a child abuse scandal which dates back 60 years, and which was shamefully hushed up by a conspiracy of the school authorities and the Roman Catholic Church.

The monks, who were implicated up to the tonsure in the rape and sexual torture of the children in their saintly care, have agreed to change the names of buildings that honour alleged abusers. But such measures are insufficient to blot out the shameful memories of child abuse or exorcise the loathsome ghosts that haunt every nook and cranny of this “top school”.

Now, the Standard informs us, “old boys are doing their bit to restore honour to their alma mater.” What additional measures do these “old boys” propose to clean the Augean Stables of the old school? The Standard explains that: “a campaign is under way by Old Priorians to rename one of the houses after the distinguished old boy who shot Che Guevara.” (My emphasis, AW)

Yes, you read that correctly. This epicentre of Christian morality and academic excellence (and erstwhile nest of paedophiles) is proud of the fact that the man who murdered a defenceless man while being held in captivity was a former pupil of St Benedict’s.

“I am campaigning to have the name changed to that of the lieutenant-colonel who captured Che Guevara, whom he had shot under instructions from La Paz,” says Old Priorian John Burke. “If not, then at least a plaque. This was Gary Prado Salmon, who was in the Lower Fifth in 1953 when his pater was Bolivia’s military attaché.”

Isn’t this amazing! The depths of hypocrisy of these religious moralists know no limit. All over the world the name of Che Guevara is regarded with the deepest respect. Here was a man, born in a middle class family in Argentina, who dedicated his whole life to the fight to defend the poor and oppressed people of the world.

For the whole of that remarkable life, this man displayed the greatest personal courage. He spent the last few months of it suffering the most terrible privations in the jungles of Bolivia in a fruitless fight to overthrow the wealthy oligarchy that brutally oppressed and exploited the workers and peasants.

The forces of reaction, organised, armed and financed by the CIA set out to destroy a small group of freedom fighters, exhausted, hungry and hopelessly outgunned and outnumbered. They were hunted like wild animals and slaughtered without mercy.

Che Guevara was not killed in battle. Badly wounded, he was taken prisoner. They did not dare to give him the opportunity of a trial. They feared the reaction of the people of Bolivia and the working class of the entire world. Without even the pretence of a trial, he was brutally murdered by the hired killers of the oligarchy.

In carrying out their butcher’s work, these mercenaries ran no risk. It does not take much courage to shoot a man with his hands tied behind his back. Yet these monsters are presented as heroes, whose name is to be honoured at a “top school” run by monks.

Naturally enough, Mr. Burke says he never himself witnessed any aberrant behaviour at the school, which is still reeling from the child abuse scandal: “Neither I nor six cousins knew of anything worse than excessive beatings,” he told the Standard.

Since “excessive beatings” are nowhere mentioned in the Ten Commandments, one must conclude that they are in absolute conformity with Christian doctrine. And it cannot come as much of a surprise that a man who considers the cold blooded murder of revolutionaries to be not only acceptable but highly praiseworthy never noticed anything untoward in the conduct of his old school. All of which brings new meaning to the old phrase: “Suffer little children...”

What happened to the man who captured Che Guevara? Nobody knows or cares any more what happened to this wretch. He is just a trivial footnote to history. Only Mr. Burke is keen to inform us:

“Prado led the Andean patrol in 1966 and went on to attempt a military coup, being put on a plane to Miami for his pains. He returned to reach the rank of general, and eventually became minister of planning — which he was when I saw him again in La Paz in 1979.”

Mr. Burke shows touching sympathy for a poor fellow who, for the minor offence of attempting a coup against his own government, is put on a plane to Miami. There he will have led the good life in the company of all the other scoundrels, Mafiosi and cutthroats who are devoted to defending the cause of Liberty in Central and South America by overthrowing elected governments at the behest of the CIA.

But all is well that ends well. Mr. Burke's hero ended up in a comfortable job as Bolivian ambassador in London, where he will have greatly enjoyed sharing his heroic exploits with the Great and Godly at sundry cocktail parties, endlessly bragging about how he single-handedly “took out” the great Che Gevara.

We do not know whether the Holy Fathers of St Benedict’s have agreed to this splendid proposal. But we do know this. Long after lieutenant-colonel Prado is dead and forgotten the memory of Ernesto “Che” Guevara will remain an imperishable memory of real revolutionary heroism and a source of inspiration to the new generations who are fighting for the overthrow of a rotten, oppressive and morally bankrupt society that can breed monsters like Gary Prado Salmon.

London, January, 2012

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