The division between “religion” and “politics” had served to ensure that the church would stand above the sectarian strife of politics as a source of interior unity for all Chileans. The official church saw itself, especially through the Eucharist, as the guarantor of reconciliation, so that Chile could function as an organic whole, free of essential conflict, especially between classes. As the bishops found themselves immersed in conflict under the military regime, they did not so much abandon their aversion to politics as reimagine the categories of “religion” and “politics.” In the face of constant accusations of interfering in politics, the church gradually made clear its refusal to leave bodily matters such as employment and torture to the state – in other words, to hand over the bodies of its members to the state. At the same time the bishops were quite clear that they would not simply revert to a Christendom model of ecclesiology in which the church threw its weight behind a political party and obliged the faithful to do the same. What we have, therefore, is the possibility of a different kind of ecclesial counter-politics, one which neither makes irrelevance to the political a point of pride nor is beholden to the autonomous power politics of party and state. (William T Cavanaugh, Torture and Eucharist, p.120)

 

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