Rorate Caeli

For the record: Pope Francis to meet with "founder" of Liberation Theology

From RNS:

A progressive theological current that emphasizes the Catholic Church’s closeness to the poor and the marginalized but was subject to decades of hostility and censure is now finding increasing favor in the Vatican under Pope Francis.

Francis, who has called for “a poor church for the poor,” will meet in the next few days with the Rev. Gustavo Gutierrez, a Peruvian theologian and scholar who is considered the founder of liberation theology.

The meeting was announced on Sunday (Sept. 8) by Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog, during the launch of a book he co-authored with Gutierrez.

It’s a remarkable about-face for a movement that swelled in popularity but was later stamped out by the conservative pontificates of John Paul II and his longtime doctrinal czar, Benedict XVI.

Liberation theology arose as a Catholic response to the Marxist movements that fought Latin America’s military dictatorships in the 1960s and ’70s. It criticized the church’s close relations, including often overt support, with the regimes.

It affirmed that, rather then just focusing on seeking salvation in the afterlife, Catholics should act in the here and now against unjust societies that breed poverty and need.

In his seminal 1971 book, Gutierrez argued that the church should have a “preferential option for the poor,” following the example of Jesus, who chose to live mostly with poor and marginalized people.

During the pontificate of the fiercely anti-communist John Paul II, some of liberation theology’s leading exponents, such as Jon Sobrino and Leonardo Boff, were accused of espousing Marxist ideas and were censured by the Vatican.

In the ’80s, the Vatican’s doctrinal office, then headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (who later became Benedict XVI) condemned liberation theology for its “serious ideological deviations.”

Yet, it was Benedict himself who appointed Mueller as his successor to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, despite the fact that he was a well-known admirer of Gutierrez.

The move signaled a thaw in the tension between liberation theology and the Vatican, spurred by the end of the Cold War and the demise of Communist regimes. Even Gutierrez himself — who was never condemned by the Vatican — attended penitential rites officiated by Benedict in recent years.

Now, with the election of Francis, the first pope from Latin America, liberation theology can no longer “remain in the shadows to which it has been relegated for some years, at least in Europe,” according to the Vatican’s semiofficial newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

Though never a supporter of liberation theology himself, the Argentine pontiff has condemned the exploitation of the poor and called on Catholics to reach out to them.

When Mueller originally wrote the book with Gutierrez in 2004, it didn’t attract much attention. Yet on Sept. 3, when its Italian translation was released, L’Osservatore Romano devoted a two-page spread to it.

In the book, Mueller describes liberation theology as one of the “most significant currents of Catholic theology of the 20th century” that helped the church bridge the divide between “earthly happiness and ultra-earthly salvation.”

During the book launch in Mantua, a city in northern Italy, Mueller also announced that the Vatican doctrinal office has given the green light to proceed with the sainthood of Archbishop Oscar Romero, a hero of Latin American Catholics who was assassinated in 1980 after condemning violence by the military dictatorship in El Salvador.


Anchorite said...

The last year of Pope Benedict's pontificate already showed whose power was rising up, in preparation for the final abdication. Mueller's appointment was one of the signs. The Marxist-Leninist camp was preparing for the Episcopacy of Francis. Sad days.

jeff said...

Francis could be trying to de-fang the movement.

toxteth said...

Is this really a big deal? Guttierez was already teaching at the Angelicum in 2007. During that stint he received ashes from Benedict XVI at Santa Sabina.

Gratias said...

The pendulum has swung. We had a great eight years with Benedict. Pope Francis did a wonderful vigil for peace in Syria last Saturday. The Rosary was prayed by 100,000, a Lepanto in reverse if you like, a wondeful sight. But Liberation Theology is the refuge of Marxists as John Paul II understood so well. Deep down Pope Francis remains a carismatic Peronista. In the US Liberation Theology begat Black Liberation Theology that allied with Saul Alinsky begat President Barack H. Obama. These are dangerous games they are playing in the Vatican.

Martina Katholik said...

Leonardo Boff published a book in April called “Francis of Assissi and Francis of Rome” and the Pope ordered a copy of it. Mr. Boff has great expectations for the future:

(…) Boff confirmed in his conversation with me what he stated to O Globo -- that Francis could rehabilitate the more than 500 theologians condemned by the Church during the years when it was ruled by Ratzinger and Wojtyla, but that he doesn't think he'll do it "as long as Benedict XVI is alive."

Boff told me that Pope Francis has accepted the most primitive concept of liberation theology in his program. "Remember, Juan, that theologian Carlos Scanone, who launched that theology in Argentina, was a professor of Bergoglio, the future pope, when he was teaching theology in a school on the outskirts of Buenos Aires."(…)

““How I would like a poor church for the poor.”
The Pope´s former teacher Juan Carlos Scannone S.J. claimed in an Austrian seminar that he held short time after the election of the Pope to know what the Pope meant by this:

JabbaPapa said...

Whilst liberation theology has been (justly) condemned, the liberation theologians have not been. The document of condemnation of the theology signed by Cardinal Ratzinger is one of the more complex Church documents I've ever read, personally, as it does not provide just a total condemnation of the entirety of that movement, but it details which components of the theology are heretical, contemnible, permissible, or praiseworthy ; in some quite delicate detail. Father Bergoglio was the second fiercest opponent of the theology that I can think of off-hand, after Cardinal Ratzinger, and his elevation to Bishop and then Cardinal is largely due to his extremely effective pastoral opposition to the theology, and the great Christian Charity and brotherly kindness that he showed towards those who had fallen into the associated errors, including many in his own Order. I do not see that it should be a cause for worry that the Pope should continue this important work of evangelisation and correction of Errors and heresies among those who were tempted by these mendaciously seductive and very uncatholic doctrines.

Michael Ortiz said...

Jabba is right. I haven't read the instruction, but it's supposed to really slam the injustices wrought by greed in a most powerful the standards of the Gospel of Christ, not Marx...

subpetro1 said...

We should keep this in mind. Pope Francis, it has been shown with consistent evidence that he has never been a proponent of Liberation Theology a la Gutierrez style. Sandro Magister, recently pointed out, when the book co authored by Mueller and Gutierrez had already been released in Germany in 2005, Cardinal Bergoglio had this to say:

"After the collapse of the totalitarian empire of 'real socialism,' these currents of thought were thrown into disarray. Incapable of either radical reformulation or new creativity, they survived by inertia, even if there are still some today who anachronistically would like to re-propose it.”

Also, the references Pope Francis has made against the danger of viewing and reducing the Church to another NGO ever since his first homily to the College of Cardinals hours after his election can also be viewed to be against a Marxist Liberation Theology.

Let us be fair, we only know the following detail, Pope Francis is to meet with Gutierrez, that's all. One cannot infer much from that. In 2005 Pope Benedict met with Hans Kung, I don't think we raised an eyebrow at the time, we understood it to be a cordial meeting. Let us treat this meeting in the same way, unless we have concrete reasons to the contrary.

subpetro1 said...

Jabba, you are absolutely right. I have read the two instructions more than once in my studies and in typical Ratzingerian style, both instructions meticulously sift through the tenets of the movement and condemns that which is not in tune and upholds positively that which can be built upon.

Angelo said...

I hope Bishop Francis sticks to his opposition to Liberation Theology. St. Padre Pio said "There is good and bad in everything. We must learn to separate the good from the bad and keep only the good". If there be any good in Liberation Theology then it should be kept. Any bad in it should be harshly condemned. Bl. John Paul ll was a man of great wisdom, if he condemned Liberation Theology I believe he saw that it was an ideology that could not be fixed. Lets hope and pray Bishop Francis depends on the guidance of the Holy Ghost and not on mere human understanding.

7fbc6254-eb65-11e2-85d7-000bcdcb471e said...

Gratias said, The pendulum has swung. We had a great eight years with Benedict.

Yes, too bad though that pendulum didn't quite swing far enough, unable to overcome that downward *drag.*

Deep down Pope Francis remains a carismatic Peronista. In the US Liberation Theology begat Black Liberation Theology that allied with Saul Alinsky begat President Barack H. Obama. These are dangerous games they are playing in the Vatican.

Yes, dangerous games. Back in the day, the Church was beseiged with all of this from the outside. Today, the rot is within and on purpose. This is a total game-changer and an entirely different issue than back in the day.

We must remain in prayer. Almighty God is allowing His Church to continue to bleed out for some reason or purpose.


7fbc6254-eb65-11e2-85d7-000bcdcb471e said...

toxteth said, Is this really a big deal? Guttierez was already teaching at the Angelicum in 2007. During that stint he received ashes from Benedict XVI at Santa Sabina.

It is a big deal because of the context of the meeting. Just receiving Ashes is one thing, but having a formal Papal chit-chat is quite another.


poetcomic1 said...

I am still trying to verify that Pope Francis made fun of a spiritual bouquet of rosaries. My ordinary, quite fallible not very religious family would, as a rule, never do such a despicable, hurtful thing as mock a gift. Also, no one can verify to my satisfaction that he knows Latin fluently (or at all). Of course he 'took' it in his early days but then, I took high school French and barely remember the pen of my aunt in the country. Clear these up and then we can talk the 'fine points' of LibTheo.

pierre said...

JabbaPapa said:"Bergoglio was the second fiercest opponent of the theology…after Ratzinger, and his elevation to Bishop and then Cardinal is largely due to his extremely effective pastoral opposition to the theology." Precisely! And now he is pope. Not a bad career choice I'd say if you saw anything at all positive in Liberation Theology. Being poor myself, I'd be afraid to criticize God for what He has dealt me. I depend upon people like the Pope to do otherwise.

LeonG said...

What we need is The Roman Catholic Church for everyone who is willing to ask for forgiveness for their sins. Both poor and rich need this no matter what. Priests should dispense The Sacraments to the faithful not be disciples of politico-social propaganda.

subpetro1 said...

Yes, it's a big deal in the positive sense! What is wrong with a Papal chit chat??? If we are duly qualified, we should be ready to meet with those who hold questionable views and heretical positions, especially the pastors of the Church, how much more does it fall upon the shoulders of the Successor of Peter to be available for such encounters.