Monday, January 4, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI Describes Aspects Of Liberation Theology As "Deceitful"

On December 5th, Benedict XVI articulated one of the most stinging rebukes that has ever been made by a pope of a particular theological school. Addressing a group of Brazilian bishops, Benedict followed some mild comments about Catholic education with some very sharp and deeply critical remarks about liberation theology and its effects upon the Catholic Church.

Apart from stressing how certain liberation theologians drew heavily upon Marxist concepts, the pope also described these ideas as “deceitful.” This is very strong language for a pope. But Benedict then underscored the damage that liberation theology did to the Catholic Church. “The more or less visible consequences,” he told the bishops, “of that approach - characterised by rebellion, division, dissent, offence and anarchy - still linger today, producing great suffering and a serious loss of vital energies in your diocesan communities.”

Today, even some of liberation theology’s most outspoken advocates freely admit that it has collapsed, including in Latin America. Once considered avant-garde, it is now generally confined to clergy and laity of a certain age who wield ever-decreasing influence within the Church. Nonetheless, Benedict XVI clearly believes it’s worth underscoring just how much harm it inflicted upon the Catholic Church.

For a start, there’s little question that liberation theology was a disaster for Catholic evangelization. There’s a saying in Latin America which sums this up: “The Church opted for the poor, and the poor opted for the Pentecostals.”

In short, while many Catholic clergy were preaching class-war, many of those on whose behalf the war was presumably being waged decided that they weren’t so interested in Marx or listening to a language of hate. They simply wanted to learn about Jesus Christ and his love for all people (regardless of economic status). They found this in many evangelical communities.

A second major impact was upon the formation of Catholic clergy in parts of Latin America. Instead of being immersed in the fullness of the Catholic faith’s intellectual richness, many Catholic seminarians in the 1970s and 1980s read Marx’s Das Capital and refused to peruse such “bourgeois” literature such Augustine’s City of God or AquinasSumma Theologiae.

Again, this undermined the Church’s ability to witness to Christ in Latin America, not least because some clergy reduced Christ to the status of a heroic-but-less-than-divine urban guerrilla and weren’t especially interested in explaining Catholicism’s tenets to their flocks.

Link (here) to the full Catholic Exchange piece written by Dr. Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute.


RC Social Democrat said...
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Maria said...

It is such joy, after so many decades in the wilderness, to hear the Truth spoken in broad daylight for all the world to hear. We should be grateful for Pope Benedict's clear trumpet.

Anonymous said...

RC Social Democrat

It's true that the alliance between corrupt presidents and corrupt bishops in parts of Latin America was a scandal. But so was the fusion of bad biblical exegesis, which amounted to an abuse of scripture, and Marxist analysis.

American Pentecostalism, fortified by massive economic wealth, offered material rewards to desperately poor people which the Church was unable to provide. This proved to be a considerable factor in Pentecostalism's success. I worked for a time in South America and it was interesting to see local Pentecosalist preachers rewarded by cars, clothes, money and housing.

Remember, too, that after Vatican II Pope Paul VI gave the Jesuits the task of combating atheism. Atheism equalled Marxism at that time and younger Jesuits knew that they had to come to terms with the analysis. Communism then appeared invincible and a way forward was thought to be creating a synthesis of a Christian/Marxist dialogue. Today it is easy to see this as a naive solution; then it was not so obvious. The result lies in the awful legacy to be found in the Church in South America.

The Holy Father is not speaking rhetoric but facing the destructive consequences.

Anonymous said...

Amazing as always

Alejandro Rodríguez said...

This post is just ridiculous, for lack of a better word. The church has historically opposed socialism because it hates to lose its power. Many of the liberation theologians were opposed to the dictatorships of their respective countries. Besides, do you really think that helping the poor overcoming their adversities is bad gospel exegesis? Also, Marxism doesn't necessarily entail atheism (even if it does, there's really nothing wrong with it). Liberation Theology is the alternative to Marxism. It is the perfect blend of Christianity and Socialism.