Monday, August 30, 2010

Fr. James Martin, S.J. Belives In Liberation Theology

Pope John Paul II admonishing  Fr. Ernesto Cardenal, S.J.
In its heyday, liberation theology was not without controversy: some in the church, and some in the Vatican, thought it skirted too close to Marxism--including Pope John Paul II.  On the other hand, John Paul didn’t shy away from personally involving himself in direct political activism in Poland.  It was the Latin American version of social action that seemed to bother him more.  But even John Paul affirmed the notion of “preferential option for the poor,” as did Paul VI before him.  “When there is question of defending the rights of individuals, the defenseless and the poor have a claim to special consideration,” John Paul wrote in his great encyclical Centesimus Annus, which celebrated 100 years of—uh oh--Catholic Social Teaching. “Liberation theology” is easy to be against.  For one thing, most people don’t have the foggiest idea what you’re talking about.  (It even sounds vaguely suspicious, too.)  It’s also easier to ignore the concerns of the poor, particularly overseas, than it is to actually get to know them as individuals who make a moral claim on us.  For another, there are lots of overheated websites that facilely link it to Marxism.  My response to that last critique is to read the Gospels and count how many times Jesus tells us with should help the poor and even be poor.  In the Gospel of Matthew, in fact, Jesus tells us that the ones who are to enter the Kingdom of heaven are those who help “the least of my brothers and sisters,” i.e., the poor.   After that, read the Acts of the Apostles, and read about the apostles “sharing everything in common.”  Then let me know if helping the poor is communist or simply Christian. I have no idea if President Obama subscribes to liberation theology. But I do.
Link (here) to read the full post entitled, Glenn Beck and Liberation Theology by Fr. James Martin, S.J.
Link (here) to the photo and lengthy  story of “Pope John Paul II on his 1983 arrival in Managua, publicly reprimanded Jesuit priest and Sandinista Minister of Culture Ernesto Cardenal."

More on the subject
An interview with sanctioned Fr. Jon Sobrino, S.J. in Sojourners Magazine (here)
More on Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor program in Washington, D.C. (here)
Read about the Italian Father Alighiero Tondi, S.J. and his Communist connections with the Catholic Action Movement (here) as told by Time Magazine
Jesuit Education and Social Change in El Salvador By Charles Joseph Beirne, S.J.
Go (here) to read the one time Jesuit Fr. Malachi Martin on Liberation Theology in his famous book entitled, The Jesuits.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Someone should inform Fr. Martin that Christians in the Church served the poor in many ways long before liberation theology was invented. That ideology is not necessary in order to serve the poor, and opposing it does not mean that you are opposed to serving the poor. The connection between liberation theology and Marxism is much more than facile, as dear Father contends. And while Father is willing to state explicitly that he supports liberation theology with an "I do," I wonder whether he is equally willing to make an explicit affirmation of belief in the Church's teachings about marriage and homosexual acts. What? No explicit affirmation anywhere in support of those Church dogmas, yet an explicit affirmation of a dubious theology, not supported by the Church's magisterium, with leftist roots? Might the dear Father's religion actually be leftism instead of Catholicism?

Anonymous said...

Not one of JPII's finer moments.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anonimous at 2.21 pm: JPII with his behavior in Latin America allowed the Romero's assassination.

Anonymous said...

It is not charity to use the force of government to take from one man and give to another. Charity is to give to the poor from what you have and to personally serve the poor. Mother Teresa did not work for social services.

TonyD said...

It is a mistake to see “helping the poor” or “sharing” as basic values. They may, on occasion, reflect the good judgment of a prophet or saint, but they are not, by themselves, the values. (Although they may be informally referred to as such)

Helping the poor is a judgment – and different circumstances, or a different understanding of the current circumstances, will result in a different judgment about helping the poor. (Consider, for example, whether all poor should be considered equivalent or whether all the people helping the poor should be considered equivalent.)

So, while I agree that we should be helping the poor much more, and addressing the underlying causes of that poverty, it is a mistake to equate a situational judgment with God’s values.

We lose sight of the truly important Church teachings when we make such mistakes.

Teresa said...

Pope Benedict went as far as to label liberation theology as “Millenarism” which is a heresy. Pope Benedict stated -- “we tried to free ourselves from false millenarism and politization. Millenarism is a heresy that believes in the imminence of the end of the World and the coming of a reign of peace and justice.”

Here is the article: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/benedict_xvi_liberation_theology_was_mere_millenarism_that_would_have_no_justification_today./

Maria said...

God love you, Joseph...

Anonymous said...

At one end there are the opponents of Liberation Theology, most if not all of who have never been homeless or experienced poverty close to their skins. They are educated, and as far as they are concerned the poor are the cause of their own miserable lot. There is no structural injustice that needs to be corrected. If half of the Mexican American or black kids in California drop out and don't even know how to read by the 8th grade, it's because something is structurally wrong with them and their families, not with American society. Never mind that Mexican 8th grade immigrants read very well. Furthermore, for these, Christians have no obligation to the poor as a class. They completely dismiss Luke's version of the Sermon on the Mount, James' epistle, etc.

On the other are Liberation Theology's Catholic advocates, some of who are existing Jesuits. They condemn 'what kills the freedom of God's poorest children' yet support or at least say nothing substantially critical about a tyrant such as Fidel Castro. It does not seem to matter to them that he destroyed Cuban society. They don't seem to believe he did. I have yet to read where any of these Jesuit Liberation Theology advocates condemn Castro, or his executions of thousands, or his forcing into exile over 3 million Cubans, half of the population that existed 51 years ago when he 'liberated' Cuba.

It does not seem to matter to them that after 51 years of tyranny, Cubans still cannot elect their own leader or leave or visit their island of birth without the tyrannical regime's permission. Those are just undesirable side effects of the US embargo, not Castro,or Marxism or Liberation Theology. What a comfortable theoretical position they have carved out for themselves while Cubans and so many others have so deeply suffered.

Then there are Liberation Theologians like Frai Betto, Castro's close friend. He approves of the 4 million children aborted under Castro's rule. Perhaps as far as he's concerned they have really only restored the dignity of the Cuban woman, 'liberated' her.

Enrique Alonso

Anonymous said...

Ernesto Cardenal was NOT a Jesuit, but a Trappist turned diocesan priest. His brother Fernando was a Jesuit who was dismissed from the Society in 1984.

TonyD said...

Enrique,

Why assume that support/opposition to Liberation Theology is related to a position on poverty?

And why assume that Liberation Theologians should take positions on topics on which they have minimal knowledge? Isn't that promoting poor judgment? (There are people who could take positions on this topic - and it isn't necessarily Jesuits.)

There is an order to this existence, and becoming someone able to accept it is a worthwhile endeavor. People wonder why God does not speak to them. They should wonder instead - "How do I become someone that God can speak to?"

TonyD said...

So what is the cost of Liberation Theology? or Communism? or Republicanism?

The problem is that real Religion - an understanding that moves us closer to God and God's values - gets lost. The emphasis becomes the "organization of society". God may be a Liberation Theologian. Or he may be against Liberation Theology. Or He may vacillate over time as situations change. In any case, God would be expressing his perfect values.

When we shift the emphasis, we miss the real understanding and lessons of this existence. We are given clues all the time - but we "can't see the forest for the trees". For example, "interdependence" is a serious skill that involves perfection of the self as well as improvement of society. Interdependence requires balancing needs, judgment about who should solve problems, humility, emotional control, and an ability to make hard decisions.

We have problems bigger than poverty - perfection of the soul. That is something for the Jesuits to work on.

Anonymous said...

"Why assume that support/opposition to Liberation Theology is related to a position on poverty?"

The literature on Liberation Theology and Philosophy in Latin America absolutely centers on the option for the poor and the structural causes of poverty. Just read any of the main exponents: Juan Luis Segundo, Gustavo Gutierrez, Jon Sobrino, Enrique Dussel.

"And why assume that Liberation Theologians should take positions on topics on which they have minimal knowledge?"

I don't think one could validly argue that someone like Gutierrez, who lived in Lima, did not know anything about poverty. Anyone who walks around Lima where his parish is (or was) located would be close to the poor. It would be impossible not to be. Segundo and Dussel drifted towards Marxist, not Christian, analysis of Latin America's structural problems.

Dussel , for example, insists that philosophy begins with ethics, and ethics with someone crying in pain. What is thus so strange is that he identifies with someone like Castro or Guevara but not with their victims. Not very Christian. Yet he is the chief editor/writer of the history of the Catholic Church in Latin America.

Enrique Alonso

Anonymous said...

Correction - I meant that Dussel was the editor/writer of a multi volume history of the Catholic Church in Latin America.

EA

TonyD said...

Enrique,

What I meant was:
"Why assume that an individual's support/opposition to Liberation Theology is related to that individual's position on poverty?"

I've no doubt that some individuals adopt Liberation Theology based on a position on poverty.

But, to repeat a point I made earlier, a position on poverty reflects a judgment. There can be many circumstances where poverty is a better alternative to other alternatives. Making such judgments requires values, trade-offs, humility, and respect for the values of one's neighbors. It is such people that we must cultivate.

So talking about "poverty" as a spiritual topic is a mistake. It completely misses the real spiritual topics. It is the underlying values that must be taught. At the risk of stating the obvious - It is possible to spend a life working against poverty while missing many important spiritual lessons. On the other hand, Jesuits teaching the important lessons of God will definitely help both poverty and the soul.

Anonymous said...

Tony D - I have no doubt that you mean well on this topic but your position is not that of the gospels. Consider a man with no legs begging on a Lima sidewalk. Consider a homeless woman for years sleeping, sitting down, on a park bench. For these, poverty is the essence of their life experience. Poverty is what they will bring to God the instant they die. The Sermon on the Mount promises them paradise.

We all know there are other horrible forms of suffering and that losing one's soul is infinitely worst than poverty, but I can't see how anyone could argue that lack of food and of safe dignified housing is 'better than other alternatives'. What other alternatives? Death?

When encountering a poor, hungry and sleepless people like the foregoing (and there are millions) what is it you believe God wishes Catholics to focus on first or instead?

EA

Fr. Jean-Francois Thomas S.J said...

When encountering a poor what Our Lord Jesus was focusing on ? Hunger of the body, thirst of the soul ? It seems that for Him, man was one and He always looked at each human being as a totality, not into separated pieces. And he did not feed all the poor with bread but He fed all of them with His Word. Most often, his disciples, the ones of yesterday, the ones of today, have no gold nor silver to give to the poor (as St Peter in the Acts of the Apostles), but they are rich because of the message of salvation they received from the Master, which is the true liberation.
As for the priests or religious living in cities where there are many poor people in slums or in the streets, most of them are as blind as the priest passing by the wounded pilgrim on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem, especially the ones having a full mouth of slogans about the "preferential option for the poor". There are very few St Francis of Assisi, St Vincent de Paul or Bl. Mother Teresa among the disciples... Compassion and care for the poor have nothing to do with marxism and communism which proved, since the very beginning, they were against man and God.

TonyD said...

Enrique,

Perhaps there is a reason that Saints are often exposed to both pure evil and poverty. How else can we get people who understand that such trade-offs are real? Is it not possible to choose poverty over evil? Or choose suffering over evil?

Some Saints have learned this firsthand.

Too often, we confuse good with evil. It is only our inability to correctly identify evil that causes us to confuse poverty with evil.

I am not saying that poverty is, itself, good or evil. But there are degrees of poverty and degrees of evil. Trade-offs are made.

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe that anyone who claims that poverty is neither good or evil has ever seriously experienced it or is a Christian.

Tony D -- The poor people I described in my earlier post did not 'choose' poverty over evil.

Fr. Jean-Francois Thomas S.J.:

I assume that when you refer to a human being as a 'totality' you include the body as Jesus did.

I also assume that you condemn (poor) people's bodies being subjected to what they were not intended (i.e. starvation, torture). But what did you mean by: "...he did not feed all the poor with bread but He fed all of them with His Word?"

Surely you were not suggesting Jesus didn't consider bread also essential, or that he did not command his followers to fulfill their very serious obligation with the hungry, etc.. But what then did you mean?

EA

Fr. Jean-Francois Thomas S.J said...

To Enrique Alonso,

I mean that Jesus, during his life on earth, could have fed with bread and fish all the hungry and poor people He met, the ones going to Him to listen His preaching. But He did not. As well, He did not cure all the sick. It is mysterious. Maybe it means that, even if we have a duty to feed the hungry, we should not forget, at the same time, to bring him the Word with a constant care and love.

TonyD said...

Enrique,

I am not saying that anyone "chose" poverty. But it would be a mistake to think that God is not aware of what is going on in this existence. With values so distant from His, one cannot see the trade-offs which are being made, and which must be made.

That does not mean that we want to continue making those trade-offs. That does not mean that the trade-offs should not be minimized or addressed when possible.

In earlier posts, I've tried to explain how we've distorted "love your neighbor". We remain distant from His values. How can we expect to run when we cannot even walk?

Anonymous said...

As Catholics we believe that Jesus is God. Whatever values he expressed in human terms were God's values. If one trusts the gospels as accurate expressions of His values,then with regard to poverty and his followers' obligation towards the poor, He was not the least bit ambiguous. One need not be brilliant or to bury one's head in philosophy to understand what his unmistakable message was. For example, Matthew 25 reads:

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory...He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink...

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

EA

Anonymous said...

Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothed you? When
did we see you ill or in prison and visit you? Whenever you did for the least of mine,
You did for me. Matthew 26:37-40

Anonymous said...

The words from Matthew are the most radical I have ever read.

TonyD said...

If someone reads the gospels and believes that they understand the full context of any particular advice -- or reads the gospels and believes that there are no other things to consider -- or reads the gospels and believes that they now understand God's values (and the trade-offs he considers) -- well, for those who choose such beliefs there is little that can be done.

Only some can hear. This existence has both the material and immaterial. And, while the material is clearly short lived (eg. death), the material is used as a “tool” to work on the immaterial. So, while we are told that we must work on things like poverty, suffering, and loss of life -- those same things are used for lessons by God. He has both the values and judgment to use them in helping move us toward perfection. For one example, we are supposed to learn immaterial skills via the interdependency created here. This interdependency reflects a more complex interdependency outside this existence (remember: Christ/God, Father/Son/Holy Ghost, Christ within us). So the material is used to learn the immaterial.

TonyD said...

When we consider poverty, we can approach it from the perspective of “love your neighbor” which means that we should take others’ values seriously.

In general, both society and people have “stated” values about poverty – they are against poverty. Still, their actions tend to be dominated by both self-interest and ignorance, with the result of creating poverty.

You must use your judgment in trying to decide what their values really are, and how to balance the values of your society and your communities. You can take them at their word, and support actions and policies that fight poverty and fight the creation of poverty. Or you might use your judgment and conclude that their actions reflect their true values – and you might then support policies that create poverty and punish the poor.

In either case God is still God. He can and does create consequences that include poverty.

There are many structural policies than create poverty. So some may read this and rashly conclude that we are in a selfish society. But those policies are often created by those who take it upon themselves to represent narrow interests – and those policies do not reflect the underlying values of the society.

Anonymous said...

Jesuit Fr. James Chevedden made a written complaint to the Superior General of the Jesuit Order, Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, regarding the promotion of the ideology of the Marxist philosopher, Herbert Marcuse at the 1998 California Jesuit Province Social Pastoral Conference. This complaint may have put Chevedden out of favor with Chevedden’s Jesuit leaders.