Jesuit Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa told Canadians last week that while the new pope is all about ‘social justice’, it may not be the flavor of social justice that people associate with Latin America.Prendergast said that former Cardinal Bergoglio, as the Argentinean Provincial at that time, took a “very strong stance that the Jesuits should stay out of political issues and certainly not take up the liberationist theology.”
Liberation theology, which uncritically borrows various currents of Marxist thought, narrowly interprets the teachings of Jesus as they relate to liberation from unjust conditions that may be economic, political, or social.
In 1984, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith headed by then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI), condemned liberation theology as a “novel interpretation of both the content of faith and of Christian existence which seriously departs from the faith of the Church and, in fact, actually constitutes a practical negation.”
Archbishop Prendergast said that at the time, Cardinal Bergoglio was criticized by his brother Jesuits for standing with the Church. “He was criticized by his brothers for that, but nonetheless his stance was that — similar to Pope Benedict’s — Marxism goes beyond what the social justice of the Church should embrace,” said the Archbishop during an interview with CFRA 580 NewsTalkRadio.
Former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio wrote in his 2011 book Sobre el cielo y la tierra (On heaven and earth) that the Church is as opposed to economic liberalism (economic decisions are made by individuals, not by collective institutions or organizations) as it is to communism (an atheistic system that abolishes private property to create a classless social order).
“When you pick up a volume of the social teaching of the Church you are amazed at what it condemns. For example, it condemns economic liberalism. Everyone thinks that the Church is against Communism, but it is as opposed to that system as it is to the savage economic liberalism which exists today. That is not Christian either and we cannot accept it.” “We have to search for equality of opportunities and rights, to fight for social benefits, a dignified retirement, holidays, rest, freedom for trade unions. All of these issues create social justice. There should be no have-nots and I want to emphasize that the worst wretchedness is not to be able to earn your bread, not to have the dignity of work,” he wrote.
Reflecting on why then Cardinal Bergoglio would take such a stand, Archbishop Prendergast said that it is one thing to “create an interest in the poor and serve their cause” but that it is quite another thing to “cause divisions in society” by “pitting rich against poor”. “If you cause divisions in society pitting rich against poor, you are unfaithful to the Gospel because the Gospel calls us to be reconciled, rich and poor, male and female, slave and free, are all to be one in Christ. That’s the Church’s teaching,” he said.