Jesuit Superior General defends Liberation Theology

On AsiaNews I read that Pope Benedict spoke to participants in the plenary session of the International Theological Commission.  He outlined the guidelines theologians must follow in their work as he discussed the Commission’s own study on the “nature of theology, its meaning and methods”.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – For Pope Benedict XVI the “fundamental virtue” of theologians is to obey “the faith” so that they can co-operate with ‘truth” which “objectively” is “God’s Revelation in Jesus Christ.” This way, theologians “do not talk about themselves” but let “the truth speak through them”.


The other day in The Pill er um Tablet I saw….

Jesuit head praises liberation theology (from The Tablet)


THE NEW Superior General of the Jesuits, Fr Adolfo Nicolás Pachón, has spoken out in defence of liberation theology, writes Jon Stibbs.

In an interview with the Spanish national El Periódico, the Spaniard described liberation theology as “a courageous and creative response to an unbearable situation of injustice in Latin America”. Fr Nicolás regretted that the South American based movement had not been given a “vote of confidence” from other church leaders. “It needs more time,” he said.

While liberation theology was becoming established in South America Fr Nicolás was working in Asia where he developed a reputation as a liberal. He defines the Jesuits’ work as helping “the poor, the marginalised and the excluded”, and has said he is more interested in missionaries’ “cultural dialogue with local people” than imposing doctrinal orthodoxy.


I wonder what the new Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbp. Ladaria, SJ, thinks about this.

We need a sound theological examination of Christ as Liberator.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. supertradmom says:

    Liberation Theologians created a Jesus in their own image and likeness. If the Jesuits want to separate violent revolution and the City of Man, material, secular and worldly as it is, from this theology, then perhaps it would resemble something like the Gospels.

    “Beating a dead horse…?”

  2. TJB says:

    I am becoming more and more convinced that Pope Benedict needs to remove the current head and personally appoint one himself, who will enact drastic reforms and bring the Jesuits back to their roots. It seems extreme but its the only way to salvage what is left of the great order.

  3. Bryan says:

    Maybe, TJB, and this is not to disparage the orthodox men left in the Company, many of whom I had the honor and privilege of learning under whilst at Fordham, like the US auto manufacturers, it should be allowed to ‘seek bankrupcy’ and reorganize the whole thing.

    The brand just isn’t what it used to be. Maybe “Potemkin Village” is a better description?

    Just spitballin’.

  4. I agree with TJB that Pope Benedict needs to appoint the superior general himself….That being said an authentic understanding of Christian Liberation must be taught. This idea of Marxist, Robin Hood style liberation just doesn’t work with Christianity.

  5. RichR says:

    It seems that as long as a liberal theological conclusion has not been realized, the response is to encourage “further dialog”. IOW, “don’t close the discussions until everyone comes around to our POV”. I heard this WRT divorce and remarriage, too. Why is it that no answer is final enough?

  6. Thomas says:

    My alma mater, Boston College, had a fundraising drive in which alumi would send a dollar amount of some significance to them. For example $2004 because you graduated in 2004. $110 because your dorm room number was 110.

    I was tempted to send in $4 with the explanation that it was a reminder of the Fourth Vow of the Jesuits.

    Then I decided I’d just as soon send them nothing at all. I think I chose wisely.

  7. B. says:

    Please, people, stop dreaming about Pope Benedict removing the SJ superior general. He approved him in a heartbeat less than a year ago and he knew exactly where he stood.

    The only superior general forcefully removed nowadays and replaced by a hand picked one is Fr. Josef Bisig FSSP and that was not for praising liberation theology.

    BTW, the German Jesuit homepage removed this picture one day after his election

  8. Jason Keener says:

    When Pope Benedict was the head of the CDF, he promulgated a very basic and understandable critique of Liberation Theology. Some of you might be interested in it. It’s called “INSTRUCTION ON CERTAIN ASPECTS OF THE ‘THEOLOGY OF LIBERATION.’” Just google it.

    Thankfully, many of the younger Jesuits in training who I know are solidly orthodox. I can only hope the long formation period with the older Jesuit professors and advisers will not end up deforming the newbies.

    St. Ignatius of Loyola, ora pro nobis.

  9. In addition to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s (now Pope Benedict’s) and the CDF’s excellent instruction, James V. Schall, S.J. edited a wonderful book published by Ignatius Press entitled “Liberation Theology in Latin America.”

    I think understanding the nature of Liberation Theology as a system will be vital for Catholics in America over the next four years as they observe some of its implications in decisions made by the executive branch.

  10. Brian O'Gallagher, Boston says:

    I don’t think we can really understand Liberation Theology without understanding its context, Latin America, an entire continent of Catholics held hostage by brutal and corrupt dictators and party oligarchs.
    We, as Christians are supposed to work against injustices, like abortion and slavery. Yes, the Church is on the side of the poor and oppressed, but many times her bishops didn’t seem radically so, especially when the cause of that oppression was in plain sight.
    It’s a shame that in these cases it’s often the socialists who arrive first and express the people’s desire for a more just order. I often think, “but that should us, Christians, right there in the thick of such a movement of desire.”
    Is there any flawless or complete theology? No, to believe such a thing is idolatry. I just want to remind readers that Liberation Theology is an attempt to address a continent-wide injustice with the Gospel message. Let’s think about that next time, before we pass judgment over the internet sitting on our expanding rear-ends, leaving messages in comment boxes like, “the head of the Jesuits should be removed by fiat!”

  11. Andy says:

    Liberation Theologians use political theory, primarily Marxism, to help understand how to combat poverty.

    However, the real purpose of Marxism is stealing the wealth of the people for the benefit of the state, which is of course owned by a privileged minority.

    Marxism = state capitalism.

    No wonder that the Rothschilds paid the Jewish, Satanist and Mason Karl Marx to write the Communist Manefesto.

    The greatest tragedy is that people want to be duped.

    Capitalism or Marxism… It does not matter.

    The people are always the pawns in the hands of the super-rich.

    The Jesuits should know better.

    We do not need a “new” theology.

    Everything is in the Gospels.

  12. Michael says:

    Anyone knows a Jesuit who is still Catholic ?

  13. roydosan says:

    Brian, you are spot on. In fact Pope Benedict praised certain aspects of Liberation Theology in the 1984 Instruction. It states that:

    “In itself, the expression “theology of liberation” is a thoroughly valid term: it designates a theological reflection centred on the biblical theme of liberation and freedom, and on the urgency of its practical realisation. The meeting, then of the aspiration for liberation and the theologies of liberation is not one of mere chance.”

    The document is worth reading since too many people use it to condemn Liberation Theology without actually knowing what it says. There is an authentic Liberation Theology that accords with the doctrine of the Church and there is a Liberation Theology which doesn’t (e.g.Marxist class warfare). Cheap jibes about communism don’t do this subject justice.

  14. Thomas says:

    And which version of Liberation Theology do the Jesuits profess in Latin America, roydosan? Cardinal Ratzinger tried to take back the idea of a liberating theology and you spin it to be support for “Liberation Theology”?

  15. Jordanes says:

    Anyone knows a Jesuit who is still Catholic ?

    Father Mitch Pacwa is one.

  16. Frank_selton says:

    I’m going to agree with Fr. Z on this one: “We need a sound theological examination of Christ as Liberator.” And this discussion, filled with name-calling (Communist! Marxist! Jesuits aren’t Catholics!) without any exploration of how those terms influenced the development of Liberation Theology (whether you like it or not) just isn’t it. If Cardinal Ratzinger was willing to devote his time and craftsmanship to a careful evaluation and critique of the movement (and, if you’ve read it, there’s nothing in it that sounds like this discussion thread), surely somebody on this board would be capable of at least emulating his thoughtfulness.

    B – In regard to the German Jesuits removing a photo of Fr. Nicolas meditating in a zen buddhist robe – the heroic 17th century Jesuit missionaries in Asia were ordered to dress as locals. Matteo Ricci, the great missioner of China, dressed as a Confucian scholar and studied their classics. It helped with evangelization.

  17. Boko says:

    Well, JPII seemed ready to reform the Jesuits, but he suddenly backed off. The rumor was that threats of schism made him back off an initial strong stance (on the Jesuits and other matters). One wonders now (post-Scandal) if other threats were made. We are fighting against powers and principalities here, not just a bunch of fruity hippies.

  18. David Kastel says:

    What a shock!


  19. Alan says:

    Its a marxist theology… plain and simple, and has no place in the Church.

  20. roydosan says:

    Thomas, just read the document. It is not a Marxist theology. Some Liberation theologians used Marxism in their analysis – this is what Cardinal Ratzinger condemned.

    “The present Instruction has a much more limited and precise purpose: to draw the attention of pastors, theologians, and all the faithful to the deviations, and risks of deviation, damaging to the faith and to Christian living, that are brought about by CERTAIN FORMS of liberation theology which use, in an insufficiently critical manner, concepts borrowed from various currents of Marxist thought”.

    “This warning should in no way be interpreted as a disavowal of all those who want to respond generously and with an authentic evangelical spirit to the “preferential option for the poor.” It should not at all serve as an excuse for those who maintain the attitude of neutrality and indifference in the face of the tragic and pressing problems of human misery and injustice. It is, on the contrary, dictated by the certitude that the serious ideological deviations which it points out tends inevitably to betray the cause of the poor. More than ever, it is important that numerous Christians, whose faith is clear and who are committed to live the Christian life in its fullness, become involved in the struggle for justice, freedom, and human dignity because of their love for their disinherited, oppressed, and persecuted brothers and sisters. More than ever, the Church intends to condemn abuses, injustices, and attacks against freedom, wherever they occur and whoever commits them. She intends to struggle, by her own means, for the defense and advancement of the rights of mankind, especially of the poor.”

  21. LRThunder says:

    The irony of Liberation Theology is that it enslaves its adherents to a Marxist mindset.

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