Pope Francis and Liberation Theology

I just finished reading a new book by Paul Vallely called Pope Francis: Untying the Knots.  I am glad I read it on my Kindle so that I don’t have to have it on my shelf.

There are some helpful explorations of certain periods of Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s life and the controversies he has been in and the context of Argentina during a horrible period.  I learned a few things.

However, over all the book seems to be more than just a biography.  Vallely is ideological.  He is trying to influence the course of events within the Church, not just report them.  So, he is firmly MSM.  He is assistant editor of The Independent, on the board of The Tablet, is involved in CAFOD.  For information on what happened in the conclave he seems to have relied on Card. Murphy O’Connor.  Though Valley doesn’t quote him directly about the internal dealings of the conclave that elected Francis, the Cardinal is quoted directly several times in that chapter.  Valley relies on Timothy Radcliff, OP, to interpret Francis. The final quote, sentence, of the text is from Leonardo Boff.

In fact, the book is an apologia for diminishing the role of the Roman Curia and the defusing of authority to bishop’s conferences and the Synod of Bishops, for liturgy based on the lowest common denominator, for eliminating everything Benedict XVI did, and, above all, for the rehabilitation of Liberation Theology.

For Vallely, Francis, over many years, finally converted from his rigid, authoritarian ways and his unjust suspicion of Liberation Theology to humility and, therefore, enlightened and wise acceptance of Liberation Theology.

As a matter of fact Vallely writes:

In his first weeks in office the new Pope made several public references to the environment – most notably a condemnation of the developed world’s ‘culture of waste’. But he has also privately been in touch with Boff and asked the Brazilian theologian to send him what he has written on eco-theology. Francis told Boff that wants to issue an encyclical on environmental matters.

We will have to keep an eye on what sort of Liberation Theology Pope Francis may be interested in or working with.  Not all theologies of liberation are bad, of course.  You could say that a liberation theology without the Marxism is pretty much just Catholic social teaching.  Consider that in one of his books on liturgy, Joseph Card. Ratzinger used some points from Liberation Theology (which he knew inside and out).

Vallely wrote (my emphases):

Bergoglio’s thinking was more sophisticated on Liberation Theology than many credit. From the outset he was vehemently opposed to the Marxist analysis and the talk of class war adopted by some theologians. Yet he embraced the notion of the preferential option for the poor – though he viewed it from a distinctly Argentine perspective. Fr Humberto Miguel Yáñez, head of moral theology at the Gregorian University in Rome and also an Argentine Jesuit, explained: ‘Liberation Theology in Argentina is not as it is understood elsewhere in Latin America. Those who embraced aspects of Marxist thinking saw elements like culture and religion as tools of alienation rather than liberation and had difficulty accepting elements of popular culture and religion. In the more distinctly Argentinean strain, both philosophically and theologically, there was a strong appreciation of culture, in particular the culture of popular religiosity.’ The key thinker in this different approach was Fr Juan Carlos Scannone, a Jesuit who was a theologian at Colegio Máximo when Bergoglio was Provincial and Rector there. Scannone’s work emphasised all the qualities of folk religion – the rosaries, processions and novenas [!!!] – which Bergoglio so valued from his upbringing. For Scannone, local culture was an essential part of what he called the Theology of the Poor. He told me: ‘Some people think Argentine Theology of the Poor isn’t Liberation Theology at all and class it just as popular theology. But others see it as a current within Liberation Theology; the father of this theology Gustavo Gutiérrez and I wrote an article to that effect in 1982.’ The Vatican crackdown in the 1984 document entitled Instruction on certain aspects of the ‘Theology of Liberation’ did not object to all Liberation Theology, Scannone emphasised, but only that which used a Marxist analysis of society and history. ‘Argentine People’s Theology does not use Marxist analysis, but a historical and cultural one. It pays attention to social structures, but it does not consider class struggle as the main principle.’ Rather it concerns itself with how to change culture in line with gospel values, but also with how the gospel should be read differently in different cultures. Scannone saw the folk religion which Bergoglio so valued (see Chapter 2) as playing a key role in his theology. He too believed that it was best preserved ‘by the poor and simple people’.

Moreover, Vallely wrote in his summation section at the end:

The irony was that, 40 years on, he had arrived at a similar understanding of social justice to that of Yorio and Jalics, the two Jesuits he had cut off because of their work in the slums. The Cold War was over and with it the need to see Liberation Theology as some kind of stalking horse for secularised anti-Church Communism supplanting Catholicism along with capitalism in Latin America. Liberation Theology had been more right than wrong, he began to conclude. Bergoglio started to honour the martyrs of Liberation Theology. As Pope he has unblocked the process to make a saint of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador. And, under Francis, the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, declared that the war between the Liberation Theology movement and Rome was over. Liberation Theology should henceforth be recognised, he pronounced, as ‘among the most important currents in 20th century Catholic theology’.

That said, I bring to your attention yesterday’s edition of the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.  HERE  Herein you will be able to read, in Italian, side-by-side articles by the aforementioned Archbp. Müller, Prefect of the CDF, and Gustavo Gutiérrez, OP, one the “founders” so-to-speak of Liberation Theology.

I am not sure about what this portends for the larger Church, but I know what it portends for me: time to bone up on my Liberation Theology of all stripes.

Before some of you have a spittle-flecked nutty and start dashing around screaming that the Pope is a Marxist or that he is trying to sell the Vatican Museums in order to buy plumbing for people in the favelas, I suggest you breathe deeply and think for a while about what this might mean.  First, if you are on the traditional side of things, review what I wrote HERE.

[G]et involved in your parishes or in the place where you attend the older form of Mass. Get involved especially in what the parish might have going in regard to spiritual and corporal works of mercy. If that means getting involved in a less-than-perfect RCIA program as a group leader, do it. If that means volunteering to visit the sick, do it. If that means offering to wash altar linens, do it. If that means helping with a food or clothing drive, or even starting them, do it. Do these things, firstly, because they are the right things to do. Do them also because traditional, hard identity Catholics are treated like second-class citizens in the Church. You need to give the lie to the impression which the controlling liberal class has about you.  Don’t just go to your Mass and then go home without thinking about the parish again for another 6 days.

I take heart in the issue of a “freeing” theology (Christ is the Great Liberator, you know) which has to do with culture and popular devotions.  It seems to me that our great Catholic devotions are traditional and that they flow from a Catholic culture which is pre-Conciliar.  Think about it.

As a matter of fact, the post whence I extracted this excerpt is also a good way for me to respond to the many people who have been urging me by email and messages to comment on the conservative/traditional circular firing square going on (e.g., Catholic Answers, The Remnant, Patheos, Michael Voris, Fr. Longenecker, etc.).

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. AvantiBev says:

    I had read an article by an economist who pointed out that prior to the latter half of the 20th century, Argentina had been the wealthiest country in South America. [I like to think that was due to all my paesans immigrating there and working hard.] I don’t know enough about the Age of Peron to know if he and his government started the downward spiral. [I’d like a good book on Peronism.]

  2. Bosco says:

    “I take heart in the issue of a “freeing” theology (Christ is the Great Liberator, you know) which has to do with culture and popular devotions. ”

    Always look on the bright side of life, eh Father Z.? [I try to!]

  3. “for liturgy based on the lowest common denominator”

    If so, weep not for the EF, but for the OF.

    [AKA Don’t cry for me, Argentina?]

  4. Vecchio di Londra says:

    Just to note that Cardinal Murphy O’Connor (being then over 80) was ineligible for the 2013 conclave, so perhaps he is not the source for comments about it; if he is, whatever he may have said cannot be a first-hand witness.

    [Good point. But, let’s speculate about the aftermath: “So… how’d things go in there?” Besides… anything to tear down Benedict’s legacy, even in the matter of his appointments of various nuncii.]

  5. McCall1981 says:

    I see liberation theology as somewhat seperate from the traditional/progressive spectrum, in that traditionalists and progressives are focused on faith and morals issues and the liturgy, whereas liberation theology is concerned with “the poor” and seems to ignore faith/morals and the liturgy (to oversimplify). In that sense, I would rather Pope Francis be inclined to libetation theology than progressivism per se. [How about Libation Theology?] The issues that many of us here care about (doctrine, liturgy, etc) might be things he’ll sort of ignore while he focuses on the poor, and thats at least better than a progressive Pope that actively works against tradition.

    That being said, I’ve been trying very hard to love and understand Pope Francis, but he just causes me confusion and doubt. Don’t really know what to do about it :/ [I’m still scratching my head, pal. He is a breath of fresh air. But then I am from Minnesota, where a breath of fresh air can most of the year really get your attention.]

  6. Polycarpio says:

    I buy into Andrea Tornielli’s take, which is that Liberation Theology’s rehabilitation began under Pope Benedict. It was part of his project to reform Liberation Theology, started decades earlier by addressing excesses and abuses.

    But from the beginning, Card. Ratzinger said that not all Liberation Theology was bad, and that its orthodox core was a valid–even urgent–expression of what it means to be Catholic. Benedict was not out to destroy this current, especially if it had a “valid” core. That “Panzer Cardinal” stuff is caricature.

    Over time, the desired effect seems to be something akin to what Francis seems to think is within sight–an overall correction that reels them back onto the farm, just as Benedict tried to do with the SSPX folk.

    Incidentally, Romero was never a Liberation Theology adherent either. Like the Bergoglio described here, Romero had deep distrust for Lib. Theos. in San Salvador and he arrived at the same place via a separe route–more related to Patristics, Asceticism (Romero’s major at seminary) and this Latin American folk religion that Vallely talks about.

  7. CharlesG says:

    “In fact, the book is an apologia for diminishing the role of the Roman Curia and the defusing of authority to bishop’s conferences and the Synod of Bishops, for liturgy based on the lowest common denominator, for eliminating everything Benedict XVI…”

    This is why people shouldn’t just mindlessly fall in line with the “reform the Curia” mantra. One needs to consider carefully exactly what reforms are being proposed and what the possible agendas might be. Also, if Liberation Theology sans the Marxism is just Catholic social teaching, then I don’t see the need of anything separately called “Liberation Theology”. I personally think the whole thing is just a way to push Marxist this worldly political agendas while cloaking them in semi-Christian language, sort of like Obama’s spiritual mentor Rev. Wright and his ilk (although Black Liberation Theology replaces class based hatemongering with race based hatemongering). [THAT is pretty scary stuff. HERE.] However, “rosaries, processions, novenas” — maybe there is a Liberation Theology I could get behind!

  8. Elizabeth D says:

    There is quite a serious need for new charity initiatives by very faithful Catholics to do service to the poor that truly in keeping with well formed Catholic conscience. Too many of us have found that existing organizations are like oil and water to a Catholic with a really well formed conscience. It doesn’t have to be that way. We all NEED to be serving the poor–and actually, it is a joy. I do volunteer work with the homeless, for several years now, and strongly enjoy it and love the homeless people I have met through that. We need organizations that do these things, in fact we need to do these things more and better, AND that have very well formed Catholics as the leadership. There need to be some orthodox Catholics sinking their teeth into that challenge, and to the great benefit of the poor who are lifted up and even may be helped out of poverty.

  9. Kathleen10 says:

    McCall, that’s a good, optimistic viewpoint, and you are trying to “find a diamond under the manure pile”. We need optimists. You’re right, it could be worse. PF could be dismantling things left and right willy nilly.
    He hasn’t been Pope very long.
    I feel a bit sorry for all of us tonight. I do. As an American, I can vouch that life for us is pretty demanding. I’m sure it is elsewhere as well, but our own government is less interested in doing what former administrations did, try to at least not make life harder for Americans. They seem Hell-bent on driving us crazy with IRS bullying, same-sex marriage, and forcing little boys and girls to use the same bathrooms and learn about transgenderism in Kindergarten. It’s sheer madness, and when you add to that the amount of money it takes just to have medical coverage and live…race relations and crime…our world spins faster and more erratically than it used to.
    Then you add in, for Catholics, in a relatively short time, losing a much loved Pope, gaining a much loved Pope, and then, in a hardly-ever-utilized-movement, we lose much loved Pope, and gain a Pope that has certainly connected with many people, but, it just doesn’t seem to be us. I guess that’s the good news and the bad news.
    Personally I look at all this with somewhat of a blank stare now. I’m hoping Jesus will return any day now. In the meantime I’ve got my Bible, my Roman Missal, my Rosary. I have a crucifix and some small statues. No matter what goes down, I’ll try to consider it par for the contemporary course. It’s the time in which we are living.

  10. Bosco says:


    “I’m hoping Jesus will return any day now.”

    I’m no saint, and I tremble at the thought of judgement, but I echo your sentiments. Maranatha. And may He forgive so many of us that know not what they do.

  11. Lin says:

    The following is an interesting comment made on the National Catholic Register site:

    I just read this in the print edition and it is the most insightful
    examination of the disadvantages of many of the Holy Father’s grand gestures
    of humility. No mozzetta on the loggia, no red shoes, carrying his own
    briefcase, not residing in the Apostolic Palace, washing the feet of a
    Muslim girl, eschewing Castel Gandolfo for the oppressive Roman summers,
    sitting in the last pew to pray, now bowing to the Muslim queen consort of
    Jordan, etc. All these gestures have become the story and suck the oxygen
    out of the room. The proclamation of the Good News is not even a footnote.
    If Pope Francis had simply conformed outwardly to what is expected of a
    pope, there would be no obsessive dwelling on vesture, footwear, and so
    forth. The “story” would be on the Gospel, not the faddish innovation

  12. Lori Pieper says:

    Valley’s reasoning seems pretty astute (given his sources, and presuming the sources are correct). However, there is one thing I would certainly take exception to.

    “The irony was that, 40 years on, he had arrived at a similar understanding of social justice to that of Yorio and Jalics, the two Jesuits he had cut off because of their work in the slums.”

    From all I have read of this situation that seems to be accurate, Bergoglio’s difference with the two Jesuits was not over their understanding of social justice, but their understanding of religious life and religious vows – including whether religious should be involved in political movements, such things as obedience to superiors, etc. This part of Vallely’s analysis is pure MSM shallowness. [In fairness, Vallely pointed out various reasons why Bergoglio interacted with the two Jesuits as he did. One of them was the all important issue of obedience they owed to him as their superior. Very important for Jesuits of the old school.]

    That said, I rather like your take on all of this, Father. Let’s do bone up on Liberation Theology, and make sure we know what we are talking about at all times.

    Catholic should also be reminded that social teaching isn’t just about being personally involved in charity to the poor. There is a component in it that is about justice for the poor as well. Many Catholics shy away from this, because well, what if it involves some major reform of society? Those on both sides of the political spectrum who think it’s about “big government” or “social programs” need to broaden their horizons, because the problems are a lot bigger than that. The answers need to be bigger too. A Liberation Theology that simply said, yes, Christ cares about whether we tackle these problems is one worth having.

  13. Lin says:

    @Kathleen10………..You have described the current situation perfectly. And although I am an eternal optimist, I truly believe that only prayers can save us now! Be ready, for we know not the day!

  14. Charles E Flynn says:

    The Retreat of Liberation Theology, by Edward A. Lynch (originally published in Homiletic and Pastoral Review).

  15. Robbie says:

    I’m not going to have a spittle-flecked nutty over this book mostly because I already threw one when Jorge Bergoglio was elected and became Pope Francis. I felt about Cardinal Bergoglio much the same way I felt about Cardinal Schornborn. I respected their great service to the Church, but I felt other choices might be better suited for the job.

    Honestly, none of this news really surprises me. Should we really be surprised a Cardinal from South America has Marxist or Liberation Theology sympathies? I’m not. And for those worried about the liturgical prospects, there was plenty of information to suggest Cardinal Bergoglio had a liturgical view that differed greatly from Benedict XVI. Fortunately, Francis has said tradition should be repsected, but NO is sill a work in progress and he has certainly promoted a more stripped down ceremony.

  16. Bosco says:

    I thought, please God, that I understood Pope Benedict clearly. I find now since Pope Benedict’s abdication that what I hear emanating from the Vatican can only be described as ‘shibboleth’.

    If matters must be so painfully and carefully nuanced these days I shall retire solely to my daily rosary and daily meditation and let God sort it all out.

    No, I have yet not resisted even unto the shedding of blood, but I am mortally weary and sickened to the depths of my soul these days.

  17. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Charles E Flynn,

    Thanks for linking such a good start to helping “to bone up on my Liberation Theology of all stripes”! Wow!

    I wonder if anyone has prepared a comparable update?

    This jumped out at me as ominous: “Gutierrez discovered in 1990 that Latin American popular prayer, ‘which seems so primitive and superstitious to us, is really a protest against repression and demand for freedom’ ” . Has this ‘discovery’ been ‘successfully’ developed to any corrosive, corrupting extent? I hope not, or not too much…

  18. Quanah says:

    It’s late and I’m tired so I did not read the excerpts from Vallely. That said, my initial thought is that any inquiry of Pope Francis’ understanding of Liberation Theology needs to check how the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation (CL) fits into it. Francis like Benedict has ties to the movement. Incidentally, the name means that true liberation only comes in the communion of the Church.

  19. James Joseph says:

    Here is a true story.

    I have an uncle. Who was falsely accused. He was never re-instated even though Cardinal Burke basically commanded the Archdiocese to so. Hands apparently can tolerate being sat upon for many a’year. Long story short. I showed him, and read to him out a Leonardo Boff book called ‘Ecology of Liberation’ (if memory serves me). I read to him Boff’s C.V. My poor uncle. My poor poor uncle.

    He looked at me and asked, “Do people really think this?” He was so confused. An elderly priest, who fought having girl-altar boys, who fought the wreckovation crews, who kept his parish school open (the oldest continuously operating parish school in North America). The vile monsignors were intent on shutting down the school, and they did. A school with a full compliment of students, where nuns had been kidnapped and murdered. A school that was all in the black and not in the red. A school that still had religious sisters. A neighborhood with Eucharistic processions, soldalities, and devotions.

    This liberation stuff is a noxious weed. I would rather roll around in poison sumac in my underwear than ever imbibe his tincture. I cannot believe he held a teaching position in Rome.

    My poor poor uncle. A man so innocent he cannot imagine evil. His mother is a saint, I tell you. And, he long-suffering. He recently encountered some Jesuits and just assumed that he should converse in Latin. The Jesuits were embarrassed after some days. The had to let him know, with he apologizing, that they do not know Latin. Some concepts escape the more innocent.

  20. Suburbanbanshee says:

    People are forgetting that all heresies are based on taking some truth and then putting it ahead of all other truths. Stamping out heresy usually consists of taking that truth back and putting it back in its proper place, with enough beautiful explanation of how that works that the heresy is totally blown away. (Until next time somebody blows a truth out of proportion.)

    One of Benedict’s standard argument techniques was similar: he would pay careful attention to the thought and arguments of someone who was wrong, he’d pick out the good bits, and then he’d totally reframe them so that they made his point or asked his question instead.

    So I’d say that Pope Francis’ interest in liberation theology is an interest in drawing the snake’s venom, making antivenin with it, and then cooking the snake itself for supper. It is not in letting the snake slither through the house biting people.

    Also, I seem to recall that Boff had been rehabbed?

  21. Charles E Flynn says:

    The lengthy last paragraph of this article is unforgettable:

    Liberation Theology? , by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, reproduced by permission from The Ratzinger Report.

  22. Priam1184 says:

    Can true Liberation Theology not be reduced down to the Cross, the great act of liberation in human history? I realize that is not what the Central and South American activists and militants of the 1980s had in mind for the most part, but it is the Truth is it not? The Church, as the Mystical Body of Christ, is truly the only Liberator that humanity has ever had. All of the others have been frauds and deceivers. If we could recover the public expression of this aspect of our Faith then things would not look so bad I think.

  23. Bruce Wayne says:

    “You could say that a liberation theology without the Marxism is pretty much just Catholic social teaching.”

    That is a very astute observation and philosophical of you Father. As SuburbanBanshee points out heresy generally does not completely disregard truth or fail completely to comprehend it. C.S. Lewis in the Perelandra gives a beautiful rendition of how Satan wore down Eve. Lewis’s basic point was that evil can make use of lies and falsehood of course, but its real success is in the use of half-truths. The reason evil can have short-term successes is that the Good must be just even to evil. The Good will be forced (by reason as well as justice) to acknowledge what is true in a half-truth. The inquisitor’s sword is supposed to be a fine and precise surgical tool.

    Also, trends or schools of thought and movements within theology should be both tightly reined in and also loosely controlled, i.e., delicately/prudently treated. They should always be bound by solid catechesis, patristics, Biblical study, etc., that is, they must begin with and adhere to doctrine and dogma. But every generation basically recreates within itself the entire history of the education of man. That happens in the raising of every child, and so cultural vernacular and engagement with contemporary thought and ways of communicating always have their place.

    Thomas at the end felt that all he had ever written should be thrown in the fire. Thomism itself has developed erratically or in various leaps and starts by different theological movements or schools (the School of Salamanca, French NeoThomism).

    Doctrine and Dogma is our lifeline, it is what allows us to freely engage in discussion with everything else (other religions, secular powers, sciences, etc.) to appreciate what is true and good in them and encourage and esteem that while weeding out what is not.

  24. J_Cathelineau says:

    Im argentine. From Buenos Aires. Let me say something, and may God help me to put it right in english.
    before start: Im not a peronist.
    Bergoglio was never close to Liberation Theology, but he is something very dificult to understand to an angle-saxon mind because he is a peronist, and peronismo was the way to be anti-marxist in Argentina from 1945 to 1973. Something between spanish Gen. Franco and Nasser. From 1973 to present times peronismo is just a mess, impossible to understand to anybody, even to us, argentines.
    Said that, Bergoglio is quite old school peronist. He is quite populist (at this point everybody knows that), in the sense that he doesnt like elites (nor intellectual left, nor traditional right). He doesnt like aristocracy, maybe because he is a son of immigrants, and old families in Buenos Aires can be snobbish (the fight between that groups explain the raise of peronism quite well). Maybe that is why he doesnt like traditional forms.
    He likes poor people, and the priests that work in the slums had his protection. These priests fight against marxists parties and drug dealers. Their work is beyond judgment, its true that they sometimes dont respect some forms, but they live among the extremely poor. I have visited them there and i know what im talking about. Their work is outstanding, but its another dimension. As I said, beyond judgment. I saw them baptizing, caring old people, saving drug addicts, teaching them to work and helping the young for decent jobs. All the streets in the neighbourhood have name of Saints, and chappels flourished around. Dealers wanted to kill them.

    The problem, maybe, is that not everybody is argentine, or latin-american, or lives in a slum, surrounded by killers, or needs initial basic cathechism, so maybe its not too fair that we are all treated the same. Are Catholics in Japan (think about forms, PLEASE!), in Europe, North America….not everything is the same. Catholic identity doesnt mean latin-american-poverty catholic identity. I dont know if im clear.
    But forget it, he is not a Liberation Theologist. In fact Liberation Theologists always hated him: he is an old school peronist.

    Maybe a good book about Peron (and Argentina) is “Peron”, by Joseph Page (with some warnings)


    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  25. CatholicMD says:

    I read the preview on amazon. The author took cheap shots at Benedict from the first page. Think I’ll pass.

  26. Palladio says:

    I recommend this book, http://www.amazon.com/Juan-Eva-Peron-Clive-Foss/dp/0750945567
    Brief, informative, elegant, deeply researched, part of Clive Foss’s larger project which culminated in _Dictators_.

  27. anna 6 says:

    Catholic MD said: “The author took cheap shots at Benedict from the first page.”

    He also made the common error of claiming that Pope Francis “unblocked” the case for Archbishop Romero, when that has been corrected by the auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, Gregorio Rosa Chávez, who said that Benedict XVI had already “unblocked” his beatificaton process.

    Pope Francis is already so popular. Why do people continually need to make stuff up in order to promote their view that “the new and improved pope is so much better than that old pope”.

  28. samgr says:

    J_Cathelineau, muchas gracias. I think you’ve explained a lot about our new Pope.

  29. MikeM says:

    I think that we would do well to define our terms when talking about Liberation Theology. LT is specifically heretical in its belief about who Christ is and what Salvation is. Someone who rejects those elements of LT, even though he might support a “preferential option for the poor,” and whatever his politics might be, is not a supporter of Liberation Theology.

  30. kpoterack says:

    “J_Cathelineau, muchas gracias. I think you’ve explained a lot about our new Pope.”

    I second this. Your explanation rings very true. (Your English was fine.)

  31. Gratias says:

    Liberation Theology is a poison that has been flowing through the veins of Latin America for decades. Peronistas in Argentina joined Bp. Helder Camera in Brazil and Fr. Gutierrez in Peru. They almost destroyed once Catholic Argentina. Jorge Bergoglio was a Peronista although not of the most virulent kind, called the Montoneros. However there are no good Peronistas in my opinion, they are all big government redistributors of other people’s wealth. Peronism was the precursor to our Democrat Party here. Liberation theology bad, Communion good.

    Google Bergoglio Peronista

  32. kpoterack says:

    And thank you Anna 6 for that confirmation of what I suspected about Archbishop Romero’s beatification process. I think that we are going to have to put up with a lot of false information and wish-projecting on the part of the Left for awhile. Pope Francis may have been a surprise (and even a shock) to those of us who loved Benedict XVI, but he is not an “anti-Benedict,” either. The MSM (and those sympathetic to the MSM), however, is bent on this being the narrative. The truth seems to be far more subtle. I vaguely remember this happening with JPII in the very beginning – to some degree, at least. Didn’t Fr. Andrew Grealy write a book or some articles back in 1978-79, speculating about how JPII would revolutionize the Church’s sexual ethics?

  33. samwise says:

    “In the thirteenth year of his conversion, Francis journeyed to the regions of Syria, constantly exposing himself to many dangers in order to reach the presence of the Sultan of Babylon.By divine providence they were led to the Sultan, just as Francis had wished. When the Sultan inquired by whom, why and how they had been sent, Francis replied with an intrepid heart that the Most High God had sent him to point out to the Sultan and his people the way of salvation and to announce the Gospel of truth.”
    Selections from Saint Bonaventure, The Major Legend of Saint Francis, Chapter 9.

    Let’s ask for St. Francis’ intercession for our pope and the world.

  34. Pingback: Liberation Theology and Pope Francis | Foolishness to the world

  35. donato2 says:

    Serving and helping the poor is good and important and at the core of the Church’s mission. It is a responsibility that we as Christians all have. But does Liberation Theology address the spiritual decay that afflicts not only the West but the entire world (including South America)? We are witnessing in the West, including Latin America, an extraordinary moral decay that is causing the collapse of the family (a situation that visits disportionate harm on the poor). What does Liberation Theology say about that?

  36. Sonshine135 says:

    I think you touched on a good point Fr. Z when you mentioned “[G]et involved in your parishes or in the place where you attend the older form of Mass”. One of the main reasons I have not left my church with the pounding-drum-rock-band-NO is because this church also has over 40 separate ministries. The teen ministry has helped my oldest child out tremendously. I have also been part of the annual food drive where we have raised tremendous amounts of money and food to help feed the poor. They have a retiree ministry. They have a ministry that helps with Habitat for Humanity and digs wells for Missionaries of the Poor. It is hard to complain about the Mass when the community really does so much heavy lifting in the name of Christ. Doers of the Word indeed.

    I can still understand why the “nutty” occurs though. The ultimate expression of one’s devotion to the Lord happens at the Mass. A large group of ministries doing the work “of God” may not necessarily be doing the work “for God”. An outsider looking in might easily think that the irreverent liturgy shows a people who do ministries for their own glory and not for the glory of God. Even if that isn’t the case, it gives rise to scandal- thus the rub. If every EF church had 20, 40, or 60 ministries, imagine how powerful the church would be.

    Excellent article though Father. You have certainly given me some things to ponder today.

  37. Robbie says:

    I wanted to add another thought after reading this story. I commend Pope Francis for his devotion to the poor and it’s clear his views were shaped by his life in Argentina. To experience the poverty of the region and the terrible financial crisis that afflicted the area in the early 2000’s must have been a sobering experience. That it colored his views is hardly surprising.

    Having said that, I think his strong focus on the poor and his experiences with Liberation Theology tend to cloud something he said the day after his election. He made it clear the Church can’t become a spiritual NGO, yet his dominant message suggests something similar to this concern. In other words, is the mission of the Church to save souls or to serve the poor? Clearly, it can and should be both, but should the latter dominate the former?

    Regardless, while there is much work to be done for the poor, the main spiritual concern of the Church, especially in the West, has to be the loss of faith. The Churches, the seminaries, and the convents grow emptier and emptier. While noble, I’m not sure how service to the poor rekindles the faith of the wayward. After all, people can devote their time to soup kitchens and the like without feeling a spiritual connection to the Church or God. I don’t know that LT has an answer for this.

  38. To continue to use the term “Liberation Theology” could be extremely dangerous, even if LT is re-defined and reformed. Today people use terms generically with understandings of those terms that can be diametrically opposed. Evil concepts can earn a label of approval and become unwittingly accepted this way.

    For details on this evasive and effective method, read the Pius VI’s Aug. 28, 1794 Bull “Auctorum fidei – Contra Pistoia” where this method of heretics is described and condemned, along with ambiguity in general. Many of the uncomfortable modern practices we see in the Church today are described therein.

    To James Joseph: what a poignant story, thank you.
    To Kathleen10: yea, I kinda feel the same.
    And thanks to Father Z for this post, and to the other commenters here with descriptions and links. I need to know more about about this Liberation Theology.

    Pray the rosary daily, let’s consecrate ourselves and anything under our control to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, our protection against the spreading black ooze of the errors of Russia.

  39. robtbrown says:

    I have three main problems with what tends to be Liberation Theology.

    1. Its inability to distinguish the Zeitgeist from the Heilige Geist. I was surprised some years ago when I discovered that Gutierrez presumed that political movements that favored the poor are caused by the Holy Spirit. Such an error has its roots in German thought (cf Hegel), in which there is confusion over what is supernatural and what is natural—thus the re-emergence of the German tendency (cf Hegel) to Divinize History.

    2. An adoption of a Christology found in certain Liberal Protestant Scripture Scholars, in which the Life and Death of Jesus have only ethical and political significance. Any supernatural reference found in the Gospels is a later addition–the Christ of Faith doesn’t exist in the historical texts. Thus the early Christian communities were without priests (or were merely prayer leaders), and any Eucharistic celebration was merely a communal meal. And that opens the door to the emergence of base communities also without priests and the Eucharist.

    3. A misunderstanding of the nature of wealth (cf Marx): Someone (or some nation) is rich only because some else is poor—poverty is not a matter of a lack of production but a lack of distribution.

  40. robtbrown says:

    Tina in Ashburn says,

    . . . the spreading black ooze of the errors of Russia.

    In so far as the West is now headed toward Gay “Marriage”, and Russia is not, maybe we should be concerned about the black ooze of the errors of the United States and W Europe.

  41. “for diminishing the role of the Roman Curia and the defusing of authority to bishop’s conferences and the Synod of Bishops, for liturgy based on the lowest common denominator”

    A concrete example of what this could imply may be provided by the otherwise forgotten 1998 ICEL translation that was approved by our bishops conferences, but thankfully rejected outright by Rome. The recent brief piece


    by Richard J. Clark mentions some of the structural changes in the Mass that its new options would have allowed. Such as substitution for the penitential rite by a “litany of praise” improvised by the celebrant, “interpolations” in the Eucharistic prayers, and the implication that the Gloria is optional though “particularly appropriate during the seasons of Christmas and Easter”.

    One might now wonder whether, with SP and the new English translation of the Roman missal, Pope Benedict XVI put in place adequate protections against a future “defusing of authority to bishop’s conferences”.

  42. McCall1981 says:

    @ J_Cathelineau (or anyone else that knows)

    Would you mind explaining what a “Peronsta” is, in this context?

  43. Supertradmum says:

    When I attended the talk and I interviewed, briefly, the ex-press secretary of Pope Francis, also now in Rome, I asked him point blank about the Pope’s involvement with Liberation Theology, which I did have to study in college and which is totally Marxist at root. Fr. Guillermo Marco said absolutely that the Pope was not and never was into Liberation Theology and that he was against those priest-professors pushing it in the seminaries. Fr. Marco told me that the Pope intervened personally in the emphasis on LT. Either Vallely is over-indulging in wishful thinking or there is misinformation here. I know what I asked and I know the answer I received from one of the Pope’s closest confidants.

    LT was condemned by Ratzinger for three main reasons: it changes the nature of Christ Himself from a peaceful Messiah to one involved in violence and warfare and therefore, pushes a serious error of Christology; it is utopian or millenialistic, a condemned heresy in the past; and it is based on the Marxist materialistic dialectic.

    Here is the rest of the talk. http://supertradmum-etheldredasplace.blogspot.ie/2013/03/talk-by-ex-press-secretary-to-pope.html

  44. samwise says:

    Bergoglio’s own words, written 2009 as President of Argentine Bishops’ Conference “To his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI On the Occassion of an Ad Limina Visit of Argentine Bishops” (translation mine)
    “We are aware of that drama of our time as being a rupture between the Gospel and culture. Families, institutions, and society in general is unable to find ways to sustain orthodox belief. In our country, the loss of the values ??that underlie our identity as a people puts us at the risk of the breakdown of the social fabric. The radical challenge we face in Argentina is precisely this profound crisis of values ??of the culture causing serious problems: the scandal of the poor and social exclusion, the crisis of marriage and family, the need for greater communion. At the root of the current state of society, we perceive the fragmentation which questions and debilitates the relationship between man and God, with the family, with society, and with the Church.”
    taken from http://www.arzbaires.org.ar/inicio/homiliasbergoglio.html

  45. Hey Robtbrown
    “Errors of Russia” – Our Lady’s words, not mine, as you know.

    A couple of years ago , Putin told Russians to have more babies, as the population has dropped drastically (as with all contraceptive and abortive nations). I’m convinced this anti-sterile marriage stance is more about population strength than any right/wrong stance.

  46. CatholicMD says:

    Henry – That is my biggest fear as well and I have specifically used the 1998 translation as an example. I do take solace in the fact that the U.S. bishops approved the 2010 translation.

  47. samwise says:

    Bergoglio’s own words, written 2009 as President of Argentine Bishops’ Conference “To his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI On the Occassion of an Ad Limina Visit of Argentine Bishops” (translation mine)
    “We are aware of that drama of our time as being a rupture between the Gospel and culture. Families, institutions, and society in general is unable to find ways to sustain orthodox belief. In our country, the loss of the values ??that underlie our identity as a people puts us at the risk of the breakdown of the social fabric. The radical challenge we face in Argentina is precisely this profound crisis of values ??of the culture causing serious problems: the scandal of the poor and social exclusion, the crisis of marriage and family, the need for greater communion. At the root of the current state of society, we perceive the fragmentation which questions and debilitates the relationship between man and God, with the family, with society, and with the Church.”
    taken from http://www.arzbaires.org.ar/inicio/homiliasbergoglio.html

  48. samwise says:

    *question marks by values unintended–don’t know where they came from

  49. J_Cathelineau says:

    McCall1981 says:
    “@ J_Cathelineau (or anyone else that knows)
    Would you mind explaining what a “Peronista” is, in this context?”

    In this context, is someone keen to “popular” expressions of faith and huge public demonstrations. Someone that relies on the support of people to strenght his political assessments. Take what is happening now about Syria: Just think that a Benedict letter would not have had the same effect than the declarations of Francis. Because, for the world, now the Pope counts in a political meaning, since “people” is with him.
    Im just describing, not saying that I agree. And Im just talking about politics, and a fine politician he is.

    Then, about Liturgy, I think (personal opinion) that he is not against the Tridentine Mass, but he doesnt like THE KIND OF PEOPLE that attend to it. Here in Argentina, we are seem like a ghetto, a very small group of extreme right, anti-semitic fascists. That is rooted in our local history, and would be too long to explain. And as I said, he doesnt like (at all) elites, or segregated groups.
    Personal opinion again: I think that he would not meddle with the Mass if he perceive that in the world traditionalists are not a small angry bunch, but a dynamic force of faithfull. That is what a peronist is, in this context.
    On the other hand, the danger is not that he forbids the Mass but that he may would like to change something in the rite, to make it a bit more “popular”. Lets pray for that never happens.

  50. McCall1981 says:

    @ J_Cathelineau
    Thanks for your explanation, I appreciate your help.

  51. J_Cathelineau says:

    whoooaaaaaaaaaa! I made a golden star!!
    Thanks Fr. Z.

  52. Pingback: Pope Francis and Liberation Theology | Fr. Z's Blog | ChristianBookBarn.com

  53. Konstantin says:

    Did John Vallely ever read Juan Carlos Scannone SJ, the priest who claims in interviews to be the former teacher of Pope Francis and who claimed in a seminar given in Austria to know what Pope Francis means by: “I want a poor church for the poor?”
    Reading the excerpts of Vallely´s book, my answer would be: no, he didn´t or yes, but “he is trying to influence the course of events within the Church, not just report them.”

    Some time ago I purchased two older German books of Father Scannone who studied in Germany. These books really frightened me. The theology of the people that he invented has nothing to do with the Magisterium and/or the interpretation of the Gospel by the Church Fathers and the Doctors of the Church. I must admit that Wikipedia is really correct about Father Scannone in one regard:
    “He was one of the main teachers there of Jorge Bergoglio who later became Pope Francis. Scannone is also the leading Argentine formulator of the theology of the people, which articulates a strong embrace of Christianity coupled with local initiated non-paternalistic ways to help the poor.”
    What are “non-paternalistic ways” if one claims to be a Catholic? Read Scannone SJ and you will get the picture.
    BTW, Father Scannone himself claims that his “theology of the people” is one of the four branches of Liberation theology in “Spiritualität und Befreiung: Ansätze zu einer komtemplativen Christologie”

    Leonardo Boff also had something to say about this theology and I think he gets it right (the whole interview is very interesting):

    “Francis has shown his deep devotion to the Virgin Mary and the importance he attributes to popular piety. These are not really aspects that are close to liberals’ hearts…

    “Oh but they are. They are closely linked to Liberation Theology. In Argentina this developed especially as a people’s theology, developed by the Jesuit Juan Carlos Scannone, who taught Bergoglio. The Pope is close to this theological thinking. It is not to do with popular pietistic devotion but with a devotion that preserves people’s identity and strives for social justice.”


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