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Liberation theology

Liberation theology

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Liberation theology is a Christian movement in political theology
Political theology
Political theology or public theology is a branch of both political philosophy and practical theology that investigates the ways in which theological concepts or ways of thinking underlie political, social, economic and cultural discourses....

 which interprets the teachings of Jesus Christ in terms of a liberation from unjust economic, political, or social conditions. It has been described by proponents as "an interpretation of Christian faith through the poor's suffering, their struggle and hope, and a critique of society and the Catholic faith and Christianity through the eyes of the poor", and by detractors as Christianized Marxism
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

.

Although liberation theology has grown into an international and inter-denominational movement, it began as a movement within the Roman Catholic church in Latin America in the 1950s–1960s. Liberation theology arose principally as a moral reaction to the poverty caused by social injustice
Social injustice
Social injustice is a concept relating to the claimed unfairness or injustice of a society in its divisions of rewards and burdens and other incidental inequalities...

 in that region. The term was coined in 1971 by the Peruvian priest Gustavo Gutiérrez
Gustavo Gutiérrez
Gustavo Gutiérrez Merino, O.P., is a Peruvian theologian and Dominican priest regarded as the founder of Liberation Theology...

, who wrote one of the movement's most famous books, A Theology of Liberation. Other noted exponents are Leonardo Boff
Leonardo Boff
Leonardo Boff was born 14 December 1938 in Concórdia, Santa Catarina state, Brazil. He is a theologian, philosopher and writer, known for his active support for the rights of the poor and excluded....

 of Brazil, Jon Sobrino
Jon Sobrino
Jon Sobrino, S.J. is a Jesuit Catholic priest and theologian, known mostly for his contributions to liberation theology....

 of El Salvador, and Juan Luis Segundo
Juan Luis Segundo
Juan Luis Segundo, S.J. was a Jesuit priest and theologian who was one of the most important figures in the movement known as "Liberation theology." He wrote numerous books on theology, ideology, faith, hermeneutics, and social justice, and was an outspoken critic of what he perceived as church...

 of Uruguay.

The influence of liberation theology diminished after proponents were accused of using "Marxist concepts" leading to admonishment by the Vatican
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith , previously known as the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition , and after 1904 called the Supreme...

 (CDF) in 1984 and 1986. The Vatican criticized certain strains of liberation theology for focusing on institutionalized or systemic sin, apparently to the exclusion of individual offenders/offences; and for allegedly misidentifying Catholic Church hierarchy in S. America as members of same privileged class that had long been oppressing indigenous populations since the arrival of Pizarro onward.

Theology


Liberation theology could be interpreted as a western attempt to return to the gospel of the early church where Christianity is politically and culturally decentralized.

Liberation theology proposes to fight poverty by addressing its supposed source: sin. In so doing, it explores the relationship between Christian theology
Christian theology
- Divisions of Christian theology :There are many methods of categorizing different approaches to Christian theology. For a historical analysis, see the main article on the History of Christian theology.- Sub-disciplines :...

 — especially Roman Catholic theology
Roman Catholic theology
Roman Catholic theology comprises the "Roman Catholic teachings" of the Catholic Church which bases its conclusions on Scripture and Sacred Tradition, as interpreted by the Magisterium. The Church teaches that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ, keeping of the Ten commandments and...

 — and political activism, especially in terms of social justice
Social justice
Social justice generally refers to the idea of creating a society or institution that is based on the principles of equality and solidarity, that understands and values human rights, and that recognizes the dignity of every human being. The term and modern concept of "social justice" was coined by...

, poverty
Poverty
Poverty is the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution is inability to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live...

, and human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

. The principal methodological innovation is seeing theology from the perspective of the poor and the oppressed. For example Jon Sobrino
Jon Sobrino
Jon Sobrino, S.J. is a Jesuit Catholic priest and theologian, known mostly for his contributions to liberation theology....

, S.J., argues that the poor are a privileged channel of God's grace.

Some liberation theologians base their social action upon the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 scriptures describing the mission of Jesus Christ, as bringing a sword
But to bring a sword
"I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword" , part of the Lesser Commission, is one of the controversial statements reported of Jesus in the Bible. The saying has been interpreted in several ways...

 (social unrest), e.g. , , — and not as bringing peace (social order
Social order
Social order is a concept used in sociology, history and other social sciences. It refers to a set of linked social structures, social institutions and social practices which conserve, maintain and enforce "normal" ways of relating and behaving....

). This Biblical interpretation is a call to action against poverty, and the sin engendering it, to effect Jesus Christ's mission of justice in this world.

Gustavo Gutierrez gave the movement its paradigmatic expression with his book A Theology of Liberation (1972). In this book, Gutierrez combined populist ideas with the social teachings of the Catholic Church. He was influenced by an existing socialist current in the Church which included organizations such as the Catholic Worker Movement
Catholic Worker Movement
The Catholic Worker Movement is a collection of autonomous communities of Catholics and their associates founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in 1933. Its aim is to "live in accordance with the justice and charity of Jesus Christ." One of its guiding principles is hospitality towards those on...

 and the French Christian youth worker organization, "Jeunesse Ouvrière Chrétienne". He was also influenced by Paul Gauthier
Paul Gauthier (theologian)
Paul Gauthier catholic theologian and humanist.-Biography:French theologian and humanist known for his contribution to the liberation theology....

's "The Poor, Jesus and the Church" (1965). Gutierrez's book is based on an understanding of history in which the human being is seen as assuming conscious responsibility for human destiny, and yet Christ the Savior liberates the human race from sin, which is the root of all disruption of friendship and of all injustice and oppression.

Gutierrez also popularized the phrase "preferential option for the poor", which became a slogan of liberation theology and eventually an official doctrine of the Catholic Church.
Drawing from the biblical motif on the poor, Gutierrez asserts that God is revealed as having a preference for those people who are “insignificant,” “marginalized,” “unimportant,” “needy,” despised” and “defenseless." Moreover, he makes clear that terminology of "the poor" in scripture has social and economic connotations that etymologically go back to the Greek word, ptochas. To be sure, as to not misinterpret Gutierrez’s definition of the term "preferential option," he stresses, “Preference implies the universality of God’s love, which excludes no one. It is only within the framework of this universality that we can understand the preference, that is, 'what comes first.'"

Gutierrez emphasized practice (or, more technically, "praxis") over doctrine. Gutierrez clarified his position by advocating a circular relationship between orthodoxy
Orthodoxy
The word orthodox, from Greek orthos + doxa , is generally used to mean the adherence to accepted norms, more specifically to creeds, especially in religion...

 and orthopraxis
Orthopraxis
Orthopraxy is a term derived from Greek or an emphasis on conduct, both ethical and liturgical, as opposed to faith or grace etc...

 seeing the two as having a symbiotic relationship. Gutierrez' reading of prophets condemning oppression and injustice against the poor (i.e. Jeremiah 22:13–17) informs his assertion that to know God (orthodoxy) is to do justice (orthopraxis). Cardinal Ratzinger, however, criticized liberation theology for elevating orthopraxis to the level of orthodoxy. Richard McBrien summarizes this concept as follows:

God is disclosed in the historical ‘’praxis’’ of liberation. It is the situation, and our passionate and reflective involvement in it, which mediates the Word of God. Today that Word is mediated through the cries of the poor and the oppressed.


Another important hallmark for Gutierrez's brand of liberation theology is an interpretation of revelation as "history". For example Gutierrez wrote:

History is the scene of the revelation God makes of the mystery of his person. His word reaches us in the measure of our involvement in the evolution of history.


Gutierrez also considered the Church to be the "sacrament of history", an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, thus pointing to the doctrine of universal salvation as the true means to eternal life, and assigning the Church itself to a somewhat temporal role, namely, liberation.

The struggle of women for social justice has given rise to its own liberation theology, frequently known as feminist theology
Feminist theology
Feminist theology is a movement found in several religions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, and New Thought, to reconsider the traditions, practices, scriptures, and theologies of those religions from a feminist perspective...

 in Europe and North America. Black and other women of colour in the United States speak of womanist theology, while Mujerista theology denotes the liberation theology of Hispanic women.

History


A major player in the formation of liberation theology was CELAM
Latin American Episcopal Conference
The Consejo Episcopal Latinoamericano , also known as CELAM, is a conference of the Roman Catholic bishops of Latin America, created in 1955 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil....

, the Latin American Episcopal Conference. Created in 1955 in Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro , commonly referred to simply as Rio, is the capital city of the State of Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city of Brazil, and the third largest metropolitan area and agglomeration in South America, boasting approximately 6.3 million people within the city proper, making it the 6th...

 (Brazil), CELAM pushed the Second Vatican Council
Second Vatican Council
The Second Vatican Council addressed relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the modern world. It was the twenty-first Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church and the second to be held at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. It opened under Pope John XXIII on 11 October 1962 and closed...

 (1962–65) toward a more socially oriented stance. However, CELAM never supported liberation theology as such, since liberation theology was frowned upon by the Vatican, with Pope Paul VI trying to slow the movement after the Second Vatican Council.

After the Second Vatican Council, CELAM held two conferences which were important in determining the future of liberation theology: the first was held in Medellín
Medellín
Medellín , officially the Municipio de Medellín or Municipality of Medellín, is the second largest city in Colombia. It is in the Aburrá Valley, one of the more northerly of the Andes in South America. It has a population of 2.3 million...

, Colombia, in 1968, and the second in Puebla
Puebla
Puebla officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Puebla is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 217 municipalities and its capital city is Puebla....

, Mexico, in January 1979. The Medellín conference debated how to apply the teachings of Vatican II to Latin America, and its conclusions were strongly influenced by liberation theology.

Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo
Alfonso López Trujillo
Alfonso López Trujillo was a Colombian Cardinal Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church and president of the Pontifical Council for the Family.-Youth:...

 was a central figure at the Medellín Conference, and was elected in 1972 as general secretary of CELAM. He represented a more orthodox position, becoming a favorite of pope John Paul II and the "principal scourge of liberation theology." Trujillo's faction became predominant in CELAM after the 1972 Sucre
Sucre
Sucre, also known historically as Charcas, La Plata and Chuquisaca is the constitutional capital of Bolivia and the capital of the department of Chuquisaca. Located in the south-central part of the country, Sucre lies at an elevation of 2750m...

 conference, and in the Roman Curia after the CELAM conference in Puebla
Puebla
Puebla officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Puebla is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 217 municipalities and its capital city is Puebla....

, Mexico, in January 1979.

Despite the orthodox bishops' predominance in CELAM, a more radical form of liberation theology remained much supported in South America. Thus, the 1979 Puebla Conference was an opportunity for orthodox bishops to reassert control of the radical elements; but they failed. At the Puebla Conference, the orthodox reorientation was met by strong opposition from the liberal part of the clergy, which supported the concept of a "preferential option for the poor". This concept had been approved at the Medellín conference by Bishop Ricard Durand, president of the Commission about Poverty.

Pope John Paul II gave the opening speech at the Puebla Conference. The general tone of his remarks was conciliatory. He criticized radical liberation theology, saying, "this conception of Christ, as a political figure, a revolutionary, as the subversive of Nazareth, does not tally with the Church's catechisms"; however, he did speak of "the ever increasing wealth of the rich at the expense of the ever increasing poverty of the poor", and affirmed that the principle of private property "must lead to a more just and equitable distribution of goods...and, if the common good demands it, there is no need to hesitate at expropriation
Nationalization
Nationalisation, also spelled nationalization, is the process of taking an industry or assets into government ownership by a national government or state. Nationalization usually refers to private assets, but may also mean assets owned by lower levels of government, such as municipalities, being...

, itself, done in the right way"; on balance, the Pope offered neither praise nor condemnation.

Some liberation theologians, however, including Gutierrez, had been barred from attending the Puebla Conference. Working from a seminary and with aid from sympathetic, liberal bishops, they partially obstructed other clergy's efforts to ensure that the Puebla Conference documents satisfied conservative concerns. Within four hours of the Pope's speech, Gutiérrez and the other priests wrote a twenty-page refutation, which was circulated at the conference, and has been claimed to have influenced the final outcome of the conference. According to a socio-political study of liberation theology in Latin America, twenty-five per cent of the final Puebla documents were written by theologians who were not invited to the conference. Cardinal Trujillo said that this affirmation is "an incredible exaggeration" (Ben Zabel 2002:139).

Practice


One of the most radical aspects of liberation theology was the social organization, or re-organization, of church practice through the model of Christian base communities
Christian base communities
Christian Base communities are autonomous religious groups often associated with Liberation Theology. The 1968 Medellín, Colombia meeting of Latin American Council of Bishops played a major role in popularizing them....

 (CEBs). Liberation theology strove to be a bottom-up
Top-down and bottom-up design
Top–down and bottom–up are strategies of information processing and knowledge ordering, mostly involving software, but also other humanistic and scientific theories . In practice, they can be seen as a style of thinking and teaching...

 movement in practice, with Biblical interpretation and liturgical practice designed by lay practitioners themselves, rather than by the orthodox Church hierarchy. In this context, sacred text interpretation is understood as "praxis".

Journalist and writer Penny Lernoux
Penny Lernoux
Penny Lernoux was an American journalist and author.Lernoux was born into a comfortable Roman Catholic family in California and excelled in school...

 described this aspect of liberation theology in her numerous and committed writings intended to explain the movement's ideas in North America. Base communities were small gatherings, usually outside of churches, in which the Bible could be discussed, and Mass could be said. They were especially active in rural parts of Latin America where parish priests were not always available, as they placed a high value on lay
Laity
In religious organizations, the laity comprises all people who are not in the clergy. A person who is a member of a religious order who is not ordained legitimate clergy is considered as a member of the laity, even though they are members of a religious order .In the past in Christian cultures, the...

 participation. As of May 2007, it was estimated that 80,000 base communities were operating in Brazil alone. Contemporaneously Fanmi Lavalas
Fanmi Lavalas
Fanmi Lavalas is a leftist political party in Haiti. Its leader is former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. It has been a powerful force in Haitian politics since 1991. Fanmi Lavalas governments supported a policy of "growth with equity" based on Caribbean and Western European social...

 in Haiti
Haiti
Haiti , officially the Republic of Haiti , is a Caribbean country. It occupies the western, smaller portion of the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antillean archipelago, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Ayiti was the indigenous Taíno or Amerindian name for the island...

, the Landless Workers' Movement
Landless Workers' Movement
Landless Workers' Movement is a social movement in Brazil; it is the second largest social movement in Latin America with an estimated 1.5 million landless members in 23 out of Brazil's 26 states. The MST states it carries out land reform in a country it sees as mired by unjust land distribution...

 in Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, and Abahlali baseMjondolo
Abahlali baseMjondolo
Abahlali baseMjondolo , also known as AbM or the red shirts is a shack-dwellers' movement in South Africa which is well known for its campaigning for public housing. The movement grew out of a road blockade organized from the Kennedy Road shack settlement in the city of Durban in early 2005 and now...

 in South Africa are three organizations that make use of liberation theology.

Criticism


Some aspects of liberation theology were the subject of two critical "Instructions" from the Vatican
Roman Curia
The Roman Curia is the administrative apparatus of the Holy See and the central governing body of the entire Catholic Church, together with the Pope...

's office for doctrinal orthodoxy, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith , previously known as the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition , and after 1904 called the Supreme...

 (CDF). The instructions rejected the Marxist-based idea that class struggle
Class struggle
Class struggle is the active expression of a class conflict looked at from any kind of socialist perspective. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote "The [written] history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle"....

 is fundamental to history, and rejected the interpretation of religious phenomena such as the Exodus
The Exodus
The Exodus is the story of the departure of the Israelites from ancient Egypt described in the Hebrew Bible.Narrowly defined, the term refers only to the departure from Egypt described in the Book of Exodus; more widely, it takes in the subsequent law-givings and wanderings in the wilderness...

 and the Eucharist
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

 in exclusively political terms. "The mistake here is not in bringing attention to a political dimension of the readings of Scripture, but in making of this one dimension the principal or exclusive component."
However, the movement in general was not condemned: the Instructions explicitly endorsed a "preferential option for the poor", stated that no one could be neutral in the face of injustice, and referred to the "crimes" of colonialism
Colonialism
Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole claims sovereignty over the colony and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by...

 and the "scandal" of the arms race
Arms race
The term arms race, in its original usage, describes a competition between two or more parties for the best armed forces. Each party competes to produce larger numbers of weapons, greater armies, or superior military technology in a technological escalation...

. Nonetheless, media reports tended to assume that the condemnation of "liberation theology" meant a rejection of such attitudes and an endorsement of conservative politics.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI
Benedict XVI is the 265th and current Pope, by virtue of his office of Bishop of Rome, the Sovereign of the Vatican City State and the leader of the Catholic Church as well as the other 22 sui iuris Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See...

), who was prefect of the CDF at the time when the Instructions were issued, published his own personal criticism of the movement in 1985. In this document Ratzinger claims that in certain forms of liberation theology, the meaning of basic theological terms is changed – e.g. terms such as "hope", "love", and "salvation" are assigned a Marxist interpretation in terms of "class struggle".

Ratzinger also argued that liberation theology is not originally a "grass-roots" movement among the poor, but rather, a creation of Western intellectuals: "an attempt to test, in a concrete scenario, ideologies that have been invented in the laboratory by European theologians" and in a certain sense itself a form of "cultural imperialism". Ratzinger saw this as a reaction to the demise or near-demise of the "Marxist myth" in the West.

In March 1983, Cardinal Ratzinger made ten observations of Gutiérrez's theology, accusing Gutiérrez of politically interpreting the Bible in supporting temporal messianism, and stating that the predominance of orthopraxis
Orthopraxis
Orthopraxy is a term derived from Greek or an emphasis on conduct, both ethical and liturgical, as opposed to faith or grace etc...

 over orthodoxy in his thought proves a Marxist influence. Ratzinger also stated that Gutierrez's conceptions necessarily uphold class conflict in the Roman Catholic Church, which, logically, leads to rejecting hierarchy. However, Cardinal Ratzinger did praise liberation theology in some respects, including its ideal of justice, its rejection of violence, and its stress on "the responsibility which Christians necessarily bear for the poor and oppressed."

Roman Catholic priest and author Andrew Greeley
Andrew Greeley
Father Andrew M. Greeley is an Irish-American Roman Catholic priest, sociologist, journalist and fiction writer....

 criticized liberation theology in his 2009 fictional book Irish Tweed. In Greeley's book, a Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

 Catholic school is taken over by a principal and priest practicing liberation theology, and its ideas are applied in the school environment. For instance, basketball team members are chosen based on their family's economic status rather than on their ability.

Such criticisms have provoked counter-criticisms that orthodox Catholics are in effect casting the Catholic Church as a friend of authoritarian regimes; and that the Vatican
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

 is not so much trying to defend pure doctrine as to maintain an established ecclesiastical and political order. This conflict could be compared to some aspects of the Protestant Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

. Outside Latin America, some of liberation theology's most ardent advocates are Protestant thinkers (e.g., Jürgen Moltmann
Jürgen Moltmann
Jürgen Moltmann is a German Reformed theologian. The 2000 recipient of the Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion.-Moltmann's Youth:...

 and Frederick Herzog
Frederick Herzog
Frederick Herzog was a professor of systematic theology at Duke University. An impassioned champion of civil rights, his academic focus was liberation theology....

).

Reaction within the Catholic Church


In 1984, it was reported that a meeting occurred between Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith , previously known as the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition , and after 1904 called the Supreme...

 and the CELAM bishops, during which a rift developed between Ratzinger and some of the bishops. As mentioned above, Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI
Benedict XVI is the 265th and current Pope, by virtue of his office of Bishop of Rome, the Sovereign of the Vatican City State and the leader of the Catholic Church as well as the other 22 sui iuris Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See...

) issued official condemnations of certain elements of liberation theology in 1984 and 1986.

After this, and throughout the 1990s, Ratzinger, as prefect of the CDF, continued to condemn these elements in liberation theology, and prohibited dissident priests from teaching such doctrines in the Catholic Church's name. Leonardo Boff
Leonardo Boff
Leonardo Boff was born 14 December 1938 in Concórdia, Santa Catarina state, Brazil. He is a theologian, philosopher and writer, known for his active support for the rights of the poor and excluded....

 was suspended and others were censured. Tissa Balasuriya
Tissa Balasuriya
Tissa Balasuriya is a Sri Lankan Roman Catholic priest and theologian.-Theological work:In 1971 Balasuriya founded the Center for Society and Religion; four years later he founded the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians. In 1990, Balasuriya published the book Mary and Human Liberation...

, in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

, was excommunicated. Sebastian Kappen
Sebastian Kappen
Sebastian Kappen , was a renowned Indian Jesuit priest and Theologian.-Formation and studies:...

, an Indian theologian, was also censured for his book Jesus and Freedom. Under Cardinal Ratzinger's influence, theological formation schools were forbidden from using the Catholic Church's organization and grounds to teach liberation theology in the sense of theology using unacceptable Marxist ideas, not in the broader sense.

In August, 1984 Cardinal Ratzinger stated that liberation theology has a major flaw in that it attempts to apply Christ's teaching on the sermon on the mount regarding the poor to present social situations. Ratzinger believes that Christ's teaching on the poor means that we will be judged when we die, and at the final judgment, with particular attention to how we personally have treated the poor.

Another aberration in liberation theology, according to Cardinal Ratzinger, is that the spiritual concept of the Church as "People of God" is transformed into a "Marxist myth." In liberation theology, the "people is the antithesis of the hierarchy, the antithesis of all institutions, which are seen as oppressive powers. Ultimately anyone who participates in the class struggle is a member of the "people"; the "Church of the people" becomes the antagonist of the hierarchical Church."

Supporters of liberation theology have theorized that Cardinal Ratzinger's opposition had little to do with theological ideas, but rather as a reaction from the Vatican, which had close ties to right-wing governments throughout Latin America.

Related movements

  • Abahlali baseMjondolo
    Abahlali baseMjondolo
    Abahlali baseMjondolo , also known as AbM or the red shirts is a shack-dwellers' movement in South Africa which is well known for its campaigning for public housing. The movement grew out of a road blockade organized from the Kennedy Road shack settlement in the city of Durban in early 2005 and now...

     in South Africa
    South Africa
    The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

  • Dalit theology
    Dalit theology
    Dalit theology is a branch of Christian theology that emerged among the Dalit caste in India in the 1980s. It shares a number of themes with liberation theology, which arose two decades earlier, including a self-identity as a people undergoing Exodus. Dalit theology sees hope in the "Nazareth...

     in India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

  • Landless Workers' Movement
    Landless Workers' Movement
    Landless Workers' Movement is a social movement in Brazil; it is the second largest social movement in Latin America with an estimated 1.5 million landless members in 23 out of Brazil's 26 states. The MST states it carries out land reform in a country it sees as mired by unjust land distribution...

     in Brazil
    Brazil
    Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

  • Lavalas
    Fanmi Lavalas
    Fanmi Lavalas is a leftist political party in Haiti. Its leader is former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. It has been a powerful force in Haitian politics since 1991. Fanmi Lavalas governments supported a policy of "growth with equity" based on Caribbean and Western European social...

     in Haiti
    Haiti
    Haiti , officially the Republic of Haiti , is a Caribbean country. It occupies the western, smaller portion of the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antillean archipelago, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Ayiti was the indigenous Taíno or Amerindian name for the island...

  • FSLN in Nicaragua
    Nicaragua
    Nicaragua is the largest country in the Central American American isthmus, bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. The country is situated between 11 and 14 degrees north of the Equator in the Northern Hemisphere, which places it entirely within the tropics. The Pacific Ocean...

     (see The Catholic Church and the Nicaraguan Revolution
    The Catholic Church and the Nicaraguan Revolution
    The role of the Catholic Church in the Nicaraguan Revolution is best described as an internal struggle between Marxist supporters of liberation theology and opponents who sided with John Paul II and the conservative episcopal conference....

    )

Influence on others

  • Anthony B. Pinn
    Anthony B. Pinn
    Anthony B. Pinn is an American professor and writer whose work focuses on liberation theology, Black religion, and Black humanism. Pinn is the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University. He earned his Ph.D. in the Study of Religion at...

    , U.S.
  • Diane Drufenbrock
    Diane Drufenbrock
    Sister Diane Joyce Drufenbrock, S.S.S.F., , also known as Sister Madeleine Sophie, is a member of the School Sisters of St...

    , U.S.
  • Paul Farmer
    Paul Farmer
    Dr. Paul Edward Farmer is an American anthropologist and physician. He is currently the Kolokotrones University Professor at Harvard University, formerly the Presley Professor of Medical Anthropology in the Department of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, an attending physician and Chief...

    , U.S. (b. 1959)
  • Brian P. Moore, U.S.
  • Óscar Romero
    Óscar Romero
    Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez was a bishop of the Catholic Church in El Salvador. He became the fourth Archbishop of San Salvador, succeeding Luis Chávez. He was assassinated on 24 March 1980....

    , El Salvador
    El Salvador
    El Salvador or simply Salvador is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. The country's capital city and largest city is San Salvador; Santa Ana and San Miguel are also important cultural and commercial centers in the country and in all of Central America...

  • Paulo Freire
    Paulo Freire
    Paulo Reglus Neves Freire was a Brazilian educator and influential theorist of critical pedagogy.-Biography:...

    , Brazil
    Brazil
    Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

     (1921–1997)
  • Vekoslav Grmič, Yugoslavia
    Yugoslavia
    Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....

  • Robert McAfee Brown
    Robert McAfee Brown
    Robert McAfee Brown was an American theologian and activist.Brown earned a bachelor's degree from Amherst College in 1943 and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1944...

    , U.S. (1920–2001)
  • Fernando Lugo
    Fernando Lugo
    Fernando Armindo Lugo Méndez is the current President of Paraguay and a former Roman Catholic bishop of the Diocese of San Pedro.-Early life:...

  • John Dear
    John Dear
    John Dear is an American Catholic priest, Christian pacifist, author and lecturer. He has been arrested over 75 times in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience against war, injustice and nuclear weapons.-Studies:...

    , S.J., U.S.
  • Jan de Vos van Gerven
    Jan de Vos (historian)
    Jan de Vos van Gerven was a Belgian historian, who lived in Mexico from 1973 until his death in 2011 .In 1995 he became guest-advisor to the Zapatista Army of National Liberation during the peace talks between the EZLN and the Mexican Government.Jan de Vos was born in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1936. He...

    , Belgium / Mexico (b. 1936)
  • Ali Shari'ati, Iran
    Iran
    Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

     (1933–1977)

Further reading


Introductory works (all by Penny Lernoux)
  • Lernoux, Penny, Cry of the people: United States involvement in the rise of fascism, torture, and murder and the persecution of the Catholic Church in Latin America. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1980.
  • Lernoux, Penny, In banks we trust. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1984.
  • Lernoux, Penny, People of God : the struggle for world Catholicism. New York: Viking, 1989.


Principal texts
Rubem Alves
Rubem Alves
Rubem Azevedo Alves, is a Brazilian theologian, philosopher, educator, writer, and psychoanalyst.Alves was born in Boa Esperança, Minas Gerais...

, a Brazilian theologian working at Princeton
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

, wrote Towards a Theology of Liberation (1968).

Peruvian Catholic priest, Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez
Gustavo Gutiérrez
Gustavo Gutiérrez Merino, O.P., is a Peruvian theologian and Dominican priest regarded as the founder of Liberation Theology...

, O.P. wrote A Theology of Liberation (1972).

Other readings:
  • De La Torre, Miguel A.
    Miguel A. De La Torre
    Miguel A. De La Torre is a professor of Social Ethics and Latino/a Studies at Iliff School of Theology, a religious scholar, author, and an ordained minister.-Biography:...

    , Handbook on U.S. Theologies of Liberation (Chalice Press, 2004).
  • Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal
    Pope Benedict XVI
    Benedict XVI is the 265th and current Pope, by virtue of his office of Bishop of Rome, the Sovereign of the Vatican City State and the leader of the Catholic Church as well as the other 22 sui iuris Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See...

    , "Liberation Theology" (preliminary notes to 1984 Instruction)
  • Berryman, Phillip, Liberation Theology (1987).
  • Sigmund, P.E., Liberation Theology at the Crossroads (1990).
  • Hillar, Marian, Liberation Theology: Religious Response to Social Problems. A Survey, published in Humanism and Social Issues. Anthology of Essays. M. Hillar and H.R. Leuchtag, eds., American Humanist Association, Houston, 1993, pp. 35–52.
  • Gutiérrez, Gustavo, A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics and Salvation, Orbis Books, 1988.
  • Gutiérrez, Gustavo. We Drink from Our Own Wells: The Spiritual Journey of a People. London: SCM Press, 1983.
  • Petrella, Ivan, The Future of Liberation Theology: An Argument and Manifesto Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004.
  • Piedra, Alberto M. "Some Observations on Liberation Theology." World Affairs Vol. 148 no 3. (Winter 1985–86)pg 151–158
  • Smith, Christian, The Emergence of Liberation Theology: Radical Religion and the Social Movement Theory, University of Chicago Press, 1991.
  • Lucia Ceci, La teologia della liberazione in America Latina. L'opera di Gustavo Gutierrez, F. Angeli, Milano 1999.
  • Lucia Ceci, Chiesa e liberazione in America Latina (1968–1972), in L’America Latina fra Pio XII e Paolo VI. Il cardinale Casaroli e le politiche vaticane in una chiesa che cambia, a cura di A. Melloni e S. Scatena, Il Mulino, Bologna 2006;
  • Mahan, Brian and L. Dale Richesin, The Challenge of Liberation Theology: A First World Response, 1981, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York.
  • Mueller, Andreas, OFM, Arno Tausch and Paul Michael Zulehner (Eds.) Global capitalism, liberation theology, and the social sciences" Hauppauge, New York: Nova Science Publishers
  • Marxism and Missions / Missions et Marxisme, special issue of the journal Social Sciences and Missions, Volume 22/2, 2009

General