In 1968, Father Gustavo Gutierrez of Lima, Peru wrote a paper entitled, "Toward a Theology of Liberation."
Arguably one of the most important religious works of the 20th century, Gutiérrez's work lays out a rather simple argument; namely that the gospel teachings implore Christians everywhere to work towards the irradiation of unjust economic and social conditions, or more bluntly, for the liberation of the poor.
Theology, Father Gutiérrez claimed, was a "critical reflection" of the Church itself, while the Church's "renewed stress on charity as center of the Christian life" brought the Church to see faith "as a commitment to God and neighbor." Father Gutiérrez continued, criticizing the prevailing economic models, stating:
In recent decades the term "development" has been used to express the aspirations of the poor nations. Of late, however, the term has seemed weak. In fact, today the term conveys a pejorative connotation, especially in Latin America.Father Gutiérrez goes on to assert:
There has been much discussion recently of development, of aid to the poor countries; there has even been an effort to weave a mystique around those words. Attempts to produce development in the 1950's aroused hopes. But because they did not hit the roots of the evil, they failed, and have led to deception, confusion, and frustration.
One of the most important causes of this situation is the fact that development, in its strictly economic, modernizing sense, was advanced by international agencies backed by groups that control the world economy. The changes proposed avoided sedulously, therefore, attacking the powerful international economic interests and those of their natural allies: the national oligarchies. What is more, in many cases the alleged changes were only new and concealed ways to increase the power of the mighty economic groups.
The prophets spoke of a kingdom of peace. But peace supposes the establishment of justice (Is 32:17), defense of the rights of the poor, punishment of the oppressor, a life without fear of being enslaved. A poorly understood spirituality has often led us to forget the human message, the power to change unjust social structures, that the eschatological promises contain—which does not mean, of course, that they contain nothing but social implications. The end of misery and exploitation will indicate that the kingdom has come; it will be here, according to Isaiah, when nobody "builds so that another may dwell, or plants so that another may eat," and when each one "enjoys the work of his hands" (65:22). To fight for a just world where there will be no oppression or slavery or forced work will be a sign of the coming of the kingdom. Kingdom and social injustice are incompatible. In Christ "all God's promises have their fulfillment" (2 Cor 1:20; cf. also Is 29:18-19; Mt 11:5; Lv 25:10; Lk 4:16-21).Since becoming Pope, Francis has made several thought provoking statements regarding greed and economic inequality. He has even went so far as to reference the "tyranny" of unfettered capitalism. Such statements have given many on the left hope, while raising the brow of many on the right.
For his part, however, Pope Francis, while acknowledging some sympathies for liberation theology, has never come out in full support of the movement itself, and has instead opted to navigate a fraught line, seeking to be a bridge between warring factions within the church.
I know much has been made and written about the pope's economic views, but as a relatively new member to the Kos community, and as someone who studies religion and politics closely, I am interested in hearing your opinions. Is Pope Francis a supporter of liberation theology? If he is, does his support matter? Can his opinion really change the actions of business and world leaders? Is liberation theology still relevant today? Is there a danger in coupling political and economic in a religious context? How rigorous do is Father Gutierrez's analysis? Can you see this pope and the Church he leads embracing liberation theology? Will the pope's economic message having a lasting impact and the leadership and future direction of the Catholic Church? What other questions should we consider on this topic?