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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.

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.

Father Gutiérrez goes on to assert:
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?


I'm curious to know how many in the Kos community consider themselves religious?

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Comment Preferences

  •  He's a liberal, not a liberation theologist. (9+ / 0-)

    I suspect Pope Francis would strongly support development efforts in the developing world, and object to the elimination of private property and wage labor.

    Art is the handmaid of human good.

    by joe from Lowell on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 11:15:09 AM PST

  •  Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union (6+ / 0-)

    Liberation theology was fraught with Cold War Baggage.

  •  As has been noted here many,many times (14+ / 0-)

    Francis is not a follower of liberation theology. In point of fact,he was a member of the theologically conservative,Communion & Liberation movement.
    Now in today's corporatized,globalized,right-leaning economic climate,(especially in the US where FOX doofi frame the debate) Francis's remarks & Evangelii Gaudium in particular may strike some as a wild-eyed marxism. Just another indicator of how very,very far right that Overton Window has been yanked.

    "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

    by tardis10 on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 11:35:32 AM PST

    •  I think he's moved left as he's gotten older. (6+ / 0-)

      Bishop Bergoglio, when he was elevated at such a young age, seems like a much more conservative figure than Pope Francis.

      Art is the handmaid of human good.

      by joe from Lowell on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 11:39:36 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Possibly so. I think growing (6+ / 0-)

        inequality and the failure of the state(s) to address it,has made many who think & care deeply (& certainly that describes Francis) to reconsider their worldview. So much simpler to make a god of money and just pursue that for a lifetime,aka why the prosperity gospel is popular & EZ to folllow.

        "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

        by tardis10 on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 11:47:47 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  He also watched a real nightmare "conservative..." (7+ / 0-)

          regime at work in Brazil. That sort of thing will shake the narrow-minded certainty of a decent person.

          Art is the handmaid of human good.

          by joe from Lowell on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 11:58:52 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Francis: serious about what left & right agree on (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RunawayRose, tardis10

            ...but usually pay lip service to.

            And that is: there are things more important than money.

            The Right has been trying to elevate sex (abortion, gays, porn, etc.) above money. They have been doing this largely to distract attention away from growing inequality, high unemployment, growing corporate influence, etc. But many of the people taken in by the Right genuinely believe matters of love and family and community are more important than money. They may have warped, outdated notions of what love and family and community now mean; and they may be naive, and thus easily taken in. But in thinking love and money and family are more important than money, they are not mistaken.

            The Left sees itself as trying to elevate a minimally decent income for all as more important than maximizing money for some, not least because poverty degrades love and family and community. (See: the Moynihan report.) The Right sees the Left as consumed by envy, and likes to focus on the Left's economic "inefficiency," while ignoring the destructive effects of poverty on love and family and community.

            Pope Francis seems to be agreeing with both left and right: love and family and community really are more important than money. The Left is upset that Francis has not given up some warped, outdated Catholic notions about sex. The Right is upset that Francis does not allow them to keep using those outdated notions of sex to distract attention away from the tendency of poverty to degrade family and community. Francis is saying we don't have to agree on sex to agree that family and community are more important than a maximally "efficient" economy.

            "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

            by HeyMikey on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 08:54:29 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Being "not religious" I am not a champion of the (7+ / 0-)

    new Pope who refuses to discuss the hard issues. How can he help the poor while denying them family planning/birth control?

    To thine ownself be true

    by Agathena on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 11:36:05 AM PST

  •  Liberation theology did imply armed revolution (6+ / 0-)

    Liberation theology photo Liberationtheology_zpsdb642de5.jpg

    Latin America is doing much much better since 1968 without violence and through democratic institutions.  There are problems for sure but violence is not in the tool kit.

    My father broke away from the Catholic church because he did not get along either with the conservative pro-oligarchy status quo church or with liberation theology.  He almost became a Jesuit priest back in the late 30s.  I did too for other reasons.

    But I am happy about the 1st Jesuit Pope and the 1st Pope from the developing world.  And I am very happy he has sided with the poor and brought up the issue of inequality stated by OWS.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 11:55:23 AM PST

    •  hmm. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shockwave, HeyMikey, RunawayRose
      Latin America is doing much much better since 1968 without violence and through democratic institutions.  There are problems for sure but violence is not in the tool kit.
      Violence didn't work back then because we flooded repressive and spectacularly brutal oligarchical regimes with weaponry and training, including training in effective torture techniques.

      Nonviolence is working now because our power in their region has receded so drastically.

      Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

      by corvo on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 03:02:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm extremely well aware of the role played... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HeyMikey, RunawayRose the US in those days and in history.  

        The military governments played themselves out by committing atrocities and destroying or preventing democracy.  In the 80s civilian governments took over and since then things have improved.  

        Each country went through a different process, but in it did not involve violence in general.

        Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

        by Shockwave on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 06:09:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Pope understands the power of labels (7+ / 0-)

    Whether the Pope supports liberation theology or not, he will never say it by that term.  Why?  He has shown that using the labels by which right and left have drawn lines in the sand are counterproductive.  He understandably prefers to attack problems directly, especially by example and lets others come up with the labels to describe what he is doing.

    Those of us who hear the message of Christ especially through the Sermon on the Mount, specifically the Beatitudes, and through the lens of  Catholic Social Teaching, welcome his expression of how to live the gospel message.

    I think one of the reasons he confounds right and left is that he is keeping a true line of demarcation between rhetoric and his actions with regard to the poor.  By his visits to the homeless at night, by his kiss to the man with the boils on his face and by the washing of the feet of homeless during Holy Thursday Mass, he has shown that any action based on the message of Jesus is empty unless it is done with Love.

    •  Can't have Holy Mother Church getting dizzy. (0+ / 0-)
      Whether the Pope supports liberation theology or not, he will never say it by that term.
      For the past generation or so, the Church has been condemning liberation theology.  She must at least maintain the appearance of consistency.

      Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

      by corvo on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 03:03:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Papa Fransisco is not a politician (6+ / 0-)

    He emulates Jesus more so than any Pope in living memory and, just as Jesus was mistaken as a political revolutionary in biblical times, Pope Francis is taken that way as well. Which is not to say that he does not have tremendous influence politically and that his message is not revolutionary. He has the greatest moral authority on Earth and the Vatican still has a seat at the UN.

    We have seen God used as a political tool by the far right with lots of Old Testament smiting and such like for so long that the mercy and love of the New Testament is forgotten. This Pope offers his simple example which reveals the self-anointed "Godly" to be haters. He has already made inroads on the Protestant/Catholic culture wars. He is only just beginning.

    I have not been a religious person. Raised Catholic (parochial school and all), I have not been inside a Catholic church for many decades. However, I am going over to St Mary's today to check it out.

  •  A Supporter? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Not sure what that means.  There are degrees.  I think he would be 60-70% aligned.

  •  Before Gutierrez, there was Las Casas (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    occupystephanie, HeyMikey

    Liberation theology is the modern intrepretation of the social gospel of the Catholic Church, not of its hierarchy necessarily but of its priests, monks and nuns.  It was the simple idea that all people, regardless of their earthly possesions should be free of the domination of the rich over the poor.  It has its roots in the first liberation theologist, Bartolmea Las Casas who saw the brutality of his own Spanish colonial contemporaries, post Columbus, enslaving and periodically, brutally murdering native peoples in Cuba, Central and South America when they didn't cooperate.  The rich got wealthy while the native people got poorer. Las Casas  eventually joined the Dominican Order in the late 1400's and set up a system of land reform.  He  set up his own utopian community in Chiapas which quickly ran afoul of Spanish Conquistadores who found his humane treatment of native populations as subversive and anti-Spanish.  The hiearchy of the Church supported the conquistadores.

    The Bible, if one starts with the story of Exodus, is all about the history of God liberating people from slavery and domination.  But unfortunately, the liberated only turned around to enslave and dominate others.

    What I think is intersting about Pope Francis is how he has changed the subject from abortion, stopping same sex marriage and subjugation of women, to the original social gospel of Jesus who spoke out on behalf of the poor, the down-trodden and the powerless against forces in government (Rome), religion and the private sector who sought only to exploit them.
      I think Pope Francis avoids the label "liberation theology" because it is too easy to be labeled a "communist" or a 'marxist" by the right wing and dismissed. Sounds just like what the right wing does to President Obama when he sounds too progressive on economic issues.

  •  The Pope is not Archbishop Romero (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    occupystephanie, HeyMikey

    The benchmark ought to be a comparison with the Thomas Beckett of Latin America, El Salvador's Archbishop Romero who was assassinated at the altar while celebrating mass.  

    He had been a bookish, intellectual who was forced to decide whether it was better to confront the Catholics who were among the elite leadership of the country with moral suasion or to ignore it.  He chose to be very articulate on national radio and in other opportunities to speak out.  

    I am not sure Francis is someone with that kind of pointed honesty.  

    But, as Pope, people listen to everything he says and will ponder and parse phrases.  Therefore, he can say a lot with a very few words.  

    It doesn't matter if he subscribes to a particular agenda or label.  He is in fact following Christ rather than the talking points no doubt even the Pope gets handed.  

    hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

    by Stuart Heady on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 04:09:43 PM PST

  •  Sorry, Grammer Nazi (0+ / 0-)

    I think you meant Eradication and not Irradiation in the second paragraph. Or you may have written what you meant to write.

    Gegen diesen Idioten muss ich verlieren! – Chess Grandmaster Aaron Nimzowitsch (Why must I lose to this idiot!)

    by xulon on Sun Dec 29, 2013 at 04:49:17 PM PST

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