What is the influence of Liberation theology in South America today?

Source: FSSPX News

Cardinal Claudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy

During his press conference on the plane to São Paulo, the pope stated that the situation of Liberation theology had deeply changed with the change of political situation on the South-American continent, and that henceforth it was clear for all that these “fragile millenarianisms” were “wrong”.

Yet the interviews granted to the press by various religious personalities are far from being unanimous on the subject.

In an article published by the Brazilian daily La Folha de S. Paulo, on May 9, 2007, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, spoke clearly against liberation theology “which claims to be the expression of the Church of the poor, and which has begun to use the Marxist analysis, holding that this is a scientific line of analysis, whereas on the contrary, it is ideological and atheistic.”

As if in answer to the words of Cardinal Hummes, the archbishop of Tegucigalpa, in the Honduras, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, granted an interview to Famiglia Cristiana in its May 13 edition. There he defended liberation theology, esteeming that Cardinal Ratzinger had encouraged it. “An ideological confrontation was provoked by liberation theology,” he declared, acknowledging however, “that there were a few doctrinal problems.” “But 80% of liberation theology is the option and the work for the poor. And this is set to continue,” he said. “No Church in Latin America has forgotten that the main problem is the increase of poverty and the lack of efforts to reach a greater social justice.” “Liberation theology is not dead, because no one speaks of extravagant things, but only of the Gospel,” added the Honduran cardinal. “And today, the Church’s social doctrine teaches us this viewpoint.”

According to him, Cardinal Ratzinger was never “a man unreceptive” to the issue. And he mentioned the meeting in 1997, in Germany, between Cardinal Ratzinger and Mgr Bertone – then prefect and secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith respectively – and several liberation theologians, a meeting which “was an open dialogue.” At that time, Mgr Maradiaga was president of the Latin American Bishops’ Conference. In his opinion, Cardinal Ratzinger “always encouraged liberation theology.”  “He only discussed some doctrinal issues,” but “these were not the heart” of this theology.

Concerning the possible beatification of Oscar Romero, Cardinal Maradiaga revealed that Benedict XVI might have “deeply investigated his writings” and not found “anything dangerous for the doctrine.”

In an interview with Sergio Ferrari from CIPA, which was published on May 7, the ultra-progressist opponent, Leonardo Boff, considered that the evolution of the Latin American governments towards the left was to be credited to liberation theology. “The new fact,” he declared, “is that we are living in a center-left democratic process in almost all the countries of the continent. There is an emergence of the masses, which is the fruit of a new historical conscience, in a stage of growing maturity. Today, and this is a grandiose aspect of the situation, there are hundreds of popular movements which are dialoguing with the governments, and are making pressure to bear upon them, forcing them to launch social policies in their favor. We now live another type of democracy, enriched by historical subjects which were absent in the past and are now very active. This social phenomenon, for instance in Bolivia, Equator, and Brazil, relies on a great participation of the liberation Church, which for 50 years has been displaying these same standards, which are now victorious. Liberation theology helped to consolidate this progress, as Rafael Correa, the Ecuadorian president publicly acknowledges. Several of Lula’s ministers come from this sector. The triumph of Liberation theology is nowadays very clear in the political field as much as in the ecclesial domain.”

On the eve of Benedict XVI’s visit to Brazil, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone had recalled that the Church was making the fight against poverty in Latin America one of her priorities. The Secretary of State of the Holy See had expressed himself in a long interview granted to the Italian monthly 30 Giorni, on May 8, 2007. “The Church does not forget the poor,” he declared, esteeming that otherwise, “she would go against Jesus, her founder.”

Considering next the political power in Brazil, and the fact that, these past years, the elections were won by left wing parties, the Secretary of State of the Holy See stressed that “if leftist governments accomplish something of the leftist politics (…), if they are concerned with favoring the humble classes, sharing lands more equitably so that they may be cultivated more equitably, if they are concerned with the improvement of sanitary assistance, of the educative system, if they commit themselves to set up an employment policy which draws the youth away from drug dealing and slows down the phenomenon of emigration (…), if, in brief, they accomplish all these things, these governments are entitled to receive the applause as well as the collaboration of the Church.”

On the other hand, a problem arises when “these governments want to exhume anachronistic and dictatorial regimes or when they fall under the influence of certain cultural currents (…) which propagate life styles increasingly remote from and hostile to Christian tradition and which threaten the fundamental rights of the human person and of the Church.” The Italian cardinal was hailing the fact that there were no longer “fortunately, any of those ruthless military dictatorships which bloodied the continent these last decades.”