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Liberation theology on the NYTimes front page

Liberation theology on the NYTimes front page

Beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero, Getty Images

A little late to the party, the New York Times has written a lengthy article about the resurgence of liberation theology, a movement within the Roman Catholic Church that fell out of favor during the Cold War because of theoretical links to Soviet Russia. It was a movement embraced by many Catholics, including the famous writer, Graham Greene.

Catholic observers believe that the Pope’s meetings with Dominican Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez, founder of liberation theology, the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero, and the renewed focus on people living in poverty are signs that the theology is being brought back to the forefront. Some analysts deny it ever went away, including Gutierrez.

From the article:

Many analysts note that John Paul and Benedict never outright denounced liberation theology and slowly started to pivot in their views. In 2012, Benedict reopened Archbishop Romero’s beatification case. Cardinal Gerhard Müller, a staunch conservative who heads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s enforcer of doctrine, became a proponent of liberation theology after working in Peru, where he met Father Gutiérrez. The two men have since written books together.

“There was no rehabilitation because there was never a ‘dehabilitation,’ ” Father Gutiérrez said, contesting the idea that liberation theology was ever cast out of the church. “In past years, there was talk of condemnation, and people believed it. What there was was a critical dialogue, which had difficult moments but which really was clarified over time.”

Writing at Daily Theology, John Slattery explored liberation theology through the lens of a cycling fan who once admired controversial Tour de France racer Lance Armstrong. Slattery writes about Armstrong’s successes, betrayals, scandals, and losses, before explaining his fascination with liberation theology: it’s the study of the people who have been hurt and wronged by the Armstrongs of the world.

If you aren’t familiar with liberation theology, or Archbishop Romero, CNN has an in-depth piece on the beatification which took place on Saturday, with videos, text, and photos of the service and Romero’s life.

What does liberation theology mean to you? Are you happy to see it making a resurgence? Are elements of it present in your Episcopal church or practice?


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JC Fisher

“There was no rehabilitation because there was never a ‘dehabilitation,’ ” Father Gutiérrez said, contesting the idea that liberation theology was ever cast out of the church.

Maybe (*maybe*) not at the Vatican, but there’s definitely been a lot of casting out of LT over the last 40 years done by conservative (U.S.) American Roman Catholics. If you ever watch EWTN, you’ll never hear a positive word about LT there!

I hope the no-rehabilitation-necessary *focus* on liberation theology just makes it to U.S. shores this time (even if at EWTN they’ll be kicking and screaming).

Rod Gillis

Further to that point, it would be interesting to look at how Catholic social teaching, and notions such as the preferential option for the poor, are viewed by Catholics in Canada and the United States. For one thing, the crowd that are obsessed over Catholic moral teaching with limiting and policing the control women have over their own bodies, often demonstrate a clear lack of enthusiasm for Catholic social teaching on the economy. Interesting and understandable then, why the current Pope is attempting a pivot towards Catholic social teaching, the just economy, and the environment. Of course, on the issue of poverty, economic disparity and social justice, we could ask the same questions about Anglicans, no?

Rod Gillis

Thanks to Thinking Anglicans, I came across this link to an article in the Huffington Post Religion by John Dear titled, Honoring Oscar Romero Of El Salvador. Dear has experience in El Salvador and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski.

Cynthia Katsarelis

Liberation is at the heart of the Gospel, the Good News to the poor and the oppressed.

Are there elements of liberation theology present in my parish? Ha! I wish. Although we consider ourselves center-left, our parish has been held hostage by a few members who seem to live in fear of social justice, let alone anything resembling liberation theology. Discussions surrounding the issues are totally irrational and rather dishonest (because reflecting on the truth of the suffering of the poor is really hard).

Anyone else experiencing this? Anyone have a strategy for dealing with the irrational fears? Suggestions for getting a conversation going when the conversation itself is viewed as “divisive” (despite the fact that many people seem to be well on board with social justice…)?

Will Mebane

People have to be willing to take risks, including risking loss of relationships, invitations to family functions, status, perhaps jobs even. Prophetic voices need to be encouraged if only by a single supporter. Heartfelt prayers of encouragement need to be prayed…aloud. It’s hard work but such is the call of Christians.

Cynthia Katsarelis

Thank you, David. This looks helpful!

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