Jesuit General: Liberation Theology "Courageous"

The Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Adolfo Nicolas, S.J., in an interview with El Periodico, a Spanish newspaper, said that liberation theology, which has been under scrutiny in the Vatican in the last several decades, is a "courageous and creative response to an unbearable situation of injustice in Latin America."  Here’s a report about the interview in English.

The question and the answer, in Spanish:

"¿La teología de la liberación sigue teniendo sentido dentro del trabajo que realizan los jesuitas en favor de los excluidos?
-Es una respuesta valiente y creativa a una situación de injusticia insufrible en Latinoamérica. Como toda teología necesita años para madurar. Es una lástima que no se le haya dado un voto de confianza y que muy pronto se le cortaran las alas antes de que aprendiera a volar. Hay que darle tiempo."

"It is a courageous and creative response to an unbearable situation of injustice in Latin America. As with any theology, it needs years to mature. It’s a shame that it has not been given a vote of confidence and that soon its wings will be cut before it learns to fly. It needs more time.”

James Martin, SJ

8 years 3 months ago
'Two fundamental elements reflect the essential logic of liberation theology. The first is negative experience, which leads to an awareness of the dehumanized condition of large numbers of people. The experience has three dimensions: a situation is wrong; we know it could and should be different; the contrast fuels an urge to right the wrong. What does Christian theology say to this situation? 'The second fundamental element of liberation theology seeks to answer that question. The response appears embryonically in Luke's parable of the Good Samaritan, which can be read as dramatizing the principle that love of God is displayed as love of neighbor. The truth of the principle is conveyed with climactic force by the shocking fact that only the Samaritan had internalized it. Modernity adds a conviction that beyond tying up the victim's wounds, true love will make the road to Jericho safe for all. With this addendum liberation theology rewrites the parable for the whole world...' ~ Roger Haight, SJ, writing in 'America,' March 17, 2008
8 years 3 months ago
'Theology is not catechesis. Catechesis is, literally, an 'echoing' of the faith. Unlike theology, catechesis is for the potential member(known as the catechumen) or for a newly initiated member of the Church (whether a young child or an adult convert). Catechesis teaches the faith by highlighting and explaining the main elements of the faith-tradition and their relationships, as well as their personal and pastoral implications. 'The catechist's task is not to invite potential or new members of the Church to think critically about their faith, but rather to understand and appropriate it in as clear and spiritually fruitful a way as possible. The theologian's task, by contrast, is critical. The mature member of the Church is invited to think: critically, to question, even to challenge certain elements of the faith tradition. To judge the theologian's work by the standards of the catechist's is to distort the work of both. Many, if not most of the complaints about theologians from the more conservative segments of the Church are rooted in this misperception. A theologian's job, it is said, is to teach 'the faith.' And not only teach the faith, but to teach it according to a particular understanding of it. In other words, the theologian can only explain the faith by one theology—the critic's.' ~ A quote from Fr. Richard McBrien (The Rev. Richard P. McBrien is author of 'The Church: The Evolution of Catholicism' and a professor of theology at Notre Dame.)
8 years 3 months ago
I have to agree with Michael: most critics of Liberation Theology, the pope included, argue from a caricature or from ignorance. Few have read or engaged liberation theology in practice.
8 years 3 months ago
Liberation theology: 1. Places too much emphasis on our temporal lives and not enough emphasis on our eternal lives. There are absolutely clear priorities here, and I think we have a lot to do in the "saving souls" department before we devote ALL our energy to establishing perfect social justice. 2. Is not Scriptural, unless you pick and choose select verses from Scripture to form a shaky claim. There are many more Scriptural passages that argue against Liberation Theology. 3. Undermines the notion of hierarchy, an essential, biblical, apostolic component of the Church.
8 years 3 months ago
David Power wrote: 'There is an old sly joke that says in the sixties 'the Church chose the poor and the poor chose the Protestants' this is so true.' Elsewhere we read that there are more ex-Jesuits than Jesuits, and many blame Arrupe for the dwindling numbers, etc. Few observe the quality of those who stay. Perhaps more will drop out, but it is for the best as it will allow Fr Nicolas to lead a more unified group, able to deliver on the promises of liberation theology without the ballast of the critics within, and without.
8 years 3 months ago
I am interested in Chicana theology. I highly recommend anything by María del Pilar Aquino. My interest comes from the fact that I am Chicano. A very good book in English by a German theologian is 'Thinking About God' by Dorothee Solle. Also check out the website of the Chicago Theological Seminary. Liberation theology is an ecumenical theology. The poor need all of us.
8 years 3 months ago
Christ said to his disciples: 'The poor you will always have with you; but you will not always have me.' (Mt 26:11)
8 years 3 months ago
Michael -- you wrote: 'In other words, they know little of the breadth or depth of this extraordinarily creative movement of theology and have not kept up with the development of Latin American theology in the last 15 years.' Could you recommend a book in English which describes these recent developments? Thank you.
8 years 3 months ago
Father Nicolas is too 'lefty,' perhaps he thought that it's still the 70's, when the Society of Jesus became Society of Hippies. The era of Marxism is over, let it die with Father Arrupe. And he said that a priest has no right whatsoever to lecture his people....what!!!! Sounds like a return to the days of Kumbayas and Let It Be (the Beatles) in Spanish churches, and in most Jesuit institutions. What's the purpose of a priest who should not lecture (too jesuitical). The best way to combat injustice and poverty is to flood all the Jesuits educational institutions with the authentic Catholic catechism, so that these future generation will lead the Catholic world to the truth. Liberation theology is a dead monster that should stay as it is. And the only hope is Christ and not the 'theology' of a leftist socialist that once dominated the Latin episcopate. Father Nicolas, a relic of the 'bad old days,' which was the 70's, let the young Jesuits run the order, and let the authentic orthodox catholic belief flourish once again. ---from a former Jesuit student
8 years 2 months ago
Fr. Nicolas also responded to a question about the perception that Jesuits think themselves better than other orders. He acknowledged the truth in that perception and hoped that he would be able to improve the situation. When I was young, it was a principle of Jesuit schools that they would take the bright students and teach them that they were not as bright as they thought they were. Years ago Fr. Arrupe on a visit to the United States [reported in AMERICA] warned his confreres here not to believe that their every word was Gospel.
8 years 3 months ago
'Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ (From the Gospel for the Feast of Christ the King)
8 years 3 months ago
I am often surprised by what people really don't know about liberation theology. Liberation theology will be over with when poverty and oppression are over with. When people dismiss liberation theology, typically it is because that have read a few books by Latin American liberation theologians from the 1980s. In other words, they know little of the breadth or depth of this extraordinarily creative movement of theology and have not kept up with the development of Latin American theology in the last 15 years. In the beginning it was rightly criticized for being too narrowly focused on class and economic hierarchies and neglecting other dimensions of social relations, such as race, ethnicity and gender. In the last two decades this has been rectified.
8 years 3 months ago
I lived in Latin America for almost four years and have seen first-hand what Liberation Theology is and how it acts upon the Faith. There is an old sly joke that says in the sixties 'the Church chose the poor and the poor chose the Protestants' this is so true. The Latinos are just as interested in the bread that does not perish. The Jesuits and others who know this do great work and leave good things those who don't leave frustration. Recently I went to a Mass said by Father Nicolas and was dissappointed to discover his sermon relied upon a very poor type of Populism that would only alienate a person from the Church. I consider the Jesuits an order of fine intelligent men but what is on display here is woolly ad extremis. Also to describe it as creative is wrong as it mainly fused the currents of those times to create a sort of hybrid.The result is not at all pretty. Also, it is not correct to saty that its wings are being cut. They never grew in the first place. It had forty years to prove itself.It failed. Now, it is to be seen as cut off in its prime. Instead. it should be seen as a jaded ideology that has finally been seen for the obselete response it is the man of today, who awaits the Gospel undiluted.
8 years 3 months ago
'The notion of God's kingdom not only leads back to Jesus of Nazareth but also gives a primary and preferential place to the poor people of the world. And these people have definite characteristics: They are in the majority (which makes other groups the exceptions); they are a necessary historical product (of various 'world orders'); they are dialectically poor (because there are [the] rich and [the] oppressors); they are marginalized, despised and excluded (because they do not fulfill the requirements for humankind as dictated by the ruling cultures). 'They call the church into question, as nothing else does, which means they have always been taken some account of by the church, but they have not been its central concern. The most serious aspect from a theological point of view is that the poor have not come to possess the theological status they deserve according to Jesus.' ~ From Fr. Jon Sobrino, SJ
8 years 3 months ago
Even though it had Christian background, since its inception the Liberation Theology was clearly rooted in Marxism (la Teología de la Liberación, Gustavo Gutierrez, 1972). We can certainly say that the Liberation Theory was an attempt to marry two contradictory ideas, that of The Christ and that of Karl Marx. Marxism demonstrated its ineffectiveness in helping humans, and I find surprising that some still want to keep alive its monster child (i.e. the Liberation Theology). Some of the comments above carefully avoid noting the Liberation Theology’s Marxist roots. If we exclude them, then we are not talking any longer of the original Theology but a revised one. As per John Paul II and Benedict XVI positions: yes they did not accept the original Liberation Theology which was rooted in Marxism ideals; calling them ignorant tells more on the one writing the comment than on those two great Popes. Prom Peter’s chair John Paul II did his job: protect the community of believers against errors. I can read above sever quotes from the Bible… there are also quotes in the Bible that define Peter’s authority and role within the community of believers. Many years ago a group of companions meet at Montmarte and promised to go wherever the Pope would send them. Those companions set an example that stretches to this day. Saint Ignatius had the humility to be commanded by the Pope, others today do not.
8 years 3 months ago
How can one call himself a Jesuit - one who is obedient to the Pope - and believe in Liberation Theology? Liberate yourselves of this theory that you think makes you so smart that even the Pope can't stop you. Maybe for the second time in history the Society of Jesus will end. I have no problem with you guys as long as you do your job. Then I can do mine. Just don't burn me at the stake for believing the Pope isn't Christ's Vicar on earth or I need to confess my sins to you to enter heaven.

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