Liberation Theology: "Useful and Necessary"

Given the number of hits on my piece on Glenn Beck and liberation theology, and the number of comments (some of them remarkably strong), I thought I would offer a little quiz, based on a quote just sent by a friend.  Who said the following to the Brazilian bishops in 1986?  "[W]e are convinced, we and you, that liberation theology is not only timely but useful and necessary" It's quoted in Alfred Hennelly's book Liberation Theology: A Documentary History, p. 503.

Give up? 


Pope John Paul II.

James Martin, SJ

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8 years 6 months ago
Both Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger made some important and necessary distinctions and cautions regarding liberation theology in the 1980s. They critiqued its Marxist distortions but never condemned liberation theology. This current within theology arose at an important time and has made a positive impact on theology and the life of the church in the past few decades. God's message to his people throughout the ages has been a word of liberation.
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years 6 months ago
Please continue these lessons, Fr. Jim ... I have a book at home - "The Struggle is One; Voices and Visions of Liberation" - that was written by my late friend, Mev Puleo.  It is a collection of interviews and photographs of Latin Americans who were immersed in liberation theology during the 1980s and early 90s.  You begin to understand the theology through the lives and faces of the people.  Mev interviewed not only elite theologians (like Leonardo Boff) but also people from the desperately poor favelas and rural areas.

This living theology is much misunderstood and misinterpreted. 

Here's a quote from Mev's interview with Brazilian theologian Clodovis Boff: "If you’re always in the middle-class, middle-class friends, middle-class neighborhood, middle-class parish, middle-class school, there’s no real way to break with it, even if you have good ideas and intentions. You start little projects to donate to the poor, but you don’t make a deep option for life. You’ll only have a conversion when you break with your world and have contact with the poor. Like St. Francis who kissed the leper. You must kiss the leper."
William deHaas
8 years 6 months ago
Excellent, Beth.  Would add - any book by Penny Leroux will give you an in-depth, emotional tour of the central/south american landscape from real life challenges.  Would also recommend that any historical research needs to include Ivan Illich based in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
David Pasinski
8 years 6 months ago
I met Father Al Hennelly many years ago when he assisted at a parish in DeWitt, NY and subsequently read his fine book.  I also spent five years in Bolivia and Venezuela from 82-87 and visited Central America.  We were all part of the larger concepts when liberation theology as near an apex even with Joseph ratzinger's letter. The comments are intersting and this would be a fight I've grown past in defending this concept and most of its reality again.  However, I concur with Fr. Jim AND Pope John Paul II's quotation - even if he was at the same time inconsistent, suspicious, ambiguous, and ambivalent.
8 years 6 months ago
Why stop with a partial quote.  Read the entirety of what JP II thought below:

I think that would give a more accurate picture, don't you?
8 years 6 months ago
Here's a money quote from the above:

"Let us recall the fact that atheism and the denial of the human person, his liberty and rights, are at the core of the Marxist theory. This theory, then, contains errors which directly threaten the truths of the faith regarding the eternal destiny of individual persons."
Chris Sullivan
8 years 6 months ago
From the SCDF document issued by Cdl Ratzinger:-

In itself, the expression ''theology of liberation'' is a thoroughly valid term: it designates a theological reflection centered on the biblical theme of liberation and freedom, and on the urgency of its practical realization.

It's official : the theology of liberation is endorsed by the Magisterium despite their concerns at certain errors made in it's name.  But what theological trend does not  suffer from errors made in it's name ?

God Bless
Jim McCrea
8 years 6 months ago
Liberation Theology is a dirty pinko commie plot.  The next thing is that they'll want them there homo-sex-you'alls to be accepted in Catholic churches.

We have to make a stand!  White male heterosexuals need to be vigilant.
8 years 6 months ago
One problem is as one commenter has said above if liberation theology can mean anything which then means that it means nothing, why bother.  The Black liberation theology is not that amorphous of a doctrine so there can be valid objections made to it on several issues.

Now if South American liberation theology is just some amorphous freedom bit then it is a meaningless doctrine so why even make a post about it.  If somehow, it includes Marxist doctrine then one has to ask just what is it and how is it theology.  Saying JPII endorsed it (an appeal to authority that my Jesuits teachers would have shot down in a  nanosecond) does not make it an effective social or economic policy.  

Another commenter made a facetious comment about a commie pinko plot.  The authors of the Black Book, all ex communists, argued over whether communism killed 100 million in the 20th  century or just 95 million.  This is apparently a moot point today since I believe the accepted number is about 120 million.

So if anyone is going to recommend a social or economic philosophy that kills by the 10's of millions, they have better have a good reason  why it will work this time.  I would have no problem with socialism or even communism (except for the militant or even subtle atheism part) if it ever worked.  But to blithely endorse is to me is highly irresponsible.
Tom Maher
8 years 6 months ago
Clearly many intellectuals in the church were influenced by Marxism., especially in the "let's all be nice, non-critical" ecumenical era.  From the 1930 to 1980 Marxism and its institutions was the "inevitable future''.   It was all fluff.   The joke is all political institutions have rejected Marxist economics and politics justwhen the "other worldly" Catholic theologians  went ga ga for Marxism.   Insularity - too little knowledge of the  real world and events.  The Catholic theological ghetto is unable to discern what is really going on in the world, and in their lack of practicle judgement  can not see the flaws right before their eyes in Marxism.  

The tragedy of Catholic higher education is that its students are exposed to way too much exotic theology such as Liberation Theology which like communism will soon be found only in the dust bin of history.    
Dave Dowd
8 years 6 months ago
Dear Fr. Martin and others.... In 1969, kenneth simpson came to Boston College and starting teaching sex education to Boston College students. This was my freshman year at BC. Fr. Drinan was in Congress paving the way for Catholics to support abortion. His seat would be taken by Barney Frank who spoke from the pulpit at St. Ignatius Church at Fr. Drinan's funeral.

Meanwhile, the slaughter of children by abortion and contraception receive support by the silence of the greater Boston College community where Vagina Monologues and similar trash is permitted. The scandal of homosexuality has not escaped the Jesuit community in Boston. Immaculate Conception on Harrison St has been the scene of apostate gatherings. Planned Parenthood and NARAL are allowed on the campus of Holy Cross College and their phone numbers are listed on website HEALTH pages at Holy Cross College in Worcester! Fr. Kavanaugh SJ and his book on Liberation Theology is still featured on the America Magazine web page.

Fr. Martin's unrepentant defense of Liberation Theology and dismissive attitude toward those of us who object is scandalous. His use of a quote from John Paul II ignores the entire action John Paul II took against Leonardo Boff. Jesuit colleges across this country have wholesale abandoned the teaching of Catholic tradition. From Land O Lakes on, American Catholics have been abandoned by intellectuals in the Jesuit college community. Fairfield University Theology Chair told the class of 1959 Fairfield alum at their 50th reunion, an undergraduate at Fairfield just needs an introduction course to theology and an introduction course in philosophy and one elective in each to complete their requirement to graduate. So, Father Martin, you are substituting Liberation Theology for the traditions of our faith. Was Alan Bloom talking about this practice?

Surely, American minds are being shut down. Marxism has this game plan for world domination. Corruption the morals is a stated objective in the tactical means used by marxists to destroy their opposition. Modern Jesuit embrace of liberation theology, abandonment of traditional Catholic teaching, PLUS abandonment of Catholic moral teaching is an offense to the memory of St. Ignatius. Thanks, Fr. Martin for your unrepentant participation in the corruption of our youth. Here is a quote from Lenin, himself.... What is the relationship between socialism and the corruption of morals in our children? Let's ask Mr Lenin, himself. He wrote: "There is no God, and no morals or virtues as eternal verities. This is a basic concept of communism. V. I. Lenin said of morality: "We deny all morality taken from superhuman or non-class conceptions. We say that this is a deception, a swindle, a befogging of the minds . . ."8 Again: "In what sense do we deny ethics, morals? In the sense in which they are preached by the bourgeoisie, which deduces these morals from god's commandments. Of course, we say that we do not believe in god."9 And again: "When people talk to us about morality we say: For the Communists, morality consists entirely of compact united discipline and conscious mass struggle against the exploiters. We do not believe in eternal morality, and we expose all fables about morality."10 There you have it! Whatever advances atheistic communism is morally right to the communist. This is why a communist can lie, steal, and murder with a clear conscience. To him he does right. Millions of people have been slaughtered by the communist conspiracy, and yet its dictatorship shows no emotions of having done wrong. This is because they do not believe that they have done wrong. They can make treaties, and break them at will. This is morally right, they believe, if it advances their cause. A communist can do anything - from adultery to murder - and feel morally good if it is for the conspiracy. To the communist mind there is no sin - nor morality, no right or wrong, except as it relates to communism. (1)
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years 6 months ago
Clearly, we need some education about liberation theology.  It is not "exotic" or a social/economic tactic that may or may not "work".  It is theology - a knowing of God, both personal and communal, that is Gospel based.

What is so threatening about that??!!  I really don't understand the fear and paranoia that is being expressed in these comments.
Tamzin Simmons
8 years 6 months ago
Interesting point about JPII's support for Liberation Theology. Thank you, Fr. Martin, for posting it. I suspect it will provoke a very long comment thread again...

Mr. Landry, thank you for posting the Vatican's instruction, it is an engaging read.

All of this goes to show how the Church's understanding of significant concepts and movements is never simplistic.

Dowd, I'm not really sure what your post is about other than a general rant about the Jesuits. You appear to have acquaintance with Jesuit educational institutions, but your criticism of them seems somewhat harsh and onesided. It doesn't seem to me to be valid to make sweeping (not to mention discourteous)generalisations about Jesuits abandoning the teaching of Catholic tradition and to accuse them of abandoning or corrupting the faithful. You may have come across some unfortunate cases but you fail in charity if you imply that such things are universal. The Society of Jesus does much good work and we should acknowledge this and thank God for it.
Moreover, I can find no evidence that the Jesuit writers at this magazine would think of betraying the charism of their Founder. Quite the contrary in fact.

Peter Lakeonovich
8 years 6 months ago
Mr. Dowd,

Thank you for your comments, they are certainly well received.

Surely you must have had some faithful Jesuits at BC?  I did, and so I would add the great Fr. Tacelli to your list of model Jesuits who have not abandoned the calling of Christ the King in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

But I'm with you, still waiting for BC to send me a new diploma with "Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam" on the banner in the eagle's mouth instead of the vacuous "Ever to Excel."


P.S.  Go easy on Fr. Martin.  I like to8BB think he's a good guy, but asking him to be another Fr. John Hardon may be unfair.  Fr. Hardon wrote Catechisms and profound spiritual pieces.  Fr. Jim writes guide books and musings on the saints.  Clearly, God has many tools in his toolbox.
Jeffrey Connors
8 years 6 months ago
The hierarchy will never baptize Marxist dialectic in some kind of synthesis with Catholic theology. On the other hand, John Paul II was a firm critic of unrestricted capitalism too, as is his successor, so why doesn't anyone get at least mildly perturbed when someone tries to produce a synthesis between Catholic theology and the classically liberal laissez-faire thought of the likes of Friedrich Hayek?
Case in point... In addition to writing thoughtful and useful critiques of liberation theology such as Will it Liberate ? Questions About Liberation Theology, the author and intellectual Michael Novak has also written books and articles seeking to marry free market capitalism to Catholic social ethics, such as books titled (I'm not kidding here): The Corporation: A Theological Inquiry.
In his book Left at the Altar: How the Democrats Lost the Catholics and How the Catholics Can Save the Democrats, Michael Sean Winters described the thought of various Catholic paleo-conservatives and neo-conservatives, including a truly amazing bit of exegesis from Novak:

A triumvirate of Catholic neoconservatives emerged who would present themselves as the defenders of Catholic and Republican Party orthodoxy in America. Lutheran convert Richard John Neuhaus, founder of the magazine First Things, joined forces with liberal convert and American Enterprise Institute scholar Michael Novak to give the GOP a Catholic imprimatur. Catholic writer George Weigel, who made up in hubris what he lacked in academic credentials, was the third member of the Catholic neoconservative troika. All three were prepared to relegate the Church's teachings to an adjectival status and ignore those teachings when they did not suit them, and their public writings inevitably read like a recitation of GOP talking points as much as a thoughtful reflection on the Christian Gospels.
What linked these three intellectuals was the smugness of their judgements and the ridiculous, almost idolatrous, manner in which they paid homage to democratic capitalism and the American way. How far they had fallen from Monsignor Ryan's teachings, or from the teachings of Popes Leo, Plus XI, John XXIII and Paul VI can be seen in an excerpt from Novak's tome, Toward a Theology of the Corporation. 'For many years, one of my favorite texts of Scripture has been Isaiah 52:2-3. `He hath no form or comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; he was despised, and we esteemed him not,'' wrote Novak, citing one of the most famous Christological passages of the Hebrew scriptures, set to music by Handel in the Messiah and read in church every Good Friday. But Novak had a different use for these solemn verses. 'I would like to apply these words to the modern business corporation, a much despised incarnation of God's presence in this world.' 
Er, wha-aa...?
The Reagan Revolution ushered in an era where we find that the business executive represents the pinnacle of what every good American should aspire to be... Utilitarian, efficient, pragmatic, bold, unsentimental, and supposedly the fount of all good judgement and common sense. According to this line of thinking, only the private sector is capable of producing anything truly useful, since men and women are reliably and realistically motivated solely by self-interest.
This is part and parcel of the practical materialism that JP II cautioned about when he wrote in Laborem Exercens:
Everybody knows that capitalism has a definite historical meaning as a system, an economic and social system, opposed to 'socialism' or 'communism'. But in the light of the analysis of the fundamental reality of the whole economic process-first and foremost of the production structure that work is-it should be recognized that the error of early capitalism can be repeated wherever man is in a way treated on the same level as the whole complex of the material means of production, as an instrument and not in accordance with the true dignity of his work-that is to say, where he is not treated as subject and maker, and for this very reason as the true purpose of the whole process of production.
This explains why the analysis of human work in the light of the words concerning man's 'dominion' over the earth goes to the very heart of the ethical and social question. This concept should also find a central place in the whole sphere of social and economic policy, both within individual countries and in the wider field of international and intercontinental relationships, particularly with reference to the tensions making themselves felt in the world not only between East and West but also between North and South. Both John XXIII in the Encyclical Mater et Magistra and Paul VI in the Encyclical Populorum Progressio gave special attention to these dimensions of the modern ethical and social question…
In the present document, which has human work as its main theme, it is right to confirm all the effort with which the Church's teaching has striven and continues to strive always to ensure the priority of work and, thereby, man's character as a subject in social life and, especially, in the dynamic structure of the whole economic process. From this point of view the position of 'rigid' capitalism continues to remain unacceptable, namely the position that defends the exclusive right to private ownership of the means of production as an untouchable 'dogma' of economic life. The principle of respect for work demands that this right should undergo a constructive revision, both in theory and in practice. If it is true that capital, as the whole of the means of production, is at the same time the product of the work of generations, it is equally true that capital is being unceasingly created through the work done with the help of all these means of production, and these means can be seen as a great workbench at which the present generation of workers is working day after day.
Tom Maher
8 years 6 months ago
Pleasel let's stop the  guilt.  Guilt pre-judges the issue to be off limits and inhibits frank discussion of issues that need to be dealt with, often urgenlty.  Way too much self-censorship and inhibition with gult.  Feeling guilty without cause tonly inhibits people from using their talents.  Being a silent toady to theological-fads-run- amok is no virtue.

Emotionally more confidence in ones own moral judgement and sense of reality is needed.    As Joan Rivers says "Grow up".  We need more Catholics  to speack up. 

Intellectually  more Catholics are educated than ever before and care able to identify  bad ideas when they see them and say so.  Reason isn't just for church insiders anymore.  And it so happens some of the stuff coming out of Catholic theology deparments is really bad without merit and grossly at odds with historic and scientific reality.   Catholics can and should use their brains and not accept the nonsense.   What we need is more of a free speech attidude.  We need to examine more ideas and to do so we must be able to vigorously discuss and debate ideas that offeedr up as eternal truths of how we should live our ideas but actually make no sense at all.   Catholics need to find their voice, use their brain and not silently accept bad ideas that do not measure up to reality..  There is no virtue in being passive.   Bad ideas flourish when all ideas are accepable and go unquestioned and unchallenged. 

Tamzin Simmons
8 years 6 months ago
Mr. Dowd,

First off, I did not mean to offend you. At times I lack charity myself and the internet sometimes makes it impossible to convey nuance in expression.

Secondly, my title is 'Miss.' I'm not sure why you thought I was necessarily male. My name is unusual admittedly but I am in fact a woman and my name is definitely a woman's name.

I might find it difficult to address some of your issues sufficiently as I am not from the US and therefore probably do not have the local knowledge implied. My experience is limited, I admit, but I have not come across any Jesuits, either in person or in their writing who have contradicted the Gospel of Christ or the teaching of the Magisterium.

Mr. Lake, I thought all Jesuit colleges still used the AMDG on all documents-obviously my local knowledge is falling short again.

Ms. Ciofoletti, I definitely agree we need some more education re: Liberation Theology.

Jeffrey Connors
8 years 6 months ago
My apologies for the cut-and-paste excerpts in violation of your commenting policy, but whenever liberation theology is brought up, straw-man caricatures tend to arise.  I thought the quotes were instructive and germaine to the discussion.
William Lindsey
8 years 6 months ago
Beth, you spoke a mouthful-and a very wise one-when you stated, ''Clearly, we need some education . . . . ''

Indeed.  Many of those spouting off about liberation theology hardly know how to spell the term (or distinguish it from liberal theology), let alone how to define it.  They have never read a liberation theologian or tried to do so.   They are clueless as they reduce liberation theology to grotesque fantasies of their own FOX-type soundbyte making.

As they are clueless as they spout off about Marxism.  Or socialism.  Or papal teaching.  Or the Jesuits.  Or Catholic social teaching.

And isn't it interesting that they are so frequently white males who are noisily heterosexual?

The correlation almost makes you wonder if the lack of education so often on public parade in our society and church has much to do with the challenge of getting ideas and information across to people who are impervious to ideas and education, because they just don't have to deal with the challenge of learning.

They don't have to do so because they imagine themselves at the top of a social and ecclesiastical pyramid in which they and their ideas constitute reality.  And so, what's to learn?

I'm so grateful every day for the good education I received from Jesuits who taught me to think.  To read.  To listen and interact wtih those who are different.  To analyze ideas critically.  To realize that I am not the center of the universe, and my perspective on things is limited and needs to be complemented by the perspectives of many others.

Thank you for reminding us of the very, very serious educational challenge that faces us as a church, Beth. 

Clearly, we need some education.
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years 6 months ago
"Probably, Beth, but that's beside the point.  Language is infinitely flexible.  If some people want to define liberation theology differently from Father Martin, they can.  Words live in the public space we all share, and their meanings shift and multiply constantly.  No one can insist with authority that his or her definition of any word is the only correct one."

So, David, are you saying that it's ok for people with no knowledge of what liberation theology really is, to define it any way they want?

Yes, there are people who can insist with authority that Liberation Theology be defined correctly, and that the rest of us don't create culture wars over what we think it might mean..

Liberation theology has a real history among people who understand and live it.  Books are written about it.

Glenn Beck made up some version of Liberation Theology that is a far cry from what it really is.  Letting him get away with this is irresponsible to our society and our Catholic Faith. 

I thought you dogma people were sticklers about getting truth right, not letting everyone make up their own.
Bill Collier
8 years 6 months ago
Read "Martyr of the Amazon," the moving story of Sr. Dorothy Stang, for a remarkable example of liberation theology (small "l," small "t") that that every Catholic should be able to admire without hesitation.
8 years 6 months ago
Glrn Beck was dealing primarily with Black Liberation Theology and had an expert on it with him saying what he said was essentially correct.  He did tend to conflate Black Liberation Theology with the Catholic version  and for that he was remiss.  But his primary  emphasis was on Black Libeation Theology and social justice.  It is the people on this site that have been protrayinng what Beck said in shall I say not the most friendly manner.
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years 6 months ago
I am not being "unfriendly" to Glenn Beck, JR Cosgrove, I am saying that his portrayal of liberation theology is wrong. 

I have listened to several YouTube Videos of Beck talking about liberation theology, and have not come across one, yet, where he refers specifically to Black liberation theology.

How do you know that he refers primarily to Black liberation theology?
8 years 6 months ago
On the previous post on this topic, someone posted 4 links to a show he did recently on Black Liberation Theology.  Each link was to a segment of a recent show of his on the topic.  He was very well prepared.
8 years 6 months ago
I just put in Glenn Beck Liberation Theology into youtube and all the first hits are about Black Liberation Theology.  Most from his show in July.
8 years 6 months ago
If there is going to be a discussion of this topic, then maybe  somebody can bless the wikipedia discussion in order that we can all be on the same page.


Or if there is another more accessible description, then maybe that can be put forward.
Dave Dowd
8 years 6 months ago
Miss Tamzin, please accept my apology.  I was not familiar with your name and hope you apologize for the incorrect inference I drew from it.

Beth, I think you mischaracterize my comments...

I clearly take the definition of liberation theology from the following source.  I hope there was nothing in my commentary to suggest otherwise.

For a definition of Liberation Theology, go to the website and find Father John Kavanaugh SJ. 

Click on his link.

Find his book, "Following Christ in a Consumer Society"

This book was used in a Redemptorist seminary to teach the students what liberation theology is.

When you read, notice the Marxist Christian Matrix....

I rest my case.
Tom Maher
8 years 6 months ago
Yes this Aug 6, 1984 instructions titled "Libertatis numtius" was published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" headed by Cardinal Ratzinger and approved by Pohn Paul II.  This instruction was referenced again by Pope Benendict las tyear and is still in effect. It definitely warns repeatedly of and prohitits "Marxist analysis" and Marxist influence and prospectives.  
Christopher Blosser
8 years 6 months ago
''[W]e are convinced, we and you, that liberation theology is not only timely but useful and necessary''

Obviously, citing a single sentence from John Paul II begs the question as to what qualifiers he placed in his endorsement of such.
8 years 6 months ago
Father Martin,

The poor are not the issue here.  This is not a facetious comment.  The question is how to address poverty.  It is one thing to raise the consciousness of everyone concerning the needs of the poor, it is quite another on how to address those needs. If the plan is to redistribute, then how will that work and what would one expect as a result.  Marxian policies have left over a hundred million dead in the 20th  century so if these are being considered, that has to be factored in.

One cannot just have great intentions, one must have a plan that will work and is feasible.  One must proffer something that will eventually relieve poverty.  And along the way, we might want to discuss just what is poverty.  Again not a facetious remark.
Tom Maher
8 years 6 months ago
Very good JR Cosgrove.  The objection  to Marxism is that they definitely declare to be for the Masses (the poor)  but they did not deliver.  This is the classic wishful thinking.  The world instead got a menacing slave state.

The irony of the 1989 collapse of the Marxist state, the Soviet Union,  is that after all the years the average citizens did not have easy access to food and clothing and other basic economic goods.  Even to the very end there were "bread lines" in fornt of stores that sold groceries in places like Moscow.     Talk is cheap dear philoshy majors and theologan,  An economic and political system that robustly delivers even only a adequate standard of living is hard to come by. 

The point is the Soviet Union collapsed becasue its own people rejected Marxist economics and Marxist one-party state.   JP II noted this irony in reference to liberation theology.    The collapse of this hugh Soviet enmpire and its satillites from within is one of the most amazing stories of all history that happened a little over twenty years ago.

So where are the poor in the old Soviet Union?  Much better off under capitalism.  The same in communist China where capitalism was also turned to quite successfully.   And India too.  And most of southeast asia.  

So marxist liberation theology is bogus becasue Marxism is bogus.  It jiust not the 1960s or 1970s anymore.   The stete so central to Marxism failed to deliver on economic "workers paridse".  So the joke is: their was no liberation from the Marxist folks who promised liberation, worlwide..  
Brendan McGrath
8 years 6 months ago
"If liberation theology is outlawed, only outlaws will be liberation theologians."
~ a paraphrase of Al Franken's "if abortions are outlawed, only outlaws will have abortions," which is a paraphrase of "if guns are outlawed..." etc.

Regarding Jim McCrea's comment #9 -  These homosexual men!  Where will it end?  Next thing you know they'll want to start marrying our daughters!

David Dowd - Is that really true about Holy Cross listing the phone numbers of Planned Parenthood and NARAL?!  That's horrible.  Some of the things you talked about with regard to Catholic colleges I don't think are really that bad, but things like listing the number for Planned Parenthood are really rather irritating.
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years 6 months ago
I disagree.  Liberation theology is not about poverty, but about the poor.  Living breathing human beings, brothers and sisters.  It is about the body of Christ.  It is about recognizing that our salvation is bound up together, and that we are one. 

Liberation theology is not a problem to be solved but a love to be lived.  First world peoples suffer a poverty of spirit as third world people suffer economic poverty.

btw, JR Cosgrove, I watched a couple of the You Tube videos of Glenn Beck, and did not hear him mention Black Liberation Theology once.  I did hear him get go on and on about how he had worked hard to earn his money and that he deserves it and should not have to give it to anyone else to make reparations for their percieved misfortunes.  I think he's deluded and decieving himself -  in thinking that he works harder than others, among other things.
David Cruz-Uribe
8 years 6 months ago
Reading this comment thread, and then going and rereading (for the first time in many years) the 1984 Vatican note on liberation theology, I see one small part of the problem is the conflation of some quite disparate ideas.  In my own teaching I have found the following distinctions useful:

An idea or theory is MARXIAN if it is directly attributable to Marx himself, or perhaps to Engels working closely with Marx.  An idea is MARXIST if it comes from a theorist who aligns himself or looks for inspiration in the ideas of Marx.  Note that something can be Marxist without being Marxian-at one point Marx himself is reputed to have said "I am not a Marxist."   I would reserve COMMUNIST for attempts to instantiate Marxist ideas, either in the Soviet Union, in the various Euro-communist parties, or in Latin America.   Finally, there is the idea of a VULGAR MARXIST, which tends to be a very narrow, ideological reading of Marxist ideas.  (Most Trotskyites these days strike me as vulgar Marxists.)   

A common danger is that we conflate these ideas, or use one (particularly communism ans instantiated in the former Soviet Union) to dismiss all of them.   In particular, I often find vulgar Marxism identified with the broad swathe of Marxist thought or even attributed directly to Marx himself.  Indeed, my sense (though I would have to read it more carefully) is that the Vatican document itself, while acknowledging the wide range of Marxist thought, ends up criticizing vulgar Marxism and presupposes that this represents the sum total of Marxist thought and analysis. 

The most recent book I have read on liberation theology, "Following Jesus" by Segundo Galilea makes a similar mistake.  The first few chapters are excellent and really have nothing to do with Marxist thought.  His chapter on following Jesus in the poor, however, falls short in parts, in my mind, in that he embraces uncritically, some Marxist ideas.  However, and this is key:  in doing so he does not invalidate the rest of his ideas, which provide, as Fr. Martin says above, a critical lens for viewing the poor and our relationship to them, through the person of Jesus. 
8 years 6 months ago
Mr. Uribe,
This topic started as a criticism of Glenn Beck and his analysis of Black Liberation Theology and his criticism of the use of the term “social justice.”  Mr. Beck conflated Black Liberation Theology and Catholic  Liberation Theology.  Obviously, the poor is related to both but that is as far as we can seem to agree.  Is it possible to discuss liberation theology with out any reference to Marx, his philosophy, his economic ideas, those who use his name or his ideas?  My guess is that yes, that is possible but then any reference to Glenn Beck would have been inappropriate. 
So I wonder just what we are supposed to do.  Father Martin seemed to switch the discussion to an orientation on the poor and that is fine.  So expect confusion especially with the statement “a critical lens for viewing the poor and our relationship to them, through the person of Jesus.”  That could certainly be a valid discussion but that is not how this got started.
Dave Dowd
8 years 6 months ago
To Brendon:   Planned Parenthood was identified by the Holy See as the architect of the culture of death.  Ignorance is the charitable excuse which comes to mind when viewing your question. 

If you look at my earlier post, you might have seen the destruction of moral fibre by corruption of morals is a tactic marxists use to breakdown their political foes...  I think enough people in this thread get the message.... I contend Liberation Theology, as described by Fr. John Kavanaugh, is a political weapon by which the left has undermined the moral teaching Holy Mother Church should have been providing for practicing Catholics. 

Using the legitimate spiritual obligation all Catholics have to respond to the needs of the poor as a smoke screen to participate in the marxist philosophy of attacking the moral fibre passively by eliminating support for Catholic moral teaching and, then, actively, by allowing organizations like Planned Parenthood on campuses is a pretty clear example of heretical behavior if you ask me. 
Dave Dowd
8 years 6 months ago
NY Bishop William Murphy has called for a new social contract between the Church and workers in the USA.

Seton Motley is reporting the story. 



A Long Island, NY Catholic Bishop is calling for a “new social contract” for workers, saying that “a good job at good wages for everyone willing and able to work should be our national goal and a moral priority.”
Bishop William Murphy, of the Rockville Centre Diocese, issued those words in a 2010 Labor Day statement on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). He serves as the chairman of that group’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
Brendan McGrath
8 years 6 months ago
David Dowd - I could be mistaken, but from the tone of some of your comments to me, I think you may have had the impression that I was disagreeing with you about Planned Parenthood and NARAL.  We have no disagreement there; I very much dislike the two and, as I said, thought it was "horrible" that Holy Cross would list their numbers, and "irritating" in the sense that I find all those little "paper cuts" to a Catholic college's Catholic identity irritating.  Perhaps you didn't misunderstand me, but I thought it'd be good to clarify anyway.

Also - I said that some of the things you talked about were not, in my opinion, that bad; to be specific, by this I meant that I think people, in discussing Catholic colleges, often focus on the wrong things.  In my opinion, the real problem is not with Theology departments; I had a wonderful experience of Theology at Georgetown - a key thing that needs to be kept in mind here is the distintion between "teaching ABOUT something" and "teaching something."  Teaching about ideas contrary to the Catholic tradition is not a problem - just as teaching ABOUT Nestorianism, Arianism, etc. in a course on the history of Christian thought is not a problem.  Anyway, the real problem lies not with Theology departments, but with other things: e.g., embarrassment about displaying Catholic imagery (statues, crucifixes, etc.), reluctance to pray or to pray using specifically Catholic language at official university events such as graduation, hemming and hawing on websites about being a Catholic school, tour guides who blithely reassure people that Catholicism is just "here if you want it," abandoning any effort to REALLY care spiritually for ALL Catholic students (e.g., what about at least an email sent out school-wide that the next day is a holy day of obligation, inviting people joyfully to come to Mass, etc.?  And sent out not just from Campus Ministry, but from the president), etc. 

To return to an earlier point: yes, Catholicism is there in abundance at Georgetown if you want it: but it should be there whether you want it or not - not that it should be forced on anyone, but you shouldn't be able to avoid seeing and hearing it and being confronted by it.  (This, by the way, is a crucial difference Georgetown and Notre Dame, where I got my Master of Theological Studies - Catholicism is everywhere at Notre Dame, and the public flaps about hot-button issues tend to overlook that.)
Jeffrey Connors
8 years 6 months ago
Since the Marxist accusation has dominated both threads on this subject, I'm sorry to see that Oscar Romero's eloquent defense of LT against the charges of Marxism and political meddling were deleted.   If one of my long-winded posts in violation of the umpteenth warning had to get deleted, I wish it had been the other one about Michael Novak.

So, short and sweet...  For whatever other failings he may have, Bishop William Murphy sure as heck is no commie-symp, I can tell you that much.
Bill Mazzella
8 years 6 months ago
Jesus mixed in with the poor and was as poor as they were. The Apostles followed in like manner. The fourth century drastically changed the leadership of the church. It then became fashionable to celebrate the martyrs and early Christian while individual lives avoided the living of the Way. Relics and bodies of holy persons became more important than holiness. There were so many bodies of Martin of Tours that Mark Twain would have had a field day with it. Frances of Assissi followed in like fashion. But his followers became people of privilege as the bishops continued to be into their own glory.

Nice words about John Paul but weak. John Paul II had a letter prepared to send to Oscar Romero removing him from his diocese. Jesus said it clearly: "The blind see, the lame walk and the poor have the gospel preached to them." Too simple? But all is contained theirin.
Tom Maher
8 years 6 months ago
Well it's becoming  clear from these comments that few people have the slightest ideas what Maxism is anymore.  So crticism of Liberation Theology by the pope, the  Office of the Cogregation of Doctrine or anyone for being Maxist is meaningless to most peopel they do not know what "Marxism" means.  So people without a clue about Marxism sre all for trying again in Liberation Theology what has already crashed and burned spectacularly in a 70 year test of Marxism in now defunct commusist governents worldwide. 

This is like the recurring deaths on the Hawian Islands every twenty years from tidal waves.  After twenty years a new generation forgot that the previous generation were killed by tidal waves by building too close to the shore where every twenty years of so a devastating tital wave would strike.  This cycle went on for centuries until the zoning laws were changed in modern times.  It has now been over twenty years since the collapse of Marxist commuist states worldwide.  Noone remembers this event happened let alone why.  So we are going to once again crash and burn this time sponsored by well intentioned church organizations instead of political organizations the same tested and failed "liberation" ideas.  

As the church lady would say, "Now isn't that special." 


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