Vatican newspaper “L’Osservatore Romano” has given ample space to the reflections of Gustavo Gutiérrez, the man considered to be the founder of the Liberation Theology movement
ANDREA TORNIELLI Taken from Vatican Insider
The Vatican and the Liberation Theology movement have made peace. After all the condemnations in the 80’s, the exaggerations and misunderstandings, the Church has finally granted the Theology of Liberation movement full citizenship. This peaceful handshake is being witnessed within the context of the new climate set by the Catholic Church’s first Latin American Pope and the resumption of the bishop and martyr Oscar Romero’s beatification process.
The reconciliation process actually began towards the end of Benedict XVI’s pontificate. Indeed, it was Benedict XVI who chose German archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller as his second successor to the leadership of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Ratzinger knew Müller well. The archbishop had spent many a holiday going to work with Latin American campesinos and also cultivated an in-depth dialogue with Peruvian Dominican priest, Gustavo Gutiérrez, the Liberation Theology movement’s most important and influential theologian.
They both signed a book published in Germany in 2004. But Müller was just a German bishop at the time, he was not yet the “custodian” of Catholic Orthodoxy. The fact that this book has now been published in Italy and is due to be presented by the two authors at the Festivaletteratura literature festival in the Italian city of Mantua this coming Sunday, means Müller – who now heads the Congregation which back in the 80’s condemned some of the Liberation Theology movement’s excesses – still considers his contributions to be fully valid and current. The Italian edition is entitled “Dalla parte dei poveri. Teologia della liberazione, teologia della chiesa”( “Taking the Side of the Poor – Liberation Theology” co-published by Edizioni Messaggero Padova and Editrice Missionaria Italiana, pp.92, Euro 15).
So this is not something that just happened, it is a carefully thought out move which aims or at least intends to put an end to past theological conflicts. Gutiérrez’s work in the days Ratzinger was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, were examined for a long time without ever being censored or condemned.
In actual fact the Holy See only condemned Marxist strains of Liberation Theology, not the entire movement. In one of the essays published in the book, Müller himself describes the political and geopolitical factors which over the years came to condition certain accusations made against the Theology of Liberation Movement, at a time when a certain strain of capitalism felt itself to have gained the final victory. Not to mention the secret document which Ratzinger’s successor also mentions in the book; that is the document which the Committee of Santa Fé prepared for President Ronald Reagan in 1980, four years before the Vatican issued its first Instruction on the Liberation Theology movement. The documentrequested that the U.S. government take aggressive action against the movement, which was accused of transforming the Catholic Church into “a political weapon against private property and productive capitalism.”
With the arrival of the Pope “from the other side of the world” who has never been keen on ideologies and the intellectual approach taken by a certain Marxist-inspired theology, but who was used to visiting Buenos Aires’ slums unaccompanied in his days as archbishop and who now speaks of “a poor Church for the poor,” the reconciliation between the Vatican and the Liberation Theology movement is complete. Now that the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has put his signature beside Fr. Gutiérrez’s, this reconciliation is confirmed. This shows that in the Church, speaking of the poor is not pauperism and condemning the injustices suffered by the weak does not make one a Marxist, it simply means being a Christian.