Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI, was a close ally of Pope John Paul II. As Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, his pronouncements carried weight. On this day, September 3, 1984 he denounced aspects of a theology which had been growing in popularity in Latin American countries.
In the second half of the 20th century, Liberation Theology, a fusion of Christian and Marxist ideals, emerged from among some of Spanish America's prominent Catholic theoreticians. Marxist ideas seemed to propel the religious. In Liberation Theology, Latin Americans are the underclass, the oppressed. They are victims and not responsible for their spiritual and economic condition. Outsiders force both on them. Liberation theologians hoped through Christianized socialist mechanisms to find a better life here without losing eternity hereafter. Some had no compunction in calling for violence to change the system. They were opposed to such Western concepts as free enterprise and private property.
John Paul II had suffered under socialism. He had few illusions as to the damage any materialistic system (Capitalistic or Communistic) can do to the soul. The Vatican found it needful to protest.
"Millions of our own contemporaries legitimately yearn to recover those basic freedoms of which they were deprived by totalitarian and atheistic regimes which came to power by violent and revolutionary means, precisely in the name of the liberation of the people. This shame of our time cannot be ignored: while claiming to bring them freedom, these regimes keep whole nations in conditions of servitude which are unworthy of mankind. Those who, perhaps inadvertently, make themselves accomplices of similar enslavements betray the very poor they mean to help."
Leading Liberation theologian Gustavo Guiterrez writes thus: "It is to see man in search of a qualitatively different society in which he will be free from all servitude, in which he will be the artisan of his own destiny. It is to seek the building of a new man." This is to be accomplished through putting into place a socialistic economic system.
You do not hear as much about Liberation Theology today as you did ten years ago. Vatican chastisement and changing world political conditions seemed to have diminished its prestige, but its ideas are still taught in all sorts of connections (such as women's liberation) and remain influential.
- Gross, Ernie. This Day in Religion. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 1990.
- Martin, Malachi. The Jesuits. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987.
- Novak, Michael. Will it Liberate? New York: Paulist press, 1986.
Last updated April, 2007.