(The continuation of the piece which was begun on May Day.)
Briefly, I will single out just one or two of the differences between the '1984' and the '1986' documents. Liberation Theology made much of the concept of institutionalised Sin. Sin, many Liberationists argued, should not be seen as an individual delict committed by an individual, but something embedded in the structures of societies; particularly in those of exploitative capitalist societies. Against this view, '1984' argued that the war against Sin was primarily to be found in the internal conversion of the individual. But '1986' saw the work for internal conversions and the improvement of structures as simultaneous. And, two years later in Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, S John Paul wrote: "The principal obstacle to be overcome on the way to authentic liberation is Sin and the structures produced by Sin as it multiplies and spreads".
'1984' deplored any use of Marxist analysis; '1986' did not repeat this grumble. Indeed, some of the writings of the early Marx (Grundrisse) about Alienation and Reification might arguably be illuminating to a Catholic thinker; and some of the anthropological writings of Guevara on the New (Socialist) Man would bear interesting comparison with S Paul's anthropology if Guevara's views were not so sadly limited (I might go so far as to say vitiated) by his simplistic unawareness of the existence and nature of Original Sin.
'1986' actually used the controversial phrase "Option for the Poor"; because the man who affirms poverty is worth more for what he is than for what he has; so that the Option "excludes nobody". And S John Paul II used the phrase with approval in his Redemptoris Mater of 1987.
Marxist ethics notoriously have their roots in the dogma of the Primacy of Praxis. This found expression among the Comunidades de base of Latin America, often led by their revolutionary clergy. There had therefore been natural suspicion in the Church of these Base Communities, arising from their behaviour and the writings of some of their proponents; but '1986' actually favoured them as long as (unlike those American LCWR nuns) they did not "go beyond" Christ and His Church.
The Church, the World, and Latin America, have come a long way since the 1980s. But it is still, I understand, true that the gap between rich and poor in many places has widened rather than narrowed. Plutocratic self-interest still uses its wealth to attempt to bully 'Third World' countries into enforcing abortion and contraception, on the wholly mendacious grounds that the planet cannot sustain a growing population. We abort a large percentage of our own population and then wonder, firstly, why there seems to be a strange vacuum in our labour market which attracts foreigners to come and fill it; and, secondly, how an aging population profile can possibly be supported by a diminishing working population. Some 'Green' movements seem to me to inherit the ideologies of the Nazi, American, and Scandinavian 'Eugenics' and 'Racial Hygiene' movements of the 1930s; the racism is now covert rather than overt but the leopard's spots have in fact changed very little: the cry is still essentially that Subhumans Breed Too Much. And still we find it easier to try to work out how to stop them getting to Lampedousa than to take much interest in the structural causes of demographic instability.
Is there not a vacuum here for the Teaching Authority of the Church to re-enter; in which to establish a new bridgehead? Will the imminent 'Encyclical on the Environment' go any way to doing so? Valde optandum. I will be most disappointed if it just goes on about global warming and rain-forests. Vitally important here is the phrase 'human ecology', first used by S John Paul but memorably deployed by the august emeritus pontiff Benedict XVI: "The human being will be capable of respecting other creatures only if he keeps the full meaning of life in his own heart. Otherwise he will come to despise himself and his surroundings, and to disrespect the environment, the creation, in which he lives. For this reason, the first ecology to be defended is human ecology. This is to say, that, without a clear defence of human life from conception until natural death, without a defence of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman, without an authentic defence of those excluded and marginalised by Society ... we will never be able to speak of authentic protection of the environment". Just as goodness cannot authentically come from an evil and corrupted individual heart, so authentic 'environmentalism' cannot come from an evil and corrupted human society. A Church which makes her peace with those who promote abortion and disordered sexual acts (whether heterosexual or homosexual) on the grounds that 'we may disagree about some things but we can co-operate because we find common ground with regard to the ozone layer', will be a Church which has been deceived by the Evil One.
I am, incidentally, very pleased that the Pope is going to visit Cuba, dutifully following in the footsteps of his august predecessor. I was intrigued by the news that Pope Benedict, when he met Fidel Castro, discussed Liturgy with him ... it would be so beautiful if this papal visit were to lead to the aged revolutionary returning to the Sacraments! I bet he would join the Latin Mass Society.
We are told that, immediately after his Election, our beloved Holy Father had this message whispered into his ear by a close friend among the Patres purpurati, Cardinal Hummes: Do not forget the Poor. I cannot help wondering if the priorities of this Pontificate have been subverted by noisy Northern European cardinals who belabour the papal ear with demands generated among the comfortable (if sexually incontinent) Kirchensteuer (Church Tax) paying congregations who fund them.
Such people ... either the bishops or the tax-payers concerned ... are not exactly what Holy Scripture means when it talks about hoi ptokhoi toi pneumati, "the Poor".