4 May 2015

Liberation Theology (2)

(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".


George Lee said...

There is a world of difference between "the poor" and the poor in spirit.

George Lee said...

There is a world of difference between "the poor" and those mentioned in the Beatitudes--the poor in spirit.

Andreas said...

It seems to me that our public discourse is slipping more and more towards the concept of human well-being and comfort and we are losing sight of what St. Jerome puts so well:

Divitiae autem, et sanitas corporis, et rerum omnium abundantia, et his contraria, paupertas, infirmitas, et inopia, etiam apud philosophos saeculi, nec inter bona reputantur, nec inter mala, sed appellantur indifferentia. Unde et Stoici, qui nostro dogmati in plerisque concordant, nihil appellant bonum, nisi solam honestatem atque virtutem: nihil malum, nisi turpitudinem. (In Isaiam)

(English: Wealth and health and the abundance of all things and their opposites: poverty, sickness, and deprivation, - these are neither good nor bad. Also among worldly philosophers these are called “indifferent”. Whence also the Stoics, who are in agreement in many things with our teaching, don’t call anything good, except honesty and virtue, and nothing bad, except immorality.)

What good is it to gain the whole world ...? If morality is of secondary importance, everything collapses.

Liam Ronan said...

Dear Father,

Thank you for your welcome reflections which are nourishment indeed and put me ever in mind of Daniel 11:33:

"And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days."

God's protection be with you and yours always.

I have just read Rorate Caeli's piece regarding Antonio Socci's: "Dear Pope Francis, we adore God, not men" and am struck by how the present obsession with the 'poor' and 'bread for the poor', etc. contrasts remarkably with the prescient analysis of Pope Benedict XVI in Chapter 2 of his book "Jesus of Nazareth".

Titled 'The Temptations of Jesus', chapter 2 examines Satan's temptation and failed efforts to tempt Jesus to turn the stones into bread and why Marxism, Socialism, and State efforts to cow-tow to the poor are gravely and fatally distorted.

If you have Benedict XVI's book it's worth revisiting this chapter alone to see how certain hierarchical personages in the Church today are succumbing to the very temptations which Christ resisted in the desert and, so much, so that later when the temptation to turn aside was suggested to Him by Peter, Our Lord called Peter "Satan" for trying to dissuade Him from His true purpose.

"But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art a stumbling-block unto me: for thou mindest not the things of God, but the things of men." Matthew 16:23

Tommy said...

Not sarcasm -- a very enlightened commentary. What do you think of the claim that Liberation Theology was directly "created" by USSR infiltration in South America? The connection with Marxism is of course already there implicitly, but my primary question is really whether the Holy Spirit can work through such fallen means to bring true theological fruit for the Church, or if the discovery that the whole theology was a Soviet mastermind would undermine any appreciation we can have for it.

Disgusted in DC said...

Tommy - - I recall the term "homoo├║sios" itself came from rather dodgy sources. It has happened before.

Jordan said...

Thanks for this Father, but I wonder if you have seen this new interview with a former Romanian communist spy in CNS: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/former-soviet-spy-we-created-liberation-theology-83634/

I don't know how credible he is, but it's interesting.

Tommy said...

Disgusted--wow! What Google and Wikipedia can do to shatter the illusion that one knows anything about history.

rick allen said...

Father, thank you for your careful review of this issue. Like so many controversies, political as well as religious, this has so often been argued on the level of cliches and slogans.

Some months ago I started reading Father Guttierez' Teologia de la Liberacion, but some pressing matters made me put it aside--I hope to get back to it by midsummer.

The mainstream media narrative has almost unanimously seen the CDF documents as a papal "smackdown" of any notion of liberation theology, which is ridiculous if one actually bothers to read what was written.

Fr. Guttierez spends some considerable time on the social sciences, and probably accords them more persuasiveness than I would. His use of Marx, in the introductory chapters, is less prescriptive than descriptive. There is some sense of trying to do with Marx what Rahner tried to do with Heidegger (and what St. Thomas Aquinas tried to do with Aristotle). It's too early for me to really evaluate it, but of course it has be be understood in the context of the grinding poverty of so much of the population of South America, and the scandal of a Church hierarchy uncritically tied in too many places to oppressive and violent oligarchies.

Anyway, glad to get a little light on the subject in place of heat.

Stephen said...

The Church is Europe has withered since WWII, even as the state has grown, everywhere - yet why is the Church so loathe to look for a cause and effect? Is it not reasonable to assume that, as the State has grown, it has been at the Church's expense?

Indeed, the State - including if not specifically Christian Democrats - has succeeded in Europe in eliminating anything between it and the individual; this was first put into action on a large scale in Europe in Germany by...Hitler and the National Socialists. So it would appear that the victors were ideologically defeated by the vanquished.

And the Church says....nothing. Can the Christian Democrats be honestly called anything other than Socialists, or at least their Useful Idiots, as Lenin foretold?

Melinda said...

Father, do you know of a place where good work is being done in this area, or even just one person? I know of students who would love to pursue graduate study in authentic Catholic social justice, but most programs would be beyond painful.

Stephen said...

The context to this blogpost is, of course, that the experience of post WW II Europe and what inspired those who created what we now see is not that much different from the underlying principles of liberation theology, to the point that one can accurately predict what will happen in one contintent based on the similar policies enacted on another continent.

GOR said...

I take the point of the distinction between being ‘poor in spirit’ as praiseworthy, rather than just being ‘materially poor’ as virtuous in itself. This makes the Holy Father’s recent recommendation to bow down before the (materially) poor, problematic in a sense. It seems to equate material poverty with virtue. I doubt that was Our Lord’s intent. He also said “The poor you will always have with you…” denoting that there were things more important than mere concern for the poor.

I suspect our Holy Father may have been thinking of the Pharisee in the Temple recounting all his ‘good’ deeds and comfortable in his smugness. The Publican was probably more well-off than the Pharisee but he was ‘poor in spirit’ and was commended for it.

While heroic virtue (perfection) may prescribe “selling all you have and giving to the poor”, few of us – outside of Religious Life – are in position or inclined to do so. But in medio stat virtus and we can strive for poverty of spirit along with caring for those less fortunate.

plato said...

I have prayed for Fidel Castro ever since JPII visited Cuba. My favorite picture of them is this:
The pope had just arrived and he must have asked Fidel what time it was. The picture is when they stopped walking so Fidel could tell him the time. He had been walking very slowly with the pope. I could tell that he greatly admired and respected JPII. And this image somehow reminded me of the 6 year old boy that Fidel must have been, going to Church with his grandma. I knew he had been raised Catholic. There must have been a time when he believed and when he was innocent. It seemed to me that little boy and his faith is still in there somewhere. I have prayed for him since that day. It seems to me that the socialist implementation of his communist ideology that made him a dictator for decades is unique in that he truly believes that he has done it FOR his people. He believes it could work out for good(except for the huge empire that has sanctioned them and tried its best to isolate them...and that would be us, the US) At least, that is the feeling that I get from him. I do not think that he has had evil intentions or a lust for power. At any rate, I pray for him. I see a goodness, caring and a belief in God in there somewhere. I, too, would love it if he could be reconciled with the Church and receive the Sacraments before he dies... He REALY LOVED JPII! I do not know of ANY country that did more than Cuba did in mourning our saint, Pope JPII, when he died.. I Love the way that Cuba mourned him. It showed a great respect and love for the pope. And they did it because Fidel LOVED him and respected him so so much! I saved some articles from Fidel Castro's and Cuba's reaction to the death of John Paul II. Just in case you are interested here is the link where I have these saved. http://learningmycatholicfaith.blogspot.com/2014/04/pope-john-paul-ii-fidel-castro-and-cuba.html