Saturday, April 13, 2013

Is the Pope Really Against Liberation Theology?

Russ Lemley emails:
Hi Robert, 
I hope you are well.
Given your interest in determining whether Pope Francis would come up publicly with anti-free market ideas, I thought I'd pass along this article from the National Catholic Reporter for your information.
From the article, written by John L. Allen Jr.:
I spent early April in Buenos Aires, where I tried to learn more about Pope Francis from those who know him best as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. The idea was to gain insight into the man and his vision of the church, and I published some of what I found along the way.

However, I also had to look into some hard questions about the new pope's record in Argentina.[...]

On the broader question of Bergoglio's record during the military dictatorship, I consulted historian Roberto Bosca at the University of Astral in Buenos Aires. I asked about Bergoglio's relationship with the military government that took power in March 1976 and that ruled the country through a euphemistically termed "National Reorganization Process" until December 1983.

Bosca's basic take is that Bergoglio, like most people in Argentina at the time, was neither a supporter nor a critic.

"There's almost no record of anything he either said or wrote during that period either in favor of the regime or against it," Bosca said.[...]

Despite Bergoglio's reputation as an opponent of liberation theology during the 1970s, Bosca insists that wasn't actually the case. He said Bergoglio accepted the premise of liberation theology, especially the option for the poor, but in a "nonideological" fashion.

Bergoglio's insistence on moving priests into the villas miserias, the poor slums of Buenos Aires, reflects that instinct, Bosca said.

If Bergoglio was opposed to something back then, Bosca said, it was giving a Catholic blessing to armed insurgency. That was not just a theoretical possibility in Argentina, Bosca said, in light of the rise of the Montoneros movement.

The Montoneros, he said, were "a Catholic guerilla movement" resting on "three ideological pillars: socialism, Peronism and liberation theology," he said. ("Peronism" refers to the various political currents in Argentina that draw inspiration from former President Juan PerĂ³n and his wife, Eva, who wanted to carve out a third way between capitalism and communism.)

"There were a few priests in Argentina who joined the Montoneros and who became guerilla priests, like Camillo Torres in Colombia," Bosca said.

As the military regime in Argentina wore on, the Montoneros became less a resistance movement and more a leftist urban terror group, akin to the Red Brigades in Europe. One estimate from the mid-1980s held the Montoneros responsible for approximately 6,000 deaths among the military, police forces and civilian population during the previous decade.

"For sure, [Bergoglio] was in opposition to the Montoneros," Bosca said. "It wasn't opposition to liberation theology in itself or the option for the poor."
 The BBC on liberation theology:
Liberation theology was a radical movement that grew up in South America. It said said the church should act to bring about social change, and should ally itself with the working class to do so. The late Pope John Paul II opposed the movement. 
Liberation theology was a radical movement that grew up in South America as a response to the poverty and the ill-treatment of ordinary people. The movement was caricatured in the phrase If Jesus Christ were on Earth today, he would be a Marxist revolutionary[...] 
The late Pope John Paul II was frequently criticised for the severity with which he dealt with the liberation movement.
His main object was to stop the highly politicised form of liberation theology prevalent in the 1980s, which could be seen as a fusion of Christianity and Marxism. He was particularly criticised for the firmness with which he closed institutions that taught Liberation Theology and with which he removed or rebuked the movement's activists, such as Leonardo Boff and Gustavo Gutierrez.
He believed that to turn the church into a secular political institution and to see salvation solely as the achievement of social justice was to rob faith in Jesus of its power to transform every life. The image of Jesus as a political revolutionary was inconsistent with the Bible and the Church's teachings.

The full John Allen National Catholic Reporter profile of the new Pope, during his life as a priest in South America is here.


  1. I sincerely believe that instead of critizing Catholic social teaching, we should be defending the moral foundations and implications of capitalism, which bring about a far more humane world than the current interventionist statism to which we are subjected around the world.

    We cannot expect the Catholic hierarchy to draw better economic conclusions than the Nobel prize-winning economists that recommend progressively more interventionist measures at every turn.

    We should, however, point out relentlessly that capitalism is the only social organization system that fully respects and preserves the basic human dignity of all peoples around the world, allowing for their optimal material thriving, which is a basic concern of the Catholic Church, especially for the peoples of underdeveloped countries.

    They do not know what capitalism is. If they understand it, they could become a staunch supporter of capitalistic policies, precisely on ethical grounds, and especially as statist policies get far more oppressive around the world.

    1. Explaining what capitalism is, is too complicated. Better yet, why not just explain that everyone should have the right to earn a living as they see fit, as long as it is not harmful to others, and should have the right to spend their money as they see fit.

      Good luck with all this. Until such time as governments can disconnect themselves from bankers and fiat debt money, you'll never see anything accomplished that conflicts with the basic ponzi scheme at work now around the world in the statist entitlements system.

      Socialism works best for the banking class and the politicians. Everyone else is just fodder for the grist mill.

  2. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was interviewed by X-Catholic Chris Mathews of MSNBC. The Cardinal after living under these socialist regimes for years has become a strong believer in Capitalism ! Chris Mathews was made a fool of in this interview and hence it was not aired ! So much for honest journalism ! An excellent revealing interview !