National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Pope Francis isn't a liberationist, but he could be

 |  NCR Today

In his visit to Brazil, Pope Francis sounded like a proponent of liberation theology, even if he didn't call it such. Like liberationists, the pope called attention to the church's priority to work with the poor and dispossessed that include especially the elderly, who in Third World countries such as Brazil often live with little or no safety net as they age, and the young, who, lacking education and employment opportunities, begin to despair and turn to drugs and crime.

Of course, the church has always spoken of its mission among the poor and dispossessed, but the power of liberation theology when it surfaced in Latin America in the late 1960s as a response to the Second Vatican Council's call for the church to address the issues of the contemporary world went further and called for the church to assist in the empowerment of the poor and oppressed. It called on the church in Latin America to not only reverse its long partnership with the rich and powerful, including dictators, but to openly oppose such inequalities of wealth and concentration of power.

It reminded the church of its roots. Jesus was born a poor man, and he ministered to the poor and oppressed. This is the origins of the church, and the attraction of liberation theology, as theologian Fr. Virgilio Elizondo has written, is that it was new and innovative because it was old and traditional. It was new only in the sense that, as noted, it called for the church to return to the old, to its roots as a sanctuary for those on the margins of society.

rectangular-logo.jpgVisit our new website, Global Sisters Report!

So is Pope Francis a liberationist? As Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Argentina, he expressed his concerns about the poor but was not openly critical of the military junta that tortured and killed thousands. Perhaps now as pope and thinking of what legacy he might leave, he might be beginning to combine his earlier voice for the poor with a liberationist stress on calling attention to governments that are not adequately addressing the needs of those who live in the margins of society.

I don't believe that one can yet call Pope Francis a liberationist, but perhaps he, in his own way, is moving to resuscitate liberation theology as a central movement in the church as opposed to the trashing it received from his two previous predecessors. Let's hope so, if the church is to be seen as relevant in the modern world to those Catholics in countries such as Brazil, who are turning to other religious alternatives because they don't believe that the Catholic church feels their pain.

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at Disqus.com/verify.
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

 

Feature-flag_GSR_start-reading.jpg

NCR Email Alerts

 

In This Issue

September 12-25, 2014

09-12-2014.jpg

Not all of our content is online. Subscribe to receive all the news and features you won't find anywhere else.