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“”"Extra ecclesiam, nulla salus," as the older faith used to say. "Within the revolution anything," as Fidel Castro was fond of remarking. "Outside the revolution—nothing." Indeed, within Castro's periphery there evolved a bizarre mutation known oxymoronically as "liberation theology," where priests and even some bishops adopted "alternative" liturgies enshrining the ludicrous notion that Jesus of Nazareth was really a dues-paying socialist. For a combination of good and bad reasons (Archbishop Romero of El Salvador was a man of courage and principle, in the way that some Nicaraguan "base community" clerics were not), the papacy put this down as a heresy. Would that it could have condemned Fascism and Nazism in the same unhesitating and unambiguous tones.
|—Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything|
Liberation theology is a Christian socialist political movement founded in Latin America, but has extended to much of the rest of the Third World. The movement was founded in 1971 by Peruvian Roman Catholic priest Gustavo Gutiérrez, who is the writer of one of the movement's chief texts, A Theology of Liberation (1972), though Protestants are also involved alongside Roman Catholics. Liberation theology is about a faith-based and compassionate socialist response to environmental destruction, inequality, oppression, poverty and war.[note 1] Naturally, all popes starting from John Paul II have been vehemently opposed to liberation theology, and have actively sought to eradicate it, though Pope Francis is paying some lip service to rehabilitating some of them.
The idea itself goes back to the colonial era, but became invigorated during the 1950s. One of the most famous proponents of liberation theology was Saint Archbishop Óscar Romero. Romero became known as "the bishop of the poor" and was assassinated during El Salvador's civil war in 1980. Other influential early figures were Gustavo Gutiérrez, Hugo Assmann, and Leonardo Boff. Social revolution was seen as theologically significant.
Poverty is oppression
Liberation theology claim that the root of poverty is sin within society, specifically oppression and injustice against the poor, and that practice (or praxis) — taking action against poverty and the sin that lies at its root — is as important as doctrine. (Contrast the Protestant idea of sola scriptura.) It asserts that the Church can better meet the needs of the poor by decentralizing itself, and that God has a preference for those who are marginalized in society (the "preferential option for the poor"). Liberation theology is about liberating oppressed people so they can choose their own destiny.
The Brazilian group CELAM (the Latin American Episcopal Conference) was one of the major groups supporting LT-style ideas, though it never explicitly called itself such due to the fact that the Vatican was officially opposed to LT. It pushed the Second Vatican Council towards a more socially oriented stance in the early 1960s.
“”When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.
Liberation theology was historically opposed by the Roman Catholic Church and other religious critics (such as Glenn Beck) on the basis that it is Marxist (This belief was especially potent and widespread during the height of the Cold War). Supporters of LT, in turn, charge that the reason why the Church opposes it is not because of theology, but because it threatens their material interests, and because the Church had ties to right-wing dictatorships in Latin America.
Not big fans
Needless to say, supporters of liberation theology are not big fans of Christian economics.
- Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great, Page 247.
- Introduction and Overview of Liberation Theology ; Liberation Theology: Religious Response to Social Problems. A Survey
- Pope lifts beatification ban on Salvadoran Oscar Romero
- Archbishop Oscar Romero profile, U.S. Catholic
- A Concise History of Liberation Theology
- "Glenn Beck sticks 'liberation theology' label on Obama's Christianity." The Christian Science Monitor (Aug 25, 2010).