Thursday, January 18, 2018

Pope Francis' teaching seems made for what Peru needs today

By María Rosa Lorbés (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Observatorio Social-Eclesial
December 15, 2017

Miguel Cruzado, a Jesuit from Piura, receives us to talk about the Pope and his upcoming visit. Father Cruzado, despite his youth, has had a distinguished career in the Peruvian and universal Church. He was the provincial superior of the Society of Jesus in Peru in 2010 and several years later was named by the Father General as his General Counselor and Regional Assistant for Southern Latin America and had to move to the Jesuit General Curia Community in Rome. He returned again to Peru and was just named director of Fe y Alegría a few days ago.

What do you think is the most important aspect of the Pope's visit? How do you feel about this great ecclesial event?

It makes me very enthusiastic because I think it's very important that some of Francis' central themes be developed, heard and debated in Peru, both in the Church and in society. There are societies, hemispheres, realities where Francis' teaching, although important, may not seem urgent. In Peru, it goes to the heart of what we're experiencing today -- the importance of Christian discernment in a church with pastors who don't accompany their faithful very much, the situation of the poorest in the face of the naturalization of social inequalities, public responsibilities in the midst of the tremendous ethical crisis that we are experiencing today. It's as if Francis' teaching were made for what Peru needs now.

At this moment, before the coming of the Pope, people are looking more towards the Church; it's in the display window. What do you think the average Peruvian sees when he looks at that Church?

Unfortunately, I believe that in recent years the Church, myself included, has been moving away from real life, from the important issues of people's lives. Especially the poorest and the youngest. In fact, as we know from various studies, the ones who leave the Catholic Church are the poor and the young adults. We're losing people because we don't have a message that's close to their lives.

It concerns me not only because they are the majority of the population in our country, but also because they are the ones who we want to accompany especially as Church. God is without a doubt in the working class and youth worlds of Peru; their alienation from the Catholic Church expresses our inability to hear Him and recognize Him in their midst. Alienating ourselves from the lives of the people is alienating ourselves from God Himself.

We have reached a point where we aren't even controversial; we arouse more indifference than debate. Not only are we decreasing, we are, moreover, less and less relevant to people's lives. For example, for young people with future reference points, for families with openness to the challenges of distances and ruptures between their members, special situations that are sometimes painful, for professionals with criteria to discern ethical life, the political and economic options in society. The Church is a weak voice among many others, one that is losing legitimacy, mostly it's not even a voice that is sounding.

We need Pope Francis...

In that sense, I think that the Pope's visit could help us to focus as Church on the relevant issues we are experiencing as a society. The Pope has something of this spiritual grace of a pastor who feels and acknowledges what people are experiencing, and reacts to it. I think Francis will get what we are experiencing in Peru and know how to respond to what we need to attend to today from the Gospel. Even though he comes with already prepared texts, you have to also pay attention to his spontaneous words, the unforseen reactions. That's where we should be revitalized as the Catholic Church, since they aren't idle reactions for a photo, a video, they're reactions of someone who feels what the people are living, linking it to what is most authentic in Christian tradition, the Gospel.

So, as believers and as citizens, what should we expect from this visit -- to be content, unsettled, or called to change?

I hope and am convinced, because of Francis' charisma and because he knows Peru, that this visit can give us back a bit of hope, both to the Church and to society. We're a bit down as Church and society. We've been hit again and again. The corruption is showing the worst of us. We don't recognize clear voices that help us orient ourselves as a nation. In the Church, we haven't had a clear word, in which we recognize ourselves as a community, in a while. I think the enthusiasm and joy with which Francis lives can help us lift our gaze to renew ourselves and seek common horizons.

But Francis is coming for a few days. What he can awaken will depend on how the people, all of us, receive the message. It will depend a lot on how the media, pastors, opinion leaders take the key points from Francis' message and promote them to make decisions. The Francis effect depends on Peruvians the day after Francis leaves. It will be very important to get what the Spirit is saying to us during the visit so that it later becomes messages to develop. That's why the "reception" of Francis is very important. "Reception" is a theological concept that implies not just listening but also interpreting for one's own life and putting into practice.

Because of what we've been saying, what do you think the Peruvian Church should do to respond to the Pope's invitation to be a poor Church and for the poor?

It's true that the Church's public voice is losing importance, but at the level of people's daily life, the Church in Peru, thank God, has thousands of laypeople -- men and women, men and women religious, who are this "field hospital Church" that Francis wants. A Church that welcomes people, listens, heals, that doesn't discriminate and helps us to be a little more human and therefore more holy. Unfortunately these things aren't public and appear as movements, partial or private initiatives; they aren't seen as the most visible face of the Church.

In the face of what you're saying, there is in effect a public opinion that doesn't know what the Church is doing at the service of society, sometimes in the most remote corners, a Church that serves the poorest.

I believe that the Church in Peru has a tradition that has become invisible. A tradition of closeness, solidarity, involvement with the poorest and with the working class worlds of Peru, with what is most authentic in us as a nation. It has been made invisible by people who haven't understood it, by narrow political viewpoints, by fearful theological opposition. However, it must become visible because it is real, it exists. It is the Church without communiqués or declarations, the everyday one.

In Fe y Alegría alone, we're talking about 43 religious orders and thousands of laypeople -- men and women -- committed to the education of the poorest in Peru. Half are religious, but the other half are laymen and women, teachers who direct the best public schools in Peru and sometimes have better evaluations than others from private schools in the country. How many health missions to people in indigenous areas carried out by religious, laymen, laywomen, there are in Peru -- tens of thousands. The work for people's rights as well. For example, on the issue of equality between men and women and stereotypes and gender equality, the huge work that is being done and has always been done for the rights and defense of women and girls has not been made visible. It is organized by lots of Christian organizations in Peru, above all in the most wounded areas, where there is the greatest danger. That work didn't begin now, but has been going on for decades.

Today more and more men and women are becoming aware of the role of women and many Christians have collaborated, contributed, and are working on this daily, but it's not visible. Christian voices are  becoming more visible and they're in the newspapers, sometimes of our pastors, who instead view with mistrust all these efforts for equity and women's rights for which so many have been fighting for decades, long before these debates began.

So there is a Church that is close to the people, to the poor, to the most typical of the country and that, moreover, knows how to discern. Being a Christian isn't applying a few rules to fulfill them, it's believing and listening to God. These people who are close to poor people are discerning, trying to listen to what God is saying and asking from people's lives. That is believing in God, not just applying rules, but always thinking about what God is asking of me in this situation. Francis asks us to be a Church on the borders that discerns. That's why I do believe that Francis will help us to know more about this rooted, massive Church, close to the poor, to its own and that is discerning and is linked to so many people.

Making that Church visible is important, and above all, because through this it will be placed at the center of the public agenda, the social problems, the debates that the country doesn't raise.

Yes, above all because it allows you to get closer to the fundamental problems of the country's reality. We have been making the gospel dialogue with the culture, looking for ways to believe and recognize the seeds of the gospel that are proper for Peru. That Church not only works hard but has a word, a theological and spiritual reflection. A Church that discusses fundamental issues in the lives of people. Unfortunately these issues are not always picked up by our pastors, by us priests. We have become too formal and fearful. We are afraid, for example, of talking about the inequalities that exist in society. It seems normal that some Peruvians are condemned to a very low quality education. That is not normal, it's not good and it has been taken as normal. We are afraid to question gender stereotypes that do so much harm. And we contribute to normalizing inequalities between men and women. I hope the Pope helps us lose that fear a little.

Father, you're one of the few Peruvians who knows the Pope. I would like to ask you, what's he like? What would you say about him? How is Francis up close?

The first thing that struck me is that he is attentive to the people around him. He captures details of people. Suddenly, a group approaches that doesn't know what to say and it's as if the Pope has guessed. He reacts naturally, he's not silent, he's not suspicious. He intuits people, he has that grace of a pastor close to people.

Another trait is that, just as he's close he is also very demanding. He encourages us to continue the good we might be doing but also raises high challenges. That's how he is with everybody, with every order. He raises big challenges. His closeness isn't a cheap closeness, it's an expensive, demanding grace. What's surprising is that nobody feels offended, but rather recognized. We feel his trust. He knows we can go further.

The Pope has already made various trips to Latin America. Did any of his comments on his return strike you?

He always comes back happy from his trips in Latin America. And before the trips, yes, one senses that spiritually the Pope is preparing for something decisive. Which you see in the messages he gave when he arrived at his destination. In Latin America, Francis has said things that will always be remembered. He has opened immense doors for the universal Church teaching. Like what was said in Ecuador to indigenous people, in Bolivia to the popular movements, in Paraguay to women, in Colombia to a divided society.

Thank you, Father Cruzado. Do you want to add anything more?

I'll add something as an educator. Francis has had a message every year for educators. He has stressed a complete education for all, that helps people and communities to grow. The school, he has said, is like a small Church in which you grow, you discern, you are welcomed. I hope he challenges us in that respect in Peru and that we move beyond an instrumental view of education, just as techniques to offer and as a place for training people, that he helps us reassess the central role of the teacher in society in general.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

At a moment in history, the center of everything is in a woman

By Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl) (em portugües)

The Christmas holiday is wholly focused on the figure of the Divine Child (Puer aeternus), Jesus, the Son of God who decided to dwell among us. The celebration of Christmas goes beyond this fact. Restricting ourselves to him alone, we fall into the theological error of Christomonism (Christ alone counts), forgetting that there are also the Spirit and the Father who always act together.

It is worth highlighting the figure of his mother, Miriam of Nazareth. If she had not said her "yes," Jesus would not have been born. And there would be no Christmas.

As we are still hostages of the patriarchal era, it prevents us from understanding and valuing what the gospel of Luke says about Mary: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the energy (dynamis) of the Most High will pitch His tent over you and therefore the Holy Begotten One will be called the Son of God."(Lk 1:35)

Common translations, dependent on a masculinist reading, say "the virtue of the Most High will overshadow you." Reading the original Greek, that is not what is said. Literally it states: "the energy (dynamis) of the Most High will pitch His tent over you (episkiásei soi)." It is a Hebrew linguistic idiom meaning "dwelling not transiently but definitively" upon you, Mary. The word used is skene meaning tent. Pitching a tent over someone (epi-skiásei), as the text states, means: from now on Mary of Nazareth will be the permanent bearer of the Spirit. She was "spiritualized," that is, the Spirit is part of her.

Curiously, St. John the Evangelist applies the same word, skene (tent), to the incarnation of the Word. "And the Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us (eskénosen -- it is the same basic verb), that is, he lived permanently among us.

What conclusion do we draw from this? That the first divine Person sent into the world was not the Son, the second Person of the Holy Trinity. It was the Holy Spirit. The one who is third in the order of the Trinity is first in the order of Creation, that is, the Holy Spirit. The receptacle of this coming was a woman of the people, simple and pious like all the peasant women of Galilee, named Miriam or Mary.

In welcoming the coming of the Spirit, she was raised to the height of the divinity of the Spirit. That is why the evangelist Luke rightly says: "Therefore (dià óti) or because of this the Holy One will be called the Son of God" (Lk 1:35). Only someone who is at the height of God can bring forth a Son of God. Mary, for this reason, will be deified similarly to the man Jesus of Nazareth who was assumed by the eternal Son and thus was deified. It is the eternal Son incarnate in our humanity who we celebrate at Christmas.

Behold, at a moment in history, the center is occupied by a woman, Miriam of Nazareth. In her is working the Holy Spirit who dwells in her and who is creating the holy humanity of the Son of God. In her are present two divine Persons: the Holy Spirit and the eternal Son of the Father. She is the temple that houses both.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, so venerated by the Mexican people, with mestizo traits, appears as a pregnant woman with all the symbols of pregnancy of the Nahuatl culture (of the Aztecs). Every time I went to Mexico, I mixed with the crowds who come and visit the beautiful cloth image of Guadalupe. Dressed as a friar, I often would ask an anonymous pilgrim, "Little brother, do you worship the Virgin of Guadalupe?" And I always received the same answer, "Yes, little friar, how can I not worship the Virgin of Guadalupe? Yes, I adore her."

The devotee answered rightly, for in this woman two divine Persons are hidden, the Son who grew in her womb by the energy of the Spirit that was dwelling in her. And both, being God, can and should be worshiped. And Mary is inseparable from them, so she deserves the same worship. Hence the inspiration for one of my most read books, O Rosto materno de Deus (Vozes, 11th ed., 2012. In English translation as The Maternal Face of God, Collins Publications, 1989).

I have always lamented that most women, even women theologians, have not yet assumed their divine portion, present in Mary, by the work of the Holy Spirit. They remain with just Christ, the deified man.

Christmas will be more complete if, together with the Child who shivers from the cold in the manger, we would include his Mother who warms him, supported by her husband the good Joseph. He would also deserve a special reflection, something I have already done in these pages of Jornal do Brasil: his relationship with the heavenly Father.

In the midst of the crisis of our country, there is still a Star like the one of Bethlehem to give us hope and a Woman, bearer of the Spirit that inspires us to find a saving way out.

The domesticated Gospel

By Victor Codina (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Blog de CJ
December 19, 2017

We often discard gospel texts that are hard for us to understand. For example: that what we do to the poor, we do to Jesus, that the mysteries of the Kingdom, hidden from the wise and prudent, have been revealed to the little ones, that in the Magnificat it is said that God has put down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly, that in the beatitudes it is proclaimed that the poor are blessed and a "woe to the wealthy" is delivered, that God prefers mercy to sacrifices ... It even seems right to us that the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son did not want to participate in the festive feast.

Nor does it persuade us to hear that we have to carry the cross every day, rather we're in tune with Peter when he refuses to accept the passion of Jesus. We don't like to hear that we are to be born again, nor do we fully understand that God dwells in us, or that where there are two or three gathered in His name, He is present. Nor have we taken seriously the fact of not calling anyone father or teacher, because we call priests "father", bishops "his excellency", cardinals "his eminence", and the Pope "his holiness". We also don't like to hear that we have to be vigilant, because the Lord will come when we least expect it. And that resurrection business is so strange to us that we prefer to think that the soul is immortal, as the Greek philosophers and the Roman sages used to say.

To many men it is shocking that some women anointed the feet of Jesus with perfumes and tears, that the woman with the issue of blood touched the fringe of His mantle and that a Syrophoenician woman changed Jesus' plans. Nor do they like that Jesus first appeared to women and charged them to announce the resurrection to the disciples.

In short, we are accommodating the Gospel to our way of life, we are making the Church worldly, we are living a bourgeois Christianity, without cross or resurrection, with an "a la carte" faith. We domesticate the gospel, we mutilate it, we adapt it and make it politically correct. We have transformed Christmas into the celebration of consumption. The salt has lost its flavor, we have become pious Pharisees who fulfill external rites and norms, faith is reduced to a kind of béchamel sauce that coats the outside but doesn't transform life. Can it surprise us that many young and not so young people, men and women, are moving away from this style of Church? Is it strange that Pope Francis is talking about reforming the Church? We can not extinguish the fire of the Spirit.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Jesus hated borders

by José María Castillo (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
September 26, 2017

A border is the line that separates and divides one nation from another, one country from another, and often one culture from another. Therefore borders separate us, perhaps divide us, and often alienate us from one another. Hence, so often, borders make us oppose each other. It's inevitable.

You'll say I'm exaggerating the negative. It's possible. But no one can deny that history is full of peripeteia and unfortunate events related to what I've just pointed out.

That said, because of my professional formation (or deformation), when I see a problem or a situation like the one we're experiencing right now in Spain, in Europe and the world, I dip into the Gospel and ask myself, "Does Jesus of Nazareth teach me anything that will help guide me in what is happening?".

Jesus gave nationalist signals. When he sent his apostles to proclaim the coming of the kingdom of God, the first thing he told them was not to go to the pagans or to the Samaritan cities (Mt 10:5). And to the Canaanite woman who asked him for healing for her sick daughter, he said that he had only come for the lost sheep of Israel (Mt 15:24). Scholars of these stories look for explanations for these strange episodes. Because, among other things, we know very well that Jesus greatly valued the Samaritans (Lk 9:51-56, 10:30-35, 17:11-19; Jn 4). And it's that, apparently, in Jesus' mind the "lost sheep" were precisely among his people, in Israel. Hence his emphasis that the apostles attend first of all to those who are lost and astray. Jesus' mentality wasn't nationalist. Not at all. It was a humanitarian mentality.

So it draws one's attention that the first time, according to Luke's gospel, that Jesus went to his hometown (Nazareth), they asked him to do the reading in the synagogue. And nothing else occurred to him but to, when reading a text of the prophet Isaiah (61:1-2), just mention the "year of favor" and skip the "day of vengeance" bit. Which caused the confrontation (according to the most correct translation. J. Jeremias) of the people (Lk 4:22). And the worst was that, instead of calming his fellow citizens, he went on to say that God prefers strangers (a widow from Zarephath and a politician from Syria) (Lk 4:24-27) to his Nazareth nieghbors. That made the people furious and it was truly a miracle that they didn't shoot him down (Lk 4:28-30). Jesus hated borders to the point of risking his life to make it clear that he didn't support borders that separate and divide us.

But this isn't what's most striking. One of the most surprising things in the gospels is that the three most notable compliments Jesus gave about faith, he didn't give to his apostles or to his compatriots or his friends. He gave them to a Roman centurion (Mt 8:10), a Canaanite woman (Mt 15:28), and a Samaritan leper who came to thank Jesus, as opposed to the nine Jewish lepers who were just satisfied with fulfilling "their law" (Lk 17:11-19).

Jesus, on dying, "handed over the spirit" (Jn 19:30). Did he leave this life? Of course he did. But something much deeper: he "handed over" ("paradídomi") the "Spirit". For the 4th gospel, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, everything happened in that moment (H. U. Weidemann). And from that moment, which changed History, the myth of the Tower of Babel, the many languages, our divisions and inability to understand one another and live together as one and in peace, ended. It's the pinnacle of the Gospel. And if the God thing is good for anything, what good is it to us if each passing day it becomes more unbearable for us to live united together? Is it that Spain and Catalonia are more important than the Gospel of Jesus? From what we're seeing, for many Christians and quite a few priests, that's how it is. Or that's the impression they're giving.

Interview with Dom Pedro Casaldáliga

by José M. Vidal (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
September 26, 2017

He was always like a small thin reed, but with iron health and steel nerves. Today, at 89 years old, Dom Pedro Casaldáliga (Balsereny, 1928), the poet-bishop of the marginalized, remains a reed but doubled over by Parkinson's. From his wheelchair, he administers his silences and husbands his words which, from time to time, continue to flow like prophetic darts -- laconic and right on. He doesn't want Catalan independence, he asks young people to move on to action, and he asserts that Francis is "a blessing from God".

Padre Angel (L) and Dom Pedro Casaldaliga (R)
 in the chapel in Sao Felix do Araguaia, Brazil

Don Pedro, do you like to receive visits?

Some, yes.

As a Catalonian and Catalonia International Prize winner, what do you think of the [independence] process?

We'll see what happens with independence. I would prefer that it not be. There are wise people who are going to approach the matter differently. It's not a natural process. It makes no sense.

Did you know Tarancón [Cardinal Vicente Enrique y Tarancón]?

Yes, when I was a seminarian in Barbastro and he was bishop in Solsona. He was a worthy figure with the vocation of intermediary during that difficult time in Spain.

Where do your hope and strength come from, despite everything?

Relying on somebody.

Who is that somebody?

It could only be Him.

What nourishes your hope?

The Resurrection of Christ.

If you could change just one thing in the world, what would it be?

That everyone who has power would stand in the right place: life.

And what would you change in the Catholic Church?

Put power in the people's hands. Otherwise, it becomes a problem. In the Church, the crucial thing is giving one's life for others and a gospel devotion to the Beatitudes.

Did you have problems with the hierarchy?

Yes, I did.

What did you do and what should be done in those cases?

Continue to stand firm on the side of the poor and always bear witness.

Would you order the churches to be open 24 hours?

Yes, so the people might come in, sleep, eat, and pray, if they want.

Some advice for young people.

That they remain rebels with hope, despite the despair. And always on the side of the poor and excluded. We've been talking about consciousness raising for years. That time is over. It's time to act and respond to specific calls.

What do you say to Father Ángel [García Rodríguez] who came to see you from Madrid?

That he keep on being a prophet and looking out for peace, which is lived out and is a process.

What do you think of Pope Francis?

A blessing from God.

Are you, like him, a blessing from God?

We're all blessings from God, if we are listening and if we are committed to interchange and dialogue. Because the problem is how to live daily life in the midst of this violent world.

Do you regret anything?

Not having enough attitude of dialogue.

What are you most proud of?

The many people who still accompany me on the journey and having given my life to the excluded, the marginalized, the little ones.

Your favorite saints?

Saint Francis of Assisi (when I went to Rome, I wanted to go to Assisi to see Father Arrupe, but I couldn't).

And poets?

Antonio Machado, Saint John of the Cross (his "Spiritual Canticle" comes first), Espriu, Neruda and Maragall.

Thank you very much, Dom Pedro.

You're welcome. We have talked. Now it's about doing.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Ivone Gebara: "The hierarchy thinks that the Gospel message is a sealed package to deliver to the faithful"

by Luis Miguel Modino (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
June 25, 2017

Ivone Gebara is one of the main references of feminist theology of the last decades, not only in the Brazilian arena but in the world. She defines herself as a feminist liberation theologian and is aware that this stance determines how she understands Christianity.

Her critical attitude has caused rejection in many church environments, often coming from people who do not inquire into the presuppositions that are the basis of the theological reflection of the Brazilian nun, who has always made clear on which side she stands, that of the marginalized groups within society and the Church itself.

In this interview, Ivone Gebara shows her thoughts regarding the female world within the Catholic Church, which she accuses of being influenced more by cultural models than by Jesus Christ's own message, implying that the attempts at change Pope Francis has wanted to carry out in reference to women are actions which, in her opinion, won't give rise, for now, to anything novel.

Why is it so hard in the Catholic Church to assume a theological view from the female perspective?

The Church has no difficulty in assuming the feminine from its model, that is, from its view of human relationships and the place it has determined that women occupy. In that view, there is an almost ontological priority of men in relation to women, since they are the first image of God, the one which can represent Christ.

This theology is still the current theology and it wasn't necessarily created by the Church, but by the Greco-Roman culture that marked the formation of Christian theology. Cultural processes are very slow and involve a complexity of behaviors and motions that don't always submit to our rationalizations.

I think it will take a long time for egalitarian anthropological change to take place in the world and in the Church.

From your point of view, what were the causes of the attempt to subject women within Christianity and later within Catholicism throughout history?

I think we copied the models of other cultures and we made those models the will of God and of Jesus. And unfortunately most of the theology teaching still administered in the Institutes and Faculties of Theology, and also in the parishes, is done from a hierarchical view of human beings, not just of gender, but of race and social classes too.

The Church doesn't change independently of the world. The Church as an institution would hardly assume a position of justice and gender equality different from that of the world. It even goes to fight the world, believing that it's obeying divine will. It doesn't ask itself whether there is in fact such an unequal and unjust divine will, whether in fact that view doesn't imply maintaining a now ultra-outdated model of power with very marked totalitarian features.

Isn't subjecting women an attitude contrary to the new that Jesus wanted to establish?

Jesus wasn't a feminist. Feminism is a contemporary movement. But in Jesus' tradition, in Jesus' Movement, we find an egalitarian ethical dimension along the lines of individual rights that is an inspiration to the feminist theologies of our time. But it's necessary to have our eyes and ears open to perceive that in the Gospels.

The arrival of Pope Francis brought a new church policy in regard to women. Do you think it's enough with those new attitudes or is something more radical needed? What do you think of the proposal to ordain women deacons?

I don't think Pope Francis has brought a new church policy regarding women. He's brought many important things, but not with respect to women. The female diaconate project is still in the "bain-marie", and I don't think it has the chance to get off paper and out of the meetings in which the same things are discussed eternally.

The Pope rejects the word "feminism", the expression "gender relations", the term "feminist hermeneutics" of the Bible, patriarchalism and other interventions that are important to feminist liberation theology.

He thinks a theology should be done for women, which shows great naiveté in relation to what we have already done in half a century of activity in different parts of the world. I believe that the changes have to take place in the communities, in the barrios, in the daily life of the people before appearing as decrees of the Pope or some bishop.

Can a Church where women are not on an equal plane with men enter into dialogue with today's society?

I believe it's very hard to enter into dialogue with the problems of the world today. And this in part because the hierarchical Church, the one that holds the authority over the Catholic communities, thinks that the message of the Gospel is a sealed package that it's responsible for delivering to the faithful.

They don't open the doors to think about Jesus' heritage for the world of today starting from an ethos of diversity, but at the same time centered on love and respect towards people. The Church's success, with rare exceptions, is still in mass devotion, in miracles, in sanctuaries, that is, in that which is expressed as religiosity that is given for people's consumption.

I don't think this is very educational, especially in current times. It hardly meets the needs of an orphaned people for leaders and care for one another. A people where the hunger for peace and health almost necessarily leads to expecting from superhuman powers what the powers of the earth could offer.

Unfortunately the Pope goes on creating the beatified -- men and women saints -- perhaps even half forced to do so by the conservatives who surround him. But it doesn't seem to me a good path for the growth of collective responsibility in a cruel world like ours.

Lately, you've addressed issues related to ecotheology. Should Christianity deal with this dimension as a fundamental aspect of reflection?

I've worked on several issues of ecotheology, but along an ecofeminist philosophical line, starting from which I stress the interdependence of all things. This undoubtedly requires an interesting interpretation of the Bible and different theological work.

I think the current theology of our Churches barely fixes things. In other words, it includes a fashionable theme in a theological structure from the past as if the urgent revision of concepts were not needed.

Has the encyclical Laudato Si' helped in this theological viewpoint? From it, is there more awareness of the importance of reflection on these aspects?

The encyclical Laudato Si' seems to me a document with important information on issues relating to ecology and especially climate problems, but its theology is inadequate.

In other words, its theology doesn't take up the appeals that the encyclical itself states are being made by the world today. There is an unevenness and a clash of discourses within the text itself.

We have a long way to go and every day it's necessary to take whatever steps are possible.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

New reference book on liberation theology

by Jacques Berset (English translation by Rebel Girl) (en français)
June 21, 2016

The very first Dictionnaire historique de la théologie de la libération ["Historical Dictionary of Liberation Theology"] has just come out at Editions Lessius, in Brussels. This compendium of over 650 pages is coming out in a context of globalized socio-cultural and economic realities, while liberation theology (LT) was born in Latin America in the atmosphere of revolutionary effervescence of the 1970s.

LT, which aims at an integral liberation of man, seemed to have wilted long ago, but this book brings it back into the spotlight. This new dictionary shows that the evolution of LT is still in progress. Developed at the beginning by the Peruvian priest and theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez, to whom the paternity of this theological approach developed in contact with the poorest and with their participation has been attributed, LT has become widely diversified in the meantime.

The preferential option for the poor

Some one hundred specialists of 28 nationalities have collaborated in the development of this dictionary which has 280 entries. These entries are the key themes, countries and people -- whether the theologians who have theorized LT or the actors who were inspired by it and put it into practice. For the authors of the book, LT is one of the rare theologies that has always wanted to act on the peoples' history.

A large panorama of LT, from its origins to the present day, closes the book, which is edited by Maurice Cheza, a specialist in Third World theologies, Luis Martinez Saavedra, a specialist on LT in Latin America, and Pierre Sauvage, a specialist on LT in Latin America and its reception in the Western world. They have benefited from the assistance of Alzirinha Rocha de Souza, an expert on LT in Brazil, and Caroline Sappia, a an expert on LT in South America and its reception in the French-speaking world.

One discovers through the pages that for decades LT has been addressing problems that have long been left in the shadows, always starting from the preferential option for the poor. It deals with the emancipation of women, black and indigenous people, and the question of the preservation of creation, namely ecology, thus addressing many perspectives.

The South has transformed the North

Along with Father Gustavo Gutiérrez, received into the Dominican order in 2004, the Brazilian Franciscan Leonardo Boff is considered one of the most prominent representatives of Latin American liberation theology. But the book makes it possible to discover many other less well-known players in our latitudes and from very diverse socio-cultural contexts.

The reader may be surprised to find entries on North America (Canada and the United States) and Europe (Belgium, Spain, France, Switzerland). In fact, these countries have formed a great number of theologians and pastoral agents close to LT in Latin America. Many of their trainers went to countries in the south, especially in Latin America, some stayed there, notably as Fidei Donum priests. Those who returned were inspired by what they had found, trying to form basic ecclesial communities (BECs) in Europe and in North America, or groups of the same style.

With Pope Francis, a new wind is blowing on the Church

Pope Francis' presence on the throne of Peter has, from the start, made a new wind blow in the Church. The Argentinian pontiff immediately wanted to be a shepherd among shepherds "permeated by the smell of their sheep." He encouraged them, from his first Chrism Mass at the Vatican on March 28, 2013, to serve the poor and the oppressed. For some time already, LT no longer provokes the same Roman mistrust, and the new generation of theologians has been clearing new fields of reflection and action.

Indeed, the time of the Instruction on Certain Aspects of the "Theology of Liberation", written in 1984 by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is long past.

Christ, a social and political liberator?

The future Pope Benedict XVI then denounced "that current of thought which, under the name 'theology of liberation', proposes a novel interpretation of both the content of faith and of Christian existence which seriously departs from the faith of the Church and, in fact, actually constitutes a practical negation." Remarks that were very well received and especially utilized by the powerful supporters of the status quo, both in the countries of the North as well as those in the South.

For the Vatican, in an era that had not emerged from the Cold War, it was a question of warning against the deviations caused by the introduction of elements of Marxism into the interpretation of social reality. It also criticized "rationalizing" interpretations of the Bible, tending to reduce the story of Christ to that of a social and political liberator.

A theology of freedom

The same Cardinal Ratzinger would, in 1986, publish a new Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation that, while not annulling the earlier one, completed and nuanced it. Rome was rereading LT in a positive manner by introducing the spiritual dimension of a theology of freedom. The intervention of certain leading figures of the Brazilian episcopate of the time, supporting the most visible protagonists of LT, had not remained without effect! In the same year, John Paul II would even say in a letter to the Brazilian episcopate that "liberation theology is not only timely but useful and necessary!"

This Dictionnaire is intended for those who are passionate about history and theology, for those who are interested in the history of ideas as well as that of those women and men involved in the transformation of a fundamentally unjust society, sometimes at the risk of their lives. The general public has here a practical instrument for accessing the essential elements of liberation theology, which has been widely diversified and refined in a constantly changing context.

Reservations and reluctance within the Vatican

The work highlights these rising generations who are working on new issues and are henceforth benefiting from some recognition from the Vatican. It is enough to recall the fundamental role played by Pope Francis in the canonization process of Msgr. Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador, who was assassinated by the right-wing death squads on March 24, 1980. The prelate, killed "in hatred of faith", according to the formula defining martyrdom, was beatified May 23, 2015 in San Salvador, mainly thanks to the personal commitment of Pope Francis ... and despite the reservations or even the reluctance (*) of certain ecclesiastical circles, both in El Salvador and in the Vatican.

(*) "There were many in Rome, including some cardinals, who did not want to see him beatified. They said that he had been killed for political reasons, not religious ones." Msgr. Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life and the postulator for the cause of of the late Archbishop of San Salvador, in the Jesuit magazine America on April 17, 2017.

Bibliographic Details:

Title: Dictionnaire historique de la théologie de la libération
Author: Maurice Cheza, Luis Martínez Saavedra, and Pierre Sauvage (eds)
Publisher: Editions Lessius
Publication Date: March 2017
ISBN: 9782872993130
Number of pages: 656
Language: French

Read the Foreword here. (MS Word; in French)