Monday, April 20, 2009

Leonardo Boff - Uncensored

In an interview with Jailson da Paz of Diario de Pernambuco, 4/18/2009, the theologian calls for the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and questions the actions of charismatic priests.

The theologian Leonardo Boff, 70, is a thinker with firm positions. Condemned by the Vatican to two years of silence for his theses on liberation theology in the 80s, he now believes that the Catholic Church would be better off if Benedict XVI were to resign. Boff does not hide the reasons for his conviction. For him, the pope is sectarian and is leading the Church to close itself off. It is at risk of becoming a Marian institution, valuing Mary more than Jesus.

Boff does not leave unanswered questions. The former Franciscan friar who left the religious life in the 90s because he was under the threat of a new condemnation by the Vatican, defends the Bolsa Familia [Brazil’s family allowance] program. He questions the actions of charismatics, like Marcelo Rossi, who value "aerobics" over social action. He condemns capitalism and its excesses, to which he attributes the current crisis.

The theologian granted the interview to Diario while participating in launching the book Leituras críticas sobre Leonardo Boff in Recife last Thursday.

Dom José

It is ridiculous to excommunicate anyone today. In announcing the excommunication of the doctors, responsible for legal abortion, and of the mother of the sexually abused pregnant girl, José Cardoso acted in opposition to the basic attitude of Jesus: welcoming the poor and oppressed. If the archbishop were a pastor, he would go and see the girl and the girl’s mother. But he preferred the law. He preferred to be a harsh and pitiless judge, speaking of excommunication. Thus, he was one milimeter from Canon Law and miles away from Jesus.

Liberation Theology

I would not change anything I have written. On the contrary, I would make it more radical. I would be more radical than I was. Poverty is increasing. Every four seconds, a person dies of hunger in the world. A world where, according to the UNDP (United Nations Program for Development), the richest 20% own 82.4% of the wealth and the poorest 20%, only 1.6%. The world situation has worsened. There are more hungry and more victims of injustice than when I wrote the books on liberation theology.


When I want to get really angry, I tune into the religious programs on television. They are in bad taste and poor. They are not up to the Christian message. They are closer to Xuxa than to the Gospel. There is a lack experience in dealing with the media and the Church is not preparing them for that. What they do is manipulate emotions. I have never seen Father Marcelo Rossi say that there are 1.1 million unemployed in Sao Paulo or ask God to guide the government in the path of justice and ethics. But I did see him do aerobic dancing.

Lula and Obama

The world lacks inspiring leaders. Leaders with charisma, able to lead people to believe in change and to provide focus and sense of direction. Lula and Barack Obama represent that. They refer to hope. They capture the profound anxieties of the moment. The rest, almost all, with rare exceptions, such as Fernando Lugo (president of Paraguay) and Evo Morales (president of Bolivia), are mere technicians, bureaucrats.


The current economic crisis is only one aspect of a crisis of civilization that we are going through. Of a model that can lead us to tragedy, with the effects of global warming. Paul Krugman, Nobel in economics in 2008, should be heard. According to him, we are seeing the “revenge of the glut”. And that the glut got us into this chaos.

Bolsa Familia

I was in the interior of Piauí and I saw a poor woman open her closet where there was rice, beans, sugar. They are things that we had not seen before and they are possible thanks to Bolsa Familia. For me, this is liberation. Ensuring the minimum to which families are entitled. But we must give and charge. You can not act only with paternalism. The government needs, increasingly, to ask for compensation. Charge for the registration and presence of children from families receiving benefits in schools, create alternatives and determine steps towards autonomy.

Benedict XVI

The pope is closer to the traditionalism of Marcel Lefebvre (the French Catholic bishop) than to the Second Vatican Council. We were very close. I was his friend, his disciple. Ratzinger helped to publish my thesis. But he has regressed. He has salvaged medieval values, such as the Latin Mass. If I were invited to celebrate in Latin, I would give the homily in Latin and ask the faithful questions in Latin. Who knows Latin today? Another point is that Pope Benedict XVI has no tact, and has created friction with Muslims and Jews. Since he is 82 years old, the Pope should acknowledge that he is tired. He would do well to resign.


The current pontiff screws the other churches by denying them the title of “church”. He states that there is only one path to salvation: the Catholic Church. For Benedict XVI, as he told me during my trial by the Vatican, the Catholic Church is the only home. The others stole a door, a window. And they will have to return. It is a fundamentalist vision, in which my belief is true and the other, wrong. And error is condemned. Suffice to say, religions are behind the major conflicts.


The church is not just the hierarchy. I will not leave it because of the Pope or the Roman Curia. The church is Pedro Casaldáliga (Bishop Emeritus of São Félix do Araguaia, Mato Grosso), Dom Kräutler Erwin (President of the Indigenous Missionary Council - Cimi), known for his strong defense of the poor. And Sister Dorothy Stang, murdered for fighting for the right to land, Sister Dulce, Dom Helder Camara, St. Francis of Assisi. The church is greater than the hierarchy. It is the people of God.


I am a worker with words. I spend 12 to 14 hours in my office. With words, I try to rebuild the world. It is a difficult job, because whoever writes is always late. I use Saturday and Sunday to catch up.

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