My friend Fr. Hoyos is fond of quoting that Spanish maxim, occasionally attributed to Cervantes' Don Quixote: "Los perros ladran, señal de que vamos avanzando." ("The dogs are barking, which means we are advancing"). I was thinking of it today as I read the news that Jean-Pierre Moreau, the conservative Catholic editor of Permanences has a new book coming out next month improbably titled Le Terrorisme pastoral. Résurgence de la théologie de la libération ("Pastoral Terrorism: The Resurgence of Liberation Theology", Atelier Fol'Fer, 2009). Moreau, a former reporter for Figaro Magazine, is also known for his earlier role as co-producer of "Dieu et Marx" for Sygma TV in 1986.
Before sharing our translation of Vincent Pellegrini's interview with Moreau that appeared in Le Nouvelliste, we have to express a certain admiration for the chutzpah of his publishers who embedded the cover art from the digital liberation theology classic Getting the Poor Down from the Cross: Christology of Liberation into the cover of Le Terrorisme pastoral. I wonder if our friends at Servicios Koinonia know about this?
The French journalist Jean-Pierre Moreau, a former major reporter at Figaro Magazine, produced a documentary film in 1986 with this magazine and Sygma TV titled "Dieu et Marx" ("God and Marx") that showed the actions of priests at the side of guerrillas in the various liberation movements of Latin America. For a year, he crisscrossed all of Latin America with his TV crew to show this aspect of liberation theology. Today he's back with a book -- at Editions Fol’fer – on the resurgence of said liberation theology. We met him in his hometown, Troyes, and asked him what was left of this liberation theology that was fought against by John Paul II and the man who in those days was Cardinal Ratzinger. It is a current theme since the Pope is getting ready to publish a major social encyclical.
What did you discover when you were producing your film in 1986?
That a number of priests -- including Europeans -- were active agents in the revolutionary guerrilla movements. They were certainly not always part of the military apparatus but they collaborated directly with the guerrilla on other levels, including logistics.
For five years, at Figaro Magazine, we investigated and gathered information showing that Action de Carême Française (French Lenten Action) and its national branch, CCFD
(Comité contre la faim et pour le développement -- Committee Against Hunger and For Development) were financing revolutionary groups with the faithful's money. I was even sued for defamation for a book I devoted to the subject, L’Eglise et la subversion ("The Church and Subversion" -- Trans. note: The book was written in 1985 under the pseudonym Guillaume Maury) but I won.
What is liberation theology, theorized about by Leonardo Boff and other liberationist thinkers?
Up until the Third Internationale, the Marxist Leninist dialectic targeted the labor movement. After the Second World War this class opposition was coupled with struggles for national liberation. Not only were workers set against the bourgeoisie but the colonized against the colonizers. It is a line that seduced some priests and a religious became Fidel Castro's biographer [Trans. note: We haven't been able to corroborate this assertion], for example. As Benedict XVI has said, there was "ideological manipulation of religion". And this process was initiated in Latin America by priests who had come from Europe. They turned Christian thought to the left to make it a socialist ideology of conquest of power. They kept the Marxist dialectic by systematically setting the rich against the poor, the local churches against the Church of Rome, the base communities against the Church hierarchy and the authority of the bishop. In a word, liberation theology created a parallel hierarchy to the Church in the parishes, mainly thanks to the base communities.
However, liberation theology is weaker today.
After the fall of the [Berlin] Wall, the Soviet Union basically stopped financing revolutionary propaganda around the world and the guerrilla gradually died out or, at least, slowed down considerably. In 1986, Cardinal Ratzinger published a note condemning the essence of liberation theology. In the same year, John Paul II had stigmatized that same liberation theology in a letter to the Brazilian bishops. That was the period when Cardinal Arns, the Archbishop of Sao Paulo, congratulated Fidel Castro on the anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. In a word, the Church launched a counter-attack through the Latin American bishops' conferences. Bishops and clergy who were close to liberation theology were gradually sidelined. Liberation theology came out considerably weakened and Leonardo Boff left the Church. In a word, the movement failed to take control of the Church structures, including in Europe.
So why are you devoting yourself to a book on the resurgence of liberation theology today?
Because the French CCFD (Comité contre la faim et pour le développement), an official organ of the episcopate [sic] which has a monopoly on the collection of Action de carême in France, continues unabated in line with liberation theology, notably through meetings such as the World Social Forum and the World Forum on Theology and Liberation. During my investigation, I discovered that CCFD is even more powerful twenty years later, that it works hand in hand with the CFDT union [Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail - French Democratic Confederation of Labor], and the neo-Trotskyist group, ATTAC [Association pour la taxation des transactions pour l'aide aux citoyens - Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions for the Aid of Citizens], to promote the ideology of the 4th or 5th Internationale. Its president Guy Aurenche comes from the left. Today, the Marxist dialectic is applied to globalization. Thinkers like the Belgian priest and professor at Louvain François Houtart are the promoters of this new liberation theology.
But isn't it just a Catholic progressive social sentiment?
No, because the old class struggle scheme is being applied to ecology and to globalization. Liberation theology opposes multinationals and countries that destroy nature, because it is the only resource of the poor. It is a new political step which is calling on civil society to take power against the powers that be as represented by the politicians, the hierarchical Church, economists, etc...The new liberation theology want to radically change society but is not being steered from a Christian perspective. It's a double slogan: Another world is possible; another Church is possible. The evangelizing mission of the Church is completely replaced by a utopic development that will save the people.
This new liberation theology hasn't gained an entry into the Vatican...
No, it really hasn't regained a standing in the Church but it is trying to reconquer lost ground in the political sphere, notably through international meetings like the World Social Forum. This year, in Belem (Brazil), for example, there were lots of Christian associations and NGOs. There were also five Latin American leftist chiefs of state and this World Social Forum consecrated a sort of revolutionary Christianity without Christianity.
However, some liberation theologians have quoted John Paul II as saying that there is a "useful and necessary" Christian liberation theology.
That is a falsification. The latter said that liberation theology, in the Catholic sense, was necessary, and comes through the conversion of hearts and evangelization. He carefully explained in his writings that it is not the one advocated in Latin America. Benedict XVI has explained that without the Holy Spirit and the viewpoint of faith, the Church is only a type of humanitarian agency.
So now you know what the opposition is saying. Please take time to examine the Web site of CCFD. You can also look at Aid Watch's report on the organization. Judge for yourself if it is "Marxist" or not. And by the way, for those who speak French, CCFD has an excellent dossier on "L'Eglise en Amérique Latine: Une voix pour la justice" (The Church in Latin America: A Voice for Justice).
I personally view the fact that Moreau is taking us on again as a positive sign that liberation theology is gaining new currency. Arf! Arf! Arf!...We must be on the right track if we're being tracked by the right!