Monday, June 1, 2009

Theology from and for the Poor: Some Resources You Should Get To Know

As I have sometimes said, North Americans are frequently clueless about what is going on theologically south of the Rio Grande, or, for that matter, in any language other than the "classical" theological ones (German, French, Italian, and occasionally English). There are a number of gems out here on the Web that can help us fill in the gaps and I find these resources by accident while looking for other things.

For example, a story I have been tracking recently involves the bishop of Neuquén, Argentina, Msgr. Marcelo Melani, who was advised in March by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, to resign. Melani stood accused of "liturgical abuses" and "theological imprecision." The articles about this are remarkably vague as to the nature of these charges but they seem to center around the prelate's occasionally celebrating Mass without being properly attired and blurring the line between hierarchy, clergy and laity. Melani refused to step down and the case has come to a screeching halt since Re has no authority to force the matter. Only the Pope can actually terminate a bishop and Melani is only 70 years old so he has not reached the Church's mandatory retirement age (75).

Meanwhile, Msgr. Melani continues to receive statements of support from various groups and individuals -- including those who work under and with him -- who share his concern for the social apostolate, economic and environmental justice, and ministry to indigenous people. This story led me to the Web site of the Encuentro Nacional de Curas en la Opción Preferencial por los Pobres, who issued a statement in support of Melani late last month.

The Web site does not include any specific information about the organization, which seems to be a loose knit group of around 100-200 Argentinian priests who have committed themselves to the preferential option for the poor. They have been meeting annually since at least 1987 and issue a statement each year reflecting their current concerns. The Web site also features an interesting collection of articles by Latin American theologians from a liberation theology perspective, organized by author. It also contains the group's reflections on the latest Latin American Bishops' Conference at Aparecida, and documentary videos on a number of prominent Argentinian priests involved with the poor and/or the struggle for human rights including Jaime de Nevares, Enrique Ángel Angelelli, Carlos Mugica, and Bishop Jorge Novak.

Another Web site that I was looking at today, because of the previous post of the Frei Betto article, is Comunidades Eclesiales de Base Continental which seems to be a way for the Base Ecclesial Communities across Latin America to share resources and information about their events. It also has a wonderful audio Cancionero, for those of you whose liberation liturgical musical repertoire has been confined to the better-known Nicaraguan and Salvadoran Misas populares. There is a Martyrs page, of course. The base community of Neiva, Colombia has contributed Cartilla La Biblia y los pobres for basic Bible study, and there are other resources for specific feast days and subjects. Last, but by all means not least, if you enjoyed the little Pentecost prayer I posted by Fr. José Antonio Pagola and are looking for more progressive Christology, you might want to check out a book of his that is available in PDF format on this site, Jesús: Aproximación Histórica.

I have already mentioned Servicios Koinonia. If I could have only one Web resource for my ministry, this would be it. This is where I get Maximino Cerezo Barredo's marvellous drawings to illustrate flyers and the blogs (above is his Holy Spirit dove from the Cathedral of São Félix de Araigua). You can also find a color-coded liturgical calendar with the daily readings and hyperlinked to both extensive commentary about the readings and to Monseñor Oscar Romero's homilies on the Sunday readings. There are separate full pages for the writings of Msgr. Romero, Leonardo Boff, and Pedro Casaldáliga.

Moving on to theology, Servicios Koinonia provides a huge online liberation theology library browsable by subject or author, as well as RELaT: Revista Electrónica Latinoamericana de Teología. And there are other resources on this Web site that I haven't even begun to explore...

Finally, those who want to engage in current theological debate can turn to a Spanish Web site, Atrio. These folks are more often from Spain but the variety of articles, organized by topic, is incredible, and you would be astonished at who is posting there.

This post is getting a bit long so I think I'll stop now but I would welcome any additional resources in the same vein people want to offer. I'm not really looking for sites devoted to individual thinkers but those that are generally putting out pro-pueblo theological resources.

Photo: A Base Ecclesial Community at prayer in Ecuador


  1. Thank you, there a lot of resources here. I am sure that I will find much more than what my limited intellect can master, but all that has to do with social justice and the poor, interests me.

  2. Thanks for the resources. There's a Spanish site with some interesting articles in English, Spanish and Catalan.
    We have some resources here in the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán but not in digital form.

  3. JuanMM, don't be so humble! ;-) Now that I know who you are, I know you understand this stuff!

    Hermano John D., thanks for your suggestion. I'll probably wait until I get a couple of other ideas and then write a sequel to this posting. And also explore your Web page! Gracias.

  4. Thank you R.G. but I am just an “amateur” compared with you and all these “major ligers” in these matters, Anyway now I’m finding myself at work reading Liberation Theology and a story about Lilith during my down time instead of learning about the new operating system that Microsoft is going to castigate us with.
    Someone mentioned a page with Catalán? There I go, made my day.