Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"Never lose the ability to learn": Leonardo Boff on "É Notícia"

In an interview with journalist Kennedy Alencar on "É Notícia", aired by Rede TV! on Monday morning, theologian Leonardo Boff talked about celibacy, the existence of God and criticized the media churches, whether Catholic or evangelical. "They continually sin against the second commandment, which is using the holy name of God in vain and they present a Christianity that is a small Lexotan to calm people," said the scholar.

Boff was a priest in the Catholic Church and helped establish liberation theology in Brazil - which in essence defines poverty as a sin and promotes social engagement in building a more just and caring society. His questioning about the Catholic hierarchy, expressed in his book Church, Charism and Power, was the target of a process by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the direction of Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, which culminated in his departure from Church.

This in-depth interview is probably the best summary of the main elements of Leonardo Boff's life and theological and political perspectives that I have ever seen. If someone were to make a transcript of it, I'd be delighted to translate it into English. As it is, I can merely attempt to highlight some of the points covered in each part. Kennedy Alencar is to be commended for the thoroughness of his preparation and questions, thus avoiding sensationalism while hitting on all of the major aspects of Leonardo's story.

Part 1

In the first part of the program, Leonardo shares about how he was randomly assigned the name "Leonardo" on entering the Franciscans (his birth name was "Genézio" but he preferred "Leonardo" and kept it even after he left the order). He talks about his youth, about wanting to be a truck driver, and about being drawn to the Franciscans. The first part also covers his seminary days, his early friendship with Cardinal Ratzinger, his hope (because he respected Ratzinger as a theologian) and then disappointment at how Ratzinger fulfilled his job as head of the CDF. It covers Boff's silencing by the CDF, his definition of liberation theology (one interesting remark he makes is that he believes liberation theology could not have evolved without the liberation pedagogy of Paulo Freire), and his opposition to mandatory celibacy.

Part 2

In the second part, Leonardo talks about the Church's relationship to sexuality, the pedophilia scandal, the TV churches (both Catholic and evangelical) and the Charismatics and how they have cheapened Christianity. Leonardo says that Christianity can be summed up in the Lord's Prayer but that many churches are good at talking about "Pai Nosso" ("Our Father") while leaving aside the "pão nosso" ("our [daily] bread"). Alencar asks him about the existence of God and atheism and Leonardo answers that it's not a matter of providing physical proof of God's existence but presenting an image of a loving God that makes people want to believe in Him. He talks about the importance of hope and says that he hopes he will be remembered as having lived a life that was consistent with his ethical values. He says he is not afraid of death and hopes to work until it comes.

Part 3

The third part focuses on politics and Leonardo's views of Brazilian presidents Lula and Rousseff. Leonardo talks about corruption in the PT and the ways in which it has moved away from its origins when it was linked closely with the CEBs. Alencar also gets him to talk about his involvement in ecology which Leonardo views as a natural extension of liberation theology and the preferential option for the poor. He talks about two relatively new books -- The Tao of Liberation: Exploring the Ecology of Transformation and Cuidar da Terra, Salvar a Vida – Como Evitar o Fim do Mundo.

Also in Part 3, the two talk about forgiveness and reconciliation and the idea of a truth commission to bring justice for the victims of torture. At the end, Alencar asks Leonardo for quick impressions of different figures (Jesus? "My brother who showed me thee maternal and paternal face of God and who gave us hope that we humans, while still being human, can become God through participation [with Him in the divine plan]") and preferences (favorite piece of music? Beethoven's "9th Symphony", favorite singer? "Atahualpa Yupanqui", favorite book? "The Bible, especially the Psalms, which I read every day"). Finally, Alencar asks him for his favorite quote and Leonardo replies: "It's important to have knowledge, but it's more important to never lose the ability to learn."

Source:, 9/26/2011, and videos themselves.

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