Thursday, July 26, 2012

A boy's gesture

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Eclesalia Informativo
July 25, 2012

John 6: 1-15

Of all Jesus' actions during his prophetic activity, the most remembered by the early Christian communities was certainly a massive meal organized by him in the countryside, near the Lake of Galilee. It's the only episode reflected in all the Gospels.

The content of the story is very rich. Following its custom, the Gospel of John doesn't call it a "miracle" but a "sign". This invites us not to dwell on the events being described, but to discover a deeper meaning from faith.

Jesus is at the center. No one asks him to intervene. It is he who senses the hunger of those people and raises the need to feed it. It's touching to know that Jesus did not just feed people with the Good News of God, but also worried about the hunger of his sons and daughters.

How to feed a large crowd in the countryside? The disciples don't find any solution. Philip says one can't think of buying bread, because they don't have any money. Andrew thinks that what there is could be shared, but one boy alone has five loaves and two fish. What's that for so many?

It's enough for Jesus. This boy, nameless and faceless, will make the impossible, possible. His willingness to share everything he has is the way to feed those people. Jesus will do the rest. He takes the boy's bread in his hands, gives thanks to God, and begins to "distribute it" among all.

The scene is fascinating. A crowd, seated on the green grass of the field, sharing a free meal on a spring day. It's not a rich people's banquet. There isn't any wine or meat. It's the simple food of people who live near the lake: barley bread and smoked fish. A fraternal meal served by Jesus to all, thanks to a boy's generous gesture.

For the early Christians, this shared meal was a powerful symbol of the community born of Jesus to build a new and fraternal humanity. At the same time, it evoked for them the Eucharist they celebrated on the Lord's Day to nourish themselves with the spirit and strength of Jesus, the living Bread come from God.

But they never forgot the boy's gesture. If there is hunger in the world, it isn't due to food scarcity but to a lack of solidarity. There is bread for all; the generosity to share is lacking. We have left the direction of the world in the hands of the financial powers that be, we're afraid to share what we have, and people are dying of hunger because of our irrational selfishness.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The sweet return of Liberation Theology

by Jorge Costadoat, SJ (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Cristo en Construcción Blog
July 23, 2012

It has been said that liberation theology has died, that it has been eliminated, that it has nothing more to offer today, that it is a heresy that the Church has condemned. It has also been said that it would return someday because its foundation was pure Christianity.

What no one ever imagined was that a "liberation theologian" would reach the highest office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the institution that oversees orthodoxy in the Catholic Church. Benedict XVI has appointed Gerhard Ludwig Müller to the office -- a seat he held before becoming Pope. A problem of decadence in the Church, will some say? The Anti-Christ...?

One cannot say that G.L. Müller is a "liberation theologian" like the Latin Americans. He is European and his concerns are also other. His pastoral and theological experience in Latin America, however, has made him friends with Gustavo Gutierrez, the "father of liberation theology," with whom he is co-author of the work Del lado de los pobres. Teología de la Liberación (Lima, 2005), and with several other theologians from our region.

According to Msgr. Müller, liberation theology is Catholic theology. He states: "In my opinion, the ecclesial and theological movement that, under the name 'liberation theology', emerged in Latin America after Vatican II with worldwide impact, must be among the most important strands of Catholic theology in the twentieth century." Later in the same book: "Liberation theology isn't a sociology adorned in religiosity or a type of socio-theology. Liberation theology is theology in the strict sense."

The new Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith speaks in general terms, which is like saying that a theology that tries to formulate faith is "Catholic" and that, in the intent, some attempts are better than others. So it's understandable that Cardinal Ratzinger in 1984 published a document that was highly critical of it and, two years later, in 1986, published another document in which he substantially welcomed its input. Thus it could be understood that after its development had been drastically limited, it is now begining to be seen in a good light.

What is really at stake? Since liberation theology is recognized as a theology that contributes to the Christian understanding of God, the Church must draw the conclusions about its own faith in the God of the poor.

Namely, theologically speaking, that this God demands that Christians "opt for the poor." Recently in Aparecida, Brazil (2007), Benedict XVI hammered home this same point. He asserted that the "option for the poor" is inherent in faith in Christ. To put it otherwise, one cannot be "Christian" if one doesn't take the side of the poor against poverty.

Furthermore, liberation theology, as the Catholic theology it is, urges the Church to become the "Church of the poor." It is not only legitimate to say this. Moreover, [St. Alberto] Hurtado already said it. His friend Manuel Larraín, the Bishop of Talca, too. Liberation theology rightfully asks Catholics for a conversion to austerity for the poor. Charity, the fight against injustice, a whiff of solidarity ... And, above all, this theology demands that the Church look at the world through the eyes of the poor, that it think about their way of suffering and their capacity for struggle and hope. This is the Church that sprung up from the working class neighborhoods — Esteban Gumucio, Enrique Alvear, Elena Chain and the anonymous nuns of the people…—, a happy, free, participatory, and compassionate Church, open to the whole of human life and demanding, socio-politically speaking. Christians with common sense to interpret the doctrinal requirements of Christianity in conscience. In short, creative communities and people that, in troubled times, are opening other ways of love and justice.

Might not the appointment of Msgr. Müller be some sort of Vatican "somersault" to confront the loss of prestige that is hounding it? I doubt it. I don't see why one would have to think the worst. Or did the strict controls fail as with the Lefebvrist William Richardson, the Holocaust denier, whose excommunication was lifted in an acknowledged error? I can't believe the Pope ignored the enormous sympathy towards liberation theology Müller has shown in his works (eg. Dogmatics. Theory and practice of theology, 1998) to appoint him to such an important position.

I'm not sure what to think. Perhaps there are other aspects that I don't know, which, added and subtracted, make this a suitable nomination. The fact is that at the moment, liberation theology is sailing with wind.

Fr. Costadoat is professor of theology at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and director of the Centro Teológico Manuel Larraín. He is a priest in the Enrique Alvear community in Peñalolén. He is the author of Trazos de Cristo en América Latina. Ensayos teológicos (Centro Teológico Manuel Larraín, 2010), Cristo para el Cuarto Milenio. Siete cuentos contra veintiún artículos (San Pablo, 2001) and Si tuviera que educar a un hijo ... : ideas para transmitir la humanidad (Eds. Ignacianas, 2004). His 1993 doctoral thesis, "El Dios de la vida: el "discurso sobre Dios" en América Latina. Investigación sobre algunas obras principales de Gustavo Gutiérrez, Rolando Muñoz, Jon Sobrino y Juan Luis Segundo", is available for download online (MS Word).

More articles by Jorge Costadoat on the Internet:

Photo: Gerhard Ludwig Müller and Gustavo Gutierrez present their book, "An der Seite der Armen" ("On the side of the poor")

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"We have to embrace the organized awakening of the people": Interview with Don Pedro Casaldáliga, CMF

This interview was published in Nuntii de Universa Nostra Congregatione, No. 490, June 2012, p.122.

Born in Balsareny (Barcelona, Spain) on February 16, 1928, Don Pedro is 84 years old. Made his first religious profession on September 8, 1945 and his perpetuals on March 19, 1949. Ordained a priest on May 31, 1952 and bishop on October 23, 1971 when Pope Paul VI entrusted him to the Prelature of Sao Félix de
Araguaia (Brazil). After his retirement he continued to live in Sao Felix as bishop emeritus. He has been called the "bishop of the poor" and his figure is the key to understanding the history of the Latin American Church in the post-conciliar era. In these latter years his concern has been for all the Churches. He has become a "global pastor". We thank Don Pedro for his kindness in responding to this interview.

NUNC: What is the current situation of Don Pedro Casaldáliga: human being, missionary disciple, bishop?

D. Pedro Casaldáliga: That of an 84-year-old man under the omnipotent control of Parkinson's disease. That of an underutilized disciple in the following of Jesus, but who has maintained a passion for the Kingdom, with an option for the poor as the great motivation for his life. That of a Claretian Missionary who admits having failed much as a member of the Congregation to which I owe almost everything. That of a border bishop with possible excesses, but also with appropriate achievements and supported by a great cloud of witnesses to the point of martyrdom.

Now 'I don't do anything'. I look to accept with 'hopeful humor' the limitations that Parkinson's has placed upon me and the requests of those who accompany me. I have more hours for meditation, I receive visitors, I write some messages and I look to correct my impatience and misunderstandings. Who's afraid having Easter?

NUNC: What can you share with us in your evaluation of your service as pastor of the Church of Mato Grosso?

D. Pedro Casaldáliga: Fortunately for me, I had from the beginning of the Prelature a pastoral team and I lived through a historical juncture of the Church of Vatican II and Medellín, in the company of great pastors and the pastoral ministry of the evangelical avant-garde, such as the ZEBU, the CIMI, the CPT, the insertion of Religious Life, intercultural dialog, the solidarity that we have received and have given. Always in the option for the poor.

NUNC: Of the teachings given to this people and to the peoples of Latin America in general, what do you value the most and why?

D. Pedro Casaldáliga: The spirit of welcome, of hospitality, of 'partilha' (sharing). The contagious joy, simplicity, sobriety (which is a great warning to our vow of poverty), the proximity of the Samaritan woman who helps to create community in Society and the Church.

NUNC: What is your perception of the Catholic Church at the present time?

D. Pedro Casaldáliga: Without being defeatist, because I always count on Easter hope, we need to recognize that our Church is living in a time of disillusionment and difficulty, of sad distances between the institution and the people. There is a lack of proximity between the structure and credibility.

On the other hand, there is a growth in adult faith and co-responsibility among many sectors of the laity. But there is a freedom of spirit, which may have its excesses, but which has a lot of personal and community experience, a sign of the times; following Jesus with a prophetic opening to the world of today.

Ecumenism and the macro-ecumenism will be imposed because they are a call of the spirit of Pentecost.

NUNC: What perspectives do you envision for the Claretian mission in the Churches of Latin America?

D. Pedro Casaldáliga: Avoid dispersion and strengthen community life and teamwork, with a shared mission for the truth. Thus, the local churches in which you are working will become yours.

Live more and more as a community and make it a community. The condition of the "young vineyard" recognized by the founder in Our America will oblige us to respond with a passionate mission (the urgency of Claret) and hopeful to any challenge. We must embrace the organized awakening of our original Afro-American-Indian peoples. The "Service of the Word" will always be a service to the cry of the suffering, excluded masses and a service to the silence imposed by the various powers of this world. And it must be, personally and in community, the prayerful welcome of the Word. Let us also take on fully the opportunities the media presents to us.