Saturday, October 27, 2012

"The only theology possible": the "La Diaria" interview with José Ignacio González Faus, SJ

by Luis Rómboli (English translation by Rebel Girl)
La Diaria
October 22, 2012

José Ignacio González Faus is a Jesuit priest in the Catholic Church, born in Valencia in 1935 and living in Barcelona. He has been a professor of theology and director of the Centro Cristianismo y Justicia, as well as author of several books. He has come to Uruguay to give some lectures on the 50th anniversary of Vatican II. He supports liberation theology because of its "preference for the poor" and the decriminalization of abortion. He is critical of the Roman curia and thinks the Church doesn't respect women's rights.

The Second Vatican Council was convened in 1959 by Pope John XXIII, but began in 1963 and was completed in 1965 by his successor, Paul VI. It aimed at the renewal of the Church and its adaptation to changing times. For González Faus, that council "was a very important event and over the next 50 years, [the Church] has not been faithful to its intentions."

Many conciliar documents "were drafted in such a way that there's always a line in one direction and one in another, and sometimes they're a bit contradictory," he explains. "Although the intention was to use the language of the people and a liturgical reform was launched for that, there are people who will seize on a phrase in order to keep using Latin," he says as an example. On the Church, "collegiality was established, but there's nothing left of that" because "the Synod of Bishops only has deliberative powers and has many members who are appointed from above," he adds. In one of the constitutions, "it's reinforced that the Church doesn't have the answer to everything and that its only desire is to be serving the world as any other. It's accepted that the Church has received much over its history from those who were outside, and especially from non-believers," but the practice of Church authorities after the council "hasn't been that. The Church is presented as the one that knows everything, and when something comes from outside, they don't listen to it," he says.

González Faus is critical of church authorities, especially the Roman curia. "You need an authority, but it's one of the great dangers of human society because it tends to become authoritarianism and eliminates fraternity and equality," he says. "Jesus has a memorable phrase: 'Those who rule on earth do two things: they oppress and call themselves benefactors. Among you, it shall not be so.' The anti-gospel manner in which authority is exercised in the Church is a danger and there should be more procedural democracy," he says. "The Roman Curia is stuck like a wedge between the pope and the bishops, and often makes more decisions than they, who are the apostolic body, do. Decisions are made without dialogue and communion," he adds.


González Faus isn't surprised that decriminalization of abortion is being discussed in Uruguay, because this "is happening all over the Western world." "In principle, I don't agree that abortion is a woman's right to dispose of her body and do what she wants to. There's something in her body that isn't hers," he says. But that's "one thing, and it's another for every woman who aborts to have to be punished and put in jail." According to the Jesuit, St. Thomas Aquinas "said the mission of civil power isn't implementing what is good, forbidding what is evil, but rather promoting coexistence". And he mentions a situation he knew about in Spain, where a Colombian immigrant, undocumented and with a young child, "gets a job as a domestic worker and the husband of the family gets her pregnant. Then they fire her for being immoral and this girl has an abortion because she has no other way out." He considers himself "pro-life", but reaffirms that in this case "you can't put her in jail." "It may be that some might take advantage of the decriminalization law, people who could care for the child, but abort because it bothers them. That's not right, but the fact that a rule can be abused doesn't attack its validity," he says.

On homosexuality, González Faus argues that "the Bible refers to people who were jaded from totally libertine sexual practices and ultimately tried other things. Those are the homosexuals who the Bible criticizes," but not "homosexuals by constitution, by nature." "You can't condemn anyone to mandatory celibacy, against their will; they should live their homosexuality in the most dignified way, with a partner, giving love, and the Church should tolerate it," he adds.

For this theologian "there are certain attitudes in the official Church that aren't compatible with women's rights, although Pope John XXIII said that the promotion of women was a sign of the times." "It seems that our authorities are not characterized by reading the signs of the times well," he adds. Women, he explains, "not only don't have access to the priesthood, they can't access the minor orders either" such as the diaconate, and "in the Church they often have the tasks of a servant."

According to González Faus, in the New Testament "there are clear examples of women deacons and also women who would have been apostles, one or two cases, where they tried to make them masculine, but they're clearly women's names," such as Junia, he gives as an example. The current pope, Benedict XVI, says that "the Church doesn't ordain women because God prohibits it," he explains and wonders, "is it so certain that that's God's will?"

But even if whether women can attain the priesthood isn't resolved, González Faus believes the Pope should "give women any position in the Church they can have" such as deaconesses, 50% of the College of Cardinals, part of the prefects of Roman congregations, and also "put the Church in a state of prayer to ask God to know His will" on women's ordination. González Faus, who acknowledges having "thoroughly studied" the issue, hasn't found "decisive arguments against the ordination of women" in the New Testament.

The only theology

The Jesuit considers himself "a supporter and bridge between European theology and liberation theology." He thinks the latter "is the only theology possible" because it says that "the poor are the beloved of God" and that "the rich deserve that the Church tells them, 'woe unto you!'." "That's in the Gospel and is only developed in this theology," he adds.

He also states that "the reign of God isn't just for the afterlife but that it will only come to the afterlife if it starts here on earth." "This means a greater focus on the material problems of the people, of those who are without. Not because they lack God, who will come to them another way, but because they don't have anything to eat, anywhere to sleep or any education," he says. "A Russian theologian said, 'Bread for me is a material question. Bread for my neighbor is a spiritual one.'," he adds. "Those who accuse liberation theology of materialism are the true materialists and they're those who have bread in abundance," he states.

Liberation theology "took things from Marxism, but only the economic analyses, not the metaphysical ones," and he avers that in Europe "they haven't tried to save everything good in Marx". John Paul II thought this theology was "necessary," but his papacy represented "a setback" for the Second Vatican Council and generated "a growth in conservative positions that have affected the whole Church," he concludes.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Forty years of Jesus Christ the Liberator

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia and in Portuguese on his blog. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

At the Jesuit Instituto Humanitas at Unisinos in São Leopoldo (Brazil) the 40th anniversary of liberation theology is being celebrated October 7 to 11. Its main Latin American representatives are present, especially its first formulator, the Peruvian Gustavo Gutierrez. Curiously, in the same year, 1971, without knowing about each other, Gutierrez in Peru, Hugo Assman in Bolivia, Juan Luis Segundo in Uruguay, and I myself in Brazil, who are considered the founders of this kind of theology, published our writings. Might it not have been the irruption of the Holy Spirit blowing in our continent, scarred by so much oppression?

To circumvent the organs of control and repression of the military, every month in 1971 I published an article in a magazine for religious women, Sponsa Christi ("Bride of Christ") with the title, Jesus the Liberator. In March 1972, I gathered the articles together and ventured to publish them in book form. I had to hide for two weeks because the political police were looking for me. The words "liberation" and "liberator" had been banned and could not be used publicly. It was very hard for the lawyer of Editora Vozes to convince the surveillance officers that it was a book of theology, with many footnotes from German literature and was not a threat to the national security state.

What is the uniqueness of the book (now in its 21st edition)? Based on a rigorous exegesis of the Gospels, it presented a figure of Jesus as liberator from different types of human oppression. He had to confront two of them directly: a religious one, in the form of phariseeism in the strict observance of religious laws; the other, political, the Roman occupation that involved acknowledging the Emperor as "god" and aiding the penetration of pagan Hellenistic culture into Israel.

Jesus counters religious oppression with a higher "law", one of unconditional love of God and neighbor. The latter is, for him, any person near me, especially the poor and the invisible, those who don't count in society.

Against politics, instead of submitting to the empire of the Caesars, he sets proclaiming the Kingdom of God, a crime of high treason. This Kingdom involved a complete revolution of the cosmos, of society, of every person and a redefinition of the meaning of life in the light of God, called Abba, i.e. a loving father full of mercy, who makes all feel like his sons and daughters and like brothers and sisters to each other.

Jesus acted with authority and the conviction of one sent by the Father to free creation wounded by injustices. He showed power that appeased tempests, cured the sick, raised the dead, and filled all the people with hope. Something really revolutionary would happen: the emergence of the Kingdom that is of God and is also of humans through their commitment.

On these two fronts, he created a conflict that led to the cross. He didn't die in bed surrounded by disciples, but executed on the cross because of his message and practice. Everything indicated that his utopia had been frustrated. But, behold, something unprecedented happened: the grass didn't grow on his grave. Some women announced to the apostles that he had risen. The resurrection should not be identified with the resuscitation of a corpse, like Lazarus, but as the emergence of a new being, no longer subject to space-time and the natural entropy of life. Therefore he passed through walls, appeared and disappeared. His utopia of the Kingdom as transfiguration of all things, on not being able to be achieved globally, became real in him through the resurrection. The Kingdom of God is materialized in Him.

The resurrection is the greatest fact of Christianity, without which it is unsustainable. Without that blessed event, Jesus would be like so many prophets slaughtered by systems of oppression. The resurrection means the great liberation and also an insurrection against this kind of world. The one who rises isn't a Caesar or a high priest, but a crucified one. The resurrection gives meaning to all those crucified throughout history for justice and love. It assures us that the executioner does not triumph over the victim. It means the realization of the potential hidden in each one of us -- the emergence of the new man.

How do we understand this person? The disciples attributed every title to him -- Son of Man, Prophet, Messiah, and others. At the end they concluded that a human such as Jesus could only be God himself. And they began to call him Son of God.

To proclaim a liberating Jesus Christ in the context of the oppression that existed and still exists in Brazil and Latin America was -- and is -- dangerous. Not only for the dominant society but for that kind of Church that discriminates against women and lay people. So his dream will always be taken up again by those who refuse to accept the world as it is. Perhaps this is the meaning of a book written 40 years ago.

With new eyes

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
October 22, 2012

Mark 10: 46-52

The healing of the blind man Bartimaeus is told by Mark to urge the Christian communities to get out of their blindness and mediocrity. Only thus will they follow Jesus on the gospel road. The story is surprisingly current for the Church of our time.

Bartimaeus is "a blind man sitting by the side of the road." It's always night in his life. He has heard talk of Jesus, but doesn't know his face. He can't follow him. He's beside the road along which he's walking, but he's on the outside. Isn't this our situation? Blind Christians, seated beside the road, unable to follow Jesus?

It's night among us. We don't know Jesus. We lack light to follow his path. We don't know where the Church is going. We don't even know what future we want for it. Settled in a religion that hasn't been able to convert us into followers of Jesus, we live near the Gospel, but outside it. What can we do?

Despite his blindness, Bartimaeus grasps that Jesus is passing by him. He doesn't hesitate for a moment. Something tells him that Jesus is his salvation: "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me." This cry repeated with faith will unleash his healing.

Today in the Church we hear complaints and lamentations, criticisms, protests and mutual insults. We don't hear the humble, trusting prayer of the blind man. We have forgotten that only Jesus can save this Church. We don't sense his presence nearby. We only believe in ourselves. Not going on being settled in conventional religion. Turning back to Jesus who is calling us. This is the first pastoral objective.

The blind man reacts in an admirable way. He throws off the cloak that keeps him from getting up, makes a leap in his darkness, and approaches Jesus. From his heart springs only one plea: "Master, I want to see." If his eyes are opened, everything will change. The story concludes by saying that the blind man regained his sight and "followed him on the way."

This is the healing that we Christians need today. The qualitative leap that can change the Church. If we change our way of looking at Jesus, if we read his Gospel with new eyes, if we get the originality of his message and become passionate about his plan for a more humane world, Jesus' strength will carry us forward. Our communities will know the joy of living by following him closely.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"God is the absolute and the poor are co-absolute": a special interview with Jon Sobrino

This pre-Congresso interview with theologian Jon Sobrino is available in Portuguese on the Unisinos website and in a loose Spanish translation on the Jesuitas Centroamérica site.

It's now the 40th anniversary of liberation theology and doubt remains regarding the reasons why it is so criticized, persecuted, vilified by the world powers, including the hierarchy of the Church. Here to help us understand this is the renowned Salvadoran Jesuit theologian, originally from Spain, Jon Sobrino, who has agreed to the following interview with IHU On-Line by e-mail, who says that answering this question doesn't require sophisticated study, nor discernment before God. Such persecution occurs "either through ill will or through ignorance", because this theology "was seen as a threat." He explains that it "certainly threatens capitalism, hence the reaction of Rockefeller in 1969 and Reagan's aides in 1980. And it threatens national security, hence the reactions of the generals in the 1980s. Also within the Church, because of ignorance, fear of losing power and the stubbornness of not wanting to acknowledge the truth with which it responded to criticism."

Sobrino thinks that, at Vatican II, "the church felt the impulse to humanize the world and to be humanized along with it, without being ashamed before the modern world and to use what is modern to make the Christian God more credible." And the theologian believes that what is called liberation theology "may contribute to both rationalizing faith in a world of injustice and offering a cleaner image of God, one not stained with the filth of the deities who deal death to the poor."

Jon Sobrino is a professor at the Central American University (UCA) in San Salvador, with a doctorate in Theology from the Hochschule Sankt Georgen, Frankfurt (Germany), and editor of the Revista Latinoamericana de Teología ("Latin American Journal of Theology") and the Cartas a las iglesias ("Letters to the Churches") newsletter.

Among many other books, he's the author of Christology at the Crossroads: A Latin American Approach (Wipf & Stock Pub, 2002). He is going to participate in the Continental Theology Congress at Unisinos in an inaugural event titled "Another Congress and a New Congress."

IHU On-Line: For you, what is the significance of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council and the 40th anniversary of the publication of Gustavo Gutiérrez's book, A Theology of Liberation? What perspectives might emerge from the Continental Theology Congress?

Jon Sobrino: In those years -- from 1966 to 1974 -- I was in Frankfurt studying theology. I heard about the Council, but only partially. Through Medellin and Gustavo Gutiérrez's book, I just got interested in 1974 with my arrival in El Salvador. By this I mean that, unlike many of my generation, I was ignorant about what was happening and obviously wasn't at all passionate about it. Then, everything changed. More than what happened, I think it was the Salvadoran situation of the poor and the compañeros who were giving themselves to them that led me to appreciate the events that had occurred and read the writings of bishops and theologians who accompanied them. This clarification may help to understand the answers that I give below. You ask what the significance is of celebrating, and I think that if we take the question seriously, each one will have his own answer.

Of the events mentioned, I'm still celebrating that they were deep and humanizing ruptures in the history of the Church. They made us breathe. Thinking of the Council, "the impossible became possible." Thinking of Medellín, Gustavo Gutiérrez and then Archbishop Romero, the Church decided to return to the poor and Jesus. And it gave "ultimacy" to justice and the hope that it might be possible "that the rich not triumph over the poor, nor the executioner over the victim." In this task, the God of Jesus loomed clearly. And if I focus more on Medellín than on the Council, it's because I know it better.

Another Christianity is possible

This produced joy and hope that, as we say today -- I don't know if too facilely, another church, another faith, another Christianity "is possible", and it was because "it was real." Today we celebrate the awakening from "the nightmare of centuries of cruel inhumanity," as Montesinos asked for, the decision to work for the poor and their liberation, and cast our lot with them. We celebrated the hard conversion and the new that was coming: liturgy, catechesis, popular music, poetry, a new theology -- Gustavo's, an unheard of commitment and a fight against idols. And, above all, the giving of their lives of hundreds and thousands of faithful Christians. Of bishops and priests. In life and death, they were like Jesus. The achievements are obvious. Dom Pedro Casaldáliga wrote "Saint Romero of America, our pastor and martyr," although several Roman curias don't know what to do with those martyrs, There are so many of them. The regulations to which they must be faithful are not designed to accept what is evident.

Today, on the continent, some things have changed, but there is still poverty, the structures of injustice and oppression, and the cruelty of migration has increased.

Things changed more in the Church. From Puebla on, it slid down a slope without Aparecida preventing it significantly. There are good and innovatively good things, but it's no longer the one of the past. There was institutional integrity, abundant or at least enough, along with real, vigorous and considered denunciation against the horror of the poor, a utopia for which to work and fight, pastoral letters that recalled Bartolomé de las Casas and the science of Vitoria, prophetic homilies of priests, bold theologies ... Now it's not clear. They presented a more Latin American, poor, hopeful, liberating and crucified God. And they gave back to the continent and its churches a Jesus who had been held hostage for centuries.

Looking Back

So what does it mean, years later, to celebrate the Council, Gustavo Gutierrez's book, Medellin, the martyrdom of Archbishop Romero? What happened was very good and very humanizing. Today, it no longer abounds. And so you need to look back, though the words don't sound politically correct. Certainly we must continue with new theological thinking: women, indigenous peoples, the denominations, sister earth, the utopia of other "possible" worlds, churches, democracies. But we need to be careful not to fall into Jeremiah's threat: "They have forsaken me, the source of living waters; they have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." (Jer 2:13). What we mentioned earlier are fountains of living water to this day. And they will be more so if we return to them actively and creatively. Admittedly, "the Spirit moves us forward." But such as we are, the less we can forget that "the Spirit leads us to Jesus of Nazareth," eternal source of living water.

IHU On-Line: What does it mean to do and think about theology from the reality of Latin America and the Caribbean ?

Jon Sobrino: Theology is not the first thing to consider. The first is the reality and, in the case of theology, absolute reality. With his usual acuity, Dom Pedro Casaldáliga, referring to the absolute, says that "everything is relative, except God and hunger." The absolute is God, and the poor are co-absolute. So doing theology is helping, from thinking, God to be more real in history, and the poor -- hunger -- to cease being so. So that thought can help in this task, let's recall what Ellacuría meant by intellectively knowing reality. He explained it in three steps:

The first is "assuming reality", or simply, grasping what and how things are. In 2006, looking at the world universe, Casaldáliga wrote: "Today, there is more wealth on earth, but there is more injustice. Two and a half million people survive on Earth with less than two euros per day, and 25,000 people die directly from starvation, according to the FAO. Desertification threatens the lives of 1.2 million people in one hundred countries. Migrants are denied fraternity, the ground under their feet. The United States is building a 1,500 km wall against Latin America. And in Europe, in southern Spain, a fence is being raised against Africa. All that, as well as being iniquitous, is programmed." The present doesn't belie this.

The second step is to "taking responsibility for reality." Its purpose isn't simply to make knowledge grow, however necessary and good that may be, but to make reality grow. And in a certain direction: that of salvation, compassion, mercy and love. Theology is intellectus amoris.

The third step is to "bear the reality," and a reality that is heavy. Underneath it live the anawim of Scripture, those who are bent over. The load that could even deprive someone of life. Theologians have suffered persecution, and some ended as martyrs. This can happen when doing theology is permeated with an ethical attitude.

We usually add a fourth step: "let yourself be borne by reality." Thus, the work and suffering might also be grace for those who do theology. So the theologian knows he or she is part of the poor, not on the outside of them. They know that they are led by them and receive the thanks of the poor. Doing theology is then "a heavy burden that is light," as Rahner used to say, which is the Gospel.

IHU On-Line: How do you analyze the current cultural, socioeconomic and political world situation from the Latin American vista? In this context, what are the challenges and tasks involving theology?

Jon Sobrino: I think that nowadays there are many faces of God in Latin America. Some emerged in the past and stayed there. They go on keeping many people alive and with dignity -- although with the limitation of not encouraging commitment. Others coexist with dehumanizing superstition. Today new churches and movements of all kinds proliferate, mostly charismatic and Pentecostal, with their new faces of God. Personally, I understand and sometimes appreciate the kindness of the people who worship in them because, in part, it's due to long periods of ecclesial abandonment. But it's not always easy for me to put them alongside the Jesus of Nazareth of the Gospel. Among intellectuals and former revolutionaries, there are agnostics and some atheists. They're a minority, but they're growing. I believe that, in a few places, the face of a crucified God that Moltmann talks about, emerged, but I don't believe in countries like El Salvador and Guatemala it's possible, in the long run, to accept a God that doesn't affect their suffering, that God himself suffers in His crucified sons and daughters. Among these faces, I think the biggest news is the dual formulation Puebla made in 1979. Positively, God is essentially a liberating God. He defends and loves the poor - and in that order - by the mere fact of being within them. Whatever their personal moral condition. Dialectically, God is essentially a God of life against the deities of death. Puebla examined this carefully and presented the idols according to a hierarchy: the idol of wealth, power, weapons ... Archbishop Romero, along with Ignacio Ellacuría, explained it admirably for the Salvadoran situation.

IHU On-Line: What is the face of God that emerges from Latin American reality? And how has the Church taken on this face?

Jon Sobrino: It's important to ask them that, and for us not to take their place. But we can say something. In Morazán, amid the atrocities of the war of the peasants, they asked the priest who accompanied them, "Father, if God is a God of life, why is all this happening to us?". It's the question of Job and Epicurus . To answer this question, contents or reasons didn't occur to me, but attitudes did. The first was to speak to them "with closeness." And not just any closeness, but that of Archbishop Romero: "I ask the Lord throughout the week, as I'm taking in the cry of the people and their pain from so much crime, the ignominy of so much violence, to give me the appropriate words to console, to denounce, to call to repentance." The second is to talk "with credibility". And, again, not just any credibility, but that of Archbishop Romero: "I don't want security while they don't give it to my people." The bishop didn't respond by appealing to heavenly miracles, but by showing earthly love in his own flesh. What the peasants who were suffering and questioning felt in their hearts, belongs to their mystery. Those who saw it from the outside believe that the bishop told them of God's love. And that his words were good news. It remains for the intellectuals to dialogue with Epicurus and Dostoevsky, entertaining Paul and Moltmann. And it's not an idle task. But, between us, what resonates most is the closeness and the credibility of the archbishop.

IHU On-Line: How do you talk about God from the reality of the suffering experienced by the excluded, those who are on the margins of privileged society?

Jon Sobrino: Theologies don't grow, last or decay as formal systems of thought, uncontaminated by what is real. Liberation theology rigorously and vigorously expressed that in Exodus God "freed the slaves", that in the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus "set the captives free." What, how, and how much of it guided thinking in these 40 years is something to be analyzed. I have told you that this happened more in the past than now. Since then, liberation theology hasn't been fashionable. But I don't think it's correct to blame that on what started with Gustavo Gutiérrez, Juan Luis Segundo, Leonardo Boff, Ignacio Ellacuria and with Dom Helder Camara, Leonidas Proaño, Angelelli and Romero. It's important to keep thanking the people mentioned who, for those 40 years, remained promoters of liberating theology and expanded into new areas, such as gender, religion, mother earth ... And those of goodwill who lament the fall of liberation theology, let them return to the God of Exodus and Jesus of Nazareth. Undoubtedly, there were limitations, errors, exaggerations. There may have been anti-intellectual reductionism in favor of praxis, intellectual laziness in the face of writings such as those of Juan Luis Segundo or Ellacuría, glimpses of demagoguery against the scientific thinking from other origins, ignorance of criticism or arrogance in the face of it. But personally, I don't think that a more humane, fruitful, gospel-centered and Latin American theological impulse has come up than the one that emerged 40 years ago.

IHU On-Line: How do you analyze these forty years of liberation theology? Why was it so criticized, persecuted, vilified by world powers, including the hierarchy of the Church?

Jon Sobrino: Another thing is the lower quality in the production of liberation theology. It's not easy to duplicate the generation of founders, although new theologians of quality have emerged. And we can't forget that something similar is happening today in other schools, movements and traditions of theology. The Barths, Rahners, de Lubacs, von Balthasars, Bultmanns, Käsemanns don't have many successors of that caliber.

The answer to the second question doesn't require any sophisticated study, or discernment before God. Either through ill will or ignorance, this theology was seen as a threat. Certainly, it threatens capitalism, and hence the reactions of Rockefeller in 1969 and Reagan's aides in 1980. And it threatens national security, hence the reactions of the generals in the 1980s. Also within the Church, because of ignorance, fear of losing power, or stubbornness of not wanting to acknowledge the truth with which it responded to criticism. Remember Don López Trujillo and various bishops and cardinals. And the 1984 instruction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, without the 1986 one managing to completely fix the former one.

IHU On-Line: What's the theological and anthropological meaning of the term "liberation" in the Latin American context? How is this theological perspective involved in the current context of society and of the Church?

Jon Sobrino: If I remember correctly, the concept of "liberation" was used to go beyond the concept of "development", the solution that the Western world proposed to overcome poverty. In the Church, it was rediscovered as a key term in Exodus and Luke to express salvation. It seems important to remember that "liberation" was rediscovered in Latin America, the so-called Third World, because of being a continent that wasn't only backward and underdeveloped, but also oppressed and enslaved by the First World, Europeans and North Americans. And the churches, if not oppressed by the European ones, were heavily dependent on them. The term "liberation" referred very importantly to oppression and repression, ie, the unjust and cruel deprivation of life, which remains even to this day. Another thing is that, fortunately, the concept was extended in its theological sense to designate liberation from indignity, from gender oppression, from the despotism of a denomination ... And it must also be remembered that liberation theology, unlike other theologies and ideologies, gives priority to the "people" over "individualism", and "openness to transcendence" over "positivism," as Ellacuría said in a meeting of the Abrahamic religions. In any case, despite the massive return to spiritual individualism, liberation theology introduced the religious dimension of the humane in the sphere of the outside world. It became present in social reality in its own right and it can't be easily ignored. It's a political religion, akin to that of Metz, which is of no small benefit.

IHU On-Line: Remembering Archbishop Oscar Romero, Ignacio Ellacuria and companions, among many other faces who were murdered because they took up the cause of the poor and marginalized, what does it mean to be Church today on the threshold of the 21st century?

Jon Sobrino: I'll mention two sentences. Ignacio Ellacuria, at the funeral held at the UCA, said that "with Archbishop Romero, God visited El Salvador." Being Church is working simply and decisively so that God visits this inhuman world. And, for the non-believer, working so that solidarity and dignity, the best of man, visit this world, which despite being more secular, remains inhuman. Archbishop Romero, at the University of Louvain, on February 2, 1980, a few days before being murdered, said that "the glory of God is that the poor live."

To be Church is to work for the glory of God. And, for the non-believer, "the glory of humanity is that the poor live, coming to be part of the human family." Therefore, work is required. And I'll end with something that makes me think. I think that at the Council, the Church felt the impulse to humanize the world and to be humanized along with it, without being ashamed before the modern world and to use what is modern to make the Christian God more credible. The goal is magnificent. In Medellín, the Church felt the urge to not be ashamed of the poor and to not hear the rebuke of Scripture: "The name of God is blasphemed among the nations because of you." And it humbly began to "cleanse the face of God." I believe that what is called liberation theology can contribute to both rationalizing faith in a world of injustice and offering a cleaner image of God, one not stained with the filth of the deities who deal death to the poor.

Andrés Torres Queiruga at the Congresso Continental de Teologia - II

Spanish theologian Andrés Torres Queiruga gave two presentations at the Congresso Continental de Teologia at Unisinos in São Leopoldo, Brazil in October 2012. This is the second one.

By Thamiris Magalhães (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Unisinos (in Portuguese)

"Latin American Theology and European Theology: Mutual Interpellations" was the subject of a lecture given by Dr. André Torres Queiruga of the University of Santiago de Compostela, in the Padre Werner Amphitheater on the fourth day of the Continental Theology Congress which is taking place at Unisinos with more than 700 participants.

According to Dr. André Torres Queiruga, society is increasingly in a global culture. "The media, books etc.. are causing the context to be increasingly universal. In this sense, I'm saying it's necessary to build a comprehensive theology," he said, emphasizing that "we have to realize that theology will be authentic when the entire ecclesial body is authentic."

For Queiruga, all of society has the right to do theology. "And there will only be a Christian theology when it belongs to the whole community, " he clarified. According to the professor, we should think of emphases, of specific ways of trying to live the theology we all want to do. "In this regard, one theology, such as the European or American one, can help the other."

"Jon Sobrino," he continued, "used to say that we should think of theology more as social revolution, ie, for the practical fulfillment of everything that is our faith and church attitude. Our faith could be characterized by a theology that's more engaged and more committed to accepting the challenges of modernity."

Liberation Theology

According to Queiruga, liberation theology is concerned about the poor "but not just on the economic level, however, but for the fulfillment of human life, especially attending to those who are hurting, who are suffering the most." For it, there are two absolutes -- God and hunger. It's true that if there's hunger, that will become a human necessity for the person. "It's like saying 'first living, then philosophizing'."

According to the lecturer, liberation theology has historically held that it isn't possible to do theology without seeing that there are poor and suffering people. "I think it weighs on the conscience of all of us to see poverty. But, most of us aren't capable of great heroism. The advantage of liberation theology was to show this," he said.

"If we look at what Vatican II tried to do, which was to bring the Church up to date, we would see that that really happened. And it was liberation theology that welcomed the praxis of faith, that saw that faith without works is dead," he pointed out. And he added, "Liberation theology fights against poverty and seeks greater dignity for people. It's an adventure of historic proportions; it will never be extinguished in history. And this is its greatest merit."


For Queiruga, the Church should start from the bottom. "Give a popular interpretation of the Bible, to mobilize people," he continued. He said, "This same fact of starting from the bottom, of getting people to participate in social life, brings religion closer. We can see this in Europe."

The fight for the Earth

"The fight for Mother Earth is something that liberation theology revitalized," he stated. "And this theology is also communicated within feminist, Asian, and African theology. This is a hotbed of new ideas and directions. Basically, it has forced everyone to remember the poor, especially the crucified poor. Liberation theology said, 'you can't forget the poor.' And this is a universal call to the whole Church," the professor added, deeming that the most advanced theology is still very fundamentalist in its way of reading scripture. "The Bible, in its entirety, is an interpretation of human existence and the human world."

For Queiruga, nature, society, and the human subject are somewhat autonomous. "All this is very important. And if it didn't exit, it would be impossible for liberation theology to exist," he said, considering that we shouldn't just think about practice, but also the interior formation of people. For him, moreover, making the Earth sacred isn't the most correct thing because "only God should be held sacred." And he went on, "Earth and the human person shouldn't be placed on the same level."

Also according to Dr. Queiruga, man is the only species capable of transcending his environment. "There's a clear and obvious hierarchy. Evolution helps us understand that." And he added, "I don't intend intend to deny any of the values. I believe that people have rights, not the earth -- this, always thinking of humanity, of the poor."

Theology of Secularization

The theology of secularization also requires taking into account that we are living in a disenchanted world, where there aren't any spirits flying around. Everything that happens in the world has human -- and exclusively human -- causes," Queiruga stated. For him, we must take into account that secularization and disenchantment have not yet reached the whole world, "but they're coming. Technological advances are changing the whole human mentality."

Queiruga even avers that faith and theology need to be thought about for the future. "What counts for us, we have to aspire making valid for all people, because we live in a world where we're all equal."

Regarding the secular culture, the professor pondered about "realizing that divine interventionism has ended. In other words, thinking that 'I ask God for something and He answers' has ended -- or I think it should end. It's like going to church to ask God to cure a disease." And he gave an example: "If I have a cut finger and go to the shrine to ask God to heal the hemorrhage, I'll die. God counts, but on another level. He pushes me so that I, with all dignity, do what's humanly possible to fix what can be fixed." To Queiruga, we must learn to pray in this new context..."and I believe that repetitive prayer makes no sense."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Andrés Torres Queiruga at the Congresso Continental de Teologia - I

Spanish theologian Andrés Torres Queiruga gave two presentations at the Congresso Continental de Teologia at Unisinos in São Leopoldo, Brazil in October 2012. This is the first one.

by Graziela Wolfart (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Unisinos (in Portuguese)
October 10, 2012

Invited to reflect on "Theology and new paradigms", Dr. Andrés Torres Queiruga of the University of Santiago de Compostela, opened his lecture yesterday morning, October 9th, at the Continental Theology Congress by warning the audience that he would be talking about "Theology and the Church after the Second Vatican Council."

The lecturer divided his speech into three points: the objective direction of the Council, the big themes of post-conciliar theology, and future tasks and hopes.

For Queiruga, Vatican II has an epochal importance that can only be seen within the long range framework in history.

For many people, the focus of Vatican II was the constitution Gaudium et Spes, the speaker noted.

Then he lamented that the Church has "missed the beat" in cultural accompaniment. "We note that the Church stood against culture, demonstrating the institution's inertia, a tendency towards power over culture, opposition to modernity, democracy and freedom." However, he said that the whole Church didn't take that position. "There were people who thought differently. Despite the cooling of Vatican II, there were people who tried to renew the debate."

Luckily, he continued, "theology did not resign itself, but had to hide a little. Hence, positive theology was born as an alternative to official, abstract and scholastic theology."

So, in 1950, Pope Pius XII would have stopped with this current. "All that we're saying today -- this event -- would have been impossible at the time of Pius XII."

According to Queiruga, the Spirit continues to blow in the Church and this is a source of hope.

And he continues, recognizing that some of the protagonists of the Council were unable accompany the later process, they couldn't go beyond their renovating efforts. "It was the only universal council that didn't define anything dogmatically." The speaker continued, throwing the following question to the audience: "Has the Council been the cause of all evils in the Church today?".

For Queiruga, modernity put theology face to face with a radical situation. "That is the legacy that theological reflection can not ignore," he said.

In addressing the great issues of Vatican II, Queiruga recalled the problem of evil in humanity, as well as the challenge of food distribution in the world. "The council gave us autonomy in the face of earthly realities, which are finite, and showed us that evil is inevitable. God could have not created the world, but He created it and evil appeared within it. God calls us to fight evil. He needs our hands to stop evil. God isn't in hunger or disease; He's in the hungry and the sick. We should think about this," he said.

Then the theologian stated that liberation theology dared to say "blessed are the poor." And he explained his statement: "Despite everything, God is in the Church. We should not despair but have hope that united, we are strong. The world will go on, because God is with us." Thus, on a hopeful note, he concluded his talk.


Answering written questions from the audience, Queiruga emphasized that "if God creates us out of love and is within us, urging us towards fulfillment, He has revealed Himself to each and every one since the creation of the world. Limits are set by us and sometimes we don't want to listen when He speaks."

Then, he said that religion means realizing that God is present in reality. "You have to be respectful and understand that every religion is a manifestation -- more or less perfect -- of God. There will always be elements of other religions that could be offered to me. The key is to understand that, in Jesus, the utmost of what could humanly be achieved, was reached. So we can improve, but not go beyond Jesus."

The speaker responded emphatically to a question by saying that, if Vatican II hadn't happened, the situation would be much worse today. "The Council was a great blessing," he added.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Juan José Tamayo: "The marginalization of women is the greatest blasphemy of Christianity"

by R. Pérez Barredo (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Diario de Burgos
October 18, 2012

If, as León Felipe would write, words are a brick, with Tamayo's (Amusco, Palencia, 1946) the highest tower could rise. A tower of headlines, words like punches. A free soul, proscribed by the hierarchy of the Church, this lucid and courageous man spoke yesterday in Burgos, invited by Iglesia Viva ("Church Alive"), on the utopia of a lay church.

They just vetoed you in Barcelona for a talk like this. Is the hierarchy so afraid of those who depart from the official script?

That word "fear" is apt. At this time, the hierarchy is afraid of what's new, what's creative, what involves bringing new answers to new problems. The hierarchy is always more comfortable in general -- most of it -- looking backward than being in the present, looking longingly at what happened in the past, at tradition, rather than responding to the challenges of society. That's why when certain theologians or Christian religious personalities propose alternatives, they get scared and turn to their crosiers not to herd the sheep, but to beat them.

That obstinacy, being anchored in the past, that one track mindedness, doesn't it hurt Church?

Of course. If anything has characterized the Church over these 2,000 years of history, it's been diversity -- organizational, theological, litugical, in answers to moral problems...A plurality of models at all levels. This is why the uniformity and single-mindedness that they want to impose today is so surprising.

Do we need a new Vatican II now more than ever?

No. It would be a look backwards. Vatican II was an excellent initiative by John XXIII, who realized that the Church was anchored in the past and, from the cultural point of view, living in the paradigm of the Middle Ages. He realized that it was necessary to adapt the Church to the new society, the new historical era, the cultural changes. The Second Vatican Council responded very accurately to the problems the world had raised then. And today we have to respond in a different, more creative way. We don't have to look back at Vatican II except to recover the best of that heritage, a heritage we must activate and improve.

What could be considered?

Maybe a Council, but not in the classical style, and henceforth not at the Vatican. I think that everything that has to do with the Vatican reflects centralism, authoritarianism, verticality, lack of respect for pluralism...Today one would need a Council, but not the classical kind that's aristocratic, where only the mitred -- the hierarchs -- would participate. Right now, I think we need a universal assembly of the whole People of God, the whole Christian community. And it shouldn't take place at the Vatican which doesn't reflect the universality of the Church. If there has to be a new Council, it would have to take place in the Third World, where Christianity is showing more vitality and commitment to the poor.

How is it possible that we have experienced an involution, that, far from moving forward with the times, the Church has regressed and become more conservative? Or would we have to say neoconservative?

I think that expression "neo" reflects the current situation of the Church very well. All trends prefaced by the term "new" are often worse than the original brand. It's correct to say "neoconservatism" because the Church is currently doing a restoration of the past, the development of traditional thinking that doesn't belong to this historical moment. As such, it's an element that's even more negative than conservatism was, to which it has added some fundamentalist approaches with a certain fanatical inclination.

There are some who don't understand how the hierarchy has gone so far astray from Jesus' words, from being on the side of the disenfranchised of the earth. That's liberation theology and, nonetheless, it's been persecuted inquisitorially.

Let's come back again to the word you used at the beginning, and that's "fear". When liberation theology is condemned, you're not condemning a doctrinal deviation or a heresy. What's behind these condemnations?

Fear of the poor, of the remoteness of the poor. Those who condemn, the inquisitors (who still exist) are seated in positions of power, in environments of privilege, in a powerful social place. When they see that a part of the Church has changed its social place, they are denouncing where most of the hierarchy are installed in the established order. That's the great betrayal of Jesus' Gospel.

You've denounced the humiliating role of women within the Church. How could this situation be reversed?

It's the greatest scandal that the Catholic Church is giving to the world. Twenty centuries after the birth of Christianity, two and a half centuries after feminism as a theory of equality and the social movement to fight for women's emancipation, I think it's scandalous that the Church not only hasn't moved towards equality, but is taking quicker and quicker steps towards inequality. Women are the majority in the Church and, oddly, a silent and silenced majority. They're the ones bearing the brunt of it. They aren't considered moral, religious, visible, sacramental, ecclesial or theological subjects. They are marginalized in every sense. The marginalization of women is the great blasphemy of Christianity. But, curiously, a very peculiar phenomenon is happening. Despite all this, women are the most faithful followers of hierarchical guidelines. Feminist theology is one of the great hopes for the future of the Church. However, the hierarchy reacts and ends up chasing women away, just as they did with the young people and the intellectuals. If it goes on like this, Catholicism will become a deserted area.

Does the future of Christianity happen by stemming this exodus and bringing people back, through a lay Church, which is the utopia you're advocating?

Of course. Without lay people, there is no Church. The clerical Church is one of the great betrayals of the Gospel of Jesus. The beginning wasn't the Church but Jesus' egalitarian movement, a movement of men and women. The regeneration of the Church should happen through this utopia of a lay Church, because its base is the people.

God, that known unknown

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia and in Portuguese on his blog. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

On October 5th and 6th, another session of "Atrium of the Gentiles" took place in Assisi, an initiative of the Vatican Pontifical Council for Culture, that focused on the question of God. Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Council and famous biblical exegete, conducted a provocative dialogue on "God, that unknown."

With the "Atrium of the Gentiles" an effort is being made to get believers and nonbelievers to talk to each other. The Atrium was the space around the Temple of Jerusalem that was accessible to the Gentiles (the heathen) who otherwise could never enter the temple. Now they are looking to remove the prohibitions so that everyone can get into the temple.

In this regard, allow me a reflection that has accompanied me throughout my life as a theologian: thinking about God beyond religious (metaphysical) objectifications and trying to interpret Him as an always unknown Mystery and, at the same time, always known. Why this way? Einstein gives us a clue: "the man whose eyes are not open to the Mystery will go through life without ever seeing anything."

Indeed, wherever we turn our gaze, towards the large and to the small, outward and inward, upward and downward, on all sides, we find the Mystery. The Mystery isn't the unknown; it's the known that both fascinates and draws us to know it more and more and, at the same time, causes wonder and reverence in us. Because it's always there, constantly offering itself to our knowledge and attempt to know it, we sense that our thirst and hunger to know it is never satisfied. But, as soon as we get it, it escapes from us towards the unknown. We chase it endlessly and it still remains a Mystery in all knowing, creating an invincible attraction and irresistible fear and reverence in us. The Mystery is.

My basic thesis is this: In the beginning was the Mystery. The Mystery was God. God was the Mystery. God is Mystery for us and for Himself.

He's a Mystery for us to the extent that we never end up grasping him either by reason or through intelligence. Each encounter leaves an absence that leads to another meeting. Each knowledge opens another window to new knowledge. The Mystery of God is not the limit of knowledge but the limitlessness of knowledge. It is love that knows no rest. The mystery doesn't fit into any scheme nor is it imprisoned in any doctrine. It is always yet to be known.

The Mystery is an absent Presence. And also a present Absence. It manifests itself in our absolute dissatisfaction that tirelessly and vainly seeks satisfaction. In that moving between Presence and Absence the human being is made, tragic and happy, whole but unfinished.

God is a mystery in Himself and to Himself. God is a mystery in Himself because His nature is mystery. So, God as Mystery knows Himself and yet, his self-knowledge never ends. He reveals Himself and retracts on Himself. The knowledge of His nature as mystery is always entire and full and, at the same time, always open to a new fullness, always remaining a Mystery, eternal and infinite, to God Himself. If it weren't thus, it wouldn't be what it is: Mystery. Therefore, it's an absolute Dynamism without limit.

God is a Mystery to himself, that is, however much He knows Himself, His self-knowledge is never exhausted. He is open to a future that is truly future. Therefore, to something that has not yet happened, but might happen as new for Him. With the incarnation, God began to be what He wasn't before. Therefore, in God there is a becoming, a self-making.

But the Mystery, because of intrinsic dynamism, reveals itself and communicates with itself permanently. It gets out of itself and knows and loves the new that manifests itself in it. What will be revealed is not a reproduction of the same but always different and new for Him too. Unlike enigma that, once known, disappears, the better known Mystery is, the more it seems unknown, that is, as Mystery that invites to more knowledge and greater love.

Saying God-Mystery is expressing dynamism without residue, a life without entropy, an irruption without loss, a becoming without interruption, an eternal coming to be that is always being, and a beauty always new and different that never fades. Mystery is Mystery, now and forever, from everlasting to everlasting.

Before the Mystery, words drown, images weaken and reference points die away. What behooves us is silence, reverence, adoration and contemplation. These are the appropriate attitudes towards the Mystery.

By assuming such an understanding, all walls are demolished. There will be no more Atrium of the Gentiles nor will the temple exist anymore because God has no religion. He is just the Mystery that links and re-links everything, every person and the whole universe. The Mystery penetrates us and we are immersed in It.