Friday, April 26, 2013

Pope Francis and Liberation Theology

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl) (Portuguese)

Many have wondered if, because of the fact that the current Pope Francis comes from Latin America, he is an adept of liberation theology. That question is irrelevant. The important thing is not coming from liberation theology, but from the liberation of the oppressed, the poor and the wronged. And that he is, with indubitable clarity.

That, indeed, has always been the purpose of liberation theology. First comes the concrete liberation from hunger, misery, moral degradation and rupture with God. This reality pertains to the properties of the Kingdom of God and was in Jesus' plans. Then, secondly, comes reflection on this real fact: to what extent is the Kingdom of God brought about anticipatorily here, and how Christianity, as the spiritual potential inherited from Jesus, can collaborate -- together with other humanitarian groups -- in this necessary liberation.

This subsequent reflection, called theology, may or may not exist because there may not be people able to perform this task. What is imporatnt is that the fact of real liberation occur. But there will always be attentive spirits who will hear the cry of the oppressed and of the devastated Earth and ask themselves how, with what we have learned from Jesus, the Apostles and the Christian doctrine of so many centuries, we can make our contribution to the process of liberation. It is what an entire generation of Christians, from cardinals to laymen and laywomen, has done since the 1960s. It continues to the present day, because the poor do not stop growing and their cry has turned into an uproar.

Now, Pope Francis has made this option for the poor, and he has lived and lives plainly in solidarity with them and he clearly said in one of his first speeches, "how I would like a poor Church for the poor." In this sense, Pope Francis is carrying out the primary intuition of liberation theology and seconding its trademark -- a preferential option for the poor, against poverty, and in favor of life and justice.

This option is not just words for him but a choice of life and spirituality. Because of the poor, he has been ill disposed towards President Cristina Kirchner because he has demanded from her government more political commitment to overcoming social problems, analytically called inequality, ethically injustice, and theologically a social sin that directly affects the living God who showed himself biblically as always being on the side of those who have less life and who have been wronged.

In 1990, 4% of Argentina was poor. Today, given the voracity of national and international capital, that has gone up to 30%. These are not just numbers. For a sensitive spiritual person like Francis the bishop of Rome, this fact represents a Via Crucis of suffering, tears of hungry children, and despair of unemployed parents. This reminds me of a quote from Dostoevsky: "All the progress in the world is not worth the cry of a hungry child."

This poverty, Pope Francis has firmly insisted, is not overcome by philanthropy but by public policies that restore dignity to the oppressed and turn them into autonomous participating citizens.

It doesn't matter that Pope Francis doesn't use the expression "liberation theology". What's most important is that he speaks and acts in a liberation manner.

It's even good that the Pope doesn't affiliate with any type of theology, such as liberation theology or any other one. His two predecessors assumed a certain kind of theology that was in their minds and it appeared as expressions of papal magisterium. In the name of it, many theologians were condemned.

It is historically proven that the "magisterium" category attributed to popes is a recent creation. It started to be used by Popes Gregory XVI (1765-1846) and Pius X (1835-1914) and became common with Pius XII (1876-1958). Before, the "magisterium" was composed of doctors of theology and not of the bishops and the Pope. The latter are teachers of the faith. Theologians are masters of understanding of the faith. Therefore it isn't the job of bishops and popes to do theology but to officially give witness to and zealously secure the Christian faith. It has been -- and is -- the theologians' job to deepen this testimony with the intellectual tools offered by the present culture. When popes begin to do theology, as has happened recently, it's unclear whether they're speaking as popes or as theologians. It creates great confusion in the Church; the freedom of research and dialogue with the various wisdoms is lost.

Thank God Pope Francis explicitly presents himself as a pastor and not as a doctor and theologian even if it were as a liberation one. Thus he is freer to speak from the gospel, from his emotional and spiritual intelligence, with an open and sensitive heart, in tune with the globalized world of today. May the Pope let theologians do theology and may he preside over the Church in love and hope. Pope Francis: Put theology in a minor key so that liberation resounds in the major one -- solace for the oppressed and challenge to the consciences of the powerful. Therefore, less theology and more liberation.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Friendship within the Church

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
April 28, 2013

John 13:31-33a, 34-35

It's the eve of his execution. Jesus is celebrating the last supper with his own. He has just washed his disciples' feet. Judas has already made his tragic decision and, after taking the last bite from Jesus' hands, he has gone off to do his work. Jesus says aloud what everyone is feeling, "My children, I will be with you only a little while longer."

He speaks tenderly to them. He wants his last gestures and words to be branded on their hearts: "I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." This is Jesus' will and testament.

Jesus speaks of a "new commandment" Where's the novelty? The watchword to love one's neighbor already existed in Biblical tradition. Various philosophers talked about philanthropy and loving all human beings too. The novelty is in Jesus' way of loving -- "love one another as I have loved you." Thus his way of loving will be spread through his followers.

The first thing the disciples have experienced is that Jesus has loved them as friends -- "I no longer call you slaves...I call you friends." In the Church, we are simply to love one another as friends. And among friends, equality, closeness and mutual support are cherished. No one is above anyone else. No friend is lord of his friends.

That's why Jesus cuts short the ambitions of his disciples when he sees them arguing about who should be first. Seeking self-interested leading roles breaks up friendship and communion. Jesus reminds them of his style -- "I have not come to be served, but to serve." Among friends, no one must impose themselves. All must be willing to serve and collaborate.

This friendship that was experienced by Jesus' followers doesn't generate a closed community. On the contrary, the friendly and cordial atmosphere among them makes them willing to receive those who need acceptance and friendship. Jesus has taught them to eat with sinners and people who have been excluded and despised. He has scolded them for pushing the children aside. In Jesus' community, it's not the children but the adults who get in the way.

One day, the same Jesus who designated Peter as the "Rock" to build his Church, called the Twelve, put a child in their midst, hugged him and told them, "Whoever receives a child such as this in my name, receives me." In Jesus' beloved Church, the smallest, most fragile and vulnerable ones are to be the center of attention and cared for by all.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Iglesia Descalza blog comments policy -- a reminder

I recently received a comment from someone who calls themselves "Concerned Catholic" (although this person has posted the same thing in many places on the Internet under a variety of different pseudonyms) containing a video which violates this blog's comments policy and which I therefore did not publish.

A reminder: We try to avoid publishing unsubstantiated and libelous allegations against individuals. Nothing in the video attached to "Concerned Catholic"'s comment suggested that it was credible, There was no evidence in the video to substantiate the narrator's allegations that he is the "nephew" of the person about whom he is speaking, nor anything in the video to substantiate the accusations being made against the subject of the video. One never even sees the narrator's face and it's easy to tell that the voice in the video is computer-generated. In fact, the individual who produced the video has made and posted on YouTube multiple videos on the same subject using a variety of computer-generated voices.

And now to "Concerned Catholic" and/or the individual who uploaded the videos to YouTube: If you have real evidence that a crime has been committed -- and individuals who are willing to testify to such -- please do bring that to the attention of law enforcement authorities in your country. We are as concerned as you are with ridding the Church of clergy who abuse their positions of authority and seeing them brought to justice, but we are not willing to participate in illegal defamation campaigns by people who don't even have the courage to give their real names. I would also advise other bloggers to clear their blogs of these sorts of comments as well.