Friday, March 14, 2014

"Liberation theology has died? They didn't invite me to the funeral!": An interview with Gustavo Gutierrez

By Andrés Beltramo Alvarez (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Vatican Insider (italiano) / Adital (español)
March 7, 2014

For the first time, Gustavo Gutierrez, a Peruvian theologian and the "father" of liberation theology, was a speaker in an auditorium at the Vatican. The historic moment happened on February 25th, at the launching of the book Povero e per i poveri, signed by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Gerhard Ludwig Müller as it also includes his writings. A volume with a foreword by the Pope. They are signs of an obvious detente with a theological current that is still facing turbulent debates in Latin America. Gutierrez talked to Vatican Insider about his involvement in the presentation.

How do you think this "reconciliation" was reached?

The word "reconciliation" is a little strong to express what happened. There were certain problems with a few people, and not so fair. There wasn't a determination against it, otherwise I would not have continued to write, but that didn't happen. Of course, there are people who don't agree with me and I respect that. There are many theologies I don't like but I don't persecute them because of that. But, we have differences. On the other hand, there are church people who think everything happens in the Church, which isn't true.

Liberation theology had problems mainly with the politicians and the military. I'll give two examples. In December 1987, there was a meeting in Buenos Aires of the armed forces of the continent from Canada to Chile and Argentina. You know what the problem was? The dangers of liberation theology. Have you ever heard of the armed forces of Europe meeting to talk about the theology of Rahner or Congar? Never. But in Latin America, they did.

Who do they kill? Civilians. We've had hundreds of people murdered and this always escapes a lot of people. Who killed Monseñor Romero? Roberto d’Aubuisson Arrieta, a military officer who's now dead. But that man was not a man of the Church. He answered only to certain political interests.

So there's a different climate of understanding?

Today, yes, of course. And this has to do with what I just said, because it takes away the weapons of those who, for no Christian reason, don't trust liberation theology. Because they realize that they're dealing with the whole Church. It's very different. But it's very frequent. Another example: During Reagan's presidential campaign in 1980, there were some people, who later would be ambassadors in Latin America, who issued a document in which they warned that one of the greatest threats to U.S. foreign policy was liberation theology. I've never seen anyone say that, at least, it talks about God. And this is very serious, this is the climate that kills.

Could it be that some people exploited liberation theology?

Everything can be manipulated. In South Africa, Christianity was used by apartheid too, and we can't stop that. One can answer for oneself or for close friends. After all, if someone uses their own ideas, what can you do? There were problems, but there were more problems and more serious ones in the civilian environment. Why, then, do you think we talk about "Latin American martyrdom"? We're referring to the political and military situations in Latin America. Countrymen of the continent. It's what happened in Brazil under the dictatorship, with Videla in Argentina, in Uruguay. That was then, and one of the most frequently used arguments was that anyone who talked about human rights and social justice was a Marxist. It's not that there weren't any problems in the Church, I'm pointing out what, to me, was more serious.

Did you ever think you would have a friend who was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith?

I never imagined it nor did I discard it, because one never knows. I'm not much given to predicting things. No, obviously not, but who could have foreseen something like this?

Could this be providential for your work?

Yes, it might be useful for the work. But what matters to me is what will happen to the poor of Latin America. You ask me if it will be useful for them? I think so. That it will be useful for liberation theology, sure. I'd be a fool if I didn't give a damn. Up to age 40, I had never spoken of liberation theology, because I didn't know it. But I was still a Christian. So, if I was a Christian before, I hope to be one afterwards as well. People say to me: "Liberation theology is dead." And I answer: "Maybe, but no one invited me to the funeral!" Theology isn't crucial, people are.

And is Pope Francis decisive?

Ah, well, but certainly yes. Precisely this way, going to concrete daily things, saying, "I don't want corrupt money, dirty money." That's very specific. Of course so, obviously.

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