Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Gustavo Gutiérrez: "I was never condemned by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith"

by Luis Miguel Modino (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
December 14, 2015

A lot has been written about Gustavo Gutiérrez -- not always true, as he himself notes in this interview, the result of a conversation in which he shows what liberation theology, of which he has always been considered the father, has meant in his life.

He doesn't intend to fall into absolutism and acknowledges how this theology has been remaking itself, opening to new themes and realities and how to face challenges. His words reveal his freedom of thought, fruit of his deep knowledge and theological work, being aware that not everyone will agree with his ideas, which, on the other hand, doesn't cause him any grief.

How has liberation theology marked your life?

It was born from my life, naturally, and I myself have wanted to be faithful and also critical, since theology must always be redone and it's not about applying it like the Word of God. I think it's given me reflection, it has given me clues, given me a vista, but I've never considered it the last word, and it's also given me contacts with people from a rich base.

Do you think the poor are still a theological category in current thought?

Not the poor, but the situation of marginalization in which they live which is contrary to the will of God, and that's what makes it theological.

Some insist on saying that liberation theology is a thing of the past.

You know, the first time they told me that was one month after the book was published. And the next year they were saying it was now dead. That is, this stuff bounces off me.

At the recent Continental Theology Congress held in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, the contact and interest of the theologians in talking with Gustavo Gutiérrez was much discussed by those who were present. Is that a sign of hope, regarding the validity of liberation theology?

Of course. However, I don't think theologies are born to be eternal. If that is what they meant, I think so, but dying means that it has already made a contribution and that religion has changed and that we'll see other things. Until I turned 40, I didn't talk about liberation theology, but that didn't mean I wasn't a Christian who was seeking to be a Christian and a priest who was seeking to be a priest. I could be a Christian before liberation theology and I can be one after it; my life isn't there.

Liberation theology made me change; it speaks a lot to me. I think it continues because of everything I said before and, not just that, but it's growing, it's not the same since it's getting into other issues, since not every issue that's being worked on today in liberation theology was there at the beginning. It's a process, since you always have to take theology with a lot of flexibility. They're important things, but theology isn't synonymous with Christian doctrine, it's simply a way of dealing with it.

In liberation theology, what is the theological authority of the poor?

Let's say it's the challenge. I wouldn't speak of authority because it's a strange word, as if someone were ruling something. What's important is discovering the significance of their being, which is that they make us see that we can't be content with what is and that we have to feel that we are still being challenged, and I say this as a Church person, not as something relative to me individually.

Where should liberation theology go? What are the challenges it has to face today?

That's a very broad question and one I'm working on right now. Everything that refers to the modern and post-modern world -- although I don't take post-modernity so seriously, it continues to hold a challenge, that of science, of freedom ... like things that are there.

A second challenge is the one of poverty itself, since the way in which we see poverty nowadays, including in liberation theology, isn't exactly the same as forty years ago. Social science and the other sciences have clarified things and make us see other things, which show that the process is continuing.

Another challenge is that of the theology of religion, what is also called interfaith dialogue. But the dialogue is easy; you just have to be educated. The theological problem is the theology, what is the meaning of this diversity of religions that have existed for a long time but is a new subject, theologically.

To what extent can we say that Pope Francis is sympathetic to liberation theology?

I can't cage the Pope, a pastor like him, in one theology. What I say when they ask me that question is that he is the freshness of the Gospel. If he likes one theology or another, I have no problem with that.

You've had problems with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and now the prefect of that Congregation is someone who calls himself your friend, Cardinal Müller.

I'm going to clarify that. I had problems, but they were problems that came from Peru, and when the matter got there [to Rome], they didn't find anything. The proof is that I didn't have a trial; what I had was a dialogue. The difference, which I didn't know but then learned, is that a trial happens when there are suspicions that there are things that go against orthodoxy, and dialogue, which is what I had, when there are statements that aren't well understood -- which is very subjective since there will always be someone who doesn't understand some statement well.

When they say I was condemned, I laugh a bit because I was never condemned by the Congregation [for the Doctrine] of the Faith. All the books I wrote are still published. It was just a dialogue in which they didn't find anything. There's a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in which it says that the dialogue with Father Gustavo Gutiérrez ended satisfactorily.

And with Cardinal Müller?

Gerhard Müller is a friend, a very good friend. He was in Peru and, with other German professors, we worked on liberation theology. Then he decided to do something practical to help the poor in Peru and went to teach theology in a seminary in Cuzco, where the population is indigenous. He went for 15 consecutive years and he knows liberation theology very well, as the two books we've written together prove, the second one with Pope Francis' prologue. I repeat, he is a very good friend and very knowledgeable about liberation theology, with which he sympathized when it was very controversial among the sectors of the media, since there was never any problem in the Congregation of the Faith.

He once gave a talk at the Catholic University in Lima -- much applauded and the text of it is published -- in which he explained how he had changed with respect to liberation theology. As well as a friend, he has been an advocate, especially when there have been reservations that had no substance, but when something bad is said, everybody repeats it.

In this, the media, not all, make things very complicated because they talk constantly about condemnation and there was no such thing. If I had been condemned, they would have prohibited me from continuing to write and there has never been a book, of those I have written, that they have said should not be sold, that it isn't authorized. Disagreement isn't condemnation and if someone disagrees, well, what are we going to do with them? There has always been that in the Christian message. I also disagree with many very good theologies that I don't like, and, although I'm not nobody, this happens to anyone.

1 comment:

  1. Hi there. Love your blog and I read it frequently. Can't find an email address for you.

    Not sure how far your coverage of liberation theology extends, but a new pastoral letter from the grassroots in Appalachia has been published by the Catholic Committee of Appalachia.

    Here is the link:

    I can send you a press release as well if you are interested!