Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Liberating liberation theology

In a fascinating article by Sandro Magister, he looks at the disagreement over Liberation Theology between Boff brothers; Leonardo Boff, recently chastized by the Vatican CDF, sticking to the tired guns of the 60s, while Clodovis Boff, lifting up his heart to Christ, embracing the vision of Liberation offered there, and enunciated by last year's conference at Aparecida in Brazil, attended by Pope Benedict XVI.

As there are many Dominicans profoundly stuck in the trendy 60s, this is a refreshing "conversion" to read about.

Clodovis and Leonardo Boff, Separated Brethren

In the first part of the essay, Clodovis Boff criticizes the foundation of liberation theology – not the theoretical version, but as it "really exists."

In his judgment, the "fatal" error into which it falls is that of setting up the poor as the "first operative principle of theology," substituting them for God and Jesus Christ.

And he explains:

"Nothing but dismal effects can follow from this error of principle. [...] When the poor acquire the status of an epistemological 'primum', what happens to the faith and its doctrine on the theological and pastoral level? [...] The inevitable result is the politicization of the faith, its reduction to an instrument for social liberation."

The consequences are also grave for the life of the Church:

"The 'pastoral action of liberation' becomes one of the many branches of the 'popular movement'. The Church becomes like an NGO, and so also loses substance physically: it loses workers, militants, and faithful. Those 'on the outside' feel little attraction for a 'Church of liberation', because the militants already have NGO's, while for religious experience they need much more than simple social liberation. Moreover, because of the failure to perceive the social extent and relevance of the current spiritual malaise, liberation theology shows itself to be culturally myopic and historically anachronistic, or alienated from its time."

In the second part of the essay, the author shows how liberation theology can "save itself" through its positive fruits only by returning to its original foundation. Which is found in the final document of the conference in Aparecida.

This document - he writes - is a "clear demonstration" of how a correct connection can be made between faith and liberating action. Unlike liberation theology, which "begins with the poor and arrives at Christ," Aparecida "begins with Christ and arrives at the poor," clearly establishing that "the Christ-principle always includes the poor, but the poor-principle does not necessarily include Christ. [...] The original source of theology is nothing other than faith in Christ."

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