Milan (AsiaNews) - In the half century after Vatican II, "Liberation Theology" was one of the most discussed and disputed novelties of the Latin American Churches and also in Europe, arousing passionate accessions and radical condemnation. Despite of all this, in the end, it aimed at nothing more than what Pope Francis summed up in one of his now renowned expressions: "I want a poor Church for the poor," a Church he is trying to reveal, day after day, in his gestures, his speeches and homilies, without trying to theorize or explain everything. Why, then, Liberation did Theology arouse, and still today arouse, so much conflict, so many distancing themselves from the Church and so many closures? One of the latest measures was the Holy See decree issued in June 2012 that prohibited the Pontifical Catholic University of Lima from using the title 'Pontifical' and 'Catholic'. The university has "systematically disobeyed the instructions of the Holy See ... and it has been turned into a wolf in sheep's clothing in the local church as a center for the dissemination of the worst revolutionary doctrines."
LT had two precedents: the birth of CELAM (Latin American Episcopal Council) in Rio de Janeiro in 1955, Vatican II's "Gaudium et Spes" and the Second CELAM Assembly in Medellin in Colombia in 1968. But it was born and named with the publication of a volume by the Peruvian theologian don Gustavo Gutierrez " Teologìa de la Liberaciòn " in 1971, which denounced the underdevelopment of Latin American peoples, mainly caused by rich countries dependence on and exploitation of their wealth; it gave a new vision of theology, the purpose of which was not doctrine, but a critical reflection of the situation of poverty in which most of the peoples of Latin America lived. It sought to direct the Church towards a "ministry of liberation," through an intimate practice of Christian formation and opening it up to forming the conscience of the faithful and their actions to transform society through a sense of greater social justice.
It is not easy to summarize in a few lines a varied trend of thought that witnessed a vast penetration in the churches and peoples of Latin America in the 70s and 80s, provoking debates and divisions. The two instructions of the Congregation for the Faith: "On the Theology of Liberation" (1984) and "Christian Freedom and Liberation" (1986) and the two CELAM Assemblies, Puebla (Mexico 1979) and Santo Domingo (1992) calmed the waters and led to a new path, of which the providential Pope Francis is the current expression of a growing and enthusiastic consensus (long may it last) of the change it is causing in the Church.
To understand the present value of Pope Francis, after the charismatic Pope who proclaimed the Gospel to all peoples and the professor Pope who expressed the only wealth we have, Jesus Christ, in a clear, precise and understandable manner to the entire contents, we must now explain the two contrasting aspects of liberation theology, one negative and one positive and the urgent need for a synthesis that is beneficial for the universal Church:
1) The negative aspect is contained in the title of the first document: "Serious ideological deviations which tend inevitably to betray the cause of the poor." LT had adopted the Marxist analysis of social reality and the Instruction by then Card. Ratzinger explains that, no matter how much some pathetic philosophers and theologians may attempt to bend reality, the core of Marxist thought is irreducibly atheist and therefore is radically opposed to the message of Jesus Christ. It would be take too long to explain why this is so, but suffice it to mention the many believers and Christian communities who, adopting the LT, have abandoned Christ and his Church. As exemplified by the people "liberated" from the regimes that were products of that ideology, which have all failed and of which the people, as soon as they can, seek to be free.
2) The positive aspect is the Churches' preferential option for the poor, how the freedom and liberation of people are and must increasingly become part and parcel of Christian practice, which is an integral part of life according to the Gospel; the second Instruction by Card. Ratzinger exhorts believers to work for the poor, the suffering, the least among us, the oppressed, starting precisely from faith in Christ and according to the example that Jesus gave us. The task of the Church in the modern world, in this Instruction is very positive and courageous, far from anathema. It indicates a path that Pope Francis is showing gradually by his example. Finally, liberation theology, with all its serious errors and collateral damage, in the historical context of the Churches' journey turns out to be strongly positive. Today there remains only to follow, pray and obey the directions that the Holy Spirit gives the Church through the work and words of Pope Francis. With him, the Latin American continent, "the hope of the Church" (as Pius XII said in 1955), comes to the fore to teach us something in the West, Christian for two thousand years, but in severe crisis of faith and Christian life.