A many-faceted movement is described by liberal Protestant theologian

Harvey Cox as "the newest and freshest theology." It probably has its roots

in the philosophical/theological precepts of the French humanist Maritain,

of whom Pope Paul VI said, "I am a disciple of Maritain. I call him my

teacher." (TIME, 4/21/67).

Maritain taught that the Church, while not sacrificing its theological

precepts, should actively support political democracy and social reform.

According to Cox (Religious News Service, 6/6/79), "the movement was not

condemned by Pope John Paul II when he visited Mexico in 1979, and he

sounded very much like a liberation theologian, insisting that structural

changes were needed to deal with poverty.

"The Jesuit General was asked at a news conference whether he approved

of the approach used by some Jesuit priests in encouraging Catholics to

take up arms against repressive regimes. He was quoted, in reply, as saying

that `in the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church it is allowable to

turn to violence when all other means have been exhausted.'

"Dr. Cox continued, `A spirited debate is underway among Latin American

Catholics over the extent that Marxist analysis can be used in liberation


TIME, 8/23/68, reported, "A vociferous, militant minority of radical

priests, prelates and laymen argue that the Church must embrace revolution,

even Marxism, to survive. The best known of this continent's

revolutionaries, Brazilian Archbishop Helder Camara of Recife argues that

'either the church will ally itself with progressive forces that demand

social justice for the enslaved masses, or it will perish for lack of

insight and social dynamism.'


J. Greg Wysocki

Liberation theology is based on the teachings and experiences of men and

women who are committed to the process of liberation in oppressed and

exploited lands. This new theology originated in the experiences of those

who became increasingly conscious of this oppression. These experiences

were defined precisely by Gustavo Gutierrez, a Peruvian Roman Catholic

priest, in A THEOLOGY OF LIBERATION. Dr. Gutierrez believes that Latin

America needs to be changed into a new society that will accommodate a new

man. This transformation should come about by revolution as expressed by

Marxist ideals.

Their idea is that the church poor of Latin America should revolt and

liberate themselves from those who oppress them, leaders of different

countries which have been sustained by the United States. When liberation

from these oppressors occurs, the church poor would enter a new era,

fashioned by their own hands. This new society, a socialist society along

with the new man would then experience the Kingdom of God in its true

sense, one of peace and justice. In this Kingdom there would be no more

ideological gaps and no great economic barriers that divide people, but the

riches of the world would benefit all. Discriminatory social barriers

between men and women, races and religion would be broken down.

Dr. Gutierrez believes this can happen if Christians become active on

behalf of the poor and oppressed, and that the major cause of poverty,

injustice and oppression in the world is capitalism. The solution, he

believes, is for Christians to attack capitalism and see it replaced by

socialism. Gutierrez agrees with Marx that people should actively work

towards a classless society. This real action would be considered


He sees man's salvation as coming about when he gets involved in this

revolution. This brings communion with God and also communion among men.

This guides history to its fulfillment, a new society and a new man. Man is

saved if he opens himself up to God and to others even if he is not clearly

aware of what he is doing. Men, by being involved in developing the new

society, are already in communion with God, although they do not

explicitely confess Christ as Lord. They are moved by grace, sometimes

secretly. They renounce their selfishness and seek to create an authentic

brotherhood among men. They reject communion with God or salvation when

these turn them away from the building up of this new world.

Gutierrez sees Jesus Christ as our example of Liberation; He was sent by

God to bring about the liberation of the poor. Jesus brings salvation to

man while they work for a new society, and Christians must continue where

He left off. The liberation of the Jewish poor was only one aspect of a

universal, permanent revolution. Christians should liberate themselves from

capitalism to build a new society.

Karl Marx said, "Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various

ways; the point, however, is to change it." This would be true for the

Christian theological tradition as well. They have only interpreted it but

not liberated it. Gutierrez asserts that the problem is that Jesus' role as

liberator has been missed, and it wasn't until the present experience of

the oppressed and exploited in Latin America was addressed as a problem

that this truth of scripture came to light. It is suffering that has

created the religious consciousness that has authorized Gutierrez to graft

into the simple gospel a specific political ideology to bring about a new


Dr. Gutierrez believes the church must be understood in the light of

liberation. It has accumulated too many western barnacles. These barnacles

of capitalism must be scraped off before the ship of the church can sail

effectively toward a new society. This church cannot be considered the sole

source of religious truth or salvation. The Vatican II assertion that the

church is a sacrament and a sign for the world enables liberators to think

of the church within the horizon of salvation but not as the means of

salvation. Once received it will help man to reach the new society. As a

visible sign the church imparts the reality of "union with God" and "unity

of all mankind."

Dr. Gutierrez believes sin should be regarded as a social, historical fact -

the absence of brotherhood and love in relationships among men. Sin is the

breach of friendship with God and with other men. It is evident in

oppressive structures, in the exploitation of man by man and in the

domination of peoples, races and social classes. Therefore sin demands a

radical liberation, which in turn necessitates a political liberation.

Liberation Theology began in Latin America and has spread around the world.

Pope John Paul II has called Gustavo Gutierrez a "Prophet of the Lord."

Cardinal Stephen Kim, an Asian bishop, said that Liberation theology has

helped to correct a distorted view of the church and has taught him a new

way of reading the scriptures and has provided a way to reconciliation.

Bishop Rosazza has said it helped him make a connection between the poor of

the Third World and the Hispanics and blacks of Connecticut. (Connecticut

is the wealthiest state per capita, but Hartford is the fourth poorest city

in the whole country.) Bishop Aloysius Jim Luxian states, "I am a priest

from China, from an already `liberated' country, and praise and support the

theology of liberation." Bishop Desmond Tutu has said, "We are filled with

an indominable hope and exhiliration because we know that ultimately

justice and oppression, evil and exploitation cannot prevail and that the

Kingdoms of this world are becoming the Kingdoms of our God, who shall

reign forever and ever."

Liberation theology is opposed to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Liberation comes through the regenerative work of Christ, not from an

external liberation. Liberation theology has obscured if not denied the

fact that only one kind of liberation deserves to be called salvation,

because only one kind of oppression is so totally beyond mere human

correction that it requires a divine conquest.

Liberation theology puts man in complete charge of building a new society

and a new man. The Godhead working in man is left out of the picture. Some

aims of liberation theology may look good on the surface, but on closer

examination is seen to lead individuals away from the only true liberation

in the world through the finished work of Christ. Jesus said to His

disciples, "In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer: I

have overcome the world."

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