Catholic Church Warms to Liberation Theology as Founder Heads to Vatican
Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Jonathan Watts - The Guardian
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May 11, 2015
Gustavo Gutiérrez will be a key speaker at a Vatican event this week. (Max Rossi/Reuters)
For decades, Gustavo Gutiérrez, a Peruvian theologian and Dominican priest, was treated with suspicion and even contempt by the Vatican’s hierarchy, which saw him as a dangerous Marxist firebrand who used faith as an instrument of revolution.
Gutiérrez was the founder of a progressive movement within the Catholic church known as liberation theology, and while he was never censured in the manner that some of his philosophical compatriots were, there were often rumblings that Gutiérrez was being investigated by Pope John Paul II’s doctrinal czar, a German cardinal named Joseph Ratzinger who would later become Pope Benedict.
But when the 86-year-old Peruvian arrives in Rome this week as a key speaker at a Vatican event, he will be welcomed as a guest, in a striking show of how Pope Francis – the first Latin American pontiff – has brought tenets of this sometimes controversial movement to the fore of his church, particularly in his pronouncements against the blight of poverty and the dangers of capitalism.
In its height in the late 1960s and 1970s, liberation theology – a distinctly Latin American movement – preached that it was not enough for the church to simply empathise and care for the poor. Instead, believers said, the church needed to be a vehicle to push for fundamental political and structural changes that would eradicate poverty, even – some believed – if it meant supporting armed struggle against oppressors.
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