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Vatican condemns writings of theologian

By Lenny Stoute     Mar 19, 2007 in World
Restless Pope goes gunning for Liberation theology. Not his smartest move.
The Vatican on Wednesday condemned as "erroneous or dangerous" some of the writings of a well-known champion of liberation theology but took no immediate disciplinary action against the priest involved.
It was the first such move under the nearly two-year papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger led the Vatican's crackdown on theologians judged to be perilously straying from church doctrine.
The Vatican began building its case in 2004 against the writings of the Rev. Jon Sobrino, a Spanish Jesuit, calling the procedure "urgent" because of the wide diffusion of his works in Latin America
The Vatican declaration, called a Notification, effectively serves as a caution to Catholic faithful who may read Sobrino's work, although it does not specifically forbid them to do so. A spokesman at Jesuit headquarters in Rome said Sobrino did not plan to make a public comment on the Vatican decision
The Vatican has objected to liberation theology, citing its basis in Marxist analysis of society - particularly the idea of class struggle in the promotion of social, political and economic justice for the poor.
During his two-decade tenure at the congregation's helm, Ratzinger, who is a theologian, worked to cripple support for the "liberation theology" movement that is especially popular in Latin America.
This is not good news for anyone and a reminder that old habits die hard. It's widely known that before his accession to the Popehood, Ratzinger served as the Vatican's theological enforcer.
That style worked for him in Turkey recently, where he he was able to mollify the Muslim clergy while maintaining his ground.Likely emboldened by this, he's dusting off an old feud with Liberation theology as a way of letting us know the hitman's hat still fits his head.,
A frequent visitor to the region at the height of the Guatemalan "civil" war, which was really a war between a regime and its people, would have encountered many priests and soldiers.
The visitor would have noted the priests tended to fall into two categories; the Vatican approved padres, who turned blind eyes, deaf dears and a lack of compassion to the plight of the Maya peoples, and the "Liberation" padres who tended to get involved with less-soul saving matters like digging wells, re-building homes and setting up medical clinics.
Kinda like the Home Depot of theologians.
It came down to standing apart in judgement or getting involved and doing something real.
In the eyes of the Vatican this appears to be the Liberationist's greatest sin, that they worked to bring improvement into the Maya's physical lives.
All this in an atmosphere where just asking for medicine and some kind of trained medical help could get a village branded as leftist and troublemaking. The kind of circumstances which could radicalize the gentlest of souls
"Liberationists" tended to live among the people they were serving and were sometimes the only thing standing between a village and a little Sunday cull of the young men for army duty and maybe a little rape on the side.
Until their heads were blown off, which tended to happen a lot, and served to unify them mostly in the cause of staying alive
That was no small matter. Consider the case of Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi, whose murder was widely assumed to be politically motivated, coming as it did two days after he presented a report denouncing human rights violations by the army and its paramilitaries during Guatemala's civil war.
Terrible as that was, it's chilling that this happened in April 1998, two years after the peace deal had been signed.
These currents run deep and strong and for a Pope to be stoking the fires is not the wisest thing at this time.
With more and more people living in ever larger slums clinging to Latin America's great cities, governed by forces too inept or unconcerned to address their plight, it is sad and dispiriting to see Herr Ratzinger come out against a "theology" which advocates self-help for those with nothing or no one else to rely on.
More about Pope, Liberation theology, Latin america
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