Liberation Theology

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Catholic Teaching on Social Justice

The Church has been struggling with the Age of Revolutions since the American Revolution in 1776. The "ancien regime" (French, "old order") against which the political revolutions took place was the age of Christendom, during which time the Church supported the State and the State supported the Church. The "divine right of kings" (and lesser nobility as well) was a popular theological justification for the monarchical and aristocratic institutions that grew up during the early Middle Ages after the collapse of the western part of the Roman Empire (circa fifth century). All of the Revolutions from the American Revolution in 1776 to the Russian Revolution in 1917 were directed against the royalty of Europe whose right to rule was secured by the blessing of the Church.

Many encyclicals have been written on the principles of a just social order to which the Church is committed:

"The Second Vatican Council in turn confronted the questions of justice and liberty in the Pastoral Constitution, 'Gaudium et Spes.'"[1]

There is also Paul VI's apostolic letter to Cardinal Roy, President of the Council of the Laity and of the Pontifical Commission Justice and Peace, "Octogesima adveniens" and a multitude of other similar exhortations to work for a more just social order by various and sundry synods of bishops around the world. "The concern for the Church for liberation and for human advancement was also expressed in the establishment of the Pontifical Commission, 'Justice and Peace'."[2]

In trying to figure out where to draw the boundaries between good and bad theologies of civil rights, we have to be careful not to abandon deny the reality that God is a just judge, that He calls us to repent of our sins against each other, and that the law of love obliges us to care about those who are suffering injustice. "The aspiration for 'liberation', as the term itself suggests, repeats a theme which is fundamental to the Old and New Testaments. In itself, the expression "theology of liberation" is a thoroughly valid term: it designates a theological reflection centered on the biblical theme of liberation and freedom, and on the urgency of its practical realization."[3]

In short, there can be no doubt that the Church endorses the vision announced in the Pledge of Allegiance: "one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all."

The warning against the serious deviations of some "theologies of liberation" must not be taken as some kind of approval, even indirect, of those who keep the poor in misery, who profit from that misery, who notice it while doing nothing about it, or who remain indifferent to it. The Church, guided by the Gospel of mercy and by the love for mankind, hears the cry for justice[4] and intends to respond to it with all her might.[5]

The fundamental obligation of conscience (synderesis) is that we must do good and avoid evil. We must not call evil good or good evil. Recognizing what our duties are in concrete circumstances requires the virtue of prudence, which helps us to recognize and choose the right good.

Jesuit slogans

Parable of the bait and the hook.

"Wolf in sheep's clothing."

"Angel of light."

"Preferential option for the poor"

It is wrong to reduce justice issues to simplistic thinking.

Those who preach the prosperity gospel tend to teach that the rich are good and the poor are evil. In my view, the book of Job makes it very clear that we should not imagine that God rewards the good with good things and punishes the evil with suffering in this lifetime. On the contrary, some of the rich enjoy wealth and power unjustly and some of the poor suffering want unjustly.

It is equally simplistic to imagine that the rich are universally evil and the poor universally good. If, in fact, it is morally better to be poor than to be rich, then we must not make the poor rich because that will cause them to become evil (!). Some wealthy people are saints; some of the poor are sinners.

"Men for others"

Will-power Christianity. Pelagianism.

"Love God" is the first commandment. The second is like unto the first--but no substitute for it.

Our obligation to take care of others is the bad news of Christianity. The good news is that God has loved us first and, by the death and resurrection of Jesus, given us the power to lay down our lives for others. The gospel without Jesus is no gospel at all.

"Faith that does justice"

In my view, Jesus did not come to incite or support "class warfare" or egalitarianism ("Everybody must have an equal share in the world's resources").

Obligation to pay taxes and support the commonwealth.

Freedom to own property and to profit from it.


Artificial crises ("global warming") that are used to strengthen the hand of the liberal state against the interests of private property.

My personal experiences

  • Working as a union worker in a welding company in Lackawanna.
  • Working with Cesar Chavez, the United Farm Workers union, and the Catholic Worker in Syracuse and New York. The Communists were the most generous participants in picket lines. They wanted us to reciprocate. One man wanted to vandalize the fruit section of a store.
  • Teaching English as a second language in the Bronx.
  • Christian conscientization program in Puerto Rico: teaching English in Bayamon and suffering through harangues about our responsibility to "change the system" so as to share the wealth with everybody. I must have silently asked the question "HOW?" a thousand times in those few months. The goal was clear: enrich everyone. HOW to get there was unstated.

The gospel is not a means to an end

Some things just sound or smell bad to me. People use the language of Christianity, but it seems as though their highest good (Latin, "summum bonum") is a more equitable distribution of wealth through government action. Christianity only interests them in so far as it is a useful means to achieve that end.

Radical community activists see the Churches as reservoirs of good will, wealth, and political power. I believe that they deliberately intend to use Christians as "useful idiots" to further their own : secular and anti-Christian agenda.

Catholic Campaign for Human Development

Reform the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

In 2009, American Life League joined with several other concerned organizations to form the Reform CCHD Now Coalition. In March of 2010, the coalition sent a report on CCHD to each bishop, showing that, in 2009–2010, 51 out of 237 groups receiving CCHD funding either directly or through coalition membership promoted abortion, birth control, homosexuality, and/or Marxism. Thus, 21% of the groups funded by CCHD were involved in such work.
As a result of this activity, CCHD conducted an internal effort to revamp its grant process and ensure that all grantees adhered to strict guidelines. The results were published in a CCHD Renewal Document.
2010–2011 Grantees
In January, 2011, CCHD published its list of 2010-2011 grantees. At that time, American Life League reviewed the list and was disappointed to see that many of the offending organizations were still on the list and, in fact, others have been added.
The attached report documents that, of the 218 organizations funded by CCHD, 14 are directly involved in activities contrary to Church teaching and 40 are actively involved in coalitions with such activities. Thus, 54 groups (24%) funded by CCHD are involved in anti-Catholic work.
The number, and percentage, of offending organizations has actually INCREASED in the last year —from 51 to 54 groups and from 21% to 24%.
These 54 organizations received a total of $1,863,000 of the $7,608,000 distributed in CCHD grants in 2010-2011.