An Interesting Piece on the Church’s Turn Toward Being a Church of and for the Poor

is found here. Here’s a taste:

Since Bergoglio’s election as Pope Francis in 2013 some have suggested that the Aparecida document has become the roadmap for the Universal Church. The particular experience of the Latin American Church —of a people colonized, oppressed, impoverished, trampled on and abused— has found a voice through the Universal Pastor. Pope Francis often refers to the descartados, the throwaways, who, for him reflect the face of Christ and the pueblo fiel, the ones who can teach us much about faith, solidarity and community.

Pope Francis would call it Teología del Pueblo or “Theology of the People.” He often warned the people of Buenos Aires against separating God from the Church, the Church from Christ and Christ from his people. As Pope he has frequently cautioned us against all ideologies.

Bergoglio is not the only Church leader to develop Liberation Theology in recent years. The Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is German Cardinal Gerhard Müller. In 2004 he co-authored a book with Gustavo Guitérrez entitled, “Taking the Side of the Poor — Liberation Theology”. At the book launch, Cardinal Müller said that “whoever wants to be a Christian is obliged to do something so that this earth becomes livable for all.” Both authors said that Liberation Theology is a response to the “conscience against abuses, an effort to put an end to injustice.”

Recently Rome seems to be recognising the gifts of Liberation Theology: emphasis on the poor at the centre of the Gospel, work to eradicate the structures of oppression and the hope of liberation in Christ Jesus. Last year’s beatification of El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Romero is another testament to this. Romero’s postulator Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia said that what was a delayed process “had been unblocked,” and he added that it was Pope Benedict XVI who unblocked it.

It is inaccurate to label Liberation Theology simply as Marxist. It is also inaccurate to label Romero as a liberation theologian. Romero’s former secretary, Msgr. Jesús Delgado has said that, “Romero never went to their congresses, nor published books with them, nor quoted them in his speeches and homilies.” Romero “adhered to the doctrine of the Church.” In a way, Romero did the same as Bergoglio and many Latin American leaders in the face of oppression, violence and injustice: He consistently called on political leaders to work for the people. The goal was not to submit governments to the will of the Church, but to be a moral compass. The Church must give voice to those who have no voice if it is to be faithful to Christ, even to the point of being killed as Romero was when he preached a “conversion to Jesus and a personal encounter to Jesus.”

In a January 2015 interview for the book Papa Francesco: questa economia uccide (“Pope Francis: This Economy Kills”), Pope Francis said that love for the poor is not Communism. He said that his concern for the poor is not a novelty, but that “it stems from the Gospel and is documented even from the first centuries of Christianity.” He joked, “If I repeated some passages from the homilies of the Church Fathers in the second or third century, about how we must treat the poor, some would accuse me of giving a Marxist homily.”

Concern for the poor is part of the Gospel message and is prevalent in the tradition of the Church. Archbishop Romero and Pope Francis teach us that we should always remember this fact as we work for justice and move towards being a poor Church for the poor.

Ever since he was elected, I’ve been telling people again and again that if you want to understand Francis memorize these words: “He has preached good new to the poor.” I have never been able to figure out the claim that he is “confusing”. The man is simple and clear as a bell. I have concluded that such complaints are just Reactionary code for “We don’t want to listen to what he is saying” and “We want to put the blame on him for being a bad teacher rather than accept responsibility for refusing to listen to him.

Francis is a terror to Reactionaries because he is all about evangelism, and evangelism brings people into the Church with all their flaws and problems and (worst of all) utter disinterest in the aesthetic and socio-political obsessions of Reactionaries. Reactionaries want to drive people away who are trying to enter and weed out the unfit who are already here. It seeks a Church of the Imaginary Past in a Fortress walled off from the world. Francis has left the fortress altogether and gone out into the highways and byways to bring in the riff raff. Reactionaries hate that.

Meanwhile, he is also a terror to the well-to-do in the developed world (especially the MAGA white supremacists both in the US and in Euro/Anglo-Catholicism. That’s what the Pachamama controversy was all about. Amazonian Catholics came seeking the sacraments and white bigots spat in their faces because they seek a Church of power and wealthy and they despise their brown and poor brothers, who get it in the neck from the admired fascist Bolsonaro.

Francis gets that God is on the side of the poor. MAGA antichrist worship hates the poor.

Anyway, read the whole piece.


12 Responses

  1. Great piece, as always! What confuses me about our current time is the cry of Marxism! every time the MAGA focus their sights on something. I’d like to think I’m well-read/well educated, but I can’t for the life of me make the connections to Marxism that they can. To say care for the poor or liberation theology is Marxism! is a red-herring. The issue IS money, about which Jesus spoke many times. Money, in the form of capital has ravaged the poor of the world for centuries (it’s also lifted up a lot of people from poverty). Just as the sexual revolution hollowed out souls (and empowered others) this “greed is good 2.0” (or are we at a much higher version?) is hollowing out conservative Christianity—Catholic and non. This pope is doing as JPII did in response to the sexual revolution: giving the world the moral message it needs when it needs it.

    1. @picket

      Ambrose Bierce:

      Morality is what is convenient.
      Immorality is what is inconvenient.

      Paraphrasing Bierce:

      Capitalism: what I like.
      Marxism: what I don’t like.

    2. Reminds me of a Reformed friend – back when I was Reformed – saying, anent the evangelical song, “I’d rather have Jesus AND silver and gold.” 🙂

  2. Here is the thing about Marxism that Americans in particular don’t (or don’t want to) understand: Marx’s critique of western industrial capitalism is pretty spot on. He did a great diagnosis of the disease.

    The problem is that his proposed cure not only does not work, but its attempts to apply throughout the 20th century were actually WORSE than the disease.

    1. Marx was also in error when he predicted the poor would only get poorer and living standards would only get lower as captalism developed. Makes a lot of sense if you’re writing from the Europe of the “Hungry Forties” as Marx was, makes a lot less sense in the present day.

      In reality, global poverty has absolitely nosedived over the past thirty years, just at the point in which capitalism became global after the fall of Communism. Capitalism has its real problems, but wealth creation isn’t one of them.

  3. Last night my 12-year-old daughter, 15 year old son and 16 year old niece niece ran into my room. They were all fired up. Their 18 year-old-cousin B had just gotten into a big cat fight with my daughter. She starts college in the fall. It’s her first time away from home where she has lived a very insulated, mostly homeschooled life. Her family is about as MAGA as it gets.

    My daughter told me breathlessly, “Bella told me never to come near her again! She said I can’t go in her car and that she never wants to speak to me again!” She called me a ‘pick me girl’!!” (I had to look that up.)

    “What did you do??!!” I asked her.

    “I told her Jesus wasn’t white.”


    I am not kidding. Not embellishing one bit. Her parents, like much of Trump’s base don’t have a lot of money. They might even qualify as poor, but they think of themselves as a cut above most other people. –Kind of like rich people trapped in poor people’s bodies. Why? Because they are white. They have light blond hair and seven light blond children. They think they have a better handle on reality than the liberals and the riff raff. They are convinced they know “the truth”. (She sent my Mother that Taylor Marshall book).

    How do I know about the blond thing? First of all it comes from my mother, and second of all my sister lorded it over me the entire time I was growing up that she was more blond than I was. They would never admit to being white supremacists. Never. But they are.

    What my daughter did in her cousins eyes was blaspheme Jesus.

    1. @taco

      I’m rolling my eyes so fast I’m doing back flips.

      I wish I could post the 3-D Wiggle picture that I bought in Mexico City 40 years ago: a bottle blonde Jesus with more curls than Shirley Temple.

      1. I remember the picture! You posted it on Patheos. If you recall, we were talking about how even brown people have bought into the lie about light brown being superior to dark brown –and how the Tutsis who were favored by the colonizers at the expense of the Hutus, because the Tutsis had more European noses. That ended well.

        My own Father-in-law was accepted by his in-laws because of his degrees and family name, but his wife never stopped throwing it back in her mother’s face that they forced her to marry a “black man”.

        My niece literally got on the phone with her mother during the fight. My daughter had sent her an internet version of what Jesus probably looked like. She sent it to her mother as evidence, and then called a friend to say, “they probably think God is a WOMAN!!!!”

        It was good for my fifth son to hear about the brouhaha because he listens to right leaning podcasts, but has a scientific mind. At first he didn’t believe the whole story, or that she could be so basic, but his brother and cousin had watched the whole thing unfold.

        Later that night after my older daughter was told the story by her sister we all laughed until the tears rolled down our faces. I had to apologize for laughing because it’s so sad. The poor girl is very young emotionally for her age, and she will be forced to be at war with most of her classmates and the world because she has Little Flock Syndrome.

        And then my older daughter turned her ire upon me saying “I was gaslit my whole life that I was white, and didn’t figure out I was brown until (one of the cousins) told me!”

        I apologized for that and told her that I was naive enough to think that her father had made it into the white club, and that I thought that if we just didn’t say anything to call attention to race he wouldn’t be discriminated against. How absurd was that? In California people make a good show of not being racist, but Trump coaxed the white trash out of plenty of them too.

        Another day, I will tell you what happened to us in Washington state. People used to keep their mouths shut, and racism under wraps, but it must get much, much worse in other states.

      2. @taco

        I read this posting several times, but I still don’t know how to respond. Your daughter was gaslit into believing she was white? Eyes rolling mightily, back is a flipping.

        The craziness in my family was simply psychological. Things like race or religion never entered into any of it. My parents raised me not to be racist, even though my father was fond of pointing out the Cadillacs the Black people drove, and my mother would refer to the Chinese in my young manhood in Hawaii as “the Jews of the orient“. I’m sure she meant it as a compliment, but I’m not sure to whom.

  4. About: “white” Jesus. There is a SMIDGEN of something healthy therein — as long as you don’t take it too far. I have no problem with cultures embracing Jesus and Mary and the Saints and the Angels and interpreting them a “one of their own” in their art, iconography, etc. It is their way of saying, “Jesus loves US!” That is healthy. That is good. It’s why I never get bent out shape when I see East Asian or African icons of Jesus and Mary that look East Asian or African.

    Where it turns ugly is when people start believing that God, Jesus, Mary, the Saints, the Angels, etc. ARE European or East Asian or African or Latin or whatever — and then using that to turn the nons- into second- (or third-) class believers. That is very, very ugly and unhealthy.

    But if you are talking about the HISTORIC REALITY of Jesus, He was very obviously a Middle Eastern Jewish man of First Century Palestine. I am quite certain he had dark hair, dark skin, and brown eyes. As did Mary. As did all the Apostles. That’s just fact.

    1. @M of M

      Totally agree. God is not a brown man, but he chose to be incarnated at a certain time, place, and particular culture, embracing the genes of his Semitic mother. (Interesting that he didn’t look quite like his former self after the resurrection). He could have come looking like a supermodel to attract the masses, but he didn’t. Jesus was a common name. There is a reason for all of that ordinariness, no?

      We are promised by God, “See? I make all things new.” I suppose in heaven we will look more like our real selves (like Gods!) All of our squabbling here about looks and race will make us ashamed of ever dabbling in ideas about superior races or outward appearances. We will probably marvel that God could love us when we were all so gross.

      Also, since when was a beautiful dark person less beautiful than a beautiful blond person. It’s like 1950s Walt Disney bunk.

      My niece uses the Divine Mercy image to support her claim, but if she’d read the book she’d know that St. Faustina *cried* when she saw the image and said it didn’t look like him. I find the problem not with getting to the bottom of how he looks, but how invested some people are invested in making him out to be someone in their own image.

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