Many of us think of him as unique, presenting a radical vision for the Roman Catholic church and the world.
To remind myself this isn’t true, I decided to skim over Gustavo Gutiérrez’s A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation.
A warning to start: the book is so ponderously written it is almost unreadable. But it was the groundbreaking work in the most influential theology of the last half of the twentieth century, Liberation Theology.
Gustavo Gutiérrez is a Peruvian priest. He writes out of the context of the poverty of Latin America. It is no accident that his book came out after Vatican II.
Later Roman Catholic popes tried to tone down what Gutiérrez wrote seeing it as Communist or at least anti-capitalist.
This edition of A Theology of Liberation has two introductions in which Gutiérrez defends Liberation Theology from its critics.
Here are a few quotations from the book (most, but not all, from the introductions)--
Quotes from A Theology of Liberation
According to the Bible, faith is the total response to God, who saves us through love.
The entire Bible, beginning with the story of Cain and Abel, mirrors God’s predilection for the weak and abused of human history. This preference brings out the gratuitous or unmerited character of God’s love. The same revelation is given in the evangelical Beatitudes, for they tell us with the utmost simplicity that God’s predilection for the poor, the hungry, and the suffering is based on God’s unmerited goodness to us.
Poverty is not caused by fate; it is caused by the actions of those whom the prophet (Amos) condemns: “These are the words of the Lord: For crime after crime of Israel I will grant them no reprieve because they sell the innocent for silver and the destitute for a pair of shoes. They grind the heads of the poor into the earth and thurst the humble out of their way. (Amost 2:6-7).
[The bishop’s council at Puebla said] “the poor merit preferential attention, whatever may be the moral or personal situation in which they find themselves (no. 1142)." In other words, the poor deserve preference not because they are morally or religiously better than others, but because God is God, in whose eyes “the last are first.” This statement clashes with our narrow understanding of justice; this very preference reminds us, therefore, that God’s ways are not our ways (see Isa. 55:8).
To paraphrase a well-known text of Pascal, we can say that all the political theologies, the theologies of hope, of revolution, and of liberation, are not worth one act of genuine solidarity with exploited social classes. They are not worth one act of faith, love, and hope, committed--in one way or another--in active participation to liberate humankind from everything that dehumanizes it and prevents it from living according to the will of the Father.
The commitment to the poor is not “optional” in the sense that a Christian is free to make or not make this option, or commitment, to the poor, just as the love we owe to all human beings without exception is not “optional.”
...we will have an authentic theology of liberation only when the oppressed themselves can freely raise their voice and express themselves directly and creatively in society and in the heart of the People of God, when they themselves “account for the hope,” which they bear, when they are the protagonists of their own liberation.
[One more recent addition to the concept of Liberation Theology is] the new presence of women, whom Puebla described as “doubly oppressed and marginalized” (1134, note) among the poor of Latin America.
If there is no friendship with them and no sharing of the life of the poor, then there is no authentic commitment to liberation, because love exists only among equals. Any talk of liberation necessarily refers to a comprehensive process, one that embraces everyone.