The days of the "Generalissimo" turned "El Presidente" need to be over.
When I first started this blog, I think I very easily could have gone the route, if I'd been interested, of building one with the same tenor as The Cafeteria is Closed, or fellow Massachusetts native Domenico Bettinelli's at Bettnet.com, and it think I could have been quite successful with some fairly decent traffic. When I started out on the web, I was involved in the Catholic Apologetics movement, so I know how to speak "neo-Cath" fluently and flawlessly. The thing is, I want to be myself and to speak with my own mind, and the pressure to stay in lockstep (or else) in those circles was too much, and was not a box that I would have felt comfortable in. Besides, what I discovered in the C.A. world was that the most pressing threats to the future of Catholicism came not from the left, but from the right.
One of the things that I've been doing in being my own man and speaking my own mind is to carry some water for the liberation theologians, despite the support and friendships that it may have cost me. I truly believe that much of their theology has been misrepresented, traduced, and trivialized. It isn't even liberal theology, but a radical theology deeply rooted in the Gospel that takes the words of Jesus much more seriously than many of the pious platitudes that pass for orthodoxy these days.
Liberation Theology's heyday was in the late 1970s and in the 1980s, before the CDF fully completed its campaign to crush it. With the collapse of Communism and it's attendant collapse of Socialism in 1989, along with the Liberation Theology "Base Communities" being outflanked with the poor by Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, it looked like the movement was finished. In the early 1990s, it appeared that with a little bit of American direction, Max Weber's Spirit of Protestant Capitalism was alive and well on the Latin American Continent, and there were optimistic reports that the miseries endemic to Latin America were going to be attenuated by the adoption of classical neo-liberalism and the jettisoning of backward Catholic ways. If Latin America would only become a continent of hard-working little evangelical entrepeneurs, according to this thinking, all would be well.
A couple of things happened along the way. One was the effect of rapacious cut-throat globalization that rendered certain free trade agreements moot in the race to the bottom for cheap labor, and the other was the adoption of draconian shock therapy treatments which were administered by the IMF on Latin American governments, which caused widspread misery, and in many cases expanded the massive gulf that existed between the rich and poor. Leftist governments have made a resurgence as a result.
What we found out, therefore, especially during the Pope's recent trip to Brazil, is that Liberation Theology is not as dead as many people thought (and hoped). It was with some disappointment and concern, however, that I read about certain aspects of the following, which was reported in both the Cuban and Venezuelan press:
Caracas, Jul 19 (Prensa Latina) Theologians from several countries will meet to re-launch the Theology of Liberation, when religious sectors fear a rise of conservatism in the Catholic Church.
One of the meeting organizers, Father Atencio Vidal, told Prensa Latina that the appearance of the Brazilian Leonardo Boff, among other personalities from Spain and Latin America are invited to the event that will be held from August 14 to 15.
Father Vidal explained that although the specific program is still not decided, meetings will most likely be held in four popular parish churches of the Venezuelan capital. Official social programs will be also visited.
The priest recently criticized a document released by the Venezuelan Episcopate Conference for assuming opposition political attitude ignoring social programs. He gave this explanation in a meeting that promotes the beatification of Oscar Arnulfo Romero.
The Salvadorian archbishop, a well-known defender of human rights, was assassinated while practicing his priestly duties and a process of canonization was begun in 1994.
According to Father Videl, the meeting in Caracas will serve to demonstrate that the Theology of Liberation is not dead, as some church officials would wish and in spite of condemnation of its promoters, such as Jon Sobrino.
He added that Venezuela can now become a platform for the re-launching of this religious movement that seeks an approach of the church with the poor.
Questioned over the possibility of suffering some form of reprimand from the Catholic hierarchy, the Venezuelan priest of indigenous origin recalled that he already ready received a letter from the Maracaibo archbishop, Ubaldo Santana, asking for his silence.
He added that, although he has received no answer to a letter he sent, no one will be able to silence him in his demands in favor of the poor and the expression of his opinions...
When many Catholics, outside of the hierarchy, see that the theology of their church has rotted into a theology of imperialist subjugation which savagely attacks the few political friends they have, like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the ordinary Catholics flee from the whole Catholic church in horror sometimes by the hundreds of thousands and sometimes by the millions.
They run not from God, but from the demons in the Catholic hierarchy.
When we reflect on these Catholic demons who advocate and execute the theology of imperialist subjugation on behalf of the White House, not God, we recall something Dante said in The Inferno:
No word of them survives their living season [Dante means they're dead.]
Mercy and justice deny them even a name [Dante means they're unspeakable.]
Let us not speak of the them, look, and pass on [Dante means run from them.]
"One of the meeting organizers, Father Atencio Vidal, told Prensa Latina that the appearance of the Brazilian Leonardo Boff, among other personalities from Spain and Latin America, will be held from August 14 to 15," the article said...
Now, I've heard that when he was in Spain recently, Leonardo Boff had criticized Hugo Chavez for his censorship of the press, but there is far too much coziness on his part with Chavez as there is with Fidel Castro, and here is the nub of the problem. Hugo Chavez is a populist demagouge on the way into making himself another Latin American dictator under the cover of a political philosophy called Bolivarianism. This is not a man to follow, and certainly not a man for Catholic theologians to pin their hopes on and to hitch their wagons to. Things will end even more badly for them than they did before if they should do so. Can I understand why they feel they have no other choice? To a certain degree I can... Take for example, the case of Colombia. I'd be tempted to say that it probably has the worst two cardinals in the world in Darío Cardinal Castrillón de Hoyos, and Alfonso Cardinal López Trujillo, but Cardinal Law is still alive and well, and deserves that dubious top honor... Colombia is a near narco-state, full of corruption, private armies run by drug dealers, a skyrocketing murder rate, and a burgeoning kidnapping industry in Bogota. What are the main concerns of these Colombian cardinals? With Trujillo, it is in settling old scores and crushing his old Liberation Theology opponents. With Castrillón de Hoyos, it's being the champion for the Latin Mass on the Ecclesia Dei commision.
This polarization is almost too sad to bear, but I say to the liberation theolgians, don't embarrass me, and more importantly, don't hurt the hopes of those of so many who put their trust in you by tying yourselves to a man like Hugo Chavez. Latin America needs to find it's own Latin American way to democracy, not necessarily the North American way, but please, no more military strongmen for life.