- Gustavo Gutiérrez: Liberation Theology for a World of Social Justice and Just Peace
Gustavo Gutierrez, liberation theology, Rockefeller report, World Council of Churches
When studying the great ideas that have changed or could transform the human and the world, thoughts emerge from verba et scripta, thoughts that try to pinpoint fragments of truth, in order to give birth to an exit from roaming into the labyrinth of our microcosm. There is a struggle against egocentric individualism, in order to distance ourselves from the pursuit, the disturbance, the root of the problem and its solution—from the constant “why?”1 Each era has its own historical background and its own interpretation.
Objective reconsideration of the current situation comes to life through the eye of Gustavo Gutiérrez (b. 1928), in order to fight off the accommodation of personal, social, economic, and political interest, since “the faith is not an ideological, oppressive juggernaut, free of the analysis of a particular historical reality and the immediate humanitarian need ad hoc.”2 Liberation Theology is redefined in light of the perspective of the neoliberal globalized economy, assisted by an extreme anti-Christian and anti-human political expression that imposes interpretations and perspectives utterly unfamiliar with the principles of solidarity, social justice, and a just peace. [End Page 431]
Free of its initiating thought, Liberation Theology can alter all questions, offering new answers and giving the researcher the necessary freedom to explore new horizons, in order to define the cause and effect of injustice and oppression and, subsequently, of all social problems that cause suffering to people, especially the poor, the marginalized, foreigners, and refugees.3 This is possible only when theological reflection, instead of being sterile and stagnant, is dynamic and leads to the transformation of the way of thinking and life itself, as summarized by the term “Geist” introduced by Hegel.
With regard to the current historical setting, the work of Gutiérrez offers a valuable, dynamic, and contemporary tool to the churches, reflecting a vision still alive today, since “the powerful and almost irresistible aspiration that people have for ‘liberation’ constitutes one of the principal ‘signs of the times’ which the Church has to examine and interpret in the light of the Gospel.”4
In the face of the havoc that threatens all humanity, I have often wondered whether there is any way out of the grim everyday life of people who are struck by poverty, injustice, exploitation, and misery. Is there any hope for these people? There is hope, personified by Jesus Christ and by all those people committed to the church, who offer their services for a better world, a world of reconciliation and social justice. Among those who are committed unselfishly are Gutiérrez, who for many is the foremost representative of Liberation Theology, along with Camilo Torres Restrepo, Dom Hélder Pessoa Câmara, Dom Antonio Fragoso, Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez, Frei Betto, the Boff brothers, Ignacio Ellacuría, Juan Luis Segundo, and the Cardenal brothers, among others. [End Page 432]
Gutiérrez, among other theologians of the movement (for example, Leonardo Boff),5 was persecuted by the Vatican during the pontificates of Karol Wojtyła (Pope John Paul II) and Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) to such an extent that it reminds us of the persecution of Jean Valjean by Inspector Javert in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. The extreme, almost obsessive reproach of Liberation Theology by the Vatican highlighted the difficulty of conservative circles within the Vatican to accept Vatican II.6 Despite the radical decisions of the Council, it was not possible to open to the world and to society, in good part thanks to the over-conservative position of John Paul II and the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then-Cardinal Ratzinger. The conservative part of the Vatican chose to fight against the theologians of Liberation Theology, conflicting with what Hugo used to say: “We resist the invasion of armies; we do not resist the invasion of ideas.”7
What is really odd concerning the position of the Vatican is the rejection of an idea born out of the quintessence of...