Sunday, August 3, 2008

Fernando Lugo and Leonardo Boff: Liberation Theology in the News

Benedict XVI has granted a reduction to the lay state for the president-elect of Paraguay, a former Catholic bishop who had been suspended "a divinis." Zenit News reports:
The apostolic nuncio in Paraguay announced today the Pope's decision regarding Fernando Lugo.

Archbishop Orlando Antonini explained at a press conference that the Holy Father "granted [Lugo] the loss of the clerical state, with all the obligations, as a priest and bishop of the [Society of the] Divine Word."

The nuncio said Lugo's request was accepted because "the people have elected him" and "his clerical state is not compatible with the presidency of the republic."

"Having examined all the circumstances carefully, His Holiness Benedict XVI has granted him the loss of his clerical state with the consequent loss of its inherent rights," he added.

According to the Zenit report, Lugo made the original request for a reduction to the lay state in December 2006. In January 2007 the Congregation of Bishops announced "the suspension 'a divinis' of Lugo, for having declared himself a candidate for the Paraguayan presidency" which was prohibited by the Code of Canon Law.

On April 20, 2008, the day after winning the election, Lugo asked the Church, and Benedict XVI in particular, for forgiveness for the sorrow his disobedience to canon law had caused.

The Vatican now exhorts the President-elect "to be faithful to the Catholic faith in which he was baptized and to lead a life that is consistent with the Gospel".

Leonardo Boff, Aleida Guevera (Marxist grandaughter of revolutionary Che Guevera) and Fernando Lugo - July 28, 2008. Courtesy of Fernando Lugo's APC @ Flickr
In late January, Catholic theologian Leonardo Boff boasted to the Paraguayan daily Ultima Hora" that the former bishop and President-elect “fully identifies with liberation theology and plans to implement it in his government, the preferential option for the poor.”

On July 28, Lugo attended a talk by Boff on education in environmental issues at the National University of Asuncion in the city of San Lorenzo.

The Paraguayan daily La Nacion spoke with Bishop Rogelio Livieres Plano of Ciudad del Este regarding Boff's views:

“It’s not that liberation theology opts for the poor, as if the Catholic Church did not opt for the poor. Their manner of opting for the poor is exclusionary. For this reason John Paul II said the option for the poor is not exclusive or exclusionary, and he was referring to liberation theology.”


Commenting on the relationship between Lugo and Boff and the eventual application of Marxist liberation theology in Paraguay, Bishop Livieres said the two “have a relationship that goes back years. Liberation theology is an internal problem of the Church; it is not a guerrilla movement. It is a mistaken way of understanding the priesthood and all theology. Lugo has fallen into this error for many years, but it is not a political error; it is a doctrinal one,” he said.

The bishop also denied suggestions that there would be friction between the Church and the incoming government in Paraguay, as long as Fernando Lugo “does not meddle in Church affairs or the Church in State affairs.”

* * *

Speaking of liberation theology, Sandro Magister writes of Leondardi Boff and his brother, Clodovis Boff - "Separated Brethren" www.chiesa. July 14, 2008:

Leonardo Boff today calls himself a "theologus peregrinus," without a stable home. He was banned from teaching in Catholic theology faculties in a 1985 sentence from the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, caused mainly by his book "Church, Charism and Power: Liberation Theology and the Institutional Church." He left the Franciscan order and got married. He lives in Petrópolis, in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

Clodovis Boff, instead, is still a member of the Servants of Mary. He lives in Curitiba, in the state of Paraná, and teaches at the Pontifical Catholic University in the city. He has never been tried by the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, but during the 1980's he lost his teaching post at the Pontifical Catholic University in Rio de Janeiro, and was banned from teaching at the "Marianum," the theological faculty of his order, in Rome.

His brother Leonardo remembers him this way, during the years when he was a fervent supporter of liberation theology: "He spent half the year among the base communities, offering courses for ordinary people and going up and down the rivers to visit the people in the forest. He dedicated the other half of the year to teaching and research at the university of Rio."

Today, instead, again in Leonardo's judgment, Clodovis has passed over body and soul to maintaining "with naive optimism and youthful enthusiasm" the approach dictated by the Latin American bishops at their continental conference held in Aparecida, Brazil, in May of 2007, and inaugurated by Benedict XVI in person.

According to Clodovis, the "fatal" error into which Liberationi Theology -- "as it really exists" -- falls is establishing the poor as the "first operative principle of theology," substituting them for God and Jesus Christ. "When the poor acquire the status of an epistemological 'primum'," asks Clodivis, "what happens to the faith and its doctrine on the theological and pastoral level? [...] The inevitable result is the politicization of the faith, its reduction to an instrument for social liberation."

Leonardi Boff of course disagrees, responding:

"It is not true that liberation theology replaces God and Christ with the poor. [...] It was Christ who wanted to identify himself with the poor. The place of the poor is a privileged place of encounter with the Lord. Those who encounter the poor inevitably encounter Christ, still in his crucified form, asking to be taken down from the cross and brought back to life."

According to Clodivis, liberation theology can be restored by returning to its original foundation, as expressed in the final document of the Latin American bishops at their continental conference held in Aparecida, Brazil, in May of 2007, and inaugurated by Benedict XVI in person (Available here, in Spanish).

But Leonardo isn't feeling the love: "his is an intention that to me is the equivalent of saying: My brother, I stab you in the heart, but relax, it's for your own good."

Magister posts the full text of Clodivis' article Teologia da Libertação e volta ao fundamento ("Revista Eclesiástica Brasileira", N. 268, Vol. 67, Outubro 2007, pg. 1001-1022) and Boff's rebuttal: Pelos pobres, contra a estreiteza do método.

Howbeit in Portugese. (Translation, anybody?)

* * *

A few days ago, Brazilian liberation theology advocate Leonardo Boff whined the Vatican was facing a "great internal crisis" because it fails to represent the people it serves, contending that "the zero growth of the Catholic Church in our planet" and a "lack of representation of Latin American Catholics" were responsible for an "internal crisis in the Vatican."

Judging by Magister's article, it would seem the crisis resides within the ranks of liberation theologians.

Some Background


  • Paraguayan bishops call on new president to defend right to life and the family Catholic News Agency. August 8, 2008:
    In an official statement published on Wednesday, the Paraguayan Bishops’ Conference called on the government of former bishop Fernando Lugo, who will take power on August 15, to defend the right to life and the family based “on marriage between one man and one woman.”

    In its statement, the bishops said that although the country doesn’t abide by a specific religion, “it should respect religious freedom, freedom of worship and of conscience. Likewise, it should take into consideration the values proper to the nature of the human person and of society, especially with regards to life, its promotion and defense from conception to natural death; the nuclear family based upon the marriage between one man and one woman; the care and education of children, and also, comprehensive aid for the poor, rural communities, indigenous peoples, as well as the elderly, the infirm and the abandoned.”

    The bishops’ comments come after the future Minster for Women’s Affaris, Gloria Rubin, announced her support for legalizing abortion in the country.

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