A Dilemma for Sincere Catholics
In 1984 the Vatican sent out an instruction condemning liberation theology, and Leonardo Boff, one of the “most controversial” Catholic theologians, was sentenced to one year of “penitential silence”—a punishment imposed by the church that forbade him to publish or give interviews or promulgate in any way his suspect theology.
But in 1986, one month before the ‘year of silence’ was up, Boff was granted amnesty. Instrucción Sobre Libertad Cristiana y Liberación (Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation) was sent out, stating that it is “fully legitimate that those who suffer oppression from the holders of wealth or of political power should act with morally acceptable means . . . ” “Armed struggle” was approved of as a “last resort.” Was the church correcting itself?
Not according to the author of the new instruction, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, prefect of the Vatican’s Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. “The first instruction loses none of its value,” he stated. “The second document is a continuation.” But others, such as the press, define the second instruction as a “new stand on ‘liberation theology.’” Why the inconsistency?
The careful wording of the new instruction can be interpreted in various ways. For example, it states that “it is not for the pastors of the church to intervene directly in the political construction and organization of social life.” As Newsweek magazine keenly observes: “That kind of language leaves a lot of room in which canny prelates . . . can maneuver.”
One report says that ‘virtually everyone in the church can find something he can agree with.’ A liberationist like Gutiérrez could now say that “liberation theology is a sign of the times in Latin America, and the church recognizes it as such,” while a conservative Catholic could rejoice that his church still “strongly opposes Marxist collectionism for negating the liberty of man.” Nevertheless, the various concepts of liberation theology conflict with church tradition and continue to pit Roman Catholics against one another.
However, the apostle Paul admonishes true Christians: “Make up the differences between you, and instead of disagreeing among yourselves, . . . be united . . . in your belief and practice.” “Be united in your convictions . . . with a common purpose and a common mind.” (1 Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 2:2)* What do you believe? Are Roman Catholics ‘united in their convictions’?
Scriptures quoted are from the Catholic Jerusalem Bible.
[Pictures on page 7]
Is the church ‘united in its convictions’?