Since Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis there have been rumours circulating about him: his outlook, his style, his strengths, his weaknesses, his attitude to the liturgy and every other subject, including the colour of his shoes. This is entirely natural, given that he is still relatively unknown yet is also now the head of the largest religious group in the world. So I was glad to read, in an article from Personal Update, the in-house magazine of Family & Life in Dublin, that one rumour has been banged on the head.
Entitled “Is the Pope a Liberation Theologian?” it describes some of the more foolish speculations on this topic and proves them entirely false. It seems that Leonardo Boff (remember him?), the eloquent Brazilian advocate of liberation theology who was required by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to cease his priestly activities in 1985 and who later left the priesthood, got married and embraced environmentalism, has been quoted in an interview in Der Spiegel as saying “Francis will teach a lesson to the Church. We are coming out of a bitter and gloomy winter. With him comes the spring.” The allusion to the “winter” probably means Boff is still annoyed with Pope Emeritus Benedict who, when he was head of the CDF as Cardinal Ratzinger, was the person who required him to be silent.
As the article states, Boff was one of the luminaries of liberation theology “which had its hour in the seventies”. In his writings, heavily influenced by Marxism, he suggested Christ did not found a Church with a specific form and structure, that revelation and the dogmas of the Church were “transitional and changeable” and that the ministers of the “institutional church” had “expropriated the religious means of production” and behaved as if they owned them.
One hardly needs to point out that this is not exactly thinking with the mind of the Church. What happens to former liberation theologians – and in this case an ex-Franciscan – when their fundamental ideology, Marxism, collapses, as it did around the world in 1989-1990? Instead of repenting and recanting, they carry on making fools of themselves.
In the same interview Boff, according to the article in Personal Update,assures us that the new pope is going to make radical changes to the Church. “He is now the pope and he can do what he wants”, he tells us. Eh? It continues: “In many aspects – as those referring to contraceptives, celibacy and homosexuality – Bergoglio as a cardinal followed a conservative line that was due solely to pressure from the Vatican…” It sounds like a Hans Kung look-alike has popped up in the New World.
As the article points out, Pope Francis was all too familiar with liberation theology when he was the Jesuit provincial in Argentina, and opposed it “even when this stand left him isolated among the Jesuits.” Significantly, he dismissed it in a preface he wrote for a book on the future of Latin America by his friend, the Uruguayan Guzman Carriquiry Lecour, when he wrote, “After the collapse of “real socialism” (that is, Marxism), these currents of thought (liberation theology) were plunged into confusion. Incapable of either radical reformulation or new creativity, they survived by inertia, even if there are still some today who, anachronistically, would like to propose it again.”
Poor old Boff. Swept aside by history he now promotes “mother earth and brother sun”. Perhaps he thinks this brings him closer to St Francis of Assisi and the pope who bears his name? He needs to be reminded that the Holy Father is a Catholic – and so, incidentally, was St Francis.