US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Gutierrez visits the Vatican

By Kira Dault | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

It is starting to look like liberation theology is on its way "in." 

On Tuesday, one of the founders of the liberation theology movement, Gustavo Gutierrez visited the Vatican, and according to the Associated Press, "received a hero's welcome." 

Liberation theology is a theological movement that started in Latin America in the 1970s. Gutierrez gave liberation theology its name with his book, A Theology of Liberation, which was published in 1971. The theology is rooted in the political and economic unrest of Latin America, placing the gospel squarely in the contemporary context of farmers and workers  who were struggling to survive. The theology tends to be very critical of unjust economic systems, and firmly places Christ on the side of the poor, without exception. 

In former years, the relationship between liberation theology and the Vatican and the church hierarchy was chilly, at best, and occasionally was downright hostile. In 1984, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith condemned liberation theology, because of its use of Marxist principles and its association with political movements. Pope Francis himself had a rocky relationship with the movement when he was in Argentina, occasionally clashing with some of his fellow Jesuits who took up its politicized call to confront Argentina's violent military dictatorship.

So the fact that Gutierrez was welcomed at the Vatican marks what seems to be a sea change. It furthermore reiterates the message that we have been getting from Pope Francis since he became pope: reconciliation and the preferential option for the poor. 

It will be interesting to watch how this newly reconciled relationship between the Vatican and liberation theology grows and changes in the years to come.