NY Times on Liberation Theology

Here's an interesting articlefrom the front page of today's Times on the persistence of LiberationTheology. This persistence should come as no surprise. As the articlesays, in the years since Cardinal Ratzinger began his (let's say)"encounter" with liberation theology, "the social and economic ills themovement highlighted have worsened."

The simple fact is that Liberation Theology will not and cannot diebecause it represents the legitimate aspirations of the poor (in LatinAmerica and elsewhere) and because the message of liberation(spiritual, but also political and economic) is too deeply embedded inthe Bible to ignore. This theology will either persist within theChurch, on the margins of the Church, or (if need be) outside theChurch.

Obviously, Liberation Theology's social science has changed over theyears. No more Marxist analysis. This is obviously a good thing, butI don't think jettisoning Marxist frameworks fundamentally changes thesubstance or significance of Liberation Theology. Marxism was never reallyessential to Liberation Theology, conservative critics notwithstanding. Liberation Theology is fundamentally a methodology: doing theology in light ofconcrete work with and on behalf of the poor. As long as theologianscontinue to engage in this reflection in light of liberating praxis,they will continue to produce theology that challenges the prioritiesof the institutional Church, which is committed to (and organizedaround) a fundamentally different model. This will inevitably lead totension, and at times even conflict. But this tension can be apositive thing, and, at the end of the day, I think there's room forboth models.

Eduardo M. Peñalver is the Allan R. Tessler Dean of the Cornell Law School. The views expressed in the piece are his own, and should not be attributed to Cornell University or Cornell Law School.

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