OTTAWA – Though liberation theology developed many streams, many shrouded in controvery, its principal founder said it remains anchored in the commitment to the poor in the Gospel.
“Theology is a hermeneutic of hope,” Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez told faculty, students and friends of Saint Paul University Nov. 7 as he received an honorary doctorate from the Ottawa university.
“Theology touches on the motive, the story of our Lord in history. Theology is a letter of love to God,” the Peruvian theologian said.
This love letter began when he engaged the question of poverty.
“How do you say to the poor God loves you?” the Dominican priest asked the audience. “Theology is not a perfect response to that question, but an effort to respond,” he said, noting the immense suffering and mystery of poverty.
In the nearly 50 years since liberation theology was born, its reputation has suffered from time to time through associations with Marxism, utopian thinking and even armed struggle. But in an interview, Gutierrez said the news media is responsible for this reputation, pointing out liberation theology has never been condemned by the Pope.
When Pope Benedict XVI addressed the Latin American bishops at Aparecida in 2007, Benedict said, “The preferential option for the poor is the link to our faith in Jesus Christ,” Gutierrez said. “This question is central: the preferential option of the poor.” The Aparecida document also contains many “affirmations in line with liberation theology,” he added.
Ninety per cent of liberation theology is linked to Jesus Christ, he said. Many points or ideas of liberation theology were not accepted, it is true, though many bishops did accept it. But today, with Pope Francis’ coming from Latin America and his shared experience of the continent, liberation theology is getting re-examined.