13 Times Pope Francis Promoted Liberation Theology

13 Times Pope Francis Promoted Liberation Theology

on August 22, 2017

Pope Francis enjoys widespread popularity among Americans generally, especially American Catholics. In fact, his favorability ratings are better than any American president when they left office, ever since Gallup began keeping data under Harry Truman! What makes this somewhat surprising is Pope Francis has regularly alluded to liberation theology, which places him at least as far left as any U.S. president and much further left than most Catholic Americans.

Liberation theology takes many forms. It tends to emphasize the importance of overcoming economic oppression of the poor and understanding Christian teachings from their perspective. Christian social scientist Rodney Stark explains the rise of liberation theology thus in his book, The Triumph of Faith, as a response by Catholic theologians to Protestant evangelism efforts, particularly in Latin America:

Known as liberation theology, it was a mixture of Marxism and Catholicism that aimed at “mobilizing the poor for their own liberation.” The proposed tactic to achieve this liberation was to unite small groups of lower-class Latin Americans into a form of utopian socialist commune, wherein they would have their political and moral awareness raised and serve as models of progress for people in the surrounding area.

The Institute on Religion and Democracy, founded in 1982, came about at the height of liberation theology. But it was major Protestant denominations, not just the Catholic Church, which lent moral credibility to Marxist revolution. “During the 1980’s, United Methodist Church missionaries toiled in Nicaragua, not planting churches or winning souls, but flaking for the Sandinista experiment with Central American Marxism,” IRD President Mark Tooley reflected in 2009. Yet most churches have since “lost interest in touting Marxist liberation around the world,” Tooley later noted.

Although certainly not all proponents of liberation theology are Marxists, the worldview still holds sway among high-profile Christian leaders. As Stark noted, “Probably the primary proponent of liberation theology today is Francis, the first Latin American pope.” (However, one must question how the dire economic straights facing his home country of Argentina and the political turmoil in nearby Venezuela failed to convince Pope Francis of the flaws of this progressive worldview.)

Indeed, Pope Francis has frequently employed the language of liberation theology, although his particular policy proposals (if any) remain ambiguous. Considering this, perhaps most Catholic Americans would realize just how far apart the pope’s views are from their own. Here are 13 quotes from Pope Francis about Christianity and liberation:

(1) “Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and to come to their aid.” (Letter from Pope Francis to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on November 15-16, 2014)

(2) “Responsibility for the poor and the marginalized must therefore be an essential element of any political decision, whether on the national or the international level.” (Message for the Lenten Brotherhood Campaign 2015 in Brazil on February 2, 2015)

(3) “So many poor people — also poor in faith — are waiting for the Gospel that liberates! How many men and women, on the existential peripheries created by a consumerist, atheistic society, wait for our closeness and our solidarity!” (Address at the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelism on May 29, 2015)

(4) “So many poor people, victims of old and new forms of poverty. There are new forms of poverty! Structural and endemic poverty are excluding generations of families. Economic, social, moral and spiritual poverty.” (Address at the International Pastoral Congress on the World’s Big Cities on November 27, 2014)

(5) “The growth of inequality and poverty undermines inclusive and participatory democracy at risk which always presupposes an economy and an equitable and nonexclusive market. It is a question, therefore, of overcoming the structural causes of inequality and poverty. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I wished to point out three fundamental instruments for the social inclusion of the most needy: education, access to health care and employment for all.” (Address at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace on October 2, 2014)

(6) “There are economic systems that must make war in order to survive… An economic system centered on the god of money also needs to plunder nature, plunder nature, in order to maintain the frenetic pace of consumption inherent in it.” (Address at the World Meeting of Popular Movements on October 28, 2014)

(7) “Today, added to the phenomenon of exploitation and oppression, is a new dimension, a graphic and hard hue of social injustice; those that cannot be integrated, the excluded are discarded, the ‘leftovers.’ This is the disposable culture…” (Address at the World Meeting of Popular Movements on October 28, 2014)

(8) “Solidarity, this word that frightens the developed world. People try to avoid saying it. Solidarity to them is almost a bad word. But it is our word! Serving means recognizing and accepting requests for justice and hope, and seeking roads together, real paths that lead to liberation.” (Address at ‘Astalli Centre’ Jesuit refugee service in Rome on September 10, 2013)

(9) “An unfettered pursuit of money rules. This is the ‘dung of the devil’. The service of the common good is left behind. Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home, sister and mother earth.” (Address at the Second World Meeting of Popular Movements on July 9, 2015)

(10) “We must recover the whole sense of gift, of gratuitousness, of solidarity. Rampant capitalism has taught the logic of profit at all costs, of giving to get, of exploitation without looking at the person… and we see the results in the crisis we are experiencing!” (Address while visiting homeless shelter ‘Dono di Maria’ on May 21, 2013)

(11) “The Church has realized that the need to heed this plea is itself born of the liberating action of grace within each of us, and thus it is not a question of a mission reserved only to a few: ‘The Church, guided by the Gospel of mercy and by love for mankind, hears the cry for justice and intends to respond to it with all her might’ … it means working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor, as well as small daily acts of solidarity in meeting the real needs which we encounter.” (The Joy of the Gospel: Evangelii Gaudium, 2014)

(12) “Let us ask ourselves: what does it mean to evangelize the poor? It means first of all drawing close to them, it means having the joy of serving them, of freeing them from their oppression, and all of this in the name of and with the Spirit of Christ, because he is the Gospel of God, he is the Mercy of God, he is the liberation of God, he is the One who became poor so as to enrich us with his poverty.” (Angelus in Saint Peter’s Square on January 24, 2016)

(13) “The Gospel passage we have heard presents us with a figure who stands out because of her faith and courage. This is the woman whom Jesus healed of a hemorrhage (cf. Mt 9:20-22). … This example causes one to reflect on how the woman is often perceived and represented. We, even Christian communities, are all alert to views of femininity invalidated by prejudice and harmful suspicions about her intangible dignity. The Gospels themselves restore the truth and bring a liberating perspective in this regard.” (General Audience at Saint Peter’s Square on August 31, 2016)

  1. Comment by Reggie on August 22, 2017 at 9:49 pm

    Long ovedue

  2. Comment by Reverend Father PDQ9 on August 23, 2017 at 7:40 am

    I hope this horrible papacy ends soon.

  3. Comment by doug on August 23, 2017 at 11:26 am

    It is completely incorrect to assume Francis is all that popular. Almost every Pope has a 75 to 80 percent approval rating. Pope Benedict was at 83 percent six months after taking over, JP II was probably higher. Pope Francis, on the other hand, had a 63 percent approval rating about a year after he entered office. Since then, polls have been horribly inaccurrate,predicting Trump would lose and brexit would lose, etc etc. Polls now are done quite differently and are very, very very easy to manipulate, and most polls engage in that manipulation. Pew is not God. Most people are thoroughly confused by Pope Francis. One minute he sounds nice, the next like an angry old Marxist uncle. He is puzzling and people do not know what to think. His support is very very thin.

  4. Comment by Freddy on August 23, 2017 at 9:56 pm

    This is a thoughtful and well-documented piece. Thank you for taking the time to prepare it. It’ll be very helpful to me and many, many others.

    I contend that some of this very thinking (liberation themes rooted in theology, for extra punch) is useful to many and being used in the United States and elsewhere who interpret American history through that lens of oppression as well.

    At any rate this is very helpful. Thank you very much.

  5. Comment by Daniel F Crawford on August 24, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    This essay is yet another reason why I stopped taking IRD seriously ten years ago. I am much more likely to accept the Pope’s leadership on moral issues than those sycophants who justify, rationalize, and praise the behavior of the present head of the United States Government.

  6. Comment by Thomas on August 26, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    There is a huge difference between revolutionary, Marxist-inspired Liberation Theology, who supports class struggles, and the Catholic Social Doctrine. I could present plenty quotes by Popes St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI who wouldn`t be much diferent from those of Pope Francis. I think they should invite some Catholic contributors to IRD.

  7. Comment by Elizabeth on August 26, 2017 at 7:18 am

    Many ideas put forth by this pontif are too ( liberal and progressive) outside of the thinking of the common Catholics who strive to better themselves and contribute to the many charities to better the conditions of people everywhere.

  8. Comment by Thomas on August 26, 2017 at 10:20 am

    Pope Francis fought Liberation Theology! Its a fact. He supported the People`s Theology. There are similarities, but the People`s Theology is based in the Catholic Social Doctrine. You can`t throw away some Pope Francis quotes and assume that they don`t refer to the Catholic Social Doctrine. Even the now anti-Pope Francis website LifeSiteNews praised Pope Francis`s opposition to Marxist-inspired Liberation Theology when he was elected. “Francis opposed the Marxist versions of liberation theology followed by the “‘progressive’ group of [Jesuit] theologians living out in base communities”.[292] As he wrote in the preface to a book on the Catholic Church in Latin America, Una apuesta por América Latina (A Commitment to Latin America) by Guzmán Carriquiry Lecour, the proponents of liberation theology were unable to reformulate it after the collapse of Marxism, and it thus became an anachronism.[293][294][295] His theologian of reference was Juan Carlos Scannone, a fellow Jesuit who had developed a theology centered on the “religious devotion of the common people”. Read also his biography by Austen Ivereigh.

  9. Comment by Thomas on August 27, 2017 at 10:14 am

    “Direct aid is an appropriate response to immediate, extraordinary needs caused by natural catastrophes, epidemics, and the like. But it does not suffice to repair the grave damage resulting from destitution or to provide a lasting solution to a country’s needs. It is also necessary to reform international economic and financial institutions so that they will better promote equitable relationships with less advanced countries. The efforts of poor countries working for growth and liberation must be supported. This doctrine must be applied especially in the area of agricultural labor. Peasants, especially in the Third World, form the overwhelming majority of the poor.” Pope Saint John Paul II

  10. Comment by Rev. Jean Dee on August 28, 2017 at 9:01 pm

    No matter what you call it, caring for your neighbor is being a Good Samaritan.

  11. Comment by Timothy Gray on August 30, 2017 at 6:10 pm

    It always intrigues me that when “Marxism” and its excesses is soundly criticized, the alternatives are seldom described. What are the alternatives, and how do they promote an ethical society? Capitalism comes in various flavors, and some of them have criticized “charity” as being subversive. The assumption that charity is a natural “brake” on the injustices of capitalism is widely touted, but who are the religious leaders and groups who promote this?
    There are other economic systems; does rejecting Marxism automatically make one other system ideal?

  12. Comment by Kristen on March 16, 2018 at 10:53 am

    This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.
    -Pope Francis

  13. Comment by Mary Barker on November 1, 2018 at 4:33 pm

    Go Francis

  14. Comment by Jerry Lobherger on November 29, 2018 at 9:46 pm

    Marxism was copy from book from Satan. There is a price to be
    payed in human live, in mixing Jesus and Satin writing together.

  15. Comment by Dennis Crowley on September 14, 2020 at 10:26 am

    A very well done article. I just found this a few years after it was published. Marxist “Liberation Theology” will flourish where you have a population ignorant of the Bible (Mark 12:24, 2 Timothy 3:16).

  16. Comment by chris dorf on December 31, 2020 at 1:45 pm

    Pope Francis preaches the true Gospel message, and is countering the plague of religious fundamentalism and errors around the globe. The worship of individualism and money is the error of the day in christianity. Pelagianism and Gnosticism.

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