Gutiérrez award — Pacem in Marxism?

If Fr Gutiérrez said corpulence was an eighth virtue, The PiT people would go right along.

If Fr Gutiérrez said corpulence was an eighth virtue, The PiT people would go right along.

Aggravating my suspicion that they are comprised mostly of blame-America-first types, leftist academia, diehard Marxist groupies and fellow travelers, the largely Catholic Pacem in Terris (PiT) “peace and justice award” sponsors selected Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez, of liberation theology fame, as their 2016 award recipient. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Davenport originated the award and the local bishop chairs the now quasi-ecumenical organization.* View the diocese’s official newspaper, the Davenport Catholic Messenger (DCM), announcing the recipient here.

Gutiérrez is often credited as being the founder of liberation theology, which employs an essentially Marxist world view, or one that shares Marxist socio-economic analysis dressed up with some theology to expand its appeal.  It is rife with concepts popes previous to the current pope, Francis, have shunned.   See the links provided for critiques of liberation theology.

No doubt the Pacem in Terris award sponsors feel emboldened by Pope Francis and his warmth toward the concepts of liberation theology and advocates like Gutiérrez. The Catholic left really feels they have, if not the imprimatur, the tacit go ahead to advocate all things dear to them. Official tut tuts from Pope Francis on some matters can be ignored as window dressing of a sort, pro-forma stuff from him.  But their stars will ascend in the hierarchy, purposefully helped by Francis, who is intent on stacking the Curia.

Note in the Davenport Catholic Messenger article how the Pacem in Terris board sort of triangulates celebrity leftists and their appearances in Chicago and then takes a shot at luring one to Davenport. It sort of degrades the authenticity, to the effect — “Yo Gustavo, we hear you are in the Windy City, howzabout bopping over to our place for a plaque and sharing a meal with some fellow travelers”  Chicago’s proximity provides a lot of potential for such opportunism.**

So in my view it is not so much that they have diligently looked at deserving people world- wide who have actually increased the lot of the poor, or prevented oppression, or risked life and limb, because that would mean dirty old capitalists and the American military, an all volunteer force,  would be eligible.  Due diligence for the Pacem in Terris award decision makers consists of who has celebrity in their conclaves and will be nearby. I may be a bit cynical about their processes but I think I am realistic as to the majority of the Pacem in Terris sponsor’s leftist world view.

The association of liberation theology and Marxist thought is undeniable and their award to one of its chief propagandists would be rather scandalous by the lights of about every modern pope up until now.*** The following is a Google translation of excerpts from  Teología de la Liberación: una herramienta de subversión (Liberation Theology : a tool of subversion) a publication from Accion Familia (Family Action for an authentic , Christian and strong Chile).

With his book Liberation Theology 1971, Father Gutiérrez is generally regarded as the founder of this political-religious movement. In fact, however, the Marxist fermentation in Catholic circles had been going on for a long time, especially in the movement of Catholic Action. For example, in Brazil, and in the late 50s, Youth Catholic Action had joined the Youth Communist Party to dominate student politics. In 1962, these Catholic youth and adults founded a political movement, the People Ação, which metamorphosed into Marxist revolutionary movements of the 60s and 70s [3]

It was no coincidence that before entering the seminary, Father Gutierrez was a member of Catholic Action in Peru and became its chaplain, after his ordination. Having received his theological training in Europe, it was influenced by French and German progressive theologians ( “Nouvelle Théologie”) and Protestant biblical revisionists, especially Rudolf Bultmann   . . . .

(Referring to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which is part of the  Roman Curia responsible for promulgating and defending Catholic doctrine, it was then headed by then Cardinal Ratzinger later Pope Benedict XVI)

The main objection of the Congregation, of which all other strictures are derived, is that Marxism “is the determining principle which Gutiérrez part to reinterpret the Christian message”. [9]   . . .

In his doctoral thesis in philosophy at the University of Notre Dame on the thought of Gustavo Gutierrez, Raymond Bautista Aguas document summarizes the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as follows:

The CDF document clearly states that Gutierrez is Marxist …. The CDF also notes that the methodology Gutiérrez on many aspects of his theology is wrong. For example, it says Gutierrez uses a faulty biblical hermeneutics. The Bible is selectively re-read, and certain events are given special importance. More importantly, these events, as in Exodus, are interpreted in a purely political way.

From Michael Novak writing at the New York Times:  The Case Against Liberation Theology 

“it (liberation theology) gains its excitement from flirting with Marxist thought and speech, and from its hostility to the ”North.” Most of the intellectual leaders, in Latin America especially, have been trained in Europe; a few are European or North American missionaries.

Still, some Latin American experts say that liberation theology affects only a minority of the clergy, even among theologians, and that the symbolic strength of the movement is exaggerated internationally by the apparent marketability of writing by liberation theologians, whose works are translated far more often into other languages than those of their critics. 

Novak, a well known conservative Catholic writer wrote that in 1984.  A “Google search” today produced similar biased results, many times the pro “liberation theology”  articles in spite of it being widely criticized. Funny how that works.

From Steven Hayword an economist writing at Forbes in May of 2015

How Is ‘Liberation Theology’ Still A Thing?    (excerpt)

According to the Huffington Post, the Vatican under Pope Francis is engaged in “rehabilitating liberation theology.” This is significant for two reasons. First, both Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI (when he was a cardinal) were harsh critics of liberation theology, and argued vigorously against it.     . . .

Liberation theology grew out of the misbegotten “Christian-Marxist dialogue” of the 1960s and 1970s, which must seem as quaint and laughable as promoting Esperanto. It was not a coincidence that liberation theology was especially popular in Latin America during the high water mark of Marxist guerilla insurgencies and the final death spasms of socialist utopias such as Nicaragua. Critics who called liberation theology “Marxism with salsa” weren’t far off the mark, and the irony that what Latin America needed to escape “western domination” was an adaptation of European philosophy seemed to be lost on everyone. Apparently not enough Latin American intellectuals learned the lesson from following the previous European political fad—fascism—in the 1930s and 1940s. (A few of the leading Latin American liberation theologians had in fact been fascists in their youth.)

The literature of liberation theology consisted of the usual Marxist cant sprinkled with holy water, with unoriginal references to class struggle, oppression, imperialism, dependence, and especially how Latin America poverty was all the fault of capitalism emanating from the United States and western Europe. “Liberation,” understood in the usual Marxist way (the use of the precious term “praxis” was always a dead giveaway), was now equated with Christian salvation. “It is quite remarkable,” Catholic theologian Michael Novak wrote at the time, “that the list of cities requiring liberation did not include Cracow or Leningrad, Havana or Peking, Hanoi or Prague.”

Today one might put Caracas on such a list. It is telling that virtually no one today except fruitcakes like Sean Penn stands up for Venezuela’s socialist utopian pretensions.

Carroll Ríos De Rodríguez writing at The Acton Institute   The Economics of Liberation Theology     (excerpts)

None of the prominent liberation theologians influential in Latin America had significant training in or exposure to the discipline of economics. This was odd given that their concern for the material well-being demanded at least some attempt to provide an economic explanation of underdevelopment and mass poverty. Instead of engaging in such economic reflection, many liberation theologians effectively married their theology to various renderings of what was then the fashionable dependency theory, which holds that that resources flow from a “periphery” of poor and underdeveloped states to a “core” of wealthy states, enriching the latter at the expense of the former.    . . .

Leading proponents of liberation theology were not simply looking to curb external domination or implement piecemeal types of reforms. They called for a more-or-less socialist revolution. Indeed, as Novak demonstrates, theirs was not a lukewarm socialism or mild social democracy capable of coexisting with private property, markets, and democratic institutions. It was, to use Gutiérrez’s language, the radical doing-away with “private appropriation of the wealth created by human toil” and the abolition of the “culture of the oppressors.”

On the connection of liberation theology to the Soviets, Damian Thompson at the Spectator (London) writes: Former Communist spy: KGB created Catholic liberation theology . One might also know liberation theology by its current friends, such as those at Aljazeera: Liberation theology, once reviled by church, now embraced by pope   .

We note that Pope Francis had his beefs with liberation theology, in its promulgation not its socio-economic analysis. He seems to have wanted it to be pure, untainted, religious, but apparently not so much now that he has grown in office and embraces its practical proponents in Latin America, religious and secular dictators.  The truth is that extreme managed society Pope Francis’ ideal portends can only make evil more compelling, more aggressive, endemic and aggressively enforced.  That is the human experience.

We also note that Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez is renown for dedication to parish life, and living in an apartment in the poor area where he ministers. But it is also clear that throughout the time of his celebrity he was afforded frequent lengthy lecture and study sabbaticals, months at a time, in the U.S. and Europe, Berkley, Ann Arbor, New York, Paris, Rome . . . now Notre Dame.

I attended grade school and church at a parish in south-west Davenport that was run by The Redemptorists and was considered a mission church as it served a poor part of town. There were fine dedicated priests there and among the nuns who taught at the school. Why are these servants who took oaths of poverty, who were never given frequent lengthy sabbaticals, not given recognition by the Pacem in Terris peace and justice crowd? No doubt not enough worldly influence, because they were too busy to be celebrated communist sympathizers perhaps.

And by the way, as regards the Pacem in Terris award,  given “to honor a person for their achievements in peace and justice, not only in their country but in the world.”  . . . it apparently isn’t hard and fast about the “peace” part of the conjunctive “and”.   From a biographical chapter (hagiography) in the book  Gustavo Gutierrez: An Introduction to Liberation Theology  by Robert McAfee Brown:


Want an omelet, maybe gotta break a few eggs. I don’t imagine every dictator “for the proletariat” always relishes war, they will settle for submission, but if push-back leads to shove, well . . . Fr Gutiérrez will get back to us.

R Mall

* Pacem in Terris award sponsors: In 2010, sponsors of the award were the Diocese of Davenport, St. Ambrose University, Augustana College, Churches United of the Quad-Cities, Pax Christi, The Catholic Messenger, the Congregation of the Humility of Mary, the Sisters of St. Benedict, the Muslim Community of the Quad Cities, and the Sisters of St. Francis.[3]

** close proximity is also how they got (now Saint) Mother Teresa to receive the award in person. She was truly deserving of accolades but taking an award from the PiT people was a mistake. But then if they had realized how pro-life of the unborn she was, which she was not identified with at the time, (she later referred to the unborn as “the poorest of the poor” and pleaded with women contemplating abortion to instead “bring them to me”) and had she made such a distressful remark as “we are not social workers” prior to the award decision they may have reconsidered their decision as  aiding and abetting conservatism.  Understand, I believe they hoped she would be political, but more their way, not THAT way, as little as she actually was. She had much celebrity, they found out she would be in Chicago, thought she was one of theirs or at least not a problem child, and what the heck, gave it a shot.

 *** see previous Veritas articles on the subject of Pope Francis or the Diocese of Davenport by typing them into our search window.  Visit our page bar “Papal Pages” for an extensive treatment of the papal encyclicals Rerum Novarum, the 1891 encyclical of Pope Leo XIII  On Capital and Labor and Quadragesimo Anno, On Reconstruction of the Social Order, the encyclical issued by Pope Pius XI on the fortieth anniversary of Rerum Novarum.  Reconciling them with liberation theology’s tenants and the statements of its promoters is impossible.

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