the pope and the populace :: liberation in South America

by Eric Daryl Meyer

Of some relevance to the continuing conversation about theology and justice are the following: James K. Smith reacts to a NY Times article

I should probably offer my two cents…(hopefully it’s worth that)…

1. I’m by and large ignorant of the history of the relationship between Benedict (Ratzinger) and the liberation theologians of S. America – I know the basic outline, and not much more. So I’m hesitant to say much.

2. I’ll defend the prerogative of the church to discipline theologians whose teachings contradict the church’s gospel. Theologians are the servants of the church, not its masters.

3. I’ll adamantly insist that by and large, the global church has made invisible its one-ness, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity insofar as it has been unconcerned (at least in practice) with the plight of the poorest and most marginalized of our brothers and sisters. As Bonhoeffer says, “this invisibility is killing us!”

4. Thus, I doubt that silencing liberation theologians is a decision that will stand as a jewel in the crown of contemporary Catholicism in the final judgment (but that is emphatically not my call).

5. I tend to agree with Jamie Smith’s question as to whether or not statecraft (revolutionary or no) is the best vehicle for the attainment of real justice on the planet. It is certainly one piece of the picture, and where governments are abusing the populace that they are commanded to serve, there can be no justice. Of course, it is a matter of degree, and a state which achieves a greater degree of justice is always preferable.

6. Theologians should be concerned with concrete justice as a matter of degree (and therefore with questions of statecraft), but God’s ultimate justice always determines, shapes, and orients any contemporary concept of justice. So theologians also have an eye out for the bigger picture – responsibility before God and all creation.

7. The just society needs a strong church and a strong government. Properly, both institutions serve one another (even as they stand in tension with one another), as both fulfill their (dare I say) divinely given tasks. The Church’s proclamation includes the responsibility to speak the word of God to the government – and in most places that entails raising a voice for the voiceless.

That is my all too balanced (not to say muddled) opinion. Back to studying…

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