I Would Abjure This Heresy If It Existed

I was very struck by a comment which was made on another post on this blog by a defender of liberation theology. I’m not going to attempt to speak in this post to what liberation theology is and whether or not it represents a correct understanding of Christ’s message, but what does interest me a great deal is this response to the concerns expressed by Benedict XVI at the time that he was the head of the CDF about liberation theology, and the similar concerns expressed by John Paul II. As has been observed elsewhere on this blog, liberation theology has not been officially condemend by the Church.

However, a number of aspects of liberation theology have been criticized by the Church, and in reponse to the mention of these criticisms, we are given this defense:

I don’t dismiss what they say. If the version of liberation theology that they critique actually exists, then they are right about those versions. But they cite NO ONE and in my studies I have seen no evidence of the distortions that they claim exist. Here they are not distinguishing between the practice of various Christians and liberation theologians. When they critique something called “liberation theology” I assume they mean the latter. But the image that they critique is just that: an image with little reality. In fact many liberation theologians have actually praised the CDF statements on liberation theology, saying that if such a theology existed it should rightly be criticized, but that what they are doing bears little resemblance to those caricatures.

This defense reminded me very strongly of some reading that I did a while back on the Jansenist heresy. (Someone had accused me of being a Jansenist, and since I’m always curious to know more about myself, I set off to learn a bit about them. But that’s another story.) I don’t want to get really in depth on Jansenism, so I’ll simply link to the Catholid Encyclopedia article on the topic and observe that broadly speaking it was a heresy centering around moral pessimism and scrupulosity and came close to, but not quite, asserting predestination and the inability of man to resist sin through free will. Here’s the standard Wikipedia article as well.

What’s interesting is that when Pope Innocent X issued a bull in 1653 condemning as heretical five propositions of Jansenism based on the popular book Augustinus which had been written by Bishop Cornelius Jansen and published after his death, what Jansenist theologian Antoine Arnauld did was: he accepted the bull, renounced the propositions, but denied that Augustinus actually contained any of those teachings. He argued that the pope had mis-understood Jansen’s arguments, and thus that while the pope’s condemnation was correct, it was not actually a condemnation of Jansen’s theology.

A number of French bishops condemned Arnauld’s position and called upon Rome to do likewise. Arnauld proceeded to draw a distinction, arguing that the Church could speak definitively on matters of doctrine (that the five propositions were false) but was unable to speak definitively on matters of fact (whether the propositions were asserted in Augustinus). The majority of French bishops condemned this distinction, insisting that Catholics must accept both the doctrinal ruling and the judgement that the false doctrines were contained in the condemned book. Eventually Pope Alexander VII , at the urging of the French church and monarchy, went to far as to issue an apostolic constitition, insisting that to be orthodox Catholics must be willing to take an oath rejecting the five propositions, asserting that the propositions were in Jansen’s work, and asserting that they rejected the propositions in the same sense that Jansen had meant them.

Reading about the long and painful history of the controversy, I can’t help thinking that Arnauld’s point has a certain validity. I’m not exactly sure it makes sense to say that the Church can authoritatively assert that a work contains a given set of ideas. But at the same time, it strikes me that Arnauld was doing a very dangerous thing in asserting that he agreed with the pope’s correction but not with the pope’s conclusion that the condemned propositions were in Augustinus. When we think that we understand ideas deeply, and that criticisms made by theologians, bishops or even the Vatican are based upon a defective understanding of what people we admire are saying, it’s very tempting to fall back onto the “they just don’t understand us” excuse. And yet, especially to a mind familiar with the fluidity of meaning which modernity is comfortable with, it soon becomes possible to reject any criticism by this method. There is a very great danger of allowing oneself to invent one’s own magisterium, all the while convincing oneself that one is entirely in union with the Church if only the Church were willing to understand what one means.

100 Responses to I Would Abjure This Heresy If It Existed

  • This post would contain a valid argument IF the blog contributor in question (as well as Ratzinger for that matter) demonstrated ANY evidence of having read much liberation theology.

    The “you don’t seem to understand us” response would be too easy of course if Joe actually read the texts and offered a critique based on those texts. But Joe has not done so. He has admitted that he has not read any liberation theology. Let Joe read some liberation theology and then criticize specific authors and texts. Until he does so, “you don’t seem to understand us” is a PERFECTLY VALID and ACCURATE response to make.

    Do you understand the difference?

  • Probably one of the reasons why the CDF did not explicitly link to any actual work of Liberation Theology was, in part, they were trying to criticize without actually naming names. It is a good way to deal with people, as long as it is understood by the readers what is going on, who is being criticized, and where those remarks can be found.

    The problem I see is how these documents have been handled by the non-specialist. They have tended to read the CDF comments are condemnations, and of universal tendencies within LT. This is not the case.

    Instead of dealing with the condemnation of Jansen, which is a condemnation of a specific person, and therefore one can more readily examine the issue and know who exactly is being criticized, we should look at the CDF documents along the lines of Tempier’s condemnations of “radical Aristotelians.”

    Many could and did use Tempier’s condemnations as a way to reject the whole scholastic method; of course, we, in hindsight, see the differences in the schoolmen, and appreciate some of the things which were initially censored. Liberation Theology really is like this, especially when dealing with generalities and “certain” ideas within the “school of thought.”

    I think a better comparison with the situation around Jansen would be to look at the CDF on Haight. I believe in both situations the Church is correct, though I know defenders of Haight are critical of the CDF’s reading of him, and it is similar to what you say about Jansen here.

  • Michael, it would be very unlike Ratzinger to have issued a correction of aspects of LT without having familiarized himself with it to begin with. His work — personal and ecclesial — always indicates a familiarity with his subject matter, regardless of his agreement or otherwise. I’m thinking, for instance, of the Jacques Dupuis case… having read the work that was reviewed by the CDF, it was clear that Ratzinger was familiar with it and the general discussions in question.

    That’s not to say that he could have done otherwise in this instance, but it would be completely out of character, and hence extremely unlikely. I’d prefer to give *him* the benefit of the doubt and presume that he had in fact familiarized himself with these works.

  • And again, let me make clear, I have no interest at all in discussing liberation theology on this thread. My point is that the method of argument itself is very dangerous. After all, I’m sure that Antoine Arnauld was sure that he had a much better understanding of the virtues of Jansen’s work and the body of theology that had grown up around it than critics in the French monarchy or in Rome. From the inside the argument will always appear to be valid.

  • Chris – The only liberation theologian that Ratzinger tends to cite is Leonardo Boff. The exchange he had with Boff was quite in depth but even there you see some glaring misreadings of Boff’s positions. Have you read Boff’s Church: Charism and Power and the CDF statement on it? His criticism of Boff’s supposed “Marxist” understanding of the sacraments, for example, is embarrassingly backward.

    I’m not suggesting that Ratzinger has NO familiarity with liberation theology. He surely has had some exposure to a few early works. But it is clear that he bases his judgments on a very narrow selection of texts. To anyone who has read the stuff, his critiques simply make no sense. Surely he attempted to “familiarize” himself with “liberation theology,” but to think he could get an accurate picture of it from Germany or from Rome with his European assumptions about theology and ecclesiology is absurd.

    You and Joe and all your buddies here are welcome to take Ratzinger’s word for “it”, but none of you should claim to be able to pronounce on liberation theology’s strengths and weaknesses if you have not read it yourself or if you have no connection to or interest in (and in fact often loudly and actively oppose) the social movements of the poor from which it was born.

  • Darwin – To reiterate: “that type of argument” is not dangerous at all when it is clear that the person in question knows nothing about the intellectual and ecclesial movement in question. “You don’t understand this theology” is an acceptable response to someone who admits he has not read any works of that kind of theology.

  • jonathanjones02 says:

    How is it that the Holy Father has so clearly demonstrated that he is unfamiliar with the strands of liberation theology? Because the criticism was not as detailed as a claimant might wish?

    Two things are mutually reasonable and applicable at the same time: 1) the reasonable ability to disagree, up to the point of being honest with one’s own soul and abandoning a claim to Catholicism 2) wide deference, particularly in matters of theology, to one of the unquestionably great theologians of our time, and the successor to St. Peter who occupies an office under the protection of the Holy Spirit.

    And so in the Pope’s condemnations, it is reasonable to follow his lead concerning theology.

    As for the method of argument, context is always king. It is not feasible for any rationalizing, unrational human to be seperate from experience, hubris, and bias. “Objective argument,” being impossible, should in this case take us back to my first point about theology and those that wish to claim Catholicism.

  • How is it that the Holy Father has so clearly demonstrated that he is unfamiliar with the strands of liberation theology? Because the criticism was not as detailed as a claimant might wish?

    He demonstrates it when he says that liberation theologians believe certain things that they in fact do not believe. The classic “reducing faith to politics” line is one very general example. Endorsement of “class warfare” is another. No liberation theologian that I have ever read believes either of those two things. Yet that myth continues to be perpetuated. Ratzinger cites no theologian in these charges. The only way that you would be able to know this, though, is to be familiar with liberation theology and no one here is willing to give LT the time of day to see for themselves.

    And so in the Pope’s condemnations, it is reasonable to follow his lead concerning theology.

    First, Ratzinger did not “condemn” liberation theology. That is another myth. And no, it is not reasonable to follow his lead on liberation theology when his judgment has been shown time and time again to be inaccurate. Catholicism does not mean “check your brain at the door,” [personal attacks removed.]

  • Jonathan

    Once again there were no condemnations of Liberation Theology as you just suggested. That’s the problem. There were concerns and criticisms of certain tendencies of some people within the movement, the same as Tempier with Aristotelians.

  • In fact, jonathan, it is clear that you do NOT “take Ratzinger’s lead” on liberation theology if you would characterize his position as one of “condemnation.” Not only have you obviously have not read liberation theology, you don’t seem to have read the Vatican’s statements on liberation theology in which you supposedly place your trust.

  • to think he could get an accurate picture of it from Germany or from Rome with his European assumptions about theology and ecclesiology is absurd.

    And yet somehow you manage to get an accurate picture of Ratzinger’s views with your assumptions from your own geographic locale? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, Michael.

  • Shaun Kenney says:

    But at the same time, it strikes me that Arnauld was doing a very dangerous thing in asserting that he agreed with the pope’s correction but not with the pope’s conclusion that the condemned propositions were in Augustinus.

    …and yet that’s precisely what the American bishops did in the 19th century when Pope Leo XIII condemned the Americanist heresy. “They just don’t understand us” was the cry of many an Irish Catholic prelate in America during the late 19th and early 20th century — you can even hear echoes of it today.

    Fascinating history, though I would argue that Americanism still lingers; Jansenism not so much.

  • Michael,

    Yes, it’s true that if leaders of the Church genuinely do not understand a school of theology, they may issue condemnations which condemn beliefs that members of the school do not actually hold. It’s a possibility. It may have happened at some times in history.

    At the same time, anyone who is going to come at their faith with the faintest shred of humility much recognize that for someone who at the same time believes himself to be in union with the Church and holds some belief which the Church is accurately condemning, it may invariably look like the Church does not understand their thought.

    It is a self-fullfilling argument from the dissenter’s point of view. “I hold a set of beliefs. The beliefs are true. My beliefs are compatible with Catholicism. Thus, if the Church tells me that my beliefs are not compatible with Catholicism, it must be because the Church doesn’t really understand my beliefs.”

    As several people have pointed out, it’s rather hard to believe that Ratzinger was as deceived/lazy as one has to posit in order to follow your theory. While I think that the argument is valid in certain circumstances, it’s something we should be very hesitant about rolling out, and which is usually going to lead us to false conclusions.

  • Tom K. says:

    Given an “I agree with what you say, but no one is saying otherwise”-type response to ecclesial criticism, I’d say the first thing to do is confirm the agreement — that is, to make sure everyone has the same understanding of what the Church is saying. A cardinal may certainly misunderstand a theologian, but then a theologian may also misunderstand a cardinal.

    I think I’ve read somewhere that Vatican criticism of liberation theology named no names at least in part to settle the doctrinal questions without getting into the “but you misunderstand what X is saying” swamp.

  • It is a self-fullfilling argument from the dissenter’s point of view. “I hold a set of beliefs. The beliefs are true. My beliefs are compatible with Catholicism. Thus, if the Church tells me that my beliefs are not compatible with Catholicism, it must be because the Church doesn’t really understand my beliefs.”

    I understand what you are saying and I agree that the kind of defense you are targeting is easy to make. But it’s a whole lot easier to see what is going on if you are willing to hear out what the “dissenter” says and actually take the time to see what kind of conversation is taking place. You and Joe and everyone else on your blog refuse to actually give one side a hearing, assuming that they are “dissenters” and not worth listening to at all which is precisely NOT what JPII or Benedict have ever suggested that you do. Your method is to ignore liberation theologians and the things they say. That’s irresponsible both intellectually and ecclesiologically. It’s not how the church works. It’s not how believers are supposed to think. In fact, it is precisely an evasion of thinking.

    You can’t point to my defense of liberation theology as the “dissenter’s self-fulfilling argument” unless you can show that liberation theology and/or particular liberation theologians are in fact at odds with church teaching. And you can’t do that unless you are willing to hear some of them out.

  • Zach says:

    “I hold a set of beliefs. The beliefs are true. My beliefs are compatible with Catholicism. Thus, if the Church tells me that my beliefs are not compatible with Catholicism, it must be because the Church doesn’t really understand my beliefs.”

    This is an excellent summary of some arguments I have heard. This would seem to stand in constrast to the Bible: “Anyone who goes ahead as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God; whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son.”
    - 2 John 9

  • Zach says:

    Michael,

    Personally Michael I know you don’t want to associate with things that have been condemned by the Church, so I know that you are trying to speak honestly and do so from a superior position to me at least, having studied LT for some number of years.

    But if you’ll let me I’ll say one thing to the point you make above – Fr. Gutierrez very much believes in class warfare, at least in his “A Theology of Liberation”, where he holds that the wealthy and aggressive Western nations have created their wealth at the expense of the poor in the Southern hemisphere. If this cannot be understood as class antagonism I do not know what the concept could mean. As you know, I tried to do what I consider to be an extensive study of this book, and I posted my comments on it on my personal blog. For whatever reason, at the time, you did not respond but to say a few things. Perhaps I can pull those out and post them here and we can have another round.

  • Michael, can you point to a primer on LT? If it hasn’t been given a hearing here, it’s only because you haven’t made one, only asserted that we’re all idiots who don’t know what we’re talking about, more or less. So: is there an online resource which you find does a competent job of presenting LT?

  • Zach – As I think I probably mentioned to you before, you are getting Gutierrez wrong, but you are not alone in this. He indeed believes that “the wealthy and aggressive Western nations have created their wealth at the expense of the poor in the Southern hemisphere” but this is not to believe in “class warfare.” In other words he does not believe in creating “class antagonism” because it already exists as an inherent feature of colonial capitalism. He believes that the church should “take sides” with the oppressed classes in their desire for liberation from a system that itself creates class antagonism.

    Chris – Yes I can suggest some good books as introductions but I’d have to poke around to see what’s out there online. Surely any of Oscar Romero’s pastoral letters would be a good introduction to liberation theology. As would the documents of the Latin American Bishops conference at Medellin and Puebla. Those are likely available online.

  • Michael,

    I’m not trying to say that you are a dissenter. I’m saying that this is a very dangerous way of dealing with criticism of the Church. I agree that if I wanted to personally issue a condemnation of liberation theology or point out errors in liberation theology, I would need to make a thorough reading of some liberation theology texts and be very clear about what they said and why it was wrong. Because I do not have the time (and frankly, the interest) for doing that, I’m making absolutely no attempt to issue such a critique or condemnation. Indeed, in my post I said that the Church has not condemned liberation theology.

    I’m just pointing out the danger of accustoming oneself to always insisting that when the Church criticizes one’s sacred cows, it must be because the Church doesn’t understand them. I do hear you saying that it’s obvious to you and unnamed other liberation theologians that Ratzinger and others in the Vatican do not understand liberation theology. That I don’t assume you to be correct in your feelings on this is mostly a matter of my having much more confidence in Ratzinger’s understanding of the Church than in yours.

    (I’m sorry if it frustrates you that many of us have little interest in studying liberation theology. Everyone ends up making decisions about what to spend time studying in depth, and not everyone makes the same decisions. Nor do they necessarily have to never talk about topics they haven’t studied, or haven’t studied from the inside. For instance, you routinely make a lot of assertions about free market economics, about business, about conservative politics, etc. which I think are quite misguided and display a fair amount of ignorance. However, I don’t go around insisting that you need to cite chapter and verse from Adam Smith or Milton Freidman or F A Hayak or the Federalist Papers or Burke or what have you before you blast classical liberalism or capitalism or what have you. I may not take your arguments in regards to these topics very seriously, but trying to tell people what they can and can’t speak about just doesn’t work that well.)

  • “But if you’ll let me I’ll say one thing to the point you make above – Fr. Gutierrez very much believes in class warfare, at least in his “A Theology of Liberation”, where he holds that the wealthy and aggressive Western nations have created their wealth at the expense of the poor in the Southern hemisphere.”

    So that is what you mean by class warfare? So, you would agree that the following statement is in support of class warfare:

    “The poor ask for the right to share in enjoying material goods and to make good use of their capacity for work, thus creating a world that is more just and prosperous for all. The advancement of the poor constitutes a great opportunity for the moral, cultural and even economic growth of all humanity.”

    Or

    “The Marxist solution has failed, but the realities of marginalization and exploitation remain in the world, especially the Third World, as does the reality of human alienation, especially in the more advanced countries. Against these phenomena the Church strongly raises her voice. Vast multitudes are still living in conditions of great material and moral poverty. The collapse of the Communist system in so many countries certainly removes an obstacle to facing these problems in an appropriate and realistic way, but it is not enough to bring about their solution. Indeed, there is a risk that a radical capitalistic ideology could spread which refuses even to consider these problems, in the a priori belief that any attempt to solve them is doomed to failure, and which blindly entrusts their solution to the free development of market forces.”

    Or

    “More than forty years after Populorum Progressio, its basic theme, namely progress, remains an open question, made all the more acute and urgent by the current economic and financial crisis. If some areas of the globe, with a history of poverty, have experienced remarkable changes in terms of their economic growth and their share in world production, other zones are still living in a situation of deprivation comparable to that which existed at the time of Paul VI, and in some cases one can even speak of a deterioration. It is significant that some of the causes of this situation were identified in Populorum Progressio, such as the high tariffs imposed by economically developed countries, which still make it difficult for the products of poor countries to gain a foothold in the markets of rich countries. Other causes, however, mentioned only in passing in the Encyclical, have since emerged with greater clarity. A case in point would be the evaluation of the process of decolonization, then at its height. Paul VI hoped to see the journey towards autonomy unfold freely and in peace. More than forty years later, we must acknowledge how difficult this journey has been, both because of new forms of colonialism and continued dependence on old and new foreign powers, and because of grave irresponsibility within the very countries that have achieved independence.”

  • Shaun,

    I think you make a good point. It is, I think, very human not to see ourselves reflected in criticisms. Usually when someone tells me that I’m wrong about something or doing a bad job at something, my first tendency is to think that they must not really understanding.

    In personal interaction this may often be the case (though, of course, often those who criticize us have something of a point as well) but it seems to me that, hard as it is, we have to take criticism from the Church pretty seriously. I try to apply this as best I can on my own intellectual hobby horses, such as democratic government, classical liberalism, and free market economics — all things which the Church has at times criticized aspects of (though as with liberation theology, certainly not condemned). Where I haven’t yet worked out to my satisfaction the right understanding of these topics from a Catholic point of view, I try at least to stick to the basics that I’m sure of and not go around telling people what “the church says” on the topic.

  • I suggest the latter documents knowing that they are official ecclesial documents but liberation theologians were involved in their writing.

    Might also check out liberationtheology.org. He has a broad definition of LT though.

  • Pinky says:

    We tend to understand heresies from a distance: Jansen said “X”, the pope said “not X”. In truth, theological disputes take decades, as each party fleshes out what each side holds to be doctrinally correct. Additionally, each heresy has a proto-, a semi-, an ultra-, et cetera. Each proposition has to be teased out before it can be accepted or condemned.

    And that was in the old days, when it was all written in the same language. It’s worse now.

    Even valid movements were sometimes condemned, or placed on “watch lists”. At such times it is essential that the followers of the new movement submit to Church authority. If Luther had had a more humble heart or if Gonzaga were arrogant, church history would be completely different.

    Now, it’s possible to humbly submit to the Church while contending that theologians have mistaken your writings as heresy (or disobedience or whatever). Aquinas had to grovel; why shouldn’t I? But in practice, it’s tricky. You look at Regnum Christi over the last few years and you can see how even a hint of insubordination can snowball.

  • jonathanjones02 says:

    In fact, michael, what is clear that you wish to remain quick in the personalizations and heavy in the hostility. That’s you issue, as at the end of the day you have to live with your own hatreds.

    I think it is more than reasonable 1). to characterize the Holy Father’s reaction to some strands of what is commonly understood to be liberation theology as a condemnation 2). to follow his lead, as a great theologian and as the successor to St. Peter, on these issues, particularly as they relate to theology.

    Obviously I am not as well versed in the literature of this subject as you are. But I wouldn’t, and haven’t in the past, react as you have if were discussing my areas of expertise, Anglo-American political philosophy. This sort of pathetic negativity may mask insecurity, or something else, or nothing at all, but it’s an e-representation you should drop.

    Now, michael and Henry, why did I again make the same point 1.) ? Take the Guiterrez example, cited by Zach. The Holy Father’s “ten observations” were indeed a condemnation of politicization and of supporting something like a temporal messianism.

    And, as folks that we should safely assume are familiar with this sort of history (one of several examples), I understand you can quibble about what makes for a “condemnation.” But it is quite reasonable to label it as such, and it quite reasonable – particularly as we are all folks that wish to claim the Catholic mantle – to state that we should give the Holy Father wide and deep deference on these questions, given his role as theologian, steward, successor, and chief priest.

    One need not be well versed in the diverse texts of this movement (I certainly am not) to easily recognize Vatican condemnation, particularly of the elements of Marxism and comfort with violence.

  • Jonathan

    Condemnation is not a word to be used lightly; criticism and investigation and concern about various ideas is not condemnation. Playing fast and loose with the idea of ecclesial condemnation is not wise.

  • jonathanjones02 says:

    Henry,

    You are quite correct that words should not be used lightly. And let me make more explicit that I am aware of and appreciate the point that it is cheap and easy to “cherry pick” from marginal and extremist claimants, and then broaden to smear a whole. That is not my intention – and such is the difficulty of this medium (one reason why I will reinterate my point about charity and not assuming the worst of an “opponent”).

    All the same, condemnation is a word that fits (of the extremist/marginal elements, certainly), and this is noteworthy. I refer, specificially, to the Holy Father’s view, expressed in his writings throughout the 80s most notably, that much of liberation theology (“much” being measured by political influence) viewed reality as “political,” making “liberation” also first and foremost a concept of politics, thus making “liberation” to be a guide to political action. In sum, that which he thought to be a fundamental threat to the faith of the Church deserves the label “condemnation.”

  • Phillip says:

    One could also quote these thoughts:

    “Finally, development must not be understood solely in economic terms, but in a way that is fully human. It is not only a question of raising all peoples to the level currently enjoyed by the richest countries, but rather of building up a more decent life through united labour, of concretely enhancing every individual’s dignity and creativity, as well as his capacity to respond to his personal vocation, and thus to God’s call. The apex of development is the exercise of the right and duty to seek God, to know him and to live in accordance with that knowledge.”

    “The modern business economy has positive aspects. Its basis is human freedom exercised in the economic field, just as it is exercised in many other fields. Economic activity is indeed but one sector in a great variety of human activities, and like every other sector, it includes the right to freedom, as well as the duty of making responsible use of freedom. But it is important to note that there are specific differences between the trends of modern society and those of the past, even the recent past. Whereas at one time the decisive factor of production was the land, and later capital — understood as a total complex of the instruments of production — today the decisive factor is increasingly man himself, that is, his knowledge, especially his scientific knowledge, his capacity for interrelated and compact organization, as well as his ability to perceive the needs of others and to satisfy them.
    It would appear that, on the level of individual nations and of international relations, the free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs. But this is true only for those needs which are “solvent”, insofar as they are endowed with purchasing power, and for those resources which are “marketable”, insofar as they are capable of obtaining a satisfactory price.”

    “The Church acknowledges the legitimate role of profit as an indication that a business is functioning well. When a firm makes a profit, this means that productive factors have been properly employed and corresponding human needs have been duly satisfied.”

    “Marxism criticized capitalist bourgeois societies, blaming them for the commercialization and alienation of human existence. This rebuke is of course based on a mistaken and inadequate idea of alienation, derived solely from the sphere of relationships of production and ownership, that is, giving them a materialistic foundation and moreover denying the legitimacy and positive value of market relationships even in their own sphere. Marxism thus ends up by affirming that only in a collective society can alienation be eliminated. However, the historical experience of socialist countries has sadly demonstrated that collectivism does not do away with alienation but rather increases it, adding to it a lack of basic necessities and economic inefficiency.”

    “Returning now to the initial question: can it perhaps be said that, after the failure of Communism, capitalism is the victorious social system, and that capitalism should be the goal of the countries now making efforts to rebuild their economy and society? Is this the model which ought to be proposed to the countries of the Third World which are searching for the path to true economic and civil progress?
    The answer is obviously complex. If by “capitalism” is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative, even though it would perhaps be more appropriate to speak of a “business economy”, “market economy” or simply “free economy”.

  • Zach says:

    Hey Michael,

    What you say about Gutierrez makes sense. Maybe I can explain why I think this still constitutes class antagonism, or why it’s an indirect way of advocating for perpetual class warfare.

    “In other words he does not believe in creating “class antagonism” because it already exists as an inherent feature of colonial capitalism. He believes that the church should “take sides” with the oppressed classes in their desire for liberation from a system that itself creates class antagonism.”

    I think this is an attempt to project a vision of reality onto the world, rather than an attempt to know the world as it is. I also think that the attempt to project a vision of reality onto the world is what constitutes ideology. Why? Because I think it is factually untrue, strictly speaking. It is reductionistic and absolutist in its claims to understanding the myriad causes of human wealth and human poverty. It’s not simply that there is a system in place which oppresses people in South America. That’s an easy way out of understanding an extremely complicated problem.

    Then again, I agree that the Church should take sides with the poor. I agree wholeheartedly that as a society we should have a preferential option for the poor, and think and talk about how the poor are treated and served in a public way. But I do not believe its necessary to posit that the poor are an oppressed class of people. This also ignores the fact that poverty itself has myriad causes, some of which are not social, as unwilling as we are to admit that. Some poor may be oppressed, but not all poor.

    I also think this binary distinction that is made between the oppressed and the oppressors detracts from the complicated ways in which the poor are actually rich and the rich are actually poor. I think this philosophy implicitly assumes that material reality is all that matters, and I do not think this is true.

    Further, if you begin from the premise of “oppressed” and “oppressors”, you begin by dividing people. I do not think people are or need to be divided like this. I do not like the language.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Zach,

    I agree with your criticism. Good points.

    And I reject the notion that the Church should “take sides” in a political struggle. The strength of Catholic social teaching is that it outlines the rights duties of all members of society. Unlike some schools of social thought it does not deny the existence or importance of class, and unlike still others, it does not claim that existence of classes is inherently evil.

    The Church does not need to “take sides.” The Popes have been Distributists, calling for the spread of property ownership among more workers, and for it to be used by communities. Private property is an inviolable right, and its social/communal use is also a strong moral obligation.

    If Catholic social teaching, as it has been written and not as it has been reworked by quasi-Marxists, were followed, and Distributism more widely impelmented, classes would exist the scene not with a bang, but with a whimper.

  • It’s clearly not worth discussing with you jonathan.

    Zach – I think the idea that the poor are not oppressed is puzzling. As for your critique of the “binary” language, this is in fact a critique that liberation theologians have come to see for themselves. They still used “oppressed/oppressor” language, but they admit that it’s much more complicated. Oppressors are often also oppressed and vice versa. Some people and groups suffer from multiple and complex oppressions. I will say that despite your discomfort with the language, people are in fact divided along these lines. It is difficult for people with various degrees of privilege to see it. This is why we need to make an epistemological option for the poor and oppressed too: they help us to see things we couldn’t see before.

  • Zach says:

    Joe – Thanks, and I see your point as well. But I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of stratification of material wealth. Not sayin’ we shouldn’t try. Distributism is an interesting idea, but I wish I knew more about its practical implementation. Perhaps you can suggest some books that speak to this? I’m familiar with it theoretically but in theory it is not persuasive to me.

  • Zach says:

    Unless… you can say that the Church should “take sides” against injustice…. and the struggle for justice is a political struggle…but the Church is not a political force really… so perhaps it can stand against injustice? I’m not sure.

  • Kyle R. Cupp says:

    I see Darwin’s point, but being as I am part of some all too often misunderstood and misrepresented communities – Catholicism, postmodernism, deconstruction – I am very sympathetic to Michael’s defense to liberation theology and his insistence that its critics deal explicitly with its flesh and blood arguments, and I furthermore find it not unlikely that many of its critics, even among authorities in theology, criticize what they mistakenly believe it to be.

    Danger is my middle name…

  • Zach says:

    Kyle – then liberation theologians ought to be more precise in what they say. why shroud the discipline in gnostic language that is accessible only to specialists. It’s not very catholic.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Zach,

    Distributism doesn’t promise to get rid of stratification of wealth. It might result in less stratification, which is good, but nothing could abolish it totally.

    Moreover, Distributism can encompass a wide, wide range of things. It does not just exist ‘in theory’ – there are more workers in Employee Stock Ownership Programs than there are in labor unions.

    As for more information on practical stuff, start here:

    http://www.nceo.org/

  • Unless… you can say that the Church should “take sides” against injustice…. and the struggle for justice is a political struggle…but the Church is not a political force really… so perhaps it can stand against injustice? I’m not sure.

    Yes, that the Church should take sides against injustice is simply another way of saying it. But “injustice” is abstract. What many sectors of the Church in Latin America came to realize is that taking sides against injustice needs to be made concrete. And in an extreme class based society like Latin American ones opting for justice and opting for the poor means opting for concrete classes of people and against systems that create classes of oppressed people.

    And yes, the Church IS a political force! How anyone could claim otherwise is beyond me. Of course the Church is more than that, but it is indeed a political force.

    Kyle – then liberation theologians ought to be more precise in what they say. why shroud the discipline in gnostic language that is accessible only to specialists. It’s not very catholic.

    But the point, Zach, is that with the exception of yourself, no one here is even reading liberation theology and yet they make claims about what “it” says.

    Your concern about “gnostic language” for “specialists” is off the mark as well — liberation theologians have always been criticized by the theological mainstream for being too simplistic, not academic enough, etc.

    A great introductory text is Gustavo Gutierrez’s We Drink From Our Own Wells. Its language is not “gnostic.” It is less academic than Theology of Liberation. It is a beautiful book. A new 20th anniversary edition is out now from Orbis, with an introduction by Henri Nouwen. Will not take you long to read it.

  • Zach – Let me say again that I think it’s really commendable that you took the time to read (some of?) A Theology of Liberation. If I neglected your posts, it was because of my school work (I think I was in the middle of a comp). Happy to discuss it with you via email if you like.

  • I think the idea that the poor are not oppressed is puzzling.

    Well, obviously it’s invariably oppressive to be poor, if that’s what you mean. But it is not necessarily the case that people who are poor are poor because someone actively made them poor — because someone oppressed them. They might just be… poor.

    For instance, many of the poorest people in sub-Saharan Africa are those who are still living semi-nomadic hunter/gatherer lives in exactly the way that people have done in the same region for centuries. When their ancestors lived under pretty much the same physical conditions 1000 years ago (except for the occasional UN, NGO or missionary representative driving in to dispense immunizations, anti-biotics, and other modern help) there was clearly no one oppressing them and keeping them poor. They simply lived the way they did. That they still live in similar conditions now does not necessarily mean that someone is keeping them from changing to a more affluent way of life (though certainly, that is sometimes the case) it could just be that they haven’t changed.

  • Todd says:

    “I’m sorry if it frustrates you that many of us have little interest in studying liberation theology. Everyone ends up making decisions about what to spend time studying in depth, and not everyone makes the same decisions.”

    Fair enough. It’s virtually a concession that the bloggers on this site barely know what they’re talking about when they post or comment on liberation theology.

    And that’s fine. You don’t want to visit my blog to get info on auto repair, economics, or any number of other subjects.

  • Fair enough. It’s virtually a concession that the bloggers on this site barely know what they’re talking about when they post or comment on liberation theology.

    Exactly. For people who have “little interest” in liberation theology, they sure do post on it a lot.

  • Being statistically minded, I did a search on the number of posts containing the worlds “liberation theology” which has been written on this site and found a whopping 14 out of 1677. Of these, the only one I wrote was this one.

    Clearly, I need to write less about topics I don’t focus on. (Though as I pointed out several times, this post was written to deal with Jansenism and with how people deal with correction from the Church — it’s not about liberation theology.)

  • Phillip says:

    “And yes the Church is a political force.”

    How is this so, particularly in light of this:

    “The Church has no models to present; models that are real and truly effective can only arise within the framework of different historical situations, through the efforts of all those who responsibly confront concrete problems in all their social, economic, political and cultural aspects, as these interact with one another.84 For such a task the Church offers her social teaching as an indispensable and ideal orientation, a teaching which, as already mentioned, recognizes the positive value of the market and of enterprise, but which at the same time points out that these need to be oriented towards the common good. This teaching also recognizes the legitimacy of workers’ efforts to obtain full respect for their dignity and to gain broader areas of participation in the life of industrial enterprises so that, while cooperating with others and under the direction of others, they can in a certain sense “work for themselves”85 through the exercise of their intelligence and freedom.”

  • Ah the same stupid discussions, circling around perpetually.

    Phillip – Just because the church does not offer particular political programs (so it says, but it clearly does sometimes) does not mean the church is not a political force.

  • Todd says:

    14 out of 1677: not a lot, but the last two sure seem to be very popular with us in the commentariat.

    It’s a false logic to cite similar behavior in heretics and LT advocates/sympathizers. We’re dealing with a good theologian (Cardinal Ratzinger) who seemed to have a very selective reading in LT. The advocates/sympathizers protested. No problem there; the protest dealt simply with the facts of mischaracterizing LT. Lots of human beings protest. Terrorists are protesters of sorts. So are political parties when they are out of power.

    To equate Jansenism with LT isn’t a stretch unless you bring Republicans, terrorists, and my ex-neighbor in Chicago who thought my Memorial Day flag was out too long and stuffed it in my mailbox the last Tuesday of one May.

    That Cardinal Ratzinger might get LT wrong doesn’t merit some whitewash. In a healthy Church, theologians would have the opportunity to present their accurate position and discuss accordingly. Sort of like a blog like this, only with more Latin.

    Phillip, you have a long quote there. Citation?

  • c matt says:

    I would think by “political force”, MI means the Church can influence government policy through moral suasion. That seems to be the case to a greater or lesser degree depending on the time and place. If that’s what he means, or close to it, then I would wholeheartedly agree and endorse such political forcefulness.

  • c matt says:

    To be more precise, that influence can be direct (eg, getting legislators to pass the Stupak amendment) or more indirect, such as addressing moral issues with the voting public that then act on particular representatives/legislation (eg, the ssm referenda). It’s pretty hard to deny the Church is a political force in that sense.

  • Phillip says:

    That would be fine when the moral choices are clear (for example when Pius XII instructed Italian Catholics not to vote for Communists in the 50′s.) Where prudential judgment is in play, I think the Church herself would be shy to promote specific programs. Though as pointed out, promoting Stupak would probably be reasonable though I think a Catholic could licitly disagree with such a choice by the Church as a prudential judgment. Especially as such would not be a judgment of the “Church” but rather of a regional conference or even a specific bishop.

    That is in distinction to moral principles themselves which the Church presents to society for the laity to enact through the political process. Though with such political processes Catholics of good will will frequently come to different conclusions on how to enact the principles.

  • Where do you come up with this idea that people think of The Church or their parishes as a white, middle class, American, conservative social club? First off, not all of us here are “white” (and frankly, my Hispanic half is getting very tired of being lectured on being white-focused by Mr. West Virginia), and further I have yet to belong to a parish which isn’t at least half Hispanic, with significant groups of Vietnamese, Filipino, Lebanese and Nigerian parishioners. There’s nothing white about American parish life.

  • Gabriel Austin says:

    I believe the discussion could go on indefinitely for a fairly simple reason: the lack of a definition of “liberation theology”.

    Such as has been written by its promoters make it sound like sociology.

    Certainly there is much to be done in the impoverished countries of the world. The Church has been among the leaders in attempting to alleviate the poverty [the chief problem]. this is called a corporal work of mercy.

  • In the context of the whole “Church in politics” discussion, I think people often use “Church” when they mean “Magisterium”… the *Church* *should* be involved in politics, although her bishops may — out of prudence — speak publicly only on occasion. Although the phrase is employed by unorthodox groups, it bears remembering that “we are [the] Church”. In fact, the *role* of the laity *as members of Christ’s body* is to bring Him and His Gospel into the world.

  • Zach says:

    Michael, thanks. I did end up reading the whole book. I have written something on it but its nothing polished or scholarly. I will try to pick up the conversation sometime in the near future. I understand about the busyness and school… I’m surprised half of us find the time to do anything on the internet. And I may check out “We Drink from these Wells” in the near future. When I do I will try to write about it in the hopes of having a fruitful conversation.

    And Chris, great point! That is a very helpful distinction.

  • Zach says:

    Darwin – Apologies if I contributed to the derailing of this thread. I totally agree with your logic as expressed above, and I have a hard time staying focused especially when the conversation can get so damn interesting around here.

  • American Knight says:

    Joe,

    What exactly is half Lebanese? ANd why is it making you sick? I was born in Lebanon, but that doesn’t make me Lebanese (well at least not anymore). I’m not sure Lebanese is a race, heck, its barely a country.

    I still get the question, “where are you from?” and when I answer, “Northern Virgina” the response is, “I meant your nationality” and I tell them to just drop the Northern part.

    I thought Catholic meant universal. What would make anyone think a Catholic parish would be homogeneous? If it wasn’t for praying in Latin, I probably wouldn’t be able to communicate with half the people in my parish. My Latin is improving but my Tagalog, Mexican, Honduran, Bolivian, Korean and Liberal ain’t so good. :)

  • Darwin:

    1) I didn’t say people think of the church in those terms. But that’s very much what many u.s. parishes are like, whether or not the congregation thinks so. It’s for good reason that someone (I forget who) said that Sunday churchgoing is the most segregated hour in america.

    2) I didn’t lecture you. The comment was not directed to you.

    3) Of course there are many people who are not white in u.s. parishes. It is worthwhile to ask whether or not the style of worship is white, the theology is white, and to what degree non-whites are expected to act white.

    Phillip: No. Try again.

    Gabriel: The point of liberation theology is not the insistence that “there is much to be done in the impoverished countries of the world,” but that there is much to be done in the so-called First World, i.e. conversion that is both individual and communal, and that is both spiritual and socio-political.

    Joe: Have the churches been Asian and Hispanic, or have a lot of the people in those churches been Asian and Hispanic? These are important distinctions.

    Chris Burgwald: When I say the Church is political or a political force I mean the whole Church – laity, clergy, and religious.

    American Knight:

    I thought Catholic meant universal. What would make anyone think a Catholic parish would be homogeneous?

    Your first point is true. Part of the problem is that in the united states parishes might look awfully diverse sometimes but all are expected to be americans first. Oppose a u.s.-led war? Then shut up. Live in the u.s. but disagree with its foreign policy? Shut the hell up. Live in the u.s. and have deep deep suspicions about its relationship with your home country or race? Get the hell out. Etc. Etc.

  • Michael,

    1) I didn’t say people think of the church in those terms. But that’s very much what many u.s. parishes are like, whether or not the congregation thinks so. It’s for good reason that someone (I forget who) said that Sunday churchgoing is the most segregated hour in america.

    3) Of course there are many people who are not white in u.s. parishes. It is worthwhile to ask whether or not the style of worship is white, the theology is white, and to what degree non-whites are expected to act white.

    You know, I’m sorry, but that it total BS. Try telling that to any of my last three pastors that churchgoing in the most segregated in America — two were from Mexico and the third was from Lebanon. Try telling our previous associate pastor, who was ordained in Nigeria. (And let me assure you, our Nigerian community has by far the most traditional liturgical taste in the parish, you wouldn’t like them a bit.) Try telling it to our parish lay leadership, which put together an Our Lady of Guadalupe mass in nine languages (and sung in Spanish, English, Latin and Igbo) — which you would have hated because the Mexican immigrant community want the US and Mexican flags hung together behind their massive reconstruction of the Hill of Tepeyac.

    This “I the mighty white man who has studied radical theology must hector all of you about how undiverse you are” routine is not only tiresome and inaccurate, it’s a bit ridiculous as well.

    This is the beauty of our Catholic faith: It is not made up of white liturgy, Hispanic liturgy and African liturgy — we have one liturgy which is universal and celebrated by all, in unity. We do not have “white theology” and “black theology” and “brown theology” — we have Catholic theology.

    Part of the problem is that in the united states parishes might look awfully diverse sometimes but all are expected to be americans first. Oppose a u.s.-led war? Then shut up. Live in the u.s. but disagree with its foreign policy? Shut the hell up. Live in the u.s. and have deep deep suspicions about its relationship with your home country or race? Get the hell out. Etc. Etc.

    Actually, I think here we get to your real gripe. I’ve never been in a parish where the pastor or the lay leadership tells people they need to shut up or get our because the have opinions which are not within the American political mainstream. However, every pastor I’ve known seeks to avoid division and acrimony within the parish, so they tend to keep any loudly political groups (conservative or progressive or “radical”) from using parish resources or imposing themselves on parish activities. In a parish which is seriously diverse, it’s going to cause problems when you allow one group to make a lot of noise about topics which offend other groups. (After all, it’s not just what people think about the US — often you’ll have groups within the parish whose countries of origin are actively hostile to one another.)

    As such, the sort of race baiting and “radical” advocacy which you would probably like to see imposed on everyone is generally not going to be encouraged by any sane pastor of a highly diverse parish. It’s not, however, because he’s trying to tell people to shut up or get out — it’s because he doesn’t want people like you telling lots of other members of the parish to shut up or get out.

    If you don’t like that — well, I’m sorry. As you observe, Catholic parish life should not involve telling people you don’t like to shut up or get out.

  • Phillip says:

    “But more than that it (the Church) influences persons, societies, alternative communities” Michael

    “So that which is political is that which influences others.” Phillip

    “No, try again.” Michael

    Actually Michael, given that’s what you said you need to try again.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Darwin,

    I have to say that my experiences have been quite similar. I don’t know what world MI lives in, but it isn’t the one I live in.

    And what the hell does it mean to “act white” anyway? At the TLM I attend, everyone acts the same way – reverent. They dress the same way – respectfully. They all give off the same vibe – civilized, whether they are Asian, Hispanic, mutts like me, or white.

    Race doesn’t come up. And that’s a good thing. I’m sick of race pimps trying to create problems where they don’t exist so they can see a world view to which they are psychologically attached come to life before their eyes, and give their post-graduate thesis on racial oppression in America a valid reason for existence.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    AK,

    LOL, I didn’t mean I was sick of being half Lebanese!

    I meant sick of MI and other’s constant invocation of race when no one else is thinking about it or letting it ruin their lives. Oh yes, I know – next we’ll hear, “that’s just the problem – you don’t think about it!” Right! We were all just existing together, praying together, treating one another like Christians and human beings, without realizing how we were oppressing and dominating!

    Please! Accept this reality that doesn’t correspond with anything you experience in your life!

  • And what the hell does it mean to “act white” anyway? At the TLM I attend, everyone acts the same way – reverent. They dress the same way – respectfully. They all give off the same vibe – civilized, whether they are Asian, Hispanic, mutts like me, or white.

    Yeah, I’m not sure what what that’s supposed to mean. Certainly, I see different dress from different communities, though everyone is wearing their best. You’ll hear a couple different languages in the breezeway after mass, and goodness knows there’s a variety of food at parish events.

    Is the expectation that there should be a bunch of people jumping around like “happy natives” for National Geographic?

  • Rick Lugari says:

    Aside from some fairly substantial issues in worldview between Michael and myself (and presumably others in this forum), I think one problem here might just be a matter of ignorance.

    West Virginia is a state where the white population is 96% (and less than 1% Hispanic) and a Catholic population of only 8%. I have no doubt that there is very little diversity in the parishes he is accustomed to in WV (contrast with Toronto where he probably experienced a great deal more diversity). However, it should go without saying that WV is not a very good sample demograhpic for the country as a whole and projecting observations from there on the rest of the country would be innacurate and perhaps even unjust.

  • M.Z. says:

    Darwin,

    Considering your experiences are CA and TX, I’m not surprised. CA isn’t considered America for most discussions of the American experience. TX is much like the rest of the South in that there simply isn’t much Catholic tradition except in a few enclaves. TX is a little more unique in that whatever Catholic tradition is like CA and tracing itself to Mexico and ultimately Spain.

    Although somewhat an accident of history, the catholicism of the Upper Midwest to the East is pretty much separated by race and class. This is somewhat an artifact of their being separate parishes for the different ethnic groups such as the Irish and Germans.

    I can’t speak to the TLMs as much, but they are mostly ghettos anyway and not normative. No offense against the TLM. I don’t think our diocesan TLM has more than 300 families in a diocese with about 400,000 catholics.

  • jonathanjones02 says:

    TX is much like the rest of the South in that there simply isn’t much Catholic tradition except in a few enclaves.

    Although your next sentence is a bit of a qualifier, this one isn’t accurate. There is a strong and deeply rooted Catholic tradition in Texas. This is true among the Mexican, Anglo, and Asian populations, although not the African one. And the state is more “Southwest” than “Southern,” but that’s not really accurate either. I’d say that Texas is unique in that its history and geography shape a geographic mindset of isolation and uniqueness, and one that exists not just in the minds of its citizens but also exerts itself in policy. Demographics might well change this, however, as libertarian and independent-flavored policies have facilitated more statist voters.

  • M.Z. says:

    I’m not a TX historian but any means, but I thought even in Texas the wealthy whites were more likely to be Anglican or Methodist and the poor whites were more likely to be Southern Baptist. That has probably changed some. I seem to recall that prior to the Texas Revolution, the wealthy families converted to Catholicism and then became Protestants once they joined the States.

  • S.B. says:

    It’s obvious, isn’t it? Michael has lived a segregated life in an all-white state, and he has an unfortunate but common cognitive bias of assuming (wrongly) that everyone else’s experience is like his own.

    He needs to grow up and experience the world before pontificating — maybe get to know a few of the black and brown people whom he has never met but for whom he dares to pretend to speak.

  • Phillip says:

    MZ,

    I think even that perspective is somewhat dated. Here in “white” Idaho my parish has two priests, one from Kenya and one from Mexico. The last two seminarians ordained for the transitional diaconate were from Latin America originally. The next parish over has a pastor from Colombia. They do have a token “white” Polish priest there. The celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe was well attended even by “whites.” Major feasts at the Cathedral are bilingual services (at times trilingual with Basque or Polish depending.)

    Having lived in the East, there was not much of the separation that you refer to. Historically that was the case but many parishes have so changed demographically (at least in the major cities) that if they are ethnic, it is a mix of varied latin cultures/Asian and even African. Go to the Arch Street Shrine in Boston and you will see a mix of races and socioeconomic groups that range from major financial dealers to the recent immigrant.

    Actually the most uniform parishes I have been to have been in Mexico and Europe.

  • jonathanjones02 says:

    I thought even in Texas the wealthy whites were more likely to be Anglican or Methodist and the poor whites were more likely to be Southern Baptist.

    That’s not wholly inaccurate (and it would be nice if this were an easily empirical question), but it hasn’t been accurate in the main for some time, probably since the influx of farmers 150 years ago. In Central Texas, for example, the presence of Catholic whites (from Germany, mostly), is very strong.

    That has probably changed some. I seem to recall that prior to the Texas Revolution, the wealthy families converted to Catholicism and then became Protestants once they joined the States.

    I think there were some “high profile” cases, but not much in the way of statistical significance.

  • Well this thread became kind of amusing, simply because of a fairly peripheral comment.

    I lived in Toronto for over 3 years. It’s one of the most diverse cities in north america. The parish we belonged to (and other parishes I visited) were demographically diverse. But they were still by and large white parishes. I’m not sure why you can’t catch the distinction, other than the fact that something rages inside of you when I say such things, clouding any thought processes you might normally go through.

    Darwin – When you say This is the beauty of our Catholic faith: It is not made up of white liturgy, Hispanic liturgy and African liturgy — we have one liturgy which is universal and celebrated by all, in unity. We do not have “white theology” and “black theology” and “brown theology” — we have Catholic theology.

    This is about the most liberal thing I’ve heard you say. It’s “catholicity” filtered through north american liberalism. The beauty of the C/catholic faith is unity in diversity. Forget the second half and the first half is meaningless and impossible. Catholic theology is a multitude, symphony, and even tension of theologies, not a single thing. If it were a single thing, then unity would simply be uniformity. And that ain’t catholicity.

  • S.B. says:

    43% of Toronto’s population is part of a minority group, and more than half of those are Asians. The black population is 8.4%, and the Hispanic population is 2.6%. There are easily thousands of towns in America where you’ll meet more black and Hispanic people than in Toronto.

  • jonathanjones02 says:

    Uh-oh. Is jonathan going to start talking about the need to keep communities homogeneous again?

    The hostility, status posturing, and preening remains pathetic, and now is ironic given your calls the past few days for others to engage arguments and texts at the expense of such frivolity. Feel free at any point to actually do that with me or anyone else on such issues, although given your history one can’t help but remain quite pessimistic you will actually do so. As a pacifist that we all respect wrote in a private forum, you write and respond in a bitter spirit of contention, and you will be responsible for the hearts you harden. It has been evident here as well. Follow his charge to you to drop that spirit and I will be happy to discuss cultural issues with you.

  • It’s true that having primarily lived in CA and TX, I may have a somewhat biased view on this. (Though the inner city parish I know in Cincinatti is now majority Hispanic.) In both Southern California and Central Texas we have very large Hispanic communities, dwarfing anything Toronto would have. We also have a large population of African Americans who are Catholic (mostly via Louisiana) and given that this is such a tech hub we have a lot of African immigrants, Indian immigrants, and Vietnamese immigrants.

    I think what we have here may just be a case of Michael having a particularly parochial set of personal experiences, filtered through a very strong ideology which tends to make him see what’s in his head rather than actually paying attention to the real human stories of people.

    And yes, I’ll admit that hearing Michael do his “I [the white man] understand how minorities want to be be and you [the mutt] don’t” makes me angry– not only because I think it’s very culturally imperialistic (in the worst way) but also because it is something he rolls down via ideology with little to no interest in what real people are like.

    This is about the most liberal thing I’ve heard you say. It’s “catholicity” filtered through north american liberalism. The beauty of the C/catholic faith is unity in diversity. Forget the second half and the first half is meaningless and impossible. Catholic theology is a multitude, symphony, and even tension of theologies, not a single thing. If it were a single thing, then unity would simply be uniformity. And that ain’t catholicity.

    Unity in diversity, of course. But that unity is in Truth, the one truth that is the one God. As such, it makes no sense to talk about ethnic theologies. Aquinas was Spanish, Augustine was North African, von Balthasar was Swiss: so what. They all studied the one true God in different ways, but not because God is different things to different races or nationalities, and not because different races and nationalities have different abilities to address God. They are shaped by their times and places, but the Truth remains the same. This is because God is real, there is a real object to theology. Having a theologies for different ethnic groups would be as nonsensical as having different mathematics for different ethnic groups.

    Similarly, while there is a certain diversity even in liturgy (between the different rites) the liturgy itself is the same, and the “style” we bring to it is (or should be) minimal. A Nigerian choir and a Vietnamese choir will sing the Kyrie very differently, because of the different rhythms and speach patterns to which they are accustomed, but the Kyrie itself is the same, and the mixing of those differences is one of unity, not divergence.

    If my blood boils when I hear your race-baiting approach to Catholicism and to life in general, it’s for two reasons:

    First, it’s because I see this approach as trying to emphasize what divides us rather than what unites us. As Catholics, this is fundamentally contrary our faith and culture.

    Second, this kind of identity politics fundamentally clashes with what I am as someone who is mixed race. I’m not Hispanic and I’m not Anglo, I’m both and neither. I see people who are primarily interested in stirring up conflict between races and ethnicities as doing something fundamentally anti-human and anti-life. (Indeed, I generally refuse to select a single race on principle when filling out forms, I think the idea of pinning everyone down to a specific race is corrosive.) And so I see your insistance that people go fit into pre-determined ethnic advocacy boxes which you’ve come up with through your reading as fundamentally wrong.

  • And yes, I’ll admit that hearing Michael do his “I [the white man] understand how minorities want to be be and you [the mutt] don’t” — not only because I think it’s very culturally imperialistic (in the worst way) but also because it is something he rolls down via ideology with little to no interest in what reall people are like.

    This is the most disgusting attempt at twisting my words that I have ever seen on this blog. You should be ashamed of yourself.

  • Really? You don’t think that when you go around insisting that Catholic liturgy and parish life consists of forcing minorities to “act white”, you might perhaps be imposing on minorities your own ideological pre-conceptions of what minorities should act like, and doing so in a way that they would themselves disagree with?

    Nor do I see why you are surprised to recieve spirited responses when you accuse the Catholic Church (at least in this country) of essentially being oppressive and racist. Seeing as most of us here love the Catholic Church deeply, people are not going to appreciate the accusation.

    Still, perhaps I’m being deeply unfair to you. Your approach to race does, as I admitted, make me very angry. I’ll put it before anyone else who’s reading at this point, and if people whom I respect tell me that I’m being unfair to you, I’ll certainly apologize.

  • Phillip says:

    Think you’ve been fair Darwin. Suspect that Michael doesn’t get out of his academia sphere much and can’t understand when people disagree with him. Can only be the result of stupidity, racism or class suppression.

  • jonathanjones02 says:

    Darwin, you are not out of line at all. There’s a fairly long history of michael’s e-persona being called to task for the inability, or unwillingness, to engage charitably, and with the benefit of “doubt” granted to “opponents.” The hostility, derision, and name calling get old fast, as not just the “oppressors” or whomever have told him more than once. This has been expressed by a variety of people with a variety of opinions, and maybe one day he’ll actually take some of the feedback to heart.

  • [While everyone loves affirmation -- even cold-hearted SOBs like me -- let me just say that there's no need for everyone who doesn't think I stepped out of line to pile on, unless you particularly want to. I wasn't trying to beg for backup -- just provide an opportunity for correction if I really had allowed rage to get the better of me. Also, I have a feeling the topic of this thread has become "things Darwin and Michael disagree on" which is obviously something which extends rather widely, so short of being called on to apologize, I'll just leave things rest at this point.]

  • S.B. says:

    You didn’t twist his words at all . . . you just revealed the ugliness and cultural imperialism that lies behind his thoughts. I’m impressed that you have as much patience as you do in dealing with the likes of him.

  • Dale Price says:

    I guess my only constructive advice is to step away from the exchange in question for a while, let the adrenalin levels drop and re-read it from a fresher, calmer perspective. That’s what I did with the two times on the web that I realized I’d done someone a major injustice.

    Of course, it helped that the two persons in question weren’t reflexive, snarky, manichean a-holes unable to put their assumed personas aside.

  • American Knight says:

    “LOL, I didn’t mean I was sick of being half Lebanese!”

    I know, but you left an opening and I couldn’t resist. Anyway, I’m pretty sure the Church is against us being Lebanese, or is that lesbians. :)

    Most people don’t even know where Lebanon is. Here’s a clue, it isn’t in western Virginia (and, no I don’t recognize West Virginia, that land is ours and we are going to get it back!)

    Iarfate, I have become confused by the direction of these posts. Are we being anti-white or anti-American or making the false assumption that those are the same thing? What happended to justice and Charity?

    I’ve tried acting white, it helps that I am a Caucasoid, but I tend more to the olive end of the white spectrum. It hasn’t worked out to well, I end up doing a bad Eddie Murphy impression. That is one of the most ridiculous things I have seen. How do you act white? Either you are white or you are not, either way, there is no white behavior, it is a physical characteristic.

    We’ve established that I am Semitic (which means I descend from Noah’s sons, which we all do, it is not exclusive to Jews anymore). Yet, I fly the stars and stripes and the stars and bars on national holidays. Most ignorant people (especially Yankees and liberals) would think that makes me a member of the KKK or a neo-Nazi. Of course we know how they feel about Catholics of any color so that is ridiculous. Does flying the flags of my chosen national heritage mean I am acting white? Or, does it mean that I am acting american (I did notice the use of the small a, please tell us how you really feel?)

    I see nothing wrong with acting American. It is our responsibility to embrace our chosen culture and national identity; rather, than expecting our new home to conform our old culture. Somehow anti-Americanism has been established to hint that white parishes are requiring people to be American first. That’s not true, we are required to be Catholic first. Of course it is reasonable to expect someone who makes permanent residence in our parish to accept our culture. What’s wrong with that? My experience is that there are more intolerant people outside of the uSA – most of them feel the way Iarfate feels about the uSA.

    Since when does being American force you to support ideas you disagree with? Our national standard is to allow the murder of the unborn, none of us on here accept or support that (at least not those with eyes on Heaven).

    The proper order should be Catholic-family-community/parish-state/commonwealth-Confederation.

    It seems some on here choose to be Left wing/heterodox catholic/anti-American. Someone needs to get their head screwed on right. I am not condemning; this is a charitable correction, for your own good and the peace of the discourse on this site.

    American Knight, former middle-Easterner, Proud Virginian-American and Catholic too!

  • American Knight says:

    Darwin: “I’m not Hispanic and I’m not Anglo, I’m both and neither. I see people who are primarily interested in stirring up conflict between races and ethnicities as doing something fundamentally anti-human and anti-life. (Indeed, I generally refuse to select a single race on principle when filling out forms, I think the idea of pinning everyone down to a specific race is corrosive.) And so I see your insistance that people go fit into pre-determined ethnic advocacy boxes which you’ve come up with through your reading as fundamentally wrong.”

    Bravo! Bravo! Thank you for that.

    Technically we are one race. We were one race in the Garden. Sons of Adam and then sin brought about genetic corruption, migration (because we were expelled) and division followed by Babelization. So one could argue that we are different races. Of course that misses the most important fact, we are all made new creatures in Christ Jesus. So we are actually a new race, sons of God in Christ through Mary. It seems we are one shiny, new race. We need to act like it.

    In any event, our divisions are usually cultural and/or ideological, they are seldom actually racial. That is a tool of the Devil to divide the soldiers of Christ. We needn’t help him in that effort.

  • Tom K. says:

    “I [the white man] understand how minorities want to be and you [the mutt] don’t”

    My guess is Michael read this as, “I, the white man, understand how minorities want to be and you, the mutt, don’t,” making it an imputation of more or less explicit racism.

    I took the meaning to be “I* understand how minorities want to be and you** don’t.”
    *The white man in this exchange
    *The mutt in this exchange
    Making it an imputation of ironic tone-deafness.

  • Tito Edwards says:

    Michael I.,

    It seems you are the only one obsessed with color. Why is it always the liberal that starts a race war? We’re all Catholic (I’ll give you that), so why is it important?

    Especially if in the same Latin Rite!

    Now to other nonsensical items…

    To be more accurate, I’m actually a Japhethite with a little Shemite, but does it really matter?

    I’m Catholic first, everything else second.

  • Gabriel Austin says:

    Michael Iafrate writes:
    “Gabriel: The point of liberation theology is not the insistence that “there is much to be done in the impoverished countries of the world,” but that there is much to be done in the so-called First World, i.e. conversion that is both individual and communal, and that is both spiritual and socio-political”.

    I did not ask what is its point [or purpose]; I asked what is it?

    What you describe seems to be the ordinary [difficult] work of the Church.

    The Holy Office does not condemn persons; it examines and question books and writings. When Fr. Curran asked who had referred him to the Holy Office, Cardinal Ratzinger replied: “Your books”.

  • Gabriel Austin says:

    Aquinas was Spanish? tell it not in Gath nor in Naples.

    As I am of half-Irish back ground, I can calmly look at all these discussions about ethnic background with a certain calm condescension. Hard as the wild geese tried, not everyone can be Irish. But it’s no one’s fault.

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