Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Intimations of the Rebirth of Liberation Theology

Stained glass, public domain image, yahoo
On a snowy January night, some fifty brave souls made it to Lourdes university to hear Fr. Jim Bacik kick off his 2014 lecture series with a talk about "Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez and Immigration." The series is sponsored by the Sylvania Franciscan Village (www. sylvaniafanciscanvillage.org).

Dominican priest Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez..
yahoo image. 

I knew nothing about Fr. Gutierrez, but I am interested in the issue of immigration, and I wondered about the connection.   Also, Fr. Bacik's lectures are always "food for thought."

Fr. Gutierrez, I learned, was born in 1928 in Peru, ordained in 1959, and became priest of  a parish of 8,000 in Lima, Peru. He was surrounded by poverty and oppression, serving the poorest of the poor, and it changed him.  He became a Dominican and is considered "a father of liberation theology," believing the church must help the poor and marginalized above all else.  He played a major role at a conference of Latin American bishops held in Medelin, Columbia in 1968 and a few years later published "A Theology of Liberation."
Tile on Franciscan Center 
at Lourdes,
"E pluribus unum."

He probably knew Pope Francis, I thought to myself.  It didn't surprise me when Fr. Bacik informed us that Fr. Gutierrez, who is mostly in retirement and teaching at Notre Dame University now, met with Pope Francis at the Papal resident in September 2013. That same week the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano published an interview with Gutierrez, along with two of his articles.

Pope Francis knew what he was doing, and he was no doubt seeking advice from a pioneer theologian who worked with the poor, Fr. Bacik noted.

The Catholic Bishops are active in the immigration issue.  They are urging the US Congress to pass strong immigration reform.  No one has been more influential in this action than Fr Gutierrez, historically and up to the present.  "We are all immigrants," Fr. Gutierrez has said.  The Bishops and the "Network," a strong lobbying arm, have argued that such legislation must ensure family unity, protect the rights of immigrant workers, acknowledge that the borders are already secure, speed up processing of already-approved immigrants, enforce the present diversity program, and provide a clear and direct path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people who are undocumented in the US. The Bill that passed in the Senate last year was a start, they believe, although they question the long path to citizenship (13 years) the bill would require.

Pressure is now on the House to do the same.  Speaker Boehner of Ohio is Catholic, and under intense scrutiny.  That man is under pressure from everyone, I thought.  Among the most fierce must be that Network of Catholic bishops and theologians.  "He's had lots of visits from the Bishops," Bacik said with a wry smile.
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For more information about Fr. Gutierretz and Liberation Theology:
 http://www. liberationtheology.org/people-organizations/gustavo-gutierrez/

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