Thirty years ago, the world rejoiced as the crack-up of Communism’s grip on Eastern Europe, forever symbolized by the Berlin Wall, began. This, however, created enormous dilemmas for prominent representatives of a theology which had taken Marxism very seriously from the late-1960s onwards throughout Latin America.
What became known as “liberation theology” was never a monolithic movement. Nevertheless its most influential strands were influenced by Marxist thought, as many liberationists freely acknowledged. Cursory reading of Gustavo Gutiérrez’s 1971 classic A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, Salvation soon confirms this. That stimulus was even more apparent in the works of prominent liberationists like Leonardo Boff and Jon Sobrino.
Socialism’s collapse in Eastern Europe created significant challenges for those liberationists who relied on Marxist analysis. While many asserted that the Soviet Bloc was a deviation from Marxist ideals, such systems had given expression to key Marxist commitments. Examples included the minimization (if not the effective abolition) of private property, law’s formal subordination to Marxist ideology, and hostility to religion.
1989 didn’t, however, lead some liberation theologians to question substantially their fundamental assumptions. Many simply transferred their attention to the environment. Among the things we have learned from the Amazon Synod is how far such thinking has burrowed its way into Latin American Catholicism.
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