Pope Francis is not a Liberation Theologian: Here’s how you can tell

Since Pope Francis issued his “apostolic exhortation,” Evangelii Gaudium, he is being roundly accused, by some American conservatives, of being a “liberation theologian” and a Marxist.

Not so, as I argue in my new column at the Huffington Post.

Today, in the senior theology class I teach, I was trying to show how the Pope’s document, while it has many really excellent critiques of the idolatry of the market economy, is not a liberation method.

For readers of this blog, I’d like to expand on the difference.  The key issue in liberation method is power.  How is power currently distributed in society, what sustains that power, and how does change come about?

The Pope stays within prevailing institutions of church and society in calling for change.

Liberation method recognizes that on economic issues there is a power struggle, and unless there is systemic analysis, change will not, even cannot, occur.  The system will always replicate itself.

The same is true of theology.  Certain theologies, while they may sound radical, do not address the fundamental issue of power in church and society.

Change occurs from the bottom up, from the outside in.  In #OccupytheBible, I call this reading the bible, or doing theology, from the street.

About Susan Thistlethwaite

I am President Emerita and Professor Emerita of Chicago Theological Seminary; I write for the public here and in local papers. I am interested in what I call "public theology," or how deeper meaning is made and contested in the public square.
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