A Pilgrimage in Chiapas with Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia
In the wake of the Pope's visit to Mexico the press has been full of announcements about the death of liberation theology. Our recent experience in Chiapas indicated that such announcements are premature and marked by misinformation.
Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia
We traveled in caravan with Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia, Bishop Raul Vera Lopez and Bishop Herbert Hermes through conflictive areas of Ocosingo, Comitan and Tila. The Mexican government contributed bodyguards for the local bishops but this offered little peace of mind. The government itself has been among Bishop Ruiz's greatest adversaries. We kept thinking, "Who is going to guard the guards?" Military and paramilitary aggression continues to make life in Chiapas a nightmare for indigenous citizens.
What does this have to do with liberation theology? The phrase was developed as a response to imperial theology which has been dominant for centuries. Contrary to popular media misinformation, the theology of liberation neither promotes violence, nor Marx, nor class struggle. Class struggle is not fomented, it is simply a reality when some earn $10. per month and others do not earn but rather receive $1,000,000 per month. Such a theology does not create class struggle, it simply identifies what already exists. Such a theology does not create violence, it identifies the institutional violence of a corrupt system.
History will indicate that Pope John Paul II did not respond positively to liberation theology any more than Pope Urban VIII responded well to Galileo. Actually the current pope has been an active foe of liberation theology and liberation theologians. Members of the clergy like Father Ernesto Cardenal and Bishop Ruiz have valiantly struggled to serve the poor of the earth. Their efforts have received negative attention from the Vatican. In spite of such tensions Pope John Paul II made strong statements against unregulated capitalism (neo-liberalism) greed and multinational domination of the world economy. Our hope is that his deeds will follow his words.
Liberation theology is at once a denunciation of the horrors of imperial theology which gave us the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Conquistadores and God-is-on-our-side nationalism. Liberation theology is not a fad. It is a conviction for the believer that identification with the true God requires liberation from oppression. On the contrary, support for oppression is to worship false gods or idols. It seems to me that what has been called liberation theology in the waning days of the 20th century will simply be called theology in the 21st Century.
Liberation theology is not focused on human, civil, ecclesiastical mandates like clerical celibacy. Demanding social justice is far more important than demanding clerical celibacy.
Such theological clarity will show reverence and study of the world's many cultural and religious expressions and not waste energy on considering "the other" as adversary. Implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is far more important than meaningless efforts to "prove" doctrinal claims.
Let us identify racial, religious and ethnic separatism as what it is; ignorance. Science affirms the claim that there is only one race, the human race. Any other delineation of humanity should be categorized as superstition.
Women will not be excluded from any function in church or state. Small groups will reflect on the needs of society and project their objectives from the base to local and global coordination.
The principle of subsidiarity will be implemented. Each unit of society will have a reasonable autonomy. Starting with the autonomy of the family and continuing to the need for international law and order to deal with threats to peace, justice, environmental degradation and aggression. Distributive justice is an attainable goal.
The objective is to identify one human family attempting to live together harmoniously on a small planet. Such an objective may not be accomplished in the 21st century but with your help we can at least get started.