From Alms to Liberation: The Catholic Church, the Theologians, Poverty, and Politics

From Alms to Liberation: The Catholic Church, the Theologians, Poverty, and Politics

From Alms to Liberation: The Catholic Church, the Theologians, Poverty, and Politics

From Alms to Liberation: The Catholic Church, the Theologians, Poverty, and Politics

Synopsis

By comparing broadly similar situations of poverty in 19th-century Europe and 20th-century Latin America, Levi reaches the conclusion that, in its reluctance to go beyond rhetoric in dealing with poverty, the church may lose the loyalty of its Third World constituency in much the same way as it lost the loyalty of the labor movement in the 19th century. The book examines Pope John Paul II's progressivism in dealing with poverty and the similarities between the socialist leanings of the Pope's speeches and the Liberation Theologian's writings. Levi points out, however, that the Pope's progressivism is not shared by the Vatican officialdom.

Excerpt

Almost one hundred years passed before the official church acknowledged the new character of poverty in Europe. Preoccupation of many groups inside and outside the church with the "Social Question," as the poverty problem was then called, did not affect the church's practices or its Magisterium. On the contrary, in justification of its traditional practice, popes published numerous encyclicals confirming and theologically reinforcing it. This conservatism of the church was not surprising. It is an inherent feature for many reasons and can explain much of the difficulty bedevilling relations between church and Liberation theologians.

The church is a continuing institution. It is the trustee of a doctrine of divine origin, not static but also not easily accommodated to changing historical conditions beyond nebulously defined limits. For, the church teaches, no part of doctrine is ever discarded or nullified. Such a drastic measure cannot happen since word and tradition are of holy origin. the inviolability of doctrine extends to the Magisterium because the authentic interpretation of God's word is undertaken in the name of Christ. Changes or even reversals in fact taking place are explained not as substitutive but cumulative. They are not even presented as changes but as an accommodation, interpretation, or further development of doctrine, enhancing the understanding of God's word, acknowledging what had always been there but was unrecognized.

A more mundane reason for the church's conservatism was its guardianship, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, of an historic legacy making it and the papacy into a worldly power as much as an evangelizing . . .

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