Updated 3/14: Don Kennedy provided notes on Dr. Goizueta's lively presentation:
At Grace Discussion Group on March 11, Roberto Goizueta, the O'Brien-Flatley distinguished Professor of Catholic Theology at Boston College, led a lively and thoughtful discussion of "Liberation Theology: What does it say about the Poor?" Liberation Theology, now an international and interdenominational movement, originated within the Roman Catholic Church in Latin American in the 1950's and 60's. It interprets the teachings of Jesus in terms of liberation from unjust economic, political or social conditions. Professor Goizueta described the example of Bartolome de las Casas, a slaveholder at the time of Christopher Columbus, who had a conversion experience, then studied for the priesthood, becoming a Dominican friar. When Las Casas came to realize that the bread and wine of the Eucharist he was celebrating were produced by the efforts of slaves who were denied just wages, he viewed the elements as the body and blood of idolatrous human beings (not Jesus' body and blood), thus he freed his slaves and spent the remainder of his life working among the poor. Thus, from the perspective of Liberation Theology, one asks "Who is Jesus Christ, if I were a poor person?"
Dr. Goizueta described two premises: "God loves everyone freely and equally. And God loves the poor preferentially." To illustrate the resolution of the apparent contradiction inherent in these two statements, he described a kerfuffle between his two children: His 18-year old son was a heavyweight wrestler, who after excessive teasing from his small, slim 14-year old sister, was provoked to pounce upon her. Roberto asked "Because I love them both equally, should I do nothing, refusing to intervene in the situation?" His answer was "No! I also love the poor preferentially, thus I must work to correct the social division to restore wholeness" (of the poor, of the marginalized, of the oppressed, etc.). "Jesus was crucified for hanging out with 'the wrong crowd of people'" he asserted. God demands that we liberate God. "I come for sinners, not for the righteous". Professor Goizueta concluded by noting that "The end of working for justice, is worship or praise!" We thank Harry Rosser for inviting his colleague to speak to us.
We may be hearing more about Liberation Theology in the coming months, as the Massachusetts Board of Education last week approved a new "Paulo Freire Charter High School" for Holyoke centered upon service learning; Freire was a Latin American educator whose 1971 book Pedagogy of the Oppressed embraced Liberation Theology.