The pope is determined to take a critical view of capitalism
Editorial Guardian/UK 24 August 2014
Pope Francis has never been a friend of North American capitalism. Now he is, or may appear to be, rehabilitating liberation theology, one of the most bitterly contested doctrines of the last century. He has praised the martyr Oscar Romero, murdered in his cathedral for opposing the junta in El Salvador, and speeded on the process of his beatification, which had been delayed in the Vatican. Francis has even lifted the suspension from priestly duties of Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, a priest who took office as a government minister under the Sandinistas.
All this matters beyond the arcane nastiness of church politics. In the fierce and sometimes savage and bloody class warfare waged throughout Latin America both sides took theological comfort from Christianity. The right saw its opponents as godless communists, which many were; the left heard the direct command of Jesus to live with the poor and outcast. The Vatican came down firmly on the side of the oppressors.
This was in part because under John Paul II and his predecessors communism seemed obviously the greatest enemy, and Marxism the greatest delusion, to be facing mankind. To compromise with the oppressor would have destroyed the church in Poland. It followed – or appeared to – that to compromise with communism anywhere must be wrong. Yet there is a style of Marxism which comes close to agreeing with Catholics about the aboriginal wrongness, or original sin, of the world we now live in. The communist revolution and the second coming both hope to solve the same problems of injustice and suffering, although the return of Jesus has the advantage that it can’t be tested in practice. The faithful need not be disillusioned in the way that Marxists have so often been.
Communism has now been defeated so utterly that the church can afford to be magnanimous. What was good in it can be admitted and admired. The threat of violent revolution has receded. The necessity of other kinds of revolution remains. Francis himself has spoken of “flipping the tortilla” of change: famously he wants “a poor church, for the poor”. But this is still not a rehabilitation of liberation theology. Romero himself was not a liberation theologian but a theological conservative horrified by the bloodthirsty savagery of the junta in El Salvador.
Nor is Francis a Marxist. He has said that he has Marxist friends but if he has any political views they are perhaps Peronist. That is not a category which makes sense in European terms, which will not bother him. Perhaps the most important message of this shift is that in future the Catholic church’s world view will be less defined by European intellectual currents – and even less by those in the US.
NOTE from Wikipedia: On June 4, 2008, he was elected by acclamation to preside over 63rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly from September 2008 to September 2009.
Shortly after his election, D'Escoto stated during a press conference: "They elected a priest. And I hope no one is offended if I say that love is what is most needed in this world. And that selfishness is what has gotten us into the terrible quagmire in which the world is sinking, almost irreversibly, unless something big happens. This may sound like a sermon. Well, OK."
D'Escoto was appointed foreign minister after the Sandinista triumph (in Cuba) in 1979. He served as foreign minister in Daniel Ortega's FSLN government from 1979 to 1990. The pope denounced him and two other priests, brothers Ernesto and Fernando Cardenal, who all served in the Nicaraguan government, because they did not resign from office and were therefore in violation of Church law. D'Escoto was suspended by the Vatican in 1985, together with the two other priests. The suspension stayed in place until August 2014, when Pope Francis lifted it.