The pope strikes a positive note as he reached the end of his section on liberation. He seems confident the arc of the Church in the 1970′s was a good one, becoming more associated with the thrust of Catholic social teaching rather than political ideology:
38. Having said this, we rejoice that the Church is becoming ever more conscious of the proper manner and strictly evangelical means that she possesses in order to collaborate in the liberation of many. And what is she doing? She is trying more and more to encourage large numbers of Christians to devote themselves to the liberation of (people). She is providing these Christian “liberators” with the inspiration of faith, the motivation of fraternal love, a social teaching which the true Christian cannot ignore and which (she or) he must make the foundation of (their) wisdom and of (their) experience in order to translate it concretely into forms of action, participation and commitment. All this must characterize the spirit of a committed Christian, without confusion with tactical attitudes or with the service of a political system. The Church strives always to insert the Christian struggle for liberation into the universal plan of salvation which she herself proclaims.
What we have just recalled comes out more than once in the Synod debates. In fact we devoted to this theme a few clarifying words in our address to the Fathers at the end of the assembly.[Paul VI, Address for the closing of the Third General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (26 October 1974); AAS 66 (1974), p. 637]
It is to be hoped that all these considerations will help to remove the ambiguity which the word “liberation” very often takes on in ideologies, political systems or groups. The liberation which evangelization proclaims and prepares is the one which Christ Himself announced and gave to (humankind) by His sacrifice.
I’m not sure the pope of today would agree with this optimism. The pushback against liberation theology in the 80′s suggests the institution was not at all pleased with a perceived lack of separation between political ideology and both the words and actions of those in mission lands. It doesn’t seem to me that the “ambiguity” over the word liberation has been at all removed. If anything, it is more suspect than ever in conservative quarters.
As a gameplayer, I’m struck by the suggestion of abandoning “tactics,” and simply presenting the Gospel message. I certainly agree. I’m inclined to think the unabashed presentation of Christ is vital, and we let human reactions work themselves out in the community, in politics, and in the lives of individuals.
Other thoughts on this? We wrap up the subtopic of liberation tomorrow.