Where There Was Fire, Only Ashes Remain
The ashes left by dissident theologians are more serious than the fire they caused... Let’s remove them from the path so that light of Christ can shine in its fullness.
by Martin Zavala M.P.D | Source:
A few days ago, I “got” news about congress of the John XXIII Theological Association, which in fact is an event of progressive or liberal theologians where the common denominator is the attack on the Church’s hierarchy. On this occasion, they accused her of being submerged in an “ecclesial winter”. The association celebrated its 25th anniversary. Among the founders and promoters are religious and diocesan priests.
Throughout the years, the main promoters of Liberation Theology have attended these conferences, including some of the most radical members of this theological current: Peruvian Gustavo Gutierrez, Mexican Bishop Samuel Ruiz, Catalonian Pedro Casaldáliga; the Sandinista ex-minister Fernando Cardenal, J.L. Segundo… We shouldn’t fail to mention other promoters of major or minor importance such as: Leonardo Boff (Brazil), Juan Sobrino (El Salvador), Hans Küng (Germany), Rosemary Radford Ruether (USA), Julio de Santa Ana (Uruguay), Sergio Arce (Cuba), Maria del Pilar Aquino (Mexico), Marcos Villamán (Dominican Republic), Liliana Gallo (Colombia), Eduardo de la Lerma (Argentina), Sixto García (USA), Enrique Dussel, Julio de Santa Ana (Switzerland), Fernando Torres (Colombia), Juan José Tamayo and J.M. Vidal (Spain)…
Taking advantage of the 25th anniversary of one of its broadcasting channels, I would like to share the following reflections regarding this so called Liberation Theology:
1.- From the cure-all to decadence. Thank you, Lord Jesus.
I think nobody can doubt the positive contributions to the Church of this religious current. In fact, Pope John Paul II said to the Brazilian bishops that “it was necessary”. Their influence in the worldwide theological and pastoral fields cannot be denied. However, we cannot forget what the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, presided by former Cardinal Ratzinger and present Pope Benedict XVI affirmed in 1984:
“The present instruction has a much more limited and precise purpose: to draw the attention of pastors, theologians, and all the faithful to the deviations, and risks of deviation, damaging to the faith and to Christian living, that are brought about by certain forms of liberation theology which use, in an insufficiently critical manner, concepts borrowed from various currents of Marxist thought.
This warning should in no way be interpreted as a disavowal of all those who want to respond generously and with an authentic evangelical spirit to the "preferential option for the poor." It should not at all serve as an excuse for those who maintain the attitude of neutrality and indifference in the face of the tragic and pressing problems of human misery and injustice. It is, on the contrary, dictated by the certitude that the serious ideological deviations, which it points out, tends inevitably to betray the cause of the poor. More than ever, it is important that numerous Christians, whose faith is clear and who are committed to live the Christian life in its fullness, become involved in the struggle for justice, freedom, and human dignity because of their love for their disinherited, oppressed, and persecuted brothers and sisters. More than ever, the Church intends to condemn abuses, injustices, and attacks against freedom, wherever they occur and whoever commits them. She intends to struggle, by her own means, for the defense and advancement of the rights of mankind, especially of the poor. Libertatis Nuntius, Instruction about some aspects of the Liberation Theology
Thus, the then cardinal and now Pope Benedict XVI synthesized the motive of the document which pointed out as well as the positive elements, many negative elements in some currents of that theology that are contrary to the Christian faith.
Undoubtedly, the influence of the Liberation Theology was felt in positive and negative ways in many ecclesial spheres. Thanks be to God, to the socio-political changes in the world and to the different ecclesial mechanisms which the Magisterium of the Church established, the negative influence of that current, in its most radical version, has faded.
Ecclesial mechanisms that helped to decrease its influence were:
• The appointment of Bishops more in communion with the Pope and the Magisterium of the Church.
• Guiding documents about this theme such as Libertatis Nuntius, Instruction about some aspects of the Liberation Theology or another called Libertatis Conscientia.
• 1998’s “Apostolos Suos” concerning the theological and juridical nature of the Episcopal conferences in order to pinpoint their role and avoid major deviations
• 1990’s “Ex Corde Ecclesiae” about the Catholic universities and institutes to reinforce Catholic identity.
• 1990’s instruction on the “Ecclesial vocation of the theologian” which shows their support to the Church when they remain united to the Church’s Magisterium.
• The Catechism of the Catholic Church that presents what we believe, live and celebrate in an organic and systematic way.
• 2000’s Dominus Iesus that clarifies the essential Christian elements in order to avoid theological and pastoral relativism and subjectivism.
In addition to all these measures, we have the Synods, Consistories and visits “ad limina” which helped to reinforce the identity and fidelity to the Church’s Magisterium, which is constantly attacked by the “liberal theologians” and their “liberationist” theology. After being seen as the great solution (panacea), it is now on the decline and in an almost vegetative state.
Renowned theologians have left the cathedra because their ‘doctrine’ or ‘version’ of the Gospel was not compatible with the faith of the Church. Thankfully, there are fewer promoters, magazines, ideologists, congresses, associations, followers, Bishops, ‘slogans’, theologians, etc.
The negative elements of the most radical version are disappearing from the ecclesial map by “extinction” but not without “headaches”. At the same time, the positive elements have been integrated, but not in the manner it should have happened.
As Fr. Miguel Revilla stated so well about the 25th anniversary, “It’s great that they celebrate among themselves and congratulate each other, without disturbing the millions of Catholics who follow the teachings of the Peter’s Successor and not their progressive ‘magisterium’”. God has answered the prayer of a modern prophet, Fr. Flaviano Amatulli who denounced the abuses of some ‘liberationist’ ministers and leaders by saying, “Lord, liberate us from the liberators!” Thanks to God, to the aforementioned actions and other acts on behalf of those who remained faithful to the Church’s Magisterium, now the damages are less and their promoters are disappearing. However, the ashes remain…
2. - Where There Was Fire, Only Ashes Remain
This is the main reason for this article. Where there was fire, ashes are left. It’s inevitable that where there was a large fire, there will also remain a great amount of ash. This is the big ecclesial problem today!
In this case, however, paraphrasing a female liberation theologian who spoke at the above-mentioned congress stating that there is an “ecclesial winter”, one could say, “Where there was once ice, the cold still lingers”. Undoubtedly, there are places where one can feel that “winter”, but it is the secondary consequence of bringing this theological current into many seminaries, institutes and Catholic universities for a prolonged period. Even though it is not physically present any longer, it left “ashes” or “ice”.
Among the great problems and challenges that the Church faces, the “Liberation” or “Liberal theologians” and the current they promoted are no longer present. No. The serious problem, and of international proportions, is the “ash” or aftermath which it has left in wide ecclesial sectors and that many people don’t perceive. I have been on missions for almost 18 years in several countries throughout the continent and after analyzing the development and impact of the “Liberation Theology” I must sadly confirm that the mountain of “ashes” is bigger and more serious than many people can imagine. If we want to confront the beginning of this millennium with a Christian vision, we need to discover them and brush them aside so that the light of Christ can shine in its fullness.
3.- The first ash: “The excessive horizontalism in the faith”.
Since Vatican II, new winds have entered the Church that have impelled it to live the faith according to the times. At the same time, great imbalances have aroused due to a misinterpretation of the Council or to a polarization of some of its theological-pastoral aspects. Among them can be mentioned the excessive emphasis on the horizontal and social dimensions of the faith, polarized by the Liberation Theology, where the preferential option for the poor became the center or the sole theological-pastoral concern.
Almost without realizing it, the positive gospel value of the social projection or human promotion became the “axis” of all pastoral action. Liberation Theology, with its “option for the poor” based on class struggles and a reduction of salvation to a mere liberation, has disappeared because of the aforementioned causes. However, the “ash” manifests itself as if it were something positive, transforming itself into an excessive “horizontalism in the faith”, more dangerous and extended in ecclesial sectors today.
Pope John Paul II and some bishops pointed this out in the post-synodal document “Ecclesia in America”, “Moreover, as some of the Synod Fathers indicated, it is necessary to ask whether a pastoral strategy directed almost exclusively to meeting people's material needs has not in the end left their hunger for God unsatisfied, making them vulnerable to anything which claims to be of spiritual benefit. Hence, “it is indispensable that all remain united to Christ by means of a joyful and transforming kerygma, especially in liturgical preaching”. (No. 73 Apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in America).
It is sad but true. If a half-truth can do more damage than a lie, a constant pastoral imbalance can be more harmful than a heresy, which would be easier to detect. A simplistic and naive mentality could think, “What wrong could there be in opting for the poor, the orphans, the immigrants, the illiterates, the oppressed and the aborigines? What evil could come from a pastoral focus on hospitals for the sick, retirement homes for elderly, centers for attending those infected with AIDS, homes for singles mothers, legal advisory service centers for immigrants, soup kitchens for the poor, schools for the illiterate, buildings for the teaching of home-economics and carpentry, foundations for social assistance, Catholic schools, human rights defense groups, homes for battered women, medical clinics in rural areas…
What’s wrong with all of this? Almost nothing. If you read it more attentively, you will see that the reason for all the above is missing, that which distinguishes the Church from an association of mere human promotion. Jesus Christ is missing, and all the mentioned lines of action could be done by an atheist, Muslim, or a follower of new age. Humanism with a glaze of Christianity.
Nothing wrong with it, but...
Nothing wrong with it, if we were a public service agency.
Nothing wrong with it, if we were a government organization for social support.
Nothing wrong with it, if we were an autonomous center for cancer prevention.
Nothing wrong with it, if we were a department of the Red Cross.
Nothing wrong with it, if we were a non-profit organization of legal advisors.
Nothing wrong with it, if we were a social development organization.
Nothing wrong with it, if we were a socio-politic leadership institute.
To do all these things isn’t a problem. However, the reality is, that in many dioceses and parishes there is a pastoral imbalance which concentrates almost exclusively on meeting people's material needs and creates a spiritual void that is being filled by the sects and the new age. As one American theologian stated, “In many places of America, the Catholic Church made the option for the poor... and the poor made the option for Pentecostals”. It’s obvious. The poor find in the Catholic Church a shelter for their material needs, but they do not find experts for their spiritual needs and end up turning to some protestant sect, palm-reader or astrologer to cure him of his ailments.
Too many “Marthas” focused on the material aspects and too few “Marias” were at the feet of the Master. It’s not a question of eliminating or reducing the first, but there is a serious urgency to develop the second. The “first ash” of Liberation Theology that we need to sweep away is “a pastoral strategy directed almost exclusively to meeting people's material needs that in the end has not satisfied their hunger for God” as the document Ecclesia in America pointed out. We have cheated modern man by looking so closely at human suffering that it took his divine value out of focus.
If anyone is doubtful about this, he should read the daily news of the Fides Agency created "to make the missionary work known". Examine the news for about five consecutive days and in other Church media and you will notice that 5 out of 7 articles are about human promotion. Even the Catholic media sees more “news” in social matters than in evangelization. If there is a lack of missionaries, or religious congregations are diminishing, nobody cares. Let’s be honest and stop blaming materialism, secularism or hedonism. The problem doesn’t come from outside but from within. The place where more “ashes” of Liberation Theology have remained, in this case referring to the aspect of an excessive emphasis of human promotion, are the religious congregations. And they are paying the consequences. The infidelity to God, shown through the lack of interest in the eminently spiritual matters, has a price that has to be paid.
Brother priest, sister religious, brother Bishop: We have to apologize to mankind, and above all to God, because the measure of man isn’t found in man but in Jesus Christ. We cannot silence the truth about man, about the Church and about God. That’s why the stones (meaning the sects and New Age) are shouting out (see Luke 19:40). If this is not happening in your diocese, religious institute or parish, you have reason to be glad. Horizontalism is an “ash” of Liberation Theology that we urgently need to wash away.
A few days ago, for His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI invited us, “… not just the young people, but also the communities and the pastoral ministers - to «become more aware of this fundamental truth for our evangelization: where God doesn’t occupy the first place, where He isn’t recognized and worshipped as the Supreme Good, human dignity is endangered».
4.- The second ash: “The loss of a sense of the Sacred”.
As logical consequence of the first “ash”, the second ash is an unavoidable colophon. The last page written by “Liberal theologians” turns into the ash where the vertical dimension of Theology and pastoral care is altogether missing.
Obviously, when we lose that balance, tending exclusively towards the horizontal dimension of our faith, we reduce the value of the vertical dimension. That’s why today it is very common worldwide for the homilies to avoid all reference to heaven, salvation, purgatory, personal conversion, judgment, immorality, the value of the Bible, sacrilege, adultery, chastity, eternal life (and it is a taboo to even mention hell or the Devil). The so-called “last things”, eschatology, or however you want to call it, and everything that resembles spirituality are in the last place on the list of topics for the Sunday homily. They remain silenced or forgotten for not just a few priests or Bishops…
We silence ourselves for fear of being called religious fanatics if believe in exorcism; to be called out-of-date, those priests who spend hours and hours hearing confessions; of being called spiritualists, those who promote prayer workshops; of being called fundamentalists, those who promote use of the Bible in pastoral work; of being called conservatives, those who revere the sacramental and sacrificial value of the Mass; of being called retarded, those who speak about Satan as a spiritual being; and of being called pre-conciliar, those who defend the faith.
What a tremendous amount of “ash” Liberation Theology left after its 25 years of life! Just imagine if it had lasted 40 or 50 years! Let’s be honest, if we want to advance, it’s urgent that we recover our esteem for heavenly things, even though this might sound like “angelism” to some people, I don’t care. The Pope doesn’t care either. Does it bother you? We must decide between “pleasing men or pleasing God” (see Acts 5:29).
That is why the emphatic phrase of the now Pope Benedict XVI is so categorical, “To have a clear faith, based on the Church’s Creed, is frequently considered fundamentalism”. He stated this as Cardinal Ratzinger, a few hours before he was elected Successor of Saint Peter.
Why do we complain about the lack of commitment among the laity, the lack of vocations to the priesthood, the reign of materialism, the decline in the number of members in religious communities and the unattractiveness of the priestly life? If we have lost all hope in the things in which we should be experts, such as the sacred or religious things, and thus expelled them as if they were unwanted strangers, or we have relegated them to the last position in many environments, places and ecclesial sectors, we shouldn’t be complaining now.
Some time ago, the then Cardinal Ratzinger said: “This Europe, Christian by name, for the last four hundred years, is the cradle of a new paganism. The image of the Church in the modern era is basically characterized with by fact that it has converted into a pagan church. It no longer is, as it used to be, a Church of pagans converted to Christianity, but a Church of pagans who still call themselves Christians, but in reality have converted to paganism”. We could say the same about America. We cannot expecte anything else if the sacred occupies the second, third, or last place. As John Paul II said, “If there’s no place for Christ, there’s no place for mankind.”
Here we cannot fail to mention the teachings of Pope Paul VI, “There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed. The history of the Church, from the discourse of Peter on the morning of Pentecost onwards, has been intermingled and identified with the history of this proclamation. At every new phase of human history, the Church, constantly gripped by the desire to evangelize, has but one preoccupation: whom to send to proclaim the mystery of Jesus? In what way is this mystery to be proclaimed? How can one ensure that it will resound and reach all those who should hear it? This proclamation—kerygma, preaching or catechesis—occupies such an important place in evangelization that it has often become synonymous with it; and yet it is only one aspect of evangelization” No. 22 of Evangelii Nuntiandi
To forget what is important to attend to the urgent is not applicable to pastoral work. It is necessary to turn to God who gives life and meaning to the mission of the Church.
“The aim of the mission is a humanity that has itself become a living glorification of God, the true worship that God expects: This is the most profound meaning of catholicity -- a catholicity that has already been given to us and toward which we must continue to orient ourselves. Catholicity does not express only a horizontal dimension, the coming together of many people in unity; it also expresses a vertical dimension: only by turning our gaze to God, only by opening ourselves to him can we truly become only one (Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI in the Solemnity of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, June 29, 2005).
Couldn’t it be due to the “lack” of looking towards God? The little importance given to worshipping the Lord present in the Most Holy Sacrament; the lack of temples of reparation where the Blessed Sacrament is always exposed; the absence of nocturnal adoration in many places due to a lack of support from priests and to people’s apathy; the decrease of vocations to religious life; absence of the Holy Hour in many parishes, or the poor assistance at Mass and the irreverence to the Holy Eucharist with the extended liturgical abuses?
One brother in Christ said, “Let’s recognize how badly we have interpreted the creativity and the participation that our times demand. The Church of Nicea, the Church of Constantinople, the Church of Lateran, the Church of Trent and the Church of Vatican II are the same. The Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church was not born 40 years ago”. The Church of Christ, like his wife (see Ef. 5:25) was born from His side as He died on the cross and it cannot be another church.”
Brother priest, brother Bishop: To lose the value of the sacred means to force people to turn to other “spiritual lovers” = sects, in their search for the divine and saving presence of Jesus Christ, that we don’t manifest. People not only hunger for peace and justice. Above all, people hunger for God. And either we fill the emptiness that materialism, consumerism, communism and capitalism has left by reinserting the vertical dimension of our faith, as the Pope said, or the sects and the new age will fill it. Recover the value of the sacred and especially the immense value of the Mass, which “unites heaven and earth” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 8).
This lack or loss of the sacred is manifested in symptoms like: the fact that many of the ecclesial movements that have emerged in recent decades have not been founded by priests or nuns, or the fact that abuses in the celebration of the Eucharist enumerated in the Instruction on the Sacrament of the Eucharist manifests this lost of the sacred even towards the Most Holy Sacrament.
Sometimes people criticize the way many parishes develop their pastoral work in a sacramental way, meaning that it is centered or related to the sacraments. However, I believe the problem is even bigger. We are no longer experts on even “that”, because many laypeople complain about the little interest or esteem of many priests for the “sacred things”. Maybe Padre Pio would be a good example. He attracted thousands or millions of people towards his work not because to his “stigmas”, but because the people saw reflected in him the ideal of a priest that lived his priesthood to the full, as every priest should do.
By the way, in honor of the truth and in a climate of healthy self-criticism, let’s state the truth: There is no vocation crisis in the priesthood. According to the perspective we are handling it’s more a crisis of faith in many ministers, manifested in an over-emphasis of the horizontal dimension of faith and a decline in vertical dimension. They are “ashes” of Liberation Theology yet many people still cannot see them. We can’t continue to ignore it because it will bring on worse consequences.
Let me offer you simple and 100% infallible proof that there’s no vocational crisis. Look at the indisputable fact that the religious Institutes, Seminaries, Dioceses and Movements that have balanced the double dimension of faith don’t suffer a lack of vocations. Why do the Legionaries of Christ, Lumen Dei, Apostles of the Word, Servants of the Word, Slaves of the Eucharist, the Incarnate Word Institute, Servants of the Sacred Hearts, Opus Dei and the Neocatechumenate have vocations to the priesthood in the same places where others don’t have them? The answer is very simple for one who is willing to accept the truth. The common factor among them is that they are giving the proper value to all the “Sacred” in their way of living, believing, celebrating and defending the faith. Those who don’t do this will pay the consequences. All the above-mentioned institutes also develop great projects of human promotion, but they have already cleaned out the “ashes” and at the same time balanced the double dimension of the faith.
You can’t have priestly and religious vocations unless you clearly manifest the divine aspects of our faith. It is impossible to harvest what has not been sown. Evangelize and “sacralize” the Sacred, even though it sounds like a redundancy, is a priority. As our Lord, Jesus Christ said: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” or as they say in Mexico: “Shoemaker, get back to making shoes”.
5.- Third ash: “The liberals on the way to in extinction”
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that the “Liberation theologians” are disappearing by “extinction” because they don’t have the seed of life and nobody wants to follow their steps. Even though they argue that it’s due to “persecution”, the truth is that it is “extinction” because nobody wants ride in a boat that is sinking.
However, if we want to be more precise and realistic, we can’t lose sight of the fact that they still have some followers throughout the world, two or three of them in each diocese who don’t openly declare their affiliation to “Liberation Theology”, in order not to damage their personal interests. The danger is not in their numbers. No. The danger is that they have remained in strategic positions within the dioceses, seminaries, theological institutes, etc. and from there, they neither do nor allow others to do, thus cleverly filtering their ideology.
To remain silent would be unchristian, and to turn a blind eye without doing anything is a betrayal of the Gospel. Their common characteristics to a greater or lesser degree are generally:
1. Constant attacks of the Church’s hierarchy.
2. More concern about inclusive language than the Holy Eucharist.
3. They speak about ecumenism as if it were indifferentism.
4. If you speak out against the Liberation Theology, you are considered evil. They will treat you worse that a heretic.
5. If you don’t follow their line, you are backward and pre-conciliar.
6. They don’t support movements approved by the Vatican because they qualify them as spiritualistic.
7. Their role models are Boff, Gutierrez, Casaldáliga…
8. They form isolated circles with similar partners. This protects them, especially, in order to attack and not allow anyone in communion with the Pope to enter into their sphere.
9. They attack behind your back because they have lost the capacity of dialogue.
10. They call all groups GRC’s (grass root communities). An evangelization community or prayer group is a GRC for them since they are almost extinct and don’t grow, they thus appear to have GRC’s in their dioceses.
11. According to them, they remove the myths from Sacred Scripture.
12. They felt disappointed about the election of Cardinal Ratzinger as the new Pope.
13. They think about the poor, but live like the rich.
14. The desk is their favorite place to do apostolate.
15. Instead of letting the poor think for themselves, they do the thinking for the poor.
16. Their lack of a living faith is suffocating because nobody can give what they don’t have.
17. Ratzinger is an “obstacle” and “Dominus Iesus” is a step backwards for them. Now, some of them don’t know what to do.
18. The moral theology is a matter of personal preference, abortion and homosexuality are unimportant.
19. Their theology falls into “false science” that sees the “possessed” as psychopaths; they see the “stigmata” as a psychosomatic projection, and the mystics are individuals with serious mental disorders.
20. The Bible has a secondary role and must be read in a liberationist key. They tend to consider almost everything as symbolic while they brush aside the Church’s Magisterium because they believe that it is not infallible, and therefore, they don’t obey it.
21. They never speak about Satan or exorcisms, God forbid them.
22. They love “liberation” but they don’t know the social doctrine of the Church.
23. They never mention that they are part of Liberation Theology but their hearts and actions are chained to it.
Now imagine these brothers with some of these characteristics being rectors of seminaries, directors of theological institutes, Superiors of a religious community, Vocational counselors, Catholic university professors, pastoral vicars… this is the reason why things are the way they are today.
7 Some Examples:
1.– A few years ago, liberal theologians of the John XXIII “Theological” Association wrote a letter asking for Pope John Paul II to resign. They constantly attack the hierarchy. The problem is that many of them are professors in Catholic Universities, Theology Faculties and in Seminaries where our priests are “formed” or “deformed”. You don’t have to think very hard to imagine the consequences.
2.- Two years ago, the Superior General of a religious congregation was interviewed by a “Catholic” publication and said, “The modern HERESY is the abandoning of the poor, the injustice this implies, etc.”. In other words, according to him, the mission of the Church is to eliminate poverty in the world. If that is how this Superior General thinks, imagine what the religious formed in this congregation, spread throughout the world, are “teaching” to pastoral workers.
3.- Liberation theologians gathered at Notre Dame University to “reflect” about the proselytism of the sects and their growth. Their conclusion was that in order to curb the growth of the sects, we should allow women to become priests, allow priests to get married and allow priests to practice homosexuality as something normal. With this kind of ‘professors’ and ‘theologians’ who needs enemies?
4.- There is so little appreciation for the sacred in some ecclesial sectors. A few months ago, there was news of a bishop whose homosexual “partner” denounced him for problems between them. However, what was really amazing wasn’t this incident, but how some Catholics declared that it was his private life and bishop was alright because he always sided with the “cause of the poor”. It seems that these brothers in Christ consider not only the sacred but even morality to be a trifle. The only thing that matters for them is “The church of the poor”, “the option for the poor”, and the “cause of the poor”, “social sins”, “social injustice”… everything else is irrelevant.
5. - Books written by theologians with this mind, with their known errors and attacks on the Church’s Magisterium, are still selling in Catholic libraries in many countries. Authors like Leonardo Boff, Clodovis Boff, Gustavo Gutierrez…
6.– Last year, an Austrian bishop resigned. His diocese received many complains about a series of liturgical abuses. The Vatican announced that the bishop of Linz, Mons. Maximilian Aichern of 72 years of age, resigned from the dioceses that was under his responsibility since 1982. His resignation was accepted according to what is established in canon 40 of Canon Law that justifies it in case of “serious decease or some serious reason”. Bishops usually resign at 75. In fact, some days ago a friend told me about a religion professor that teaches in a Catholic school and defends homosexuality as a normal practice in Christianity.
7.- There are diocesan theological institutes, in several places on the continent, where some professors support this theological current. The students, instead of being strengthened in their faith, have to fight to maintain their faith since these ‘teachers’ attack the Pope and the Magisterium of the Church. Sometimes parish priests prefer not to send the committed laypeople of their parishes to these institutes. Pastoral workers are “learning” errors like: The Magisterium of the Church is not important; all the religions are the same; Evangelization isn’t important. What matters is to uproot poverty; we have to update ourselves allowing women priests; Practiced homosexual isn’t bad, it’s an optional life-style; We need to defend the poor, not the faith; the Bible is only a matter of subjective faith; the Catholic Church is full of errors…
It’s no wonder that many priests prefer not send parishioners to these “Catholic institutes”. Instead of forming them, they “deform” the Catholic faith.
Don’t forget that there are still some “liberals” in different positions out there. They still exist and they will continue to damage the Church. We must pray for their conversion to complete communion with the Church, uniting themselves to the ecclesial Magisterium of the Pope.
6.- Sects and New Age: The debts to be paid thanks to the “ashes”.
If it is true that for every thesis, there is an antithesis, for every action there is a reaction, and for a centrifugal force there is an equal centripetal force, then the imbalances in theology and pastoral programs produced by the ashes of the radicalized Liberation Theology, have also rapidly produced their counterbalance.
In relation with the advance of the sects and the New Age, we need to point something out that is now of public knowledge; It is the fact that the pastoral void has been filled by fundamentalist sects and neo-paganism of the New Age. These are the debts we are still paying every day. This anthropocentrism disguised as Christianity and the loss of the sacred and thus forgetting to put God at the center of the faith, this debt cannot remain unpaid.
Many Catholic leaders at all levels have embarked on great works of human promotion and invest their best human and economical resources to help the poverty-stricken; to feed the poor; to give technical formation workshops; to organize literacy workshops; to create diocesan immigrant advisory teams; to support homes for the elderly; to create Catholic institutions of legal support; to build Catholic schools; to create centers for single mothers…
Is all of this wrong? No, of course not. On the contrary, it is excellent and we need to increase it. The serious problem is that in the areas of pastoral care and evangelization we are not at the same level and this is the field in which we should be experts! There are many cases of horizontalism where pastoral care and evangelization occupy the fifth or sixth place of importance in the parish and in the dioceses. We urgently need to balance these forces, and this depends especially on the leaders: Bishops, priests, and laity.
A simple way to measure the pastoral priorities is by analyzing how much money is invested in human promotion and how much is invested in evangelization at the parish and diocesan levels. The result is amazing. Many leaders are experts in the human promotion and weak in the pastoral care. Most of the money is invested in social projects. There are dioceses where there is only one evangelization center for every 10 or 20 works of human promotion: medical, legal, humanitarian assistance, educational, leisure, sanitary… Are these kinds of works wrong? No. But the imbalance is amazing because the prophetic, pastoral and evangelizing mission is not fulfilled in the same proportion.
The Catholic leader is an expert in “charity” while the protestant leader is an expert in “evangelization”. How awful!
This is the reason why the sects, in spite of all their doctrinal errors and horrors, continue growing and don’t have problems with the of lack of commitment, vocations nor economic resources. Even the fundamentalist Muslims are growing on a worldwide level.
Millions of Catholics have abandoned their faith to swell the ranks of the sects. To be leaders with vision is to correct this aspect; otherwise, they will walk away with a smile saying, “Thank you, Catholic Church, for helping me in the legal, physical, nutritional and educational aspects. But besides all of this, I need God and I’m going with those who give Him to me”.
As one theologian said, “The Church made the option for the poor, and the poor made the option for the Pentecostals”. Chiapas, Mexico is an example of this and the truth is that there is a large number of dioceses and parishes where evangelization is almost inexistent. Now it turns out that the experts in the sacred are not the Catholic leaders but the confused protestant pastors. It is urgent to achieve a balance in this aspect and “sweep away the ashes” if we really want to accelerate the Kingdom of God in the plenitude of the Gospel. Fundamental changes have to be made while adhering to the Church’s Magisterium and admitting that there are still too many “ashes”. Not without cause, Jesus Christ said, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4).
We have gone to such an extreme that Catholic foundations and organizations are willing to give economical support to social, educational, legal, juvenile … and even construction projects, but the vast majority aren’t willing and haven’t even considered to give economical support to pastoral care and evangelization projects... This is what is missing. If you still don’t believe it, search the Catholic Foundations Directory and see how many Catholic Foundations support human promotion and how many support evangelization. The best human, economical and spiritual resources are not channeled into evangelization in order to put the sacred as the top priority.
Could this not be precisely the reason that the seminaries and religious life vocations in many places not flourishing? Could this not be one of the causes why the sects are growing so rapidly? Could this not be a factor that impedes the growth of our communities and obliges us to close down Catholic churches? Do you not think that the lack of experts in sacred matters might cause the lack of economical and pastoral commitment?
I personally am convinced that it is so. You cannot help modern man to fall in love with “heavenly things” if you only talk about earthly things, even though they might be laudable works of humanitarian aid. In fact, the protestant churches with the greatest number of pastoral works don’t have any of aforementioned problems and at the same time the Catholic religious institutes that have balanced the horizontal and vertical dimensions don’t suffer a lack of vocations, people or money. Even the churches of historical protestantism that have also fallen into a social gospel are having the same consequences and they too are diminishing. There’s no doubt that the excessive horizontalism of the faith show us that the growth of the sects at Catholic Church’s expense, is a “debt” we are paying because of the lack of pastoral balance that is caused mainly by the ashes of Liberation Theology.
The ash nourishes the “algae” and they are considered the first living organism that appeared on earth. Continuing with our analogy, the “ash” of centering ourselves in the human dimension, forgetting the divine and sacred dimension, is becoming the “nutrient” for man’s return to the primitive paganism brought on by the “New Age”.
Please, don’t ever forget #73 of the conclusive document of the Synod for America. When talking about the challenge of the sects, the bishops and the Pope noted, “Moreover, as some of the Synod Fathers indicated, it is necessary to ask whether a pastoral strategy directed almost exclusively to meeting people's material needs has not in the end left their hunger for God unsatisfied, making them vulnerable to anything which claims to be of spiritual benefit. Hence, “it is indispensable that all remain united to Christ by means of a joyful and transforming kerygma, especially in liturgical preaching.”
To be a leader with vision is to begin to “re-balance” the levels of human promotion and evangelization. The Church exists to evangelize. (Evangelii Nuntiandi #14) It is essential to emphasize the bases of our faith. If we don’t do this, documents will come and go, and if the foundations are not solid the documents will have a little effect.
Don’t forget that the cross has a horizontal bar that embraces everything related to humanity, but it also has a vertical post that unites man with God. On that cross hangs a God-man whose name is Jesus Christ. It’s time to “Christianize Christology” so that the perfect image of the perfect man, Jesus Christ, shines.
It is urgent to have clear and distinct ideas about pastoral work. Let us not forget what the Liberation theologians forgot and thus left all these ashes. Always remember, “In the message which the Church proclaims there are certainly many secondary elements. Their presentation depends greatly on changing circumstances. They themselves also change. But there is the essential content, the living substance, which cannot be modified or ignored without seriously diluting the nature of evangelization itself” (Pope Paul VI #25 Evangelii Nuntiandi ).
“Evangelization will also always contain—as the foundation, center, and at the same time, summit of its dynamism—a clear proclamation that, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, who died and rose from the dead, salvation is offered to all men, as a gift of God's grace and mercy. And not an immanent salvation, meeting material or even spiritual needs, restricted to the framework of temporal existence and completely identified with temporal desires, hopes, affairs and struggles, but a salvation which exceeds all these limits in order to reach fulfillment in a communion with the one and only divine Absolute: a transcendent and eschatological salvation, which indeed has its beginning in this life but which is fulfilled in eternity” (Pope Paul VI #27 Evangelii Nuntiandi).
I apologize, dear Liberation theologians, but the ashes that you left have had serious consequences and the best way to remove those “ashes” is to uncover them so that the pastors who should “watch and guide the people of God” might take concrete action to put God at the center of our faith. The dogmatic constitution «Lumen Gentium» urges the bishops to «vigilantly ward off any errors that threaten their flock» (#25) and invites the laity to «spread and defend the faith» (#11).
Let us recover the identity of our mission and be loyal to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "We wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church." It is a task and mission, which the vast and profound changes of present-day society make all the more urgent. Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ's sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection.”(#14 “Evangelii Nuntiandi” Pope Paul VI)
In case anyone still has a doubt, because ashes caused by the Liberation theology might have increased our blindness to such a degree that many people might not even see as a problem the realities that the bishops and the Pope have been denouncing for some time. Let us remember the following: “We must not ignore the fact that many, even generous Christians who are sensitive to the dramatic questions involved in the problem of liberation, in their wish to commit the Church to the liberation effort are frequently tempted to reduce her mission to the dimensions of a simply temporal project. They would reduce her aims to a man-centered goal; the salvation of which she is the messenger would be reduced to material well-being. Her activity, forgetful of all spiritual and religious preoccupation, would become initiatives of the political or social order. But if this were so, the Church would lose her fundamental meaning. Her message of liberation would no longer have any originality and would easily be open to monopolization and manipulation by ideological systems and political parties. She would have no more authority to proclaim freedom as in the name of God. This is why we have wished to emphasize, in the same address at the opening of the Synod, "the need to clearly restate the specifically religious finality of evangelization. This latter would lose its reason for existence if it were to diverge from the religious axis that guides it: the kingdom of God, before anything else, in its fully theological meaning..."” (#32 “Evangelii Nuntiandi” Pope Paul VI)
Dear brother Bishop, Priest or Religious, Seminary Rectors and Theology Professors; Pastoral Workers and Laity in general, in such a short time, Pope Benedict XVI has made urgent and expedient invitations to live our faith with authenticity. In one of these invitations he stated, “…not only to the youth, but also to the communities and pastors - «become more aware of this fundamental truth for our evangelization: where God doesn’t occupy the first place, where He isn’t recognized and worshipped as the Supreme Good, human dignity is endangered».
We need to make corrections specifying the pastoral program without forgetting that: “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God” who is Jesus Christ.