Peruvian Catholic Dominican Priest, Theologian, Social Activist
Peruvian Catholic Dominican Priest, Theologian, Social Activist
I am firmly convinced that poverty?this sub-human condition in which the majority of humanity lives today?is more than a social issue. Poverty poses a major challenge to every Christian conscience and therefore to theology as well. People today often talk about contextual theologies but, in point of fact, theology has always been contextual. Some theologies, it is true, may be more conscious of and explicit about their contextuality, but all theological investigation is necessarily carried out within a specific historical context. When Augustine wrote The City of God, he was reflecting on what it meant for him and for his contemporaries to live the Gospel within a specific context of serious historical transformations. Our context today is characterized by a glaring disparity between the rich and the poor. No serious Christian can quietly ignore this situation. It is no longer possible for someone to say, ?Well, I didn?t know? about the suffering of the poor. Poverty has a visibility today that it did not have in the past. The faces of the poor must now be confronted. And we also understand the causes of poverty and the conditions that perpetuate it. There was a time when poverty was considered to be an unavoidable fate, but such a view is no longer possible or responsible. Now we know that poverty is not simply a misfortune; it is an injustice.
The primacy of faith was followed by the "primacy of charity." ... But paradoxically, at the same time this was also partially responsible for the fact that for some the relationship with God was obscured and became difficult to live out and understand. Today, due partly perhaps to such impasses, the perspective of a new primacy seems to be emerging - that of hope, which liberates history because of its openness to the God who is to come.
If there is no friendship with them [the poor] and no sharing of the life of the poor, then there is no authentic commitment to liberation, because love exists only among equals.
The struggle for a just world in which there is no oppression, servitude, or alienated work will signify the coming of the kingdom ... The complete encounter with the Lord will make an end to history, but it will take place in history.
In human love there is a depth which the human mind does not suspect: it is through it that persons encounter God. If utopia humanizes economic, social, and political liberation, that humanness - in the light of the gospel - reveals God. If doing justice leads us to knowledge of God, to find God is in turn a necessary consequence.
The unqualified affirmation of the universal will of salvation has radically changed the way of conceiving the mission of the Church in the world. . . . The work of salvation is a reality which occurs in history.
Is the Church fulfilling a purely religious role when by its silence or friendly relationships it lends legitimacy to dictatorial and oppressive government?
The world today is experiencing a profound and rapid socio-cultural transformation. But the changes do not occur at a uniform pace, and the discrepancies in the change process have differentiated the various countries and regions of our planet.
Man is saved if he opens himself to God and to others, even if he is not clearly aware that he is doing so. This is valid for Christians and non-Christians alike -- for all people. . . . We can no longer speak properly of a profane world. A qualitative and intensive approach replaces a quantitative and extensive one.
Theology does not pretend to have all the technical solutions to poverty, but it reminds us never to forget the poor and also that God is at stake in our response to poverty. An active concern for the poor is not only an obligation for those who feel a political vocation; all Christians must take the Gospel message of justice and equality seriously. Christians cannot forgo their responsibility to say a prophetic word about unjust economic conditions. Pope John Paul II?s approach to the phenomenon of globalization is a good example. He constantly asks: ?How is this going to affect the poor? Does it promote justice?
Once causes are determined, then there is talk of social injustice and the privileged begin to resist.
Theology is an understanding which both grows and, in a certain sense, changes. If the commitment of the community in fact takes different forms throughout history, the understanding which accompanies the vicissitudes of this commitment will be constantly renewed and will take untrodden paths.
Reason has, especially today, many other manifestations than philosophical ones.
There exists a dialectical relationship between the Promise and its partial fulfillments. The resurrection itself is the fulfillment of something promised and likewise the anticipation of a future.
Since the Enlightenment, the political order is an order of freedom. The political structures are no longer given, previous to man's freedom, but are rather realities based on freedom, taken on and modified by man.... This new definition of politics carefully distinguishes between state and society. The distinction? allows us to differentiate between the public sphere of the state of the Church (or the combination of them) as powers from the public sphere 'in which the interests of all men as a social group are expressed.
There is nothing more certain than a fact. To ignore it is to deceive and to be deceived and moreover to deprive oneself of the necessary means of truly and radically eliminating this condition ? that is, by moving toward a classless society.5
Spirit is being-within-itself (self-contained existence). But this, precisely, is freedom. For when I am dependent, I refer myself to something else which I am not; I cannot exist independently of something external. I am free when I am within myself. This self-contained existence of spirit is self-consciousness, consciousness of self.
Therefore, sin is not only an impediment to salvation in the afterlife. Insofar as it constitutes a break with God, sin is a historical reality, it is a breach of the communion of persons with each other, it is a turning in of individuals on themselves which manifests itself in a multifaceted withdrawal from others. And because sin is a personal and social intra-historical reality, a part of the daily events of human life, it is also, and above all, an obstacle to life's reaching the fullness we call salvation.
A neighbor is not he whom I find in my path, but rather he in whose path I place myself, he whom I approach and actively seek.
The building of a just society means overcoming every obstacle to the creation of authentic peace.
To participate in class struggle not only is not opposed to universal love; today, this commitment is the necessary and inescapable means of making this love concrete, as this participation is what leads to a classless society, a society without owners and dispossessed, without oppressors and oppressed.
As we progress, various shades of meaning and deeper levels of understanding will complement this initial effort.
The complete encounter with the Lord will mark an end to history, but it will take place in history.
But there is one thing that is privileged to be a paradoxical sign of God, in relation to which men are able to manifest their deepest commitment -- our Neighbor. The sacrament of our Neighbor!'
The Exodus from Egypt, the home of sacred monarchy, reinforces this idea [desacralization of creation]: it is the 'desacralization' of social praxis. . . . In Egypt, work is alienated and, far from building a just society, contributes rather to increasing injustice and to widening the gap between exploiters and exploited.