In the Wall Street Journal’s Americas column, Rev. Robert A. Sirico examines the shift in thinking about liberation theology among Catholic Church leaders in Latin America. Excerpt:

Catholic Church bishops, priests and other Church leaders in Latin America were once a reliable ally of the left, owing to the influence of “liberation theology,” which tries to link the Gospel to the socialist cause. Today the Church is coming to recognize the link between socialism and the loss of freedom, and a shift in thinking is taking place.

In a region that is more than 90% Catholic, this change might have enormous implications. A Church that emphasizes liberty could play a role in Latin America similar to that which it played in Eastern Europe in the 1980s, as a counterweight in defense of freedom during a time of rising despotism.

For proof of the change I refer to, consider a recent statement from the Catholic Bishops of Venezuela: It blasted the political agenda of President Hugo Chávez for its assault on liberty under the guise of helping the poor. It is morally unacceptable, the statement said, and will drive the country backward in terms of respect for human rights.

The Bishops’ statement from Caracas was not the first challenge the Church issued to Mr. Chávez. The late Cardinal Rosalio Castillo once laid out the Church’s view of Bolivarian socialism. The government, he explained, though elected democratically was morphing into dictatorship. He worried about the results of this process. “All powers are in the hands of one person who exercises them in an arbitrary and despotic way, not for the purposes of bringing about the greater common good of the nation, but rather for a twisted and archaic political project: that of implanting in Venezuela a disastrous regime like the one Fidel Castro has imposed on Cuba . . .”

Continue reading Rev. Sirico’s article “Liberty Theology” (registration required for the Journal’s online version).


  • Diane Bowers

    A heartfelt Thank you for this WSJ article. As one of no doubt thousands of devout Catholics who reluctantly left the Church when the lunacy of liberation theology took hold, I find solace in seeing that perhaps Christ’s unadulterated and transcendent message of love may once again be allowed to define the Church. Those ideologues who have been allowed by popes and theologians to co-opt His message and to superimpose their own have done incredible harm to Catholicism, (not to mention to the populations they purported to care about.) Their divisive dictates have twisted and undermined the foundations of the world’s moral community.

    Of my very Catholic high school class of 1960, only about 20% still call themselves Catholic (and most of those are cafeteria Catholics). Those of us who were smart enough to realize that _any_ political structure can become tyrannical have been marginalized, even demonized in the Catholic community.

    I pray the Acton Institute will be successful in reopening the Church to those whose values reject redistribution of wealth and enslavement via government give-aways as solutions to misery. Catholicism was a huge part of my life for years – until I could no longer ignore my conscience – and I still grieve the loss, as I do the stifling of Christ’s real message.
    God bless.