On “Liberation Theology”
I do not mean (here and now, at least) to get into a discussion of the complexities of so-called liberation theology, not to mention the ongoing struggle with respect to it within the Catholic Church. Rather, I wish to describe certain experiences which have come to mind as I have followed that struggle, read pro and con on that “theology” — memories of what I happened to hear and see at one or another time during the recent past.
Most memorable for my oldest son and me was a visit we made to the Vatican several years ago. We happened to become involved with an assertive taxi driver who spoke fairly good English. He showed us around Rome, and eventually took us to St. Peter’s Basilica. He was naturally garrulous, and made more so by my son’s habit of asking question after question. (He was a college freshman then.) Soon we were hearing a speech about the “rich Vatican” and the “corrupt Vatican” and the “politicians of the Vatican” — after which this question was hurled at us (while the cab swerved wildly, making its inroads on the chaotic Roman traffic): “I ask you — I ask you — what do you think Jesus would think of this [a wave of the hand in the direction of Vatican City, which loomed before us] if He were alive today?”
I didn’t answer the question. My first thought was of the awful papacies that preceded the present one by centuries — the well-known moral scandals of the Renaissance. But the cab driver was insistent. He launched into a tirade about the existence of the Vatican Museum — all the precious objects there, worth hundreds of millions of dollars — “while every day people starve.” He pointed in the direction of the Pope’s summer home — and again reminded us how millions of others live, their shanties and shacks in the ghettoes, the barrios, the favellas of this world. “It is not fair; it is not right; it is not Christian,” he exclaimed, and then an exhausted slump and silence, as he prepared to stop, and collect our fare.
My son wouldn’t let the matter drop with payment of the arranged sum, plus a tip. He kept referring to the cab driver’s remarks as we toured the Vatican, and continued to do so when we got back to America. He reminded me what I knew but now found it harder to forget, in view of what the cab driver had said, and what he, my son, was more than implying — that Jesus lived and died a poor, humble man, mocked and scorned by important people, and that during His lifetime there was no “church,” only a band of quite ordinary and vulnerable people who spent their time with the sick, the hungry, the lowly, the unpopular, the outcasts.
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