Gutierrez invitation by Vatican is a boost for his under-fire theology

The founder of the liberation theology movement has spoken at the special Vatican conference of the Church’s aid and development agencies, talking about “a poor Church for the poor”.

The appearance of Fr Gustavo Gutierrez at the event is being hailed as a symbolic moment of acceptance for the Peruvian friar and the theological movement he started, which has often been criticised and regarded with suspicion by some who believed its emphasis on Jesus’ preference for the poor too easily blurred with Marxist calls for armed rebellion.

Although several of the movement’s leading theologians were sanctioned by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during the Papacy of Pope St John Paul II, and his writings were examined, Fr Gutierrez was never disciplined.

Liberation theology’s star could be said to have been on the rise since 2007, when Pope Benedict XVI addressed the assembled bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean at the shrine of Aparecida and spoke of “the preferential option for the poor”, five years later appointing now-Cardinal Ludwig Müller to head the CDF, knowing him to be an old friend of Fr Gutierrez and an admirer of liberation theology.

Two years later the Peruvian priest was a special guest in Rome at the launch of Cardinal Müller’s Poor for the Poor: The Mission of the Church, which includes two chapters by Fr Gutierrez and is introduced by Pope Francis.

For the author of A Theology of Liberation to be invited to Rome to address the Church’s relief and development agencies shows just how right the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano was when it observed that under Pope Francis, liberation theology would no longer “remain in the shadows”.