From Vatican Insider:
“The Latin American ecclesial and theological movement known as “Liberation Theology”, which spread to other parts of the world after the Second Vatican Council, should in my opinion be included among the most important currents in 20th century Catholic theology.” This authoritative and glorifying historical evaluation of Liberation Theology did not just come from some ancient South American theologian who is out of touch wit the times. The above statement was made by Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which Ratzinger headed in the 1980’s, after John Paul I appointed him to the post. The Prefect gave two instructions, warning against pastoral and doctrinal deviations from Latin American theological currents of thought.
This decisive comment about the Liberation Theology movement is not just some witty remark that happened to escape the mouth of the current custodian of Catholic orthodoxy. The same balanced opinion pervades the densely written pages of “On the Side of the Poor. The Theology of Liberation”, a collection of essays co-written with liberation theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez and published in Germany in 2004. Gutiérrez invented the formula for defining the Liberation Theology movement, whose actions were – for a long time – closely scrutinised by the Ratzinger-led Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The movement was not criticised once during this time.
Today the book seems to wave goodbye in a way to the theological wars of the past and the hostility that flash up now and again, to cause alarm on purpose.
The book put an official seal on a common path the two had followed for many years. Müller never hid his closeness to Gustavo Gutiérrez, whom he met in Lima in 1988, during a study seminar. During the ceremony for the honorary degree which the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru granted to Müller in 2008, the then bishop of Regensburg defined the theological thought of his master and Peruvian friend as fully orthodox. In the months before Müller’s nomination as head of the dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, some claimed his closeness to Gutiérrez proved he was not suited to the role previously held by Cardinal Ratzinger (24 long years).
In the book’s essays, the two authors/friends back each other up. Müller says the merits of Liberation Theology go beyond the Latin American Catholic. The Prefect stressed that in recent decades, Latin America’s Liberation Theology movement has been oriented towards the image of Jesus Christ the Redeemer and liberator, an image all genuinely Christian theological currents are oriented towards. This stems from an evangelical inclination towards the poor. Müller affirmed that “poverty in Latin America oppresses children, the elderly and the sick,” to such an extent that many are driven to “contemplate death as the only way out.” Right from the outset, the Liberation Theology movement “forced” theological movements founded elsewhere, not to consider the real living conditions of people and individuals as something abstract. He saw “the body of Christ” in the poor, as Pope Francis does.