Development & Peace: The poster child of liberation theology

The two most destructive forces to the Church and the family over the last 40 years stem from two different arenas.  One is theological and the other is philosophical.  Readers of this blog are familiar with my focus on that pernicious philosophical error known as proportionalism which has been condemned by the Catholic Church:

One must therefore reject the thesis, characteristic of teleological and proportionalist theories, which holds that it is impossible to qualify as morally evil according to its species — its “object” — the deliberate choice of certain kinds of behaviour or specific acts, apart from a consideration of the intention for which the choice is made or the totality of the foreseeable consequences of that act for all persons concerned….(Veritatis Splendor, 79)

Proportionalism, rooted in Caiphas’s declaration that “it is better that one man die than that a whole nation should perish” (John 11:50), has provided the philosophical momentum for the attacks on human life and the dignity of the human person.  It is also the foundation for the Winnipeg Statement and the soft abortion policy of St. Joseph’s hospital in London, Ontario.  Its cousin in theology is none other than liberation theology, a materialistic, marxist theology which sought to use the Gospels as a means of social, cultural, and economic revolution.  Born in the 1960s, it sought (and largely succeeded) in overturning the Church’s traditional understanding of its social justice teaching.  This revolution not only impacted the Church in Canada, but it succeeded in exporting its marxist praxis to the developing world.  Indeed, one may say that what proportionalism is to the domestic policy of the Catholic Church in Canada, liberation theology is to its foreign policy.

Despite its success, liberation theology, has been long condemned by the Catholic Church both by Servant of God, Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI.  In fact, in this succinct although dense article on the subject, the then Cardinal Ratzinger and now our beloved Pontiff, calls liberation theology a fundamental threat to the faith of the Church:

“An analysis of the phenomenon of liberation theology reveals that it constitutes a fundamental threat to the faith of the Church. At the same time it must be borne in mind that no error could persist unless it contained a grain of truth. Indeed, an error is all the more dangerous, the greater that grain of truth is, for then the temptation it exerts is all the greater.”

As the Holy Father observed, there is a profound distortion in liberation theology since it views everything through its marxist and political world view of class struggle.

Love consists in the “option for the poor”; i.e., it coincides with opting for the class struggle. In opposition to “false universalism”‘; the liberation theologians emphasize very strongly the partiality and partisan nature of the Christian option; in their view, taking sides is the fundamental presupposition for a correct hermeneutics of the biblical testimony. Here, I think, one can see very clearly that amalgam of a basic truth of Christianity and an un-Christian fundamental option which makes the whole thing so seductive: The Sermon on the Mount is indeed God taking sides with the poor. But to interpret the “poor” in the sense of the marxist dialectic of history, and “taking sides with them” in the sense of the class struggle, is a wanton attempt to portray as identical things that are contrary.

…since in its view all reality is political, liberation is also a political concept and the guide to liberation must be a guide to political action: “Nothing lies outside … political commitment. Everything has a political color.” A theology that is not “practical”; i.e., not essentially political, is regarded as “idealistic” and thus as lacking in reality, or else it is condemned as a vehicle for the oppressors’ maintenance of power.

Anyone who knows what liberation theology teaches and knows what Development & Peace is about also knows that the latter is merely the organizational representation of the former. A robust and correct understanding of Christianity, on the other hand, has a well-ordered appreciation of the Church’s teaching on authentic social justice, a healthy liturgical presence, a strong spiritual life including an emphasis on evangelization and salvation, a recognition of the hierarchical nature of authority, and an exacting observance of “personal morality”.

In its early days, liberation theology only really addressed the first of these facets of Christian living (i.e. “social justice). And even here, it did so with a distorted (marxist and materialistic) world view. Because its notion of social justice was skewed, it failed to develop, much less acknowledge, the other branches of Christian living. That’s why, generally speaking, the “social justice crowd” was happy with banjos and liturgical dance at mass and not so much with incense and Gregorian chant. It’s also why they didn’t dwell on “personal moral issues”, especially the ones involving sex – like contraception and abortion.

Eventually, however, the class warfare praxis was applied to the other areas of Christian living, as the Pontiff explains:

It does not intend to add a new theological treatise to those already existing, i.e., it does not wish to develop new aspects of the Church’s social ethics. Rather it sees itself as a new hermeneutics of the Christian faith, a new way of understanding Christianity as a whole and implementing it. Thus it affects theology in its basic constitution, not merely in aspects of its content. So too it alters all forms of Church life: the Church’s constitution, liturgy, catechesis, moral options.

In addition to social justice being now understood within the political paradigm of marxism, liberation theology began to distort the Church’s liturgy by introducing a “people-centred” Mass, thereby introducing a kind of class warfare into the liturgy. Instead of the class warfare in the political field of rich vs. poor, however, the liturgical warfare became one between traditionalists vs. modernists in order to emphasize the difference between the so-called traditional, elitist, exclusivist model with an ostensible modern, community-based, and inclusive one. Indeed, Michael Casey, the current executive director of Development & Peace, describes the influence of liberation theology on his life and the liturgical heritage he experienced:

He remembers the introduction of folk Masses with guitars in an effort to make worship more relevant and young priests coming back from the mission field talking about liberation theology….Casey said his father was always coming back with “neat stories of frontier life.” Missionaries began to come down from the North to have supper and stay overnight with the Casey family. “I used to sit up and just talk with them. They were either French or Belgian and had drifted to the Arctic in the 1950s and led a life of dogsleds and igloos,” Casey said. “Many were getting involved in the beginning of the aboriginal rights movement.” (Source)

Even the idea of evangelization and salvation took on a whole new meaning under liberation theology. Evangelization and salvation are ultimately concerned with the next life, but liberation theology was not interested in the next life. It was only interested in this life which of course exposed its true marxist foundation. The lack of concern with the plight of the poor’s immortal soul was given short shrift in favour of trying to address their economic and material situation above all else. In this way, liberation theology failed to recognize that the ultimate goal and mission of the Church is not the elimination of poverty (however laudable and necessary this important mission is) but rather the elimination of individual sin and securing the individual crown of eternal life. Judgement, after all, does not happen collectively. We are not judged as a group but as an individual person. There are no “group discounts” on damnation and salvation. Liberation theology, however, posited – not a kingdom of another world as Jesus said (Cf. John 18:36) – but a Kingdom of this world whose corollary seeks a kind of secular messianism and which is explicitly condemned in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Cf. CCC, 676). Pope Benedict points out this serious deficiency in his article.

The fundamental concept of the preaching of Jesus is the “Kingdom of God”. This concept is also at the center of the liberation theologies, but read against the background of marxist hermeneutics. According to one of these theologians, the Kingdom must not be understood in a spiritualist or universalist manner, not in the sense of an abstract eschatological eventuality. It must be understood in partisan terms and with a view to praxis. The meaning of the Kingdom can only be defined by reference to the praxis of Jesus, not theoretically: it means working at the historical reality that surrounds us in order to transform it into the Kingdom.

Unlike the old heresies of the past, there was no explicit denial of a core Catholic teaching. Rather, liberation theology simply took the biblical text and wrenched it out of the Church’s faith tradition and imposed a foreign (marxist) interpretation to support its radical call for the usurpation of the social order. This is why those who are influenced by liberation theology repeatedly cite biblical passages which favour the poor, but they do so in an altered context in order to advance their class warfare theology.  We see this tactic used repeatedly by Development & Peace. “The biblical concept of the ‘poor'”, the Pope writes, “provides a starting point for fusing the Bible’s view of history with marxist dialectic; it is interpreted by the idea of the proletariat in the marxist sense and thus justifies marxism as the legitimate hermeneutics for understanding the Bible.”

One of the firmest rebuke of the marxist dialectic actually comes from the Gospels itself when Our Lord rebuked His disciples for their reductionist and minimalistic thinking:

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.  When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”  Aware of this, Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.'” (Matthew 26:6-13)

Liberation theology’s class warfare also spilled over into how it perceived and understood the church’s divinely instituted, hierarchical ecclesiology. It simply translated the economic paradigm’s language of “poor vs. rich” to an ecclesiastical one involving “the people vs. the hierarchy”.  Once again, the Holy Father identifies this threat:

The same idea appears in a somewhat modified form in connection with the concept of the people where the conciliar emphasis on the “People of God” is transformed into a marxist myth. The experiences of the “people” elucidate Scripture. Here “people” is the antithesis of the hierarchy, the antithesis of all institutions, which are seen as oppressive power. Ultimately anyone who participates in the class struggle is a member of the “people” the “Church of the people” becomes the antagonist of the hierarchical Church.

Whether it was valid or not in the particular circumstances, liberation theology did not deviate from its constant and even necessary practice of framing a question between the oppressed and the oppressor. In many ways, it can be said to be the theology of the grievance industry and the victimhood economy that western societies sponsor today, most notably manifested in so-called “human rights” laws.  In fact, such a grievance environment has a subtle idolatrous nature to it since it seeks to displace the true victim who is Jesus Christ with largely fraudulent claims of victimhood.  A very successful way of enacting social change is to play the victim card. It works remarkably well. 

In fact, in Development & Peace’s case, their involvement with the national hierarchies of the countries where their pro-abortion partners operate is more the exception than the rule as their 2006-2011 program indicates.  Even when there is some formal co-operation with the bishops of these countries in the Global South, they are kept in the dark about D&P’s funding practices concerning pro-abortion groups, as their letter of complaint to the CCCB clearly illustrates.  This reticence in co-operating with the bishops of the Global South only further confirms the influence of liberation theology’s suspicion of authority and hierarchy.  Indeed, it is both bizarre and revealing that there is such little co-ordination between the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and their brother bishops in the Global South. One would think that in order to effectively carry out the Church’s mission there, it would be both prudent and respectful to collaborate with the bishops who actually know what’s going on.  Of course, this raises even more questions about the covert nature of Development & Peace’s operations in the Global South.  The secretive and insular nature of Development & Peace even drew a mild rebuke by the bishops who investigated Development & Peace’s funding practices of Mexican pro-abortion groups.  Two recommendations stand out. The first involves the lack of co-operation between the groups in question and the Mexican hierarchy:

We regret that the Mexican organizations have so little or no relation with the Episcopal Conference of their country. The practical understanding they have of various social problems and the useful analysis they can provide could serve, it seems to us, in preparing orientations for social and pastoral ministry that would benefit many who are poor and looking for dignity and freedom. We consider it important for Development and Peace to foster good relations with the Bishops of those countries where groups receive CCODP financial assistance, while also continuing to work closely with Caritas Internationalis.” (Source)

The second recommendation, however, acknowledged that not only does Development & Peace not inform the bishops in these other countries’ of their controversial activities, but they don’t much see the need to inform the Canadian bishops who sit on their board either!

“…we would encourage Development and Peace to ensure more thorough consultations with the Bishops of Canada, particularly the two Bishops who are appointed as members of the Development and Peace National Council, especially when there are questions involving moral issues such as abortion and contraception.” (Source)

Finally, liberation theology’s “class warfare” progression inserted itself into the relationship between men and women. Instead of seeking to unite men and women in the bond of love, liberation theology turned women against men, the conflict of which sprang radical feminism and its consequents of abortion, contraception, and other “reproductive rights”. 

In 1847, Frederic Engels wrote the Principles of Communism which became, arguably, the defining document for the communist movement. In that paper, in answering a question on the influence of communist society on the family, he prophetically wrote:

It will transform the relations between the sexes into a purely private matter which concerns only the persons involved and into which society has no occasion to intervene. It can do this since it does away with private property and educates children on a communal basis, and in this way removes the two bases of traditional marriage — the dependence rooted in private property, of the women on the man, and of the children on the parents. (21)

By capitalizing on the divisive effects of original sin between the spouses, Engels was able to create a “foundation of oppression” which later would serve as the rallying cry for radical feminism in the twentieth century.

Thus when monogamous marriage first makes its appearance in history, it is not as the reconciliation of man and woman, still less as the highest form of such a reconciliation. Quite the contrary. Monogamous marriage comes on the scene as the subjugation of the one sex by the other; it announces a struggle between the sexes unknown throughout the whole previous prehistoric period…The first class opposition that appears in history coincides with the development of the antagonism between man and woman in monogamous marriage, and the first class oppression coincides with that of the female sex by the male. (Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State, II, 4)

Liberation theology drew from marxism and sought to pit men against women, claiming that the natural tendency of men was to oppress and subjugate women. It also sought, as Engels wrote above, to separate children from their parents and educate them on a communal basis rather than have the ultimate authority and responsibility of education resting with the parents.  This is why, of course, liberation theology was the vehicle used within the Catholic Church to push for contraception and abortion and the ordination of women to the priesthood.  It sought to “liberate” women from “evil patriarchal structures and beliefs” of Catholic tradition.

In the case of Development & Peace, a vast majority of their pro-abortion partners use decidedly feminist language to reinforce this “gender warfare”, and to introduce not so subtle euphemisms like “reproductive rights” which is code for abortion and contraception.  Language such as “gender violence”, “gender equity”, “gender re-education”, and “gender neutrality” are typically used by these organizations. Although they sound very egalitarian and noble, they are, in fact, the code phrases used for the war against not only men, but the traditional family unit in many cases.  It’s really not all that different from the “human rights” that the Canadian human rights commissions are defending; that is to say, it’s a fraud and it seeks to undermine traditional values and basic civil liberties which are natural to human beings.

In fact, even the phrase “violence against women” has been completely corrupted from its intended or implied meaning. Where one would think of something like wife abuse on hearing this phrase, one learns that, in the brave new world of pro-abortion NGOs,  violence against women is “forcing a girl to carry a pregnancy to term”.  In other words, if a woman is prohibited from procuring an abortion (the most violent act imaginable), this constitutes “violence” against women.  This is the kind of sick and twisted semantic dictionary that liberation theology has spawned, engaging in a semantic jihad on language which has subsequently been adopted (or at the very least aided and abetted) by “development and aid” agencies like Development & Peace.   (The banner featured just above belongs to one of Development & Peace’s pro-abortion partners in Nicaragua.)

In fact, the current executive director of Development & Peace, Michael Casey, worked for one of these NGOs called the Canadian Cooperative Association (CCA) for 14 years before accepting his position with Development & Peace in early 2005.  The Canadian Cooperative Association has a “Gender Statement of Practice” which would be objectionable on many levels, the most blatant being  their support for “sexual and reproductive rights”. According this Gender Statement of Practice, it list three levels of “gender equality”:

1. Women’s equal participation and empowerment in decision making processes;
2. Access to and control over the resources and benefits of co-operative development;
3. Promote and support the individual human rights of women and men, boys and girls’ including sexual and reproductive rights.

As a Catholic organization which is ostensibly under the supervision of the bishops, openly promoting “reproductive rights”  would be somewhat problematic even for Development and Peace.  This explains why the official development and aid agency of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has no official policy on abortion.  Secretly, of course, the gender warfare is carried on with the same vigour and breadth as if there was a policy – not a policy against abortion but for it. Instead of explicit language to support the promotion of abortion, however, these NGOs simply marshal the gender language euphemisms into service to accomplish the same objective: the overturning of pro-life laws in the Global South.

Not only does liberation theology seek to create a division between men and women, it seeks to depersonalize unborn children, initiating once again these fictitious “reproductive rights”, and thereby creating a wedge between mothers and their unborn children. Opposed to liberation theology, there is the pro-life ethic which seeks to protect the unborn child and reconcile mothers with their unborn children.  Instead of putting up barriers between people to advance false human rights as liberation theology insists on doing, the pro-life ethic seeks to tear them down so a true and authentic unity and solidarity can exist.  For liberation theology, however, it is all about enforcing a marxist morality, instead of first beginning with the interior life and letting that flow naturally to defending the dignity of every human person from conception to natural death.  It ultimately seeks a political solution and gains superficial victories, creating more animosity between those who have power and those who do not.  Instead of recognizing that it is an interior conversion, an interior transformation which ultimately conquers, liberation theology and Development and Peace are still beating the same old marxist drum which insists that class warfare is the solution to social injustice when, in fact, it is the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Gospel of Life that ends social injustice.  The Holy Father calls for a radical transformation to the Gospel to defeat liberation theology:

Since the phenomenon of liberation theology indicates a lack of conversion in the Church, a lack of radical faith, only an increase in conversion and faith can arouse and elicit those theological insights and those decisions on the part of the shepherds which will give an answer to the magnitude of the question.

The Holy Father ultimately says that liberation theology is a blight on the Church and its mission, but its defeat cannot come through a superficial theology of the right. It must ultimately come through a genuine conversion. 


3 thoughts on “Development & Peace: The poster child of liberation theology

  1. Important Article John.

    I am not an expert in the area but from what I have seen the keyword being twisted here is “Liberation”. In God there is liberty but the word has been distorted to include things that are of this world and a disintegration of the aversion to sin and evil. To be free from sin is not to get a mercy pass, to gain exemption from God’s justice with ignorance, or to erase sin altogether. It is to strive for holiness and an increase in virtue by seeking to please God first and foremost.

    Women have latched onto liberation theology as a means to fight against the restrictions that come naturally with being a woman and a mother. They also use the movement to argue for women in the priesthood under the guise of fairness.

    Men have used it as a means to widen the narrow path that leads to God, to include the acceptance of the practice of homosexuality, the justification of disobedience and the absence of God’s centrality in the formation of good conscience.

    The catholic universities and colleges are full of professors who use liberation theology thinking to free their studies to include areas which are directly contrary to the teachings of the Magesterium.

    We cannot do good when we are in disobedience to the Body of Christ (the means and the ends must both be good). Liberation theology has become increasingly self serving and those of us who understand the harmful effects of its following, need to expose the damage it has inflicted.

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