PERUVIAN Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez, O.P. generally considered the father of the controversial theology of liberation, urged the Church to realize its role in uplifting the lives of the poor by helping the struggle against unjust social structures that perpetuate poverty.

Fr. Gutierrez pointed out that Theology could be used to liberate the poor during the lecture “Speaking the Truth in Action with the Poor” last Nov. 30 at the Albertus Magnus Auditorium.

According to Fr. Gutierrez, the causes of poverty are known and scientifically established. He said that ignorance about the causes of poverty in the past had resulted in the belief by a conservative sector of the Church that poverty would “always be with us” and thus, the poor could be relieved from their suffering by mere tokenism.

He added that poverty has been bred by social structures. Poverty, he said, is man-made.

“If (poverty) is a product of our own hands, we can change it,” Fr. Gutierrez stressed.

Father Gutierrez also criticized globalization, explaining it adversely affects the poor because it divides the world into the have and have-not.

Fr. Gutierrez emphasized that while the Church must practice universality since people believe in one God, it must put higher priority in helping the poor. Thus, the Church should practice the preferential option for the poor.

Fr. Gutierrez is perhaps the most influential Latin American theologian of the 20th century. His influence and renown owes largely to his best-selling 1971 book “A Theology of Liberation,” in which he used both theological and social science tools to establish the reality of poverty and the need for the Church to side with the poor.

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In the 1980’s, the Vatican issued an instruction to warn against the Marxist draft of some “theologies of liberation.” In a later document, however, the Vatican clarified that in some instances, the theology of liberation is correct in criticizing the situation of the poor.

As a sign of Father Gutierrez’s renown, many priests, religious, teachers and church workers filled the auditorium. Many of them came from other theological schools and congregations.

A poignant note to the occasion was the announcement that Father Gutierrez, 74, had joined the Dominican Order. Although he had been a Dominican tertiary as a secular priest, Fr. Gutierrez joined the Order of Preachers two years ago as a novice and made his simple vows only last year.

“So you may say that as a Dominican, he is a young man,” said Fr. Fausto Gomez, dean of the Faculty of Sacred Theology.

The lecture was organized by the Faculty of Sacred Theology, in cooperation with the Faculty of Philisophy, Theological Society, Sisters’ Institute for Theological Formation, and the Institute of Religion.

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