Liberation theology is reported to be in decline throughout Latin America, but remnants of this theology that mixes radical politics and theology, still survive. In a report on the pope’s visit to Mexico, the New York Times (Jan. 21) reports that “although only a handful of bishops still espouse it, [liberation theology] has nonetheless left a powerful legacy.
Many of the human rights groups, poll-watching groups and other civic organizations that are the backbone of Latin America democracy today are led by Christians who a decade ago learned to read and think critically in the thousands of parish-level study groups that were the theology’s basic expression.”
Many of liberation theology’s classic texts are outlawed in seminaries or are met with disinterest by a new generation of conservative students, and many radical seminaries have been closed across Latin America. But some priests working in the slums still look to liberation theology texts for inspiration. The “base communities” (the parish-led groups that taught the theology) live on, “led mainly by middle-aged working class housewives . . .”
As one young priest said while studying an 800-page liberation theology tome, “These texts present the historic Christ who broke bread with the poor, but fail to emphasize the Christ of the Spirit…But we can’t ignore these works, because they teach us to minister to the poor.”