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  1. August 31, 2009 5:12 pm

    Good stuff.

  2. August 31, 2009 5:26 pm

    If I’m Blosser, I print out this post and frame it on my wall. I would love to be smart enough to make the same “mistakes” as Ratzinger, and I would consider a point of honor to have done so.

  3. August 31, 2009 5:31 pm

    Michael – Of course, it’s not a matter of “how smart” Blosser and/or Ratzinger are, but of responsible scholarship. If Blosser wants to revel in the fact that he shares in Ratzinger’s inattention to facts and to detail, he can be my guest. I’ll print it out for him if he wants.

    • August 31, 2009 5:44 pm

      One of the things I like about Ellul is how he says that criticism of government should be consistent across the board — working for liberation means working with the underdog, but if the roles are reversed, one works for the new underdog. I think a lot of liberation theology applies this within their context which would then end up contrary to the revolutionary view that many hold up, since revolutionary would end with the rise of one group, and supporting that new group as the end of the work.

  4. david permalink
    August 31, 2009 8:52 pm

    Very clever Michael, I appreciate you putting this out, as I am often confused by what seems like your intent to be vague.

  5. August 31, 2009 10:40 pm

    You should also note that I did, in multiple instances throughout the article, explicitly state where I agreed with both you and Henry and specifically your particular/positive framing of ‘immanentizing the eschaton’.

    My intent was to identify what I think were the perfectly valid and shared concerns, of Voegelin, Ratzinger (and perhaps even Buckley): that time and again, humanity’s desire to “immanentize the eschaton”, to bring the world to its perfection through political means, has resulted in a complete (and oftentimes bloody) disaster.

    Aside from quibbling with his choice of words about Christians “entering” the “social, political and economic realms,”

    Well, that phrasing was derived straight out of the Catechism, so I’m glad you’re amicable to it. =)

    Aside from these nuances, however, I agree with Blosser on his main point: no political system can fully realize the Reign of God. In fact, this is precisely why I am attracted to anarchism as a radical critique of all political arrangements.

    Interesting (thanks).

    The deeper problems I have with Blosser’s post have to do with his references to liberation theology. This isn’t the first time that he has made reference to liberation theology as a foil in his arguments.

    I’ll note here what I said over at AC:

    As with Ratzinger and Voegelin, I’d just as likely point to National Socialism and Communism as examples of ‘immanentizing the eschaton.”

    And actually, the two paragraphs I cited were not so much a criticism of liberation theology per se as Marxist hermeneutics, which I specifically noted — and Ratzinger’s observation of how, within such, fundamental Christian theological concepts like “Hope”, “People of God,” “The Kingdom of God”, etc. are perverted. I found the second of the two paragraphs particularly interesting:

    “Here we must mention another basic idea of a particular post­conciliar theology which has led in this direction. People said that after the Council every dualism must be overcome: the dualism of body and soul, of natural and supernatural, of this world and the world beyond, of then and now. Once these supposed dualisms had been eliminated, it only remained to work for a kingdom to be realized in present history and in politico­economic reality. This meant, however, that one had ceased to work for the benefit of people in this present time and had begun to destroy the present in the interests of a supposed future: thus the real dualism had broken loose.”

    (I was intriqued by Ratzinger’s point: how an alleged opposition to dualism itself resulted in duality anew).

    Ratzinger, actually cites no liberation theologians or texts as examples of such distortions, but only refers to “liberation theology” in the singular and in the abstract

    To be fair, Ratzinger begins his preliminary observations with the acknowledgement:

    “Liberation theology is a phenomenon with an extraordinary number of layers. There is a whole spectrum from radically marxist positions, on the one hand, to the efforts which are being made within the framework of a correct and ecclesial theology, on the other hand, a theology which stresses the responsibility which Christians necessarily hear for the poor and oppressed, such as we see in the documents of the Latin American Bishops’ Conference (CELAM) from Medellin to Puebla.”

    And points out that he only wishes to comment on theologies which, in his mind, have “embraced the Marxist fundamental option.” His preliminary notes contain (unattributed) citations to Gustavo Gutiérrez and some unidentified others.

    In fact, what you find over and over again in the writings of liberation theologians is their repeated insistance that the Church be “cognisant of the necessary imperfections of human affairs,” in Blosser’s words.

    Good to hear.

    Of course, he didn’t tell where he got the picture. It’s more likely that he got it from a right-wing site than from a site about liberation theology

    As I advised, you simply had to mouse over it. I attached a URL to the source; suffice to say the artist of the image itself is anything but conservative.

    If Blosser is ever willing to seriously engage Latin American liberation theology,

    I’d welcome a reading list.

    The perpetuation of the myth of “violent” liberation theology allows Blosser and those who think like him to distract attention from the violence involved in their own political views as well as the utopian-theological fantasies embedded in their grand vision of global capitalism.

    Never realized I subscribed to a utopian vision of ‘global capitalism’. I guess we have a penchant for attributing theoretical bogey-men to each other. =)

  6. August 31, 2009 11:18 pm

    You should also note that I did, in multiple instances throughout the article, explicitly state where I agreed with both you and Henry and specifically your particular/positive framing of ‘immanentizing the eschaton’.

    Yes, I noted in the post that we seem to agree on that.

    Well, that phrasing was derived straight out of the Catechism, so I’m glad you’re amicable to it. =)

    So sure, I would quibble with the Catechism on its phrasing as well.

    As with Ratzinger and Voegelin, I’d just as likely point to National Socialism and Communism as examples of ‘immanentizing the eschaton.”

    Those would be fantastic examples. My point, though, is that liberation theology is a bad example.

    To be fair, Ratzinger begins his preliminary observations with the acknowledgement…

    And points out that he only wishes to comment on theologies which, in his mind, have “embraced the Marxist fundamental option.” His preliminary notes contain (unattributed) citations to Gustavo Gutiérrez and some unidentified others.

    Yes, I mentioned this over at your blog when I wrote:

    Ratzinger’s descriptions of liberation theology are merely descriptions of a very very marginal portion of those who identify as liberation theologians. He notes this in his article on liberation theology, as well as in the first CDF document on liberation theology… But then he proceeds to continue the discussion of “liberation theology” as if these marginal voices represent the views of “liberation theology” as a whole… right after he acknowledged that he was only describing the views of a few.

    Of course this has led to the impression that “the Vatican” “rejects” liberation theology as a whole, a view parroted even today by Vatican officials. It’s a myth. JPII said liberation theology was “useful and necessary.”

    His preliminary notes contain (unattributed) citations to Gustavo Gutiérrez and some unidentified others.

    What the heck is an “unattributed” citation? Or a citation that leaves the writers it is citing “unidentified”? Ratzinger may very well have had particular theologians in mind, but as I said, he cites no one.

    On the image you used, you said:

    As I advised, you simply had to mouse over it. I attached a URL to the source; suffice to say the artist of the image itself is anything but conservative.

    As I said at your blog:

    Granted, the source of the image is not “conservative,” but one of the main points of the article where you got the image is to criticize the portrayal of liberation theology as violent. Thus, the use of the image is precisely to critique the kind of associations that you are making, that kind of false perception of liberation theology. Your use of the image and the liberation theology article’s use of the image could not be more different.

  7. August 31, 2009 11:19 pm

    Never realized I subscribed to a utopian vision of ‘global capitalism’. I guess we have a penchant for attributing theoretical bogey-men to each other. =)

    Good one! But are you or are you not a “believer” in capitalism?

  8. August 31, 2009 11:20 pm

    Very clever Michael, I appreciate you putting this out, as I am often confused by what seems like your intent to be vague.

    Thank you, David. I do hope I have avoided being “vague.”

  9. September 1, 2009 12:24 am

    “What the heck is an “unattributed” citation?”

    What I meant is that he quotes a particular theologian but leaves him anonymous. But then these are what he described as ‘preliminary notes’, later published as an appendix in The Ratzinger Report. I don’t know if Ratzinger ever intended them to be taken as his comprehensive analysis on the subject.

    Good one! But are you or are you not a “believer” in capitalism?

    I wouldn’t describe myself as a “believer” in it. It isn’t salvific and it certainly isn’t perfect. But
    I’m inclined to think it, much like constitutional democracy, is probably the least worst of possible systems. for alleviating human poverty and respectful of human freedom.

    As you’d probably expect, I concur w/ John Paul II, who respond with ‘it depends on what kind of ‘capitalism’ you’re talking about':

    If by “capitalism” is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative, even though it would perhaps be more appropriate to speak of a “business economy”, “market economy” or simply “free economy”. But if by “capitalism” is meant a system in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed within a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality, and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious, then the reply is certainly negative.

    I also like Benedict’s drawing attention to businesses which have found a way to integrate both gratuity w/ profit in his latest encyclical, operating with a focus on the common good.

  10. September 1, 2009 10:51 am

    What always strikes me as interesting is the selective appeal to authority that goes on in these exchanges. For instance, at one moment a blogger will insist that the USCCB’s pastoral letters on voting, economics, and peace and justice are just “prudential judgments” with which we may freely disagree, and at the next moment that same blogger is quoting the USCCB on giving honors and speaking spots to pro-choice politicians as if it were dogma. Another instance is in this particular conversation. A blogger will disregard Ratzinger’s theory of democracy, praise for democratic socialism, and opinions on just war, but then that same blogger will cite liberally from Ratzinger’s writings on liberation theology. In both of these cases, we have a selective reference to authority only when that authority supports one’s previously accepted positions. And this is what is wrong with Catholic discourse in the “public square.”

  11. September 1, 2009 1:28 pm

    MJ – Yes, and although it is certainly fine to distinguish between different levels of teaching authority, that tendency is quite obvious and operative in various sectors of the church.

  12. September 1, 2009 11:06 pm

    Here’s a good essay on the history of Latin American liberation theology by Philip Berryman. It’s 10 years old, so it does not include commentary on the more recent swing to the left in Latin America, but it’s an accurate, if brief, history up to 1997 nonetheless.

    http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/40/023.html

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