Pope Francis’s closest adviser has criticised “movements in the United States” hostile to the pontiff’s forthcoming document on the environment, saying the criticism was caused by capitalism protecting its interests.
Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, the co-ordinator of a group of nine cardinals that serves as Francis’s Council of Cardinals, said: “The ideology surrounding environmental issues is too tied to a capitalism that doesn’t want to stop ruining the environment because they don’t want to give up their profits.”
He said both the Church and the wider world are awaiting Francis’s encyclical “with hope,” as it came alongside a UN-sponsored agreement on Sustainable Development Goals and a UN summit on climate change in Paris later this year. But he added that when he was in the United States recently he had heard criticisms of the encyclical, even though it has not been published.
Cardinal Maradiaga said the Council of Cardinals was not directly involved in drafting the document, but the Pope had told them that the encyclical was taking an ethical, not a scientific approach to the issue.
The cardinal was speaking at a press conference in Rome to mark the beginning of a Caritas Internationalis general assembly.
Also at the event Dominican Fr Gustavo Gutierrez, often called the “father of liberation theology”, said that his work is “a love letter to God, to the Church and to my people”.
Asked if he would change anything he has written in the past 40 years, the 86-year-old Peruvian said no one would write their beloved the same love letter after 40 years, “but it is the same love”.
Fr Gutierrez was reflecting on the practical implications of Pope Francis’s call for a “poor church for the poor”. He will give a keynote address at the assembly.
The general assembly, on One Human Family, Caring for Creation, will include discussions about the impact of climate change on the poor and on the religious obligation to care for all of creation in anticipation of Pope Francis’s encyclical letter on the environment, said Cardinal Maradiaga, outgoing president of Caritas Internationalis.
Caritas’s emergency humanitarian assistance following natural disasters “is just one of the tasks of Caritas, but it is not the principal one,” said Cardinal Maradiaga. The first task is to educate Christians in communion and in a recognition that “the goods of this earth are meant not to be accumulated, but to be shared with one’s neighbours through love and service”. The point of Caritas, he said, “is love, concrete love”.
Fr Gutierrez said that “90 per cent of liberation theology” is about the Church’s “preferential option for the poor”, and the work of Caritas demonstrates that.
Liberation theology faced criticism from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the 1980s. Asked if his appearance at the Vatican and at the general assembly marked a “rehabilitation” of liberation theology Fr Gutierrez said no, because liberation theology as a whole was never condemned. The Vatican did find fault with some liberation theologians, although not Fr Gutierrez, and condemned currents of liberation theology that relied heavily on Marxist analysis.
The importance of the key intuition of liberation theology – its focus on concrete ways the Gospel responds to the poor – “is clearer now because of the witness of Pope Francis”, Fr Gutierrez said.
While it is necessary for reflection, he said, “theology is less important than living the faith”.
“I have spent much time studying the Bible,” Fr Gutierrez said, and there is no passage that urges believers to sit and think about their faith and write theology texts. “Instead, it says, ‘Go into the world and make disciples of all nations.'”