“We have before us a window of opportunity that will allow us to move forward. We must not propose Liberation Theology. It scares many people. We need to talk about socio-environmental issues instead. Along this line, among the signs of the times, here you have the Pan Amazon Synod, to be held in October. This is very important.”
This tell-tale statement by the Dominican friar Carlos Alberto Libânio Christo, known as “Frei Betto”, was made during his speech at the 11th Encontro Nacional Fé e Política [Faith and Politics National Encounter] held in Natal, Brazil, from 12 to 14 July.
A Marxist liberation theologian, Frei Betto was a mentor to the Lula and Dilma Rousseff governments. A personal friend of Fidel Castro close to the subversive left, he supported communist guerrillas in the 1960s, which is why he spent time in prison. One recalls, for example, his betrayal of the guerrilla leader Carlos Marighella, who he handed over to the Military Police in 1969, in exchange for a reduction in his sentence.
His “Open Letter to Che Guevara,” published on 2 July 2007 in Granma, the newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party, caused a stir. Starting with “Dearest Che”, Frei Betto exalts the validity of the example and thought of “comandante” Ernesto Che Guevara, killed in a firefight with the Bolivian army in 1967. He closes: “Wherever you are now, dear Che, bless all of us who share your ideals and hopes.” We must not forget that these “ideals and hopes” were the establishment of a Bolshevik dictatorship in Latin America.
Frei Betto has never regretted his Marxist militancy. Again in 2012 he stated, “Marxism, by analysing the contradictions and shortcomings of capitalism, opens a door of hope for a society that Catholics characterize, in the Eucharistic celebration, as a world in which everyone will be able to ‘share the wealth of the land and the fruits of human labour’…. Marx is not dead, and it is necessary to take him seriously” (Correio Braziliense, 13-04-2012).
Frei Betto has always tried to merge Christianity and Marxism by recalling “the common Jewish origin” of both: “The historical encounter between Christianity and Marxism has been realised in the liberating praxis of social and trade union movements. It is in the liberating praxis of the poor that one finds the privileged field of the encounter between Christians and Marxists’ (América Latina en Movimiento, 23-11-2017).
This shift of Christians towards Marxism, according to Frei Betto, will find an excellent opportunity in the Pan Amazon Synod to be held in Rome in October. It will be an opportunity for Liberation Theology to mobilize its grassroots:
“We must mobilize. We must take advantage of this very important event — an event that deeply irritates the Bolsonaro government. The Synod offers us a window of opportunity to mobilize many people.”
After Liberation Theology’s boom in the Sixties and Seventies (during which the movement supported all the socialist and communist revolutions in Latin America even by taking up arms, as in Nicaragua and El Salvador), the strong condemnations of Pope John Paul II, followed by the collapse of “real socialism” which constituted its “historical praxis” forced the movement to go into a long period of hibernation. The election of Jorge Bergoglio to the Papal throne changed the rules of the game and Liberation Theology began to raise its head and “become part of the life of the Church,” as Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi declared in 2014.
Liberation theologians, however, learned their lesson and became more cunning. They no longer exalt communist guerrilla warfare and proletarian expropriations. They no longer praise Che Guevara. All this “scares many people,” as Frei Betto admits. Today, the Liberation Theology movement advances stealthily, riding the environmentalist and indigenist wave sweeping the world. Many of its exponents have replaced their red uniform with the green one. “We must replace the cry of proletarians with the cry of the earth,” says Leonardo Boff.
In the upcoming Pan-Amazon Synod, the movement will find “a window of opportunity to mobilize many people,” as Frei Betto said.
When analysing the Second Vatican Council, people customarily distinguish three elements: its Documents; the “Media Council” (that is, the propaganda that took place around the event), and its concrete application, or rather, the use and abuse that progressive sectors made of the Council. The third element is by far the most destructive.
A similar analysis criterion can apply to the coming Pan-Amazon Synod. The (for now preparatory) documents are already causing great concern. Cardinal Walter Brandmüller accused them of nothing less than “heresy and apostasy.” As for the “Media Synod,” suffice it to hear the trumpets of the environmentalist and indigenist propaganda machine. These movements are clearly rejoicing over all the water the Synod will bring to their mills.
Then there is the third element: the use and abuse of the Synod by the Liberation Theology movement and especially by its most up-to-date versions, the Ecotheology of Liberation and Indigenous Theology. This element — the most destructive — cannot be absent from our analysis of the upcoming Roman assembly.