One wonders about Pope Francis.
His Holiness has just ruled that Salvadoran Bishop Óscar Romero may be beatified – an elevation that the two previous Popes banned outright.
Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI didn’t quite see how saintliness could be reconciled with Bishop Romero’s Marxist rants, albeit packaged as they were with mock-Christian cant.
The Salvadoran was a leading proponent of ‘liberation theology’, the deadliest Christian heresy in modern times.
It was deadly not to Christianity, which people like Romero wilfully perverted but were unable to destroy, but to the thousands of people duped by them into violent action.
The essence of liberation theology is an attempt to latch Christianity on to Marxism, thereby reconciling the West’s founding creed with a materialist philosophy largely based on hatred of religion in general and Christianity in particular.
In his earthly life, Jesus, according to these false prophets, was a Galilean revolutionary killed for trying to liberate a Roman colony from its oppressors.
Since imitation of Christ is the ultimate purpose of a Christian life, it follows that a true Christian must fight oppressors, as defined by liberation theologians.
Those chaps didn’t strive for originality: their definition of oppression was lifted chapter and verse from Marx’s theory of class struggle.
Never mind that every attempt to apply this cannibalistic theory in practice has led to massacres never before seen, or indeed imagined, in human history.
No wonder. Marxists divide the world into two antagonistic classes, the poor and the rich (the exact terminology may vary, but the essence never does). The rich oppress the poor, and the only way for the latter to get a fair shake is to rise up against the rich and dispossess them.
Should the rich resist, they must be killed. Since this category can never be defined tightly, this is tantamount to a carte blanche for ‘the poor’, or rather the pseudo-intellectuals acting in their name, to feel not only free but indeed morally justified in murdering anyone they dislike.
Their homicidal antipathy is directed not just at some individuals known to ‘the poor’ personally, but against whole classes that can be reliably expected to produce enemies of ‘the poor’.
Hence democide, murder by category, is an ever-present feature of every revolution inspired by Marxist animadversions. The number of victims depends only on the size of the population and the length of time the liberators are at work, not on any moral constraints.
Thus the Russian and Chinese liberators of the poor murdered roughly 60 million apiece, most of them actually poor, but then theirs were large countries. China was more populous, but she devoted fewer decades to democide than Russia did, hence the lower proportion.
Cambodian Khmer Rouge, by contrast, managed to murder only 1.7 million, a risibly low number by Marxist standards. But we must remember that it represented over 20 per cent of the population, and the liberators were busy for four years only.
Once again, I’m talking here not about a perversion of Marx’s theory of class struggle but its logical development. Interpreting history as a raging war between two hostile classes presupposes the elimination of the vanquished class by the victor.
One would think that marrying this sort of thing with Christianity would be hard. But liberation theologians found a way.
Christ taught that the rich and the poor are equal before God, didn’t he? Well, that means they ought to be equal in every respect – all equally rich or, that being a manifest impossibility, all equally poor.
Since the rich have created all sorts of hierarchical institutions perpetuating their wealth and privilege, such institutions must be destroyed, starting with the ‘bourgeois’ state.
Biblical justification? No problem. Just look at the Exodus – wasn’t it national liberation from the yoke of slavery? Of course it was.
Unfortunately, there was that nagging add-on of the land God supposedly promised to the Jews, whereas everyone knows it was actually promised to Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda or whatever their predecessors were called in the ‘60s, when liberation theology first spoke out of its burning bush.
But hey, who says God’s truth was all revealed at once? Didn’t Newman talk about the development of Christian doctrine? And doesn’t development suggest gradual revelation?
Hence God first revealed the notion of liberation and then, over time, embellished it by explaining that those originally liberated were actually oppressors in the making. No contradiction there at all.
Compared to this sleight of hand, extrapolating to any national or economic liberation ‘the poor’ may fancy is child’s play, and liberation theologians aren’t children, at least not chronologically.
My problem with this vile nonsense isn’t just that it’s demonstrably heretical but that it’s unspeakably vulgar.
Christ himself, and the religion he founded, never had any quarrel with worldly powers – provided they didn’t encroach on the realm of God.
That’s the meaning of Jesus’s adages “My kingdom is not of this world” and “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”
It’s also the meaning of St Paul’s statement: “Let everyone put himself under the authority of the higher powers, because there is no power which is not of God, and all powers are ordered by God.”
This was said by a man who knew that the Romans would kill him for his faith. Just like Jesus, however, St Paul was prepared to die resisting worldly usurpation of the kingdom of God. But as long as the powers that be restricted themselves to ruling the kingdom of man, St Paul simply ignored them, just as Jesus had taught.
Christianity’s position on material poverty was unequivocally formulated by Jesus himself: “For ye have the poor with you always”. Since that statement was first made, the Church, and orthodox Christianity in general, has understood its role as relieving spiritual poverty only.
It’s not the Church’s remit to offer economic solutions to material poverty – and it’s emphatically not its business to agitate for armed struggle against every institution seen as an agent of oppression or material inequality.
That Latin American ‘liberation theologians’ ostensibly preached nonviolence is a moot point. History shows there’s no such thing as a nonviolent revolution, even if the original preachers make noises to that effect.
Once a theory legitimising hatred is hatched, especially if it’s couched in religious jargon, violence will always follow.
All those Gutiérrezes and Romeros should have learned their lesson from Ghandi: first the nonviolent prophets spout their sermons, then their violent followers take over. Such is the way of this world.
When Cardinal Ratzinger headed the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he fought liberation theology tooth and nail, correctly accusing it of anti-Christian Marxist messianism.
When he became Benedict XVI he vetoed the beatification of Bishop Romero, whose sermons directly provoked a murderous civil war in San Salvador. That Romero himself was its victim didn’t redeem his wickedness any more than, say, Trotsky’s assassination redeemed all the evil he’d done.
This is the veto that Pope Francis has seen fit to repeal. Out of respect for his office, I’ll only call this decision ill-advised.