“We have a window of opportunity before us 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, you have the Pan-Amazon Synod that will be held in October. This is very important.”
This tell-tale statement by the Dominican friar Carlos Alberto Libânio Christo, known as “Frei Betto” (Friar Betto), was made during his speech at the 11th Faith and Politics National Encounter held in Natal, Brazil, on July 12-14.
A Marxist liberation theologian, Frei Betto was a mentor to the Lula and Dilma Rousseff [socialist] governments in Brazil. As a personal friend of Fidel Castro, he was close to the subversive left. During the sixties, he supported communist guerrilla movements and even spent time in prison as a result. In fact, he betrayed 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 July 2, 2007, in Granma, the newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party, caused a stir. Starting with “Dearest Che,” Frei Betto extols the validity of the example and thought of “comandante” Ernesto Che Guevara, killed in a firefight with the Bolivian army in 1967. He closes the letter thus: “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” consisted in establishing Bolshevik dictatorships in Latin America.
Frei Betto has never regretted his Marxist militancy. Again in 2012, he stated, “Marxism, by analyzing 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. We need to take him seriously” (Correio Braziliense, Apr. 13, 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 realized 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, Nov. 23, 2017).
He believes that the Pan-Amazon Synod to be held in Rome in October will be an excellent opportunity to move Christians toward Marxism. Liberation theology can then 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.”
During liberation theology’s boom in the sixties and seventies, the movement supported all the socialist and communist revolutions in Latin America even by taking up arms, as in Nicaragua and El Salvador. Afterward, 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. 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 have become more cunning. They no longer acclaim communist guerrilla warfare and proletarian expropriations of property. 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 proponents have replaced their red uniforms with green ones. “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 analyzing the Second Vatican Council, some people customarily recognize three elements: its documents; the “media council” (that is, the propaganda and hype that surrounded 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 working documents are already causing great concern. Cardinal Walter Brandmüller charged them of being nothing less than “heresy and apostasy.” As for the “media synod,” suffice it to hear the trumpets of the environmentalist and indigenist propaganda machines. These movements are rejoicing over all the water the Synod will bring to their mills.
The third element will be the use and abuse of the Synod by the liberation theology movement and especially its most updated versions found in eco-theology of liberation and indigenous theology. This most destructive element must not be absent from our analysis of the upcoming Roman assembly.