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What, then was the issue about Marxism? The issue may be briefly stated. Marxism, the Vatican asserts, is a reductivist form of social analysis; as such, it is intrinsically and so inseparably connected with a praxis of class hatred and struggle, which offends against Christian norms of charity, and with the denial of God and of the human person, which strikes at the core of Christian belief about God and the human.17 Liberation theologians, it conccdes, propose to ally themselves only with Marxism as to an instrument of the 'analysis' of the structures of oppression in the Third World;'s but in this they are multiply deceived. For Marxism is a totalising ideology of materialism and its 'ideological principles come prior to the study of social reality and are presupposed to it*.19 Thus, insofar as it is truly Marxism that these liberationists ally themselves with, they are inviting a theological cuckoo into the nest; insofar as Christian faith and praxis can truly live with a 'scientific* analysis of society and praxis for social change, that analysis must cease to be Marxist.

The consequences of ignoring the theologically subversive character of Marxism are a wholesale deformation of the Christian response to poverty and exploitation. Marxism defines truth in general as inseparable from praxis, the partisan praxis of engagement in the class struggle;10 all and only that which contributes to the success of the oppressed classes within that struggle is 'true1 and this class struggle 'is presented as an objective, necessary law. Upon entering this process on behalf of the oppressed, one "makes" truth, one acts "scientifically". Consequently, the conception of the truth goes hand in hand with the affirmation of necessary violence, and so, of a political amorality.'11

Worse still, the all-embracing character of this class analysis inevitably requires its application to the Church as institution and to its core beliefs-11 Therefore, if liberation theologians accept class analysis in principle, they will, whether they like it or not, have to accept the consequence that 'the class struggle divides the Church herself, and that in the light of this struggle even ecclesial realities must be judged'13 - and the Instruction clearly implies that at least some liberation theologians are none too unhappy to accept this consequence. What is more, the totalising and deterministic nature of Marxism entails wholesale consequenccs of a reductivist sort for Christian faith as such.14 Liberation theologians may not accept that this is so, but the logic of Marxism requires it: for any alliance with Marxism is an alliance with a system of thought for which religion as such is merely a phenomenon, expressed in misleading and mystifying terms, of real material - that is social, political and above all economic - forces which are the true engine of history. Inevitably, then, a Christianity wed to Marxism will lead to what the Instruction calls 'historicist immanentism* which will tend 'to identify the Kingdom of God and its growth with the human liberation movement, and to make history itself the subject of its own development, as a process of the self-redemption of humanity by means of the class struggle'.15 Along these lines, the Instruction adds, 'some go so far as to identify God Himself with history and to define faith as ttfidelity to history" * and, \ . . as a consequence faith, hope and charity are given a new content: they become "fidelity to history", "confidence in the future" and "option for the poor". This is tantamount to saying that they have been emptied of their theological reality1/6

No doubt there arc scarcely any liberation theologians in any part of the world who would recognise themselves in this caricature, And for sure, as an account of what conclusions liberation theologians themselves accept as following from such accommodations with Marxist thought as they would admit to, the analysis is thoroughly inaccurate and grossly unfair, But it is only one part of the Instructjq/z's argument which can be so easily rebutted. For to the authors of this document, at least as important as the detailed critique of the actual texts of liberation theologians, is the critique of the inevitable dynamic of a theological association with Marxism. It raises a general point of theological principle: can a theology in search of an analysis of the social, political and economic structures of exploitation find one in a general theory of society and history which is ideologically committed to atheism, materialism and reductivism? And is Marxism a theory of such a kind that the analysis and the ideology cannot be separated so as to permit the instrumental use of the analysis detached from the ideology? The Vatican's argument is that it cannot: that being so, it will not for the authors of the Instruction be any more than a partial and weakly inadequate response even if one can demonstrate that liberation theologians do not in fact accept the logical consequences of their alliances with Marxism. For that simply means that they are the less able to identify the fundamental inconsistencies and incoherences which vitiate the very project of a liberation theology itself. And if it amounts to anything by way of prima facie support for this Vatican view of the matter, it would be worth mentioning that nearly every mainstream Marxist would thus far be in entire agreement with its view of the inseparability within Marxism of the class analysis, the atheism and the historical materialism.

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