Pope’s former professor: Francis never supported a Marxist-based liberation theology

Insights from a new compilation of interviews with close colleagues and friends

A new book from Ignatius Press featuring interviews with several professors, students, colleagues, and friends who were close to Cardinal Bergoglio prior to his election this past spring sheds light on his views of liberation theology. A recent piece for Catholic News Agency reports:

One of Pope Francis’ former teachers says in a new book that the Holy Father has never supported a Marxist-based liberation theology.

“In the Argentinean Liberation Theology, social Marxist analysis is not used, but rather a historical-cultural analysis, not based on class warfare as a determining principle for the interpretation of society and history,” said Argentinean Jesuit priest Fr. Juan Carlos Scannone.

“I think that the pastoral work of Bergoglio is understood in this context.”

Fr. Scannone’s remarks are included in an extensive interview in the recent book “Francis Our Brother Our Friend” (Ignatius Press, 2013) authored by CNA’s executive director Alejandro Bermudez.

The book’s release comes amid speculation by Vatican analysts regarding liberation theology, a controversial school of thought that developed in Latin America in the 1950s. Liberation theology has been criticized as a Marxist interpretation of the gospel, focusing on freedom from material poverty and injustice rather than giving primacy to spiritual freedom.

Fr. Scannone, who is now in his eighties, also says, “My opinion is that the Argentinean line of liberation theology, which some call ‘theology of the people’, helps in understanding the pastoral work of Bergoglio as bishop, just as many of his affirmations and teachings do.”

Fr. Fernando Cervera, S.J., whose spiritual adviser was Fr. Bergoglio, explains that “there were Jesuits like Father Scannone and theologians from the local clergy like Father Lucio Gera who proposed a non-Marxist Argentinean theology, centered on religious piety and culture,” but noted that while “Bergoglio participated in these reflections” his role was “more one of pastoral application, as can be seen in his homilies.”

Another former professor, Fr. Enrique Laje, S.J., said that when it came to liberation theology, Bergoglio “adopted a position of maintaining dialogue with everyone without getting involved in the issue.” When Laje wrote an article strongly criticial of Marxist-based liberation theology, a number of liberation theologians complained to Bergoglio, who said, “Well, if you do not agree, write something to refute it, if you can.”

The book also points out that Bergoglio was considered “the enemy” by “the Kirchners”, former Argentinian president Néstor Kirchner (1950-2010) and his widow, current president Cristina Elisabet FernÁndez de Kirchner, due to his vocal stance against the official recognition of same-sex marriage. Liliana Negre, a pro-life senator who often consulted with Cardinal Bergoglio, recounts how in 2010, Bergoglio wrote a letter in which he said that the push to legislate same-sex marrage “is not a simple political fight; but rather an attempt to destroy the plan of God. It is not about a mere legislative project—that is only the instrument—but, rather, it is a ‘move’ by the father of lies, who intends to confuse and trick the children of God.”

The book, Pope Francis: Our Brother, Our Friend—Personal Recollections about the Man Who Became Pope, is edited by Alejandro Bermúdez, Executive Director of the Catholic News Agency, and is now available from Ignatius Press in both hardcover and electronic book format.

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About Carl E. Olson 1207 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.