CHURCH: CHARISM AND POWER: Liberation Theology and the Institutional Church by Leonardo Boff

CHURCH: CHARISM AND POWER: Liberation Theology and the Institutional Church

Email this review


A dry but potent scholarly brief for liberation theology that makes it quite clear why Fr. Boff is in hot water with the Vatican. The Roman defenders of the faith must have shuddered at the Brazilian Franciscan's unblushing radicalism. After all, he insists that Christianity mustn't be identified with Catholicism, which is merely one of its ""historical concretizations""; that Catholicism ""became a total, reactionary, violent, and repressive ideology""; that ""pure Christianity"" (as opposed to syncretism, which is normal and healthy) never has existed and never will; that the hierarchy is oppressing the laity, especially women, etc. To readers with no stake in old-fashioned Catholic orthodoxy, Boff will seem a rather mild-mannered spokesman for the new Latin American Christian left. He nowhere promotes violent revolution and explicitly criticizes Marxism as reductive. (On the other hand he treats capitalism as per se unjust.) His arguments for a Church that identifies with the poor and sheds its feudal, anti-democratic power structure sound reasonable enough--though he shows a little pique when he says that according to the Vatican's case for an all-male priesthood only circumcised Jews born in Galilee and speaking Aramaic should be ordained. The real sticking point in Boff's position is his stress on the negative element in Catholic identity: he wants the Church to be open to top-to-bottom change in doctrine and practice, to see itself as a very imperfect ""mediation"" between the spirit and the world, to make room for the ""anger of nonbeing, of absence, of nonidentity."" Unlike some liberationists, Boff can't be accused of ignoring the contemporary European theological scene--he knows it in-and-out. Like most of his colleagues, he deals mainly with abstractions (ecclesiology, pneumatology, and all that), but he writes with unmistakable passion about the most explosive problems facing the Church today. Cogent, coherent, and timely.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Crossroad