MUNICH (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Marxist philosopher and dissident ex-priest is denigrating the theological legacy of Pope Benedict XVI.
On Tuesday, the German magazine Publik-Forum published an article by Brazilian Liberation Theology proponent Leonardo Boff, who shared his Marxist perception of the late Pontiff.
Boff declared that Benedict "proved to be the enemy of the friends of the poor." He berated the pope emeritus for focusing too heavily on traditional theology and not enthusiastically embracing Marxist theory.
The laicized Brazilian has a long history of conflicts with Pope Benedict XVI, going back decades to when Benedict was still Joseph Ratzinger.
Regarding Ratzinger's battle against Boff's Liberation Theology, Vatican journalist Marco Tosatti wrote, "[H]e had spent his entire life, beginning with a document in 1984, opposing confusion between the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the 'gospel' of Karl Marx."
But while Boff and his ilk might use that type of statement as a sort of slander, it is at least partly true.
Originally perceived as something of a liberal and even appreciated by the leftist liberation theologians, Ratzinger quickly proved himself to be among the most doctrinally conservative clerics in the Vatican. As cardinal prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger condemned Liberation Theology and its confusion of social justice with spiritual salvation.
An early proponent of Liberation Theology, Boff was summoned to the Vatican multiple times due to his controversial essays and books. He frequently clashed with Ratzinger, who viewed Boff's ideas as dangerous.
In 1985, Boff was formally disciplined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, after publishing his book Church: Charism and Power, which called on the Church to adopt, as an institution, Marxist principles and to filter everything through the lens of so-called social justice. A one-year speaking and publishing ban was imposed on the Brazilian, and he was ordered to use that time to reflect on his behavior and his ideology.
In 1992, shortly before leaving the priesthood, Boff was nearly censured again. That time, it was for his participation in the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development (also known as the "Earth Summit). In fact, the threat of this discipline is what prompted Boff to request his own laicization.
Ratzinger viewed the dissident Brazilian's proximity to Marxism as a spiritual danger, potentially leading souls out of the Church and into the violent, atheistic arms of Karl Marx.
In 1984, the future Pope wrote:
Impatience and a desire for results has led certain Christians, despairing of every other method, to turn to what they call "marxist analysis." ... [T]he borrowing of a method of approach to reality should be preceded by a careful epistemological critique. This preliminary critical study is missing from more than one "theology of liberation." ... Let us recall the fact that atheism and the denial of the human person, his liberty and rights, are at the core of the Marxist theory. This theory, then, contains errors which directly threaten the truths of the faith regarding the eternal destiny of individual persons.
Ratzinger argued that the individual parts of Marxist thought were inseparable from their atheistic whole. Since Marxism's fundamental tenets are anti-Christian, all the means by which it seeks to act flow from those fundamentally anti-Christian tenets and are themselves anti-Christian. Thus, since Liberation Theology "borrowed" from Marxism, the entire movement was, according to Ratzinger, "not compatible with the Christian conception of humanity and society."
More than that, Ratzinger argued that Liberation Theology didn't just simply try to adapt a peripheral idea or two from Marxism; its entire "ideological core [is] borrowed from Marxism."
"This all-embracing conception," the German doctrine chief wrote, "thus imposes its logic and leads the 'theologies of liberation' to accept a series of positions which are incompatible with the Christian vision of humanity."
Ratzinger warned that Liberation Theology would inevitably and invariably lead to an overemphasis on creating a Church of the "oppressed," identifying the soul and its worth with a certain "class."
While Marx wrote incessantly about economic class, it would appear that today's favored "oppressed classes" are sodomites, lesbians and adulterers. This is evident in the current push to normalize such sinful behaviors through the Synod on Synodality.
In 2001, Boff argued, "A fundamentalist is a person who asserts his point of view as the only true one. Anyone who claims to be the exclusive bearer of the truth is condemned to intolerance against other groups, bearers of other points of view."
The global synod seems to have adopted this very view, often speaking of "inclusion" but rarely speaking of the supremacy of the Church. According to the majority of the synodal national synthesis reports, the most pressing goal of the Church today is to "accompany" those who identify as LGBTQ and those who are divorced and remarried without their prior marriages being annulled. Germany's Synodal Way has gone even further than most, calling outright for changes in the Church's immutable and perennial moral teachings.
This should come as little surprise, as Leonardo Boff was one of those who helped lay the groundwork for the global synod. Boff crafted the foundational working document for the 2019 Amazon Synod — of Pachamama infamy.
In 2020, Boff congratulated Pope Francis on the publication of his encyclical Fratelli Tutti, a document emphasizing the "inclusion" Boff pioneered and that the global synod now adamantly pushes forward.
In his comments on Pope Benedict's death, Boff noted, "Ratzinger's strength was in formulating the traditional theological perspectives, which were laid down in particular by Augustine and Bonaventure, in a different language." However, he lamented that, for the late Pontiff, "non-European perspectives, however, remained alien and suspicious to him."
Indeed, as both the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and as pope, Ratzinger's strength was the Church's theological tradition, rooted in the Church Fathers and the Doctors of the Church. Non-European perspectives were by no means foreign to the late Pope, but he refused to bow the head of the Church to Karl Marx, only to Christ the King.