A History of Liberation Theology?


I’ve already tried doing some searches on Liberation Theology, and every other question on CAF ended up getting locked, so please keep responses to this question based upon fact only.

I do not wish to stir up a fight, but I would like to know a few things about Liberation Theology.

  1. What is it exactly? “Liberation Theology” seems like a term that originated around 1950.

  2. It seems based upon social movements originating in Latin America around 1950. What are the movements? Note: I am new to this study, specifically as I have only recently started learning about Saint Oscar Romero. Please forgive me for asking if my question lends offense. I am speaking from a standpoint of ignorance. I am just looking for keywords I can google to learn more.

  3. With respect to Social Justice movements - is Liberation Theology like a “subset” of Social Justice, or it’s guiding principle? Since that seems to be a potentially volatile question - I would like to state it in different terms. Are there Social Justice movements that are altogether different from Liberation Theology? Or have social justice movements always been seen as somehow derived from the more general notion of Liberation Theology?

Peace, please.

God’s Blessings,



On The Economist website there’s a short article which sums it up very neatly (link below), though I suspect a certain degree of distortion may have crept in. In any case, the article names two of the three main theologians who dominated Liberation Theology: Gustavo Gutiérrez of Peru and Leonardo Boff of Brazil. Gutiérrez is a Dominican and Boff is (or rather was—he is now laicized) a Franciscan. The third one, equally important though The Economist doesn’t mention his name, is Jon Sobrino, a Spanish Jesuit long resident in Central America. If you can get hold of their books, they should tell you just about everything you need to know about the beginnings of Liberation Theology and the aims that it set out to achieve.


Just…leaving this here…

“The movement was born in the KGB, and it had a KGB-invented name: Liberation Theology. During those years, the KGB had a penchant for “liberation” movements. The National Liberation Army of Columbia (FARC), created by the KGB with help from Fidel Castro; …”


Here’s an interesting discussion of Liberation Theology’s founder:


Just a little more:


A more favorable view of LT and Gutierrez:


Thank you both for sharing.

I’m still reviewing the materials, but if I may reemphasize my third question.

Is Social Justice a subset of Liberation Theology? Or vice versa?

It seems an important consideration, meaning: if social justice was somehow compromised by the infiltration of corrupt forces, then it may have originally been okay in its purest form. On the other hand, if social justice was introduced by hostile forces under the title of “Liberation Theology”, then it’s a different problem.

In either case, we do see results - specifically there is a thing known as “Social Justice” and a thing known as “Liberation Theology”… The question, then, becomes one of identifying the truth, “cleaning” it up, and rendering unto God what is God’s in its purest, most sublime form… The latter case would require some revisionist history, but that has always been and will always be every soul’s obligation anyway… Actually, since these terms exist, we’re going to have to clean them up anyway, so how do we make the effort a worthwhile sacrifice seems to be the question…


Is this an essay question?

I don’t think it has an easy yes or no answer but you would need to write an essay to fully address it, starting off by analyzing and defining those two terms.



Use the best means to translate this. It is very well written as it is in Spanish so I really do not want to spoil it with a Google translate.
It must be in English in the Vatican site. You may want to do a search yourself. Or perhaps sb else can .
This is Cardinal Ratzinger then as a Prefect for the Congregation of Doctrine of Faith.

Edited: Here it is in English



Liberation theology is/was an approach to advancing social justice in certain circumstances. Social justice is simply defined as when society provides “the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation.” (CCC 1928).

IMO, the original proposals put forth by Gutierrez are probably fine in and of themselves. The problem was the marxists were trying to advance similar goals in similar places, so the lines were often blurred and cooperation went too far, leading to heterodox deviations and deformations of the faith among some promoters of liberation theology.

This is why the Church really only condemns “certain forms of liberation theology which use, in an insufficiently critical manner, concepts borrowed from various currents of Marxist thought” as noted in the instruction from the CDF posted above by graciew.


Do you believe Pacepa’s story about Khrushchev being the origjnator of Liberation Theology? I don’t, not for a single moment. Pacepa is—to put it politely—not a reliable source of information. Look at his biography (link below). His adult life splits up neatly into three clearly distinct periods. He was recruited by the Securitate straight from university at the age of 23. He spent 27 years telling his bosses at Securitate, and later telling Ceausescu directly, what they wanted to hear, presumably a judicious mix of truths, half-truths and creative reporting. From his defection in 1978 up until the collapse of the Soviet Union, he survived by telling his minders in CIA counterintelligence what they wanted to hear. Eventually world history moved on and the CIA lost interest, at which point he found a new audience among right-wing conspiracy theorists, still telling his readers what they wanted to hear.




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