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Friar Condemns Liberation Theology for Declining Faith in Christ

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The decline of Catholicism in Brazil has drawn the attention of Friar Clodovis Boff, a former advocate of liberation theology, who attributes the diminishing influence of the Church to the very theology he once supported. Liberation theology, which gained prominence in the 1970s with its emphasis on addressing poverty and oppression as pathways to salvation, has been a dominant force in Brazilian religious thought. However, Boff believes that the theology's singular focus on the marginalized has come at the expense of a Christ-centered foundation, resulting in a decline in Catholic faith and practice.

Photo credit: Sammisreachers

Photo credit: Sammisreachers

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
9/8/2023 (10 months ago)

Published in Americas

Keywords: Clodovis, Boff, Friar, theologian, theology, liberation, Brazil, Christ, Church, decline

Boff, a significant theologian of liberation theology until 2007, made a notable departure from his previous stance in an article titled "Liberation Theology and Return to Fundamentals." In this article, he criticized his fellow theologians for placing the poor at the center of theological discourse instead of Jesus Christ. This shift caused a rift between him and his more renowned brother, Leonardo Boff, a co-founder of the liberation theology movement.

In his recently published book, "The Crisis in the Catholic Church and Liberation Theology," co-authored with Father Leonardo Rasera and released by Ecclesiae, Clodovis Boff argues for a pivotal change within the Latin American Catholic Church. He urges a return to a Christ-centered focus, asserting that the Church should prioritize Christ as priest, master, and Lord, rather than solely concentrating on addressing issues such as poverty and climate change.

Boff's concerns stem from the dramatic shift in religious landscape that Brazil has experienced since the ascendancy of liberation theology. During the late 1960s, when the theology gained prominence, over 90% of Brazilians identified as Catholics. Presently, that number has dwindled to 51%, marking a significant decline. Even more concerning is the low rate of church attendance among Brazilian Catholics. A survey conducted by Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) in 36 countries revealed that a mere 8% of Brazilian Catholics attend Mass on Sundays, ranking Brazil third lowest in church attendance among the analyzed countries.

Boff and Rasera argue that the root of this decline lies in the transmission of the deposit of faith. Liberation theology, they contend, has led to a utilitarian view of faith and a functional approach to the Word of God, with the poor at the center of its interpretation. This skewed perspective, according to Boff, has pushed many Brazilian Catholics towards alternative paths such as Protestantism, esotericism, neopaganism, and even Satanism.

In his book, Boff addresses the need to reevaluate liberation theology with a Christocentric foundation, in line with St. John Paul II's call to the Brazilian bishops in 1986. He emphasizes that affirming the centrality of Christ is not merely a doctrinal assertion but a profound existential and operational commitment. This, he suggests, requires a profound dedication that may even demand personal sacrifice and unwavering faith.

As Brazil grapples with a declining Catholic population and wavering church attendance, Friar Clodovis Boff's call for a Christ-centered reorientation of the Latin American Catholic Church opens an essential dialogue about the theological underpinnings that influence religious engagement. The debate surrounding liberation theology's impact and the need for a renewed focus on Christ resonates as a critical step toward revitalizing Catholicism in Brazil and fostering a deeper connection between the faithful and their faith.

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