ROME (CNS) — When Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass this year on Ash Wednesday, among those he placed ashes on was Father Gustavo Gutierrez, considered the father of liberation theology.
Father Gutierrez, a Dominican theologian from Peru, was in Rome to teach a brief course at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, also known as the Angelicum.
On Feb. 21, Father Gutierrez gathered with several hundred faithful in the Basilica of Santa Sabina, where the pope was opening the Lenten season. Midway through the liturgy, Father Gutierrez was among a small group who went individually in front of the pontiff for the imposition of ashes on their heads.
Father Gutierrez’s 1971 book, “A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, Salvation,” presented his concept of the connection between social and political liberation and liberation from sin.
As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the current pope — then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — helped guide a lengthy critical review of Father Gutierrez’s work. During the 1990s, Father Gutierrez was asked to write and rewrite articles clarifying some of his theological and pastoral points.
In 2004, the doctrinal congregation expressed approval of Father Gutierrez’s latest article on ecclesial communion, and it was published in the Angelicum university’s scholarly review.
Father Gutierrez told Catholic News Service that his problems with the church’s teaching authority, or magisterium, were “completely over” and had been settled some time ago. He said that was clearly demonstrated by the fact that he was teaching in a Rome pontifical university, which he said “is very important and significant for me.”
He said it was the third time he has taught at the Angelicum. This time he is teaching a three-week intensive course on the theology and spirituality of Fray Bartolome de las Casas, a Dominican who defended the rights of indigenous people in Latin America shortly after the Spanish conquest.
Although it doesn’t enter directly into this course, Father Gutierrez said he still freely expresses his views on liberation theology, because it remains “my way of reflecting on the faith.”
Since 2001, Father Gutierrez has been the Cardinal John O’Hara Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.