Theology and the Church: A Response Thesis

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Theology and the Church: A Response to Cardinal Ratzinger and a Warning to the Whole Church by Juan Luis Segundo

Liberation theology is a highly complex and often misunderstood topic, especially for those with less than a professional or academic interest in the Church. For the average member of the Catholic faith, the term "liberation theology" is layered with many different variations in meaning and overtone, from extreme visions of an armed Marxist rebellion to the simple giving of charity and maintaining an awareness of social injustice. The realities of what theologians and scholars are referring to when they discuss liberation theology is, if anything, even more complex than this view, and only slightly better defined. Disagreements concerning the proper perspective and derivation of liberation theology and its appropriateness in Catholic doctrine has formed one of the central conflicts in Church theology, politics, and practice in the latter half of the twentieth century.

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Juan Luis Segundo's Theology and the Church: A Response to Cardinal Ratzinger and a Warning to the Whole Church does an excellent job of articulating the perspective of the liberal theologists of Latin America as the ideology was understood at the time of his writing. In a measured yet unequivocal tone, Segundo lays forth both the social and the doctrine-based imperatives for liberation theology and social activism on the part of the Church. His book, as the title implies, is a direct response to Cardinal Ratzinger's (now Pope Benedict XVI) condemnation of liberation theology, or at least of certain aspects of the ideology and doctrinal interpretation. The book does not read as a defense of certain tenets of liberation theology, however, so much as an attack on Ratzinger's interpretation of the theology.

Thesis on Theology and the Church: A Response to Assignment

Segundo makes this clear very early on in the book, acknowledging that while Ratzinger's "Instruction on Certain Aspects of the 'Theology of Liberation'" "means to respond for the good of the Church," Ratzinger fails to accomplish a fully lucid and meaningful interpretation of true liberation ideology because he focuses on "the negative and only the negative" in warning against a rising current of opinion, rather than systematically analyzing and understanding the basic tenets of the theology (Segundo 22). This argument provides one of the great strengths of Segundo's book; he does not merely attempt to define and defend liberation theology, but rather levels a direct response to the most recent official attack on the growing strand of theological and political thought in Latin America that is both more comprehensive and more persuasive than Ratzinger's text.

Despite the fact that he is responding to a doctrine released by an official body of the Church, Segundo's stance is strangely and powerfully on the offensive. He is not attempting, that is, to defend the principles of liberation theology so much as he is attempting to dismantle the reasons liberation theology is objected to by the Catholic Church. His use of specific claims of Ratzinger's "Instruction" from which to draw general proofs and concepts regarding the incompleteness of the Church's stance is especially persuasive, as it makes a direct point-by-point comparison of liberation theology and the Church's stance possible while at the same time serving as a comprehensive analysis of and argument for liberation theology as Segundo understands it and hopes to see it manifested politically and socially in the world at large and Catholicism particularly.

In arranging his argument in this way, Segundo is quite cleverly and effectively exploiting a distinct advantage that he holds over Ratzinger. While Ratzinger was forced to respond to a growing yet still largely misunderstood social movement and current of theological thought, Segundo was presented with a distinct and, at the time, definitive explanation of the Church's position on the issues. His basic allegation, that Ratzinger and thus the Church misunderstand both liberation theology and the doctrinal interpretations that have led to its formulation, is foundational in Segundo's argument and in procuring this advantage. Ratzinger was essentially forced to respond to generalizations, and Segundo is able to point out how these specific generalizations are incorrect or… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Theology and the Church: A Response" Thesis in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Theology and the Church: A Response.  (2009, November 20).  Retrieved February 18, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Theology and the Church: A Response."  20 November 2009.  Web.  18 February 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Theology and the Church: A Response."  November 20, 2009.  Accessed February 18, 2020.