Extract Guiterrez – Liberation

July 5, 2018
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source: Catholic Reporter

n his introduction, Groody reviews Gutierrez’s three bottom-line principles about life and death at the bottom. First, material poverty is never good but an evil to be opposed. “It is not simply an occasion for charity but a degrading force that denigrates human dignity and ought to be opposed and rejected.”

Second, poverty is not a result of fate or laziness, but is due to structural injustices that privilege some while marginalizing others. “Poverty is not inevitable; collectively the poor can organize and facilitate social change.”

Third, poverty is a complex reality and is not limited to its economic dimension. To be poor is to be insignificant. Poverty means an early and unjust death.

“An early and unjust death”. I remember hearing Gutierrez say those words at a talk I attended at Maryknoll in 1984. The following year, while living in El Salvador, I remember Jon Sobrino using the same expression. Most people in history suffer “early and unjust deaths,” they said. When they wake up, they know that because of poverty, they may die before the day is over. That is the greatest injustice, they insist.

Gandhi put it this way: poverty is the greatest form of violence.

When Jesus said “Blessed are the poor,” Gutierrez points out, he does not say, “Blessed is poverty.” For Gutierrez, “Standing in solidarity with the poor began to mean taking a stand against inhumane poverty.” Groody explains:

Gutierrez makes distinctions between material poverty, voluntary poverty and spiritual poverty. Real poverty means privation, or the lack of goods necessary to meet basic human needs. It means inadequate access to education, health care, public services, living wages, and discrimination because of culture, race or gender. Gutierrez reiterates that such poverty is evil; it is a subhuman condition in which the majority of humanity lives today, and it poses a major challenge to every Christian conscience and therefore to spirituality and theological reflection.

Spiritual poverty is about a radical openness to the will of God, a radical faith in a providential God, and a radical trust in a loving God. It is also known as spiritual childhood, from which flows the renunciation of material goods. Relinquishing possessions comes from a desire to be more possessed by God alone and to love and serve God more completely.


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