Gutiérrez urges Catholics to find `solidarity with poor'
By TIM LOGAN
Senior News Writer
More than 500 students and faculty packed the seats in McKenna Hall Monday night, and spilled onto the carpeted floor around the podium.
These hundreds who were there heard a challenge, a challenge to follow the words of the Gospel and combat poverty in the world.
And what brought them was the challenger: Father Gustavo Gutiérrez, a Peruvian priest and founder of the liberation theology movement.
At the talk, Gutiérrez outlined his theology, which calls on Catholics to work for, and with, the poor against the forces which keep them in that condition.
The central tenet of liberation theology is a "preferential option for the poor," said Gutiérrez, or finding solidarity with the poor as a way to help them.
"One is to be in solidarity with the poor and at the same time it is a rejection of poverty," said Gutiérrez, whose 1971 book "A Theology of Liberation" catalyzed the movement which has inspired many Catholics to serve. "This is the meaning of the Christian commitment."
Critics have called this notion a form of solidarity with the poor communist, and many of the philosophy's proponents call it radical, but Gutiérrez said that solidarity has a larger purpose.
"The question is not to imitate the poor, it is to enter the world of the poor and be in solidarity with them," he said. "Imitation is beautiful, but it's not efficacious. The poor don't need this."
What the poor do need, Gutiérrez said, is for Christians to accept the calling of their faith and work to combat poverty in all its forms. It is not an easy calling, and poverty is not easy to overcome, he said.
It is a difficult condition to overcome, Gutiérrez said, for three reasons: poverty is universal, stretching all across the globe; it is complex, affecting not just the monetarily poor but all who are dispossessed; and, for too long, it was considered an unavoidable fate for those who were born into it.
"For all these reasons we can say poverty is evidently a social issue, an economic issue, but at the same time it is a big challenge to Christian faith, because poverty is unhuman.
"We can see Christ through the poor, Gutiérrez said, and by solidarity with them, and working for them, we can both grow closer to Christ in ourselves and help combat social injustice towards others.
And the basis for that philosophy is made simple.
"Love is at the root of the preferential option for the poor," he said. "It is the love for everyone, but especially the last ones, the weak, the abandoned."
The talk was sponsored by the Theology department as part of its Millennial Series of lectures. Gutiérrez will speak again today at 4:30 in 131 DeBartolo in a colloquium on "The Church of the Poor: John XXIII and The Council."
All News Stories for Tuesday, September 12, 2000