Juan Carlos Scannone, SJ – Theology, Popular Culture, and Discernment (1975)

[Juan Carlos Scannone, SJ (1931-2019) was a Argentine liberation theologian who helped to formulate what is now called the “theology of the people” (teología del pueblo). Scannone played an influential role in the formation of Pope Francis’ theology. This can be seen quite clearly in the fact that Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato si’ explicitly cites Scannone in footnote 17 of the text. Likewise, according to Zenit, Bergoglio/Pope Francis was one of Scannone’s students. Or, as Leonardo Boff put it: “Francis is a liberation theologian elaborated by Scanone, who was the one who somehow sustained some attitudes of Peronism.” Yet, it should be made clear that the “liberation theology” put forward by Scannone is distinct in its criticism of certain trends with liberation theology that were excessively reductionist insofar as they did not deal with issues of liberation from the standpoint of the light of faith. Thus, as Scannone argues in the following text, it is necessary for liberation theology to become postmodern, in the sense of criticizing (though by no means one-sidedly negating) the ideologies of the Enlightenment and of modernity (including European political theology and Marxism–though Scannone’s theology does not discount the usefulness of Marxism as a sociological mediation). For Scannone, a theology of liberation cannot simply exist as a form of consciousness-raising for “avant-garde groups of Christians” instead it must deal with the historical praxis of “the people of God as a whole”–in this case, the people of God as they exist in Latin America. Thus, Scannone’s theology of liberation attempts to manifest the liberating activity of Jesus Christ in concrete historical (cultural, political, social, economic) formations while at the same time not reducing the faith to those historical forms, nor by emptying the faith and theology of its transhistorical, universal, and ultimately critical, value.]
[The following text was originally published in Frontiers of theology in Latin America published by Orbis Books (Third Printing, September 1983).]


Latin American theology has taken several major steps forward in the last few years. The first step really goes back to Vatican II. As was the case in other sectors of the church, it served to create a distinction between preconciliar and postconciliar theology in the Latin American church. At first, however, both versions of Latin American theology continued to look to Europe and European theological trends rather than to the situation and culture of Latin America itself. One side sought to “apply” the Council to our context while the other resisted any such application. But there was no real rereading and reinterpretation of church tradition and the conciliar position from the standpoint of our own history and culture.

The updating of the Council did have one initial effect. It forced us to pay heed to the “day of the Lord,” or kairos of salvation through which our peoples might be living now. Greater openness to the world, which was very much encouraged by Vatican II, prompted our theology to pay ever increasing attention to our concrete world here. It thus came to an acute awareness of our world’s structured injustice and institutionalized violence, along with the conflict that riddles it. The council’s focus on salvation history was the product of trends in biblical research and biblical theology. It led our theology to focus on salvation in terms of the concrete happenings in our own contemporary history. Once the Council had attempted to discern the “signs of the times” on a more universal level, we were encouraged to look for them as specific signs of God at work here, as “first indications of the painful birth of a new civilization.” [1]

This second major step is embodied in the Medellin Episcopal Conference itself (1968). As was the case with Vatican II, the Medellin Conference synthesized already existing theological trends and also provoked new ones. The latter constitute the post-Medellin theology that is now widespread. And just as Vatican II provoked reactions both for and against it, so did the Medellin Conference—a clear indication that it had touched upon problems that go right to the heart of the church’s life on this continent.

So it was that postconciliar theology in Latin America splintered into two predominant trends. Some continued to elaborate a seemingly universal theology on the basis of cultural patterns imported from postconciliar European theology. Others took a very different tack, without rejecting the universality of theology or refusing to dialogue with European theology. They now began to theologize in terms of the distinctive historical and socio-cultural situation of Latin America and its corresponding way of living the faith. Using that situation as its starting point, Latin American theology now sought to offer an appropriate theological response.

A shift in emphasis went along with that shift in basic outlook. Whereas earlier the emphasis had been placed on development (e.g., at the CELAM conference in Mar del Plata), it now came to be placed on liberation. The latter term, with deep roots in the Bible, managed to express the present-day situation, the yearnings of our peoples, and the consciousness-raising that was going on among them. Their situation was no longer viewed from the standpoint of the centers of power outside. They were no longer viewed as underdeveloped countries going through a process of development akin to that of the now affluent countries. Instead they were now seen in terms of their own intrinsic situation, which was and is one of structural dependence on the way toward liberation. Viewed in the light of faith, the liberation would have to be not just social, political, and economic but total and integral.

So just as earlier distress, like that felt in Europe, had given rise to an incipient “theology of development,” the new change in outlook gave rise to a “theology of liberation” in Latin America. It has been called “the first major current in modern theology to develop outside of Europe.” [2] At the very least it is the first major contribution to world theology that is truly original to Latin American theology. For the first time a theological movement consciously assumed a standpoint of its own on a continent that had already been Christian for some centuries.

Liberation theology, then, is nothing else but the theological side of the experience encountered by Christian faith when it consciously elected to undertake the transformation of a dependent part of the world on the basis of the gospel message. Historically theology had tended to view itself as a science or a form of wisdom. Now it began to view itself as “critical reflection on Christian praxis in the light of the Word.” [3] This is not to say that it ceased to view itself as a science or a form of wisdom. It merely means that it had to take note of the real nature of current Latin American praxis. And since that praxis is one of liberation, the resultant theological reflection on it would necessarily take shape as a “theology of liberation.”

It would not be merely a new chapter in theology based on the same old theological methodology. It would not be like a “theology of politics,” a “theology of revolution,” or a “theology of temporal realities.” Instead it would be a completely new reworking and formulation of theological activity as a whole from a completely new standpoint: i.e., the kairos of salvation history now being lived on our continent. Its reflection in the light of God’s word would not just be about liberation praxis; it would actually start from that praxis to reinterpret the riches of the faith, which itself is praxis.


In my opinion, two main lines of thinking can be discerned in this theological trend that has developed since the Medellin Conference. I do not mean to suggest at all that all the varied strands and byways can be reduced to two. But since I cannot treat them all, I will focus here on the main lines of thinking rather than on all the theological currents that one might be able to discern. One of these post-Medellin lines of thought has been adopting Marxist methodology more or less consciously, along with its peculiar categories for analyzing and transforming reality. The other major line of thinking has led theology to take note of the culture and religiosity of the various peoples of Latin America.

From my own standpoint as an Argentinian at least, I think we can point to a new and further step that has been taken beyond that symbolized by the Medellin Conference. It is not a totally new step in that respect, but rather a further explicitation of certain tendencies and a lesser emphasis on others. As a result we find differences in focus and emphasis with the broad current of theology that has been worked out on the basis of the concrete situation of Latin America and its corresponding praxis of liberation. Viewed from my home country, the difference in focus under consideration here is not out of line with the distinctive experience of the Argentinian people in the last few decades. Nor is it out of line with the different assessment that might be made of nationalist and populist movements in Latin America (e.g., Peronism) insofar as their significance for liberation is concerned. And that is true whether the assessment is based on political analysis, philosophic interpretation, or theological hermeneutics.

In order to bring out the nature of the two main lines of thinking alluded to above, I shall focus on a few points and themes where they seem to show some difference in emphasis. Certain questions will help us to see this more clearly.

1. If we start off from the assumption that theology is critical reflection on historical praxis “in the light of the Word,” then the first difference between the two lines of thought might be seen in their different understanding of “historical praxis.” Are we dealing here primarily with the historical praxis of the Latin American peoples or with that of avant-garde groups whose political consciousness has been raised? Are we dealing primarily with the faith praxis of the people of God—which would include but go beyond political praxis— or are we dealing with historical praxis pure and simple? In the latter case we should not be considering anything specific or peculiar to the praxis of the faith; we would not be considering the theologal aspect or impulse that accompanies any action transformed by the faith. In short, we would be concentrating on what unites Christian avant-garde groups with non-Christian avant-garde groups more than on what unites Christian avant-garde groups with the praxis of the People of God as a whole. [4]

Finally, are we dealing with a praxis that is rooted in our past history and even in prior Christian tradition, or are we dealing with a praxis so new and original that it is determined almost exclusively by our present heightened awareness of our structural dependence?

Obviously different answers to those questions will give rise to very different theologies. At bottom those questions are asking who is the subject of the theological wisdom made explicit reflectively and critically by the theologian, and who is the main addressee of any such theology: avant-garde Christians or the people of faith?

2. Connected with all that is one’s understanding of the term “people,” [5] and its subsequent relationship to the “People of God” in theological reflection.

On the one hand “people” may be used as an historico-cultural category (a kind of “symbolic category”) that designates all those who share in the historical project of liberation, whatever place they may occupy in the production process. In this case it is a cultural category because it alludes to the creation, defense, and liberation of a cultural ethos or human lifestyle. It is a historical category because only through the use of history can we determine who can really be called the “people” and in what way, and who cannot (the “anti-people”). And it is a “symbolic category” because of its convocative richness and its ambiguity (or significatory overdetermination), the latter being removed only in a specific historical context.

On the other hand one may tend to have a socio-economic or classist idea of the “people,” identifying the people with the proletariat or the peasantry. Instead of using it as a historical and symbolic category, some use the term “people” as a scientific and dialectical category, usually based on a specific conception of dialectics. In such a case the “awareness” or “consciousness” of the people is usually understood to apply only to various avant-garde groups whose consciousness has been raised.

In the first instance, then, the category “people” is predominantly historical and political, operating in terms of an opposition between “power elites” on the one hand and the “oppressed people” on the other. In the second instance it is predominantly socio-economic, operating in terms of the opposition between “bourgeoisie” on the one hand and “proletariat” on the other.

3. Also closely related to the point discussed in our first section above is the different role assigned to various mediating factors in trying to take a theological reading of praxis in the light of God’s word. Some might stress the mediating role of one or another kind of social science, using Marxist categories or Marxist methodology for example. Without denying the mediating role of the social sciences and the real contribution that might be made by Marxist methodology and its categories, others might stress the mediating role of history and choose a historical hermeneutics to explore the national experience of a given people. This choice implies acceptance of the fact that our people’s liberation praxis and culture has deep roots in history; it means that their history will not be interpreted solely in terms of the dialectical schema of dependence.

4. Those who accept rootedness in history tend not to ponder history in terms of a dialectics of opposites. Instead they tend to use a dialectics of “already and not yet.” In the history of the Latin American peoples they see a process of liberation and a people’s liberation praxis that did not begin in the last decade. This was “already” real and present in the history of our caudillos and montoneras, [6] though it has “not yet” been fleshed out in any total or definitive form. What is more, the roots of this process can be found even in the mother country, Spain, in such movements as the comuneros.

Those who tend to bypass history and liberation events in the past are rightfully critical of many pseudo-liberation events and of romantic interpretations of history. The danger is that exclusive emphasis on dependence may tend to make them feel that our whole history was one of oppression until the socialist revolution appeared on the scene.

5. The first group, then, feels that in the past history of our people one can already see a distinctive popular culture and a brand of popular wisdom based on faith which can be spelled out somehow in theology. That culture and faith was spurned as “barbarism” by the Enlightenment “civilization” of Bourbon Spain, France, and England, [7] which was imported into Latin America by the native elite. In reality it is the original fruit of Ibero-American cultural intermingling and the baptism that was conferred on it. The logos or sapiential rationality of this popular culture is not the logos of the modern Enlightenment; nor does it correspond with the canons of modern technological and instrumental reasoning. But that does not make it any less human, rational, and logical, nor any less usable for theology.

6. Depending on the stance one adopts towards the issues cited above, one will then have a differing evaluation of popular Catholicism in Latin America. Without denying its ambiguities, some will find in it an expression of authentic Christian faith inherited from the past and received from the preaching of the first missionaries. It should continue to be evangelized, but in terms of its own proper cultural values.

Others will tend to be more critical of the syncretist forms of popular religion. Influenced to some extent by Protestantism here, they will tend to make a distinction between religion and faith and to see the religion of the people as a socio-cultural byproduct of socio-economic alienation. Thus they will tend to contrast the purified faith of avant-garde Christians to the people’s traditional forms of religion.

Since the basic approach of pastoral activity as a whole plays a great role here, the basic stances have many more shadings than I have just suggested. But I think it is correct to say that the main currents of theological thinking and pastoral activity would tend to stress one basic option or the other.

7. In general both positions reject the “sacralizing” tendency that dominated the Christendom mentality of an earlier day. It was also rejected by the very first postconciliar reaction noted at the start. The sacralizing tendency was inclined to confuse or identify one particular culture or social structure with Christianity, as if they were the only real Christian culture or society.

Here again we find differences among those who reject “sacralization.” Some stress secularization, as that term is understood by European and North American theology. In line with what I said in point 6 above, they will advocate criticism and demythification of popular religiosity, finding inspiration in “suspicion” and the “masters of suspicion” discussed by Ricoeur (Marx and Freud in particular).

This critical attitude may go back to very different roots. In the case of some (e.g., the intellectual elites of a neoliberal or developmentalist stamp) its roots lie in the enlightened reasoning of progressivism. In the case of others its roots lie in Marxist critico-dialectical reasoning, which is equally enlightened but in a dialectical relationship with revolutionary praxis. In both cases we are dealing with a heritage of the modern age, an age which we have experienced here in a basic state of dependence.

Still others, however, are disturbed by both of these brands of criticism. Admitting their value, they will object that such criticism often conceals a “scientistic” or Enlightenment conception of rationality that fails to regard the human value of sapiential and symbolic reasoning. These people are more ready to acknowledge the liberative import of religious symbols. They also stress the distinctive contribution that faith can and does make to both the religious and the secular praxis of our people and their historico-cultural project. This is a contribution that is transcendent and in some sense contemplative. Without denying the critico-prophetical function of the church and its obligation to commit itself to praxis, these people prefer to define the specific quality of ecclesial activity in terms of its religious mission and transcendence; at the same time, however, they see the promotion of human justice as an integral component of evangelization.

Needless to say, these people do not view religion in liberal terms. It is not a water-tight compartment in the midst of life but a transcendent aspect of all human activities, even those that may not be specifically religious. They do not lapse back into any sort of “sacralism” because they have no intention of proposing some alternative or parallel historical project of a sacral character. They respect the autonomy of history as a secular project, but they also want to recognize its transcendent aspect as brought out by the Christian faith.

8. Closely bound up with all the above are the different emphases that these pastoral and theological options may display in their strategy for change and liberation. Some may stress ethical and prophetic criticism, thereby tending to intensify conflict and even class struggle both within and outside the church. Without rejecting prophetic criticism and ethical denunciation, others will stress unity over struggle and conflict. On the one hand they will admit perfect unity does “not yet” exist in the church or among the people, and so they will denounce any pseudounity that serves to disguise existing injustices. On the other hand they will also recognize the reality of the unity that is “already” present here and now, refusing to disregard or snuff out the spark that has already been lit. Thus they have more of a feel for pastoral patience, historical viability, and the time needed for liberation to become a complete reality.

9. The differing points of view are thus open to different temptations. Those who propound ethical and prophetic criticism may be in danger of falling into “ethicism,” classism, violence, and an excessive stress on conflict. The others are prey to a populist romanticism that might easily be taken over by those opposed to liberation; they might also fall prey to an ineffective reformism that would identify viability with compromise.

From all that has been said above I think we can now distinguish four main strands of thought in current Latin America that are based on the varying historical approaches indicated:

  1. A conservative, preconciliar theology that is more and more on the wane;
  2. A postconciliar theology based on European or progressivist North American models;
  3. A liberation theology predominantly influenced by Marxist categories and methodology in its concern to analyze and transform reality;
  4. A liberation theology predominantly concerned with being a theology of popular pastoral activity in the sense just described. Here the term “pastoral” should not be taken in a restricted sense. It implies an option for popular culture as the praxis of the People of God in all their dimensions.

A perfect example of the last option in Argentina is the chapter on popular pastoral activity in the 1969 San Miguel statement of the Argentinian episcopate. Their statement was designed to adapt the conclusions of the Medellin Conference “to the present-day reality of our country.” [8] As Lucio Gera notes, the Argentinian statement does not identify the world or the temporal dimension with the state, as we were wont to do in our preconciliar theology; nor does it describe that dimension in the rather abstract terms that can be found even in postconciliar brands of theology. Instead that dimension is concretized in “the Argentinian people.” [9] The church must “involve and incarnate itself in the national experience of the Argentinian people.” To do this, it must draw closer to them, particularly “to the poor, the oppressed, and those in need.” Here, Gera notes, we find an understanding of the people that is not framed in class terms. The focus is not on ownership of the means of production and the place people occupy in the production process. The important thing is that the people be active agents of their own history and have a place in the decision-making process, though of course the decisions will be fleshed out in material terms.

The pastoral, ecclesiological, and theological focus of the document becomes truly original when it affirms that “the activity of the church should not only be oriented toward the people but also derive from the people primarily.” ” Hence “the church must exercise discernment about its liberative or salvific activity from the viewpoint of the people and their interests.” It is the people who are the active subject and agent of human history, which is intimately bound up with salvation history. The signs of the times, then, “are rendered present and decipherable in the happenings which the people perform or which affect them.” The place where one can discern the real outlook of the people, and hence the proper outlook for church activity, is the history of the people, the national experience in history and the events contained in it. The aim is definitely not to give a nationalistic focus to theology and pastoral activity, however. It is to give them the universality and transcendence that is properly theirs, but by situating them concretely in history and pointing up their salvific embodiment.


Each of the four main positions summarized above defends real values. The first position accentuates the values of tradition, the institutional and sacral aspect of the church, and hierarchical authority. The second highlights the critical spirit of the Enlightenment, the autonomy of the world and science, technical development, and progress. The third stresses social criticism of injustice, ethico-prophetical denunciation, and identification with the poor and oppressed. The fourth underlines the values of popular culture, the “already” existing unity of the church as the People of God, the Christian sense of our people and their religio ity, the historical roots of the current liberation process, and openness of this process to a qualitatively new society that would be neither capitalist nor Marxist. Each view is in danger of absolutizing its own particular focus and making it the exclusive one.

This does not mean, however, that they all have the same truth value. It is not enough to discern the positive values of each and the dangers of one-sidedness. We must also exercise discernment in trying to figure out which way salvation actually travels through history. Our work of theological discernment must therefore try to focus primarily, though not exclusively, on the starting point and the final goal of the journey and decide the true route.

Two gospel criteria can help us with this work of discernment in the midst of our situation in history. First, we should give preference to the theological and pastoral option that best serves the cause of unity in justice. In other words, we should prefer the option which, being more radical and comprehensive, allows for the most thorough dialectical integration of the other options and their values. Unity is to be preferred over divisiveness and conflict, though we would still respect differences and accept the need for a critical fight against injustice and any ahistorical absolutization. Included under the latter heading would be any ahistorical absolutization of our own theological focus, even though it might be the most comprehensive one. Authentic unity is nothing else but the fruit of human passage through the paschal mystery in every historical “already” and in the eschatological “not yet.” Second, the hermeneutic locale of historical discernment is given, in every situation, by the poor and oppressed—which is to say, by those who suffer whatever form of injustice seems to be the most crucial in a given situation.

This means that poverty, injustice, and oppression must always be defined historically. In a given historical instance it may be discrimination of one sort or another—racial, political, socio-economic, religious, or cultural. The point is that some particular form of injustice will embody the main concrete sin of a given age and society, serving more or less as its “sign.” Precisely because it involves the poor, it is also here that the gratuitousness of both historical salvation and definitive salvation is signified. This sign is “efficacious” because it affects and moves people ethically as a summons in which the eye of faith can discern the word of God. This summoning word is to be incarnated into the material structures of history so that they become symbols of the gratuitous possibility of historical novelty. It then symbolizes the real possibility of salvation as both a gift and a task to be taken on by human beings in their historical praxis.

As I noted earlier, our feeling is that the main symbolic poverty (though certainly not the only one) is to be found in the alienation of the people from their right to be the active subjects of their own message and their own historico-cultural project. Here “culture” means a cultural ethos, a particular way of living one’s freedom, and it naturally has many different features. It would include economic, political, and religious aspects, for example, but the term “culture” itself is not to be restricted to any one of its aspects.

My judgment, then, is that the fourth theological option described earlier is the one which best responds to our concrete situation of sin and to our concrete possibility of salvation. On the one hand, it seems to me, it is the most comprehensive one that best serves to foster unity. It is framed in terms of the “people” and Latin America seems to be an indivisible and indubitable combination of both “the people” and “the People of God” journeying in communion with the universal church through one faith and one baptism. That unity, however, can result only from a conscious decision to renounce elitism in the areas of power, knowledge, and possessions. This holds true for the subject and addressee of any attempt to understand historical liberation and the historical project; and it also holds true for both the subject and addressee of the church’s theology and pastoral activity.

Renouncing elitism in the area of possession and ownership is not enough. We must also renounce the elitism in the area of knowledge that we now find among the enlightened elites of both the left and the right. We should not confuse or identify the biblical “remnant,” who are the repository of the sapiential loyalty of God’s faithful people, with any elites at all.

Moreover, the fourth theological standpoint also adopts the oppressed Latin American of today as its focus. As I see it, Latin Americans today are oppressed primarily in their being (i.e., their lifestyle or cultural ethos) precisely because they are oppressed in their capacity to be (i.e., their power to make decisions concerning their own history and their mission therein).

The hermeneutic locale, then, is the people as they are concretely embodied in their popular culture (in all its manifestations) and as they are interpreted by those in whom they really see themselves interpreted (whatever sort of interpretation it may be). Here the category “people” is taken in a historico-cultural sense as the word was described above. It is not viewed in terms of classes or in terms of some ambiguous populism (a vacuum which anything can fill). As a category-symbol, it is open, convocative, and historically defined. Thus understood, the “people” effectively symbolizes the oppression that is suffered by all, even by the power elite, though in varying degrees and forms according to their social status. It also effectively symbolizes the gratuitousness of the liberation that all can contribute, even the power elite, though here again the form and degree of liberative power will depend on the type of oppression from which one suffers. The values of the power elite, too, must be salvaged so that they can contribute to the salvation of all; but the power elite must “die” to their exclusivism and their absolutization, becoming assimilated into the overall culture of the people. [10]

The subject of theologal wisdom is the concrete people of God here and now, though of course they are in communion with the universal people of God and tradition. Since Latin American theologians usually have been formed in the culture of the Enlightenment, however, this means that they must undergo a real cultural conversion without denying the values of the tradition and the critique they got from their training. They will assume those values but they will now radicalize them.


Aside from what I said above, the fourth theological option seems to correspond best to the Latin American and postmodern situation of any logos that would purport to voice the word of God in human and historical terms on the basis of our present salvific situation.

I use the term “postmodern” deliberately. [11] It is not enough to get beyond the premodern scheme of cultural Christendom, which theology has not always done in the modern age and which is still evident in various sectors of our present life. We must also get beyond modernity itself and its Enlightenment reasoning that serves as a mask for “the will to power and profit.” This Enlightenment logos takes different forms. It is evident both in the one-dimensional nature of technological reasoning and in the reductive, levelling circularity of Marxist dialectical reasoning and its conception of historical praxis.

There are clear signs everywhere that modernity is in crisis. In our case it is our dependent brand of modernity that is in crisis. Adopting what Ricoeur might call a state of “second innocence,” we certainly should assume prior historical phases of our tradition and criticism as we try to get beyond modernity. Trying to start all over from zero would be as ahistorical as thinking that history and its salvation are to be found in some earlier phase.

I would also stress the distinctive situation of Latin America because our historical situation is in fact unique. We are the only group of nations in the Third World that is generally Christian and culturally mixed. We are certainly Christian in socio-cultural terms, and, in my opinion, in faith as well. Moreover, by virtue of our cultural mix, and to a large extent by virtue of our ethnic mix as well, we constitute the only continent that is really living through a post-Christian and postmodern period as the developed world is, while at the same time suffering from dependence and longing for liberation. On the one hand we have lived through the cultural regimen known as Christendom (as the “New Christendom of the Indies”); on the other hand our urban centers and other places have gone through the phase of modernity as well. But both realities were experienced from a basic situation of dependency.

When it comes to theo-logy, then, we must salvage the logos of Christian wisdom that is to be found among the Latin American people and in their historical praxis—the latter being concerned both with liberation and with the creation of their own culture. This particular logos has gradually developed as the result of a fruitful cultural blending that was eventually baptized; and it is sapiential, of the people, and historically new. Like the Latin American people, this logos was shunted aside and oppressed by the culture of the enlightened elites. They saw it as “barbarism” inherited from Iberian backwardness and Amerindian savagery. The “civilization” of the Enlightenment is not something that we have lived as our very own, assimilating it in the process of fruitful intercultural dialogue. Instead we merely imported and imitated it, thus bearing still further witness to our dependent way of living through the modern age.

This fact of cultural intermixture seems to suggest that Latin America and Latin American theology has a specific and special mediating role to play between two other parties. One would be occidental tradition, which has its roots in Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian sources, was spread worldwide and suffered inner crises in the modern age, and is now living in the post-modern age. The other party would be the other peoples of the Third World, which are non-Christian for the most part.

The worldwide spread of occidental culture led to the universalization of its particular features: e.g., its science, its technology, its philosophy, its socialist or liberal-democratic forms, and its particular way of understanding and living Christianity. This process of universalization, which took place in the modern age for the most part, clearly implied and signified domination according to the prevailing cultural ethos of that period. Now the secret logic of history seems to suggest that there is some connection between the growing crisis of modernity in the northern hemisphere and the reawakened quest for justice and liberation in the Third World, particularly in Latin America. We sense the growing possibility for an authentic universalization of cultures within a community of the world’s peoples, though that does not mean there would be only one universal culture.

As Vatican II points out, the church shares in the life of this particular moment in history. As the people of God hierarchically institutionalized, the church has the mission of accompanying today’s world in and through this historical process. It must contribute the specific thing that only faith can give to the historical project aimed at justice and liberation. What faith offers to us is a theologal aspect: i.e., openness to God’s transcendence, and hence to all the dimensions of the human realm. This strongly suggests that it has some “conception of the person and society,” but it is not a univocal ideology set up in advance. Instead it comes down to certain ways of understanding the human realm that are to be fleshed out analogously in history, with due respect for the peculiarities of a given age and for the values of a given cultural milieu. At the same time it will criticize the inhuman elements they contain.

Both the church as the community of institutionalized faith and theology as reflection on that faith must place themselves in the service of the faith held by the Latin American people of God. The mission of Latin American theology is to serve our people by offering them the reflective and critical work it has done, in the light of God’s word, on the element of transcendence which their faith contributes to their historical experience.

Theology, then, must renounce any desire to inaugurate a historical project or a new world from within its own closed boundaries. It must respect the autonomy of our people in their rightful efforts to fashion their own history. At the same time, however, theology cannot refuse to articulate the saving contribution of eschatological transformation and liberative criticism that stems from the gospel message. It cannot refuse to proclaim the “sacramental” aspect of historical initiatives and achievements. In a critical and articulate way it must point out, in the light of God’s word, how they are an anticipatory foretaste and sign of God’s definitive salvation, a sign of his saving action being manifested in history. By the very same token theology cannot fail to denounce everything in those human achievements that goes against humankind and God, due to the sinfulness of human individuals, classes, and peoples. Sin turns those potential “signs” of salvation into disfigured caricatures of it, so that they become illusory embodiments of some pseudo-salvation.

That is why theology must provide the function of discernment as it seeks to accompany people through the crucial throes of transition from one historical epoch to the next. All are responsible for making sure that the new epoch will be more humane than the previous one. [12] Theology does not bear the chief responsibility here, but it certainly bears some share of responsibility. That share is greater in the case of a people like ours, who are Christian for the most part. For their cultural ethos, the wellspring of their historical project, is deeply imbued with Christianity. Unlike other peoples, Latin Americans have not gone through the secularization process to the extent that is typical of the modern age.


If we want to appreciate how theology might accompany our people as it should at this critical historical juncture, we would do well to consider the relationship that exists between history and historical praxis as such on the one hand and salvation history and its praxis on the other.

The mystery of history and its structure is not satisfactorily handled by either dualism (e.g., distinguishing between the spiritual and the temporal as two different planes) or monism (whether it be of the sacralizing or the dialectical type). History is at once profane history and salvation history in some unconfused and indivisible way, just as Christ himself (and humankind in and through him) is at once a Son of man and Son of God. Neither does monism or dualism correspond to the concrete way in which our people live out their existence as a people and as Christians. Both dualism and monism are not genuinely Christian, not authentically liberative, and not truly Latin American.

As Christian faith sees it, history has an incarnational structure thanks to grace. It thus is in the nature of a sign, a mystery, and a sacrament. That grace was already granted unreservedly by God in Christ though human beings, both as individuals and as a people, can accept it, reject it, or even fail to come to know it.

At bottom the problem is that both dualistic and monistic views betray a deficient understanding of transcendence. [13] In dualistic schemes transcendence is viewed as an abstract reduplication of the temporal plane or a projection of it into the infinite; and the temporal plane is viewed in the same atemporal and supratemporal terms as its duplicate. We get the other-worldliness so rightly criticized by Nietzsche and the opiate of the people so pointedly noted by Marx. The distinctions between the two planes are fixed and frozen as substantives dwelling in a world apart, so that the two realms are not seen to be “indivisibly and unconfusedly” intermingled. Viewed in a bit more up-to-date terms, the temporal realm will rightly be accorded its autonomy; but both the temporal realm and its autonomy will still be interpreted in terms of platonic dualism and the liberal view of autonomy espoused by the modern mind.

In monistic schemes we find several alternatives. Transcendence may be viewed in monophysite terms, so that it is confused and identified with certain immanent sectors that are taken to be “sacred.” Here one type of civilization or political ideology, etc., is taken to be the only valid Christian one. Or transcendence may be viewed in secularist terms as a mere dialectical aspect of historical praxis. In this case the transcendence of faith is reduced by depriving it of any specificity of its own. Relying on some dialectics of identity and totality, such as that of Hegel or Marx, people then tend to equate the surrender of kenosis with mere emptying.

Suppose the oneness and sameness of the only human history and historical vocation is interpreted in terms of the logic of totality, a heritage from Greek philosophy that reached its ultimate expression in the modern age. How will one then view the relationship between history and salvation history, historical praxis and the praxis of salvation history, people and People of God? On the one hand one may see it as a relationship between two totalities, thus falling back into the dualism evident in the distinction between two different planes. Or else one will see it all as one totality, though the relationship may be dialectical, and thus fall back into a brand of monism. Using the logic of totality, one cannot really think in historical terms and contemplate historical realities: e.g., creation, incarnation, and grace. Yet the distinctive character of Christian thinking is precisely that it is historical. In its view history involves the interplay between the transcendent gratuitousness of God’s liberative intervention and the freedom of human response to it; even God respects that freedom, and the resultant sphere of freedom is the locale where human beings exercise discernment concerning God’s freely proffered and liberative will for human salvation.

The unity involved here is not that of each plane in isolation, nor is it something that is levelled down and treated reductively through dialectics. It is an indivisible oneness that is both historical and gratuitous, that is in the order of liberty rather than in the order of nature. That oneness is given in a dialectical process which is determined concretely but which is also open to the unpredictable novelty of the future, the distinctive otherness of every people and culture, and the transcendence of God. What is involved here is a dialectics of “already” and “not yet.” Historical, political, and social liberations are already realizations of salvation in history; but they are also anticipatory signs and foretastes of the total and definitive liberation that has not yet been consummated and implies some new gratuitousness.

We would be stopping halfway if we were to assume that we need only refer to the dialectics of “already” and “not yet” in order to characterize the transcendence of definitive salvation vis-à-vis liberations in history. We cannot rest content with viewing the historical process in terms of a somewhat revised dialectics of totality where the “already” and the “not yet” are merely reduced to dialectical poles. To do that would be to place transcendence solely in the future. The oneness and distinctiveness of the two aspects is not that of a dialectical totality. Rather it is the fruit of the gratuitously unconfused and indivisible oneness of a history that is simultaneously profane and salvific. As we noted earlier, this oneness has an incarnational structure; it is both symbolic and sacramental. It cannot be articulated conceptually with a logic of totality. It requires a symbolic and ana-logic logic of liberty and otherness. [14] The transcendent is made present in the symbol, but it is made present precisely as transcendent. It remains free in all its gratuitousness, and it leaves people free for the work of recognition, discernment, and interpretation.


This view of the relationship between history and salvation history will help us to outline how theology might be able to meet its task of accompanying the peoples of Latin America in their history, respecting their secular autonomy while not losing its own theological specificity. I am not going to implement its task of accompaniment here, however. I am simply going to show how it is possible, though even that injects some concrete content into the response. My treatment here explores what is involved in any authentic “accompaniment.”

It seems to me that “accompaniment” entails three aspects that are nothing more than the three faces of the same process of discernment. The first is a service of criticism designed to foster liberation from, or discernment of, sin and illusion. The second is a service of discerning salvation in history through a theological reading of the signs of God’s presence in historical happenings. Here theology will try to point out how and where salvation is operative in them. As I noted earlier, theology denounces sin through its prophetic proclamation of salvation in history; and both the denunciation and the proclamation are uttered in the light of God’s word.

That brings us to the third aspect of accompaniment. Theology assumes historical worldliness both in its reflective discourse, which makes explicit its discernment, and in its committed involvement with the resultant historical options. Its assumption of this worldliness has two sides. On the one hand it criticizes it insofar as it is disfigured by sin. On the other hand it acknowledges the autonomy of this worldliness as a symbol and figure of the saving God made history. It does not incorporate historical worldliness into some unitary and absolute discourse. Rather it assumes it because the word of the saving God must be incarnated in human speech, speech drawn from the people, if it is to accompany them salvifically in their history.

The subjects of this discernment are not primarily the theologian, but the people of God as a whole. It is the theologians’ function, however, to articulate the sapiential discernment of the people of God, of whom they are members and whom they serve with their theological charism. Needless to say, their function is meant to be in the service of church authority and its specific function, charism, and service.

Now if theology does wish to accompany our people in history, discerning the signs of God in their history, life, and praxis from its own theological vantage point, then it obviously must confront the various socio-cultural mediations of the faith. Consciously rejecting all forms of dualism (which continue to perform an ideological function), theology stresses the historical incarnation and the effective realization in practice of God’s revealed word. This means that among the mediations to be confronted by theology are: the pre-reflective or scientific interpretations through which the faith of the people or of different groups reads the signs of the times; the projects and utopias that articulate hope in the eschatological kingdom before it arrives; and the political mediations through which charity works. [15]

All those mediations imply a choice, which is made now by people or received from somewhere else. Neither scientific analysis nor philosophical reflection alone can determine the ethical “plus” that is found in human decision-making when people assume concrete responsibility for history. This ethical “plus” corresponds with the “plus” of sapiential sense and truth that is found in every concrete free act and that cannot be reduced to analytical reasons or dialectical totalizations.

Because the choice or option here is an ethical one, salvation and condemnation are at stake in it insofar as life is concerned. This simply means that the work of liberative grace or of sinfulness in history takes concrete shape through our ethical option. So this option is obviously of deep concern to a theology that purports to do its reflection on the historical praxis of the people and from that historical praxis.

The point is that the historical option of human beings and peoples, as well as history itself, has an incarnational and “sacramental” structure. When it opens itself to the activity of God, there shines through it some glimmer of transcendence and the gratuitous presence of the Lord’s summons. This permits it to have a contemplative phase or aspect: (“in actioneetiam saeculari et communitariacontemplativus”). [16] Even when our historical option closes itself off from God’s action, his summons does not cease to be present; but in this case it is present in the form of a judgment.

This theologal summons to meaningfulness respects the temporal autonomy of the historical mediations in which it is incarnated. It is not reducible to them, not even dialectically; it is absolute. But it does leave them in all their historical contingency. It also liberates them from absolutization, disfigurement, and manipulation by sin. In the modern age that sort of absolutization has shown up as an absolute “will to power and profit.” Insofar as sin does lay hold of them in this way, it transforms them into illusions that mask reality. They become idols instead of symbols.

Interacting hermeneutically with the word of God asit is read in church tradition and the ecclesial community, theology has the task of articulating the historical experience and practice of the faith. It must do this in a discourse that is reflective and critical while still remaining analogical, symbolic, and historical. It does this by starting out from the historical praxis of our people. Borrowing their symbols and language and entering into fruitful dialogue with the symbols and language of tradition, it seeks to express the faith in those symbols and language which, in our case, have arisen from the fruitful union of the gospel message and the culture of the people.

That is how theology can perform its prophetic service of interpreting the faith. It cannot perform that service without involving itself in history on the practical level. To do this, it must exercise discernment concerning the historical mediations that it has been using to voice its message of salvation, for they may be infected with sinfulness, illusion, and ideology in the pejorative sense. It must take the risk of defilement because it cannot take refuge outside of history and its options in some allegedly antiseptic world beyond. At the same time, however, it is not trapped in the ideological play of historical and cultural mediations and their ambiguous status as sin or grace. Theology can transcend all that through discernment. For transcendence is incarnated in history, and history, thanks to grace, is structured as a sign and sacrament.

The service of discernment is a reciprocal one. Any given theology is born at a given historical moment and in a socio-cultural milieu motivated by certain interests. It must allow itself to be judged by the word of God for those potential ideologizations that it may have assumed uncritically. This process of criticism may be mediated through the methods of “suspicion” and “unmasking.” At the same time, however, theology will operate in the light of God’s word to criticize the ideologies underlying those methods as well as the other historico-cultural mediationsit usesto articulate God’s word and exercise discernment about historical praxis. For in those mediating factors we find a mixture of grace and sin, of the theologal summons to justice and liberation and the illusions stemming from bastard interests.

There is still more to be said here. If a theology is really trying to accompany the people of Latin America in the historical process of liberation, then it will read the word of God and exercise discernment with regard to praxis from a specific hermeneutic locale: i.e., from the culture and praxis of the people. But even its option for that locale must be subjected to the judgment of God’s word, which is a two-edged sword. By placing the mediationsin question within the theologal orbit of gratuitousness, respect, and freedom—the proper orbit of faith itself—it does them the service of freeing them from any potential absolutization, exclusivism, and univocalness. [17]

For this very reason theology must be the first to de-absolutize itself. It must give up any claim to impose itself without showing any respect for the proper autonomy of temporal mediations. It must also refuse to regard itself as the supreme or absolute discourse on reality that nullifies all other discourse (scientific, poetic, philosophical, and so forth). In addition, it must give up any desire to be the exclusive or only orthodox interpretation of the faith. At the same time, however, it will not give up the judgment that the word of God brings to bear on itself or historical mediations. By making it possible for those mediations to de-absolutize themselves, it opens them up to the freedom of discernment, the novelty of new situations, respect for the otherness of other situations, and the transcendence and gratuitousness of God’s activity.

But one should not think that this puts all the different interpretations, historical projects, and practical mediations on the same level. One should not conclude that they all have exactly the same value for faith in a given historical situation. While they all can be saved insofar as they die to their own absolutization and rise to their liberation, discernment is a historical rather than an abstract process. It must situate those liberated values and coordinate them with each other from the context of the here-and-now historical situation. Operating in discontinuous continuity with a salvific tradition, it must judge them in accordance with the way that God’s liberative action in history manifests itself in this particular situation.

Discernment locates and integrates the human and salvific truths and values of the various stances vis-à-vis history and its mediations. But it does not do this in some abstract or dialectical theological system. Rather it does it through the historical and open-ended comprehensiveness of a theological doctrine which is critically accompanying our people in their here-and-now historical project, and which is corresponding to their cultural ethos from the standpoint of the gospel message. This doctrine might be called a “situated theological universal.” Situated in a history and a praxis, it is a universal that corresponds only analogically with other historico-cultural situations. But it does not thereby lose its truth value or cease to be a contribution to universal theology.

We must try to discern the historical interrelationship between different truths and values. But we can only discern that, as well as the internal structure of such a theological discourse, by working a posteriori in and from the historical situation. Here theology goes about its work of discernment in “fear and trembling.” Motivated by the evangelical spirit of poverty, it seeks to explore the shadows and bright spots of history and its mediations in the light of the prototypes of salvation history provided by the Old and New Testament. It works with the analogy of faith.

In the case of individual human beings, salvific discernment of one’s personal history and vocation results from the convergence of two paschal structures: that of the mysteries of salvation history which are being contemplated on the one hand, and that of the affective attitude of the one who is discerning and being discerned. Something similar takes place in discerning the history and vocation of whole peoples as well as their yearnings and motivating factors. Theology can articulate this discernment reflectively and justify it critically in accordance with the analogy of faith. Working in the light of the biblical prototypes, it can discover the same paschal structure of salvation in history and historical praxis. Although theology does not construct a system, it can at least reread the Scriptures in the concrete tradition of the church here and now. It does this through the use of a doctrine focused on the sapiential logos reflected in the praxis of God’s people in Latin America, and which then proceeds to make that logos reflective and critical.

Discernment makes clear the temporal nature of Christian experience, which theology must then make explicit in its discourse. The Latin American people here and now are sensing and judging in the light of the signs of the times confronting them. Working in the light of faith and God’s word, we must discern how much of that sensing and feeling is a proper attitude and response to the liberative summons of the Lord and where it is distorted by sin. We may use the human sciences as a mediating factor in trying to explore our people’s sensing and judging, provided that the mediating factor itself is immersed in the rhythm of the discernment process.

The sensing and feeling of the people will take in yearnings and frustrations, hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, peaceable agreements and conflicts. Out of all that will emerge the real possibilities for the future that are open to the people in their freedom. The social sciences can certainly help to determine what the real possibilities are. It can study their material structures, the structures in which the transcendent summons of the future is fleshed out, thus helping us to distinguish truth from illusion. But in doing this the social sciences must not reduce the possibilities in any univocal way, closing them off to the unforeseen originality of history or to the freedom wherewith people take on history.

The historical memory of a people must be a mediating factor in this process of discernment. It is the memory of a concrete past in which a tradition of liberation is “already” taking shape (the history of salvation in the Bible and salvation in one’s own history). What is happening now can be discerned as an aspect of salvific liberation or as an oppressive illusion only insofar as it is inserted into an ongoing historical experience of liberation. That past experience will define the present happening without closing it off to the novelty of ever fresh meanings. This memory (and its mediation through the science of history) does not predetermine the future that is already arriving in the present. But it does help us to discern that future, even as it itself is discerned and reinterpreted by the future.

Theology’s articulation of discernment cannot help but be analogical and symbolic. It is articulating a people’s sapiential sensing and judging as well as their sapiential memory. It is interpreting the symbolic value of happenings that are “over¬ determined” insofar as their import is concerned, and which are also open to the future. But this does not mean that it can set aside the mediation of the sciences in its sapiential reading of historical praxis. In doing that reading it uses the analogy of faith to show that such discernment is possible and how. I myself began to do that above when I brought in references to the Incarnation, the paschal event, and sacramental signs.

Thus the symbols and categories of the Bible and Christian tradition, which are historical, can be of service to us in trying to offer a theological hermeneutics of our own continental or national history, of our historical project and what we are doing right now. But the symbols and categories of our own culture and history can also be of service in trying to articulate the faith. This is possible because the analogy of faith finds one and the same rhythm and structure in both. It is triune, incarnational, and paschal. It is the rhythm and structure of the economy of salvation. [18]


In conclusion, then, we can say that a twofold task awaits any theology seeking to accompany the peoples of Latin America in their present-day process of liberation and historical creation. On the one hand it must try to discern, interpret, and criticize the present-day situation in salvific terms. It must explore the possibilities and the ambiguities of the present, the historico-cultural project that is emerging from our people, and the historical roots that sustain the whole process.

On the other hand it must also reread and reinterpret the riches of our faith, using the praxis and culture of the Latin American people as its hermeneutic locale. This would mean criticizing certain ways of theologizing, needless to say.

The task is difficult but not impossible, especially since the Lord himself seems to be prompting us to it. It may seem to be of lesser importance right now insofar as service to our people is concerned. But if theology does not take up this task, no one else will do it for theology—to the detriment of our people’s faith and its salvific incarnation in their culture and historical project. This pastoral and political responsibility of theology is all the greater insofar as the faith played a predominant role in the growth and subsequent history of our cultural ethos and insofar as we hope that our faith will continue to light up the path leading our peoples to liberation.


[1] Medellin Conference Documents, voi. 2, “Introduction to the Final Documents,” no. 4; see Appendix II in this volume
[2] The words are those of Vincent Cosmao and Francois Malley, “Foi chrétienne et changement social en Amérique Latine,” in Foi et Développement 1 (September 1972):3.
[3] Gustavo Gutiérrez, A Theology of Liberation, Eng. trans. (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1973), p. 13.
[4] I have treated the difference between these two formulations in an article entitled “Situación de la problemàtica ‘Fe y politica’ entre nosotros,” in Fe y politica (Buenos Aires: Ed. Guadalupe, 1973), pp. 15-47. There I brought out the contrast by comparing the theological documents of the movement known as Priests for the Third World with the final document issued by the first convention of the Christians for Socialism (see Appendix II, anthologies, for a collection of documents concerned with the latter movement).
In the article I distinguished four different theological positions on our continent with regard to the whole issue of faith and politics. For a fuller treatment of the issue of faith praxis and politics see my article entitled “Teologia y politica—El actual desafi’o planteado al lenguage teològico latinoamericano de liberación,” in Fe cristiana y cambio social en América Latina (Salamanca: Sigueme, 1973), pp. 247-64.
[5] On the categories “people,” “culture,” and “popular culture” see the works of Lucio Gera: in collaboration with Guillermo Rodriguez Melgarejo, “Apuntes para una interpretación de la Iglesia Argentina,” in Vispera, no. 15 (February 1970), pp. 59-88; “Dependencia cultural y creación de cultura a la luz de la reflexion teològica,” in Stromata 30 (1974), nos. 1-2. See also the proceedings of the Seminario sobre Pastoral Popular, San Miguel, September 6-9, 1973 (Buenos Aires: Instituto de Cultura Pastoral Popular, 1974).
[6] . In the political and military actions the caudillos acted as popular leaders who interpreted the thinking and feeling and aspirations of their people: e.g., the Uruguayan José Gervasio Artigas (1764-1850), the Paraguayan Francisco Solano Lopez (1827-1870), and the Argentinian Juan Manuel de Rosas (1793-1877). The montoneras were armed bands of gauchos who fought in the wars of independence or against centralist governments that they felt represented the interests of British commerce and the power elites. Loyalty to their caudillos was one of their chief characteristics.

Insofar as the dialectics of “already” and “not yet” is concerned, my feeling is that the Christian experience finds better expression in Blondel’s dialectics than in that of Hegel. See my work, Sein und Inkarnation. Zum ontologischen Hintergrund der Fruhschriften Maurice Blondels (Freiburg-Munich: Alber Verlag, 1968).
[7] In 1845 Domingo F. Sarmiento published a book on the caudillo Juan Facundo Quiroga, which was entitled Facundo. The book’s subtitle was Civilización y barbarie, and that expression came to characterize the dialectics of “enlightened culture” versus “popular culture.”
[8] Declaración del Episcopado Argentino sobre la adaptación a la realidad actual del pais, de las Conclusiones de la II Conferencia General del Episcopado Latinoamericano (Buenos Aires: Ed. Paulinas, 1969), Document VI.
[9] See my article, “Apuntes para una interpretación de la Iglesia argentina,” pp. 70-73.
[10] I outlined the various mediations needed in any liberation dialectics in my article, “La liberación latinoamericana—Ontologia del proceso autènticamente liberador,” in Stromata 28 (1972): 107-50. There I offered an ontological critique of various historico-cultural projects now being proposed in Latin America. By virtue of their presuppositions, many of them tend to match up with the different theological and pastoral positions that I have brought up in this article
[11] On the whole notion of “postmodernity” as treated from a philosophical standpoint, see my article entitled “Transcendencia, praxis liberadora y lenguaje—Hacia una filosofia de la religion post-moderna y latinoamericanamente situada,” in Hacia una filosofia de la liberación latinoamericana (Buenos Aires: Ed. Bonum, 1973), pp. 245-69. There I pointed out that a “shift” to historicity and historical praxis is not enough to overcome the logos of the modern age, that there must also be a shift to popular culture and popular wisdom.
[12] The various features of a “new humanism” were discussed at an interdisciplinary seminar chaired by Bernhard Welte in 1973. The proceedings are to be published soon as Hacia unnuevo humanismo (Buenos Aires, Ed. Bonum). In that volume see my article entitled “Hacia un nuevo humanismo. Comentario personal de las discusiones desde la perspectiva latinoamericana.”
[13] I discuss this issue in Fe y politica. Elsewhere I have presented a philosophical elaboration of the concept of transcendence, taking due account of modern and postmodern philosophy: “La liberación latinoamericana—Ontologia del proceso autènticamente liberador” ; and “E1 itinerario filosòfico hacia el Dios vivo— Reflexiones sobre su historia, su planteo actual y su relectura desde la situación latinoamericana,” in Stromata 30 (1974).
[14] The contrast between “totality” and “otherness” (alteridad) was inspired by Emmanuel Levinas, Totalité et infini—Essai sur l’extériorité (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1961; Eng. trans.: Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority [Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1969] ). Levinas drew his inspiration from the Bible. Besides my own writing, Enrique Dussel often discusses the contrast between an “ontology of totality” and a “metaphysics of otherness.” See article 9 in this volume.
[15] I have treated the relationship between faith and ideology in greater detail in my article entitled “The Theology of Liberation—Evangelical or Ideological? ” in Concilium 93 (1974), pp. 147-56.
[16] The Ignatian adage “in actione contemplativus” really goes back to Jeronimo Nadal. Gustavo Gutiérrez applies it to political activity in his article entitled “Evangelio y praxis de liberación,” in Fe cristiana y cambio social en America Latina, pp. 231-45.
[17] I have dealt with such a liberation, and particularly with reference to the theological language ofliberation, in the works cited in notes 13 and 15. In the first of them I also try to show that de-absolutization and de-univocation does not empty the language of liberation of all content, that instead it opens it up to historical novelty without stripping it of historical concreteness and practical efficacy. The danger of total emptying is of particular concern to Hugo Assmann: Theology for a Nomad Church (see author entry for Assmann in Appendix I). In my article cited in note 11, I have discussed the nature of an analogical language that would be defined in historical and practical terms while still remaining open to historical novelty and transcendence.
[18] In this article I have not spelled out the triune structure of discernment, which is also found on the socio-historical level. Orlando Yorio has written suggestive comments about it, with particular reference to the Argentinian situation in 1970. See his article entitled “Dios y los valores humanos,” in Teologia 9 (1971):23-60. See also my article entitled “La situación actual de la Iglesia argentina y la imagen de Dios Trino y Uno,” in Estudios 60 (1970):20-23. In collaboration with José Ignacio Vicentini and this author, Yorio is undertaking a theological reading of Argentina’s history and present historical situation. The first results will soon be published. On the matter of a theological reading of the signs of the times, see Paul VI’s allocution to a general audience, April 16, 1969, in L’Osservatore Romano, April 17, 1969.