Within the intellectual arguments shaping social strategies one can often find kernels of truth and such is the case with liberation theology, which the Church has correctly taught is permeated with Marxist thought.
The central argument Paulo Freire explores in his seminal book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, often noted as a foundational work of the liberation theology movement, is to educate the oppressed to liberate themselves. This is an argument intellectually congruent with that of Lampstand in relation to criminals, though criminals are more oppressors than oppressed, consequently the language is different.
Freire proposes the oppressed reflect upon “oppression and its causes” and “from that reflection will come their necessary engagement in the struggle for their liberation.” (p. 48)
Lampstand proposes criminals reflect upon the ways of the world—including the criminal/carceral world—and their causation through the lens of the history and social teaching of the Catholic Church, which will stimulate their struggle for liberation from sin.
Freire describes the problem for the oppressed: “As long as they live in the duality in which to be is to be like, and to be like is to be like the oppressor…” they cannot birth their liberation. (Ibid.)
Lampstand proposes, not the worldly successful as models to be like, but saints and Catholic heroes from her history and teaching—as signs of contradiction to the world.
Freire writes: “The pedagogy of the oppressed is an instrument for their critical discovery that both they and their oppressors are manifestations of dehumanization.” (Ibid.)
Lampstand proposes that criminals—and also true for all Catholics—saints in making and that their paths to sainthood have been well-marked by the proto criminal saints, Dismas and Magdalene, manifestations of the fullest and highest humanization.
Pope Benedict XVI—as Cardinal Ratzinger—wrote about liberation theology as Prefect of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the (1984) document: Instructions on Certain Aspects of the “Theology of Liberation:
“Faced with the urgency of certain problems, some are tempted to emphasize, unilaterally, the liberation from servitude of an earthly and temporal kind. They do so in such a way that they seem to put liberation from sin in second place, and so fail to give it the primary importance it is due. Thus, their very presentation of the problems is confused and ambiguous. Others, in an effort to learn more precisely what are the causes of the slavery which they want to end, make use of different concepts without sufficient critical caution. It is difficult, and perhaps impossible, to purify these borrowed concepts of an ideological inspiration which is compatible with Christian faith and the ethical requirements which flow from it.
“The present Instruction has a much more limited and precise purpose: to draw the attention of pastors, theologians, and all the faithful to the deviations, and risks of deviation, damaging to the faith and to Christian living, that are brought about by certain forms of liberation theology which use, in an insufficiently critical manner, concepts borrowed from various currents of Marxist thought.
“This warning should in no way be interpreted as a disavowal of all those who want to respond generously and with an authentic evangelical spirit to the “preferential option for the poor.” It should not at all serve as an excuse for those who maintain the attitude of neutrality and indifference in the face of the tragic and pressing problems of human misery and injustice. It is, on the contrary, dictated by the certitude that the serious ideological deviations which it points out tends inevitably to betray the cause of the poor. More than ever, it is important that numerous Christians, whose faith is clear and who are committed to live the Christian life in its fullness, become involved in the struggle for justice, freedom, and human dignity because of their love for their disinherited, oppressed, and persecuted brothers and sisters. More than ever, the Church intends to condemn abuses, injustices, and attacks against freedom, wherever they occur and whoever commits them. She intends to struggle, by her own means, for the defense and advancement of the rights of mankind, especially of the poor.” (n. p.)
Most criminal rehabilitation focuses on providing services meant to liberate criminals from the “tragic and pressing problems of human misery and injustice”, when the deeper and more rewarding focus is on “liberation from sin” and we can learn from the often congruent with Catholic thought strategies embedded within Freire’s works: “Liberation is thus a childbirth, and a painful one. The man or woman who emerges is a new person, viable only as the oppressor-oppressed contradiction is superseded by the humanization of all people.” (Freire, p. 49)
A central mark of true conversion is the burning desire to convert others, to share the great story, the great truth.