Awhile back I found it necessary to study the works of Oscar Romero to determine if he was a liberation theologian of the Marxist variety, a slander oft directed at him; and found he wasn’t; nor have I found any such stance in my study of the works of Pope Francis.
The same conclusion has been reached in this excellent article from Real Clear Religion.
There are two prominent churchmen of our era whose lives and words expose the difference between a “preferential option for the poor” and a preferential option for the state.
The first is Archbishop Oscar Romero. When an agent of El Salvador’s military regime fired a single bullet into Oscar Romero’s chest, the archbishop was in the midst of celebrating Mass. But it seems that before Romero could be laid to rest, he became an unlikely hero to Marxists and Liberation Theologians in Latin America.
The second is Pope Francis and a similar adoption of the Holy Father is in process before our very eyes. He demonstrates great warmth, informality, and a passionate concern for the poor, vulnerable, and marginalized. Despite Francis’s repeated insistence that his social and economic preferences are not being driven by ideology, he is too often interpreted as a man of the left. Francis describes himself as a man of the Church insisting that his concerns are animated by the values of the Gospel not politics.
Yet that appears to be a nuance lost on his press pool and activists in search of his blessing.
For whatever form of Liberation Theology (and there are several) either Romero or Francis represent, it is certainly not the variety most popularly espoused in the Latin America of the 1980s and condemned by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The ascendant form of Liberation Theology of that era emerged from a Christian encounter with Marxism as seen largely in the work of Gustavo Gutierrez (Peruvian), Leonardo Boff (Brazilian), Juan Luis Segundo (Uruguayan), Jon Sobrino (Spanish) and Ernesto Cardenal (Nicaraguan).
One finds no such references or echoes of them in the writings or homilies of either Francis or Romero. Even Archbishop Romero’s former secretary, Msgr. Jesus Delgado, confirmed that Romero “knew nothing about Liberation Theology, he did not want to know about it. He adhered faithfully to the Catholic Church and to above all to the teachings of the Popes.” On the contrary, one finds numerous cautions about politicizing the Faith in his writing and homilies. Their point of orientation is that of the Gospel, not Marx.
With particular reference to Archbishop Romero, whose cause for canonization now advances, one finds a rather traditional theology is manifestly evident in his esteem for Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei. In a letter to Pope Paul VI on July 12, 1975, shortly after the Escriva’s death, Romeo recounts his personal encounters with him and discloses that he was personally under spiritual direction by priests of Opus Dei in El Salvador. He closes by asking that the pope open the cause of canonization, which St. John Paul II celebrated in 2002.
Retrieved March 2, 2015 from http://www.realclearreligion.org/articles/2015/03/02/the_real_oscar_romero.html