Marxist theology will not help the poor

26 May 1995 | Catholic Herald (Heading by Catholic Herald)

Fernando Saenz Lacalle, the newly appointed archbishop of San Salvador (Catholic Herald, 5 May) and President Fidel Castro (see “Age of Extremes” by Eric Hobsbawn, page 451) have both gained the impression that liberation theology is pro-Marxist. I don’t blame them. I’ve gained the same impression myself and so have many others.

It will always be something of a mystery as to why fine, good, courageous theologians failed to see that giving people the impression that they were pro-Marxist was not a good way of helping the poor.
The “human rights” record of communism falls somewhere between “terrible” and “the worst in history” and that frightens a lot of people.

In two fertile countries (Russia and China), Marxist agriculture was capable of engineering two of the greatest man-made famines ever known, and that must put more people off.

And most people, when they compare, for instance, Japan with China, conclude that capitalism, despite its great faults, is better for the poor than communism.

But not liberation theologians: they think differently, and nothing can change their minds.

The main difficulty facing El Salvador is the same difficulty which, though hidden by the civil war, has face the country for decades; namely, that the rapid fall in infant mortality and the great increase in life expectancy over the last 50 years has produced a dramatic increase in population, both in the region of the Archdiocese and in the country as a whole.

El Salvador, the most densely populated country on the American mainland, has almost trebled its population since 1950 and the population around San Salvador had increased five times or more. No wonder they have been fighting each other, it’s a miracle that they ever stopped.

I do not know the new Archbishop’s views on population but he is said to come from Spain which – with Italy – has one of the lowest birth rates in the world.

If he can persuade Salvadorians to imitate his own home country in this matter he will do so much good to the poor that even liberation theologians will find it difficult to be angry any more. And that really would be a blessing all round.

Gerald Danaher