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CSB/SJU assistant professor to give lecture on liberation theology

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February 12, 2016

Laura Taylor, assistant professor of theology at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, will deliver the lecture "A Church for the Poor: Pope Francis and Liberation Theology" at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23, in the Centenary Room (room 264), Quadrangle Building, SJU.

This event, part of the Latino/Latin American Studies Program Spring 2016 Lecture Series, is free and open to the public.

Liberation theology is a well-known and, to some, notorious form of religious action and reflection that began in Latin America nearly 50 years ago. This theological movement affirms the Roman Catholic Church's "preferential option for the poor" and encourages clergy and laypeople to participate in the struggle against political, economic and social oppression and injustice.

Although liberation theology has its roots in the social teachings of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI treated it with suspicion, labeling it as Marxist and censuring many of its leading advocates.

When Bishop Jorge Bergoglio, S.J., of Buenos Aires became the 226th pope in March 2013, many wondered whether or not the election of the first Latin American pope would mark a significant shift in the Vatican's strained relationship with liberation theology. 

Although Pope Francis has never identified himself as a liberation theologian, his insistence that the Catholic Church be "for the poor" and his pointed criticisms of capitalism and consumerism have led many to believe that the Vatican's once hostile relationship to liberation theology has final begun to change.

Taylor's lecture asks whether Pope Francis's papacy has in fact brought about a second act for liberation theology, and in what way has his pontificate illustrates both the promise and potential problems of this controversial movement. 

Taylor earned a Masters of Theological Studies degree at Harvard Divinity School and a doctorate in religious studies at Vanderbilt University. At CSB/SJU, along with regularly teaching the introductory course "Theological Exploration," she teaches upper division courses in feminist and liberation theologies.