Liberation Theology

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Liberation Theology is a movement, primarily within the Roman Catholic Church, especially in Latin America since the 1960s, which has emphasized the social justice elements of the Christian message in an effort to better the material conditions of the often oppressed and poor parishioners in their parishes.

While, ideas similar to Liberation Theology are not unknown in some branches of Protestant Christianity in North America and England, these ideas were revolutionary in Latin America where the Roman Catholic Church had traditionally been viewed as an establishment actor in league with the often oppresive governments of the day. Some priests who took Liberation Theology stances were killed or harassed by supporters of existing regimes.

The Roman Catholic Church has neither fully embraced, nor effectively purged Liberation Theology form the church, it remains a gray area to some extent, with some statements from church officials seemingly condemning it, and others like the famous Papal statement that one must work for peace by seeking justice, seemingly supporting it.

A similar movement arose spontaneous in the middle ages, as mendicant priests (i.e. begging without attachment a particular parish) took to the streets, attempting to emulate the Jesus of the Gospels and liberate the people from feudal oppressions. Most were persecuted and crushed for heresy. One of these mendicants, however, Saint Francis of Assisi, managed to play the part of liberating mendicant priest, managed to avoid the fate of so many others in the period by remaining strictly in accord with orthodox church teachings in all of his pronouncements. The order of Franciscans, established in his honor, remains a "liberal" outpost within the Catholic Church, at the opposite end of the big Catholic tent from the monastic Dominican Order known as the Jesuits who sought to forward the Christian message historically, primarily by educating the future establishment political figures in both the politics they would need to survive and their version of the Christian message.

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