Jamie Manson, columnist for The National Catholic Reporter, recently interviewed Professor James Nickoloff, of the College of the Holy Cross, Massachusetts, about the renewed interest in liberation theology since the election of Pope Francis. At the conclusion of her interview, Manson questioned Nickoloff about how liberation theology applies to LGBT people. Here’s the relevant section:
“MANSON: Given that, globally, women suffer disproportionately from the effects of poverty and many gays, lesbians and transgender persons live under the constant threat of attack, imprisonment and even death, is it fair to include them in liberation theology’s understanding of “the poor”?
“NICKOLOFF: If we’re going to look at this from a biblical point of view, I would go with Jon Sobrino’s analysis. When Sobrino looks at the New Testament, he sees two groups that Jesus consistently takes particular care to stand with: the economically poor and the socially marginalized — those who are outcasts for various reasons. The notion of the preferential option for the poor goes back to the Hebrew Bible, but its contemporary formulation is less than 40 years old. We’re still rediscovering what is in the tradition and waking up to what it really says to our current situation.
“Because of the situation that the first liberation theologians were living in, which was massive political and economic injustice, they linked what they saw in the Gospel to that reality. But as time has gone on, they have been expanding the idea. The inclusion of women and the issue of violence against women globally is front and center in a lot of liberation work these days. Pushing this to include sexual minorities is just the next, logical step.
“I think we see it happening in parts of the church. In Massachusetts, I got to know some legislators during the marriage equality vote. Most of them were Catholic, and they spoke movingly about how their faith required them to vote in favor of these rights. They weren’t exactly using the theological language of the option for the poor, but that’s what they were talking about. Giving priority to those who have been left out. I think Catholic people get this notion of option for the poor. It’s in their bones.”
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry