As I'm reading and writing an exam on developing countries (3rd world countries) and the impact of religion upon the development of political and economic systems in those countries, the thought of the Roman Catholic Church being a socially progressive body is entering my head. Prior to the convening of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) by Pope John XXIII in 1962, the Church was a largely reactionary and conservative body which worked to help elites maintain power in developing countries, particularly in Latin America. Why would they do that? The Church at the time was a significant land owner in the region, so any leftist/Marxist activity would undoubtedly effect the Church's position adversely. I would think that this prevailing opinion of the era was quite materialistic and contrary to the teachings of Christ and the Scripture.
John XXIII's calling of Vatican II brought a change to this. The Pope, not without objection, moved the Church in a more liberal direction, from encouraging social activism in its preists to promoting democracy and social justice. From this the principles of liberation theology, though already established, became popularized and more accepted within the Church establishment for a brief moment. Certain aspects of liberation theology have been accepted by the Church, such as the rejection of violence and the stress upon the "responsibility which Christians necessarily bear for the poor and oppressed"1. However, it has also been condemned by orthodox Catholics for its tendencies towards Marxism, the materialistic aspect of it, and the exaltation of class struggle. It would appear to me that the first concession of its good by the man who is currently the Pope indicates the Church's recognition of the obligation of its shepherds to help the downtrodden, which is something that I believe is critically lacking in most other aspects of faith.
You do not see the Reverends (or whatever they are) in the suburban megachurches calling for social action to help people. Rather, they actively work against the causes of charity, pumping more and more money into their personal coffers to expand their congregations and their personal riches.
I am Catholic. I am Christian. I am Democrat. I am American.
1Cardinal Ratzinger, Joseph. Liberation Theology. 1984.