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Gustavo Gutiérrez


Gustavo Gutiérrez

Gustavo Gutiérrez, O.P.
Gutiérrez in 2007
Born (1928-06-08) June 8, 1928
Lima, Peru
Residence United States
Nationality Peruvian
Occupation Priest, Professor
Employer University of Notre Dame
Known for Liberation Theology, Preferential Option for the Poor
Religion Christian (Roman Catholic)

Gustavo Gutiérrez Merino, O.P., (born 8 June 1928 in Lima) is a Peruvian theologian and Dominican priest regarded as the founder of liberation theology.[1] He holds the John Cardinal O'Hara Professorship of Theology at the University of Notre Dame.[2] He began studying in the faculty of medicine of the National University of San Marcos in Peru in order to become a psychiatrist, then he realized he wanted to become a priest.[3] He has been professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and a visiting professor at many major universities in North America and Europe.[2]

Gutiérrez is also a member of the Peruvian Academy of Language, and in 1993 he was awarded the Legion of Honor by the French government for his tireless work. In 2002 Gutiérrez was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2003 he received the prestigious Príncipe de Asturias award. He has also published in and been a member of the board of directors of the international journal, Concilium.

Gutierrez spent much of his life living and working among the poor and oppressed of Lima. He has studied medicine and literature (Peru), psychology and philosophy (Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium), and obtained a doctorate at the Institut Pastoral d'Etudes Religieuses (IPER), Catholic University of Lyon.

Gutiérrez is of Native American heritage, being of mixed Quechua and Spanish descent. Gutiérrez's groundbreaking work, A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, Salvation (1971), explains his notion of Christian poverty as an act of loving solidarity with the poor as well as a liberatory protest against poverty.


  • Youth and training 1
  • Key Ideas 2
    • Liberation theology 2.1
  • The Preferential Option for the Poor 3
  • Selected Works 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Youth and training

Afflicted in adolescence with osteomyelitis, Gutiérrez was frequently bed-ridden and had to use a wheelchair from age 12 to 18.[4]

When his condition improved he studied medicine and humanities in Peru while also militating with Catholic Action, where he developed his first outlines of theological reflection. It was in this period that he felt the need to go deeper with his theological studies. His relationship with the realities of his country became a commitment which obliged him to deepen his knowledge of God:

I shared with friends the urge to know more christian doctrine and to know it better. It was… training which we saw as a necessary condition for action according to the famous principle: "No-one can give what he doesn't have.

He studied theology in various European universities, having as teachers Henri de Lubac, Yves Congar, Marie-Dominique Chenu and Christian Ducoq. Being in touch with modern European theology gave him access to the theologians of the Second Vatican Council, in addition to those already mentioned, Edward Schillebeeckx, Karl Rahner, Hans Küng and Johann Baptist Metz. In contact and dialogue with the world of Protestant theology, he came to know the work of Karl Barth thoroughly and he also maintained an interest in theologians like Jürgen Moltmann and Dietrich Bonhoeffer and in social scientists like François Perroux. Gutiérrez was ordained a priest in 1959.

Key Ideas

What is noticed first and foremost in the thought of Gutiérrez is Latin American reality – the foundation and driving force of liberation theology as Gutiérrez understands it. His own life undoubtedly affected his theological development. The world which he knew in his youth was a world of injustice and oppression against the poor. As he says himself:

I come from a continent in which more than 60% of the population live in a state of poverty, and 82% of those find themselves in extreme poverty.[5]

Liberation theology

Liberation theology originally developed as a Christian response to the conditions in which a great part of the Latin American population live. For Gutiérrez, the centre of the problem in Latin America is sin manifested in an unjust social structure. The theologian puts emphasis on the dignity of the poor.

Liberation theology "has arisen out of the experience of the poor, the oppressed, the "wretched of the earth" in Latin America, with whom [Gutiérrez] lives six days each week".[6]

In Teología de la liberación, perspectivas Gutiérrez carries out a biblical analysis of poverty. In this work he distinguishes two kinds of poverty: a scandalous state and a spiritual infancy. Gutiérrez observes that while the first is abhorred by God, the second is valued. However, for Gutiérrez these two states of poverty live together side-by-side in the faith of the believers of Latin America. On the one hand there is a hunger for God, and on the other hunger for bread: "I desire that the hunger for God may remain, that the hunger for bread may be satisfied… Hunger for God, yes; hunger for bread, no."

The Preferential Option for the Poor

For Gutiérrez the problem increases when one sees that among the poor there is an "absence of recognition of their own human dignity and of their condition as daughters and sons of God". This problem is much older than liberation theology. The Old Testament repeatedly provides that the wealthy should not reproach or oppress the poor, but should show compassion as an expression of the love of God.[7] Already in the early church, Saint James warned people not to be contemptuous of the dignity of poor believers.[8] Saint Paul also condemned this situation which was arising in the Corinthian church. Gutiérrez exhorts the Christian community to remember the teachings of the apostles.

Furthermore, poverty for Gutiérrez is the result of unjust and sinful social structures: "Poverty is not fate, it is a condition; it is not a misfortune, it is an injustice. It is the result of social structures and mental and cultural categories, it is linked to the way in which society has been built, in its various manifestations."

Firstly, Gutiérrez makes a call for understanding of the reality of the poor. To be poor is not simply to lack the economic resources for development. On the contrary, Gutierrez understands poverty as "a way of living, thinking, loving, praying, believing and hoping, spending free time and struggling for life".

Selected Works

  • On the Side of the Poor: The Theology of Liberation. Co-authored with Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller. Orbis Books, 2015: ISBN 978-1626981157
  • In the Company of the Poor: conversations between Dr. Paul Farmer and Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez. Ed. Michael Griffin and Jennie Weiss Block. Orbis Books, 2013: ISBN 978-1626980501
  • Las Casas: In Search of the Poor of Jesus Christ, trans. Robert R. Barr (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1993). Originally published as En busca de los pobres de Jesucristo: El pensamiento de Bartolomé de las Casas (Lima: CEP, 1992).
  • The God of Life, trans. Matthew J. O'Connell (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1991). Originally published as El Dios de la vida (Lima: CEP, 1989).
  • On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent, trans. Matthew J. O'Connell (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1987). Originally published as Hablar de Dios desde el sufrimiento del inocente (Lima: CEP, 1986).
  • The Truth Shall Make You Free: Confrontations, trans. Matthew J. O'Connell (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1990). Originally published as La verdad los hará libres: Confrontaciones (Lima: CEP, 1986).
  • We Drink from Our Own Wells: The Spiritual Journey of a People, 20th anniversary ed., trans. Matthew J. O'Connell (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2003; 1st ed., Maryknoll: Orbis, 1984). Originally published as Beber en su propio pozo: En el itinerario espiritual de un pueblo (Lima: CEP, 1983).
  • A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation, 15th anniversary ed., trans. Caridad Inda and John Eagleson (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1988; 1st ed., Maryknoll: Orbis, 1973). Originally published as Teología de la liberación: Perspectivas (Lima: CEP, 1971).

See also


  1. ^ Cornell, George W. (August 6, 1988). "Founder of liberation theology deals with acclaim and criticism". Lawrence Journal-World. Retrieved 1 September 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Gustavo Gutierrez, O.P.". Department of Theology: People. University of Notre Dame. Retrieved 1 September 2010. 
  3. ^ "Gustavo Gutierrez biography (spanish)". Gustavo Gutiérrez (1928). Steven Casadont. Retrieved 11 October 2010. 
  4. ^ Hartnett, Daniel (February 3, 2003). "Remembering the Poor: An Interview with Gustavo Gutiérrez". America Magazine. Retrieved 1 September 2010. 
  5. ^ Gutierrez, Gustavo (1991). "Juan de la Cruz desde America Latina". Retrieved March 9, 2015. 
  6. ^ Robert McAffee Brown
  7. ^ See, e.g., Leviticus 25:17; Deuteronomy 24:14; Job 24:4 and 31:15; and Proverbs 14:31, 17:5, 19:17, 22:2 and 28:8.
  8. ^ James 2:6.
  • Christian Smith (2002). "Las Casas as Theological Counteroffensive: An Interpretation of Gustavo Gutiérrez's Las Casas: In Search of the Poor of Jesus Christ". Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 41: 69–73.  
  • Alexander Nava (2001). The Mystical and Prophetic Thought of Simone Weil and Gustavo Gutiérrez: Reflections on the Mystery and Hiddenness of God. SUNY Press.  
  • Robert McAffee Brown (1980). Gustavo Gutierrez: Makers of Contemporary Theology. John Knox.  

External links

  • Works by or about Gustavo Gutiérrez in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  • [4] Gustavo Gutiérrez on the University of Notre Dame website.
  • [5] Audio downloads of Gutiérrez's 1995 Drummond Lectures in Scotland.
  • [6] Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith-August 6, 1984. Instruction on certain aspect of "Liberation Theology".
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