….In the early 1980s, Ratzinger had recently been appointed prefect by John Paul II. Extreme poverty and inequality were rife in Latin America, so that Marxian thought began to appeal to churchmen in that part of the world, just as Catholics in John Paul’s home ­country of Poland were struggling to cast off a communist regime. Gustavo Gutiérrez, a Dominican theologian from Peru, had written the seminal A Theology of Liberation (1971), from which liberation theology takes its name.

Hearing that some quarters of the liberation theology movement were allying with Marxist groups and calling for violent revolution, John Paul asked Ratzinger’s CDF to examine the writings of the liberation theologians. In these writings and in the “base communities” (­local Christian socialist communities) associated with the movement, Ratzinger perceived much that was truly Christian. But he also found elements that could not be reconciled with Christianity.

He issued two instructions on liberation theology, in 1984 and 1986, warning against “­uncritical borrowings from Marxist ideology” and the “politicization of the tenets of the faith.” He met with leading figures, such as ­Gutiérrez and Leonardo Boff, to discuss their ideas. The Vatican’s investigation of liberation theology received attention in the international press, solidifying Ratzinger’s reputation as “God’s Rottweiler.” Boff spoke sensationally of the grueling inquisition he had endured in Ratzinger’s office (an episode in which Ratzinger, who could have revoked Boff’s teaching credentials, instead directed him to spend a year on silent sabbatical). In fact, Ratzinger dealt as gently as possible with the liberation theologians, in light of his carefully reasoned conclusions about their writings. Gutiérrez was never censured or commanded to recant, though he was asked to reconsider some of his positions. And yet, for his pains, Ratzinger earned the inexhaustible hatred of Catholic progressives and Marxists….

Full story by Cardinal Gerhard Muller in First Things.