Martyrdom in Latin America: Gustavo Gutierrez Challenges the Traditional Concept of Authenticated Martyrdom in the Roman Catholic Church
Zywina, Cameron Richard
Zywina, Cameron Richard. Martyrdom in Latin America: Gustavo Gutierrez Challenges the Traditional Concept of Authenticated Martyrdom in the Roman Catholic Church; A Thesis/Practicum submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies of the University of Manitoba in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts [in Religion]. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: University of Winnipeg, 1996.
The concept of martyrdom emerged in the pre-Constantinian Church. Many Christians believed that the martyrs, imitators of Jesus Christ in life and death, would be saved in imitation of his resurrection. The local communities where they died authenticated them. Bishops started authenticating them in the third and fourth centuries. Since 1234, the popes alone have authenticated them by means of canonization. Martyrs have continued to be the ideal Christians for nearly two thousand years due to their willingness to die on account of the faith. The first part of the thesis examines the evolution of the concept of authenticated martyrdom up to the pontification of Pope John Paul II. Many Christians in contemporary Latin America have committed themselves to the process of liberation, convinced that widespread poverty contradicts the will of God. Many have been killed and thereafter popularly recognized as martyrs by the poor. Gustavo Gutierrez Merino, a Peruvian priest, formulated the methodology of the theology of liberation. In 1978, he began to designate as martyrs many Christians killed for their commitment to the poor, and he recognizes the popular proclamations made by the poor. He is disappointed that the Latin America bishops do not officially recognize the martyrs. Gutierrez's concept of martyrdom is examined in the second part of the thesis. The objective of the thesis is to ascertain what is Gustavo Gutierrez's concept of martyrdom by examining its evolution in his writings; to judge how it is continuous with the traditional concept of authenticated martyrdom in the Church, and how his concept differs from it, thereby challenging it. His concept has much in common with the traditional concept, but his concept also differs from it because he has a particular view of who God is and what he demands of believers. He is convinced that God loves all people unconditionally, but particularly the poor. Therefore, Christians are martyrs if they are killed on account of the ways in which they demonstrated their love of the poor and of the God who favours them. Gutierrez's concept of martyrdom challenges the traditional concept in the Roman Catholic Church by creatively contributing a new dimension to it, based on his endeavours to make sense of the deaths suffered by Christians committed to the process of liberation in contemporary Latin America.