Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez, OP

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Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez Merino, O.P. (born 8 June 1928 in Lima) is a Peruvian theologian and Dominican priest regarded as one of the principal founders of liberation theology in Latin America. He holds the John Cardinal O’Hara Professorship of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. He has been professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and a visiting professor at many major universities in North America and Europe. He is 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. He has also published in and been a member of the board of directors of the international journal, Concilium.

Fr. Gutiérrez has studied medicine and literature (Peru), psychology and philosophy (Leuven), and obtained a doctorate at the Institut Pastoral d’Etudes Religieuses (IPER), Université Catholique in Lyon. One of the central figures in the emergence of liberation theology, he was born in Peru, and spent much of his life living and working among the poor of Lima. In September 1984, a special assembly of Peruvian bishops were summoned to Rome for the express purpose of condemning Gutiérrez, but the bishops held firm. 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.

According to Gutiérrez true “liberation” has three main dimensions: First, it involves political and social liberation, the elimination of the immediate causes of poverty and injustice. Second, liberation involves the emancipation of the poor, the marginalised, the downtrodden and the oppressed from all “those things that limit their capacity to develop themselves freely and in dignity”. Third, liberation theology involves liberation from selfishness and sin, a re-establishment of a relationship with God and with other people. Liberation theology and Gutiérrez have both been the subjects of repeated Papal scrutiny.

A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, Salvation was reviewed directly by then-Cardinal Ratzinger and found to contain ideas which, in the view of conservative Catholics, were disturbing. Although Gutiérrez himself was not censured, many other liberation theologians received Papal censure. Because of the perceived connection between followers of liberation theology and leftist groups in Latin America, such as the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, many liberation-minded priests were killed in Central American countries during the wars and civil conflicts of the 1980s.  These martyrs included Archbishop Oscar Romero and six scholar-priests at the University of Central America in San Salvador.  

(The above biography was adapted from Wikipedia.)

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A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, Salvation (1971)

We Drink from Our Own Wells: The Spiritual Journey of a People (1984)

The God Of Life (1991)

Additional Online Resources

After 50 years, Gutiérrez’s ‘A Theology of Liberation’ still ‘What’s Going On’
Dec. 2021 article by Prof. Michael E. Lee, appearing in the National Catholic Reporter

Gustavo Gutierrez and the preferential option for the poor
An introduction to the work of Gustavo Gutiérrez by peace activist Father John Dear.

Remembering the Poor: An interview with Gustavo Gutiérrez
Interview by Daniel Harnett, SJ, in America Magazine, February 3, 2003


Gustavo Gutierrez biography and interview #1

Gustavo Gutierrez interview #2



Brockman, James R. “The prophetic role of the Church in Latin America: a conversation with Gustavo Gutiérrez,” Christian Century 100 (10/83):931-50.

Campos, Mario. “Gutiérrez: ‘Joy of the poor confounds the powerful’,” Latin America Press (5/10/84):3-5 & (5/17/84):3-8.

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. “Ten observations on the theology of Gustavo Gutiérrez (3/83),” in A.J. Hennelly (ed.) Liberation Theology: A Documentary History (Maryknoll NY: Orbis, 1990), pp. 348-50.

Gutiérrez, Gustavo. “Apuntes para una teología para la liberación,” Cristianismo y Sociedad 24-25 (1970):6-22.

__________. “Hope of liberation,” Worldview 17 (6/74):35-37.

__________. “Faith as freedom: solidarity with the alienated & confidence in the future,” Horizons 2 (spr 75):25-60.

__________. “The hope of liberation,” Mission Trends 3 (NY, 1976), pp. 64-69.

__________. “Two theoretical perspectives: liberation theology & progressivist theology,” in Torres & Fabela (eds.) The Emergent Gospel (Maryknoll NY: Orbis, 1978), pp., 227-58.

__________. “Preparatory document for Puebla: a retreat from commitment,” Christianity & Crisis (9/18/78):211-18.

__________. “Liberation praxis & Christian faith,” in Gibellini (ed.) Frontiers of Theology in Latin America (Maryknoll NY: Orbis, 1979), pp. 1-33.

__________. “En busca de los pobres de Jesucristo: evangelización y teología en el siglo xvi,” in P. Richard (ed.) Materiales para una historia de la teología en América Latina (San José: CEHILA/DEI, 1980), pp. 137-64.

__________. “Reflections from a Latin American perspective: finding our way to talk about God,” in V. Fabella & S. Torres (eds.) Irruption of the Third World: Challenge to Theology (Maryknoll NY: Orbis, 1983), pp. 227-37.

__________. “The task of theology & ecclesial experience,” in L. Boff & V. Elizondo (eds.) Iglesia Popular (Concilium 176;

__________. “Teología y ciencias sociales,” in Teología de la liberación: documentos sobre una polémica (San José: DEI, 1984), pp. 71-94.

__________. “¿Qué es espiritualidad?” Diakonia 33 (1-3/85):2-10.

__________. “Toward a theology of liberation (7/68)” & “Criticism will deepen, clarify liberation theology (9/14/84),” in A.J. Hennelly (ed.) Liberation Theology: A Documentary History (Maryknoll NY: Orbis, 1990).

__________. “Church of the poor,” in E. Cleary (ed.) Born of the Poor (Notre Dame, 1990), pp. 9-15.

Kirkpatrick, Dow. “Liberation theology & Third World demands: a dialog with Gustavo Gutiérrez & Javier Iguíñez,” Christian Century (5/12/76):456-60.

Lee, Martin A. & Pia Gallegos. “Gustavo Gutiérrez with the poor: liberation theology’s fundamental questions,” Christianity & Crisis (4/6/87):113-15.


Brown, Robert McAfee. Makers of Contemporary Theology: Gustavo Gutiérrez (Atlanta, 1980).

Brown, Robert McAfee. Gustavo Gutiérrez: An Introduction to Liberation Theology (Maryknoll NY: Orbis, 1990).

Cadorette, Curt. From the Heart of the People: The Theology of Gustavo Gutiérrez (Oak Park IL: Holmes-Meier, 1988).

Ellis, Marc H. & Otto Maduro (eds.) Expanding the View: Gustavo Gutiérrez & the Future of Liberation Theology The Future of Liberation Theology: Essays in Honor of Gustavo Gutiérrez (Maryknoll NY: Orbis, 1989).

Ellis, Marc H. & Otto Maduro (eds.) Expanding the View: Gustavo Gutiérrez & the Future of Liberation Theology (Maryknoll NY: Orbis, 1990).

Gustavo Gutiérrez, A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation (Teología de la liberación: perspectivas, 1971) trans. Sister Caridad Inda and John Eaglson, rev. ed. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1988) paperback.  Gutiérrez is one of the most significant theologians of the 20th century, and this work is his masterpiece.  It helped spark the movement we now call “liberation theology.”  Gutiérrez had been working on this for some years, in conjunction with his work with both the poor and with the bishops of Latin America, sounding out how Vatican II applied to the Latin American context.  Gutiérrez, while not unduly difficult, favors an abstract style, full of subtle nuance and genuine eloquence.

Gustavo Gutiérrez, The Power of the Poor in History (La fuerza histórica de los pobres: selección de trabajos, 1979), trans. Robert R. Barr (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1983).

Gustavo Gutiérrez, The God of Life (El Dios de la vida, 1989).  Trans. Matthew J. O’Connell.  Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991.

Gustavo Gutiérrez, We Drink from Our Own Wells: The Spiritual Journey of a People (Beber en su propio pozo: en el itinerario espiritual de un pueblo, 1983) trans. Matthew J. O’Connell (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1984).

Gustavo Gutiérrez, On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent (Hablar de Dios desde el sufrimiento del inocente: una reflexíon sobre el libro de Job, 1986), trans. Matthew J. O’Connell (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1987).

Gustavo Gutiérrez, The Truth Shall Make You Free: Confrontations (La verdad los hará libres: confrontaciones, 1986) trans. Matthew J. O’Connell (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1990).  Building on his classic A Theology of Liberation, the world’s preeminent liberation theologian addresses some of the challenges that have been raised against this “new way of doing theology” and charts its prospects for the future.

Gustavo Gutiérrez, Las Casas: In Search of the Poor of Jesus Christ (En busca de los pobres de Jesucristo, 1992).  Trans. Robert R. Barr.  Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1993. 

Gustavo Gutiérrez, Sharing the Word Through the Liturgical Year (Compartir la palabra a lo largo del año litúrgico, 1995) trans. Colette Joly Dees (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1997).

Gutiérrez, Gustavo & Richard Shaull. Liberation & Change (NY, 1977).

Manzaneira, Miguel. Teología y salvación en la obra de Gustavo Gutiérrez (Bilbao, 1978).

Nickeloff, James. B., ed. Gustavo Gutiérrez: Essential Writings, The Making of Modern Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996) paperback.

Oliveros, Roberto. Liberación y teología: génesis y crecimiento de una reflexión (1966-1976) (Lima, 1980).

Many thanks to the late William Harmless, SJ, and Monterey Bay Educators Against War for parts of the above bibliography.


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