Along with his less famous brother Clodovis, Leonardo Boff is known to most people as a liberation theologian. Pope Francis invited him to contribute to the Encyclical Laudato Si on safeguarding the “common home.” What does liberation theology have to do with the problem of the environment? Leonardo Boff, who for some time has taken an interest in developing a new theology on nature and the cosmos to achieve economic, social and political liberation, explains this connection. The issue is not “different” from the previous one, but an expansion of the same idea: liberation is either cosmic or it is not.
Back in 1971, the Vozes publishing house of Petropolis, Brazil — the classical publisher of the progressive theological avant-garde in Portuguese – published his book, O evangelho do Cristo cósmico [The Gospel of the Cosmic Christ]. Looking at his publications from 2008 to this day, we are struck by their number and the fact they are dedicated to only one topic. He wrote eighteen books in ten years, and their theme is always ecospirituality or ecocentric spirituality. We find the title of his book, Ecologia: grito da Terra-grito dos pobres (Ática/Vozes publishers, republished in 2015), in paragraph 49 of Laudato si: “… to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor,” linking links together liberation theology, centered on the poor, and the new ecospirituality, centered on the environment, in a synthesis that Laudato si calls “integral ecology” and Boff calls “deep ecology.”
The key expressions, “Mother Earth” and “Common Home” are found in his book, Uma ética da Mãe Terra: como cuidar da Casa Comun [An Ethics for Mother Earth: How to Care for the Common Home], published in 2016. Despite its Gnostic and esoteric overtones, “Mother Earth” is now widely used by Vatican institutions and episcopates [see, for example, the Communiqué of the Presidents of Continental Bishops’ Conferences on the occasion of the UN summit on the environment in Katowice, Poland, in August 2018]. For its part, despite its anti-speciesism and transhumanist overtones (i.e., denying the primacy of man over the natural cosmos), “Common Home” became a subtitle in Laudato si and is now passively repeated even by parish priests in small country towns.
These elements would be enough to include Leonardo Boff among the principal directors of the coming Amazon Synod and main authors of the “Amazon Paradigm.” Now if we delve a little deeper into his thought, we will note that it summarizes the main themes of the new modernist theology.
In his essay “Il Dio che sorge nel processo di cosmogenesi” [The God who Rises in the Process of Cosmogenesis] (published in Italian in 2017 by Gabrielli Editori in the collective work, Il cosmo come rivelazione [The Cosmos as a Revelation] as part of the series titled Oltre le religioni [Beyond Religions], Boff takes up Teilhard de Chardin and Shelling, Bloch and Moltmann to argue that matter is a network of relationships and this ability to weave relationships is the “spirit of the Universe,” the foundation of the “pan-relationality of the whole”: “All elements are bearers of the spirit in their own way. In the spirit of a mountain, as in ours, the principle of relationship works in the same way.” The cosmos, therefore, has a history, a purpose, and a future; it is “self-conscious” and the “bearer of spirit and conscience.” Everything in the Universe is “co-creative, co-participatory, connected, linked and re-linked to everything and everyone.”
All religions have given this “Underlying Energy,” the name God. The cosmos is a set of relationships because God is the “Relatio Matrix,” a node of relationships oriented in all directions so that “every time we discover relationships we grasp the emergence of God-relationship-communion from within the cosmogenic process.” This is why “embracing the world means embracing God, who hides and emerges in every being.” He “is in the heart of the universe.” One must not know this with the intellect but with “the sensitive and cordial reason” by feeling integrated into him while relating to the whole. “Beyond the forest of faiths, deep ecology” leads us to this ecological experience of God, says Boff, repeating Father Turoldo. He concludes: “The Universe, Mother Earth, and life … can be transformed into a feast and a celebration of our existence together with all beings, with which we hold infinite bonds of fraternity.”
Unquestionably, all these elements are found in the Instrumentum laboris of the Amazon Synod, of which Leonardo Boff can truly be considered the director. Whoever examines the Amazon Paradigm with intellectual honesty recognizes its immanentism (God is in the heart of the Universe), pantheism (embracing the world means embracing God), anti-speciesism (bonds of fraternity with all beings), naturalistic historicism (the universe is self-conscious), post-religious and post-Christian monism (all religions basically coincide because they all worship the Great Energy, even if they express it under different names).