3 minute read

Leonardo Boff: 1938—: Theologian

Abandoned Priesthood

The good will would not last long, however. In a 1977 work translated into English as Ecclesiogenesis, the theologian once again questions the role of the institutional church, suggesting that it should co-exist with Christian Base Communities, but should not rule over the communities. Many saw this as an attack on foundational Catholic belief that Christ himself established the church. Boff followed up on Ecclesiogenesis with The Maternal Face of God: The Feminine and Its Religious Expressions, in which he again calls for the ordination of women. Boff continued to add fuel to the fire with a series of articles in 1991 that once again addressed marriage and the priesthood. When the Vatican denied him permission to publish a subsequent work, Boff resigned from the priesthood. He told Newsweek International, "In 1992, they wanted to silence me again. Finally, I said no. The first time was an act of humility and I accepted. The second time was humiliation, and I couldn't accept it."

After leaving the priesthood, Boff married, and in 1993 he became Professor of Ethics, Philosophy of Religion and Ecology at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, where he was named professor emeritus in 2001. He has continued to write, with many of his post-1990 publications addressing new areas of the relationship between Christianity and ecology. In a 1993 work translated as Ecology and Liberation, Boff takes up a holistic ecological model, arguing that social ecology and social justice are intricately related. Boff continued this discussion in 1997 in Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor, using the ecological problems of his native Amazon region to delineate his arguments.

Although liberation theology has lost much of its momentum since the 1980s, Boff remains dedicated to the cause. He told the New Internationalist, "Today the problem is no longer marginalization of the poor but complete exclusion. The question now is how to survive. That's why liberation theology deals with fundamental issues like work, health, food, shelter, and how we live." Boff continues to write and lectures widely.

Selected writings

Jesus Cristo libertador, Vozes, 1972, translated as Jesus Christ Liberator, Orbis, 1978.

A Graca libertadora no mundo, Vozes, 1976, translated as Liberating Grace, Orbis, 1979.

Via—sacra da justice, Vozes, 1978, translated as Way of the Cross—Way of Justice, Orbis, 1980.

O Pai-nosso: A Oracao de libertacao integral, Vozes, 1979, translated as The Lord's Prayer: The Prayer of Integral Liberation, Orbis, 1983.

Da libertação: O sentido teológico das libertações sócio-historicas, Vozes, 1973, translated as Salvation and Liberation, Orbis, 1984.

Igreja, charisma e poder, Vozes, 1981, translated as Church: Charism and Power: Liberation Theology and the Institutional Church, Orbis, 1985.

Ecclesiogenese, Vozes, 1977, translated as Ecclesio-genesis, Orbis, 1986.

O Rosto materno de Deus: Ensaio interdisciplinary sobre o feminine e suas formas religiosas, Vozes, 1979, translated as The Maternal Face of God: The Feminine and Its Religious Expressions, Orbis, 1987.

Ecologia mundialização, espiritualidade, Editora Atica, 1993, translated as Ecology and Liberation, Orbis, 1995.

Ecologia: grito da terra, grito dos pobres, Editora Atica, 1995, translated as Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor, Orbis, 1997.



Encyclopedia of World Biography Supplement, Vol. 22, Gale, 2002.

Ferm, Deane William, Third World Liberation Theologies: An Introductory Survey, Orbis, 1986.

Sigmund, Paul E, Liberation Theology at the Crossroads: Democracy or Revolution?, Oxford University Press, 1990.

Waltermire, Donald E., The Liberation Christologies of Leonardo Boff and Jon Sobrino: Latin American Contributions to Contemporary Christology, University Press of America, 1994.


Christian Century, July 2-9, 1986.

New Internationalist, June 1996.

Newsweek International, June 28, 1999.

—Kari Bethel

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Shennen Bersani (1961-) Biography - Personal to Mark Burgess Biography - PersonalLeonardo Boff: 1938—: Theologian Biography - Post-vatican Ii Theology, "christ As Liberator", Silenced By Church, Abandoned Priesthood