Leonardo Boff’s Unseen Hand

Leonardo Boff is Pope Francis’ unacknowledged point man on the environmental creed. His name and work were not mentioned anywhere in Laudato Sí, not even in the footnotes. The omission was no oversight. Boff works most effectively as the man behind the curtain. He is the wizard of liberation theology’s protective metamorphosis—chameleon-like—into climate justice. Forget those priests carrying AK 47s alongside the Sandanistas in the 1980s. That was yesterday. Today, care for creation is every Earthling’s commission in order to liberate the poor and forsaken from ecological aggression by the developed world.

Boff, a Brazilian ex-Franciscan, propagandizes through the mouth of Francis. It is an act of ventriloquism that goes unnoticed by mainstream Catholic media.


ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his dummie
Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy (c. 1940s)

October 4, the feast day of Francis of Assisi, marked the close of Pope Francis’ most recent liturgical gambit: the Season of Creation. Begun during Laudato Sí Week back in May, it ended on October 4, [Full discussion of Green Catholicism’s new season appeared September 1 in The Federalist.] The purpose of this Green interval in the Church’s calendar was to reinforce and expand Catholic lobbying efforts on behalf of Boff’s call for “integral liberation, of the human being and of the Earth.”

That is the crux of Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor, Boff’s 1997 manifesto for a radical eco-spirituality. In 2013, the year Jorge Bergoglio was elected pope, Boff published Francis of Rome & Francis of Assisi, subtitled “A New Springtime for the Church.” The text began as a response to one of the pope’s first public acts–his 2013 trip to Brazil for World Youth Day. [Inaugurated by John Paul II, the event celebrates a Catholic youth movement that borrows motivational technique from the Hitlerjugend.]

Excessively fulsome, Boff’s 2013 encomium offered a sneak peek at the tropes of Laudato Sí.  Why mention it now? Because the 2022 Laudato Sí Action Platform formulated for this year’s Season of Creation took its themes from Boff. Two of its seven activist platforms—”Response to the Cry of the Earth” and “Response to the Cry of the Poor”—took their names openly after the title of Boff’s 1997 book. The nomenclature and content of the Action Platforms suggest that Boff remains an active presence in this pontificate. They also reveal Francis’ confidence in alluding to Boff’s role in it.

The objectives of Francis’ Season of Creation display Boff’s neo-Luddite hostility toward Western development. Buttressed by Vatican accord with Klaus Schwab and the pretensions of the World Economic Forum, Francis can more easily concede his own distaste for the civilization which the Church built. And on which its survival rests.


illustration for Divine Comedy
Botticelli. Punishment of Flatterers & Panderers (c.1480) Divine Comedy, Canto 8.


In Boff’s telling, the “so-called Holy Office” has been an authoritarian failure mired in temporal power, feudal trappings, and doctrinal fuss-budgeting. But now Pope Francis is here to fix all that. You, Reader, might object that Bergoglio himself exhibits a lust for power politics. You might also think that doctrine matters. But loosen up: “Divine Providence has sent us Pope Francis.” Apotheosis of Francis of Assisi, Francis I is a cheerful “lover of Mother Earth.” He will prove himself “a shining humanitarian and ecological lighthouse for the whole world, beyond all current religions and ideologies.” In sum, Boff’s Francis-in-Rome is a quasi-cosmic figure who is “like a very fine string of the universe in which the most subtle musical note is being played.”

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One chapter heading asks “Can We Save the Catholic Church?” In scholarly terms, it is a down-market riff on Hans Küng’s earlier work: Reforming the Church Today: Keeping Hope Alive (1990) and motifs threading through The Catholic Church: A Short History (2001). Küng remained a priest in good standing despite having been censured in 1970 for Infallible: An Inquiry. Unlike Boff and others of the era (i.e. the eminent British theologian Charles Davis who left the Church as well.), Küng never relinquished his priesthood. As a theologian, he wrangled with the Church; as a man, he loved it. That is no small thing. His writing was contentious but—again, unlike Boff—neither sour nor hostile.

You can disagree with an intelligence. Nonsense, however, is not subject to rational argumentation.

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Throughout his panegyric to Francis of Rome, Boff’ surrenders argument for contempt. The tone is unmistakable. Boff despises Benedict XVI: “He [Benedict XVI] reduced the church to an isolated island or fortress surrounded by enemies on every side from whom it had to defend itself.” His critique of hierarchical power curdled into raw animosity after being silenced by then-Cardinal Ratzinger in 1985. (In a 2001 interview with  Comunità Italiana, he called Ratzinger “a fundamentalist” and accused him of “religious terrorism.”)

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Boff’s syncophantic panegyric on Bergoglio reads like a school boy crush: “Francis’ cosmic kinship .  .  . can encourage our ecological concern to safeguard every species, every animal, every plant, because they are our brothers and sisters.”

Infatuation keeps going:

.   .   . The central problem is not the church but the future of Mother Earth, of life, and of our civilization. How can the church help with this? Only by taking part in dialogue and joining forces with others. . . . Pope Francis sets himself decisively on this road of dialogue and humble service to others.

. . . . What sort of church can have a future? . . . A church that recognizes other churches as different expressions of the sacred legacy of Jesus; a church open to dialogue with all other religions and spiritual paths.  . . . a church that is prepared to learn from all humanity’s accumulated wisdom.

This church [Boff uses lower case] is the one that will bring about “Jesus’ utopia of the kingdom.” It has its messianic standard-bearer in Pope Francis. Unlike his two regrettable predecessors, Francis is “here to serve, not to be served.” And he “begs for fellowship with all humanity, because human beings do not treat one another as brothers and sisters; they are in thrall to the mechanisms of the neo-liberal economy that makes so many human beings superfluous and unemployed.”



In total, Boff’s 2013 effusion is an unserious book. It is serious, certainly, in its consequences but not in the character of its assertions or the qualities of mind that produced them. A throw-away reference to “neo-liberal economy” and unemployment—to take one example—is not an analysis. It is jargon. A demagogic tool, jargon triggers a reflexive response that short circuits understanding. Die Stimmung ist alles.

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Francis of Rome concludes with a seven-page postscript in which Boff channels the medieval “patron of ecology.” The saint himself addresses today’s young through the medium of a scare-mongering Leftist ideologue :

Dear Young People, my sisters and brothers. . . . Like you, I was young once. . . . I beg you to love and take care of our sister Mother Earth. She is ill and feverish. For a long time we have been exploiting her. . . . If we do not want to see great disasters that will affect all living things, we must urgently form a global alliance to take care of the earth and one another. .

In an act of celestial ventriloquy, the saint urges inexperienced young to restore “the Laws of the Heart”:

We need to change our minds in order to see reality with new eyes. Scholars tell us today that the earth is alive, not something dead and purposeless, a kind of store of limitless resource that we can use at will. . . . Fossil fuels like coal and oil, the fertility of soil and seeds are limited. . . . We human beings are part of the earth that feels, thinks, lives, and worships. We are Earth . . . .

Il Poverello, transmitting through Boff, insists we stop dominating the earth: “We have reached its limits. And because we go on pushing at them, the earth responds with hurricanes, floods, droughts, earthquakes, and tsunamis. We must change if we want to survive.”

In total, Francis of Rome promotes an unexamined idealism that flatters impulsive young people into thinking of themselves as the vanguard of a new world, founders of a new age. It excites an unthinking activism—illiterate in science and economics and empty of mastery over its own implications. Although put to different purposes, Boff’s anti-intellectual utopian rhetoric follows patterns set by the Hitlerjugend.

One of the primary founders of liberation theology, Boff circulates globalist Green propaganda through a charismatic mouthpiece on the Chair of Peter.


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Correction: Theologian Charles Davis was a diocesan priest, not a Dominican. The OP is removed.