In a startling new interview, a 3-star general and former head of Communist Romania’s secret police who defected to the United States in 1978, claims that the Theology of Liberation was the creation of the KGB, who exported it to Latin America as a way of introducing Marxism into the continent.
Ion Mihai Pacepa has been called “the Cold War’s most important defector,” and after his defection, the Romanian government under Nicolae Ceausescu placed two death sentences and a $2 million bounty on his head. During the more than ten years that Pacepa worked with the CIA, he made what the agency described as “an important and unique contribution to the United States.”
He is reported in fact to have given the CIA “the best intelligence ever obtained on communist intelligence networks and internal security services.”
“Liberation theology has been generally understood to be a marriage of Marxism and Christianity. What has not been understood is that it was not the product of Christians who pursued Communism, but of Communists who pursued Christians,” Pacepa said in a recent article. In his role as doctrinal watchdog, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger called liberation theology a “singular heresy” and a “fundamental threat” to the Church.
Pacepa says that he learned details of the KGB involvement with Liberation Theology from Soviet General Aleksandr Sakharovsky, Communist Romania’s chief foreign intelligence adviser, who later became head of the Soviet espionage service, the PGU.
In 1959, Sakharovsky went to Romania together with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, for what would become known as “Khrushchev’s six-day vacation.” According to Pacepa, Khrushchev “wanted to go down in history as the Soviet leader who had exported communism to Central and South America.” He chose Romania as his point of export, since it was the only Latin country in the Soviet bloc and provided a logical liaison to Latin America because of the similarity of language and culture.
Pacepa claims that the Theology of Liberation was not merely infiltrated by the KGB, it was actually the brainchild of Soviet intelligence services.
“The movement was born in the KGB, and it had a KGB-invented name: Liberation Theology,” Pacepa said.
According to the General, during those years, the KGB had a penchant for “liberation” movements, and a Theology of Liberation fit right in.
The National Liberation Army of Columbia (FARC), created by the KGB with help from Fidel Castro; the “National Liberation Army of Bolivia, created by the KGB with help from “Che” Guevara; and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), created by the KGB with help from Yasser Arafat are just a few additional “liberation” movements born at the Lubyanka — the headquarters of the KGB.
Pacepa said that Liberation Theology was born of a 1960s top-secret “Party-State Dezinformatsiya Program” approved by Aleksandr Shelepin, the chairman of the KGB, and by Politburo member Aleksey Kirichenko, who coordinated the Communist Party’s international policies.
The program mandated that “the KGB take secret control of the World Council of Churches (WCC), based in Geneva, Switzerland, and use it as cover for converting Liberation Theology into a South American revolutionary tool,” Pacepa said.
The Soviets were aware that the WCC was the largest international ecumenical organization after the Vatican, he said, representing some 550 million Christians of various denominations throughout 120 countries.
According to Pacepa the KGB followed a step-by-step procedure to bring Liberation Theology to Latin America, starting with the establishment of an intermediate international religious organization called the Christian Peace Conference (CPC), headquartered in Prague. Its main task “was to bring the KGB-created Liberation Theology into the real world,” he said.
“The new Christian Peace Conference was managed by the KGB and was subordinated to the venerable World Peace Council, another KGB creation, founded in 1949 and by then also headquartered in Prague,” he said.
In his work with the Soviet bloc intelligence community, Pacepa managed the Romanian operations of the World Peace Council (WPC).
“Most of the WPC’s employees were undercover Soviet bloc intelligence officers. The WPC’s two publications in French, Nouvelles perspectives and Courier de la paix, were also managed by undercover KGB – and Romanian DIE – intelligence officers,” he said.
Pacepa said that in 1968 “the KGB-created Christian Peace Conference, supported by the world-wide World Peace Council, was able to maneuver a group of leftist South American bishops into holding a Conference of Latin American Bishops at Medellin, Colombia.”
Though the Conference’s official task was to seek solutions to poverty, its “undeclared goal” was “to recognize a new religious movement encouraging the poor to rebel against the ‘institutionalized violence of poverty,’ and to recommend the new movement to the World Council of Churches for official approval,” he said.
“The Medellin Conference achieved both goals. It also bought the KGB-born name ‘Liberation Theology,’” he said.
Pacepa said that although he has good reason to suspect that there was an organic connection between the KGB and some of the leading promoters of Liberation Theology, he has no evidence to prove it.
“I recently glanced through Gutierrez’s book A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, Salvation (1971), and I had the feeling that it was written at the Lubyanka,” he said.
“No wonder he is now credited with being the founder of Liberation Theology,” he said.
Six years after Pacepa’s defection to the West, the Vatican issued its first of two scathing critiques of Liberation Theology, under the guidance of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
The stated purpose of the first “instruction” was to draw attention “to the deviations, and risks of deviation, damaging to the faith and to Christian living, that are brought about by certain forms of liberation theology which use, in an insufficiently critical manner, concepts borrowed from various currents of Marxist thought.”
The Vatican instruction also warned that the theologies of liberation generate “a disastrous confusion between the ‘poor’ of the Scripture and the ‘proletariat’ of Marx.” In so doing, it said, “they pervert the Christian meaning of the poor, and they transform the fight for the rights of the poor into a class fight within the ideological perspective of the class struggle.”
In Pacepa’s words, Liberation Theology was “deliberately designed to undermine the Church and destabilize the West by subordinating religion to an atheist political ideology for its geopolitical gain.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome