Fr. Jon Sobrino, SJ

On eve of pope’s Brazil trip, Sobrino defends liberation theology”, by John Allen, Jr. National Catholic Reporter May 8, 2007:

On the eve of Pope Benedict XVI’s departure for Brazil, his first trip to Latin America, one of the region’s best-known Catholic theologians – whose work recently drew a negative review from the Vatican – has spoken out forcefully in defense of liberation theology and its “option for the poor.”

Jesuit Fr. Jon Sobrino’s essay, his first public statement since a critical March 14 notification from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, comes in a May 1 collection of essays published by the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians. . . .

In his 4,000-word essay, Sobrino does not comment in detail on the Vatican notification, but he offers a ringing defense of liberation theology. [MORE]

Background

Commentary

  • Doctrinal congregation head finds his work mostly behind the scenes, by John Thavis. Catholic News. March 16, 2007:

    Although some critics described the Vatican’s action against Father Sobrino as authoritarian, for Cardinal Levada it was an example of how carefully and cooperatively the doctrinal congregation operates.

    “I think we work in a more collegial fashion than in most instances in the church,” Cardinal Levada told Catholic News Service in a wide-ranging interview in mid-March.

    “We take into account all the relevant data before articulating our position,” he said. That means thorough reflection and discussion by groups of theological peers before decisions, reprimands or decrees are handed down, he said.. . .

    The study of Father Sobrino’s works began well before Cardinal Levada arrived at his position, at a time when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI — was at the helm of the doctrinal congregation. . . .

    Cardinal Levada said Father Sobrino was given ample opportunity to consider and respond to the critical review.

    “The congregation works very slowly in reviewing a theologian’s work, perhaps too slowly in many respects. It attempts to guarantee fairness for the theologian and put aside any idea that somebody is being railroaded,” the cardinal said.

    Theologians under review can have their own theological or canonical adviser. Any critique is based not on anonymous accusations but on the theologian’s published works or public statements.

    “Often the question is whether a theologian really believes something that is contrary to the faith, or whether he has expressed his thinking badly or partially,” Cardinal Levada said.

    Ultimately these questions are examined by a group of theological peers that routinely advise the congregation, then by the cardinal and bishop members of the congregation, and finally by the pope for his final judgment, the cardinal said.

    “We don’t publicize this process, because in some instances, I say gratefully, we have not had to come to a public notification. If a theologian acknowledges an error or a too-partial presentation and agrees to make an adequate correction in a subsequent book or article, then we’ll consider the matter closed,” he said.

    So far, the cardinal said, that has not been the case with Father Sobrino, and so a public warning was necessary. Although Father Sobrino is 69 and currently not teaching, he remains an influential voice in Catholic theology, Cardinal Levada said.

  • Sobrino’s notification: a sign of things to come, by John Allen, Jr. National Catholic Reporter March 16, 2007.
  • Vatican Aide Reflects on Sobrino’s Errors, Highlights Need for Sound Christology Zenit.org. March 16, 2007.
  • Vatican censures Sobrino, who calls procedures ‘not honest’ March 14, 2007.
  • The Sentence Against Theologian Jon Sobrino Is Aimed at an Entire Continent May 14, 2007:

    ROMA, March 20, 2007 – Last Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, a diminutive friar from Peru in the black and white habit of the Dominicans came before Benedict XVI, who was officiating over the rite in the Roman basilica of Santa Sabina. The pope applied the ashes to his head.

    The friar was Gustavo Gutiérrez, author of the 1971 book “A Theology of Liberation,” which gave rise to the theological current of the same name.

    In 1984, and again in 1986, this theology was severely criticized by two documents from the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, signed by then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. But it still influences large sectors of the Latin American Church, in their mentality and language.

    Not all of its major exponents have taken the same path. Gutiérrez has corrected some of its initial positions, has entered the Dominican order, and at the beginning of this Lent he was called to give a theology course at an illustrious pontifical university in Rome, the Angelicum, where Karol Wojtyla studied.

    But another famous liberation theologian, the Jesuit Jon Sobrino, a Basque émigré to El Salvador, where he co-founded the University of Central America, UCA, has held firm on his positions even after the congregation for the doctrine of the faith placed two of his books under examination. . . .

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