Jon Sobrino, Jesuit theologian, to be disciplined by Vatican

Father Jon Sobrino, is a prominent Roman Catholic teacher and proponent of liberation theology who teaches at the University of Central America in San Salvador. Now, according to published reports, the Vatican has moved to silence him:
A Jesuit theologian who is a leading exponent of liberation theology will soon be disciplined by the Vatican, according to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

Father Jon Sobrino will be barred from teaching in Catholic schools and instructed not to publish written works, El Mundo reports, citing informed sources at the Vatican. The newspaper claims that the disciplinary measures will be announced by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith within the next two weeks.

Father Sobrino’s work was cited as distorting the role of Jesus in the plan of salvation, the Vatican sources said. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reportedly found that his theological works placed an undue emphasis on the figure of Jesus as a human actor involved in social causes, neglecting his divinity and his unique role in Redemption.

Liberation theology played a prominent role in providing intellectual and spiritual underpinnings for the social movements in the 1970s and 1980s opposed to the oppressive government regime in El Salvador. Assassinated archbishop Oscar Romero was significantly influenced by liberation theology.

Jon Sobrino has been a prolific author.He was born in the Basque region of Spain, became a Jesuit priest, and since 1958 has lived and taught in El Salvador. In November 1989, he happened to be away from the country on the night when six of his fellow Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter were murdered by Salvadoran armed forces. He has continued on with their work since that dark night.

Liberation theology stresses a preferential option for the poor, and analyzes economic and political forces acting in history which can act to oppress the poor. Sobrino has written that the crucified Christ is present in the suffering of the poor in Latin America.

To learn more about Fr. Sobrino's writings on liberation theology, you can read some of his many books. From the BBC, you can read and listen to Fr. Sobrino describe the underpinnings of his views of liberation theology. You can also watch a short video clip of Fr. Sobrino talking about the dangers faced by the Jesuits at the University of Central America during El Salvador's civil war.

To understand the current action of the Roman Catholic authorities, you may want to review this article from National Catholic Reporter in April 1999 which discusses the opposition of Pope Benedict (then John Cardinal Ratzinger) to liberation theology. This critique of liberation theology is embodied in the 1984 Instruction on Theology of Liberation from the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Ratzinger. Finally, this Washington Post article from 2005 discusses the ongoing tension between the Vatican and liberation theologians.


Anonymous said…
Tim, a well rounded posting covering boths sides, as usual.

1st century Israel was governed and occupied by a brutal force from Rome, and repression was a reality on a scale probably beyond what Latin America saw in the last century, as bad as it was. Yet in the recorded words of Jesus in the four gospels there is no record of his calling for a confrontation with the governing authorities or even laying the blame for the condition of the poor at their feet. His own disciples thought at times that Jesus had come to overthrow the Romans, and were disapointed to learn He had other ideas. The first century church underwent intense persecution from both the Roman and Jewish authorities, yet in the 20 epistles in the New Testament, there again are no recorded teachings calling for confrontation with the governing authorities. Actually, you find just the opposite, that Paul calls for submission to governmental authority, even up to the confiscation of goods and property. Always the church is taught to look after the poor, but to the 1st century church looking after the poor seemed to be a job for the church and not the government. I understand how the priests would like to see a better life for the poor, and Paul, John, Peter and James all mentioned taking care of the poor. But, and correct me if I´m wrong, ,my understanding of liberation theology is that it goes beyond the church ministering to the poor to the church confronting the governmental and secular authorities in regards to the plight of the poor. My problem
with liberation theology would be that if this is what Jesus and the early church fathers had in mind all along, why didn´t they mention it in their writings? All the ingredients were there, a large per centage of the population was
poor, and there was rampant governmental violence and oppression. It seems that Jesus and the writers of the New Testament saw the problem not as the actions of the powerful but that the problem was men separated from God, and until that issue could be resolved, nothing else would change.
El-Visitador said…
"As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work—which is by faith."
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, 1 Timothy, 1:3-4

Pope Benedict is in line with Scripture and with Paul's mandate to command certain men not to teach false doctrines.

Liberation theology is in line with Marx. Both its dogma and its ideologues will become sad footnotes to Christian history just like the other abominable heresies –Marcionism, Motanism, Arianism, Manicheism, Donatism, etc.

Found wanting, proven wrong, and forgotten.
Greg M. Johnson said…
I'm a fan of JPII, and still waiting to see what kind of theology Benedict XVI will offer.

But I'm not a disciple of Sobrino. A decade or more ago he wrote in Sojourners that the suffering of the poor saves them.

You can have a heart that bleeds for the poor, you can struggle against injustice, you can call the comfortable to repent of their exploitation of the poor, WITHOUT necessarily needing to limit the role of Jesus' work on the cross in salvation. I think Romero & JPII were there.

That all being said, the greater injustice is that Rome won't censure those who offer not the gospel but a neoconservativism (or neo-Stalinism?) which explicitly denies that sin can can enter into a transaction in the so-called "free market". Who's denying a Christ crucified for the sins of the world?
Anonymous said…
It's a shame that the this pope will do what the Atlactl Batallion could not do--silence Father Sobrino. As you may recall, Sobrino is alive today simply because he was not home on that infamous night in November 1989. What if Ellacuria, Montes, and the others were still alive? Would they also be silenced?

Anonymous said…
I am surprised that no one has studied why they went OPUS DEI after the peace accords to fill in after the war...makes sense to me if the right wanted to take over the left via the church since opus dei is almost cult like and major conservative: just ask pro familia *)
ixquic* said…
"liberation theology is in line with Marx. Both its dogma and its ideologues will become sad footnotes to Christian history just like the other abominable heresies –Marcionism, Motanism, Arianism, Manicheism, Donatism, etc.

Found wanting, proven wrong, and forgotten."

Visitador ¿can you explain this to me but in spanish? please! (or write a post)
Anonymous said…
As far as I understand, the CNS story about Sobrino and its source from El Mundo is fundamentally defective. More specifically, while the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has "notified" Sobrino about problems with his Christology, it has NOT banned him from teaching or publishing. The OPUS DEI Archbishop of Salvador has every right to ban him from teaching or publishing within his diocesan boundaries. But, as COMMONWEAL is reporting, this is a lot different than Sobrino being silenced.
Anonymous said…
Iam writing to encourage Fr. Jon Sobrino to keep doing what he is doing for the poor, the oppressed and the rejected. Those who are working in the foelds know the meaning and importance of the Jesuit ministries throughtout the world. Let Fr. Jon Sobrino remember Teilhard de Chardin, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, Fr. Bobadilla [companion tempete] in the time of St. Ignatius. This is the kairos, the time of salvation [ be honest with the reality]. Let him remember Fr. Pedro Arrupe, Fr. Ignacio Ellacuria and so on. May God continue to bless and keep in the service of the Kingdom of God. His ministry is done "in the middle of crucifixion...definitively in the hope of liberation." Jon Sobrino, Jesus the Liberator, 1
Anonymous said…
Tim’s balanced reporting very well encapsulates the scriptural dilemma: How could the Messias of that time minister to the poor people without addressing the heavy taxation and abuse of the Jews by the Roman Empire? (Luke 4:18 states that Jesus’ ministry was to the liberation of the poor.)

How ironic it is that the very race that gave us our Lord is now villainized and Rome is exalted. How could this be? Could it be that Rome, the victor, the compiler and selector of the New Testament, compiled and selected in such a way that we would not know what Rome really did? Could it be that Rome still does not want you to know what the Messias really thought of Rome? Could it be that Rome manipulated the scriptures so that its followers would submit to them and not resist Rome’s evil?

If the answers to the above questions are “yes” then an appeal to the canonized scriptures for a definitive discussion of Liberation Theology is like asking George Bush to tell us how the war in Iraq is progressing. The truth is no longer there – on that subject.

Jesus plainly stated in Matt. 17:24-26 that the children of his Kingdom are free from paying taxes to Rome. After all, this was one of the charges against Jesus at his Roman trial. Tax resistance was a clear doctrine of Jesus’ until Rome added the 27th verse to Chapter 17, in which, to avoid offence, the tax money is taken from the mouth of a fish. (And here is another lesson of Matt. 17; an ending passage that changes the whole meaning of the preceding story always smells fishy.)

Several other Liberation scriptures that are beginning to sprout are Acts 5:29, “…We ought to obey God rather than man”; Matt. 6:33, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God (on earth); Matt. 11:1-15, paraphrased as “The Kingdom of heaven on earth is advanced by violence and John the Baptist was the leader of that movement, making clear the path for Jesus; Luke 20:19-26; a goofy entrapment gone awry that is now used to justify and demand conformance to bad governments; Matt. 10:34-38, Jesus brings the sword; Matt. 21:8-16, Jesus physically attacks the Temple of Herod, the center of government, religion and the equivalent of Wall Street; Mark 15:7, the time Jesus spent in the temple was considered a time of insurrection by both Rome and the Gospel writers; Luke 11:20, The Kingdom physically on earth; Luke 12:49-51, Jesus brings fire on earth, not peace; Luke 13:1-4, paraphrased as “except ye all become freedom fighters ye shall all perish”.

In highlighting the Liberation Doctrine let it not be thought that we should diminish Jesus’ loving teachings, examples and redemption. It is just that in balance we should do the first, first, and not leave the others undone.

The Four Gospels indeed are well-shorn of Liberation Theology, but the roots were not pulled out. With the discovery of several other relatively unaltered Gospels in the Nag Hammadi Library, these roots are sprouting anew the world over.
Paris Arrow said…
Benedict XVI and Jon Sobrino, God's Rottweiler voricious appetite for the Jesuits, Jon Sobrino and Liberation Theology

What does Benedict XVI God's Rottweiler got against this frail old man Jesuit Jon Sobrino who has dedicated his entire lifetime to the Crucified Peoples of El Salvador - while Benedict XVI couldn't give a hoot or lift his papal finger to help these poorest of peoples as he wallows in the lap of luxury at the Vatican.

Read the answers in