The Curial campaign against the Society of Jesus continues... This week it was reported that the CDF has issued a notification that two books written by Fr. Jon Sobrino SJ, Jesus the Liberator (1991), and Christ the Liberator (1999), contain statements that are "either erroneous or dangerous" and "may cause harm to the faithful."
I concede that I haven't read either of the two books in question, but I'm somewhat familiar with Sobrino's work and his thought from having read a book he'd written about Archbishop Oscar Romero some years ago. Fr. Sobrino was a theological advisor to Oscar Romero, and just barely missed being killed along with the six Jesuits who were murdered by a right-wing death squad in El Salvador in 1989.
The CDF notification objects that:
• Sobrino’s method makes the “church of the poor” the central context for theology, thus minimizing or ignoring the apostolic tradition of the church, especially as expressed in the declarations of early church councils;
• It’s not sufficiently clear in his work that the divinity of Christ is taught by the New Testament itself, as opposed to being a product of later dogmatic development;
• In places, Sobrino tends toward the ancient Christological heresy of “assumptionism,” treating the historical Jesus as a separate figure who was “assumed” by the divine Son of God;
• Sobrino makes too strong a distinction between Christ and the Kingdom of God, thereby devaluing the “unique and singular” significance of Christ;
• Jesus’ self-consciousness as messiah and as the Son of God are not sufficiently clear;
• The death of Christ on the Cross is reduced to a moral example, rather than understood as having universal significance for salvation.
It sounds to me like the CDF has Fr. Sobrino confused with the late Robert Funk of the Jesus Seminar. Liberation Theology is not liberal theology. It powerfully and profoundly challenges comfortable people like me in a radical way, but I'd hardly call it liberal.
Besides, when did the CDF start feeling comfortable throwing their weight around regarding things written by theologians that aren't "sufficiently clear" enough for them?
Fr. Sobrino has indicated his refusal to accept the finding of the notification...
...in a December letter to Fr. Peter Hans Kolvenbach, Superior General of the Jesuits, Sobrino said he could not accept the Vatican’s judgment for two reasons: first, because it misrepresents his theology; and second, because to do so would be to acquiesce in what he described as a 30-year-long campaign of defamation against liberation theology, which, Sobrino wrote, “is of little help to the poor of Jesus and to the church of the poor.”The few remaining liberation theologians have strong adversaries among the Latin American cardinals today, in men such as Cardinal Trujillo and Cardinal Castrillon de Hoyos. In my opinion, the entire Latin American episcopate put together, whining about the Latin Mass while the whole continent is turning to Pentecostalism due to their inattention, isn't worth one of the former visionary bishops of yesteryear, such as Oscar Romero, Dom Helder Camara, Paulo Arns, and Aloísio Lorscheider.
Sobrino says it would not be honest for him to accept the Vatican’s findings, and that to do so would be to question the judgment of these other theologians.
Second, Sobrino complains to Kolvenbach about harassment from church authorities which he describes as reaching back to 1975, the year in which he first had contact with the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, and 1976, when he first heard from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He describes the Roman Curia’s methods as “not always honest or very evangelical.”
“I think that to endorse these procedures would not in any way help the church of Jesus to present the face of God to our world, nor to inspire discipleship of Jesus, nor [to advance] the ‘crucial fight of our time,’ which is for faith and justice,” Sobrino writes.