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Fr. Jon Sobrino to be silenced?

March 9, 2007

There are rumors circulating around that say that Fr. Jon Sobrino, a Jesuit theologian who has worked in Spain and El Salvador, may be banned from teaching at Catholic universities and seminaries, and may be instructed to cease publication of his works. If these rumors, reported by El Mundo, are true, then this would be the first high-profile disciplining of a theologian under Cardinal Levada’s guard over the Pontifical Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Here’s CWNews‘ distilled and vague report:

Madrid, Mar. 9, 2007 (CWNews.com) – 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.

Father Sobrino, a Basque priest, became an influential leader in the school of liberation theology during his years in El Salvador. He taught at the University of Central America, an institution that was caught up in the civil war of the 1980s when 6 Jesuits and 2 staff members were killed by right-wing death squads in 1988.

The only work by Sobrino that I’ve read is Christology at the Crossroads, a book I liked very much and perceived little over which to object. The theological problems, if there are any, must be in later works and would have to be far more severe than what CWNews reports. There is nothing wrong with focusing on the historical, concrete actions of Jesus in Christology provided one does reduce Jesus to a purely human agent. Neglecting divinity, while foolish and reckless, is not the same thing as denying divinity. Unfortunately, CWNews does not provide us with a more reliable account of the situation, which clouds things. Perhaps if anyone who has read the El Mundo article, they can shed more light on the issue.

In any case, I think I may give Christology at the Crossroads another read this weekend just to see if I had missed anything the first time through. It may be a case that Sobrino’s later, more recent Christology is problematic from a theological standpoint. We shall see.

Update: Silencing of Jon Sobrino confirmed, according to CWNews.

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