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Latest on Fr. Sobrino

March 13, 2007

H/T: dotCommonweal

We just received an e-mail from Grant Gallicho, the Associate Editor of Commonweal Magazine, informing us that CWNews has made misleading assertions about Sobrino’s “disciplinary notice.” Gallicho has read the 10-page notification and reports that the CDF puts Sobrino “on notice” instead:

The story hasn’t made much of a splash Stateside, but Fr. Jon Sobrino, SJ, a well-known liberation theologian, is the subject of a “notification” by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which takes issue with several aspects of his Christology. The Spanish newspaper El Mundo broke the embargo on the document, and Catholic World News has run two stories on the matter, both of which contain a serious error. Their most recent story again claims that Sobrino has been sanctioned.

Calling the ten-page notification a “disciplinary notice” is misleading, and claiming it stipulates that Sobrino cannot publish theology or teach at a Catholic school is simply false. Unlike the notification regarding the theology of Roger Haight, SJ, Sobrino’s contains no sanctions whatsoever. He is not ordered to cease publishing, nor is he told he cannot teach Catholic theology. Apparently Catholic World News has not read the notification they’re reporting on. More updates as they come.

If CWNews distorted things a bit, it would not be surprising. We will just have to wait and see. But just as Michael pointed in his post, the news on Sobrino was vague and misleading, which seems to be characteristic of CWNews‘ articles and editorials dealing with what CWNews’ deems to be liberal or progressive trends. Not infrequently some of the posts we have read from them slide from objective reporting to sensationalist opinion.

So while CWNews relied solely on reports from El Mundo instead of consulting an authoritative document, one cannot completely blame CWNews for the confusion. As Rorate Caeli has noted, Archbishop Fernando Sáenz Lacalle of San Salvador did comment in an interview that “the conclusions of the theological studies on Christ which Father Sobrino has published are not in agreement with the doctrine of the Church and that he will not be able to teach theology in any Catholic center [of studies] while he does not revise [such] conclusions.”

If one wants full disclosure, the only reliable sources would be Fr. Sobrino, the CDF or the notification. Since access to the former two is fairly difficult, I suggest we wait until the notification is made public. Fortunately for those of us following the issue, Gallicho, who claims to have seen the notification, seems to provide the most clarity. Stay tuned.

CWNews published their latest story on Sobrino today, which is entitled “Vatican, Jesuits Confirm Discipline for Sobrino”. Again, there are no direct quotations from any authorities at the Vatican or in the Jesuits, nor is there any citation of the notification. Here’s the whole report:

Both the Vatican and the Jesuit order have confirmed that disciplinary measures against Father Jon Sobrino, a leading exponent of liberation theology, will be officially announced on Thursday, March 15.

The disciplinary notice, to be released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will cite Sobrino’s failure to affirm the divinity of Christ. The Congregation has determined, after a long dialogue with the Spanish-born Jesuit, that Sobrino’s published work is incompatible with Church teachings.

The news of impending disciplinary action against Father Sobrino was first broken last week by the Spanish newspaper El Mundo. Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador, had confirmed the report in comments to the press on Sunday. Father Sobrino became famous for his work in the field of liberation theology while teaching in San Salvador at the University of Central America.

The disciplinary notice will reportedly stipulate that Father Sobrino should cease publishing theological works and cannot teach at a Catholic university while he maintains the positions that the Vatican has identified as clashing with Catholic doctrine.

Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach, the Jesuit father general; and Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, have both informed reporters that the formal announcement will come later this week.

Again, only Gallicho claims to have seen the notification and he repudiates the story of any sanctioning of Sobrino. We now have three stories from CWNews with no reference or quote from Sobrino, the CDF or the notification. We have a claim from Gallicho that the notification itself contains no sanctions, but Gallicho provides us with no citations. Perhaps no citations can be published until after the notification is made public. To my knowledge, no one at CWNews claims to have seen the notification. Gallicho does. Patience.

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