In a move reminiscent of the struggle over Liberation Theology in the 1980s, the Vatican has issued a stern warning to Jon Sobrino, a dissident Jesuit priest in El Salvador, sending a formal notification claiming two of his books “may cause harm to the faithful.” The ruling from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—the Vatican’s ideological watchdog, formerly headed by Pope Benedict when he was Cardinal Ratzinger—finds various “flaws” in works by Sobrino.
In particular, the ruling complains that Sobrino ascribes to movements of the poor roles which belong to “the apostolic faithful.” The books which have come under scrutiny are Jesus the Liberator, 1991, and Christ the Liberator, 1999. Both were published in English by Orbis Books in the US.
Fr. Sobrino has not yet commented on the affair, but in a December 2006 letter to Peter Hans Kolvenbach, Superior General of the Jesuits, he said that he could not accept the Vatican’s judgment. The letter, published in the National Catholic Reporter, said the campaign against Liberation Theology “is of little help to the poor of Jesus and to the church of the poor.”
Sobrino, originally from Spain, was adviser to El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Romero—assassinated by a right-wing death squad for his advocacy on behalf of the poor in 1980. Several more Salvadoran priests, nuns and theologians were subsequently killed in the ’80s. In 1989, Fr. Sobrino narrowly escaped an attack on the University of Central America that left six of his fellow Jesuits dead, plus their housekeeper and her daughter. (Ekklesia, March 16)