No Salvation Outside the Poor

No Salvation Outside the Poor January 15, 2008

I just got my hands on Jon Sobrino’s new collection of essays No Salvation Outside the Poor: Prophetic-Utopian Essays. I have only read the first chapter, but so far the book is fantastic and appears to be a great place to start reading Sobrino.

Here is the description from the back cover:

The provocative title of these essays plays on a traditional Catholic slogan: “No salvation outside the church.” But as Fr. Sobrino notes, salvation has many dimensions, both personal and social, historical and transcendent. Insofar as it implies God’s response to a world marked by suffering and injustice, then the poor represent an indispensable test, a key to the healing of a sick society. Drawing on the radical hope of Christian faith—the promise of the Kingdom of God and the resurrection of the death—Sobrino presents a bold counter-cultural challenge to a “civilization of wealth” that lives off the blood of the poor. Inspired by the witness of Oscar Romero and Ignacio Ellacuría, and the church’s preferential option for the poor, Sobrino offers these “prophetic-utopian” reflections on faith and the meaning of discipleship in our time.

Update: An excerpt regarding the Medellin Conference (1968) and its discovery of the “depth of the poor”:

In my view, [the depth of the poor] was the most important discovery of Medellin and the theology of liberation (which are used here as symbols to mark the place where history spoke up after centuries of silence). That is where a qualitative jump occurred (“God is a God of the poor”), as well as an epistemological break (“God is known through the poor”). In biblical language, there was a kairos. I am surprised how quickly people have come to say that we have gone beyond Medellin, when obviously common sense and the Gospel of John should tell us that “the Spirit will guide you to all truth” (John 16:13). Even more surprising is the almost absolute silence on Medellin by progressive theologians in the affluent countries, who still rightly invoke Vatican II, but often in a reductionist way, invoking it alone; and in a bourgeois way, rightly invoking it to demand their own rights within the Church, but without giving appropriate consideration to Third World poverty (p. 23). 

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  • Policraticus

    Michael,

    Looks like a great read. The title of the book is reminiscent of this week’s Quote of the Week from Cardinal Congar’s book, Jesus Christ. One thing I have noticed is a strong tie between the Ressourcement thinkers (esp. Congar and Danielou) and liberation theoiogians on the conditions of salvation with respect to the poor.

  • RCM

    Thanks for the tip. One more book for my reading list.

  • Donald R. McClarey

    Apparently the Vatican has some major concerns regarding Father Sobrino:

    “Posted on Mar 14, 2007 05:20am CST.
    Print Friendly Version

    By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
    New York

    Two books on Christology by a pioneer of the liberation theology movement contain statements that are “either erroneous or dangerous,” according to a formal Vatican notification published today, “and may cause harm to the faithful.”

    The ruling from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith finds various flaws in the works by Jesuit Fr. Jon Sobrino, a former theological adviser to Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador. Most notably, it complains of insufficient emphasis on the divinity of Christ.

    Contrary to some early reports, the Vatican has not barred Sobrino from teaching or publishing, though a Jesuit spokesperson in Rome said that future disciplinary action has not been ruled out.

    ——————————————————————————–
    John Allen offers more analysis of the Sobrino cases in his weekly column: Sobrino’s notification: a sign of things to come.
    ——————————————————————————–

    Sobrino himself has not yet commented, but 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 letter, which is dated December 13, 2006, has not been made public, but NCR obtained a copy.

    The books in question are Jesus the Liberator, originally released in 1991, and Christ the Liberator, first issued in 1999. Both were published in English by Orbis Books.

    Sobrino, 69, was born in the Basque region of Spain. He joined the Jesuits and arrived in El Salvador in 1958. Sobrino became one of the leading voices in liberation theology, the most important current in Latin American Catholicism following the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). It was designed to break the traditional alliance of the Latin American church with social elites, and to support justice for the poor. The movement aroused fierce opposition; in 1989, 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. The Vatican has also been critical, issuing documents in 1984 and in 1986 warning of excessive reliance on Marxism, a sociological concept of sin, and a this-worldly understanding of salvation.

    While calling Sobrino’s concern for the poor “admirable,” and stating that it does not intend “to judge the subjective intentions of the author,” the new Vatican notification nonetheless cites six categories of errors in the two books:
    • 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.

    While battles over liberation theology date back to the 1970s and 1980s, the Vatican said that the examination which led to this notification began only in 2001. It cited “the wide diffusion of Father Sobrino’s works, especially in Latin America,” as grounds for the action.

    In his letter to Kolvenbach, Sobrino lays out the reasons why he is unable to accept the Vatican’s findings “without reservation.”

    In the first place, he says, the two books in question were reviewed extensively by fellow theologians prior to publication. The Portuguese translation of Jesus the Liberator, Sobrino writes, carried the imprimatur of Cardinal Paolo Evaristo Arns of São Paulo, Brazil. For Christ the Liberator, Sobrino cites a number of theologians who he says found the book free of doctrinal error: Frs. J. I. González Faus, J. Vives and X. Alegre of the Monastery of San Cugat, Spain; Fr. Carlo Palacio, of Bello Horizonte, Brazil; Fr. Javier Vitoria of the University of Deusto in Spain; and Fr. Martin Maier, of the German Jesuit publication Stimmen der Zeit.

    In addition, Sobrino writes that Maier sent a 2004 critique of Sobrino’s work from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to another Jesuit theologian, Fr. Bernard Sesboué,a former member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission. Sobrino quotes from Sesboué’s response: “I do not want to answer with too much precision the document of the CDF, which appears so exaggerated as to be without value … with such a deliberately suspicious method, I could find many heresies in the encyclicals of John Paul II!”

    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.”

    “An atmosphere against my theology was created in the Vatican, in several diocesan curias and among several bishops,” Sobrino writes, “and in general against the theology of liberation. This atmosphere was created a priori, often with no need to read my writings.”

    Sobrino says it would not be ethical for him to “approve or support” such efforts by signing the notification.

    “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.

    Sobrino adds that he “knows very well” that suspicions about his influence on the writings and speeches of Romero is one reason that the late archbishop’s cause for beatification has been held up in the Vatican. Sobrino says that he has written a 20-page document on the subject, and signed it.

    Sobrino goes on to cite numerous interventions by Colombian Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, currently President of the Pontifical Council for the Family in Rome, as well as other examples of what he considers a climate of hostility.

    Sobrino says that in “1987 or 1988,” he received an invitation to speak in the Viedma diocese of Argentina. He claims that Cardinal Raúl Francisco Primatesta of Córdoba, Argentina, objected, and the invitation was withdrawn. Sobrino says he was later told that the bishop of Viedma was given an ultimatum: Either cancel the invitation to Sobrino, or Viedma would be scrubbed from the itinerary for a future papal visit to the country.

    Through the use of such methods, Sobrino writes, “many theologians, both men and women, who are good people – with their limitations, of course, but with great love for Jesus Christ, the church, and the poor – have been persecuted insensitively.”

    Sobrino also cites several bishops, including Romero, Helder Camara of Brazil, Leonidas Eduardo Proaño of Ecuador, and Samuel Ruiz of Mexico, as well as Latin American Confederation of Religious (CLAR), as objects of what he considers similar persecution. Sobrino charges that elements of the hierarchy have sought to dismantle the “base communities” in Latin America.

    Sobrino quotes extensively from a 1984 article on liberation theology by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger which was published in the Italian magazine 30 Giorni, and which Sobrino charges misrepresented his thinking on key points. Sobrino also reaffirms seven key elements of his own thought, including concern for the poor as the context for theology.

    Extra pauperes nulla salus, Sobrino writes – “Outside the poor, there is no salvation.”

    Sobrino also tells Kolvenbach that the notification will likely cause “some suffering” to his friends and family.”

  • Old news, Donald.

    But thanks for the reminder that the CDF is, like all of us, in constant need of conversion.

    Additionally, the Vatican’s opinion is in regard to two specific books, not Sobrino himself, or anything else he has written.

  • Donald R. McClarey
  • Old news, Donald. Old news.

  • Policraticus

    Donald,

    We discussed that story at length last year. The Vatican has has neither censured him nor removed him from ministry. A quick look at history reveals that many pioneering theologians were under investigation by the Holy Office–Henri de Lubac, Yves Congar, Jean Danielou, John Henry Newman and even Joseph Ratzinger himself. De Lubac and Cardinal–later made cardinals–were silenced for a period by their respective orders.

    That Sobrino’s two earlier books may have contained “theological errors” is certainly a possibility, and the CDF under Levada certainly believes there are. The CDF has been right and wrong before. But aside from whatever may be the points of controversy, this new book need not necessarily be viewed with presumed suspicion. Those of us who read contemporary theology, I think, will take and preserve what is good and true in Sobrino’s new book and simply take note of (without affirming) any tenuous positions he may espouse.

  • Policraticus,
    Isn’t what you described about contemporary theology exactly what has happened and should be happening in an alive Church? I always assumed that the role of contemporary (to that moment in time) theologians to dance on the line between what is acceptable and what is not, and only by that crossing we find out things that might at first glance to be “error” actually fit in with who we are…
    peace to all

  • [Tangential to the post but musing]

    A quick look at history reveals that many pioneering theologians were under investigation by the Holy Office–Henri de Lubac, Yves Congar, Jean Danielou, John Henry Newman and even Joseph Ratzinger himself. De Lubac and Cardinal–later made cardinals–were silenced for a period by their respective orders.

    Out of curiousity, when was Joseph Ratzinger actually “silenced”, by whom and what for? — it is not uncommon for the CDF to have a file on this or that theologian (which is true in the case of even the early Ratzinger), but to move to actually silence him is something I hadn’t heard before.

    I always assumed that the role of contemporary (to that moment in time) theologians to dance on the line between what is acceptable and what is not, and only by that crossing we find out things that might at first glance to be “error” actually fit in with who we are…

    There are some who more clearly attempt to “think with the Church” and those who seem to relish pushing the envelope of orthodoxy with more than the sake of Christ or the Church in mind. Hans Kung stands out as an example of the latter.

    Michael Joseph rattles off a list of some — “Henri de Lubac, Yves Congar, Jean Danielou . . .” but I wonder if they were similar in their “attitude” to the likes of Hans Kung, Leonardo Boff, Roger Haight, Charles Curran, Tissa Balasuriya, et al.?

    All fell under the suspicion of the CDF, but what distinguishes the former “pioneering” theologians from the latter? How best for the laity to discern?

  • Donald R. McClarey

    It is true that some orthodox theologians and saints have sometimes been investigated and occasionally disciplined by the Church. However, it is also true that all heretics condemned by the Church have also been investigated and condemned by the Church. In matters such as this, I believe it is prudent for the laity to follow the lead of the Vatican. If an injustice has been done, then God over time will sort things out. Additionally it is just this type of action that is within the special competence of the Church under the general authority vested in the Pope to bind and to loose.

    As to this particular case of Father Sobrino, the title of his current book was used in a letter dated December 13, 2006 which he sent to the Jesuit superior general Kolvenbach in which he attacks the investigation of the CDF. Extra pauperes nulla salus.

    http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/127821?&eng=y

    This phrase seems to go to the heart of the problem for the Vatican. As the notification stated: “The ecclesial foundation of Christology may not be identified with “the Church of the poor”, but is found rather in the apostolic faith transmitted through the Church for all generations. “

  • Christopher –

    1) I don’t think MJ meant to say Ratzinger was silenced. I’m not aware that he was. He certainly would have been investigated.

    2) “Thinking with the Church” is indeed what professional theologians are called to do, but this is not an activity antagonistic to what PadreVic is talking about. One can think with the Church and call the Church to repentance at the same time, for example. Pushing the boundaries is precisely what enabled the Church to develop Christological formulas, for example. The paradox is that without “heresy,” there can be no “orthodoxy.” And there can be no lived faith in the present without “pushing the boundaries” of reflection on the Church’s experience. Tradition, orthodoxy, etc. are not static. I think it was Picasso who rightly said that tradition is more like having a baby than wearing your father’s hat.

    3) I am curious about the list of theologians you rattled off and the supposed “attitude” you see present in all of them. What “attitude” was Leonardo Boff expressing, for example, when he said after his silencing was announced, “I’d rather walk with the Church than alone with my own theology”?

    Donald —

    You point to an important distinction: being investigated vs. being declared a heretic. Having “some major concerns regarding Father Sobrino,” as you put it above, is hardly a declaration of heresy. Thomas Aquinas was accused of “heresy” in his own time.

  • Policraticus

    Ratzinger was never silenced. He was under suspicion during the 50’s and early 60’s for his affiliation with the nouvelle theologie movement and his decision not to write one of his dissertations on Thomas Aquinas (he chose Augustine and Bonaventure). Silly reasons, I know, but at the time, the neo-Scholastic Dominicans had a heavy hand at the Vatican. Thank God for Pope John XXIII!

    You point to an important distinction: being investigated vs. being declared a heretic. Having “some major concerns regarding Father Sobrino,” as you put it above, is hardly a declaration of heresy. Thomas Aquinas was accused of “heresy” in his own time.

    St. Thomas Aquinas was even declared a heretic in 1277 by the bishop of Paris who was charged by the pope to collate problematic teachings. Aquinas’ writings were banned in the universities. This condemnation was not lifted until 1325. So, yeah, Sobrino didn’t make out too badly.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    “but at the time, the neo-Scholastic Dominicans had a heavy hand at the Vatican.”

    Ahem. Things are not that simple. There is a popular narrative out in the theological world (particularily among those who see themselves as continuing the work of the nouvelle theologie) that puts the theologians of the nouvelle theologie in the white hats and the Dominicans like Garrigou-Lagrange in the black hats. This is an oversimplification. Those who are often cast as the innocent victims in this narrative (Gilson, De Lubac, Chenu) were often implicated in their own dirty scheming and backbiting. Much of Garrigou’s reputation for heavy handedness has its orgin in Gilson’s anger and paranoia rather than reality. I think we are just getting to the point were we can get a more even handed appraisal of the character of these men and the value of their work. In the meantime lets not be to quick to pass on the dominant narrative uncritically.

  • Michael,

    Regarding 1) — yes, I never heard that Ratzinger was silenced, hence my curiousity about MJ’s phrasing, but perhaps I misunderstood him.

    I am curious about the list of theologians you rattled off and the supposed “attitude” you see present in all of them. What “attitude” was Leonardo Boff expressing, for example, when he said after his silencing was announced, “I’d rather walk with the Church than alone with my own theology”?

    If that’s what Boff said at the time, then I commend him for it. However, this was the same man who by his own admission on his website ‘renounced his activities as a priest and promoted himself to the state of laity” — “I changed trenches to continue the same fight.”

    Regarding 9/11, Boff said: “For me, the terrorist attack of September 11 represents the shift towards a new humanitarian and world model. The targeted buildings send a message: a new world civilization couldn’t be built with the kind of dominating economy (symbolized by the World Trade Center), with the kind of death machine set up (the Pentagon) and with the kind of arrogant politics and producer of many exclusions (White House spared, because the plane fell before). For me the system and culture of capital began to collapse. They are too destructive.”

    To me this kind of comment (if the translation is correct, from Portugese and cited on Wikipedia) is a clear case of the politicized theology that repulsed Ratzinger as an academic in Tubingen. To celebrate the greatest act of terrorism on American soil as some kind of vindication over the capitalist establishment.

    Hans Kung — a man infatuated on one hand with his own self-promotion (he writes 460+ page biography entitled “My Struggle for Freedom,” in which he openly ridicules John Paul II as a third-rate theologian with “a very thin theological foundation — not to mention a lack of modern exegesis, the history of dogmas and the church,” and alleges that the Holy Father’s motive for aligning his papacy with Opus Dei rather than the Jesuits is to get personal revenge for being rejected at the Gregorian (p. 79).

    In many of Kung’s other books you will find open questioning and rejection of established doctrine, often applying lukewarm interpretations of so as not to offend contemporary culture (even a Protestant sees through him reviewing his “explanation” of the Apostle’s Creed. To this day, he is completely obsessed with promoting his own particular theology (or these days, a “global ethic” for all religions) — even if it means staying at odds with the Magisterium.

    Charles Curran is another who questioned the Church on practically every issue from premarital sex, masturbation, contraception, abortion, homosexual acts, divorce, euthanasia, and in vitro fertilization — and maintained his “right” to do so. Quite fond of holding press conferences throughout his battles with the CDF to give vent to his righteous indignation. A clear case of insubordination and blatant disobedience. He’s now teaching at a Methodist school, which is perhaps fitting.

    Roger Haight – I guess it’s more his vapid Christology than his “attitude” per se (see this review of Haight by Edward T. Oakes, SJ — Haight’s heresy deviates so far from the orthodoxy of the Church that I see little merit to it.

    Matthew Fox — I neglected to mention, but check out Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest sometime (he was a friend of Boff). In reaction to the Congregation’s investigation of his work, he composed an open letter to Cardinal Ratzinger and the Vatican “to call to task . . . for their sins of omission and failure to teach a credible faith and spirituality, [and] to try to educate [them] and the public about creation spirituality.” Formerly a Dominican, now (last I heard at least) an Episcopalian — busy promoting something called the “techno-cosmic mass” (it’s like a religious rave) and his own ’95 theses for a New Reformation.’

    Tissa Balasuriya — well, I may have been incorrect in comparing him with the others.

    There is a tendency of some, in defense of those theologians who like to “push the envelope” to take the “well, they even burned the books of Aquinas”, or see Vatican II as a vindication of
    Henri de Lubac, Yves Congar, Jean Danielou, etc.

    Personally, I’d be loathe to classify Boff, Kung, Curran, Haight as being in the same league. Ratzinger would have loved nothing more than to retire from the CDF and pursue the life of a theologian, but when his resignation was turned down by John Paul II — twice, I think — he submitted in obedience. In terms of character, I get the sense that Ratzinger would gladly renounce his writings if they brought him into conflict with the Church — I just don’t get that with those subject to recent investigations by the CDF, nor to I expect that their theology decades from now will be embraced as normative and proclaimed ‘Doctors of the Church.’

  • Apologies — forgot to close an italics tag after the Boff 9/11 quote.

  • Christopher,

    Admittedly, you acknowledge at the end of your post that you were too hasty in lumping these theologians together and I want to affirm that admission. Your list of “dissenters” includes theoloigians who are radically different than one another and who have been in hot water with the CDF for different reasons. Yet you see some kind of common “attitude” among them, which I do not see. I imagine, though, that if I were constantly hounded by the CDF that I would develop an attitude of frustration with the Church’s tendency toward authoritarianism.

    Boff, for example, complied with the Vatican and then cntinued to be hounded and so he left the priesthood. I don’t think leaving the priesthood is necessarily a bad thing, as you seem to assume.

    Boff’s 9/11 comment has nothing to do with his relationship with the Vatican. It certainly doesn’t represent “politicized theology” whatever the hell that is supposed to mean (all theology is political – ALL of it). And he certainly didn’t “celebrate” what happened on 9/11. In fact, we heard similar comments made by Vatican officials! Perhaps you bring it up because it rubs against your patriotism, but his comments do not go against Church teaching in any way.

    I’m not as familiar with Kung’s work. I think all I have read is his book Infallible?, years ago. “Open questioning” of doctrine, I would say, is one of the functions of the theologian; not to undermine it but to understand it better, especially in different contexts. Considering the influence of Barth on his work, though, I would find it hard to believe that Kung reinterprets the Church’s doctrine “so as not to offend contemporary culture.” Doesn’t sound like Kung at all. I would be skeptical of a project to articulate a “global ethic for all religions” (too hegemonic) which you say is his recent focus, but I don’t necessarily find that at odds with Church teaching. Important to remember that Kung is still a priest in good standing.

    Ah, Charlie Curran.

    Charles Curran is another who questioned the Church on practically every issue from premarital sex, masturbation, contraception, abortion, homosexual acts, divorce, euthanasia, and in vitro fertilization — and maintained his “right” to do so

    “Questioned the Church on practically very issue”? He questioned/s Church teaching in ONE area: sexual ethics, not “practically every issue.” C’mon, you know this.

    Second point about Curran is that in my opinion, HIS focus on the Church’s sexual teaching reveals his very Americanist concerns. America is obsessed with sex. He also tends ot be Americanist in his writings on Catholic Social Teaching.

    Third, of course he has a right to question official Church teaching. We all do. And the Magisterium has a right to make final decisions about Church teaching. Rahner has some good stuff on the relationship between the Church’s theologians and the Church’s Magisterium. Check them out sometime.

    Fourth – Also, important to remember that he, too, is still a priest in good standing.

    Roger Haight – I have not read all of Jesus Symbol of God so I can’t comment on particulars, but from what I know of it I think there would be things about it that I hate and other things that I agree with. I have found his work in ecclesiology and in interpreting Latin American theologians to be really helpful and inspiring. But when you say “Haight’s heresy deviates so far from the orthodoxy of the Church that I see little merit to it,” I think you go overboard. The Church did not declare him a heretic.

    Matthew Fox – Don’t really like his stuff too much, although as with any theologian it’s important to track a person’s work over time. Fox’s earlier stuff is interesting while his later stuff gets pretty weird. Your “he was a friend of Boff” is irrelevant. Who are YOU friends with?

    Balasuriya – Now this is interesting. You say that you “may have been incorrect in comparing him with the others,” and yet the only difference is that he has been reconciled with the Magisterium. His views are actually very similar to Boff’s (check out his fantastic book The Eucharist and Human Liberation) and his “attitude” in recent writings (like in the journal Voices From the Third World) can be just as critical of the institutional Church as any of the other theologians you have mentioned. One problem with your analysis here is that you don’t seem to know anything about the theologians’ work — all you know are the reports that you see, and make the judgment based on their current status with Rome.

    nor to I expect that their theology decades from now will be embraced as normative and proclaimed ‘Doctors of the Church.’

    Depends where in the world Church you are talking about. Much of Boff’s work is a reporting of what is already normative in Latin America, for example. And personally, I think the days of declaring “Doctors of the Church” is over. Theology is now too diverse, too exciting, too non-hegemonic to be declaring such things anymore.

  • Boff’s 9/11 comment has nothing to do with his relationship with the Vatican.

    No it doesn’t, but it’s a good example of what I don’t like about Boff. =)

    “All theology is political” — I think I understand what you mean (theology carrying political implications when manifested in the world-at-large). I was speaking more in terms of theology dividing the world and human sinfulness along economic lines and promoting class warfare and resentment.

    In fact, we heard similar comments made by Vatican officials!

    I think that most of us would witness 9/11 chiefly in terms of human loss. Boff in his interview perceiving 9/11 as a vindication and a triumph of good over evil (“september 11 represents the shift towards a new humanitarian and world model”).

    I would find it hard to believe that Kung reinterprets the Church’s doctrine “so as not to offend contemporary culture.” Doesn’t sound like Kung at all. I would be skeptical of a project to articulate a “global ethic for all religions” (too hegemonic) which you say is his recent focus, but I don’t necessarily find that at odds with Church teaching.

    I’d recommend reading Kung’s Credo — I read it years ago and it wasn’t that memorable, but as mentioned this Protestant theologian captures it:

    In undertaking this project, Kung enlists in the honorable ranks of those who would make use of new insights to unfold the gospel’s story. The question, however, is whether Kung, in so earnestly seeking to be understood by present-day culture, has not made its approval the criterion for what is permissible to be heard in that story. Earnest, eager to resolve doubt, anxious not to give offence, Credo is remarkable in its breadth of learning, yet is strangely non-threatening, hardly disturbing to either the faithful or the unbelieving. Kung’s finding that the virgin birth does not lie at the center of the gospel he calls a “momentous decision.” The resurrection appearances are for him “probably … inward visionary events and not external reality.” Who is God? “God is the all-embracing and all-permeating ground of meaning of the world process, who can of course only be accepted in faith,” a definition, one might note, which is unencumbered by reference to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, much less the disturbing singularity of the Word made flesh.

    IMHO, his “global ethic for all religions” is really too vapid to possibly be offensive to the Church. His motto is: “No peace among the nations, without peace between the religions! No peace between the religions without dialog between the religions!” — Well, obviously. Kung flaunts this notion of arriving at a minimal standard of ethical conduct between religions as if it were something innovative and revolutionary. Is it really?

    Important to remember that Kung is still a priest in good standing.

    But not as a teacher of Catholic theology (thank God!)

    However, Kung was gracious in advising the public upon the election of Benedict XVI that he should be given the benefit of the doubt (“like all new presidents they should have 100 days to learn”), this after accusing Ratzinger of orchestrating the funeral in such a way as to manipulate the masses and commend John Paul II for sainthood.

    “Questioned the Church on practically very issue”? He questioned/s Church teaching in ONE area: sexual ethics, not “practically every issue.” C’mon, you know this.

    Practically every issue in sexual ethics — which is broad enough to warrant concern.

    Third, of course he has a right to question official Church teaching. We all do. And the Magisterium has a right to make final decisions about Church teaching.

    And to persist in questioning even where the Magisterium has clearly articulated what Church teaching is on these issues? — The Church is not likely to modify its teaching on the issues mentioned, at least not along the lines that Curran envisions.

    Also, important to remember that he, too, is still a priest in good standing.

    I confess I don’t understand why Curran remains a “priest in good standing” when he has done so much to mislead the laity by obstinantely disagreeing with the Church on these issues. At least his damage is minimized by his expulsion from Catholic U.

    [Haight] But when you say “Haight’s heresy deviates so far from the orthodoxy of the Church that I see little merit to it,” I think you go overboard.

    I meant to say Haight’s Christology (again, post was rushed at 2 in the morning and there were some phrases I wanted to change). But I find the criticism of Haight’s christology (along with the USCCB’s investigation of Fr. Phan) merited.

    Yet you see some kind of common “attitude” among them, which I do not see.

    A stubborn investment in their own theology — being a little too attached, I should say — which leads them to pursue it even at the cost of conflicting with the Church — sometimes when push comes to shove they choose to obstinate disagreement over humble obedience, even at the cost in the case of some of these individuals of breaking with the Church entirely.

    Much of Boff’s work is a reporting of what is already normative in Latin America, for example.

    True, and I stand corrected — which is probably why Benedict kept returning to the subject in his visit with the Brazilian bishops.

    I think the days of declaring “Doctors of the Church” is over. Theology is now too diverse, too exciting, too non-hegemonic to be declaring such things anymore.

    I’d agree there.

  • Christopher and Michael, thanks for your dialog here, it is wonderful. I appreciate the opportunity to read this kind of dialog, and even be a participant in it…to what little I can offer. So here goes…

    All of it makes me think of disobedient children and their parents. I know for many parents disobedient children are a challenge. Most parents learn to deal with difficult little ones by examining themselves as well as the child (there always seems to be room to grow on both sides). I know why parents do it, they are motivated by love. I think theologians and the Church do the same. I confess I do not know as much as the two of you, with all aspects of these theologians, but it makes me wonder sometimes why it is difficult for people to see Rome being generous and kind to those who challenge the Church’s authority. Or even why people who challenge the Church stay within the Church. They all recognize the mandate to love one another. Yes these theologians might not be our favorites, not respect the Church, etc…but we are all called to love others as He has loved us. I think we all have to see how much more we can live in the life of Jesus by loving those who hate/disagree/oppose us, I know Jesus set the standard way up there, but he gives us the strength to attain it.
    Thanks again, peace to all

  • I was speaking more in terms of theology dividing the world and human sinfulness along economic lines and promoting class warfare and resentment.

    But to say this shows that you are missing one of the major points of liberation theology: that the world is already divided and that the task of the Church is to take sides with the poor, oppressed and marginalized. Theology doesn’t encourage division in the world — it recognizes it, shines a light on it, and calls it to conversion.

    I think that most of us would witness 9/11 chiefly in terms of human loss.

    But that human loss took place within a context and for reasons that can be discerned. It seems that anyone who tries to do that beyond the Americanist “they hate us because we are free” is accused of “celebrating” 9/11.

    Boff in his interview perceiving 9/11 as a vindication and a triumph of good over evil (”september 11 represents the shift towards a new humanitarian and world model”).

    No, not a “vindication,” but a sign of major change on the way. Those are two different things entirely.

    The Church is not likely to modify its teaching on the issues mentioned, at least not along the lines that Curran envisions.

    Well, the major thing he got in trouble for was open dissent against Humanae Vitae and if we know out Church history, we know that that issue was examined in some depth by a Vatican commission and that it could very well have been changed. The Church’s sexual teaching has actually changed much over the centuries. But some of the issues he harps on seem to be to be issues that are not that important in comparison to other things that need to change in the Church — like the lack of courage in opposing war, both on the level of the hierarchy and the laity.

    At least his damage is minimized by his expulsion from Catholic U.

    I don’t know — His influence is actually quite significant in the U.S. and Canada from what I can tell.

    A stubborn investment in their own theology — being a little too attached, I should say — which leads them to pursue it even at the cost of conflicting with the Church — sometimes when push comes to shove they choose to obstinate disagreement over humble obedience, even at the cost in the case of some of these individuals of breaking with the Church entirely.

    I think a theologian who is not passionate about his or her work would be one to be suspicious of. Looked at from the other side, of course, one could say that at times the Magisterium also manifests a certain stubbornness. The relationship between the Magisterium and the rest of the Church is a two-way street.

    PadreVic – I like how you put a lot of the points you made. I think over the years I have learned to be more charitable toward the CDF and have come to appreciate the role that they play, though knowing that they can make mistakes. I think on the other hand it is a good idea to give ecclesial theologians the benefit of the doubt and assume that they do their work within a greater love for the Church, even when what they say is controversial.

  • that the world is already divided and that the task of the Church is to take sides with the poor, oppressed and marginalized. Theology doesn’t encourage division in the world — it recognizes it, shines a light on it, and calls it to conversion.

    I think Ratzinger conveys what I mean:

    Love consists in the “option for the poor”; i.e., it coincides with opting for the class struggle. In opposition to “false universalism”‘; the liberation theologians emphasize very strongly the partiality and partisan nature of the Christian option; in their view, taking sides is the fundamental presupposition for a correct hermeneutics of the biblical testimony. Here, I think, one can see very clearly that amalgam of a basic truth of Christianity and an un-Christian fundamental option which makes the whole thing so seductive: The Sermon on the Mount is indeed God taking sides with the poor. But to interpret the “poor” in the sense of the marxist dialectic of history, and “taking sides with them” in the sense of the class struggle, is a wanton attempt to portray as identical things that are contrary.

    But that human loss took place within a context and for reasons that can be discerned. It seems that anyone who tries to do that beyond the Americanist “they hate us because we are free” is accused of “celebrating” 9/11.

    Note: I can certainly understand how Boff from his persepctive might relish seeing the twin towers (those symbols of capitalism and economic power) and the Pentagon (the nerve center of the American warmongering death machine) — crumble and fall into dust. I can understand it, though I don’t condone it.

    However, read Weigel’s Faith, Reason and the War against Jihadism for a decent analysis of what fuels the jihadists — it’s not “they hate us because we are free.”

    Charles Curran

    Well, the major thing he got in trouble for was open dissent against Humanae Vitae and if we know out Church history, we know that that issue was examined in some depth by a Vatican commission and that it could very well have been changed.

    On Humanae Vitate and the idea that it could have changed — moral theologian Germaine Grisez disagrees. Judging by his account of what occurred, I’d say a good example of Cardinal Ratzinger’s “the truth is not decided by a majority vote.”:

    . . . Paul VI was not interested in the number of those who held an opinion but in the cases they made for their views. In this respect, too, he acted like a scholar rather than a politician. Having received the commission’s final report, he studied it.

    After about four months, he announced on Oct. 29, 1966, that he found some aspects of the majority’s case to be seriously flawed. He continued studying and concluded that the commission was right in holding that the pill is not morally different from other methods of contraception.

    Eventually he became completely convinced that there was no alternative to reaffirming the received teaching. He then took great care preparing the document that was eventually published as “Humanae Vitae.”

    That the rest of the Christian world has abandoned the teaching of the Church on contraception does not mean the Church has to “change with the times.”

    The Church’s sexual teaching has actually changed much over the centuries. But some of the issues he harps on seem to be to be issues that are not that important in comparison to other things that need to change in the Church — like the lack of courage in opposing war, both on the level of the hierarchy and the laity.

    don’t know — His influence is actually quite significant in the U.S. and Canada from what I can tell.

    The Church can strip a theologian of his authority to teach AS a Catholic theologian, but naturally it cannot prevent him from making a name for himself by other means. I like how Ratzinger described Kung’s treatment:

    [Hans Kung] has taken back nothing of his contestation of the papal office; indeed, he has further radicalized his positions. In Christology and in trinitarian theology he has further distanced himself from the faith of the Church. I respect his path, which he takes in accord with his conscience, but he should not then demand the Church’s seal of approval but should admit that in essential questions he has come to different, very personal decisions of his own.”

    These days if a theologian wishes to “go his own way”, the CDF is certainly more gracious in its response than the Inquisition of old. =)

    I think a theologian who is not passionate about his or her work would be one to be suspicious of.

    Everything in moderation. I don’t think Ratzinger or John Paul II as being any less “passionate” than the Kungs and Currans of the world.

  • But to interpret the “poor” in the sense of the marxist dialectic of history, and “taking sides with them” in the sense of the class struggle, is a wanton attempt to portray as identical things that are contrary.

    I don’t know the context of the Ratzinger quote here, but I think some liberation theologians think in the way he is describing and others do not. Some are thoroughly “Marxist” (e.g. Jose Miranda) while the majority are influenced only by certain aspects of Marxism. The “marxist dialectic of history” has largely been abandoned by most liberation theologians. Nevertheless, class division remains an important concern of theirs, and I think rightly so.

    I can certainly understand how Boff from his persepctive might relish —

    Wait. Stop right there. “Relish”? Stop it. He does not “relish” what happened on 9/11. Stop saying it. I insist on this because it is pure nationalism that fuels your bias here, and nothing more.

    Judging by his account of what occurred, I’d say a good example of Cardinal Ratzinger’s “the truth is not decided by a majority vote.”:

    . . . Paul VI was not interested in the number of those who held an opinion but in the cases they made for their views.

    That the rest of the Christian world has abandoned the teaching of the Church on contraception does not mean the Church has to “change with the times.”

    I agree with you. But to admit that Church teaching has changed in certain contexts is NOT to say that the Church “must change with the times.” Not at all. Paul VI DID open things up for debate — not for “majority vote” of course — but he did open up the question. Curran is still “making his case.” Fine. Let him do it. [Shrug]

    I respect his path, which he takes in accord with his conscience, but he should not then demand the Church’s seal of approval but should admit that in essential questions he has come to different, very personal decisions of his own.”

    I like this too…. He sounds like Rahner here.

  • Ronald Lacey

    To address this thread, to say nothing of the CDF’s admonishment of Sobrino: what IS the apostolic faith? It is many things, certainly. But I want to address particularly that part of the notification cited by Donald on January 16: “The ecclesial foundation of Christology may not be identified with ‘the Church of the poor,’ but is found rather in the apostolic faith transmitted through the Church for all generations.”

    Mt 25, the Sermon on the Mount, the Letter of James – to name but three passages of Scripture; the sermons of John Chrysostom, the teaching of the Fathers that the Poor are entitled to the coat in your closet (i.e., to excess items that we do not use and strictly speaking do not need) – ALL cited at length in Paul VI’s “Populorum Progressio” (which is itself an important piece of the Church’s Magisterium) and the Catechism of the Catholic Church – ALL state very clearly that the Church of the Poor IS the faith handed down to us from the Apostles.

    Jesus made it crystal clear that the way we love the Poor, the sick, and the marginalized IS the way we love Him. At the very dawn of Christianity, St Peter called on the People to learn from Jesus, whom they had crucified. And so the Faith calls us to learn . . . from our own Victim! This truth cannot be considered apart from the Mystery of the Incarnation: not just that the eternal Logos became human, but the Logos became a human being – CHOSE to become a human being – in an occupied nation, to a poor family, born of a young woman whose propriety had been questioned, born in a stable and therefore born ritually unclean, first greeted by shepherds who were unclean by dint of their profession, then adored by pagan astrologers who were as unclean as it could get. The point, when we take the two Mysteries together: Jesus incarnates again – really and truly incarnates again, if we believe Mt 25 and the teachings of the saints and the Church’s Magisterium – in the people WE marginalize! Remember: leave your offering at the altar and first be reconciled with your neighbor. We find in each other, particularly in those we don’t like and those we refuse to help, the gate of heaven. This IS the Gospel in a nutshell. And therefore, as Jesus taught us, we cannot rest secure on calling him Lord; not everyone who does so will enter the Kingdom. Those who do the will of God will enter the Kingdom. And these people are the people who carry out the commands – even unwittingly – of Mt 25.

    When I read statements like the CDF’s admonishment of Sobrino, I am reminded of the words Saint Clare of Assisi addressed to the Pope himself when he tried to absolve her from her vow of highest poverty: Absolve me of my sins, NOT of the Gospel!

    In 1999 the International Theological Commission, chaired by then-Cardinal Ratzinger stated that no statement by ANY church authority had ANY magisterial weight whatsoever if it did not hold up against the Gospel. (This was the theological justification for John Paul II’s many upcoming apologies for the Church’s misdeeds in the past.) This statement, by the way, is now part of the Church’s Magisterium. I simply cannot see how the apostolic faith – the authentic apostolic faith – is anythong other than the Church of the Poor.