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Explanatory Note on Notification on Works of Father Jon Sobrino

on the works of Father Jon SOBRINO, SJ

1. The Concern of the Church for the Poor

The proper function of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the promotion and defense of doctrine on faith and morals for the whole of the Catholic world.[1] In this way, the Congregation seeks to be of service to the people of God, and particularly to the simple and poorest members of the Church. From the beginning, this preoccupation for the poor has been one of the characteristics of the Church’s mission. If it is true, as the Holy Father has indicated, that “the first poverty among people is not to know Christ”,[2] then all people have the right to know the Lord Jesus, who is “the hope of the nations and the salvation of the peoples”. What is more, each Christian has the right to know in an adequate, authentic, and integral manner the truth which the Church professes and expresses about Christ. This right is the foundation of the corresponding obligation of the ecclesial magisterium to intervene whenever this truth is placed in danger or negated.

It is because of this right of the faithful to the truth of Christ that this Congregation has seen the need to publish the attached Notification concerning some of the works of Father Jon Sobrino, SJ. These works contain propositions which are either erroneous or dangerous and may cause harm to the faithful. Father Sobrino manifests a preoccupation for the poor and oppressed, particularly in Latin America. This preoccupation certainly is shared by the whole Church. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in its Instruction on Christian liberty and liberation Libertatis conscientia, indicated that “human misery […] drew the compassion of Christ the Savior to take it upon himself and to be identified with the least of his brethren (cf. Mt 25:40, 45)” and that “The preferential option for the poor, far from being a sign of particularism or sectarianism, manifests the universality of the Church's being and mission. This option excludes no one. This is the reason why the Church cannot express this option by means of reductive sociological and ideological categories which would make this preference a partisan choice and a source of conflict”. [3] Previously, this same Congregation in its Instruction on some aspects of liberation theology (Libertatis nuntius, observed that the warnings about this theological trend contained in that document were not able to be interpreted as a reproach to those who wish to be faithful to a “preferential option for the poor”, nor could they be an excuse for those who remain indifferent to the grave problems of human misery and injustice.[4]

The citations clearly show the position of the Church with regard to this complex problem: “The evil inequities and oppression of every kind which afflict millions of men and women today openly contradict Christ's Gospel and cannot leave the conscience of any Christian indifferent. The Church, in her docility to the Spirit, goes forward faithfully along the paths to authentic liberation. Her members are aware of their failings and their delays in this quest. But a vast number of Christians, from the time of the Apostles onwards, have committed their powers and their lives to liberation from every form of oppression and to the promotion of human dignity. The experience of the saints and the example of so many works of service to one's neighbor are an incentive and a beacon for the liberating undertakings that are needed today”.[5]

2. Procedure for Examining Doctrinal Teachings

This Notification comes as a result of a careful study of the writings of Father Sobrino according to the procedure established for the examination of doctrinal teachings. It may be helpful to explain briefly the way in which the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith proceeds towards a judgment on writings that appear to be problematic. When considering whether the writings of a certain Author present doctrinal difficulties or might damage the faith of the people of God, the Congregation initiates a procedure regulated by the Agendi ratio in doctrinarum examine, whose latest edition was approved by Pope John Paul II on 29 June 1997.[6]

The ordinary process entails sending the material in question to several experts for their review and opinion. The results of this, containing all the documentation required for the study of the case, is placed before the Consulta, a standing ...

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