Sobrino on Bergoglio [UPDATED]
Here’s a clear-eyed but (in my opinion) hopeful assessment of Bergoglio’s promise from the prominent liberation theologian, Jon Sobrino (thanks to commenter John Donaghy for the translation and the link):
In all that, one can assess his specific way of making an option for the poor. Not in actively going out and risking oneself in their defense in the time of repression of the criminal military dictatorships. The complicity of the hierarchy with the dictators is known. Bergoglio was superior of the Jesuits in Argentina from 1973 to 1979, in the years of major repression of civil-military genocide.Are you talking about complicity?It doesn’t appear just to speak of complicity, but it seems correct to say that in those circumstances Bergoglio distanced himself from the Popular Church which was committed to the poor. We wasn’t a Romero – celebrated for his defense of human rights and assassinated while exercising his pastoral ministry. I don’t have enough knowledge, and I say this with the fear of being mistaken, Bergoglio did not present himself like Bishop Angelleli, Argentinian bishop assassinated by the military in 1976. Very possibly this took place in his heart, but he was not accustomed to make visible in public the living memory of [Bishop] Leonidas Proaño [of Ecuador], Bishop Juan Gerardi [of Guatemala], Bishop Sergio Mendez [of Cuernevaca, Mexico]…Nevertheless, he also has a pronounced solidarity?Yes. On the other hand, since 1998, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, in various ways he accompanied the poorly treated sector of that great city – and with concrete deeds. An eye witness speaks of how, on the first anniversary of the tragedy of Cromagnon [when a fire during a rock concert took the lives of 200 young people], Bergoglio was present and forcibly demanded justice for the victims. At times he used prophetic language. He denounced the evils which grind the flesh of the people and he named them concretely: human trafficking, slave labor, prostitution, drug-trafficking, and much more. For some, the major force to carry forward his present ministry is his openness to dialogue with the marginalized and from their suffering.He accompanied decisively church processes in the margins of the Catholic Church and processes which happen at the edge of legality. Two significant examples are the deanery of slum priests in marginal neighborhoods and his assistance to priests who are going about without a worthy ministry.
If you read this article, don’t believe the headline. The headline writer put words in Sobrino’s mouth. He has him saying, in a supposed direct quote, “Bergoglio . . .distanced himself from the poor during the Argentine genocide.” But Sobrino never said that. Here’s what he did say:
<blockquote>Many remember his austere lifestyle as a Jesuit, archbishop and cardinal. . . . That austerity was accompanied by a real interest in the poor, the indigent, and beaten-down union members, and this led him to defend them strongly before successive governments . . . In all of this one can see his own specific way of making the option for the poor.. . . It doesn’t seem just to speak of complicity [with the military government], but it does seem correct to say that in those circumstances Bergoglio had a rift with the Popular Church. . . .</blockquote>
To say that Bergoglio “had a rift with the Popular Church” is very different from saying that he “distanced himself from the poor during the Argentine genocide.”
It’s also worth noting that five days after committing this serious error, the newspaper has still not corrected it, even though a reader pointed it out in the very first comment that appears after the article on the paper’s website.
In addition, in the translation of Sobrino’s article which John Donaghy published on his blog (see link furnished by Eduardo), Donaghy has since removed the headline, explaining that it “twist[ed] the words of Sobrino in an unconscionable distortion and misquotation.”
Finally, it should be noted that, while the newspaper tries to give the impression that the piece is an interview with Sobrino, that’s not true, either. Sobrino simply gave the paper a copy of an article he’s written for a magazine he edits at the Jesuit university here in El Salvador. The newspaper then inserted statements which look like an interviewer’s questions, but in fact no interview ever took place.
Having written the above, I wanted to be sure I’d gotten it right before posting it, so I sent it to Jon Sobrino, saying “if you find anything in it that is untrue or unfair or objectionable in some other way, please let me know so that i can correct it.” I have now received his reply: “Gene: I agree with you totally. Jon.”