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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 doesnt 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 wasnt a Romero celebrated for his defense of human rights and assassinated while exercising his pastoral ministry. I dont 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 Proao [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.
(Here's the link to theSpanish original)
UPDATE: Gene Palumbo sends this comment on the headline of the article linked above:
If you read this article, dont believe the headline. The headline writer put words in Sobrinos 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. Heres 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 doesnt 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."Its 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 papers website.In addition, in the translation of Sobrinos 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, thats not true, either. Sobrino simply gave the paper a copy of an article hes written for a magazine he edits at the Jesuit university here in El Salvador. The newspaper then insertedstatements which look like an interviewers questions, but in fact no interview ever took place.Having written the above, I wanted to be sure Id 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.

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Jon Sobrino's statement about "complicity" not being the "just" term to use to characterize Bergoglio's behavior strikes me as correct and fair.

Again, we have to put the events of the 1970's in context, in regard to the presence of Jesuits and clergy in general on the front lines at the time. I note that Fr. Sobrino named very few committed priests and bishops, certainly not a cloud of witnesses. I recall very little attention to these matters in U.S. Jesuit fund-raising publications until the murders of Fr. Ellacuria and companions in El Salvador in late 1989. The School of the Americas Watch only began in 1990. It was in the winter of 1974-75, just as political violence took off in Argentina, that the Society of Jesus celebrated its 32d general congregation, from which emerged a groundbreaking commitment to seek justice and peace. The documents stress above all an educational involvement with analyzing and working to alter unjust social structures. Fr. Bergoglio as provincial superior attended and helped to shape the congregation's decisions. These events represented a break with the order's traditional focus on educating the middle and ruling classes, and would take time for their fruits to be realized.The vow and practice of obedience to superiors, including the pope, has always characterized the Jesuits. Ignacio de Loyola's uncompromising letter on obedience is among the important guiding documents of the order. Long established patterns do not change overnight, even in the face of police states with Christian veneers. I do not mean to excuse our failures in the past. But I have seen clear change, growing social commitment in this country and throughout the world. Fr. Sobrino could count many more front line clergy today. But if we have become more "conscientizados" than before, there is a long way to go on this path. And I think that Pope Francis will have much to tell us about these matters.

Obedience does not have to always be lock-step:"There being an imminent danger for the Faith, prelates must be questioned, even publicly, by their subjects. Thus, St. Paul, who was a subject of St. Peter, questioned him publicly on account of an imminent danger of scandal in a matter of Faith. And, as the Glossa of St. Augustine puts it (Ad Galatas 2.14), 'St. Peter himself gave the example to those who govern so that if sometimes they stray from the right way, they will not reject a correction as unworthy even if it comes from their subjects." (Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas, IIa IIae, Q. 33, A. 4)""There are two types of obedience: obedience in relation to power and obedience in relation to love. When understood in the first way, obedience means submission or surrender, the sacrifice of one's own intellect and will. According to the second understanding, obedience does not mean submission, but response. Disobedience is the putting forward of opinions different from those commanded by authority. To do so might well be a duty, not a sin." (Charles Davis on why it was not enough to ignore the church, NCR, February 7, 1992.)

Thanks, Paul - keep in mind also that the election of Pedro Arrupe also impacted and changed the course for the worldwide Jesuits at an important time in their community history. Here you had a general who was a novice director in Hiroshima at the time of the atom bomb strike. He saw, lived through, and supported the Japanese people and from him can the *men for others* initiative.But, like any institution or community, it takes years for this to change a group course.

Thanks so much for making me aware of this interview. I went and read the whole thing. What an insightful, rich interview. So much power and beauty in his thoughts and in his hopes. Encourages me even more about the possibilities of Pope Francis.

"... prelates must be questioned, even publicly, by their subjects..."Jim McC.==Thanks for the Aquinas quote. He has been pretty much lost to the Church since V II, having being ignored when not misrepresented. But he still has so much to say that is needed.

Five hours until installation, though I won't be up.What a hopeful time. God bless Pope Francis, an inspired choice.

The Guardian has published a statement from Fr. Jalic saying that Bergoglio never denounced him to the military. It should put to rest at least some of the rumors and accusations.http://m.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/21/pope-francis-argentinian-junta...

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About the Author

Eduardo Moisés Peñalver is the John P. Wilson Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the subjects of property and land use law.