The Sobrino File

How to Read the Vatican's Latest Notification

In March, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a “notification,” or warning, about the teachings contained in two books of Christology by Jon Sobrino, SJ, a major liberation theologian who has spent most of his career in Latin America. Commonweal invited two theologians to assess the Vatican’s statement and to discuss what it may mean for the future of theology.

William P. Loewe

With “notifications” criticizing the work of Jesuit theologians Roger Haight, SJ, in 2004 and Jon Sobrino, SJ, in March, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has been clearing the desk of business left pending by its previous prefect, the present pope. The two notifications differ markedly. On point after point, positions the CDF found in Haight’s Jesus Symbol of God were deemed unambiguously erroneous and contrary to the faith, and the notification concluded with a sanction prohibiting Haight from teaching Catholic theology. Sobrino’s work, specifically Jesus the Liberator and Christ the Liberator, evokes a more nuanced, at some points tentative, and certainly gentler response. Perhaps most significant, the CDF has not imposed a sanction on Sobrino.

Sobrino’s theological oeuvre is by no means beyond criticism. My own reading of his Christology at the Crossroads (1978) led me to...

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About the Author

J. Matthew Ashley is associate professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame.