Vatican Aide Reflects on Sobrino’s Errors

Highlights Need for Sound Christology

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 16, 2007 ( Theologians must deepen understanding of Christ’s humanity and his solidarity with the poor, but this must not cloud his divinity, asserted the Vatican spokesman.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi made this comment on Vatican Radio in reference to the works of Jesuit Father Jon Sobrino’s works. On Wednesday, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith proclaimed two of Father Sobrino’s books erroneous.

The congregation’s Notification stated that the two books contain “notable discrepancies with the faith of the Church.”

The congregation explained that the errors are on questions such as the divinity of Jesus, the incarnation, his relationship with the Kingdom of God, his self-consciousness and the salvific value of his death.

To clarify the meaning of the notification, Father Lombardi mentioned “the importance of an adequate understanding of the nature and work of Jesus Christ as the very heart of the Christian faith.”

“Jesus Christ is for the Church the ‘mediator’ between God and man,” Father Lombardi explained. “He is the ‘pontiff,’ that is, the builder of the bridge that allows people to again establish a relationship of friendship and union with God, surmounting the distance, the impossibility of communication caused by a whole history of sins.

“To be mediator and bridge, Jesus Christ must lean firmly both on the side of humanity as well as that of divinity. Otherwise, the passing from one side to the other is interrupted or is insecure.”

Two pillars

Father Lombardi explained that “from the first centuries of Christianity, this need for the bridge has been strongly affirmed and defended with determination in face of numerous theories that denied one of the bridge’s two fundamental pillars: either the humanity or the divinity.”

“On denying one of the two aspects doubt is cast on man’s salvation itself, given that the concrete, real bridge is lacking through which man can enter into relationship with God,” the Vatican spokesman added.

He continued: “Theological reflection on Jesus Christ has always had to take into account these two aspects, both essential, though the different historical and cultural contexts have influenced, assuming characteristic tones and accents according to the theological and spiritual currents.

“Frequently, the context of the Christian experience leads to insisting on the solidarity between Jesus and men in his participation in human vicissitudes: his controversies, his passion, his violent death are crucial for the proclamation and acceptance of the Gospel by the poor, by those who suffer for the faith and for justice.

“Whoever lives his faith participating in the most dramatic experiences of the people, cultivates naturally a profound spiritual attunement with the humanity of Christ and, if he is a theologian, is moved to reflect further on a ‘Christology from the base’ which is founded on the pillar of the bridge that is on the side of humanity.”


Father Lombardi added that “this is certainly the situation of Father Sobrino, following the characteristic line of Latin American theology, so attentive to the path of human and spiritual liberation of the peoples of the continent.”

He further explained: “Let us not forget that Father Sobrino was a member of the team of San Salvador’s University of Central America, six of whose members were brutally killed in 1989 precisely because of their cultural commitment in solidarity with the Salvadoran people.

“At the same time, the insistence on solidarity between Christ and man must not cloud or underestimate the dimension that unites Christ with God. For, if Christ is not at the same time man and God, the bridge is lacking its second pillar and the reality of our communication with God is questioned in a radical way.

“This is the problem on which the reasoning of the ‘Notification’ is based. It manifests respect for Sobrino’s work and his intentions, but considers that he has the obligation to point out that in some of his works certain affirmations on some crucial arguments … cast doubt on truly fundamental points of the permanent faith of the Church.”

“In other words,” Father Lombardi concluded, “they question the integrity and stability of the bridge which allows communication between men and God, including that of the poor of all times.”

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