I have been reading the Notification from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about the works of Fr. Jon Sobrino, SJ.
This document is worth a very slow and careful reading.
A good friend here in Rome, and a noble Patristicist (but alas not a patristiblogger) said he had spent a solid hour reading it carefully. We then had a discussion about perhaps the most important, most pressing, most deadly problem in contemporary theology: the disconnect of present day theological work from the Fathers of the Church.
Many of today’s problems are Christological. Sobrino’s problems are mainly Christological. The Fathers and early Councils provide proper grounding to avoid many Christological errors. However, many people today believe theology began in 1962.
There are also things of interest in the Notification for liturgy… not directly but by implication. The idea is this: If I have a lens, I can use it to focus on broccoli or, say, burn holes with it.
Let’s take the following statement, applied by the Holy See in its Notification to Fr. Sobrino’s work. I preface this by repeating that some people think that theology began in 1962. They think that only the very earliest times, the closest the Christ were the times of authentic Christianity. Everything subsequent to those pristine years was a corruption of authentic Christianity. That the present cultural conditions as they are here and now condition theology, liturgy, everything.
Here is the Notification (my emphasis):
Father Sobrino considers the dogmatic development of the first centuries of the Church including the great Councils to be ambiguous and even negative. Although [Sobrino] does not deny the normative character of the dogmatic formulations, neither does he recognize in them any value except in the cultural milieu in which these formulations were developed. He does not take into account the fact that the transtemporal subject of the faith is the believing Church, and that the pronouncements of the first Councils have been accepted and lived by the entire ecclesial community. The Church continues to profess the Creed which arose from the Councils of Nicea (AD 325) and Constantinople I (AD 381). The first four Ecumenical Councils are accepted by the great majority of Churches and Ecclesial Communities in both the East and West. If these Councils used the terminology and concepts expressive of the culture of the time, it was not in order to be conformed to it. The Councils do not signify a hellenization of Christianity but rather the contrary. Through the inculturation of the Christian message, Greek culture itself underwent a transformation from within and was able to be used as an instrument for the expression and defense of biblical truth.
Notice observation about inculturation.
There is good inculturation and bad, authentic and false. For inculturation to authentic, what the Church has to give must be logically prior to what the world has to give. The process of inculturation is a two-way, dynamic process. But the Church’s part must be considered as prior to the world. The Church shapes society in a particular place and time. That culture, shaped, then gives its gifts back to the Church which embraces them and employes them. This is how authentic Catholic architecture, music, art, etc. springs up in different places and times and they are all Catholic. But when you make what the world has as prior to what teh Church gives… disaster. It might not be immediate, but disaster will happen. This is they way it is in theological reflection and in liturgy. It happens in the lives of individuals too.