Saturday, March 26, 2011

Orthodoxy vs. critical theology

Spanish theologian Juan José Tamayo, professor at the Carlos III University in Madrid and president of the Asociación de Teólogos y Teólogas Juan XXIII makes short shrift of Pope Benedict XVI's second volume on Jesus of Nazareth.

by Juan José Tamayo (English translation by Rebel Girl)
March 19, 2011

For thirty years Benedict XVI has been rigidly setting the boundaries between orthodoxy and heterodoxy in Catholic theology in all arenas: seminaries, Catholic universities, schools of theology, research, church publications, and in all settings where Catholicism is in place. He did it first as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a position to which he was raised by John Paul II, whom he will beatify on May 1st, as a demonstration of syntony in life and in death. Now, as pope, he continues to define orthodoxy and condemn relativism, which he calls a dictatorship.

He has exercised the magisterial function authoritarily without blinking an eye when it comes time to warn, bring to judgment or sign the convictions of theologians who do not think and feel as he does, be they renowned specialists, colleagues in the conciliar hall, colleagues with whom he has shared teaching, and even students to whom, as a professor, he awarded the highest scores and helped publish their first works. Too bad he hasn't shown the same diligence and determination with the proven cases of recalcitrant pedophilia of priests and religious!

This approach that represses freedom of expression, both academic and in research, flies in the opposite direction of the Second Vatican Council, to which he was a theological adviser, that invited us to exercise "the most acute critical spirit" that frees "religious life from a magical concept of the world and superstitious waste" and provides "a truly personal and active membership in the faith."

Today he is resetting the contours of right doctrine in the second volume of his Christology, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection, which has just appeared with dramatic fanfare, preceded by a leak, by the Vatican, of the chapter that exonerates the Jewish people in Jesus' death. A thesis that is nothing new. It is true that this is not a magisterial statement of dogma, but a theological essay, but it bears the papal mark on the same cover where the double name appears: Benedict XVI Joseph Ratzinger.

The image offered by the Pope is of a Jesus considered and experienced from the faith of the Church and depoliticized, one who passes through the world as over coals without being involved in the social life of His people, who does not constitute a danger to the Roman Empire, who announces a kingdom of God based on the "truth that is in the mind of God" and doesn't set foot in history. A Jesus who neatly separates religion and politics, says Ratzinger, ignoring the results of recent research on the subversive political consequences and destabilizing economic implications of the figure and message of Jesus, whose death, he continues, is not a consequence of His ongoing confrontation with power, but a vicarious self-surrender to reconcile humanity with God. Spiritualization at a rising pitch!

Benedict XVI distances himself from liberal exegesis and mistrusts historical-critical methods, as he did in the first volume published in 2007. He goes on to say that "the quest for the historical Jesus, as conducted in mainstream critical exegesis in accordance with its hermeneutical presuppositions, lacks sufficient content to exert any significant historical impact" (p. 9). But at the same time, and from an unspoken hermeneutic naivete, he says he is trying to "get to the certainty of the true historic figure of Jesus" -- mission impossible, as Albert Schweitzer already demonstrated at the beginning of the 20th century.

The papal Christology mutes the results of research in sociology, archeology, cultural anthropology and social history about the historical Jesus and early Christianity. He discredits the contributions of political theology and theology of revolution. He ignores some of the most important and influential christologies of the second half of the 20th century written by his colleagues such as Edward Schillebeeckx, Karl Rahner and Hans Küng. He mutes the reflections of liberation theology on the historical praxis of Jesus which was guided by the option for the poor. He bypasses the gender hermeneutics of feminist theology and remains within patriarchal Christology. The bibliographic references are largely confined to German authors, but very selectively, excluding the creators of political theology and theology of hope, Johan Baptist Metz and Jürgen Moltmann, respectively, and exegetes such as Marxen and Gerd Lüdemann.

The books of Ratzinger-Benedict XVI are now the new church canon to be followed when doing theology, while some of the most important christologies thought out from the perspective of liberation, religious pluralism and research on the historical Jesus are condemned, such as Jesucristo liberador ("Jesus the Liberator") and La fe en Jesucristo ("Christ the Liberator" in English) by Jon Sobrino, Jesus Symbol of God by Roger Haight, Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism by Jacques Dupuis, Jesus: An Historical Approximation by José Antonio Pagola, and others. It's the imposition of uniformity of thought over pluralism, dogma over symbol, metaphysics over metaphor, orthodoxy over praxis, Vatican theology over critical theology and, in the end, the Church over Jesus of Nazareth. Christianity turned upside down!


  1. We write and comment, approve and disapprove, condemn and congratulate. Exonerate?
    Who has the authority to exonerate what was don 2000 years ago?
    Who will exonerate the Christians for the abuses and killing against the so called “pagans” after Christianity was declared the religion of the Empire?
    Who will exonerate them for the killings of the Inquisition and for the burning of the Cathars?
    If a men seating inside a little box has the power given to him by God to pardon all your sins, then of course, the Pope has the power to exonerate, pardon and forgive even Adolf Hitler is he wishes to.

    If as expected…why Jesus didn’t come back the second time, to straighten up all this abuses done on his name?
    Simple, because he is not coming back as him again. He left us a simple message. Perhaps complicated truths to know for some, but not the rules. The rules are simple and all he wishes is that we be the Body of Christ. Are Jesus and Christ the same thing? Yes and no. No because Jesus was the messenger, the teacher, the pattern of the Christ, but yes because he embodied the Christ in himself and Jesus came to show us the way of how to be this mystical body of God.
    So, we can be also the Body of Christ and Christ is God’s Love, the unified mystical essence of the core of humanity, which Jesus embodied in his human life. That is why he was mortal and divine at the same time.

    So much writing, politicking, debating, dissecting and more dissecting of this and that.
    Some will squeeze the light out of the Sun, just to look what’s inside.
    I pledge my allegiance as imperfect man, to the Christ and to Jesus as his human incarnation. I pledge allegiance and my imperfect humanity to the simplicity of human brotherhood and charity and equality before God.
    The rest… I will leave it to the lawyers… :-)

  2. Ya debes de saber esto, pero aqui va: