By P. Ontoso (English translation by Rebel Girl)
June 27, 2011
The Bishops' Commission for the Doctrine of the Faith has denied the "nihil obstat" (no objection) to the second book by José Antonio Pagola on the Gospels, titled El camino abierto por Jesús. Marcos ["The road opened by Jesus: Mark"], deeming that at certain points "the teaching of the text is opposed to explicit statements of the Magisterium of the Church", and because of the accumulation of a series of "ambiguities." The first volume cleared the barrier of ecclesiastical censure last November, which put Pagola's critics on alert that a second one would come. The manuscript has ended on the table of the general secretariat of the commission, led by José Rico Pavés, an old acquaintance of the Basque theologian who already discredited him for Jesús. Aproximación histórica ["Jesus: An Historical Approximation"].
At the time, Rico Pavés signed a harsh article against Pagola's Jesus, which later became an extensive note of clarification -- not condemnation -- by the Doctrine of the Faith on the work of historical research. Nearly five years later, the former vicar of San Sebastian is undergoing an ordeal again by the same body of bishops. Rico, who figures in many pools as a candidate for the miter, is the expert of the commission which is now chaired by the Bishop of Almeria, Adolfo Gonzalez, and whose members include Manuel Urueña, Archbishop of Zaragoza, Alfonso Carrasco Rouco, bishop of Lugo, Juan Antonio Reig Pla, titular bishop of Alcalá de Henares, Luis Quintero, bishop of Tuy-Vigo and Enrique Benavent, auxiliary bishop of Valencia.
Despite the secrecy of the "Pagola case", this newspaper has had access to the doctrinal report on the Basque theologian's manuscript, a harsh 15-page allegation peppered with dismissive language that speaks of "unfortunate" formulations, "confusing" statements and "constant" ambiguity. The report supports its arguments in texts collected from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith itself, such as Dominus Iesus -- the document on the unicity of the Catholic Church as true faith, the Catechism of the Church, Dei Filius -- the dogmatic constitution on faith from Vatican I, the Credo of the People of God, John Paul II's encyclical Veritatis Splendor, and it even goes back to the Council of Trent. It also refers to pronouncements that have been made against prominent theologians who have been punished by silencing, such as Leonardo Boff, Roger Haight, and Jon Sobrino -- the last two, Jesuits.
The opinion barely offers a positive concession to the "undoubted merits" of the author, such as having achieved a "warm and simple statement, which is easy to read and thought-provoking." Starting on the first page, the censors already find "a series of ambiguities concerning the basic teachings of Christian faith, and even claims that one can't see how they can be compatible with certain pronouncements of the Church."
In the analysis of "Following Christ: faith and religion", the report states that Pagola's approach "is incompatible with the Catholic faith" when, among other statements, he writes that "the first task of the Church is not to celebrate worship, develop theology, or preach morality, but to heal, liberate from evil, get out of the doldrums, cleanse life, help to live a healthy way." The report warns of the danger of reducing truth to praxis, something which was already covered in the first document of the Doctrine of the Faith on liberation theology. It adds that "a consequence of what Pagola affirms by not adequately emphasizing the confession of faith in favor of practice, is the risk of slipping into approaches that are characteristic of religious pluralism."
In the section on "Identity of Jesus Christ and the mystery of God", the report notes the "relativization of dogmatic formulas on the basis of praxis." The censors associated the author's position with the one J. Sobrino held "where the Christological confession of faith was streamlined by liberating praxis to the extent that dogmatic formulas were considered 'dangerous'. Without going to those extremes of J. Sobrino," they continue, "it seems that for J.A. Pagola the confession of the truth about Christ is quite irrelevant to the Christian life, where the only thing that matters is liberating action, which appears to be reduced to the mere alleviation of earthly misery."
The devil exists
One issue that the censors put forward as "an example of ambiguity" is the assertion that the Church must overcome male domination "without ever specifying what it is." "To many readers, given the cultural environment," they write, "it would mean that the greatest 'discrimination' against women in the Church is that they can not receive Holy Orders." "Does he mean to say that women should be admitted to priestly ministry, thus opposing an infallible teaching?" Finally the opinion refers to the "ongoing ambiguity" about sin as well as the texts in which possessed people and exorcisms appear, to conclude that Pagola "silences truths of faith, such as the existence of the devil."
According to what this newspaper has been able to learn, Pagola has responded to all accusations of the Commission of the Doctrine of the Faith. Fed up, but in a state of mind that has nothing to do with this, when it has externalized a case that has more and more to do with personal persecution. Meanwhile, the publishing executives are looking for a different label where Pagola's work can be replenished since, much to his chagrin, he has become an icon of free ecclesiastical thought.