Jon Sobrino, Oscar Romero

Prophetic Denunciation

Archbishop Romero, guardian of reality, also wanted to be a guardian of the word, so he said: ‘These homilies attempt to be the voice of this people. They want to be the voice of the voiceless. So they are doubtless bothersome to those who have too much voice.’ Giving word thus means struggling against the concealment of reality, which is another way of describing ‘prophetic denunciation.’

Prophetic denunciation is mostly unknown in today’s Church, having the been replaced in the best of cases by ethical judgments on neoliberalism, the war, and so forth. Ethical judgment is good, but ethics is not the same as prophecy, social doctrine is not the same as prophetic denunciation, and it is not sufficient in any case, because the word that only expresses principles is easily coopted.

Nor is denunciation the same as ‘protest.’ There is nothing wrong with protest (although there is some truth to the modern saying, ‘There is a proposal behind every protest’), just as there is nothing wrong and much that is understandable about ‘venting,’ as everyone knows who has experienced lasting and helpless suffering. Denunciation means bringing to light the evils of reality, its victims and its perpetrators. Prophetic denunciation has ultimacy, because it is done ‘in God’s name’; and as denunciation it is compassionate, because it is done against the perpetrators, but in defense of the poor. That is why Archbishop Romero gave voice to the poor. And because his word was true, he used it to defend the poor, since–as history has clearly shown–the truth is ‘in favor of the poor’; indeed amid so much impunity, corruption, and falsehood, it is often the only thing the poor have in their favor. Finally, denunciation is full of risks because it is annoying; that is why it is seldom maintained for long but falls into disguise.

Jon Sobrino, No Salvation Outside of the Poor: Prophetic-Utopian Essays, 28.


4 thoughts on “Prophetic Denunciation

  1. poserorprophet says:

    I was just about to write a glowing recommendation of that collection of Sobrino’s essays, but I see that somebody else has already beaten me to the punch. I would make it required reading for all first-year theology students.

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