May 2014

Envision a "Civilization of Poverty," Liberation Theologian Sobrino Tells JST Graduates

BERKELEY, Calif., May 24, 2014 —Creating a “civilization of poverty” would help combat the harsh, dehumanizing and unfair consequences of society’s current obsession with wealth accumulation.

That was the message of Jon Sobrino, S.J., a Jesuit priest and liberation theologian who narrowly escaped the 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests, the cook and her daughter at the Universidad Centroamericana in El Salvador.  He spoke at the commencement of the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University, held May 24 at 3 p.m. at Zaytuna College in Berkeley.

In explaining what is meant by a civilization of poverty, Sobrino referred to the teachings of one of the murdered theologians, Ignacio Ellacuria, S.J. He said Ellacuria taught that a civilization of poverty “rejects the accumulation of capital as the motor of history and the possession and enjoyment of wealth as the principle of humanization. It makes the universal satisfaction of basic needs the principle of development and the growth of shared solidarity the foundation of humanization.”

The evils of today’s society – including America’s -- are threefold, said Sobrino. The sheer pursuit of wealth does not meet the needs of all; is unfair; and fails to generate a “humanizing spirit,” he said.

A civilization of poverty would substitute work for capital-accumulation, and would benefit humanity by bringing out our mutual solidarity -- rather than breeding competition and isolation that characterizes today’s money-focused society.
Quoting Ellacuria, Sobrino said it is in the place of poverty where “the spirit will be able to flourish.” 

Also at the event, Joseph Chinnici, O.F.M., president of Franciscan School of Theology, was the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree.

More about the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University can be found at

Media Contact
Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Relations | | 408-554-5121


Jon Sobrino S.J.,JST,commencement