Robert LASSALLE-KLEIN, Blood and Ink: Ignacio Ellacuría, Jon Sobrino, and the Jesuit Martyrs of the University of Central America, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2014. pp. 376. $34.00 pb: ISBN 978-1-62698-063-1. Reviewed by Arthur J. KUBICK, Providence, Rhode Island.
A visitor to the museum of the martyrs at the University of Central America (UCA) in San Salvador can see a blood-stained copy of Jurgen Moltmann’s The Crucified God. The blood is that of Fr. Juan Ramón Moreno, SJ; the book belonged to Fr. Jon Sobrino, SJ., away at a theological conference in Thailand in November of 1989. It had fallen from his bookshelf as soldiers of the elite U.S. trained Atlacatl Battalion murdered six Jesuits of the university community along with their housekeeper and her daughter. The path leading to this mixing of blood and ink is the focus of this new book by Robert Lassalle-Klein, a theological/political story centered on a university and its president Fr. Ignacio Ellacuría. As such it joins a growing collection of works reflecting on the UCA martyrs, the role of the university in society, as well as the theological work of both Ignacio Ellacuría and Jon Sobrino. Here Lassalle-Klein traces the theological/pastoral vision at the heart of the UCA as it was articulated by Ellacuría and founded in his writings. Throughout it is a story of blood and ink.
This blood and ink has a firm foundation in the historical reality of El Salvador, a history of oppression and exploitation of the poor. Through three chapters in Part I of his study, Lassalle Klein examines how this reality shaped the life of the UCA−and especially the life and thought of Ignacio Ellacuría from 1965 to 1989. The UCA was inaugurated on September 15, 1965, with a focus on the “integral” development of the whole person later articulated by Pope Paul VI in Populorum Progressio. The deeper meaning of this becomes clearer during the following years as Lassalle-Klein leads the reader through “the birth of a new kind of university.” From Vatican II to the 1968 gathering of Latin American Bishops in Medellin, Colombia, and the meeting of Latin American Jesuit Provincials in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, we see a growing commitment to a preferential option for the poor and their liberation from oppression. This becomes concretized in El Salvador during a December 1969 retreat when Ellacuría and his fellow Jesuits adapt the vision of Vatican II, Medellin, and the Rio meeting to the historical reality of Central America. For Ellacuría this means “confronting oneself with real things as real” through three dimensions: (1) getting to know reality; (2) taking responsibility for reality; and (3) “contributing to the transformation of the national reality in which the university is situated.” These three dimensions form the framework for the chapters in this section. The reader will find in these chapters a rich source of insights into the development of the UCA as well as the thinking of Ellacuría.
Part II takes up Ellacuría’s thinking--his efforts to develop a fundamental theology rooted in the Latin American reality. These four chapters look closely at central influences on Ellacuría: his novice master, Miguel Elizondo, SJ, and the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius; Xavier Zubiri, his philosophical mentor; Archbishop Oscar Romero, his pastoral mentor; and Karl Rahner, SJ, his theological mentor. Each in their own way contributed to Ellacurís’s spiritual and intellectual development, and Lassalle-Klein provides a rich, detailed summary of each one’s influence on his thinking. Depending upon one’s familiarity with Ellacuría’s work, the reader should find all or certain parts of this section helpful for understanding his many writings. Especially interesting for this reader were the sections on the Spiritual Exercises and on Archbishop Romero, perhaps because of the emphasis on the pastoral dimension of his writings as they relate to the role of the university in society. I think here, for example, of his statement that the UCA was trying “to do in our university way what [Archbishop Romero] did in his pastoral way.” And it was Romero whose example brought him even closer to the crucified people as a voice of liberation. Ellacuría’s words to graduates at Santa Clara University in 1982 reflect this:
And how do you help us? That is not for me to say. Only open your human heart, your Christian heart, and ask yourselves the three questions Ignatius of Loyola put to himself as he stood in front of a crucified world: What have I done for Christ in this world? What am I doing now? And above all, what should I do? The answers lie both in your academic responsibility and in your personal responsibility.
Part III builds on this, bringing in the promised link with Jon Sobrino’s “saving history” Christology. In two chapters Lassalle-Klein weaves together Ellacuría’s “Christian historical realism” and Sobrino’s Christology showing how they form the basis for a truly Latin American theology. At heart this means that “not only Christian disciples but all people are drawn into the paschal mystery of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus when, like Oscar Romero, they are moved by compassion and solidarity to take the crucified peoples of the globe down from the cross.” This spirituality of the Risen Jesus and the crucified people of El Salvador forms the context for Lassalle-Klein’s concluding chapter on the Trinitarian spirituality of the UCA martyrs, a chapter enriching as well as challenging. Here we are reminded that, in Ellacuría’s surprising statement, “it is not us who have to save the poor, but rather it is the poor who are going to save us.” We the readers are confronted with a spirituality that is far from comfortable, one for which the UCA martyrs paid the price.Robert Lassalle-Klein has given us the fruit of many years of reflection and writing on El Salvador, the University of Central America and the Jesuit martyrs, especially Ignacio Ellacuría−and, above all, the crucified people. It is a detailed study−perhaps at times a bit too detailed−but well-worth the effort. No matter what their background readers will find this to be a compelling and engaging examination of the UCA martyrs and why their lives and deaths continue to challenge us twenty-five years later. The blood and ink discussed in these pages proves to be a source of hope and inspiration, something very much needed in our suffering world. Lassalle-Klein’s careful analysis of this story deserves a wide reading.