The Ground Beneath the Cross

The Theology of Ignacio Ellacuría

Kevin F. Burke, SJ

"A fine comprehensive introduction to the theology of Ignacio Ellacuría . . . richly rewarding."
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This book is the first comprehensive analysis of the thought of Ignacio Ellacuría, the Jesuit philosopher-theologian martyred for his work on behalf of Latin America's oppressed peoples.

While serving as president of the Jesuit-run University of Central America in the midst of El Salvador's brutal civil war, Ellacuría was also a prolific writer. His advocacy on behalf of the country's persecuted majority provoked the enmity of the Salvadoran political establishment. On November 16, 1989, members of the Salvadoran military entered the university's campus and murdered Ellacuría, along with five other Jesuit priests and two women.

Kevin F. Burke, SJ, shows why Ellacuría is significant not only as a martyr but also as a theologian. Ellacuría effectively integrated philosophy, history, anthropology, and sociopolitical analysis into his theological reflections on salvation, spirituality, and the church to create an original contribution to liberation theology.

Ellacuría's writings directly address one of the most vexing issues in theology today: can theologians account for the demands arising from both the particularity of their various social-historical situations and also the universal claims of Christian revelation? Burke explains how Ellacuría bases theology in a philosophy of historical reality—the "ground beneath the cross"—and interprets the suffering of "the crucified peoples" in the light of Jesus' crucifixion. Ellacuría thus inserts the theological realities of salvation and transcendence squarely within the course of human events, and he connects these to the Christian mandate to "take the crucified peoples down from their crosses."
Placing Ellacuría's thought in the context of historical trends within the Roman Catholic Church, particularly Vatican II and the rise of liberation theology in Latin America, Burke argues that Ellacuría makes a distinctive contribution to contemporary Catholic theology.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Theology at the Dawn of the Twenty-First Century

1. The Martyr as Theologian

2. Philosophy of Historical Reality

3. The Human in Historical Reality

4. Foundations of Theological Method

5. Operations of Theological Method

6. Salvation in History

7. The Cross and the Church

Conclusion: The Ground Beneath Theology


"A thoroughly researched, carefully presented and truly 'living' discussion of [Ellacuría's] work. Burke advances Ellacuría's theology, even as he is presenting it. Himself clearly moved by 'compassionate reason,' Burke offers us hope that this crucially important lineage of liberative reflection and praxis will continue."—Modern Theology

"A fine comprehensive introduction to the theology of Ignacio Ellacuría . . . richly rewarding."—Theological Studies

"The Ground Beneath the Cross is a densely, if carefully, argued and learned book. It should stand the test of time as the standard exposition, in English, of the theology of Ignacio Ellacuría."—Journal of Hispanic-Latino Theology

"Ellacuría was a pioneer liberation theologian until he was murdered in El Salvador for his convictions in 1989 [along with five other Jesuit priests and two women]. Now Kevin Burke presents us with the first comprehensive introduction to his thought. This is an important service since . . . Ellacuría has remained largely unknown in English. As Burke's fine book shows us, Ellacuría demonstrates the continuing promise of liberation theology, and the price of living out its consequences."—Dean Brackley, SJ, author of Divine Revolution: Salvation and Liberation in Catholic Thought

"Ignacio Ellacuría was a major thinker whom we all should read. Thanks to this fine book by Kevin Burke, the way into Ellacuría's compelling thought and life is made a clear and systematic one."—David Tracy, Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago Divinity School, author of The Analogical Imagination

"An outstanding contribution . . . Rightfully places Ellacuría as one of the major Christian theologians of the twentieth century."—Maria Pilar Aquino, associate professor of theology and religious studies, University of San Diego


Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Kevin F. Burke, SJ, is acting president and associate professor of systematic theology at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley.

264 pp., 6 x 9

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