Friday, October 17, 2014

Montini’s Embrace

The last time Archbishop Óscar A. Romero met with the newly Blessed Paul VI, the weary Pontiff’s words were a balm to the suffering Salvadoran martyr:

I understand your difficult work. It is a work that can be misunderstood … I already know that not everyone thinks like you do … Nevertheless, proceed with courage, with patience, with strength, with hope ...

It was June 21, 1978 and Pope Paul would be dead within two months: on August 6, 1978, the Feast of the Transfiguration, the Salvadoran patronal celebration, as Romero was happy to remember.  The Pope stretched out his hands with the warmth and the strength of one who supports all the Pastors and the whole Universal Church,” Romero told his flock. Paul’s consolation, Romero wrote in his Diary, “gave me the satisfaction of a confirmation of my faith, of my service, of my joy in working and suffering with Christ, for the Church and for our people.”

Montini's photo on top of Romero's bedside dresser.

Two years later, Romero would be dead also, but could things have been different?  Msgr. Orlando Cabrera, the Bishop of Santiago de Maria in El Salvador, where Romero had been bishop, posits that if Paul had lived, he would have raised Romero to the College of Cardinals, perhaps forcing a different outcome ...

El Espaldarazo de Montini


La última vez que Mons. Óscar A. Romero se reunió con el nuevo Beato Pablo VI, las palabras del hastiado pontífice fueron un bálsamo para el sufriente mártir salvadoreño:

Comprendo su difícil trabajo. Es un trabajo que puede ser no comprendido ... Ya sé que no todos piensan como usted ... sin embargo, proceda con ánimo, con paciencia, con fuerza, con esperanza ...

Era el 21 de junio de 1978 y el Papa Pablo estaría muerto dentro de dos meses: el 6 de agosto de 1978, la Fiesta de la Transfiguración, la celebración nacional de El Salvador, como Mons. Romero gustaba recordarlo.  Estrechándome las manos con un cariño y una fortaleza de quien se siente sostén de todos los Pastores y de toda la Iglesia Universal”, fue como Romero recordó la acogida del papa. La consolación del papa, dijo Romero en su Diario, “me dejó la satisfacción de una confirmación en mi fe, en mi servicio, en mi alegría de trabajar y de sufrir con Cristo, por la Iglesia y por nuestro pueblo”.

La foto de Montini en el cuartito de Romero.

Dos años después, Romero también estaría muerto, pero ¿podrían haber sido distintas las cosas?  Mons. Orlando Cabrera, obispo de Santiago de Maria, donde Romero fue obispo, seimagina que si Pablo hubiera sobrevivido, habría elevado Romero al Colegio de Cardenales, talvez forzando así un resultado diferente ...

L’abbraccio di Montini

L’ultima volta che Mons. Oscar A. Romero incontrato con il presto beato Paolo VI, le parole del stanco Pontefice fosse un balsamo per il sofferente martire salvadoregno:  

Capisco il vostro difficile lavoro. E ‘un lavoro che può essere frainteso ... so già che non tutti pensano come lei ... Tuttavia, proceda con coraggio, con pazienza, con forza, con speranza ...  

Era 21 giugno 1978 e Papa Paolo sarebbe morto entro due mesi: il 6 agosto 1978, festa della Trasfigurazione, la festa patronale salvadoregna, come Romero era felice di ricordare. “Stringendo le mani con  con il calore e la forza di chi supporta tutti i Pastori e tutta la Chiesa universale”, è come Romero ha descritto l'accoglienza dal Pontefice. La consolazione di Paolo, Romero scrisse nel suo diario, “mi ha dato la soddisfazione di una conferma della mia fede, del mio servizio, della mia gioia a lavorare e soffrire con Cristo, per la Chiesa e per il nostro popolo”.

La foto di Montini nel comodino di Romero.

Due anni più tardi, Romero sarebbe morto anche, ma le cose potrebbero essere diverse? Mons. Orlando Cabrera, vescovo di Santiago de Maria in El Salvador, dove Romero era stato vescovo, postula che, se Paolo fosse vissuto, avrebbe sollevato Romero al Collegio dei Cardinali, forse forzando un diverso risultato ...

Friday, October 10, 2014

Abp. Romero at the Synod for the Family

Ab. Romero officiating a wedding in the chapel where he was martyred.

Español | italiano

If one wanted to find a prelate in the likeness of Archbishop Óscar A. Romero at the Synod of Bishops on the Family, the closest fit might arguably be Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  Of all the prominent figures at the Synod, Card. Müller best reflects the unique combination of tradition and innovation of Romero.  Although Müller has been in the press for his opposition to easing restrictions on Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, he considers Liberation Theology to be “among the most important currents in 20th century Catholic theology,” and is a great admirer of Archbishop Romero.

Similarly, Romero who is a progressive hero for his hard line on social justice, was conservative on marriage and family.  When St. John Paul II acknowledged the need for “pastoral care” for divorced and remarried Catholics at the end of the 1980 Synod on the Family, Romero responded coolly to the idea.  Naturally,” Romero remarked, “the Pope is not speaking about blessing adultery but he is calling us to be understanding because pastoral experience has taught us much about the suffering of those homes where people were not faithful to their commitment.”  Divorced and remarried Catholics, said Romero, “should know that they can rely on God’s mercy and that the Church will continue to walk with them so that they might be converted and live.”  Romero’s words, emphasizing the failure to be “faithful” and need to be “converted” reflects a traditional disposition on the question.

Romero had spoken at length on the issue a few months before, arguing that the Church needed to reassert traditional values (“austerity”—not “mercy”) to counteract shifting sexual mores.  In the Church, Romero said, “marriage has been redeemed as a sacrament, a most high vocation that today more than ever before must be lived in the fullness of a demand that our people claim as their own.”  Thus, he added: “My beloved sisters and brothers, now is not the time for immorality but for austerity and if marriage is above all an image of the infinite love of God, then this demands an austerity of life that is needed at this time of change.”

Of course, this is a different time and a different kairos—and we really cannot predict what Romero would do in this setting.

Among the bishops at the synod was Msgr. José Escobar Alas, the current Archbishop of San Salvador (about to pass under the statue of Ven. Paul VI in the photo).  CNS photo.

One voice in the Synod that would certainly have resonated with Romero was that of Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, who pleaded for the Synod’s focus not to lose sight of the devastating toll poverty takes on the family lives of many Catholics.  Poverty “affects relationships,” Card. Tagle said.  One dramatic effect of poverty is migration. De facto there is separation of couples and separation of parents from their children, but not because they could not stand each [other], not because there is a breakdown in communication, not because of conflicts,” the Cardinal said.  They get separated because they love each other and the best way for some of them to show concern and love and support is to leave and find employment elsewhere.”  He added that the airport “has become a traumatic place for me—not because of my travels and the dangers—but to see and hear especially mothers talking to their children in the airport, bidding them goodbye, and you can see how their hearts are broken.”

Romero, too, was greatly concerned about the damage to family life caused by extreme poverty. Earlier this year, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the Postulator of Archbishop Romero’s canonization cause and the President for the Pontifical Council on the Family, said that Romero would be a saint for families.  He pointed to Romero’s impassioned defense of the peasant families, squeezed by enormous socioeconomic pressure and oppression.  In his fourth pastoral letter, Romero documented in great detail the various ways in which poor families are challenged by structural injustice.  This is not to say that Romero gave poor families a pass on their own responsibility.  The church knows perfectly well that among those who lack material goods there is a great deal of sinfulness,” he wrote. “In the name of the preferential option for the poor there can never be justified the machismo, the alcoholism, the failure in family responsibility, the exploitation of one poor person by another, the antagonism among neighbors, and the so many other sins” found in society.

Lastly, we hear echoes of Romero in the Synod’s message to families who suffer from violence and persecution in places like Iraq, Syria, and other war-torn lands.  Romero mobilized in defense of families affected by the civil strife in El Salvador, creating an archdiocesan Legal Aid Office that defended the rights of political prisoners and victims of atrocities.  He comforted the “Mothers of the Disappeared” and consoled the families of hostages, of all political stripes.  When businessman Jaime Hill Argüello was kidnapped by guerrillas in 1979, Romero pleaded, “I beg you on my knees, if it is necessary, to return freedom to the people, our sisters and brothers and thus restore tranquility to these beloved homes.”  (In a happy postscript, today Hill Argüello works with his former captors to protect deported Salvadorans.)

It really is impossible to know where Romero would stand on the issues facing the Synod.  Given his historical positions, it is nearly possible to see his shadow over the proceedings.  What most appears certain is that he would be attentive to the developments and conclusions.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Romero torna a Roma

Mons. Romero all’altare del suo martirio.

English | Español


L’ultimo colpo di scena nella improbabile storia di Oscar Romero ha stato una Messa celebrata a San Salvador per benedire una statua del prospettivo santo salvadoregno.  Questa Messa—per benedire una statua!— è stata presieduta dal nunzio apostolico, concelebrata dal vescovo ausiliare di San Salvador, con la partecipazione del ex presidente di Salvador, così come il attuale presidente dell’Assemblea legislativa salvadoregna, e da un rappresentante della Repubblica di Taiwan.  La prossima fermata per questa statua è il Giardino “El Salvador” a Roma.  Sarà interessante vedere chi verrà a salutarla al suo arrivo nella capitale italiana.


[Notizie correlate: ritardi nei piani romani]


La cerimonia è stata commovente anche per altri motivi.  La liturgia si è svolta nello stesso altare dove l’arcivescovo fu assassinato 34 anni fa.  Dall’altare, Mons. Leon Kalenga, il rappresentante del papa, nato in Ghana, ha ricordato all’assemblea che si trovava dove mons. Romero fu assassinato nel 1980.  “Mons. Romero era un grande pastore e uomo di pace”, disse Kalenga.  “Io sono nel punto esatto in cui ... Monsignor Romero ha incontrato la morte, ma il suo sangue non era nessun seme di odio o inimicizia. Ma di riconciliazione e di perdono, siamo felici di benedire questa immagine di nostro amato Monsignor Oscar Romero”, ha aggiunto il presule.


Erano anche presenti i due fratelli sopravvissuti di Romero, così come il suo vicario generale, chi oggi è presidente della Fondazione Romero in El Salvador, Msgr. Ricardo Urioste.  La verità, la libertà, la giustizia e la pace sono stati i pilastri della causa di mons. Romero”, ha dichiarato Urioste.

L’opera d'arte è stato creata dallo scultore salvadoregno Guillermo Perdomo.

Da parte sua, il Presidente dell’Assemblea, Sigfrido Reyes, ha ritenuto che sicuramente, Romero sarebbe felice con il fatto che la sua immagine sia installato a Roma, la città che amava, dove è stato ordinato sacerdote, e ha espresso un desiderio: “Spero che presto Papa Francesco ci darà la notizia che noi tanto aspettiamo—la beatificazione e successiva canonizzazione di San Romero d’America!

Romero vuelve a Roma

Mons. Romero en el altar de su martirio.

English | Italiano

El último giro en la historia inverosímil de Mons. Óscar A. Romero ha sido una misa celebrada en San Salvador para bendecir una estatua del prospectivo santo salvadoreño. Esta misa—para bendecir una estatua—estuvo presidida por el Nuncio Apostólico, concelebrada con el obispo auxiliar de San Salvador, con la participación del ex presidente de El Salvador, así como el actual presidente de la Asamblea Legislativa de El Salvador, y un representante de la República de Taiwán. La siguiente parada de esta estatua es el Jardín “El Salvador”, en Roma. Será interesante ver quién llega a dar la bienvenida a su llegada a la capital italiana.

[Noticia relacionada: retraso en planes romanos]
La ceremonia fue conmovedora por otras razones. La liturgia se celebró en el mismo altar donde el arzobispo fue asesinado hace 34 años. Desde el altar, Mons. León Kalenga, el representante del papa, nacido en Ghana, recordó a la asamblea que se paraba donde Mons. Romero fue asesinado en 1980. “Monseñor Romero fue un gran pastor y hombre de paz”, dijo Kalenga. “Me encuentro en el lugar exacto donde ... Monseñor Romero encontró la muerte pero su sangre no fue semilla de odio, ni enemistad. Sino de  reconciliación  y perdón, estemos felices para bendecir esta imagen de nuestro amado Monseñor Óscar Romero”, añadió el prelado.
También estuvieron presentes los dos hermanos sobrevivientes de Romero, así como su vicario general, quien ahora es presidente de la Fundación Romero en El Salvador, Mons. Ricardo Urioste. “La verdad, la libertad, la justicia y la paz fueron los pilares de la causa de Monseñor Romero”, dijo Urioste.
La obra fue creada por el escultor salvadoreño Guillermo Perdomo.
Por su parte, el Presidente de la Asamblea, Sigfrido Reyes, consideró que seguramente, Mons. Romero estaría feliz con el hecho de que su imagen se instale en Roma, la ciudad que tanto amó, donde fue consagrado sacerdote, y expresó un deseo: “Espero que pronto el Papa Francisco nos anuncie la noticia que tanto esperamos—¡la beatificación y posterior canonización de San Romero de América!

Romero goes back to Rome

Ab. Romero at the altar of his martyrdom.
Español | Italiano
The latest twist in the unlikely story of Archbishop Óscar A. Romero has been a Mass celebrated in San Salvador to bless a statue of the prospective Salvadoran saint. This mass—to bless a statue!—was presided by the Apostolic Nuncio, concelebrated by the Auxiliary Bishop of San Salvador, with the participation of the former President of El Salvador, as well as the current speaker of the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador, and a representative of the Republic of Taiwan. The next stop for this statue is the "El Salvador" Gardens in Rome. It will be interesting to see who turns out for its arrival in the Italian capital.
The ceremony was poignant for other reasons. The liturgy was held at the same altar where the Archbishop was murdered 34 years ago. From the altar, Msgr. Leon Kalenga, the papal representative, who was born in Ghana, reminded the assembly that he stood on the spot where Ab. Romero had been assassinated in 1980. “Archbishop Romero was a great pastor and a man of peace,” said Kalenga. “I stand on the exact spot where ... Archbishop Romero met his death but his blood was not a seed of hatred or enmity, but of reconciliation and forgiveness; we are happy to bless this image of our beloved Archbishop Oscar Romero,” added the prelate.
Also present were the two surviving brothers of Romero and his vicar general, who is now president of the Romero Foundation in El Salvador, Msgr. Ricardo Urioste. “Truth, freedom, justice and peace were the pillars of the cause of Archbishop Romero,” Urioste declared.
The statue was created by the Salvadoran sculptor Guillermo Perdomo.
For his part, the Speaker of the Assembly, Sigfrido Reyes, said that surely, Archbishop Romero would be happy with the fact that his image will be installed in his beloved Rome, where he was ordained a priest, and he expressed one wish: “I hope that Pope Francis will soon announce the news we have been waiting for—the prompt beatification and subsequent canonization of Saint Romero of America!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Blessed Del Portillo and Abp. Romero

Among the many virtues of Alvaro del Portillo, the Opus Dei Prelate beatified on Saturday, September 27, 2014, we can include generosity and inclusiveness.  Reproduced below is the letter Blessed Del Portillo directed to Archbishop Óscar A. Romero in November 1979, as Romero entered the most difficult period of his ministry, and the last months of his life.  Our translation follows below.

Opus Dei

General President
Rome. November 9, 1979

Most Rev. Mgr. Oscar A. Romero
Archbishop of San Salvador
Your Excellency/My dear Mr. Archbishop,

Through the Opus Dei Chaplain in your dear country, I have received your affectionate letter recalling the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the fundation of Opus Dei.

I wish to answer immediately to thank you for that expression of affection, and for joining our thanksgiving to the Lord for all the benefits he has bestowed upon His Work in this first fifty years of its existence.

I know that the partners and associates of Opus Dei--there as everywhere, thanks be to Go--work with commitment and are motivated only by the desire to serve the Church. I am aware of the fondness they have for you and of the fidelity with which they live the Spirit of the Work, which leads us to echo the instructions of the Reverend Ordinary in all the dioceses in which we work and to direct the carriage--as our Founder, of holy memory, used to say--in the same direction as the diocesan prelate.

I beg you to continue to pray for our apostolic work throughout the world. For my own part, I assure you that I will commend you daily during Holy Mass, praying for you and for your labor on behalf of souls which you carry out.

Thanking you again for your letter I remain yours truly,

Devoted in the Lord

Alvaro del Portillo

Romero expressed his gratitude for Bishop del Portillo’s letter in his December 23, 1979 sermon, delivered three months before his assassination.

Beato Del Portillo y Mons. Romero

Entre las muchas virtudes de Alvaro del Portillo, el Prelado del Opus Dei beatificado el Sábado, 27 de septiembre 2014, podemos incluir la generosidad y la inclusión. Se reproduce a continuación la carta que el Beato Del Portillo dirigió al arzobispo Óscar A. Romero en noviembre de 1979, cuando Romero entró en el período más difícil de su ministerio, y los últimos meses de su vida. Nuestra transcripción sigue a continuación.

Opus Dei

Presidente General
Roma, 9 de noviembre 1979

Excmo. y Revmo.
Mons. Oscar A. Romero
Arzobispo de San Salvador

Muy querido Señor Arzobispo:

a través del Consiliario del Opus Dei en esa querida tierra, he recibido su afectuosa carta recordando la celebración del cincuenta aniversario de la fundación del Opus Dei.

Deseo contestarle enseguida para agradecer esa muestra de afecto, y que se haya unido a nuestra acción de gracias al Señor por todos los beneficios que ha derramado sobre su Obra en estos primeros cincuenta años de vida.

Sé que los socios y asociadas del Opus Dei - ahí, como en todos los sitios, gracias a Dios - trabajan con empeno y movidos sólo por el deseo de servir a la Iglesia.  Conozco bien el afecto que le tienen y la fidelidad con que viven el espíritu de la Obra, que nos lleva a secundar las indicaciones del Revmo. Ordinario en todas las diócesis donde trabajamos, y a tirar del carro - como decía nuestro Fundador, de santa memoria - en la misma dirección que el Prelado diocesano.

Le ruego que continúe rezando por nuestra labor apostólica en todo el mundo.  Por mi parte, le aseguro que le encomendaré a diario, en la Santa Misa, pidiendo por usted y por toda la labor de almas que realiza.

Agradeciéndole de nuevo su carta, queda suyo,

Devotissimo in Domino

Alvaro del Portillo

Romero agradeció la carta de Mons. del Portillo en su homilía del 23 diciembre 1979, pronunciada tres meses antes de su asesinato.

Beato Del Portillo e Mons. Romero

Tra le molte virtù di Alvaro del Portillo, il Prelato dell'Opus Dei beatificato il Sabato 27 Settembre 2014, possiamo includere generosità e inclusività. Riprodotto qui sotto è la lettera del Beato Del Portillo indirizzato a monsignor Oscar A. Romero nel novembre 1979, quando Romero entrò nel periodo più difficile del suo ministero, e gli ultimi mesi della sua vita. La nostra traduzione segue qui sotto.

Dell'Opus Dei

Presidente Generale
Roma. 9 novembre 1979

Mons. Oscar A. Romero

Arcivescovo di San Salvador

Mio caro signor Arcivescovo,

Attraverso il Consigliere dell'Opus Dei in quella terra amata, ho ricevuto la sua lettera affettuosa ricordando la celebrazione del cinquantesimo anniversario della Fondazione dell'Opus Dei.
Vorrei rispondere immediatamente a ringraziarvi per l'espressione di affetto, e per la sua unione con il nostro rendimento di grazie al Signore per tutti i benefici che ha elargito la sua Opera in questi primi 50 anni della sua esistenza.

So che il partner e soci dell'Opus Dei-lì come ovunque, grazie a Dio-lavorare con impegno e sono motivati solo dal desiderio di servire la Chiesa. Sono consapevole dell'affetto che hanno per voi e della fedeltà con cui vivono lo Spirito dell'opera, che ci porta a risuonare le istruzioni del reverendo ordinario in tutte le diocesi in cui lavoriamo e per dirigere il carro-come nostro Fondatore, di santa memoria, diceva-nella stessa direzione, come il prelato diocesano.

Vi prego di continuare a pregare per il nostro lavoro apostolico in tutto il mondo. Per parte mia, vi assicuro che mi ricorderò di voi tutti i giorni durante la Santa Messa, pregherò per voi e per il vostro lavoro per conto delle anime che vi svolgete.

Ringraziandovi ancora per la vostra lettera rimango il sottoscritto,

Devotissimo in Domino

Alvaro del Portillo

Romero ha ringraziato la lettera di Mons. del Portillo nella sua omelia dal 23 dicembre 1979, pronunciata tre mesi primo del suo assassinio.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Romero conference at Notre Dame

Can you tell me anywhere else in the world where people are studying the homilies of a bishop who’s been dead for 25 years?,” Msgr. Ricardo Urioste asked at the University of Notre Dame conference on Óscar Romero ... in March 2005.  The question is even more poignant a decade later, as Notre Dame launches an “International Conference on Archbishop Romero,” September 25 - 27, 2014, buoyed by perceived papal favor and advances in Romero’s canonization cause.

The highlight of the conference is bound to be a keynote speech by Rev. Gustavo Gutiérrez, OP, the so-called “Father of Liberation Theology” whose friendship with Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has led to a recent rapprochement between the Vatican and the once disfavored Latin American ecclesial movement.  Gutiérrez and Müller co-authored a book together, and the Cardinal remarked that the once-suspect movement “should in my opinion be included among the most important currents in 20th century Catholic theology.”  Gutiérrez’ talk, focused on Pope Francis, should shed interesting light on the relationship between Romero and Liberation Theology, as seen by one of the great forerunners of the movement.

Other highlights of the conference include retrospectives on Romero from some of his collaborators.  The aforementioned Msgr. Urioste, who was Romero’s vicar and now serves as President of Fundación Romero in El Salvador, will speak on the Spirituality of Archbishop Romero, which should serve to counter Gutiérrez by situating Romero in the Church with the authority of a close associate, a member of his pastoral team and one who is not as overtly aligned (Urioste is pretty much a rank and file cleric).  The Salvadoran human rights attorney Roberto Cuéllar, who was on Romero’s council of legal advisors, will discuss the significant contributions Romero made in the legal field with regard to human rights work.  Another portion of the seminar, featured on the last day of the panel, will focus on Romero’s “conversion”—and will feature mostly academic presentations on that subject.

Although I was not invited to the conference (but I provided some research assistance to a friend who is presenting at the conference) I offer these overview observations here.

  • As a starting point, Msgr. Urioste’s 2005 comment is still the best insight to be had: the fact that we are still having Romero conferences, that we still have not exhausted the exploration of this Catholic figure’s legacy is the biggest take-away of all.  This conference and all Romero discussions will make a difference to the extent they acknowledge and explore this starting fact, and begin to delve into why Romero remains so interesting and so compelling so many years on.  Particularly if we are on the verge of a beatification, the world will be eager to understand what makes this man a saint.
  • What is different at this conference which will provide the best opportunity for the gathering to provide a fresh contribution is the effect that a Latin American pope has brought to the scene.  Romero famously predicted that, if killed, he would “arise in the Salvadoran people.”  But he has done more than that—he has arisen in the Vatican, and that’s headline news.  Fr. Gutiérrez can talk about that because it’s not just Pope Francis—Fr. Gutiérrez’ friend Card. Müller is also a Romero admirer.  Julian Filochowski, Chairman of the Romero Trust in the UK will also give a talk about Romero and the Popes which should shed light on this story.
  • Finally, this conference, like many Romero discussions, will spend more energy exploring Romero’s conversion.  This assembly has the sophistication and intelligence required to develop the concept beyond the simplifications and exaggerations of the past.  One of the presenters, Fordham University’s Michael E. Lee, has written compellingly about the gradual and painstaking process that Romero undertook, whereby he grappled with the goliath questions posed by the harsh Salvadoran reality and evolved along the way.  Perhaps we will hear something new.
Super Martyrio will be keeping tabs on goings on in South Bend.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Establishing Ab. Romero's martyrdom

Speaking at the 65th Annual Religion Newswriters’ Association Conference, Todd Johnson cited the case of Archbishop Óscar A. Romero of El Salvador to illustrate the difficulty in counting the number of Christian martyrs.  Johnson is an expert on religious demography from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.  He noted that Archbishop Romero is seen as martyr, but the motivation for his killing is contested.  In gauging whether a particular death is martyrdom, he noted, the motives of the killers are the critical consideration.  Thus, Johnson concluded, to assess martyrdom, one first has to conclusively settle the related controversies.

Perhaps unlike Prof. Johnson, I see ways to cut through the controversy and establish conclusively that Archbishop Romero died a martyr of the Church with any of three models of martyrdom.  The first two paths toward martyrdom for Óscar Romero are paradigms that have been used frequently to settle close calls; while the third is a straight-forward application of the legal standard traditionally used by the Church to establish martyrdom.  All three lead to the same conclusion and, if you follow my reasoning, I think you’ll agree that there really is no doubt of Romero’s martyrdom.

First, Óscar Romero is a “Martyr of Charity.” Pope Francis appeared to endorse this alternative path to martyrdom in August, when he said that martyrdom includes being killed “for performing the works that Jesus commands us to do for our neighbor.”  St. Lawrence of Rome (c. 225–258) is the prime example.  Legend says that, facing confiscation of the Church’s wealth by Roman authorities, he distributed them to the poor to prevent their seizure by Rome.  Then when he was ordered to turn over the treasures of the Church he presented the poor, the crippled, the blind and the suffering, and said these were the riches of the Church.  Another leading example, from modern times, is St. Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941), who volunteered to take the place of a concentration camp escapee who was going to be put to death.  Like St. Lawrence, Romero demonstrated a startling Gospel-based solicitousness for the poor, and premised his 'provocative' action on that concern.  Like St. Maximilian, Romero put himself in danger by agreeing to take the place of those already in harm’s way: “Believe me, sisters and brothers, anyone committed to the poor must suffer the same fate as the poor,” he said. And in El Salvador we know the fate of the poor: to be ‘disappeared,’ to be tortured, to be jailed, to be found dead.”

Second, Óscar Romero was killed in “Odium Iustitiae.”  This argument can mean different things to different commentators, so let us state it as simply as possible.  A generally accepted formulation of martyrdom is a death brought about out of “hatred of the Christian faith or those Christian virtues which are part and parcel with living the Christian faith.”   Accordingly, if an abortion activist killed a priest who had spoken out against abortion, the Church would resist as reductionist the argument that the act was merely a “politically-motivated crime,” if the defense of life constitutes a virtue that is “part and parcel with living the Christian faith.”  Similarly, when we say “odium iustitiae,” we simply mean that Christian justice or the Social Doctrine of the Church constitutes an important virtue, “part and parcel with living the Christian faith,” such that hatred of this important part has the same effect as hatred of the whole.  Saints like Fr. Alberto  Hurtado (1901-1952, canonized by Pope Benedict in 2005) and Bishop Rafael Guízar (1878-1938, canonized by Pope Benedict in 2006), who were champions of social justice and identified with the cause of the poor, exemplify the heroic quality of the virtue involved.

Third, and finally, Óscar Romero was killed in “Odium Fidei —plain and simple.  According to most observers, Romero was killed on Monday, March 24, 1980 as a direct reaction to the sermon he pronounced the day before, on Sunday, March 23, in which he ordered soldiers to disobey orders to kill civilians, as contrary to the Law of God.  Msgr. Ricardo Urioste was Romero’s vicar.  I think it was probably his death sentence,” says Urioste.  They said, ‘This man is going to make the soldiers rise up against us and will put us in dire straits’—so they decided to kill him.”  It was the 1980 version of “Who will rid me of this turbulent priest”—an expression that seems on its face to be strictly political, but which has profound theological content.   St. Thomas Becket (1118-1170), of whom the “turbulent priest” phrase was spoken, was not murdered simply because he opposed the King: he was killed for defending the legal jurisdiction of Church courts over clergy.  St. Thomas More (1478-1535) was not killed simply for opposing the King: he was killed for defending papal supremacy over the crown.  And Romero was not killed just for opposing the regime: he was killed for defending the supremacy of the Law of God over military orders to kill peasants.  Before an order to kill that a man may give, God’s law must prevail: ‘Thou shalt not kill!’ No soldier is obliged to obey an order against the law of God. No one has to fulfill an immoral law,” he had said.  For that, he was killed.

Doubtless, the question of Romero’s assassination bears both political as well as theological repercussions.   For as Pope Benedict told the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in 2006, modern persecutors now “seldom explicitly show their aversion to the Christian faith or to a form of conduct connected with the Christian virtues, but simulate different reasons, for example, of a political or social nature.”  And as he said at a shrine for modern martyrs in 2008, martyrs include those who have “sacrificed themselves, undaunted by threats and dangers, in order not to abandon the needy, the poor or the faithful entrusted to them.”  ... Like Óscar Romero.

Estableciendo el martirio de Mons. Romero


En su intervención en la 65 ª Religion Newswriters’ Association Conference, Todd Johnson citó el caso de monseñor Óscar A. Romero de El Salvador para ilustrar la dificultad de contar el número de los mártires cristianos. Johnson es un experto en demografía religiosa del Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Señaló que Mons. Romero es reconocido como mártir, pero la motivación de su asesinato es disputada. Para determinar si una muerte en particular es un martirio, señaló, los motivos de los asesinos son la consideración más importante. Por lo tanto, concluyó Johnson, para evaluar el martirio, primero hay que resolver las controversias relacionadas.

Quizás a diferencia del Prof. Johnson, yo si veo maneras de eliminar la controversia y establecer de manera concluyente que Mons. Romero murió como un mártir de la Iglesia con cualquiera de tres modelos del martirio. Los dos primeros caminos hacia el martirio para Óscar Romero son paradigmas que se han utilizado con frecuencia para resolver casos cerrados; mientras que el tercero es una aplicación directa de la norma legal, tradicionalmente utilizada por la Iglesia para establecer el martirio. Los tres llevan a la misma conclusión y, si sigue mi razonamiento, creo que estará de acuerdo que realmente no hay duda sobre el martirio de Romero.

En primer lugar, Mons. Romero es un “mártir de la caridad”. El Papa Francisco pareció respaldar este camino alternativo al martirio en agosto, cuando dijo que el martirio incluye ser asesinado “por la realización de las obras que Jesús nos manda a hacer por nuestro prójimo”. San Lorenzo (c. 225-258) es el gran ejemplo. Según la leyenda, ante la confiscación de las riquezas de la Iglesia por las autoridades romanas, las repartió entre los pobres para evitar su incautación por parte de Roma. Luego, cuando se le ordenó entregar los tesoros de la Iglesia presentó a los pobres, a los lisiados, a los ciegos y a los que sufren, y dijo que estos eran las riquezas de la Iglesia. Otro ejemplo destacado, de los tiempos modernos, es San Maximiliano Kolbe (1894-1941), quien se ofreció a tomar el lugar de un fugitivo de un campo de concentración condenado a muerte. Al igual que San Lorenzo, Romero demostró un compromiso sorprendente con los pobres, basado en el Evangelio, y basó su acción 'provocativa' desde esa premisa. Al igual que San Maximiliano, Romero se puso en peligro al tomar el lugar de los que ya estaban en peligro: “Créanlo hermanos, el que se compromete con los pobres tiene que correr el mismo destino de los pobres”, dijo. “Y en El Salvador ya sabemos lo que significa el destino de los pobres: ser desaparecido, ser torturados, ser capturados, aparecer cadáveres”…

En segundo lugar, Óscar Romero fue asesinado en “Odium Iustitiae”. Este argumento puede significar diferentes cosas para diferentes comentaristas, así que lo afirmamos de la manera más sencilla posible. Una formulación generalmente aceptada del martirio es una muerte provocada por “odio a la fe cristiana, o las virtudes cristianas que forman parte integrante del vivir la fe cristiana”. Por ejemplo, si un activista pro-aborto mata a un sacerdote que se había pronunciado en contra del aborto, la Iglesia resistiría por reduccionista al argumento de que el acto no era más que un “crimen por motivos políticos”, cuando la defensa de la vida constituye una virtud que es “parte integrante del vivir la fe cristiana”; del mismo modo, cuando decimos “odium iustitiae”, simplemente significa que la justicia cristiana o la Doctrina social de la Iglesia constituye una virtud importante, “parte integrante del vivir la fe cristiana”, de tal manera que el odio a esta parte importante tiene el mismo efecto que el odio a la totalidad de la fe. Santos como el P. Alberto Hurtado (1901-1952, canonizado por el Papa Benedicto XVI en 2005) y Mons. RafaelGuízar (1878-1938, canonizado por el Papa Benedicto XVI en 2006), que fueron campeones de la justicia social y se identificaron con la causa de los pobres, ejemplifican la calidad heroica de esta virtud.

En tercer lugar, y por último, Óscar Romero fue asesinado en “Odium Fidei”–estricta y directamente hablando. Según la mayoría de los observadores, Romero fue asesinado el Lunes, 24 de marzo 1980 como una reacción directa al sermón que pronunció el día anterior, el domingo 23 de marzo, en la que ordenó a los soldados a desobedecer órdenes de matar a civiles, como contrarias a la Ley de Dios. Mons. Ricardo Urioste fue vicario de Romero. “Yo creo que debió ser su sentencia de muerte probablemente”, dice Urioste. “Ellos dijeron, ‘Bueno este hombre nos va a sublevar a todos los soldados y nos va a poner en apuros muy grandes así que decidieron matarlo”. Fue la versión de 1980 de “¿Quién me librará de este sacerdote turbulento” –una expresión que parece a primera vista ser estrictamente política, pero que tiene profundo contenido teológico. Santo Tomás Becket (1118-1170), de quien la frase “sacerdote turbulento” fue dicha, no fue asesinado simplemente porque se opuso al rey: fue asesinado por defender la jurisdicción de los tribunales de la Iglesia sobre el clero. Santo Tomás Moro (1478-1535) no fue asesinado simplemente por oponerse al rey: fue asesinado por defender la supremacía papal sobre la corona. Y Romero no fue asesinado simplemente por oponerse al régimen: fue asesinado por defender la supremacía de la ley de Dios sobre las órdenes militares de matar a campesinos. “Ante una orden de matar que dé un hombre, debe de prevalecer la Ley de Dios que dice: ¡No matar! Ningún soldado está obligado a obedecer una orden contra la Ley de Dios. Una ley inmoral, nadie tiene que cumplirla”, había dicho. Por eso, fue asesinado.

Sin duda, el asesinato de Romero lleva repercusiones tanto políticas como teológicas. Como dijo el Papa Benedicto a la Congregación para las Causas de los Santos en 2006, el perseguidor moderno hoy “cada vez trata de manifestar de modo menos explícito su aversión a la fe cristiana o a un comportamiento relacionado con las virtudes cristianas, pero que simula diferentes razones, por ejemplo, de naturaleza política o social”. Y como dijo en un santuario para los mártires modernos en 2008, los mártires incluyen aquellos que se “se inmolaron por no abandonar a los necesitados, a los pobres, a los fieles que les habían sido encomendados, sin miedo a amenazas y peligros”... Como Óscar Romero.