Monday, October 15, 2007

STATE RESPONSIBILITY AND CANONIZATION

No one accuses Fernando Sáenz of doing things that will benefit Salvadoran society at the expense of ecclesial concerns. In fact, just the opposite is true: the Archbishop of San Salvador is often seen pleading with supporters of his assassinated predecessor Óscar Romero, to give emphasis to ritual and sacramental aspects of the canonization process, at the expense of more urgent worldly calls for continued denunciations and social criticism that may be warranted by the moment. Sáenz is fond of calling for Romero's memory not to be "politicized" by association with current day protests and political issues of the day, and of calling instead for people to pray for miracles in Romero's name and report positive results to the canonization office. Consider then Sáenz' latest endeavor -- a quiet negotiation with the government to have the state admit its role in the Romero assassination.

In typical form, Sáenz bristled at the insinuation of stealth in his conversations with the government. "There are no secrets in the dialogue," Sáenz insisted, seeing no hint of insconsistency as he added, "it is simply a meeting for which, while there are no agreements, it is better to maintain a prudential silence until we have results." He also declined to identify the members of two commissions formed to lead the dialogue, when their sessions are scheduled or held, the topics for discussion, or the number of meetings intended. Sáenz assured reporters that his goals in the "negotiations" are to obtain the concessions demanded by human rights activists and governmnet critics across the board: "we are looking for a way that the state's responsibility is acknowledged." Sáenz recognized that the talks are geared to searching for ways to undergird a "true peace." Tellingly, Sáenz did not explain how obtaining an admission from the government regarding state responsibility for the Romero assassination would aid the canonization cause pending in Rome.

At first glance, it would appear to complicate matters. The key element in the Romero case is the prong of analysis known by its Latin term, ODIUM FIDEI, or "hatred of the faith," which canon law requires must be the motive in fact of a martyr's persecutor. Lacking that motive, there can be no martyrdom. The sticking point in the Romero case has been the fact that anti-religious motives have commingled with purely political or tactical motives, and the censors and relators of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints have had a difficult time finding a purely anti-religious motive when both the actors and the victim were ostensibly Christians, and even Catholics. Saying that the state is the author of the crime muddies the analysis even further because of the conceptual stumbling block that a state possesses no mind, and the practical obstacle of identifying the "motives" behind an institutional decision. Anyone who has ever done legislative intent research will be familiar with the problems involved. However, the law provides ready solutions to these problems in the concepts of agency law and imputed or attributed intent (corporate or institutional mindset, such as "mens rea" and intent, can be inferred from the actions of individuals who posses either knowledge or intent). Therefore, any confusion introduced by state responsibility could be easily overcome. However, state responsibility adds very little to the "odium fidei" analysis (possibly, it allows some flexibility since you can attribute intent based on actions and beliefs done or held by different people). One can conclude that Sáenz is pursuing an objective which helps Salvadoran society as a whole -- the search for the truth, closure, the fulfillment of the terms of the Peace Accords, etc. -- that does not necessarily further a strict ecclesiastic aim.

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