Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Spanish court’s indictment of 20 Salvadoran military officers for the 1989 murders of six Jesuit priests, and their housekeepers, posits a thought-provoking theory for the assassination of Archbishop Romero, as well. In a 77-page ruling, Judge Eloy Velasco Núñez proposes that Archbishop Romero’s assassins were motivated to kill him primarily because of his role as a peace-maker. If established, the theory could influence Archbishop Romero’s beatification cause, which requires Romero’s champions to prove that the Archbishop was killed “in hatred of the Faith.” For the past thirty years, the hypothesis has been that the aspect of the “Faith” Romero’s killers “hated” was social justice. But the analysis has been mired in internecine theological entanglements, regarding religious/secular distinctions. If the aspect of the “Faith” that Romero’s killers “hated” was peace, then the prickly doctrinal controversies may be avoided.

Judge Velasco sets forth that the enemies of Archbishop Romero, like the enemies of the Jesuits, were hardliners committed to an “all-out war” or a “total war” approach to the insurgency. The prospect of a negotiated settlement was unacceptable to them because it would not further their objective as military officers, which was, “To keep themselves in power.” The indictment (Spanish) summarizes:

The Church’s role as a mediator seeking to end the bloody civil war earned it the enmity of the far right. The death of Archbishop Oscar Romero, killed by a military-civilian death squad in 1980 illustrates the establishment of an unsettling pattern that recalls that of the assassinations of the Jesuits: before issuing the death threats, the intensity of the same grew in proportion to the prospects for success of the negotiation. Finally, Archbishop Romero was assassinated.
The indictment also points out that at least one of the death threats sent to Archbishop Romero contained flagrant Nazi sentiments/references:

The Swastika, the symbol of Communism’s bitter enemy, is our emblem. We have armed ourselves in response to the traitorous attacks in our country and now we begin to eradicate the cancerous lesions. You, Monseñor, top the list of a group of priests that will at any moment receive thirty projectiles to the face and chest. –The Phalanx.
A profound paradigm shift in the central thesis of the canonization cause is unlikely. If anything, the new theory expands a theme that was already present in the Church’s thinking, as when Blessed Pope John Paul II said that, in El Salvador, “the Church has played a decisive role in favor of the resumption of dialogue and pacification, paying a very high price in blood, above all among its shepherds, among whom, Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, assassinated in 1980, is widely venerated.” (General Audience, February 14, 1996—in Italian; emphasis added.)

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