Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Archbishop Romero’s canonization drive is dormant. Although the sleep is not intractable, no plan has been announced to get it moving again. Therefore, we are changing our amber status (which indicates moderate or slow forward motion) assessed in October 2010 to red (signifying stagnation) as of April 2012.

Msgr. Ricardo Urioste, the president of Fundación Romero told the Salvadoran daily «La Página» that there was “no news in the process, the only news is the same as always—all we do is wait.” Super Martyrio made a similar assessment in October 2010, when we analyzed the pause in progress to be tantamount to a yellow traffic light. But, a year and a half later, that delay is more than just a yellow. This red light, though, is just a stop light—not a warning light. We do not find that an essential or fundamental factor for the canonization cause is compromised. We simply note that case has gone inactive, and that authorities in the Vatican and in El Salvador must act in order for it to snap out of its dormant state. As Gianni Valente of the Italian daily «La Stampa» wrote in a recent analysis, the cause has lapsed into “standby mode” and there has been no effort “to seriously restart the process through the ordinary steps and procedures.”

Among the possible explanations for a canonization drive to slow down, we can eliminate the most worrisome ones. We know that the Vatican authorities have vindicated Archbishop Romero from charges of doctrinal error and from allegations that his pastoral actions raised concerns that would halt his canonization altogether. Separate probes by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith examined those questions and failed to produce disqualifying facts. Additionally, the Romero case has advanced substantially, and actually moved at breakneck speed in earlier phases of the investigation. As we detailed in our analysis earlier this year, Archbishop Romero’s cause has progressed ahead of most others submitted 1980 and thereafter, and even though it lags behind a privileged group of candidates for the sainthood (such as John Paul II and Mother Teresa), it actually out-performed the “fast-track” saints we analyzed in the Phase I of the process, taking merely 1 year to complete this leg of the process (compare 6 years for Opus Dei founder Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer and 8 years for Padre Pio).

Loss of papal favor is another possible explanation for delay that we tend to discount. Papal support is useful because, as Fr. Daniel Ols, the relator of Archbishop Romero’s cause told the National Catholic Reporter in 2003, “if the Holy Father wants things to accelerate, they speed up.” Between March 2007 and February 2008, Pope Benedict mentioned Archbishop Romero three times in public, in less than one year. He has not mentioned him again—most notably, he did not mention him this past week, when the Pope was in Latin America during the Romero anniversary for the first time. The papal trip and the Romero anniversary were the two largest stories out of Latin America in the Catholic world, but they might as well have been on different planets. Yet, Benedict’s familiarity with Romero’s case (he was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith when Romero was cleared) and enthusiasm of his previous statements make it hard to imagine he could have had a change of heart. In fact, some of the Benedict’s preaching so mirrors Romero’s that this blogger has wondered where the common language comes from.

The «La Stampa» story posits the prospect that the red light is really red tape: that “the coordination required between the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith plays a role” in explaining why “the Roman phase of the beatification process has ground to a halt,” the article states. Also along the same order would be lackluster support from the Salvadoran bishops conference and lack of focus by Bishop Vincenzo Paglia, the Postulator of the cause—a high profile Italian prelate with a lot on his plate including, most recently, a much touted candidacy to be appointed Patriarch of Venice (it did not pan out). But all of these bureaucratic impediments are surely outweighed by the universal acclaim for Romero and presumed papal support for the cause. As Nancy Kelsey, an American Indian from the Ottawa and Potawatomi tribes who lives in Detroit told the National Catholic Reporter, “If he isn't made a saint, the Vatican is underestimating his staying power, the message of social justice; it transcends the civil war and it’s a universal message.”

There is one other explanation for the delay left, and it’s the most elusive factor of all. It may be that we have been looking for the Devil’s Advocate (the archaic term for a cleric who was traditionally charged with arguing against a canonization) in all the wrong places and, just as in the old Rolling Stones’ lyric: “After all it was you and me.” In an interview with the San Salvador archdiocese’s «Ecclesia» magazine, Romero biographer Msgr. Jesús Delgado posits that the Vatican does not think the time is yet ripe to beatify Romero because of continuing polarization surrounding his name, particularly in Salvadoran society. As «La Stampa» puts it, beatifying Romero would favor (or be exploited by) “popular movements inspired by Marxism and the revolutionary guerrillas of the 70s.” Therefore, we must wait until some of Romero’s admirers make an overture toward traditional Catholic spirituality by showing an interest in Romero’s saintliness, as opposed to only caring about his utility to their partisan objectives. As Pope Benedict stated it, “The problem was that a political party wrongly wished to use him as their badge, as an emblematic figure,” and the Church must re-contextualize his image, “and protect it from these attempts to exploit it.” (May 9, 2007 Press conference.)

In El Salvador, there are signs that the encouragement from former archbishop Msgr. Fernando Sáenz Lacalle and the current archbishop, Msgr. José Luis Escobar Alas, to express devotion to Romero through prayer and respectful piety as opposed to merely political expressions, have led to a flourishing of Romero spirituality. In fact, such devotion has always been there, especially among the humble poor who wait on God (Matthew 5:3; 6:33). Pope John Paul attested to this during his last visit to El Salvador (1996), recounting that, “When the Gospel of the Beatitudes was read in front of the cathedral where the remains of [Archbishop Romero] are kept” , the memory of Romero and his fellow archbishops, “reawakened in all the will to work together by building a more humane world.” (February 14, 1996 General Audience.) That devotion has multiplied—for example, the recent National Catholic Reporter story recounts how the young are making Romero part of their faith.  The article relates how, “As each anniversary of his death approached,” one Salvadoran family living abroad, “took their sons to Mass, to events that addressed the tragedy but also the good that has come from it over the years.” The Artigas even made a family pilgrimage to El Salvador: “"They saw people praying, placing their petitions," at the crypt, Artiga said, which showed his sons how some Salvadorans still revere him and pray to him to answer their petitions.”

Now, we must wait to see if more of Romero’s admirers will follow the Artigas in remembering Romero in a faith context. If they do so, they will be heeding Romero’s own words, when he pleaded in his last Sunday sermon, “my dear political brothers, one must … not manipulate the Church to make it say what we want it to say, rather we should say what the Church is teaching.” We must also wait to see if the hierarchy will be decisive in embracing its teaching function to guide the faithful and restore Archbishop Romero to his rightful place. As Fr. José M. Tojeira, Rector of Central America University argues in a forceful opinion piece entitled “We cannot wait 50 years,” the faithful expect the Church leadership to lead.

Photo: The faithful mark the 32nd anniversary of Msgr. Romero’s martyrdom in San Salvador with a Way of the Cross procession featuring quotes from Romero and drawing parallels between the Passion of Christ and social conditions of injustice and oppression. Credit: Frederick Meza, «El Faro

Monday, March 26, 2012


Romero - Tod eines Erzbischofs” (“Romero - Muerte de un Arzobispo”) es un documental alemán elaborado por Rena y Thomas Giefer en el año 2003. El documental presenta los hechos que llevaron al vil asesinato de Mons. Romero el 24 de marzo de 1980, pero también amplía para presentar toda una reseña de la figura de Monseñor como el hombre que con sus ideales y principios cristianos de justicia social y solidaridad procuró que cambiaran las condiciones de pobreza de miles de salvadoreños. Figuran en el video los testimonios de varias personas que brindan elementos históricos para el desarrollo del reportaje, incluyendo colaboradores de Mons. Romero y comentaristas de los hechos.

Primera Parte

Segunda Parte

Tercera Parte

Cuarta Parte

Quinta Parte

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Does it really matter what Archbishop Romero said in his March 24, 1980 homily—isn’t the most important thing about it that he was assassinated at the end?

(This is the second part of a series on the final seven homilies of Archbishop Romero started last year. To read the text of this homily in English, click here. For the original text in Spanish, click here. And, to hear a segment of the audio of Msgr. Romero delivering the homily, click here.)

At first glance, Romero’s final homily would appear to be strictly a private affair—its content, of relatively little interest to the outside world. After all, this Monday night Mass, held in a small chapel in a medical complex, was a personal service commissioned for the anniversary of the death of a Romero family friend, and was heard only by the mourning relatives of Sara Meardi de Pinto, some Carmelite nuns from the hospital, and a handful of faithful who stopped in for a weekday mass, perhaps after finishing work. But Romero himself opens it up at the outset: “My dear sisters and brothers,” he starts—“I think we should not only pray this evening for the eternal rest of our dear Doña Sarita, but above all we should take to ourselves her message, one that every Christian ought to want to live intensely.” Now, he’s addressing not just those gathered that fateful evening at the Divine Providence Chapel, but “every Christian.”

It makes sense, with this more universal framework, that Romero centers his brief sermon around a lengthy passage from the Second Vatican Council, which he recites to his audience. Vatican II is the Church process opened by Pope John XXIII and closed by Pope Paul VI, which sought to make the Church more relevant to the modern age, and contributed to its sharpening its stands on social justice—a call heeded by Romero in his own ministry and relied on as the basis for his pastoral action. Romero cites a passage from Gaudium et Spes, one of the documents produced by the Council, which calls on the faithful to work for justice:
[And] after we have obeyed the Lord, and in His Spirit nurtured on earth the values of human dignity, brotherhood and freedom, and indeed all the good fruits of our nature and enterprise, we will find them again, but freed of stain, burnished and transfigured, when Christ hands over to the Father: “a kingdom eternal and universal, a kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace.” [Citations omitted.]
Gaudium et Spes, #39

This appeal of the Council, Archbishop Romero tells us, calls out to all us of us, and can—and must—be taken up by private citizens in our individual capacities. If we accept the invitation, the reward will be great, Romero preaches, invoking the Gospel reading for that day (John 12:23-26), which states that, “unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone; but if it die, it will bear much fruit.” Just the same, Romero says, “those who out of love for Christ give themselves to the service of others, will live, like the grain of wheat that dies, but only apparently. If it did not die, it would remain alone. The harvest comes about only because it dies, allowing itself to be sacrificed in the earth and destroyed. Only by undoing itself does it produce the harvest.”

We each are like that grain of wheat: “Dear brothers and sisters,” Romero invites, “let us all view these matters at this historic moment with that hope, that spirit of giving and of sacrifice. Let us all do what we can.” Doing what we can does not mean that we all must join a political organization, or go march or strike, Romero suggests. He had started to make the point the day before in his famous Stop the repression” homily. In that sermon, he had chided activists who try to turn a refuge into a barracks by forcing people who may have just sought sanctuary to do political work. “The refuge is a place where the sick also work,” he had said, alluding to the spiritual contribution of their suffering, if offered as a prayerful sacrifice to support the cause. “That husband and wife and their children who could not work, they wanted to send their children to occupy a church,” he had said, “but how can they go if they are sick? Let them offer up their pain and sickness. This has value,” he insisted. “But when we lose sight of the transcendence of the struggle, everything becomes made up of things that are sometimes even erroneous.”

The important thing is that we all need to contribute to the process of liberation, and no contribution is too small: We need to understand, Romero said, “that nothing can be accomplished without God and that with God, even the most useless work is still work when it is done with a good intention.” Sara Meardi de Pinto, the mother of a progressive newspaper publisher friend of Romero, he declared, had made her contribution, simply by supporting her son in his efforts for the cause, and by her suffering. “We know that no one can go on forever,” Romero said, “but those who have put into their work a sense of very great faith, of love of God, of hope among human beings, find it all results in the splendors of a crown that is the sure reward of those who labor thus, cultivating truth, justice, love, and goodness on earth.” Then he added, “Such labor does not remain here below but, purified by God’s Spirit, is harvested for our reward.”

As he had done in his great social commentaries at the Cathedral, Archbishop Romero imposed a final indispensable condition on works of social justice that we might pursue, for such works to be worthy: “we must try to purify these ideals, Christianize them,” he said, “clothe them with the hope of what lies beyond. That makes them stronger,” he said, “because it gives us the assurance that all that we cultivate on earth, if we nourish it with Christian hope, will never be a failure.” If we imbue our earthly works with a sense of Christian love, even if that effort should ultimately prove unsuccessful here on earth, “We will find it in a purer form in that kingdom where our merit will be found in the labor that we have done here on earth.” Then, Romero melded his memorial homily into a Eucharistic prayer. Presenting the bread and wine of the Communion banquet, he said, “May this body immolated and this blood sacrificed for humans nourish us also, so that we may give our body and our blood to suffering and to pain—like Christ—not for self, but to bring about justice and peace for our people.” At that moment, the assassin’s bullet thundered.

Thus was he killed, as he “celebrated the sacrifice of forgiveness and reconciliation” (Pope John Paul II, Remarks at the San Salvador Cathedral, March 6, 1983). “Consequently, his death was truly ‘credible’, a witness of faith” (Pope Benedict XVI, Remarks to Reporters, May 9, 2007). And thus a homily that was heard by a select few becomes relevant to the entire Christian world.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Cuando Mons. Romero pronuncia su última homilía” del 23 de marzo de 1980, el quinto domingo de Cuaresma, ya nos ha llevado a la par de Cristo hasta el umbral de Jerusalén, a las puertas de la ciudad santa, donde Jesús ingresaría próximamente el “Domingo de Ramos”—y con un fuerte paralelismo, Mons. Romero ingresaría a las puertas de los cielos en su funeral. Este domingo antecedente, monseñor reconoce que “es necesario acompañar [a Cristo] en una Cuaresma, en una Semana Santa que es cruz, sacrificio”, y aún, “martirio”, pero que, “ya de por sí la Pascua es grito de victoria: nadie puede apagar aquella vida que Cristo resucitó y ya ni la muerte, ni todos los signos de muerte y de odio contra él, ni contra su Iglesia podrán vencer”. ¡Lo proclama un profeta que el día siguiente será martirizado!

[Esta es la segunda parte de una serie sobre las últimas siete homilías de Monseñor Romero comenzada el año pasado. Para leer el texto original de esta homilía en español, pulse aquí. Para el texto en inglés, pulse acá. Y, para escuchar el audio de Mons. Romero pronunciando la homilía, pulse acá.]

La gloriosa última homilía dominical de Mons. Romero es una recapitulación de los sermones antecedentes en que había expuesto los varios componentes de su denuncia social, incluyendo las críticas canalizadas hacia los sectores populares progresistas que abogan por los pobres. Esta última homilía sería el alegato final, en cual monseñor reitera y replantea su mensaje dirigido hacia los pobres. Comienza, predicando que antes de liberar al pueblo es necesario salvarse uno mismo, individualmente, personalmente, del pecado:
¡Qué fácil es denunciar la injusticia estructural, la violencia institucionalizada, el pecado social! Y es cierto todo eso, pero ¿dónde están las fuentes de ese pecado social?: En el corazón de cada hombre. La sociedad actual es como una especie de sociedad anónima en que nadie se quiere echar la culpa y todos son responsables. Todos son responsables del negocio pero es anónimo. Todos somos pecadores y todos hemos puesto nuestro grano de arena en esta mole de crímenes y de violencia en nuestra Patria.

Por eso, la salvación comienza desde el hombre, desde la dignidad del hombre, de arrancar del pecado a cada hombre …

Esta es la base de nuestra sociología, la que aprendimos de Cristo en su evangelio: el hombre ante todo es al que hay que salvar, y el pecado individual, es lo primero que tenemos que arreglar. Nuestras cuentas con Dios, nuestras relaciones individuales con él, ponen las bases de todo lo demás. Falsos liberadores son aquellos que llevan el alma esclava del pecado y gritan hacia afuera y por eso a veces son tan crueles porque no saben amar ni respetar la persona humana ...

¡Cómo quisiera decirles, hermanos, a todos los que le dan poca importancia a estas relaciones íntimas con Dios, que le den la importancia que tiene! No basta decir: yo soy ateo; yo no creo en Dios; yo no lo ofendo. Si no es cuestión de que tú creas, es que objetivamente tú tienes rotas tus relaciones con el principio de toda vida. Mientras no lo descubras, y no lo sigas, y no lo ames, tú eres una pieza descoyuntada de su origen y por eso llevas en ti mismo el desorden, la desunión, la ingratitud, la falta de fe, de fraternidad. Sin Dios no puede haber un concepto de liberación. Liberaciones inmediatistas sí las puede haber, pero liberaciones definitivas, sólidas, sólo los hombres de la fe las van a realizar.
Solamente después de purificarse uno mismo se puede proceder a liberar al pueblo, Mons. Romero advierte, aseverando una segunda importantísima observación: que sobre todas las pretensiones e ideologías de liberación de los hombres (léase: socialismo, marxismo, capitalismo) está la verdadera liberación, que es la de Jesucristo:
Yo creo que hasta repito demasiado esta idea pero no me cansaré de hacerlo, porque corremos mucho el peligro de querer salir de las situaciones inmediatas con resoluciones inmediatas y nos olvidamos que los inmediatismos pueden ser parches pero no soluciones verdaderas. La solución verdadera tiene que encajar en el proyecto definitivo de Dios. Toda la solución que queramos dar a una mejor distribución de la tierra, a una mejor administración del dinero en El Salvador, a una organización política acomodada al bien común de los salvadoreños, tendrá que buscarse siempre en el conjunto de la liberación definitiva [de Jesucristo] ...

Hay muchos que quieren una justicia, una justicia mía, una justicia de hombres. No trascienden. No es ésa la que me salva, dice San Pablo, es la justicia que viene por la fe de Cristo, mi Señor ... ¿Ven cómo la vida recobra todo su sentido, y el sufrimiento ya es una comunión con el Cristo que sufre, y la muerte es comunión con la muerte que redimió al mundo? ¿Quién puede sentirse inútil ante este tesoro del que ha encontrado a Cristo que le da sentido a la enfermedad, al dolor, a la opresión, a la tortura, a la marginación? ¡No está vencido nadie aunque lo pongan bajo la bota de la opresión y de la represión, el que cree en Cristo, sabe que es un vencedor y que la victoria definitiva será de la verdad y de la justicia! ...
Solamente cuando un proyecto terrenal busque esta “victoria definitiva” de Cristo, la Iglesia puede apoyarlo—pero aquí una última advertencia—la Iglesia no se identifica incondicionalmente con esos proyectos y mantiene su autonomía. La iglesia y sus cristianos deben ser primero cristianos, y someter la política al Evangelio—y no viceversa:
[E]n la medida en que los proyectos históricos traten de reflejar el proyecto eterno de Dios, en esa medida, se van haciendo reflejo del Reino de Dios y este es el trabajo de la Iglesia; por eso Ella, Pueblo de Dios en la historia, no se instala en ningún sistema social, en ninguna organización política, en ningún partido. La Iglesia no se deja cazar por ninguna de esas fuerzas porque ella es la peregrina eterna de la historia y va señalando a todos los momentos históricos lo que sí refleja el Reino de Dios y lo que no refleja el Reino de Dios. Ella es servidora del Reino de Dios...

El gran trabajo de los cristianos tiene que ser ése, empaparse del Reino de Dios y desde -esa alma empapada en el Reino de Dios, trabajar también los proyectos de la historia. Está bien que se organicen en organizaciones populares, está bien que hagan partidos políticos, está bien que tomen parte en el gobierno, está bien con tal que seas un cristiano que llevas el reflejo del Reino de Dios y tratas de implantarlo allí donde estás trabajando, que no seas juguete de las ambiciones de la tierra. Y este es el gran deber de los hombres de hoy. Mis queridos cristianos, siempre les he dicho y lo repetiré, de aquí, del grupo cristiano, del Pueblo de Dios tienen que salir los hombres que van a ser los verdaderos liberadores de nuestro pueblo.

Cualquier proyecto histórico que no se fundamente en eso que dijimos en el primer punto: la dignidad de la persona humana, el querer de Dios, el Reino de Cristo entre los hombres, será un proyecto efímero y será cada vez más estable y será cada vez solución del bien común de los pueblos, según la índole de cada pueblo, el que refleje mejor ese eterno designio de Dios. Por eso hay que agradecerle a la Iglesia, queridos hermanos políticos, no manipular a la Iglesia para llevarla a lo que nosotros queremos que diga, sino decir nosotros lo que la Iglesia está enseñando, no tiene intereses. Yo no tengo ninguna ambición de poder y por eso con toda libertad le digo al poder lo que está bueno y lo que está malo y a cualquier grupo político le digo lo que está bueno y lo que está malo, es mi deber.

[M]uchas veces como que somos acomplejados ante las organizaciones políticas populares y queremos complacerlas más a ellas que al Reino de Dios en sus designios eternos. No tenemos nada que mendigarle a nadie porque tenemos mucho que darle a todos. Y esto no es soberbia sino la humildad agradecida del que ha recibido de Dios una revelación para comunicarla a los demás ...
Mons. Romero termina su homilía con su famoso llamado a un cese de represión y violencia, que lo hace “En nombre de Dios y de este sufrido pueblo, cuyos lamentos suben hasta el cielo cada día más tumultuosos”. Este pedido flagrante, culminante, es el séptimo de una serie de pedidos que monseñor hace in nomine (o sea, en nombre de algo o alguien a quien Mons. Romero defiende), y después de hacerlo, finaliza:
La Iglesia predica su liberación tal como la hemos estudiado hoy en la Sagrada Biblia, una liberación que tiene, por encima de todo, el respeto a la dignidad de la persona, la salvación del bien común del pueblo y la trascendencia que mira ante todo a Dios y sólo de Dios deriva su esperanza y su fuerza. Vamos a proclamar ahora nuestro Credo en esa verdad.
Estas serían las últimas palabras que su feligresía escucharía de sus labios.

Arte: “Obispo Romero y los Mártires de El Salvador”, por Frank Díaz Escalet.

Sigue: «Como Cristo...»


En sus comentarios en el vuelo ha León, Guanajuato el 23 de marzo del 2012, el Papa Benedicto XVI confirmó el mensaje de Mons. Romero sobre la autonomía de la Iglesia: La Iglesia no es un poder político, no es un partido, pero es una realidad moral, un poder moral, dijo el pontífice. Sin embargo, hay en muchos católicos, una cierta esquizofrenia entre la moral individual y la moral pública, señaló: individualmente, son creyentes católicos, pero en la vida pública siguen otros caminos que no responden a los grandes valores del Evangelio que son necesarios para el establecimiento de una sociedad justa”. Ante esta situación, Por supuesto, la Iglesia siempre debe preguntarse si hace lo suficiente por la justicia social en este gran continente, aseveró. En concreto, es una gran responsabilidad de la Iglesia la de educar las conciencias y de educar a la responsabilidad moral y desenmascarar el mal, expuso. Desenmascarar esta idolatría del dinero que esclaviza a los hombres; desenmascarar estas falsas promesas, la mentira, el engaño, siguió diciendo. Debemos ver que el hombre tiene necesidad del infinito. Es importante la presencia de Dios que nos guíe, que nos señale la verdad] y en este sentido la Iglesia desenmascara el mal”. (Comparar Mons. Romero: uno de los servicios que la Iglesia está prestando hoy, es desenmascara idolatrías: idolatría del dinero, idolatría del poder, pretensiones de tener a los hombres de rodillas ante esos falsos dioses—Hom. 24 de feb. de 1980.)

Friday, March 16, 2012


Politicians who are incapable of bringing about the improvements they promised should step aside and let others try their hand, Archbishop Romero tells us in his March 16, 1980 homily—the second to last Sunday sermon before his martyrdom. Romero directs this message, “To government officials: I see two sectors—those who have good will but cannot do what they want and those stubborn and powerful individuals who are responsible” for the injustice. “To the first I say: make your power felt or confess that you cannot command and unmask those who are doing the country great harm under your protection.” And to the obstructionists, Romero says, “you are performing a sad role of betrayal,” and “in the name of honesty and love of the people,” should “free the hands of those who genuinely want to lead the destiny of our people.”

(This is the second part of a series on the final seven homilies of Archbishop Romero started last year. To read the text of this homily in English, click here. For the original text in Spanish, click here. And, to hear the audio of Msgr. Romero delivering the homily, click here.)

The dual targeting that is evident in Romero’s message—to the reformers and to the obstructionists—pervades all of Romero’s final sermons, but his message to the poor and their champions has been overlooked by his followers. Romero’s criticism of the insurrectional leftist sectors cut so deep that it led notorious Romero critic Mgr. Freddy Delgado to erroneously analyze that the Left was behind Romero’s murder (“Mgr. Romero had betrayed the Communist groups and the cause of Marxism-Leninism. In Communist discipline, this meant the death penalty.”). Preposterous conspiracy theories aside, what does Mgr. Romero say to progressives that is worth recovering from the martyr archbishop’s sermons to the poor? In essence, Romero says: (1) that no reform is worth bloodshed, (2) that reformers are obligated to dialogue with other sectors, and (3) that opposition groups need to mature in the ways of democracy.

Blood soaked reforms can never produce fruit,” Romero preaches. Even urgent reforms must be put off if they require bloodshed, he maintains. For example, Archbishop Romero believes that, “Land reform is a theological necessity.” But, “Land reform and the nationalization of banks and other promised reforms cannot produce fruit if the bloodshed continues,” he warns. This is true, he says, “even though this blood is not desired by true reformers and even though this bloodshed was caused by the enemies of reform. This is the fundamental thought of my preaching,” he adds for emphasis, and his analysis of current events demonstrates the extent to which Romero is willing to apply the principle of non-violence to avoid bloodshed.

First and foremost, Romero opposes the prospect of a civil war as a means to usher in needed reforms. “I believe that there are other alternatives,” he says, “and I want to say to all my sisters and brothers that we are not pleased to hear this talk about an impending civil war,” because, “there are rational solutions that we must sincerely seek.” Romero also speaks out in favor of the government’s imposing martial law to suppress violence. “The state of siege certainly presents us with some advantages,” he says—because it clamps down on violence from the left and from paramilitary groups of the far-right. “I believe that this is a good step.” Finally, Romero uses his moral authority to dissuade participants in a general strike from allowing it to degenerate to a mêlée: “In the name of the Church and the gospel I plead with both sides to not turn tomorrow’s events into a bloody or violent confrontation that will inflict on us even more tears of mourning.”

In fact, “the object that the Church offers to collaborate in the present crisis in El Salvador” is “the reconciliation of all people in Christ,” Romero states. “The mission of the Church cannot be different because it is the mission that Christ brought to the world, namely, to reconcile all people in Himself.” Romero invokes St. Paul, from the day’s reading (2 Corinthians 5:17-21), who “speaks with the Corinthians in the same way that I am able to speak here with the saints of San Salvador,” he says. “Yes, all of you who have been baptized and who form the People of God are saints,” he continues. “With the words that Saint Paul spoke to the Corinthians I address you and say: God has entrusted us with the ministry of reconciliation.” Romero points out that this essential mission of the Church is of a spiritual nature: “My dear sisters and brothers, members of the Christian communities and especially my beloved priests, Sisters and catechists, let us accustom ourselves to planting the idea that there can be no reconciliation without Jesus Christ.” It is not, in other words—he spells out—a political mission: “let us never try to supplant the political work of women and men with our pastoral work.”

I am a minister of this Church of reconciliation,” Romero declares, as he invites us to reflect on the Prodigal Son— “the parable of Christian reconciliation” (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32). “Look at the way in which the left denounces the right! Look at the hatred of the right for the left!,” he points out, noting a pervasive polarization. “We need to tear down the barriers! We need to realize that there is one Father who loves everyone and awaits us all!,” and “We need to learn how to pray the Our Father and say: ‘forgive us our sins as we forgive everyone in debt to us’!” The left is obligated to cooperate as much as the right. “There is nothing more opposed to reconciliation than pride,” he warns, addressing “those who believe they are clean and pure, those who believe they have the right to point to others as the cause of injustice and are unable to look within themselves and see that they also have a role to play in the disorders of the country.” It is wrong for, “People [to] believe that they possess the truth and fault others whom they see as evil,” he says. “Do not allow yourself to think that your way of viewing the country is so distinct that you begin to feel that you are the only person who has a solution to our problems,” he admonishes: “it is necessary that people who hold opposing positions enter into a sincere dialogue ... and seek, as Saint Paul stated, to be reconciled with one another in the name of God.”

He directs “a call to the guerrilla groups:” to accept his call to reconciliation. “God desires that we be reconciled and ... make El Salvador a land of sisters and brothers, all children of one Father who waits for us with outstretched arms,” like the Prodigal Son’s father, he says. “I appeal to you and ask you to understand that nothing violent can be lasting,” he pleads. Insurgents must not lash out against the Church when she criticizes their actions, he says, citing a specific instance: “I want to speak to all the members of political groups and say that priests are serving the ministry of reconciliation and therefore I ask you to respect their work and not expose them to threats and accusations that cannot be proven.” The Church is not “going to meddle in your initiatives but we cannot cease to denounce your injustices.” To their political leadership: “I want to say to you that you are our hope if you continue to mature by opening up and dialoging.”

I ask,” Romero invites, “that you pay attention to that which is central to the preaching of the pastor and central to the gospel and our catechesis, central to our Lenten call and to the plan of God with regard to the life of each and every person.” And that’s the message that “the reconciliation of all people in Christ [is] the true plan of liberation.”

Art: Mural at the“Mons. Romero Kindergarten,” near the San Francisco de Asís parish in the Cantizano neighborhood of Mejicanos (San Salvador), created by Miguel Vásquez.

NEXT: «Stop the Repression!»

Post Datum:

Pope Benedict XVI echoed Romero’s themes, again, in his Lent 2012 statements. In his March 7, 2012 general audience, the Holy Father spoke about “the importance of silence in our relationship with God.” Interpreting the Prodigal Son in his March 16, 1980 sermon, Ab. Romero began: “When dealing with this parable rather than preach I would prefer that we would sit in silence and remind ourselves that this passage is a summary of our own personal, individual lives.” Then he said, “My sisters and brothers, I invite all of you to read this passage in your homes or in a church or in some silent place and reflect on your own life.” For, as Benedict stated, “Silence is capable of excavating an interior space in our inmost depths so that God may abide there, so that his Word may remain in us, so that love for him may be rooted in our minds and in our hearts and animate our lives.”

Friday, March 09, 2012


En su homilía del 9 de marzo de 1980, Mons. Romero nos hace saber que en el eventual enfrentamiento entre Juan Pablo II y la revolución nicaragüense, que explotaría en una famosa misa papal en Managua tres años después, en cual una multitud sandinista intercambió consignas y gritos con un Papa que exigió respeto y “silencio”, Mons. Romero estaría al lado del pontífice. Este sería el mismo recorrido papal durante cual Juan Pablo visitara célebremente la tumba de Mons. Romero, demostrando también que el papa estaba al lado del obispo mártir.

[Esta es la segunda parte de una serie sobre las últimas siete homilías de Monseñor Romero comenzada el año pasado. Para leer el texto original de esta homilía en español, pulse aquí. Para el texto en inglés, pulse acá. Y, para escuchar el audio de Mons. Romero pronunciando la homilía, pulse acá.]

Este tercer domingo de Cuaresma de 1980, Mons. Romero cita una carta de Juan Pablo al gobierno sandinista, observándoles que una campaña de alfabetización que no respeta la fe cristiana del pueblo e impone conceptos distintos a los valores cristianos pierde su eficacia. Eso mismo sería el tema del polémico discurso del papa en Managua en 1983, en que rechazaba las “consideraciones terrenas, compromisos ideológicos inaceptables, opciones temporales, incluso concepciones de la Iglesia que suplantan la verdadera” (Misa en Managua, 4 de marzo de 1983). Con la misma energía frustrada que acompañaría a Juan Pablo en Managua en 1983, Mons. Romero lamenta en 1980, “¡Cuántas polarizaciones, cuántas ideologías, cuántos intereses egoístas, cuántos caminos equivocados de los hombres sobre los cuales este día yo quisiera hacer resonar la palabra de Jesucristo: ¡Convertíos!, si no os convertís, pereceréis”.

Comentando “la sabia observación de Juan Pablo II a los gobernantes de Nicaragua”, Mons. Romero nos señala que el mensaje del Papa a los sandinistas, “Es lo que he dicho siempre”. En las palabras del papa, Mons. Romero ve, “lo que platicamos con él personalmente: que apoya la lucha por la justicia social, el amor a los pobres, pero que cuidemos mucho, queridos hermanos de que estos bienes de la tierra, que son justos, no nos hagan olvidar los verdaderos valores cristianos de nuestro pueblo”. El mensaje de Juan Pablo a los sandinistas encaja perfectamente con el mensaje de Mons. Romero a los pobres: “Según el plan de Dios, convertirse es el requisito necesario para la verdadera liberación” (lo considera tan importante que lo vuelve a repetir).

El desafío de Mons. Romero a los líderes del pueblo en esta homilía parte desde la llamada de Jesucristo a la conversión (Lucas 13, 2-5): “Hermanos, si alguna vez vale esta observación del Señor, aquí en nuestra patria, cuando la vida está en peligro por todas partes, es este momento: ¡convertíos!”. Y advierte: “que no nos vaya a sorprender la muerte por los caminos del pecado, de la injusticia, mucho menos del crimen, del desorden”. El reto de Mons. Romero a los liberadores también parte desde la lectura de aquel domingo, en que la voz de Dios manda a Moisés a remover sus sandalias antes de pisar sobre tierra sagrada (Éxodo 3, 5), que Mons. Romero interpreta como la necesidad de los liberadores a someterse a la voluntad de Dios: “los hombres que conducen los pueblos por los caminos de Dios deben tener ellos, personalmente, una experiencia de Dios”, dice. Los liberadores de Israel, “primero tuvieron que aprender un contacto íntimo con el Señor”, y lo mismo debe ser cierto hoy, ya que “Dios está comunicando a Moisés algo que quiere que vivamos todos los cristianos”.

Para concretar el punto, Mons. Romero lo traslada a la actualidad de hoy: “Sin duda que me escucharán muchos políticos, muchos que sin fe en Dios están tratando de hacer una Patria más justa”, supone. “Pero les diré: mis queridos hermanos ateos, mis queridos hermanos que no creen en Cristo, ni en la Iglesia: noble es su lucha pero no es completa”, si se separa de la voluntad de Dios. La conclusión desde “el escarmiento de Israel” es clara: “debemos construir según el Plan de Dios, no según las teorías de los hombres”. Es necesario poner, “sobre todos los proyectos de los hombres, sobre todo los planes políticos, sociales, terrenales, el plan de Dios”. Y es necesario someterse al plan de Dios: “déjense conducir por estos planes de Dios, por estos proyectos de la liberación verdadera, incrusten su afán de justicia en estos proyectos que no terminan en la tierra, sino que le dan a los proyectos de la tierra la verdadera fuerza, el verdadero dinamismo, la verdadera proyección, la verdadera esperanza, la trascendencia”.

Hablar de la superioridad del “Plan de Dios” sobre los proyectos meramente terrenales supone la inferioridad de estos proyectos ante ese plan, y Mons. Romero lo dice sin ambigüedades. Si algunos critican a la Iglesia diciendo que no existe un paraíso celestial en el más allá, Mons. Romero observa que no existe una utopía aquí en la tierra—esa es la verdadera fantasía, pero puede acercarnos a la voluntad de Dios: “Ningún pueblo tiene tierra que mana leche y miel pero ya ese afán de liberación, ese afán de hacer un pueblo más justo, ese afán de arrancar de la opresión y de la injusticia a los pobres y a los oprimidos, es voluntad de Dios”. La tierra prometida “no se encontrará en este mundo pero ... sí pasa por este mundo, y ... esta tierra tiene que ser ya una antesala de ese cielo donde de verdad está la tierra nueva, el cielo nuevo, donde hay verdaderas riquezas que manan leche y miel”. Por ende, la liberación verdadera, predica Mons. Romero, radica desde el “acercar a todos los hombres a esa conversión, a ese seguimiento de Cristo que va caminando hacia la Jerusalén espiritual, hacia el verdadero sentido del cielo, la verdadera resurrección”. Y si la tierra prometida es una Jerusalén “espiritual”, Mons. Romero también apunta a una “victoria final” que es espiritual: “un caminar doloroso entre llanto y luto, entre sufrimientos y penas, coronas de espinas, latigazos, torturas, pero que terminan en la victoria final: la resurrección del Señor es la resurrección de todos nosotros”.

Como de costumbre, Monseñor critica el recurso a la violencia izquierdista, incluyendo las “acciones de agitación como quemas de buses, tomas, [y] huelgas”, ya que “Todo esto también ofende la paz”. Mons. Romero detalla tanto los aproximadamente setenta asesinatos atribuibles a la extrema derecha, como también algunos diez o menos que se atribuyen a la izquierda: “No callamos los pecados también de la izquierda, pero son desproporcionadamente menores ante la violencia represiva”, y los trata según esa proporcionalidad, dando énfasis a la escalada de violencia oficial y analizando las posibles justificaciones que motivan a las dos, dando mucho menos merito a la represión oficial, cuyo fin es denegarle derechos al pueblo. Finalmente, invita a los progresistas a madurar en su capacidad racional: “Hoy se necesita mucho el cristiano activo, crítico, que no acepta las condiciones sin analizarlas internamente y profundamente”; “Ya no queremos masas de hombres con las cuales se ha jugado tanto tiempo”.

Resumiendo, interpone dos preguntas: “¿qué significa hoy para El Salvador, convertirse al Señor por los caminos de Cristo? ¿Quién es el verdadero salvadoreño que se puede llamar hoy Pueblo de Dios?” Y la única respuesta: “El que camina muy adherido a Cristo buscando esa Jerusalén Celestial trabajando por la tierra, pero no por sus propios proyectos sino según el proyecto de Dios trascendente y que nos acerca al Reino del Señor”.

Arte: Mural con la imagen de Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero, ubicado en el Edificio Histórico de la Facultad de Jurisprudencia y Ciencias Sociales de la Universidad de El Salvador, pintado por Giobanny Ascencio y Raul Lemus con acrílico y óleos, 1991

Sigue: La tierra prometida

Friday, March 02, 2012


In his last seven sermons, we accompany Archbishop Romero as he follows Jesus on the road to Jerusalem and to Calvary. We must, the soon-to-be martyr tell us in his March 2, 1980 sermon, accept and embrace the Cross of Jesus. This is, he preaches, the “Theology of Transfiguration,” which accepts the path of suffering as the route to victory and redemption, as Jesus did when he revealed both his divinity and his impending immolation to his disciples at Mt. Tabor.

(This is the second part of a series on the final seven homilies of Archbishop Romero started last year. To read the text of this homily in English, click here. For the original text in Spanish, click here. And, to hear the audio of Msgr. Romero delivering the homily, click here.)

In addition to telling us what his theology is, Romero also tells us what it is not. It is not an incitement to violence: “Those who have interpreted my words that way simply slander me,” he tells us. To the contrary, he is “asking those responsible for this repressive wave to put an end to the use of violence,” and also asking the poor “not to lose their moral sensitivity and critical conscience.” It is not a flirtation with Marxism: To the contrary, Romero sees himself as “a Christian who attempts to defend the Gospel from ideologies that could make our people lose their grace.” And he is not stepping away from the authorized doctrine of the Church: “For me ... communion with the Pope is the secret of the truth and gives efficacy to my preaching,” he clarifies. Remarkably, in carving out these three particular disclaimers, Romero steers clear of the major criticisms that Cardinal Ratzinger made of Liberation Theology four years later, specifically along the same lines. («Libertatis Nuntius,» Aug. 8, 1984.)

Ratzinger also echoes Romero today, when, as Pope, he preaches that Christians are called to “accept every difficulty, affliction and trial with patience and with faith … by following [Jesus] along the way of the Cross.” (Ash Wednesday Catechesis, Feb. 22, 2012.) Romero preaches in March 1980 that, “The Theology of the Transfiguration is telling us that the path of redemption must first pass through the Cross and Calvary.” When Romero preached this, the message was authenticated by Romero’s personal acceptance of his own fate, at a private spiritual retreat the week before. He had been informed of imminent threats to his life. At the end of the retreat, “Romero, the pilgrim (that is what his name means),” his biographer tells us, “had found his way through the darkness and stress of his ‘harsh and grim disposition,’ through his scrupulous perfectionism, to being happy and confident in the assurance that in Jesus was his life and his death.” (Brockman, The Spiritual Journey of Oscar Romero, Spirituality Today, Winter 1990.)

Now, Romero encourages us to likewise trust our fate to Jesus. “My sisters and brothers,” he invites, “let us endeavor to make Christ a part our popular process.” He continues, “What is most important for us at this time in our history is to understand that Christ is the glory of God, the power of God,” he says, “and the scandal and the suffering of the cross should not make us flee from Christ or make us attempt to eliminate suffering but rather we must embrace both suffering and Christ.” Romero’s message—that El Salvador’s reformers had to accept suffering in the immediate term, and seek liberation through a profound spiritual reformation (and not by violence, Marxism, or unauthorized doctrines)—has been largely lost in the narrative of Romero’s and El Salvador’s story, but Romero fleshed out this overarching criticism with more specific critiques.

This is the hour of political programs for El Salvador,” Romero observes, “but those political plans are worthless unless they attempt to reflect God’s plan.” God’s plan, Romero says, is characterized by two litmus prongs: it seeks “to free from something in order to promote toward something”—to free us from sin in order to promote us toward a transcendent aspiration. In essence, Romero tells us that the Left’s program is failing on both fronts. “Sin is the cause of all the injustices that occur in our history,” he prefaces. “The first liberation to be proposed by a political group that truly desires the liberation of people should be to free people from sin.” In fact, all would-be liberators have to first liberate themselves from sin: “As long as one is a slave of sin, of selfishness, violence, cruelty and hatred then such a person is not suited to struggle for people’s liberation,” he warns.

After freeing us from sin, true liberation promotes us toward salvation, he says: “let us not lose sight of the transcendence of the Christian message, no matter how great our concerns or our responsibilities in the struggles of [the] people.” We must “not be content with immanent energy but let us also realize the need for transcendence,” he preaches. Therefore, “The Church will continue to demand of all liberators that if they want to be strong and effective then they must place their trust in the great liberator Jesus Christ,” he says. Then, he cautions, “Be very careful of robbing the people of those Christian sentiments that make our people so noble and vigorous!

Romero also criticizes, once again, specific abuses, including hostage taking (“enough time has passed and these persons should be given their freedom”), occupations of churches (“an abuse of the sentiments of the Christian people”), false accusations of the clergy (“our pastors who are ministering on behalf of the people are slandered by organized groups who have taken over the parish church”), provocations that endanger civilians (“the terror that the campesinos experience is provoked at times by the popular organizations”), and even imprudent advertising expenses by one opposition group (“could not something more beneficial for people be done with this money?”).

But the heart of his criticism is spiritual. Insisting on transcendence, he insists, will yield practical results: “No one works on this earth and on behalf of the political liberation of people with more enthusiasm,” he says, “than those who hope that the liberating struggles of history become incorporated into the great liberation of Christ.” In fact, he adds, “No one has the power of a Christian who has faith in Christ who lives and is the power of God.” And ultimately, no human leader could ever inspire the devoted following of Jesus, because no human leader could offer resurrection and afterlife, in addition to a better life here, he points out.

In the final analysis, Romero returns to an argument he had been making for years—that only faithful Christians could liberate El Salvador. “We as Christian are called to offer to the history of the Latin American Continent the new people” necessary to operate new structures that might otherwise become corrupt like the old structures, Romero declares. “The new women and men,” he says, “are those who with faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ embrace as their own the great theology of the transfiguration.” People who are willing to suffer the consequences of making Christian choices aimed at ultimate salvation, as Romero was.

Art: Laura Sofía, “El Santo de mi Pueblo,” acrylic, color pencil and ink on canvas. Colectiva Abierta exhibition, March 2011 catalog, San Salvador.

Next: The Church, called to repentance, called to prophecy

Post Datum:

A nice contrast to Romero’s warning to “not lose sight of the transcendence of the Christian message” is presented in an op ed that ran in yesterday’s Co Latino, El Salvador’s leftist paper. In it, a progressive commentator with an affinity for Liberation Theology writes: “To fix one’s gaze and hope in the hereafter ... can be the mortal sin that thousands upon thousands have fallen into when they trust their leaders, who have made them inhuman, because they discriminate against worldly things, marginalizing themselves from the reality that afflicts them, bites them and destroys them in the here and now, as it does all worldly creatures.” Compare Romero who argues that, “as we talk about heaven we are not speaking of some form of alienation,” but of an even deeper, more meaningful commitment to justice by those who ‘fix their gaze and hope in the hereafter.’