BEATIFICATION OF ARCHBISHOP ROMERO, MAY 23, 2015
This is a new installment in a series of posts that I want to entitle “The Church of Archbishop Romero Amidst the Crisis” (to read the previous two posts, please click here and here). But when we speak of the church in the midst of a “crisis”, which crisis do we refer to? This is a defining, threshold question for the Church and a touchstone whose answer can determine whether it will be up to the task ahead. So I ask again: what is the crisis facing the Salvadoran Church—is it the violence in the country, or the allegations of sexual abuse of minors that have been made recently?
As I argued in my previous note, the two things are related. The key is to be willing to accuse and be accused. “It is necessary to recall today,” Archbishop Romero wrote in his fourth pastoral letter, “the denunciations and criticism that draw attention to our own failings as the human components of the church. For at a time of national crisis those of us who feel it our duty to denounce the sin that lies at the root of the crisis ought also to be ready to be criticized so as to bring about our own conversion and to build up a church that can be, for our own people, what Vatican II defines as the national sacrament of salvation (Lumen Gentium, #48).” That principle cannot be stated more clearly.
But there is also a danger that Romero points out in the same letter. “An organization runs the risk of turning itself into an absolute and of becoming an idol,” says Blessed Romero, if “the limited interests of the group, cause it to lose sight of those wide, transcendent perspectives, and lose hold of the ideal of the country's common good.” Pope Francis warns of the danger and gives us an unmistakable direction of what is the most important challenge facing the Church. “An evangelizing community,” says the Pope in his Apostolic Exhortation EVANGELII GAUDIUM, “gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives … it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others.” [EG, 24.] The Church must not be self-referential, says the Pontiff:
- “That the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.” [E.G., 27.]
- “A missionary heart … makes itself «weak with the weak and everything for everyone» (1 Cor 9:22). It never closes itself off, never retreats into its own security, never opts for rigidity and defensiveness.” [E.G., 45.]
- “Those who have fallen into this worldliness look on from above and afar, they reject the prophecy of their brothers and sisters, they discredit those who raise questions ... We need to avoid it by making the Church constantly go out from herself, keeping her mission focused on … her commitment to the poor.” [E.G., 97.]
May the holy doors opened to inaugurate the Year of Mercy in the country be exit doors, and icons of an opening to the denunciation that will reconstitute the Church. That it not close itself off in defensiveness, but go out of itself in missionary openness to the poor.