BEATIFICATION OF ARCHBISHOP ROMERO, MAY 23, 2015
|Super Martyrio's count of Romero/El Salvador stories on NCR shows a steep dropoff after a large spate of stories related to the beatification last year. This year so far has the fewest stories since 2012.|
The U.S. Bishops designated Blessed Oscar Romero a “Witness to Freedom”—to the disinterest of the U.S. Catholic press, which has ignored the story. Not a word about it in NCR.
The National Catholic Reporter used to cover Oscar Romero so often that it once went as far as to write that, “We sometimes ponder who has gotten the most coverage (‘ink’) from NCR over the years, Dorothy Day or Oscar Romero. Probably about even.” NCR’s Romero coverage, which has in the past included my own work, is down precipitously this year. A cynic might say that, now that Romero has been beatified and has become a symbol of Catholic officialdom, the dissident-minded NCR has abandoned him. Let’s assume that’s not the reason, but regardless of what the explanation for the shut-out, here are three reasons NCR and its readers should not let up on Romero and El Salvador this year.
First, there is a lot going on in El Salvador and the country needs North American solidarity as much as ever. El Salvador is plagued by gang violence that has recently brought murder rates to crisis levels not seen since the 1980s civil war. Efforts to extradite Salvadoran army officers accused of the 1989 San Salvador Jesuit Massacre have come to their high noon hour and the need for international pressure to be brought to bear on the Salvadoran government to live up to its international human rights commitments is very grave.
Second, the Salvadoran Church has shown a dramatic willingness to take up the example of Romero and international support for its efforts would be a shot in the arm. Among other things, current San Salvador Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas has released a ground-breaking and staggering pastoral letter addressing the pervasive violence in El Salvador that is truly prophetic, and updates Romero’s legacy in the Age of Francis. That NCR has not covered this story is an oversight that cries out to be corrected.
Third and finally, Romero lives—as he prophesied he would—in the Salvadoran people. For years leading up to the beatification, progressives have fretted that the beatified Romero would become a watered-down saint. Yet here is a story playing out where Romero is being integrated into the folk fervor of ordinary Salvadorans, at the same time that the core message of Liberation Theology is resonating once again not only in Latin America but in the corridors of the Vatican. While Romero has been embraced by Catholic officialdom, he continues to challenge and appeal to conscience of Christians the world over, in a message rendered fresh by new violence and prosecution, as well as the magisterium of a Latin American pope.
This is a time when NCR should intensify its coverage and analysis of Romero, following his much longed-for beatification. It is certainly not the time to close this book and file it on the shelf.