Tuesday, July 25, 2006

THE CASE AGAINST ROMERO: The Delgado Hypothesis

Archbishop Romero is called a "controversial" contender for sainthood mostly by sources outside the Church structure. A 1998 declaration by the Ecumenical Commission of the Central Committee of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, however, found that there are are controversial figures in Church history, and there are holy people whose merit is "recognised beyond confessional boundaries," because their renown is so universal. The declaration specifically mentioned Archbishop Romero as an example of the undisputed cases. The declaration made clear that Archbishop Romero is not only recognized in Catholic circles, but in the "full communion" of Christendom.

Nevertheless, a few intransigent Catholics have been inflexible in their opposition to Romero’s sainthood cause. Perhaps the most stubborn of these was the Salvadoran bishop Freddy Delgado, who made the case against Romero in a strident letter entitled, "Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero: A figure manipulated by the parallel magisterium." In his paper, Delgado argues that Romero was manipulated by a shadow Church hierarchy controlled by Liberation Theologians and Jesuits (a "Parallel Magisterium"). They got Romero to do their bidding by playing to his vanity, servile nature, and spinelessness. (Vain, despite the fact that he turned down the Archbishop’s Palace for a modest shack in a cancer ward; servile, despite the fact that he challenged the government, the military and the oligarchy; and, spineless, despite the fact that he refused security guards and defied death threats!) Delgado’s central hypothesis was that Romero was a stooge, led by the nose by a committee of elitist Marxist intellectuals until he was corrected by Pope John Paul II. When the chastised Romero began to tow the line, Delgado says, the leftists realized he was more beneficial to them dead than alive. He leaves the door open to the scandalous proposition that the left was behind the assassination.

Despite its flagrant inaccuracies and irregularities, the Delgado hypothesis was historically the central Catholic critique of Romero’s legacy and his canonization process. Much of the Delgado hypothesis has been widely refuted already, especially by the findings by a Church commission which concluded that Romero’s preaching, far from being aligned with a “parallel magisterium,” adhered vigorously to the doctrinal teaching of the Church. Historical investigations by Church and other researchers have also discredited the "facts" cited by Delgado. But, one part of the the Delgado’s hypothesis which has survived until now is the notion that the left has approppriated Romero’s image and therefore any boost to his memory of legacy will play in favor of the Marxist cause more than it will benefit Christianity or Catholicism. By all accounts, the status of the canonization cause is that it is complete except for the date of the beatification ceremony, which the Vatican is reluctant to set because the time is not ripe yet. If Romero were canonized now, it would be manipulated politically (presumably by the left).

And so the case against Romero comes down to discredited conspiracy theories and political timing. The devil’s advocates out there have swiched their strategy from outright obstruction to simple delaying tactics.
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