BEATIFICATION OF ARCHBISHOP ROMERO, MAY 23, 2015
“Everyone who accuses must be ready to be accused,” said Blessed Archbishop Oscar Romero. “If the Church accuses others of injustice, it must also be ready to hear itself accused and is obliged to be converted.” (February 17, 1980 Homily.)
The very serious allegations of sexual abuse against the Salvadoran Church that have come to light in recent weeks, which have unleashed the biggest crisis in its history and link it with the global child sex abuse scandal, also present an opportunity. It is precisely the opportunity Blessed Romero spoke of in the foregoing quote: the chance to denounce and be denounced. “We would be very mistaken to think that the greatest institution in the world is the Church,” Romero said on another occasion. “Unfortunately, many view the Church in this way. They see the Church as incapable of sin, immaculate and untouchable.” But this is not so: “within the Church there are sinners. Bishops, priests … who call themselves Christian [but] are sinners in need of purification. Woe to the Christian, the bishop and priest who feels they are so perfect that they can scold others,” while not subjecting themselves to the same examination and denunciation. (Nov. 5, 1978 Hom.)
In a way, the danger to the Salvadoran Church is not from the accusations. It would be much more dangerous if it sought to evade being accused. Blessed Romero, who was clean of any abuse or concealment, is a mark of authenticity for the Church. “If we think and feel with Romero,” Archbishop Paglia said during the beatification ceremony, “El Salvador and the world will change.” Only if the Salvadoran Church thinks and feels with Romero can it regain the trust of the faithful, who, as a new poll in San Salvador indicates, see Romero as the benchmark of holiness. To Think and Feel With Romero means not only holding up Romero as a standard, because that's not enough. To some extent, it is counterproductive, because, as the Pope Francis told the Salvadoran bishops: “A martyr is not [only] a lovely image that adorns our churches.” Romero as an icon will only draw a contrast: a challenge to the Church to dare to be like he was.
To Think and Feel With Romero, the Church must be fully open to accusation and willing to be brought to justice. But more, it must once again run the risks of one who accuses, it must become a prophetic voice that advocates and defends the people. It is must leave itself completely exposed and be willing to give everything for God, the gospel, and the poor.