Friday, April 28, 2017

Blessed Romero, martyr of the “faith-as-lived”


Work by Edgardo Trejo Alemán

#BlessedRomero #Beatification

This was originally published over at on April 25, 2017.

Is the juxtaposition of “the new martyrs” vs. “the old martyrs” in the Church really fair? It suggests that while martyrs used to be killed for hatred of the faith, they now die for “odium amoris” and other formulations of the canon law requirements for martyrdom. It may simply be that the “New Martyrs” seem “new” to us because of the novelty that their martyrdoms happened in the cultural context of our modern times ...

Colombian Bishop Héctor Julio López Hurtado told Crux in 2015 that Colombia doesn’t have martyrs like St. Thomas More, the Renaissance era English lawyer killed for upholding Catholic doctrine, but it does have Romero-style martyrs, who were killed for refusing to abandon their posts despite the dangers of staying put.

But, is there such a gulf between More and Romero?  The two may not be as far apart as we might think if we look at the fundamentals of their martyrdoms.

More was convicted of treason and beheaded under King Henry VIII after he refused to acknowledge the annulment of Henry’s marriage, or to subsequently recognize Henry as Head of the Church of England.

The saint contended that Henry’s Act of Supremacy was contrary “to the laws of God and his holy Church.” He maintained that “no temporal prince” could do away with legal precepts established in the Church.  Thus, More died a martyr for the supremacy of the law of God over human whim.

Romero was killed on March 24, 1980 because he had delivered a stinging sermon on March 23, defending the poor and purporting to “command” the army “in the name of God” to defy military orders to kill civilians.

Before an order to kill that a man may give,” Romero railed, “God’s law must prevail that says: Thou shalt not kill!  No soldier is obliged to obey an order against the law of God.”

Romero’s death sentence was sealed when he pronounced those words, because the Salvadoran military-like King Henry’s Henchmen-saw Romero’s defense of the primacy of divine law as an inexpedient affront to the prevailing political order.  However, as in the case of More, these political overtones to their motives do not overtake the fact that their motivations included an animus against his faith-inspired resistance.

Read the rest of my piece at

Prof. Roberto Morozzo della Rocca, the historical consultant to Blessed Romero’s cause responds with the following insightful thoughts:

The difficulty is that the practice in the Catholic Church over the last few centuries has altered and restricted the concept of killing in hatred of the faith. For St. Thomas Aquinas, hatred of faith mainly concerned the hatred of the faith as lived, that is, hatred of how Christians lived and practiced their faith in actuality. Romero’s case would not have raised a doubt for St. Thomas Aquinas: Romero was killed for the faith he lived, in love for and in defense of the poor, in his call for justice, and so on. But in recent centuries the Catholic Church, in recognizing martyrdoms, has insisted more on the hatred of the faith as professed than hatred of the faith as lived. That is, it has seen martyrs more as flag bearers than as witnesses of a way of life. St. Thomas Aquinas cites John the Baptist’s example as a martyr of the faith as lived and not the faith as professed: his killer hated him not because of faith in itself but because John the Baptist criticized him in the name of justice. In my opinion, it was right to insist on hatred of the faith as lived in Romero’s assassination. I remember that Karl Rahner wrote that Romero had not been killed in hatred of the faith but in hatred of justice, but that was erroneous because Romero insisted on justice because of his faith and it is this belief that his killers attacked when they killed him at the altar while he was about to consecrate the body and blood of the Lord. I believe that Romero’s beatification can also be important in returning to the older and most authentic tradition that hatred of faith concerns the way of life of the martyrs and not just their identity card (i.e., only the faith as professed).

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