Friday, 6 August 2010

Another beatification?

One of the difficulties accompanying both John Henry Newman and Oscar Romero, seen as candidates for canonisation, is the way in which their life in the Church is "politicised" by ecclesial commentators. Liberal and conservative Catholics fight for "ownership" of Newman, and Romero is championed by liberal Catholics and ignored by conservatives. This is somewhat of a caricature, I know, but it does reflect a reality. What is really required is an attitude of openness and receptivity, which sees the lives and personalities of both as gifts of God, given for the spiritual good of the Church. We need to let the two speak for themselves.

In this context, Thinking Faith's article Another beatification? suggests an interesting point. This is that the concerns which characterise Newman's life are the same as those that characterise Romero's:
Among them are: his way of thinking, his search for objective truth, his faith in infallible authority, his concern for the role of the laity and church unity, and finally his trusting surrender to God’s providence. Each of these issues also figured prominently in the life of Archbishop Romero and gave depth to the religious faith he shared with others.

I do not know enough about Cardinal Newman and Archbishop Romero to verify these individual points; but all my reading of Archbishop Romero's original words suggests that he was completely loyal to the teaching of the Church. The suggestion of parallels between him and Newman is one that is worth pursuing.

One wonders whether the author of this article is airing what he senses as a grievance at the beatification of John Henry Newman occuring when, as yet, there appears to be no sign of Oscar Romero being beatified. Tucked away in the article is a classic of the "spirit of Vatican II", perhaps a product of editing or of hasty writing, perhaps not:
The great contribution of the Second Vatican Council was to offer a new vision of the Church, which saw it not as a hierarchical structure, but rather a communion of equals.
Er, chapter 3 of the Constitution Lumen Gentium on the Church is entitled in the Latin original: "De constitutione Hierarchica Ecclesiae et in specie de Episcopatu", translated in the version on the Vatican website as "On the hierarchical structure of the Church, and in particular on the Episcopate". There is, of course, an element of truth in this "spirit of Vatican II -ism" in that all the faithful are equal before God in terms of their being called to holiness, to growth in the spiritual life. But, as far as offices held in the Church are concerned, Lumen Gentium provides an explicit teaching on the difference of offices in the church. This slip is a shame, as I think the underlying idea that a commonality of concerns, and so a common worthiness as candidates for beatification and canonisation, can be found in the lives and missions of John Henry Newman and Oscar Romero in the Church is one that is worth exploring.


Jack said...

I wonder if the 'Day of Prayer and Fasting for Missionary Martyrs', observed in Italy and many parts of Asia, in some way rescues the memory of Oscar Romero from ideological manipulation. This day is kept annually on the anniversary of Romero's death, whose martyrdom was acknowledged, as I read it, by Pope Benedict in his Angelus message on the 25 March, 2007.
I have never seen or heard of this annual event being promoted here, in England and Wales, which is somewhat surprising, especially as a very prominent Catholic agency seems to wrap itself in Romero's mantle.

Joe said...

Thank you, Mark, for your comment. The part of the Angelus address to which you refer is as follows, and I think I agree with you that it implies an acknowledgement of Archbishop Romero's death as being a martyrdom.

"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your Word". Mary's reply to the Angel is extended in the Church, which is called to make Christ present in history, offering her own availability so that God may continue to visit humanity with his mercy. The "yes" of Jesus and Mary is thus renewed in the "yes" of the saints, especially martyrs who are killed because of the Gospel.

I stress this because yesterday, 24 March, the anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, we celebrated the "Day of Prayer and Fasting for Missionary Martyrs": Bishops, priests, Religious and lay people struck down while carrying out their mission of evangelization and human promotion.

These missionary martyrs, as this year's theme says, are the "hope of the world", because they bear witness that Christ's love is stronger than violence and hatred. They did not seek martyrdom, but they were ready to give their lives in order to remain faithful to the Gospel. Christian martyrdom is only justified when it is a supreme act of love for God and our brethren.

In this Lenten Season we often contemplate Our Lady, who on Calvary sealed the "yes" she pronounced at Nazareth. United to Christ, Witness of the Father's love, Mary lived martyrdom of the soul. Let us call on her intercession with confidence, so that the Church, faithful to her mission, may offer to the whole world a courageous witness of God's love.

Joe said...

William Oddie has a post on Newman's approach to the question of Church unity:

Polemical in nature, but not irrelevant to the suggestion that Newman and Romero shared an anxiety for Church unity.