Monday, 29 April 2013

Archbishop Romero: a cause unblocked

I have always had some difficulty understanding why the cause for the canonisation of Archbishop Romero has not progressed. I had sometimes wondered whether it was in part down to the fact that those Catholics who admire him might not have an interest in seeing through the processes required for canonisation. Talk of the cause being "blocked" in Rome would appear now have some foundation, though it has always struck me that any "blocking" of that type would be somewhat ill informed and/or short sighted. Far better, whatever the ecclesiastical politics in play, to let the facts speak for themselves and the cause to play out according to due process.

The underlying concern behind this "blocking" has been, so far as I can tell, that the beatification and canonisation of Archbishop Romero might give encouragement to trends in theological reflection and ecclesial practice normally ascribed to "liberation theology" - even though it does not take a detailed reading of, for example, Archbishop Romero's four pastoral letters to realise that he in no way espoused such thinking or practice. A perception that, among those supporting Archbishop Romero's cause, are some not known for their faithfulness in matters ecclesial might also have represented a barrier - though, again, one cannot read, for example, the pastoral letters without gaining a sense of an Archbishop profoundly faithful to the magisterium of the Church. [This report of the unblocking at - which ends describing Archbishop Romero as a "patron saint of liberation theology" - rather illustrates the problematic misapprehension that might have been behind the "blocking".]

The website of the Archbishop Romero Trust makes available much of the primary documentation with regard to  Archbishop Romero, and it is worth a visit. I would particularly commend the text of the Romero Lecture delivered in 2007 by Mgr Urioste, who was the Vicar General of the Diocese of San Salvador during Archbishop Romero's time as the pastor of the archdiocese. The title of the Lecture is "A Saint for the 21st Century".  The following passage is taken from page 7 of the text:
It is said of Archbishop Romero that he changed drastically with the murder of Father Rutilio Grande, and that his conversion happened less than one month after he became Archbishop. I don't believe that this is so. I believe that Monseñor Romero was someone who always, throughout his life, sought conversion. It was something similar to what Mark tells us about when Jesus cured a blind man. When they arrived at Bethsaida, they brought him a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on him and asked: "Do you see anything?" Looking up the blind man replied: "I see people who look like trees, walking". Then Jesus laid hands on his eyes a second time and he saw clearly, his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly" (Mark 8:22-25). Monseñor Romero also began to see gradually, as he discovered more about the Gospel and the painful situation of the people. All of these changed him. He never spoke of himself in terms of conversion; he spoke of evolution. For this reason he wrote: "readiness to change. He who fails to change will not gain the Kingdom." This is why he adds: "When we escape from reality, we escape from God."
I think this testimony to a "hermeneutic of continuity" in the life of Archbishop Romero, rather than to a "hermeneutic of rupture", by one of his closest collaborators, is very important for understanding Archbishop Romero's person and mission in the Church. I would hope that the "unblocking" of his cause will allow it to become more widely known.

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