Tuesday, May 22, 2012


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Between Óscar Romero and Bl. Clemens August von Galen (1878-1946), which bishop earned a reputation as a champion of the poor, and which denounced writing off the infirmed as useless? Which challenged his country’s military to stop its abuses, and which claimed to serve a “Church of Martyrs?” The answer (to all questions) is: both. That’s why Msgr. Luigi Padovese told the 2005 World Synod of Bishops that the memory of “Bishops such as Clemens Von Galen and Oscar Romero is a living testimony of the bond between the memorial of the sacrifice of Jesus,” and the authentic prophetic ministry of today. (Interventions, Oct. 10, 2005—tragically, Padovese was murdered five years later.)

Four decades before Archbishop Romero famously ordered the Salvadoran army to “stop the repression,” the “Lion of Münster” (Germany) had stared down Hitler’s Gestapo, “in the name of the upright German people, in the name of the majesty of Justice, in the interests of peace and the solidarity of the home front,” and had petitioned, “as a German, an honorable citizen, a representative of the Christian religion, a Catholic bishop ... we demand justice! (July 13, 1941 Homily—von Galen’s homilies cited here are reported in “Four Sermons in Defiance of the Nazis.”) Conversely, forty years after Bishop von Galen denounced the programmatic euthanasia carried out by the Nazis, Romero warned modern medicine against “approaching the theory of Hitler and the German system of eliminating individuals who are useless.” (Oct. 9, 1977 Hom.) In words that presaged Blessed John Paul’s denunciation of a “Culture of Death,” Romero formulated a theological continuum between opposing abortion and euthanasia on the one hand, and promoting integral development and denouncing injustice on the other hand: “If abortion is logical then the process of the elimination of other people also is logical.” (Ibid.)

Like Romero, the noble-born count and bishop, von Galen, “was particularly remembered for his special concern for the poor and outcasts,” since his days as a parish priest. (Beatification Profile.) “His time spent in Berlin was spent in service to the needy” through traditional charitable practices, such as, “helping the poor, checking on his parishioners, and giving what he could to whomever he could.” (Kratofil, Bishop von Galen: A Catholic Leader Who Spoke Out.) In this way, von Galen earned himself “a reputation for helping the downtrodden of society.” (Id.) This concern for the downtrodden would carry through to von Galen’s famous sermons decrying Nazi abuse of power and defending the victims of Hitler’s killing apparatus.

Like Romero after him, von Galen was pushed from traditional piety to prophetic denunciation by the extraordinary events of his day. As a fitting metaphor for their similar circumstances, both bishops literally were forced out of their cathedrals to preach their climactic sermons almost as itinerant ministers or exiled prophets. Romero preached in churches like El Rosario and El Sagrado Corazón while the Metropolitan Cathedral was occupied by rebels, and von Galen preached in the Church of St Lambert and in Liebfrauen-Ueberlassen Church, after his diocesan cathedral was damaged by Allied bombing. (Beat. Profile, supra.)

In a series of remarkable sermons in response to unwarranted attacks by the National Socialists, Bishop von Galen broke away from strictly pious spirituality in his preaching, and began to touch on political themes. In 1936, he denounced the regime’s heavy handed attempts to reign in the Church. “How are the holy church, the Pope, the bishops, the priests, the members of religious orders, how are the faithful children of the church in Germany disparaged, defamed, derided, publicly and without sanction,” he deplored. “How many Catholics, priests and laity, have been attacked and abused in newspapers and in meetings, have been driven out of their professions and positions, and have without due process of law been imprisoned and maltreated.” (Feb. 9, 1936 Hom.) One is reminded of Romero’s words at Leuven: “In less than three years, more than fifty priests have been attacked, threatened and slandered. Six of them are martyrs, having been assassinated ... Religious women have also been the object of persecution. The archdiocesan radio station, Catholic educational institutions and Christian religious institutions have been constantly attacked, menaced, threatened with bombs. Various parish convents have been sacked ...” (Feb. 2, 1980 Address at Leuven University.)

Bishop von Galen’s denunciation reached its crescendo the summer of 1941, when his sermons provided a blow-by-blow account of the regime’s persecution: “the attack on the religious orders which has long been raging in Austria, South Germany and the newly acquired territories of the Warthegau, Luxembourg, Lorraine and other parts of the Reich, has now stricken Westphalia.” (July 13, 1941 Hom.). “[Y]esterday, 12th July, the State Secret Police confiscated the two residences of the Society of Jesus in our city.” (Ibid.) “Yesterday, too, the same cruel fate was inflicted on the missionary sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Steinfurter Strasse, Wilkinghege.” (Id.) “[D]uring the past week the Gestapo has continued its campaign of annihilation against the Catholic orders. On Wednesday 30th July they occupied the administrative centre of the province of the Sisters of Our Lady in Mühlhausen.” (Aug. 3, 1941 Hom.) “On Thursday 31st July, according to reliable accounts, the monastery of the missionary brothers of Hiltrup in Hamm was also occupied and confiscated by the Gestapo and the monks were evicted.” Etc. Romero, of course, maintained a similar practice.

Like Archbishop Romero, Bishop von Galen saw himself forced to publically defend one Catholic order in particular: “I testify as a German and a bishop that I have the greatest respect and reverence for the Jesuit order, which I have known from the closest observation since my early youth for the last fifty years, that I remain bound in love and gratitude until my last breath to the Society of Jesus, my teachers, tutors and friends, and that today I have all the greater reverence for them.” (Jul. 13, supra.) Also like Archbishop Romero, Bishop von Galen had to declare: “Do not be surprised if the good Lord sends us times of trial; Our church is the church of martyrs.” (1936 Hom., supra. Compare Romero’s claim that his was, “a Church that is alive, a Church of martyrs, a Church that is filled with the Holy Spirit.”—Dec. 31, 1978 Hom.) Both bishops found solace in John 15:18: “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” And von Galen’s citation of John 16:2 was especially prophetic: “The time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.” (1936, Id.)

Both bishops were targeted for execution—the difference is that the attempts against Romero’s life were successful. After von Galen’s 1941 sermons, a Nazi official proposed to Martin Bormann that the Bishop be killed, and on October 10, 1943 the Bishop's residence was bombed. (Beat. Profile, supra.) Like the March 9, 1980 bombing attempt of the Sagrado Corazón Basilica while Archbishop Romero was presiding mass, the bombing attempt against von Galen failed. “We Christians, of course,” von Galen declared, “are not aiming at revolution.” The Church was on the side of the German people, he said, and would not take arms even against “the enemy within” who wished to do it harm: “we cannot fight with arms. Against him we have only one weapon: endurance—strong, tough, hard endurance.” (Similarly, Archbishop Romero described how the Letters of St. Paul provided the “endurance and encouragement that we need today in order to live in this historical time.”—Dec. 4, 1977 Hom.)

Pope Benedict XVI has, not surprisingly, praised, in similar terms, both bishops. “All of us, and particularly we Germans,” Benedict said when von Galen was beatified in 2005, “are grateful because the Lord has given us this great witness of faith who made the light of truth shine out in dark times and had the courage to oppose the power of tyranny.” (October 9, 2005 Greeting.) He highlighted the same traits of witnessing the faith and opposing tyranny in El Salvador’s martyr: “Archbishop Romero was certainly an important witness of the faith, a man of great Christian virtue who worked for peace and against the dictatorship.” (May 9, 2007 Remarks to Reporters.)

And so he was.

Friday, May 18, 2012


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Desde sus nichos en la Abadía de Westminster entre otros mártires cristianos del siglo XX, San Maximiliano Kolbe (1894-1941) y Mons. Romero dan fe de la naturaleza alevosa de la persecución de los cristianos en nuestros tiempos, y del discernimiento que la Iglesia debe practicar para resistir el engaño de los tiranos modernos.

San Maximiliano cayó víctima de las exterminaciones de los nazis, detenido en las redadas en contra de religiosos y otros grupos desfavorecidos por los fascistas, y asesinado en un campo de concentración cuando el fraile franciscano polaco se ofreció para sacrificarse en lugar de otro condenado a la muerte que se preguntó qué sería de su familia si él fuera ultimado. Aunque su martirio antedata del de Mons. Romero por cuatro décadas, el holocausto de San Maximiliano nos ilumina las tinieblas de la ofuscación que dice que tales persecuciones son meramente revanchas políticas o actos de guerra. ¡Con que razón el Beato Juan Pablo II declaró a San Maximiliano el “patrono de nuestro difícil siglo [XX]”, al canonizarlo—y cómo puede aplicarse el mismo rubro a Mons. Romero!

La identidad singular entre los dos martirios se reconoce desde diversos elementos, tal como la mayor preocupación que tuvieron estas dos víctimas por el bien de sus hermanos y no por el propio. San Maximiliano fue conmovido cuando su compañero condenado a la muerte lamentaba, “Pobre esposa mía; pobres hijos míos”. Fue entonces que San Maximiliano ofreció inmolarse para salvar la vida de su compañero: “Soy un sacerdote católico polaco, estoy ya viejo. Querría ocupar el puesto de ese hombre que tiene esposa e hijos”. Similarmente, cuando Mons. Romero comenzó a recibir amenazas anónimas de muerte, su preocupación primordial fue que en un atentado en su contra, perecieran otros inocentes. El día de su martirio, cuando su participación en una misa privada fue publicada en un periódico, otro sacerdote ofreció celebrarla, pero Mons. Romero prefirió correr el peligro fatal que desplazarlo hacia otro. (WOODARD, Making Saints: How the Catholic Church Determines Who Becomes a Saint, Who Doesn’t, And Why 37 (Simon and Schuster, 1990.) Desde sus dos accionares, Mons. Romero y San Maximiliano confirman la insignia de un mártir: “Nadie tiene mayor amor que el que da su vida por sus amigos”. (Juan 15, 13.)

Tanto Mons. Romero como San Maximiliano dan testimonio de la fe cristiana. En su sacerdocio, San Maximiliano promovió la veneración a la Virgen y en especial a su Inmaculado Corazón. Por su parte, Mons. Romero se encargó del custodio de la Virgen de la Paz en los años de su sacerdocio en San Miguel y su devoción mariana resaltaba todavía cuando habló ya siendo arzobispo, “desde el seno inmaculado de María a todos los trabajadores de la Iglesia para que sean limpios y puros en su mensaje y tengan siempre los grandes ideales de María”. (Homilía del 8 de diciembre de 1977.) Resaltaba su devoción cuando predicaba que la Iglesia, “cuanto más mariana lo sea, lo será más cristiana, porque nadie fue tan cristiana como María”, ya que sólo “sintiendo tan íntimamente como María la misión y la santidad de Cristo se puede ser su representante” (hom. 22 de oct. de 1978) y llevar, “El ideal de alejarse más y más del pecado y evitar que entre el pecado en el mundo; el ideal de llenarse más y más de la vida de Dios, de la gracia santificante” (dic. 1977, supra).

Las hojas de vida de los dos hombres se mantienen en sintonía con sus virtudes. Los dos mantuvieron una intensa actividad misionera. San Maximiliano fue misionero en el Japón, y durante su corta carrera fundó dos periódicos, El Caballero de la Inmaculada y El Pequeño Diario; en el Japón, empezó a editar hasta ocho revistas católicas. Mons. Romero redactó el Semanario Chaparrastique (ene. 1945-sep. 1967), el Diario de Oriente (ene. 1968-oct. 1976); se publicó en La Prensa Gráfica (jun. 1969-ago. 1972); redactó el Semanario El Apóstol (sep. 1975-nov. 1976); y el Semanario Orientación (mayo 1971-dic. 1978). Su eficacia evangelizadora fue resaltada por el Papa Benedicto XVI cuando alabó el estímulo a los sentimientos religiosos de El Salvador después de que el Evangelio fuese “predicado también con fervor por pastores llenos de amor de Dios, como Mons. Óscar Arnulfo Romero”. (Discurso a los Obispos Salvadoreños, 28 de febrero de 2008.Los dos sufrieron las adversidades de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, pero monseñor en un grado mucho menor que San Maximiliano (el seminarista Romero se encontró atrapado en Italia después de su ordenación, donde sufrió hambre y alienación, y en rumbo a El Salvador sufrió una detención temporaria en un campo de labor en Cuba).

Pero sin duda, la similitud más importante entre Mons. Romero y San Maximiliano Kolbe es la capacidad de su martirio, de brillar tan fuerte como para despejar todas las dudas que plantean los verdugos al querer no solo eliminarlos sino también negar su martirio. Como lo reconoce Su Santidad, los tiranos modernos tratan de “manifestar de modo menos explícito su aversión a la fe cristiana ... [y] simula[r] diferentes razones, por ejemplo, de naturaleza política o social” para encubrir las persecuciones y tratar de negar la virtud de las víctimas y su estatus martirial. (Mensaje del Santo Padre a la Sesión Plenaria de la Congregación para las Causas de los Santos, 24 de abril de 2006.) La Iglesia no puede permitir que los mismos tiranos manipulen los hechos y pretendan dictar los procesos de canonización de estos modelos de santidad, o permitir un “veto” a los tiranos al aceptar sus pretextos o sus versiones de los hechos. (WOODARD 147, supra.)

San Maximiliano fue beatificado por sus virtudes, pero al ser canonizado, el Beato Juan Pablo II insistió en reconocer su martirio, y cuando los teólogos dudaron en aprobarlo bajo la definición tradicional del martirio, Juan Pablo lo llamo un “mártir de la caridad”. Bajo la definición tradicional, mártir es aquel que es asesinado por odio a la fe. Sin embargo, San Maximiliano fue asesinado porque él mismo se ofreció—argumentaban los teólogos puristas—no porque fuera señalado. Al insistir sobre el tema, Juan Pablo quiso decir que, “el odio sistemático de la persona humana (como en el nazismo y otros sistemas totalitarios) es una versión contemporánea del odio de la fe”, ya que “la fe predica la dignidad inalienable de la persona humana y aquellos que odian a la persona odian a la fe de manera implícita”. (Weigel.)

La misma lógica se extiende al caso de Mons. Romero—en ambos aspectos. En primer lugar, algunos católicos escépticos dicen que Mons. Romero no fue atacado por ser católico, sino por motivos meramente políticos: por la “radicalidad” de su prédica, por su supuesta parcialización a favor de un partido o de una ideología, y las motivaciones táctico-militares de querer neutralizar a un agitador. Pero—aparte de la falsedad de dichas acusaciones—Juan Pablo II, el mismo papa que resistió la tentación de desestimar a San Maximiliano, también insistió siempre en resaltar como aspecto definitivo del asesinato de Mons. Romero que, “se ha asesinado un obispo de la Iglesia de Dios en el ejercicio de su misión santificadora de la ofrenda de la Eucaristía … le han matado precisamente en el momento más sagrado, durante el acto más alto y más divino”. (Audiencia General del 26 de marzo de 1980.) Los que perpetran semejante acto, “ofenden el Evangelio y su mensaje de amor, de solidaridad y de hermandad en Cristo”. (Id.)

Igual que la muerte de San Maximiliano Kolbe, el asesinato de Mons. Romero ha sido un atentado en contra de la fe que la Iglesia tiene que validar y reconocer como tal.

Friday, May 11, 2012


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When Archbishop Romero met Leonardo Boff (1938-present), the Brazilian Franciscan and early champion of Liberation Theology, at the Latin American bishops conference in Puebla, Mexico in 1979, Romero reportedly invited: “Father Boff, help us to develop a Theology of Life.” (Greenan, 2010.) Some may see that as a critique of the existing official Church response to the situation of the poor as being inadequate. But also implicit in Romero’s proposal is an assessment that Liberation Theology—including, Boff’s scholarship—had been insufficient. A year earlier, Romero had warned that, “very profound revisions of the Christological doctrine as well as revisions in Liberation Theology,” would be required. (July 23, 1978 Homily.)

Romero gave Boff what he believed to be the appropriate framework for the required theology. He told Boff, “God is the Creator of life. He sent His Son so that we would have life in abundance.” (Greenan, supra.) Romero’s framework coincides with the one set forth by Blessed John Paul II, who told a conference on the “Theology of Life” that, “such a theology must start with and make constant reference to our Lord Jesus Christ, who ‘came that we may have life and have it abundantly’.” (Address to the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, February 15, 1996—the reference is to John 10:10.) In his conversation with Boff, Romero lamented the atrocious human rights abuses in El Salvador and said, “We need to protect the minimum, which is God’s greatest gift—Life.” (Greenan, supra.) John Paul agreed, saying that the “proclamation of the Gospel includes not only the defense of human life as such, but also the obligation to promote everything that favors the development of human life and dignity.” (Bossey, supra.)

Romero’s differences with Boff are revealed upon comparing the criticisms that the Vatican made of Boff’s work, with Romero’s stances on the same subjects. In a 1985 «Notificatio», the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), in a document signed by its prefect, the then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, criticized four aspects of Father Boff’s work:

1) The CDF criticized Fr. Boff’s views on the structure of the Church, charging that he inverted the Second Vatican Council’s teaching on the primacy of the Catholic Church vis-a-vis ecumenism: Fr. Boff, “derives a thesis which is exactly the contrary to the authentic meaning of the Council text,” the CDF states, because Boff maintains that “the sole Church of Christ … may also be present in other Christian Churches,” while the Council teaches that, “one sole ‘subsistence’ of the true Church exists”—within the Church—and that “outside her visible structure only … elements of Church … exist.” («Notificatio», ibid.) While Archbishop Romero often spoke in the language of inclusion that emphasized the ecumenical sense of the Council teaching, he nonetheless was very clear that Catholics “possess the fullness of the means of salvation;” that “This is the Church that is the depository and the witness of the resurrection.” (April 15, 1979 Sermon.) Accordingly, he preached that, “Those who want to belong to this People of God, organized by Christ and called the Catholic Church, must accept these conditions.” (June 5, 1977 Hom.—the conditions he referenced were the unity of the faith, the sacraments, and the church’s structure.) “If they do not accept them, if they willingly reject them,” he said, “then they are schismatics, destroyers of the Church and have morally excommunicated themselves.” (Id.)

2) The CDF criticized Fr. Boff’s views on dogmas and revelation, condemning his argument that dogmas are good only “for a specific time and specific circumstances” and that their texts must “give way to a new text of faith proper to today’s world.” («Notificatio», supra.) Archbishop Romero had occasion to preach on the nature of dogma on his 60th birthday, which coincided, as it always does, with the Feast of the Assumption, and marked the anniversary of the “ex cathedra” proclamation by Pope Pius XII of the dogma that Mary was bodily ascended into Heaven. “The Assumption of the Virgin, body and soul, into heaven is not a pious opinion,” Romero declared: “It is a dogma of faith.” (Aug. 15, 1977 Hom.) He recounted how, “The great Pontiff, Pius XII,” made it a mandatory belief of the Church. The Pope “proclaimed as a dogma of faith … that Mary, after having concluded her life here on earth, was assumed, was taken up, body and soul, by God,” Romero recalled. The consequence of this is that, “we have an obligation, as Catholics, to believe this,” he affirmed. “Did Pius XII invent the fact that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven?,” Romero asked. “The Pope does not invent dogma,” he asserted. “The Pope places his seal of authority and the seal of his teaching on certain beliefs and thus guarantees the faithful that this specific truth is contained in Divine Revelation.” He concluded, “We believe this truth, not because the Holy Father has spoken, but because God has spoken, and revealed this to us in Sacred Scripture and the living tradition of the Church.” (Ibid.)

3) The CDF criticized Fr. Boff’s views on the exercise of Church power, disapproving of his use of a Marxist production analysis of sacramental practice: “The sacraments are not 'symbolic material',” the CDF railed, “their administration is not production, their reception is not consumption.” Instead, “The sacraments are gifts of God, no one 'produces' them, all receive the grace of God in them, which are the signs of the eternal love.” («Notificatio», supra.) Romero, by contrast, taught that, “This community of faith lives a sacramental life,” (Apr. 2, 1978 Hom.), and he defended the administration of the sacraments under the existing hierarchy: the sacraments “are means of salvation that have been established in the Church, in the visible body that is united to Christ,” and “This Christ rules the Church through the ministry of the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops, as well as through the bond of the profession of faith, the sacraments, the government of the Church and ecclesiastical communion” (Oct. 15, 1978 Hom.—One is also reminded about how Archbishop Romero scolded activists who chanted political slogans at a funeral mass, chastising them to take it outside so as not to interfere with the liturgy and sacraments—Cavada.)

4) Finally, the CDF criticized Fr. Boff’s views that prophetic denunciation was not exclusive to the Church brass and could come from outside the hierarchy. The CDF agreed, but cautioned that, “prophetic denunciation in the church must always remain at the service of the Church itself,” and that it “must it accept the hierarchy and the institutions” and “cooperate positively in the consolidation of the Church’s internal communion.” («Notificatio», supra.) Romero preached that individuals might indeed experience a call to prophesy: “But this is not enough because this vocation has to be affirmed by the hierarchy that then unites us with the authorized teaching of the Church.” (May 13, 1979 Hom.) He added that his own preaching was subject to confirmation by the Supreme Pontiff. (Id.) Revelation might come to humble subjects such as St. Bernadette of Lourdes or St. Juan Diego, Romero preached, “But the hierarchy is needed to analyze and validate this inspiration and order all these things for the building up of the Kingdom of God.” (Sept. 30, 1979 Hom.)

Oscar Romero and Leonardo Boff both dream of a Theology of Life that addresses the suffering of the poor and promotes their liberation. But Oscar Romero believes that the poor would be better served if that theology was in line with the orthodox teaching of the Church. Leonardo Boff left the Franciscan order and the priesthood in the 1990s.

Monday, May 07, 2012


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Si bien es cierto que Mons. Óscar Romero y San Martín de Porres (1579-1639) coinciden en el amor por los pobres, a primera vista pareciera que sus modus operandi son totalmente contrarios. Mons. Romero denunciaba el atropello sistemático a los derechos de los pobres, mientras que el Santo de la Escoba “nunca planteó reivindicaciones sociales ni políticas” y se limitó a practicar la caridad de manera particular. (Juan XXIII canonizó a Martín de Porres, Diario La Primera, 10 de Febrero del 2012.) Los seguidores de Fray Martín cuentan que curaba a enfermos, levitaba, poseía dones de bilocación y clarividencia, y hasta hablaba con los animales, mientras que los seguidores de Mons. Romero advierten que no se trata de un “santo ‘milagrero’.” (Sobrino, El seguimiento de Monseñor Romero, Proceso, 9 de febrero de 2005.) En fin, parecería que es como el comparar el día y la noche.

La primera indirecta de que podría haber una mayor comunalidad entre los dos surge en las palabras pronunciadas por el Beato Juan XXIII durante la canonización del venerado santo mulato hace cincuenta años. “Hay que tener también en cuenta”—dijo el pontífice—de que el Fray Martín, “siguió caminos, que podemos juzgar ciertamente nuevos en aquellos tiempos, y que pueden considerarse como anticipados a nuestros días”. (Homilía de Canonización, domingo 6 de mayo de 1962.) El papa Pío XII lo declaró Patrono de la Doctrina Social y el mismo Mons. Romero predicaba que, “el mensaje de San Martín”, es que “no son las posiciones altas, privilegiadas, las que atraen las bendiciones mejores del Señor, sino las almas humildes que ... saben hacer de su escoba, de sus quehaceres más humildes o grandes, el instrumento de su santificación”. (Hom. 6 de nov. de 1977.)

De hecho, solo para poder ingresar a la orden de los dominicos como hermano pleno, el Fray Martín tuvo que romper esquemas: su origen racial y estado de hijo ilegitimo era un fuerte impedimento en aquella sociedad tan rígidamente ordenada. Es más: “A pesar de la biografía ejemplar del mulato Martín de Porres, convertido en devoción fundamental de mulatos, indios y negros, la sociedad colonial no lo llevaría a los altares”. (La Primera, supra.) Pasarían 198 años antes de su beatificación y 323 antes de su canonización, que no se dio hasta los tiempos del Concilio Vaticano Segundo y del movimiento de derechos civiles para los Negros en Estados Unidos. (Orsini. Esa larga espera bien pudiera sernos instructiva a los seguidores de Mons. Romero para que seamos más comprensivos con estos procesos.) El papa Juan retomó el hecho al declararlo santo: “juzgamos muy oportuno el que este año en que se ha de celebrar el Concilio, sea enumerado entre los santos Martín de Porres”. (Homilía, supra.)

La relevancia de San Martín no se limita ni a los siglos de la Colonia como tampoco a aquella época conciliar, sino que sigue vigente para nuestros tiempos. En el marco del 50 aniversario de su canonización, el Papa Benedicto XVI pide “que interceda por los trabajos de la nueva evangelización”. (Oración «Regina Cæli», 6 de mayo del 2012.) El mismo pontífice también elogió la labor de Mons. Romero en la evangelización cuando habló del estímulo a los sentimientos religiosos del pueblo que el mensaje cristiano haya sido “predicado también con fervor por pastores llenos de amor de Dios, como Mons. Óscar Arnulfo Romero”. (Discurso a los Obispos Salvadoreños, 28 de febrero de 2008.) Cuando este “amor de Dios” fue puesto a prueba, tanto Mons. Romero como San Martín de Porres respondieron en voz clara y sin ambigüedades. Ya sabemos que Mons. Romero hablo de manera profética, pero ¿qué de San Martín? Al ser acusado por desobediencia cuando desafió la prohibición de sus superiores de abrir un nuevo albergue para enfermos por peligro de contagio, el fraile mulato supo responder, “contra la caridad no hay precepto, ni siquiera el de la obediencia”. (Vicaría "San Martín de Porres".)

Tanto Mons. Romero como San Martín encontraron el rechazo y la humillación, tristemente en su propia Iglesia. El fraile mulato “perdonaba duras injurias”, nos dice el Papa Juan. (Homilía, supra.) Otros autores detallan cuan duras: en una ocasión, un religioso lo llamó un “perro mulato” en presencia de otros. (Vicaría, Op. Cit.) Tal era la discriminación racial de aquella época que nadie cuestionó el rechazo del novato Martín cuando trató de inscribirse en la orden de Santo Domingo, pese a que su padre, Juan de Porres, era un noble español perteneciente a la Orden de Alcántara y descendiente de cruzados. No obstante tan ilustre estirpe por el lado paterno, Martín fue aceptado solamente como un “donado”, y fue asignado los oficios más bajos y humillantes. (Ibid.) Por su parte, Mons. Romero no enfrentó un mal trato racial, sino que ideológico. Fue acusado afuera y hasta adentro de la Iglesia de tendencias marxistas, de fomentar el odio de las clases, de hasta de agitar a la violencia, pese a su insistencia de que solo lo motivaba “la violencia del amor”. (Hom. 27 de nov. de 1977.) La voluntad de permanecer al lado de los pobres y marginados bajo esas adversas circunstancias abona la santidad de los dos hombres. San Martín tomó su opción, asumiendo el rol de “hermano y enfermero de todos, singularmente de los más pobres”. (ACIPrensa.) “Proporcionaba comida, vestidos y medicinas a los débiles”, nos dice Juan XXIII, “favorecía con todas sus fuerzas a los campesinos, a los negros y a los mestizos que en aquel tiempo desempeñaban los más bajos oficios, de tal manera que fue llamado por la voz popular Martín de la Caridad”. (Homilía, supra.) Por supuesto, Mons. Romero asumió también un rol protagónico a favor de los más pobres.

Si bien el oficialismo demoró bastante en canonizar a San Martín de Porres, la aceptación a nivel popular ha sido inmediata por toda la América Latina desde que la devoción ha sido promovida por la Iglesia. De hecho, el santo peruano ha tenido mayor aceptación en El Salvador, donde las Obras Fray Martín de Porres fueron fundadas en 1956—aún antes de su canonización—con el fin de ayudar espiritual y materialmente a las personas más necesitadas del área de San Salvador. Los coordinadores de las Obras consideran a San Martín “uno de los santos más conocidos y venerados en el país”. (Sitio web de las OFM.) Y el mismo Mons. Romero constató la “forma típica” en que la fiesta de San Martín de Porres se celebra en El Salvador: “muchos niños vestidos de Fray Martín, como dominicos con su escobita y muchas niñas, vestidas de Santa Rosa de Lima -qué cosa más simpática- habían preparado una confirmación de jóvenes, junto con el P. Roberto, las Hermanas Religiosas Dominicas y las Religiosas Belgas”. (Hom. 5 de nov. de 1978.) Su imagen ha sido difundida masivamente por la cultura popular, en telenovelas, y hasta adaptado para un video musical de la cantante Madonna. Taraborrelli, Madonna: An Intimate Biography. Simon and Schuster, Nueva York (2002) pág. 173. Sin embargo, Mons. Romero insiste en que las insignias de la Iglesia, como San Martín, no pueden ser arrebatadas y que, lejos de las intrigas del mundo, “la Iglesia es esta comunidad, comunión de amor, comunión de fe, vida, esto es lo que quiere la Iglesia”, dice monseñor. (Hom., supra.)

Ahora hace falta reclamar la imagen de Mons. Romero como propiedad de la Iglesia que ha sido tomada por otras fuerzas y que es necesario regresar a su lugar propicio.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012


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Archbishop Oscar Romero and Dorothy Day (1897-1980) are like photographic negatives—mirror images in some respects; and still quite diametrically opposite! Both are heroes of progressive Catholics (the National Catholic Reporter recently mused: “We sometimes ponder who has gotten the most coverage from NCR over the years, Dorothy Day or Oscar Romero. Probably about even”), but the popular hagiography often glosses over their differences. (See also, Marie Dennis, A Retreat With Oscar Romero and Dorothy Day: Walking With the Poor, Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1997.) Their contrasts make Romero’s and Day’s commitment to social justice the more astonishing, and bolster and confirm their stands because they are reached through such opposite trajectories.

Both ended up becoming icons of Catholic social justice and held similar views, but they reached these positions through widely diverging paths. It can be said that Dorothy Day found Catholicism through social justice and that Oscar Romero found social justice through Catholicism. That Day was a rebel who got religion; and, Romero, a believer who stood up to the status quo. Both paths have been described as going through a “conversion,” but from different angles. In Day’s case, her “conversion” was “from a life akin to that of the pre-converted Augustine of Hippo:” she started out as a non-believer; she cavorted with “communists, socialists, and anarchists;” she even had an abortion. (Cardinal John J. O'Connor, “Dorothy Day’s Sainthood Cause Begins,” March 16, 2000.) Archbishop Romero’s trajectory was a study in the hermeneutics of obedience: he went from “operating out of a model of assistance and incipient promotion of human flourishing” to making a “qualitative leap with regard to social commitment,” because he felt that was what the Church wanted him to do. (Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga, “Monsignor Romero: A Bishop for the Third Millennium—Compare Cardinal O’Connor’s statement about Day: “her life is a model for all in the third millennium, but especially for women who have had or are considering abortions...”)

Dorothy Day grew up as an activist. (C. K. Robertson, A Dangerous Dozen: Twelve Christians Who Threatened the Status Quo But Taught Us to Live Like Jesus, Woodstock: SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2011.) As a young person, Day lived in the Bohemian Lower East Side of New York, where she worked on the staffs of socialist publications after dropping out of school. Day was living in a common law marriage and was “[m]ade pregnant by a man who insisted she have an abortion, who then abandoned her anyway.” (O’Connor, “On the Idea of Sainthood and Dorothy Day.”) Having grown up with ambivalent religious instruction, Day saw herself as an agnostic, but she was drawn to Roman Catholicism, finally being baptized at age 30. After formally joining the Church, Day “proved a stout defender of human life,” and she “chided those who wanted to join her in her works of social justice, but who, in her judgment, didn't take the Church seriously enough, and didn't bother about getting to Mass.” (O’Connor, id., supra.)

Romero, on the other hand, was always the consummate churchman. “Monsignor Romero chose as the theme of his episcopate Sentire cum Ecclesia.” (Rodriguez, supra.) Romero chose this motto early in his career “specifically” because it denoted “unconditional adherence to the [Church] hierarchy.” (Romero, “Aggiornamento,” San Miguel diocesan paper, January 15, 1965.) As late as the 1970’s, Romero made an impression for “his profound piety, his simplicity, and his humility.” (Rodriguez.) Being in this modest man’s presence, one would have “no idea that [one] was in the presence of someone who would eventually become the most famous Salvadoran” and “perhaps the most beloved martyr of the twentieth century.” (Id.) According to Romero’s closest collaborators, Romero’s evolution, “was not a conversion in the usual sense of the term, of turning from the wrong path onto the correct path,” but, “it was, rather, the constant seeking of the will of God that led him to face bravely the structural sin that was crushing the little ones of his dear country.” (Id.) His process was “the natural evolution of those who live in a permanent state of conversion in total openness to God and neighbor.” (Id.)

In the end, both Day and Romero end up in about the same place—orthodox (Romero was, and Day became) but unconventional (Day was, and Romero became). “[R]adical though she was,” Day’s “respect for and commitment and obedience to Church teaching were unswerving.” (O’Connor, “On the Idea...”) This combination of faith and activism can lead nonbelievers and believers who cannot grasp the fervor in this mix to question its fidelity to the Church. “It has also been noted that Dorothy Day often seemed friendly to political groups hostile to the Church,” but “she was neither a member of such political groupings nor did she approve of their tactics” or beliefs contrary to Church teaching, even if she shared with them “a common respect for the poor and a desire for economic equity.” (O’Connor, “Sainthood Cause,” supra.) Of course, the same things can be said and, in fact, have been said about Romero (and are the ongoing subject of discussion in this blog).

Similarly, both Day and Romero take up and defend the cause of the poor. The juxtaposition of Romero as an “advocate” and Day as an “activist” (Robertson, supra.) is true in part, but it can lead us to overlook the fact that Day was persuasive in her outspokenness in defense of the poor and therefore was an advocate, too; and that Romero promoted particular projects to benefit the poor, which can be considered “activism” on his part. Romero promoted his Archdiocese’s Legal Aid Office, recruiting law students and lawyers to fact check the content of his homilies regarding human rights and to provide assistance in dire cases that no one else would take or that authorities denied having knowledge about. (One of these law student volunteers—Florentín Melendez—now sits on the Salvadoran Supreme Court.) Romero supported the Mothers of the Disappeared. He boycotted all government functions in protest of political repression. He counseled conscientious politicians, criticized unscrupulous ones and lobbied on pending or proposed legislation. In short, Romero was not all talk.  As for Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement also was an author: “Her books and books about her and her Movement continue to be reprinted due to demand. The University of Marquette which holds her papers, letters, notes, etc., reports frequent visitors and researches.”  (O’Connor, “Sainthood Cause,” supra.)

The contrast in Archbishop Romero’s and Dorothy Day’s personalities can even be seen in their attitudes toward their own sainthood. Discussing threats against his life two weeks before his assassination, Archbishop Romero said that “martyrdom is a grace of God that I do not think I deserve”—adding that he would accept it, if it came, and offered it for the good of his people. (Rodriguez, supra.) Day was more curt on the subject: “Don't call me a saint,” she famously said: “I don't want to be dismissed so easily.”  (Day and Romero both died in 1980.)

Cardinal O’Connor’s words about Day can be applied to both her and Romero:
There are some who believe that [she] was indeed a living saint, that the cause of canonization need not therefore be processed ... But why does the Church canonize saints? In part so that their person, their works, their lives will become that much better known and that they will encourage others to follow in their footsteps. And, of course, that the Church may say formally and officially—‘This is sanctity, this is the road to eternal life, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to house the homeless, to love every human person made in the image and likeness of God.’
(On the Idea...)