Friday, October 12, 2018

Not a conversion, but an evolution

This article in NCR combats some common misconceptions about how Blessed (soon to be St.) Oscar Romero came to take the courageous stands he did for the farmworkers and challenged the landowners and military dictatorship. These stands that Romero took — stands that got him into trouble and eventually got him killed — were not instances of him ignoring church doctrine or rebelling against it, but rather of him faithfully taking it to its fullest consequences — as he did, for example, with Catholic social teaching.

Romero was not radicalized by the Left. He did not "change sides" in a political struggle. Rather , Romero remained faithful to God, his calling, and the Gospel:

In fact, Romero objected to people speaking of his "conversion." Salvadoran Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chávez says, "I once asked him the following question: 'Monseñor, they say you've been converted. Is it true?' I remember his answer well: 'I wouldn't say it's been a conversion, but an evolution.' "

It was, as Romero wrote on another occasion, "an evolution of the same desire that I have always had to be faithful to what God asks of me; and if earlier I gave the impression of being more 'prudent' and more 'spiritual,' it was because I sincerely believed that in that way I responded to the Gospel, because the circumstances of my ministry were not as demanding as those when I became archbishop."

Romero was radical, but not in a partisan way that some people want to make him. His canonization was blocked for years by those who say that Romero made the church's role "political".

Theologian Charles Curran says:
"Romero's struggle against the government and its injustices did not [amount to] unacceptable involvement of the church or church leaders in the world of politics. Whatever affects human persons, human communities, and the environment is by that very nature not just a political or a legal issue. It is a human, moral and, for the believer, Christian issue. The Christian tradition has consistently recognized that the political order is subject to the moral order."
Pope Francis unblocked the canonization process and moved it forward.
Nor did Francis stop there; he did something else that had long cried out to be done. Many people aren't aware — but Francis was − of how shabbily Romero was treated by all but one of his brother bishops. Seldom has there been a condemnation of bishops as strong as the one Francis expressed to a group of Salvadoran pilgrims who were visiting the Vatican in 2015:
I would … like to add something that perhaps has escaped us. Archbishop Romero's martyrdom did not occur precisely at the moment of his death; it was a martyrdom of witness, of previous suffering, of previous persecution, until his death. But also afterwards because, after he died — I was a young priest and I witnessed this — he was defamed, slandered, soiled — that is, his martyrdom continued even by his brothers in the priesthood and in the episcopate. I am not speaking from hearsay; I heard those things.
It was good to see — at long last — Romero vindicated in that way.
 There is much more (and photos!) in the NCR article HERE.

 I will be watching the canonization on Sunday with much interest. Pray for us St. Oscar Romero.

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