Archbishop Oscar Romero – Martyr?

SALVADORAN ARCHBISHOP OSCAR ROMEROVATICAN CITY (CNS) — After decades of debate within the church, Pope Francis formally recognized that Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero was killed “in hatred of the faith” and not for purely political reasons.

Pope Francis signed the decree Feb. 3, recognizing as martyrdom the March 24, 1980, assassination of Archbishop Romero in a San Salvador hospital chapel as he celebrated Mass.

Salvadorans honor the late Archbishop Oscar Romero in San Salvador on the anniversary of his assassination in 2009. (CNS file/Reuters)

The decree clears the way for the beatification of Archbishop Romero. The postulator or chief promoter of his sainthood cause, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, was scheduled to brief the press Feb. 4 about the cause.

Archbishop Romero’s sainthood cause was opened at the Vatican in 1993, but was delayed for years as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith studied his writings, amid wider debate over whether he had been killed for his faith or for taking political positions against Salvadoran government and against the death squads that were operating in his country. As head of the San Salvadoran Archdiocese from 1977 until his death, his preaching grew increasingly strident in defense of the country’s poor and oppressed.

Pope Benedict XVI told reporters in 2007 that the archbishop was “certainly a great witness of the faith” who “merits beatification, I do not doubt.” But he said some groups had complicated the sainthood cause by trying to co-opt the archbishop as a political figure.

Seven years later, Pope Francis — the first Latin American pope — told reporters that “for me, Romero is a man of God.” However, he said at the time, “the process must go ahead, and God must give his sign. If he wants to do so, he will.”

During his general audience Jan. 7, Pope Francis quoted words that Archbishop Romero had spoken at the funeral Mass of a priest assassinated by Salvadoran death squads: “We must all be willing to die for our faith even if the Lord does not grant us this honor.”

Although not seen as exercising any pressure to move the cause forward, St. John Paul II made it a point of praying at Archbishop Romero’s tomb in the San Salvador cathedral during visits to the city in 1983 and again in 1996.

During his first visit, he told people gathered in the cathedral, “Within the walls of this cathedral rest the mortal remains of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, a zealous pastor whose love of God and service to his brothers and sisters led to the very sacrifice of his life in a violent way as he celebrated the sacrifice of forgiveness and reconciliation.”

When Pope John Paul returned 13 years later, he told the people that he wanted to pray again at the tomb of Archbishop Romero, “brutally assassinated while he offered the sacrifice of the Mass.” The pope said he was pleased that the archbishop’s memory “continues to live among you.”

An official decree of martyrdom removes the beatification requirement of a miracle attributed to the candidate’s intercession. Generally, a miracle after beatification would still be needed for canonization.

The same day that Pope Francis formally recognized Archbishop Romero’s martyrdom, he also signed a decree recognizing the martyrdom of two Polish Conventual Franciscans and an Italian missionary priest who were murdered by Shining Path guerrillas in Peru in 1991. Franciscan Fathers Michal Tomaszek and Zbigniew Strzalkowski and Father Alessandro Dordi, a diocesan priest from Bergamo, were killed in separate incidents in August 1991.

Dates for the beatification of Archbishop Romero and the Peru martyrs were not announced immediately.  END   Source

Comments invited, on the subject of this latest controversial fast-tracking of an alleged hero of the Faith…

86 responses

    • That’s right, Common Sense. It surely undermines the process and calls into question the claims (the Church has never proclaimed formally) that canonisation are infallible. The thoroughness of the process went a long way to giving credibility to the claims of infallibility.

      I don’t know much about Oscar Romero, other than his canonisation cause was blocked due to his sympathy towards Liberation Theology.

      • The process, or its length, are not the issue. The only question is this person a worthy candidate, and, in good faith, can the Church evidence that fact?

        Throughout history there have been speedy processes, and, I believe, at one time no real formal process at all, with local decisions being made.

        • CS,

          When people were canonised before the formal process was brought in, the people who were canonised were widely known for their holiness and there were always miracles attributed to them before they became saints. This new process of canonising people who were celebrity popes and popular bishops, without any Devil’s Advocate, and only one “miracle” (not a clear miracle from what I gather, in any of the recent cases) is quite scandalous.

        • Common Sense

          The process does matter. It evolved over a long period of time to become reliable, trustworthy and credible. The office of the Devil’s Advocate offered a level of scrutiny that Catholics could trust. We don’t just believe something because someone said it. How do we know that a person is a “worthy candidate”? Through the rigorous process and investigation.

          Processes evolve for a reason. You seem to subscribe to the error of antiquarianism . This false understanding that we should discard centuries of authentic and organic development in the pursuit of what things were like in the early Church was condemned by Pope Pius XII.

    • I kept this extract from an article by John Vennari on Mgr Escriva – he’s another one shouldn’t have been canonised.

      Monsignor Escriva

      Msgr. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, the founder of the controversial Opus Dei organization who died in 1975, was also placed on the fast track. Fr. Peter Scott, the then rector of SSPX’s Holy Cross Seminary in Australia, wrote in November 2002 of what he called Escriva’s “shameful” and “highly questionable canonization.”

      Noting that due process was not followed, Father Scott objected that the procedure contained no Devil’s Advocate, and that “former members of Opus Dei who personally knew Msgr. Escriva and who attempted to register their objections, were not allowed to express their opinion.”

      In a last ditch effort to provide more objective thinking regarding the hasty canonization, a group of former Opus Dei members wrote an Open Letter to Pope John Paul II in which they said: “It is because we believe that the truth has been in large part hidden that we now give our testimony in order to avoid a danger for the Faith brought about by the unjustifiable reverence for the man that you have the intention of canonizing soon.”

      They went on to explain that the authors of this Open Letter include “people who have intimately known Msgr. Escriva and who can testify to his arrogance, to his evil character, to his improper seeking of a title (Marquise of Peralta), to his dishonesty, to his indifference towards the poor, to his love of luxury and ostentation, to his lack of compassion, and to his idolatrous devotion towards ‘Opus Dei.’ ”19

      After having pointed out that the process was uncanonical and dishonest, they had this to say: “It [the canonization] will offend God. It will stain the Church forever. It will take away from the saints their special holiness. It will call into question the credibility of all the canonizations made during your Papacy. It will undermine the future authority of the Papacy.”

      Father Scott notes that those who wrote the Open Letter were not traditionalists; they were former members of Escriva’s organization, “but their supplication was not heard, and the ceremony took place as arranged on October 6, 2002.

      “Their letter will certainly turn out to be prophetic, for in time they will be proven to be right in their assessment concerning Escriva as well as concerning Opus Dei that they so aptly compare to the liberal Sillon movement, rightly condemned by St. Pius X in 1910. This kind of last minute objection is unheard of in the history of the Church. How could Catholics possibly regard such a man as heroic in virtue, as an extraordinary model of Catholic spirituality, as a saint must be? For all the reasons that they give, we cannot possibly consider this ‘canonization’ as a valid, infallible papal pronouncement.”20

      In similar vein, Catholic author Kenneth Woodward expressed grave reservations about the procedure regarding Escriva’s rapid “beatification.”

      When Fr. John Neuhaus criticized this negative assessment, claiming the liberal-leaning Woodward was always unfavorable to Opus Dei, Woodward responded, “My writing about Opus Dei has focused almost entirely on the beatification of its founder, not the organization itself. On this point, the only fair-minded conclusion I can reach, given the evidence of the positio itself and interviews with people in Rome involved in the process, is that Opus Dei subverted the canonization process to get its man beatified. In a word, it was a scandal—from the conduct of the tribunals through the writing of the positio to the high-handed treatment of the experts picked to judge the cause. That Newsweek caught Opus Dei officials making claims that were not true is a matter of record. Escriva may have been a saint—who am I to judge? but you could never tell from the way his cause was handled.”21

      Once again regarding the integrity of the process, we encounter doubt and more doubt.

  1. I understand the Archbishop championed the cause of the poor and was murdered while saying Mass. I have yet to come across an article that mentions anything other than social justice when talking of the slain archbishop. This is not to deny that he is not also a saint; he might have been a saintly soul, and I would like the process of canonization to offer proof of this. If all it takes to become a saint in the Church today is love of the poor and being killed in the cause of social justice, why not nominate them for an award and/or build them a memorial somewhere?

    Why isn’t Miguel Pro being fast-tracked to sainthood? He risked his life day in and day out to administer the sacraments to the brutally oppressed Catholics.

    Why has the cause for Blessed Margaret of Costello not been fast-tracked? It looks to me like her cause has been neglected in favor of the new saints.

    Could it be that they will not help gild the Council that changed the Church?

    • Jobstears,

      Your posts are sometimes going into moderation or SPAM because, I presume, they are appearing with a different username which includes “Spain” – in case that prompts your memory. Unless I approve comments coming in under that name, they will keep going into moderation, so I thought I ought to let you know in case you need to go into My Profile (your profile!) and check that your username is “publicly displayed” as Jobstears.

      • Common Sense,

        You call that plea from a clearly distraught convert to the Faith an attack on the Pope?

        • Comment removed. It was a reply to Athanasius – who did, in fact, make a personal remark about CS which I’ve now deleted. Let’s stick to the issues, please. None of us gives a toss about anyone’s personal opinion about the un-charitableness, (lack of) Catholicity or ignorance of anyone else. If someone is uncharitable, less Catholic than they should be or ignorant, seek to correct that without making personal remarks. It can be done. And as is made clear in the About Us section of this blog, wherein you will read our in-house rules, I will decide who are the trolls. If any individual believes a blogger to be a troll, for pity’s sake ignore them. It’s not rocket science. If and when the times comes to moderate any posts, I will decide that, worry not. We have in our midst bloggers who were considered to be trolls at the time who are now attending SSPX chapels. Think folks. Carefully.

          I get truly fed up with this kind of nonsense. Please debate with some tact, skill and a little humour. Unpleasantness is uncalled for. And it’s very unpleasant to read 😀

      • CS,

        Please be serious. That was a heartfelt letter from a woman who actually knew Cardinal Bergoglio. You are not doing either yourself or the Pope any favours by sweeping the truth under the carpet. As the theologian of Trent, Melchior Cano said, those who indiscriminately seek to defend everything a pope says or does, weakens the papacy, they do not strengthen it.

        Your posts today had been more thoughtful than previously so I hope you are not returning to your old tricks. That way lies the moderation queue, CS. So think on !

        • I read the letter long before Athanasius posted it. It saddened me, because I think it was misjudged.

  2. The Project (@MartyrsProject)

    With respect, that kind of hippie guitar stuff doesn’t fit at all with the supposed martyrdom of a Catholic Archbishop. It would be better suited to someone like Fidel Castro or similar Communist activist, but not an Archbishop. Gregorian chant is the music of the saints and martyrs. The music of heaven, not the world.

  3. It’s good that Oscar Romero is being honoured. He was murdered by a corrupt government for speaking out for the poor and those who couldn’t speak for them selves. If a bishop can’t speak for the poor then I don’t know who can However calling him a martyr for the Catholic faith is incorrect given that he wasn’t strictly speaking murdered for upholding the faith. It’s redefining what constitutes a martyr like what JPII did with Maximilian Kolbe and it always smacks of populism.
    I share your taste in music, Athanasius! I like what that song is saying but all the guitar strumming hippie stuf in a religious context !makes me cringe a little. Romero wasn’t Che Guevara.

    • Alex F,

      St. Maximilian Kolbe was a renowned saint who gave his life to save the life of a man with a family who was condemned to death by the Nazis. He understood well the nature of the death he had chosen when he took that man’s place, a slow, painful and starving death down the salt mines. He died on his knees with his rosary in his hands; that’s how they found him.

      As Our Lord said: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

      • Indeed he was. He presented true heroic virtues worth imitating. The problem I have is not that he was canonised, but that he was called a martyr for charity. This is a misuse of the word “martyr” because he didn’t die for refusing to renounce the Catholic faith.

  4. I would like us to discuss why the Church blocked this canonisation for so long.

    My limited understanding is that the Archbishop promoted liberation theology and that is impregnated with Marxism. As far as I can see, Archbishop Romero died for a political cause, not the Faith.

  5. I’ve noticed that those who are most fervent in their support for Abp Romero’s cause have frequently been the most notorious dissenters from Catholic teaching. One of the trustees of the Abp Romero Trust is none other than Julian Filochowski, civil partner of Martin Pendergast, ‘gay rights’ activist and founder of the Soho Masses. Odd that . . .

    • WF,

      “One of the trustees of the Abp Romero Trust is none other than Julian Filochowski, civil partner of Martin Pendergast, ‘gay rights’ activist and founder of the Soho Masses.”

      That is very interesting indeed. Very interesting.

      From my limited knowledge of the Archbishop, he did not ACCEPT death for any truth of the Faith. He was murdered. That’s not martyrdom. Is it?

      • Actually, Filochowski is the ‘Chair’ of the Trust. This is from their last annual report. (Comments in capitals are mine – I don’t know how to do bold/italics!):-

        The trustees are Dr Julian Filochowski CMG, OBE (Chair), Ms Clare Dixon
        OBE (Secretary), Rev. Frank Turner SJ, Rev. Tony Lester O.Carm (WHO USED TO CELEBRATE SOHO MASSES)., Rev Richard Carter, Mrs Jan Graffius, Mr David Skidmore OBE and Rt. Rev. John Rawsthorne. (WHO WAS EMBROILED IN THE SCANDAL ABOUT THE FILOCHOWSKI / PENDERGAST ‘ANNIVERSARY MASS’) Mr Stephen Lloyd is the Trust’s Honorary Treasurer, Ms Madge Rondo is the Trust’s Honorary Membership Secretary and Ms Sarah Smith-Pearse is the editor of ‘Romero News’, the Trust’s twice yearly newsletter. In September 2013 the three officers were reelected for a further term of three years.

        The Trust is honoured to have Sister Maria Julia Garcia, Sister Pamela
        Hussey SHCJ, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Cardinal Vincent Nichols,
        Archbishop John Sentamu (ANGLICAN), Mgr Ricardo Urioste and Lord Rowan Williams (ANGLICAN) as its Patrons. The Trust has no offices of its own; but the registered address is PO Box 70227, London E9 9BR (formerly 8 Deans Mews W1G 9EE).

        The trustees met on 15th May, 9th September and 6th December 2013 to
        approve budgets and project grants and to oversee the Trust’s annual
        programme of activities. CAFOD generously provided hospitality for these Trust meetings. In making decisions and exercising their powers
        the trustees have had due regard to the Charity Commission’s public
        benefit guidance.

        In September 2013 the three-dimensional Romero Cross which the Trust
        had commissioned from Salvadoran artist, Fernando Llort, was installed in
        St George’s Cathedral, Southwark. The painted panels of the Cross had
        earlier arrived in Britain by courier from the artist’s workshops in El
        Salvador. Representatives of the trustees, together with the Cathedral
        architect, Jonathan Louth, accepted delivery at the premises of Trent
        shop fitters in Nottingham where the Cross was first erected. The glass
        plates of the reliquary were then fitted and the steel plates on which the
        Cross stands were completed and engraved. Inside the reliquary is a
        fragment of the blood-stained alb that Archbishop Romero was wearing
        at the time of his assassination. Alongside the relic is one of Archbishop
        Romero’s episcopal skull caps. The ‘Romero Space’ in the Cathedral, where
        the Cross stands, celebrates the life and death of Archbishop Romero
        but the Cross also provides a very fitting memorial to the late Bishop
        Michael Evans, one of the founders of the Archbishop Romero Trust – and
        it is dedicated to him. (IS IT USUAL TO HAVE A RELIC DISPLAYED IN A CATHEDRAL, WHEN THE PERSON HASN’T EVEN BEEN MADE ‘VENERABLE’? ISN’T THAT JUMPING THE GUN?)

        • Thank you Leprechaun, for e-mailing me and showing me how to do bold and italics There’ll be no stopping me now . . . .

      • Editor,

        I don’t believe, the Archbishop gave his life to defend the Faith. It is almost certain that he would have been murdered whether he was a priest or not. You don’t defy a tyrannical government and expect to live.

        He took a stand- for the poor and suffering, and that is most laudable, I have no doubt whatsoever, that he had courage, and a lot of it to defy the government for its treatment of the poor. But whichever way you look at it, his was a stand for social justice. I don’t believe elevating people to sainthood is something the Church does as social service, to give the world models of good citizenship.

        Saints possess every human virtue which they also practice to the point of heroism- and that is what sets them apart from the rest of the good, brave and even outstanding people in the world.

        The Archbishop might very well be a saint, but the slipshod method of affirming this will leave more doubt than certainty.

  6. The position, without doubt, relative to the current fad of, de facto, instant sainthoods is that such status has been greatly devalued and demeans those who have gone before. Not unlike the attitudes of many of the current hierarchy and priesthood towards their predecessors.

    At Mass at The Holy Name, Manchester, the preacher, Fr. Chris Hilton, reminded us that St. Ambrose Barlow actually trod the road, on which the church is sited, on a regular basis. In my home town, Carlisle, an anti-Catholic area, Gallows Hill was there to remind us of those executed for The Mass. But they and others are now, effectively, scorned for their beliefs.

  7. The Catholic Encyclopaedia definition shows that being murdered is not what makes a martyr:

    I quote:

    “The disciples of Christ were no ordinary witnesses such as those who gave testimony in a court of justice. These latter ran no risk in bearing testimony to facts that came under their observation, whereas the witnesses of Christ were brought face to face daily, from the beginning of their apostolate, with the possibility of incurring severe punishment and even death itself. Thus, St. Stephen was a witness who early in the history of Christianity sealed his testimony with his blood. The careers of the Apostles were at all times beset with dangers of the gravest character, until eventually they all suffered the last penalty for their convictions. Thus, within the lifetime of the Apostles, the term martus came to be used in the sense of a witness who at any time might be called upon to deny what he testified to, under penalty of death. From this stage the transition was easy to the ordinary meaning of the term, as used ever since in Christian literature: a martyr, or witness of Christ, is a person who, though he has never seen nor heard the Divine Founder of the Church, is yet so firmly convinced of the truths of the Christian religion, that he gladly suffers death rather than deny it. St. John, at the end of the first century, employs the word with this meaning; Antipas, a convert from paganism, is spoken of as a “faithful witness (martus) who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth” (Revelation 2:13). Further on the same Apostle speaks of the “souls of them that were slain for the Word of God and for the testimony (martyrian) which they held” (Revelation 6:9).

    Yet, it was only by degrees, in the course of the first age of the Church, that the term martyr came to be exclusively applied to those who had died for the faith.“

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09736b.htm

    • Thank you editor and Margaret Mary for pointing out what should be pretty obvious to all once they read more about Archbishop Romero.

  8. I found this interesting.

    “Among the lesser-known facts of Romero is his close relationship with conservative Catholic movement Opus Dei.

    He received weekly spiritual direction from an Opus Dei priest, was indispensable in the opening of the first residence for students this movement opened in El Salvador, and in 1975, after the death of its founder, Josemaría Escrivá, Romero sent a letter to Paul VI asking the pope to jumpstart his canonization process.”

    http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/02/03/pope-declares-oscar-romero-hero-to-liberation-theology-a-martyr/

    Once the canonization process was changed, the new saints, at least for me, lack the credibility of the ones declared saints after a long and thorough process of investigation, with any lingering doubt being removed by the required miracles (even if took years) – which are a sure sign from God that the person is indeed, in heaven. No doubts.

  9. So, is the consensus being that it is doubtful that Archbishop Romero is even a saint far less a martyred one?

  10. Frankier

    That’s certainly my opinion. It’s years since I read up on Liberation Theology, but I remember that Archbishop Romero was very involved with Marxist ideology.

    No doubt therefore that he’s a shoo in for sainthood…..

  11. Oscar Romero was a good man who took a political stand for humanitarian reasons and was murdered for it, just like Martin Luther King. He may well be in Heaven, but that does not make him suitable for canonisation, and it does not make him a martyr. A martyr dies for the faith- not for political reasons, however honourable.

    Over the past 40 years, the canonisation process has become so farcical that it now lacks any meaning. We have popes fast-tracking their friends to sainthood, dispensing with even the lax rules that still exist. With just the conflict of interest that comes with that, the process lacks any credibility.

    • I mean that he had many admirable qualities. He stood up against a corrupt regime, speaking for those who had no voice- the poorest in his society, despite knowing that he could have got him killed- which it did. His philosophy may have been misguided if it was influenced by Marxism, and he was an enthusiastic proponent of Vatican 2 (he would have to have been to be appointed to the episcopate in 1977). However, to do what he did required a great deal of courage. Wouldn’t it be good to have bishops today who had such courage in the face of the massacre that is abortion? At a natural level, he had many good qualities. However, as you point out, these aren’t always the qualities required of an archbishop- but I’ll let others judge that. Neither does it make him suitable for canonisation, but obvious Francis thinks differently!

  12. Anyone who kills a priest/Bishop during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is surely showing a deep hatred of the faith. Is this not the ultimate sacrilege? On this alone I would judge the celebrant a martyr. Just a thought…

  13. Perplexed

    For your first sentence, I would say yes, it does show a deep hatred. I don’t think this is necessarily an ultimate sacrifice for Christ, however. To be a martyr, one must die for one’s defence of Christ, and His teaching. From what I know of Archbishop Romero, this may not have been the case.

  14. St(?) Charles Borromeo was actively involved in planning assination of an an anointed Queen: St.(?) Thomas More had many a supposed ‘heretic’ burnt at the stake; he would have done the same to William Tyndale if he could! These are just two examples of the many murderous acts of political activists of their day, who have become so called venerated saints in the church.Oscar Romero preached the real Gospel of Jesus Christ and was killed for so doing. If the Holy Roman Catholic Church of Jesus Christ wish to further the process of OR to sainthood then he has much better credentials on his side than the saints and martyrs, so called of the past whose frequent intent was to kill the head of state who ever that was.. Romero is more of a saint than those evil minded martyrs who died not for their supposed love of the church but as a result of their well recorde intention to murder the Queen and government of the day. Perhaps the armchair critics who have never suffered REAL persecution should go and live in Syria or Iraq or somewhere were their comfy Christianity would be put on the line and see how well they would respond. Oscar Romero shed blood as a result of his stance for the defence of the poor, as prescribed by the Gospel therefore he is a martyr. Get used to the idea. None of you will ever get any where near the real sacrifice of martyrdom thank God you will never be put to that test. As you never leave your homes and stand up in public to proclaim the true faith you will never know true persecution .

    • Domchas,

      If you’re going to post comments here then post objective ones, not anti-Catholic lies about the saints. What you wrote about those two saints makes you look historically illiterate. Reading your post makes me even more suspicious of Oscar Romero than I was before. You’re doing a great job on his behalf!

      • Take your own advice Athanasius. Post something positive about the Roman Catholic Church rather than constant negative criticism. You know that many of the martyrs and saints of the past were bad minded men, mostly whose motives were political intrigue dressed up in religious cover to hide their real intentions.

        Ed: would you provide a source(s) for the claims you make about “many of the martyrs and saints of the past” being “bad minded men etc.” Please and thank you.

          • Athanasius, once again you object to an opposing point of view. Are you and the editor in a relationship of some kind, as you seem to agree with every thing she utters, no matter how ridiculous; which is most of the time.

            Ed: how did you know? About our relationship, which is a “love/hate” affair, so to speak – that is to say, Athanasius hates me and I love to hate him back 😀
            As for Athanasius agreeing with every word I utter – are you kidding? You’re obviously NOT paying attention, Sugar Plum. YOU agree with me more often than does our Ath. Gerragrip…

        • Domchas,

          Add me to the list of those awaiting your response to Editor’s request. I can’t wait to find out just how “bad minded” the saints and martyrs of old were.

      • What kind of Catholic would speak such evil words about the great St Thomas More? Absolutely disgusting.

        The punishment of burning was part of the judicial system of the day. It pained St Thomas greatly to burn heretics and he gave them every opportunity to recant their errors. If only more men were as zealous as St. Thomas More (and St John Fisher) the Reformation in England might not have spread like wild fire (no pun intended).

        Make no mistake about it, Domchas, if I had lived in the 16th century I would have burned the likes of Luther in a heart beat!

        • “Make no mistake about it, Domchas, if I had lived in the 16th century I would have burned the likes of Luther in a heart beat!”

          So where then, Petrus, does “Thou shalt not kill” come into it or did that not apply in the 16th century???

          • Santiago,

            It’s not really about how does thou shalt not kill come into it, but how do these words of Jesus come into it?

            “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

            Heresy takes people to Hell, and here’s Jesus telling us we should fear that more than someone who can kill us.

          • Burning Luther would probably just have driven even more people into Protestantism. The Protestants in Scotland won a watch when Card. Beaton burned George Wishart and his companions.

          • Santiago,

            You misunderstand and misapply the Commandment of God in regard to killing. Just killing, though regrettable, has never been opposed by the Church when the common good of society requires it. That’s why most Christian countries had the death penalty for very serious crimes and that’s why Winston Churchill and the other allied leaders went to war against Hitler.

            In the time of St. Thomas More, when most Catholics had a supernatural rather than superficial faith, the murder of immortal souls by heresy was a much worse crime than the death of the body. If, therefore, a heretic refused to recant his heresy and desist from spreading it around, it was considered a duty by Catholic rulers to silence the offender by death, or at the very least life imprisonment.

            So you see, it is not always a breach of the Commandment of God to kill the guilty, should the good of souls and the common good of society warrant such a step. The power to do so, however, resides solely with a nation’s legitimate authorities and not with individuals or groups.

            • Well said, Athanasius. The key point is that the power lies with the authorities.

              Of course I did not mean that I would have taken it upon myself to burn Luther. If I had the authority, given to me by the State and Luther refused to recant his wicked heresies and lies, I would have acted as St Thomas More.

              • Petrus,

                From what I read, St. Thomas More never actually authorised the burning of any heretic much less light the fire himself. I think many of these stories were put about by anti-Catholic revisionist historians as a way of undermining the saint’s reputation. We see the same thing happening today in relation to Pope Pius XII. I take it all with a very large pinch of salt.

                • Athanasius

                  I agree you have to be careful. I’ve been reading a lot about St Thomas recently and according to what I read, he authorised six burnings. He certainly didn’t light any fires, as Lord Chancellor he would have been above that sort of thing.

                  I don’t think it would necessarily taint his memory as it was an acceptable practice of the day.

          • It’s a good job we don’t have burning at the stake any more. With many people on this blog being out of line with the mainstream Catholic Church, myself included, we may find ourselves barbecued!

            • Alex F,

              Your comment suddenly put me in mind of St. Lawrence, who, while being roasted alive by his persecutors on a grid iron, said with a martyrs humour “You can turn me over now, I’m done on this side”!

    • Domchas,

      Citing history is a very difficult thing to do because so much of it is skewed by those reporting it. I’d never heard that about St Charles Borromeo planning the assassination of a queen or anyone else, so went looking online to see what I could find. I couldn’t find anything. So I checked the Encyclopaedia Britannica and there is no mention of your allegation there either, so I presume this is something either made up by the enemies of the Church or distorted.
      http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/74464/Saint-Charles-Borromeo

      I did know that St Thomas More was in charge of rooting out heretics, again you have to see things in the context of their day and not now. It’s not so long since we had the death penalty here for murder. Most people are now shocked at that but nobody thought much of it at the time. I quote the following from the Catholic Encyclopaedia, about St Thomas More:

      “As chancellor it was his duty to enforce the laws against heretics and, by doing so, he provoked the attacks of Protestant writers both in his own time and since. The subject need not be discussed here, but More’s attitude is patent. He agreed with the principle of the anti-heresy laws and had no hesitation in enforcing them. As he himself wrote in his “Apologia” (cap. 49) it was the vices of heretics that he hated, not their persons; and he never proceeded to extremities until he had made every effort to get those brought before him to recant. How successful he was in this is clear from the fact that only four persons suffered the supreme penalty for heresy during his whole term of office.” http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14689c.htm

      I once read something on this blog about punishing heretics that stuck in my mind and it is that at the time of the Reformation these extreme sanctions were accepted by all sides since the truth was realised to be the most important thing. Nowadays, when we have archbishops and cardinals attacking the faith and so on, it doesn’t seem to serious to us but heresy was regarded as extremely serious in medieval times because of the offence caused to God and the danger it posed to souls who could be led out of the Church because of it. St Thomas More carried out the ultimate sentence only as a last resort.

    • I agree that burning someone at the stake is an awful and barbaric way to execute someone. You would have to be a serious psychopath to think it up but as Lily says, we do have to take it in the context of the time. The death penalty was commonplace and Thomas More did have to uphold the law as it was at the time. It was seen as a last resort, and the inquisitors took every chance they could to avoid burning someone, but I do agree that it should not have taken place at all. It was extraordinarily cruel, was a panicked response by the Church that feared loosing a grip on society and probably did more to help Protestantism than the Protestants themselves could ever have done. By burning Giordano Bruno, St Robert Bellarmine gave secularists and so-called freethinkers a martyr for centuries to come. But I do hasten to add that they were obeying the law at the time. It wasn’t their place to change that.

      I am not disputing what you say about Romero, but sainthood is a very specific thing. Indeed, just because someone dies a martyr does not necessarily make them suitable for sainthood. For instance, Mary Queen of Scots could have avoided her execution by becoming a Protestant. that makes her a martyr, but in canonising her, they would have to investigate her life as a whole, and there were probably incidents where she wasn’t whiter than white, like her alleged part in Darnley’s murder, and her alleged part in the plot to assassinate Elizabeth. Another example is David Beaton, who was murdered by Protestants because of his work in helping to keep Scotland Catholic. He’ll probably never be canonised, because (in addition to burning Protestants) there was a lot of politics and intrigue surrounding his murder, and he also had a wife/mistress/bidie-in which wasn’t really allowed at the time, even though it was commonplace.

      The shear volume of people who have been canonised in the past 40 years has been beyond a joke, devaluing the whole process. If the Church ever regains its senses, they’ll all have to revisited.

      • Alex F,

        I agree with a lot of your post but have to correct one thing. If someone is martyred for the faith, a real martyr, who has accepted death rather than deny a doctrine of the faith, then all their sins are wiped out. That’s always been my understanding so if I’m wrong, I would be interested to know that.

        • Yes, this is the case. The souls who are martyred for the faith have all their sins forgiven and they receive a place in Heaven. However, that is not the same as canonisation. Canonisation does not just say that a person is in Heaven, but that they lived a life worthy of emulation. Canonisation does not give them themselves any extra glory, it’s for the benefit of the living. So not canonising a person does not mean that they are not in Heaven.

          • Alex F,

            I know that not everyone who is in Heaven has to be canonised, of course not. However, I do not understand what you say about people like Mary Queen of Scots who have their past sins wiped out by martyrdom, yet cannot be canonised. That’s the first time I’ve ever heard that. Surely, someone who is prepared to accept death rather than deny the faith, even if they were serious sinners in the past, is worthy of canonisation because that last act is one of heroic virtue, and suggests true and perfect contrition for past sins?

            • I’m not saying she will never be canonised, it’s just that it’s unlikely. In my opinion, however, she is certainly a better candidate than some of the modern-day saints. For canonisation, a person’s reputation should be beyond any kind of reproach. That doesn’t mean that they cannot have been a sinner earlier in life- St Augustine of Hippo, Camillus de Lellis, Ignatius of Loyola all had colourful lives a bit before converting. But following their conversion, their reputation should be rock-solid

              In the past the Church had a “Devil’s Advocate” for canonisations, whose specific job it was to dig the dirt on prospective saints. If there is any doubt as to someone’s integrity, even if it’s only rumours, the cause would have been dropped. Of course, JP2 got rid of the Devils Advocate. If you’ve already decided to canonise someone, you don’t want someone coming up with a reason why you shouldn’t!

  15. I don’t get how the Archbishop could be heavily involved in marxist ideology and at the same time be very involved in Opus Dei. Surely both things are fundamentally opposites?

    • Helen,

      You’ve touched upon something very important – Romero was a Modernist! One minute defending Traditional Catholic doctrine and practices and the next flirting with Marxism.

  16. Helen,

    I might have thought the same thing as you once, but I’m not so sure now. I have long been concerned about the behaviour of Opus Dei members, both in the public domain:-

    Example 1: Ruth Kelly:- http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/labour/3073989/The-rise-and-fall-of-Ruth-Kelly-the-youngest-ever-woman-Cabinet-minister.html

    “When asked if homosexuality was a sin, Miss Kelly refused to answer. Labour MPs were appalled. She also rejected calls to break off her links with Opus Dei. “It is a private spiritual life and I don’t think it is relevant to my job,” she said.

    But despite her deeply held convictions she has backed government policy even if it flies in the face of her spiritual teachings. Miss Kelly refused to resign when roman catholic adoption agencies were denied an opt-out from legislation compelling them to consider same sex couples as parents.

    While she refused to vote with the Government for the legalisation of hybrid human-animal embryos she was urged by pro-life campaigners to be true to her principles and vote against the Embryology Bill even if it meant sacrificing her Cabinet career. She instead was given permission to be absent for the vote.”

    Example 2: Jack Valero:- take your pick from any of these articles – http://www.lovingit.co.uk/tag/jack-valero

    but also because of what I have learned in the private domain, i.e. a friend of mine is involved with Opus Dei and her children attend schools run by Opus Dei members. I am far from impressed with the children and their knowledge of the Faith and the way they behave, and also not been impressed by some of the things that my friend has told me. I’d be very surprised if the lapsation rate is any different to those in other Catholic schools (which Daphne McLeod of PEEP frequently used to claim was around 95%).

    I am not implying that Opus Dei is infected with Marxist ideology per se, but there does seem to be a lot of confusion and surrender to worldly values within it.

  17. I thought liberation theology was a thing of the past, I know John Paul II came down fairly hard on it, so it is somewhat surprising that it has surfaced again with the recent beatification of Archbishop Romero.

    I was reading up on liberation theology and came across this article on http://home.earthlink.net/~ronrhodes/Liberation.html which might be of interest. I know nothing about the author, but the article gave a decent overview of the subject. This section caught my attention because I thought it described quite accurately how proponents of social justice=liberation theology tend to portray Christ.

    “”While liberation theologians do not outright deny Christ’s deity, there is no clear-cut, unambiguous confession that Jesus is God. The significance of Jesus Christ lies in His example of struggling for the poor and the outcast. The Incarnation is reinterpreted to represent God’s total immersion into man’s history of conflict and oppression. By His words and actions, Jesus showed us how to become true sons of God – that is, by bringing in the kingdom of God through actively pursuing the liberation of the oppressed”.

    • Jobstears,

      That’s an excellent summary of what liberation theology is all about. It’s really a justice and peace movement, nothing more.

  18. I think this (see below) is a very telling report – a priest who switched from being agin his new archbishop (Romero) to the point where he wanted to leave the archdiocese on hearing of his appointment, then changing his mind on realising he’d left his “conservative” ways behind..

    “Fr. Paul Schindler recalls an Oscar Romero who once sat beside him trembling. It was Romero’s first encounter with a group of priests who were furious at the just-announced news that he would be their new archbishop. It was the monthly clergy meeting in early 1977 for the San Salvador archdiocese and at the end, Romero — who hadn’t yet been installed — was asked if he’d like to say a few words.
    For all Schindler knew, they would be the last words he’d ever hear from Romero. Discouraged at the prospect of working under him, given all that he’d heard, Schindler had told his bishop back in Cleveland. Ohio, that he’d decided to return home after eight years of parish work in El Salvador.
    “He walked to the front of the room and began to speak, and after about 25 minutes, I said to myself, ‘I’m not going anywhere.’”
    It was Schindler’s first glimpse of something that, until then, had been unknown to him and many others: in the previous two-and-a-half years, while serving as bishop of Santiago de Maria — a rural diocese where the first peasant massacres took place — Romero had begun to change from the more conservative priest they had known in earlier years.
    Read more

    • Therese,

      Game, set and match!

      There’s more chance of Pope Francis offering a TLM than of Domchas replying to Athanasius. With bells on!

      • Editor,

        “There’s more chance of Pope Francis offering a TLM than of Domchas replying to Athanasius. With bells on!”

        LOL !

  19. “Since Marxist materialism destroys the Church’s transcendent meaning, a Marxist church would be not only self-destructive but senseless.” This is a quote from one of Romero’s own homilies. I wish people would actually read Romero before they called him a liberation theologian. Romero criticized both the left and the right as an Archbishop. His personal secretary stated that Romero was afraid either side would kill him and had absolutely no interest in liberation theology. A group of people sought to hijack a very Holy Man. Or ““A journalist once asked him: ‘Do you agree with Liberation Theology’ And Romero answered: “Yes, of course. However, there are two theologies of liberation. One is that which sees liberation only as material liberation. The other is that of Paul VI. I am with Paul VI.” He spoke because it was the right thing to do because the Church must stand up for justice. The man was slaughtered while saying Mass.. They could have murdered him easily elsewhere but the folks personally chose to have it happen while he was saying Mass. To me that says it all.

  20. “To the accusations that he supported liberation theology, Archbishop Paglia said, Archbishop Romero responded, “Yes, certainly. But there are two theologies of liberation: one sees liberation only as material liberation; the other is that of Paul VI. I’m with Paul VI” in seeking the material and spiritual liberation of all people, including from the sins of injustice and oppression.

    To fill out the quote. Romero had so much criticisms that his writings were heavily scrutinized. The man was Orthodox.

    • Becca,

      And yet, we have the words of Our Lord from the Gospel: “The poor you will have always with you,” and “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s”.

      I am not aware of a single passage in the Gospels where Our Lord specifically challenges the injustices and oppression committed by the Roman authorities, brutal as they often were at that time. No, Our Lord sought to convert souls knowing that these material sins would only disappear with grace.

      The same can be said of the Epistles of St. Paul, the Acts of the Apostles, the Letters of Sts. Peter, John and James. There is not one single passage in any of the these writings that encourages or supports a public rousing of the people against corrupt government. How does the adage go? “Before kingdoms change, men must change”. That’s how the Church has always behaved in regard to the corrupt; she has sought to convert them with her wise teaching, patience and grace, not by public demonstration and resistance which only succeeds in generating acts of retribution.

      Furthermore, who was more unjustly treated and oppressed than Our Lord during His Passion and Death? Yet, He did not speak out against his persecutors and murderers. Quite the opposite, in fact: “Father forgive them, they know not what they do”!

      Did Our Lady and the Apostles cry “injustice and oppression” as He was dragged through the streets covered in blood and bruises, or when He was nailed to the Cross? No, they stood in silent mourning offering their sufferings with His.

      And where the early Christian martyrs put to death because they challenged the material cruelty of pagan leaders of their day, or simply because they would not deny their faith in Christ? There is a huge difference.

      I’m sorry to say that Archbishop Romero’s case is not as straight forward as many imagine. That he cared for the people who were treated unjustly is beyond question. But that he acted responsibly and in line with what I have stated above is certainly questionable. The Church should wait until it is healthy again before it investigates his case further. At present, there are too many Marxists under the episcopal beds, especially in South America.

      In the meantime, there is always the Church’s social teaching, particularly that of Popes Leo XIII and Pius IX, to keep Catholics on the right track and bring oppressors back on to it.

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