Monday, May 02, 2016

This blog turns 10 years old


 
BEATIFICATION OF ARCHBISHOP ROMERO, MAY 23, 2015
 

#BlessedRomero #MartyrOfMercy
In the run-up to the beatification of Archbishop Romero last year, Catholic News Service wanted to send a photographer to take a picture of me working on my blog.  But almost nothing of what I do is particularly photogenic.  On a typical day, my work begins as soon as I wake up.  I check about a dozen web sites on my smartphone while still lying in bed in my pajamas.  During my lunch break at work, I might sit at the nearby mall food court, outlining a blog post or making a list of future story ideas.  At the end of the day—usually, late at night—I’ll sit in my home office translating (I typically post in three languages) after my family’s gone off to bed. My work is invisible—few of my colleagues even know that I am “Polycarpio,” the Romero blogger.

The contrast between the growth in interest in the blog and the low-key business of putting it together is the story of this site: “the previously obscure blog that has been getting a lot of attention lately,” said Barry Hudock, writing in Our Sunday Visitor.  Last year, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano republished one of my articles, and Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the postulator of Romero’s cause, tweeted a shout-out to “one who has worked so effectively for the cause of Bl. Oscar Romero.”
But such recognition was not always the order of the day.  I initially made this blog as a break-out space from another project, an online discussion group called “San Romero.”  I was the founder of that group, but I was catching flack for my posts, which were considered too esoteric because of their narrow focus on the official canonization cause.  Romero had “already been canonized by the people,” so the institutional process was of no import, Romero’s activist supporters would tell me.
I felt otherwise and I started writing here, exclusively about Romero’s beatification process.  I did not just want to repost social justice “spam” (pardon the expression) or build a Romero-themed soapbox to editorialize about past and present wrongs.  Those things need to be done, but others were doing them well, and I felt that promoting the canonization cause also needed to be done but no one was doing that online.  Over these ten years on the blog, the times have changed and so has the blog’s reason for being.  Initially envisioned as a cheer section to urge the Church to beatify Romero, the blog later sought to correct perceived misinterpretations of Romero in popular culture, and more recently has relished digging up previously unknown facts in free-lance investigations.
Along the way, a few ideas have predominated:
  • Romero-centrism”—that, because Romero was a Catholic whose motto was “Sentir Con La Iglesia” (To Be Of One Heart And One Mind With The Church), he should be measured by a Catholic standard, and therefore by the Church’s internal process (this counters the argument that the canonization cause is unnecessary or irrelevant).
  • Gradual conversion”—that, rather than a sudden, overnight “conversion” that led him to advocate for the poor, Romero opened his eyes slowly—like the Blind Man of Bethsaida (cf. Mark 8:22-26), said the late Mgr. Ricardo Urioste.
  • Transfiguration Theology”—that rather than straight Liberation Theology, Romero’s views were informed by the local ecclesiology and eschatology, largely influenced by the Gospel episode which marks El Salvador’s patronal feast (the Transfiguration).
Along the way, I have been helped by many and I wish to personally name a few of them in the following, final paragraph.  When I was interviewed by Rhina Guidos of CNS last year, she asked me what had most surprised me from my experience as a Romero blogger and I told her in all sincerity that I was surprised that, given the divisions around Romero and the often competing visions of the Church that people have, everyone had been nothing but supportive of my efforts and, often, very generously so.  Their support has included giving me leads, tips, information, forwarding posts, republishing posts, allowing me to guest-post in their web sites, and generally helping me increase the blog’s visibility.  To them, to you, to Blessed Romero and to God, I say ¡Muchas gracias!
Special thanks to: Julian Filochowski and the Archbishop Romero Trust; Tim of Tim’s El Salvador Blog; Duane Arnold & Michael Bell of The Project; Paulita Pike and Jorge Bustamante of Cultura Romeriana; Alver Metalli, of Terre d’America and Vatican Insider; Luis Badilla and Il Sismografo; Tito Edwards of Big Pulpit; the National Catholic Register; the Catholic Herald; Mgr. Rafael Urrutia; Archbishop Paglia and Archbishop Escobar; Prof. Roberto Morozzo della Rocca; Daily Theology; Connie Rossini and the Catholic Spirituality Blogs Network; Kevin Tierney and Catholic Lane; Karee Santos; Rhina Guidos; Duane Krohnke; Mike Allison; Gene Palumbo; Rocco Palmo; Eleuterio Fernández Guzmán; and friends at Acción Litúrgica.

Este blog cumple 10 años


 
BEATIFICACIÓN DE MONSEÑOR ROMERO, 23 DE MAYO DEL 2015
 


En el período previo a la beatificación de Monseñor Romero el año pasado, Catholic News Service quería enviar un fotógrafo para tomarme una foto trabajando en mi blog. Pero casi nada de lo que hago es particularmente fotogénico. En un día típico, mi trabajo comienza al nomás despertarme. Reviso una docena de sitios web en mi teléfono digital en pijama antes de salir de mi cama. Durante mi almuerzo en el trabajo, podría encontrarme en el patio de comidas de un centro comercial cercano, delineando una entrada del blog o haciendo una lista de ideas para blogs futuros. Al final del día, por lo general, a altas horas de la noche, me hallarán en mi oficina domiciliar haciendo traducciones (suelo publicar en tres idiomas) después de que mi familia se ha dormido. Mi trabajo es invisible—pocos de mis colegas, incluso, saben que yo soy “Polycarpio”, el blogger Romero.

El contraste entre el crecimiento del interés sobre el blog y la ordinariedad de su elaboración tipifica la historia de este sitio: “el blog anteriormente desconocido que ha estado recibiendo mucha atención últimamente”, escribió Barry Hudock, en Our Sunday Visitor. El año pasado, el periódico del Vaticano L’Osservatore Romano re-publicó uno de mis artículos, y el Arzobispo Vincenzo Paglia, postulador de la causa de Romero, pregonó por su cuenta de Twitter a “alguien que ha trabajado de manera eficaz por la causa del Beato Oscar Romero”.
Pero este reconocimiento no ha estado siempre a la orden del día. Al principio hice este blog como una sala de apoyo para otro proyecto, un grupo de discusión en línea llamado “San Romero”. Yo fui el fundador de ese grupo, pero estaba siendo criticado por mis mensajes, que consideraban demasiado esotéricos, debido a su estrecho enfoque sobre la causa oficial de canonización. Romero “ya había sido canonizado por el pueblo”, y por tanto el proceso institucional no tenía mayor trascendencia, me decían los seguidores activistas de Romero.
Yo discrepaba de ese pensamiento y empecé a escribir aquí, exclusivamente sobre el proceso de beatificación de Romero. No me interesaba sólo arrojar ráfagas de correos masivos sobre la justicia social o construir mi púlpito personal sobre el nombre Romero para opinar sobre males presentes ​​y pasados. Esas cosas son importantes, pero otros las hacían—bien—y consideraba que la promoción de la causa de canonización también era importante, y nadie la hacía en la internet. Durante estos diez años llevando el blog, los tiempos han cambiado y también la razón de ser del blog.  Concebido al principio como porrista para instar a la Iglesia a beatificar a Romero, más tarde el blog trató de corregir errores percibidos en la interpretación de Romero en la cultura popular, y más recientemente se ha gloriado en desenterrar datos previamente desconocidos en sus investigaciones de aficionado.
A lo largo del camino, ciertas ideas han predominado:
  • El “Romero-centrismo”—ya que Romero fue un católico cuyo lema era “Sentir Con La Iglesia”, debe ser medido bajo una norma católica, es decir, por el proceso interno de la Iglesia (esto contradice el argumento de que la causa de canonización es innecesaria o irrelevante).
  • La “conversión gradual”—en lugar de tener una “conversión” repentina, de la noche a la mañana, que lo llevó a abogar por los pobres, Romero abrió los ojos lentamente, como el ciego de Betsaida (Marcos 8: 22-26), decía Mons. Ricardo Urioste (QDDG).
  • La “Teología de la Transfiguración”—en lugar de la pura Teología de Liberación, la perspectiva de Romero estuvo nutrida por la eclesiología y escatología local, fuertemente influenciada por el episodio evangélico que establece la fiesta patronal de El Salvador (la Transfiguración).
A lo largo del camino, he sido ayudado por muchos y me gustaría nombrar personalmente a algunos de ellos en el párrafo que sigue, el final. Cuando fui entrevistado por Rhina Guidos de CNS el año pasado, me preguntó que fue lo que más me había sorprendido en mi experiencia como bloguero Romero y le dije con toda sinceridad que me ha sorprendido que, dada la división en torno a Romero y las visiones a menudo encontradas de Iglesia que tiene la gente, todos sin falta han apoyado mis esfuerzos y, muchas veces con gran generosidad. Ese apoyo ha incluido darme pistas, consejos, información, reenvío de mensajes, publicar mis notas, permitirme publicar notas en sus sitios, y por generalmente ayudarme a aumentar la visibilidad del blog. A ellos, a usted, al Beato Romero y a Dios, yo digo: ¡Muchas gracias!
Agradecimientos especiales a: Julian Filochowski y Archbishop Romero Trust; Tim de Tim’s El Salvador Blog; Duane Arnold & Michael Bell de The Project; Paulita Pike y Jorge Bustamante de Cultura Romeriana; Alver Metalli, de Terre d’America y Vatican Insider; Luis Badilla e Il Sismografo; Tito Edwards de Big Pulpit; National Catholic Register; Catholic Herald; Mons. Rafael Urrutia; el Arzobispo Paglia y el arzobispo Escobar; Profesor Roberto Morozzo della Rocca; Daily Theology; Connie Rossini y Catholic Spirituality Blogs Network; Kevin Tierney y Catholic Lane; Karee Santos; Rhina Guidos; Duane Krohnke; Mike Allison; Gene Palumbo; Rocco Palmo; Eleuterio Fernández Guzmán; y los amigos de Acción Litúrgica.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

St. Romero at the next Synod of Bishops?


 
BEATIFICATION OF ARCHBISHOP ROMERO, MAY 23, 2015
 

 

Blessed Romero (3rd from left), with St. John Paul II at the Vatican.




#BlessedRomero #MartyrOfMercy

Reports that Pope Francis is considering dedicating not just his next encyclical, but perhaps the next Synod of Bishops, to issues of war and peace raises the prospect that such a synod could coincide with a future Romero canonization.  Pope Paul VI, the author of Humanae Vitae was beatified in connection with the 2014 Synod, and the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux were canonized in connection with the 2015 Synod, due to their connection to the family issues in play at those synods.  Who best to showcase the church’s reaction to war and peace than the archbishop who became a martyr while trying to stem a civil war in the late twentieth century?


According to the Italian news agency ANSA:

The Pope would like to dedicate the next Synod of Bishops to the theme of peace. After the topic of the family, on which Francis entrusted the discussion during the last two Synods that led to the formulation of the Amoris Laetitia document, it is the topic of universal peace — ANSA has learned — that is most dear to the pontiff, who would like it discussed in the next Synodal assembly, involving the world’s bishops. The topic was discussed on 18 and 19 April in the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod, in the presence of the Pope who attended throughout.

(English translation via Inside The Vatican).

Archbishop Romero was beatified in May 2015.  The church is gathering evidence of miracles worked through his intercession to pave the way for his canonization, in hopes that it could take place on or before 2017, the centennial of Romero’s birth.  Such a timeframe could also coincide with the next synod, which has not yet been formally scheduled.

¿San Romero al próximo Sínodo de Obispos?


 
BEATIFICACIÓN DE MONSEÑOR ROMERO, 23 DE MAYO DEL 2015
 

 

El Beato Romero (3ero de la izq.) con San Juan Pablo II en el Vaticano.





Los informes de que el Papa Francisco está considerando no sólo dedicar su próxima encíclica, sino también el próximo Sínodo de los Obispos, a los problemas de la guerra y la paz plantean la posibilidad de que un sínodo de este tipo podría coincidir con una futura canonización de Monseñor Romero. El Papa Pablo VI, autor de la Humanae Vitae fue beatificado en relación al Sínodo del 2014, y los padres de Santa Teresa de Lisieux fueron canonizados en relación al Sínodo del 2015, dada su conexión con las cuestiones de la familia en juego en esos sínodos. ¿Quién mejor para mostrar la reacción de la iglesia a la guerra y la paz que el arzobispo que se convirtió en mártir al intentar detener una guerra civil a finales del siglo XX?


De acuerdo con la agencia de noticias italiana ANSA:

El Papa quiere dedicar el próximo Sínodo de los Obispos al tema de la paz. Después de que el tema de la familia, al que Francisco confió la discusión durante los dos últimos Sínodos, y que condujo a la formulación del documento Amoris Laetitia, es el tema de la paz universal—ANSA se ha enterado—lo que el pontífice más desea, y que le gustaría que se trate en la próxima asamblea sinodal, que involucra los obispos del mundo. El tema fue discutido el 18 y el 19 de abril en el Consejo Ordinario de la Secretaría General del Sínodo, en presencia del Papa, que estuvo presente a través de todo el procedimiento.

Monseñor Romero fue beatificado en mayo de 2015. La iglesia está reuniendo evidencia de milagros realizados por su intercesión para allanar el camino para su canonización, con la esperanza de que podría tener lugar en o antes del 2017, el centenario del nacimiento de Romero. Un marco de tiempo de este tipo también podría coincidir con el próximo sínodo, que aún no se ha programado formalmente.

San Romero al prossimo Sinodo dei Vescovi?


 
BEATIFICAZIONE DI MONSIGNOR ROMERO, 23 MAGGIO 2015
 

 

Beato Romero (3 ° da sinistra), con san Giovanni Paolo II in Vaticano.





I rapporti che Papa Francesco sta considerando dedicare non solo la sua prossima enciclica, ma forse il prossimo Sinodo dei Vescovi, alle questioni di guerra e pace, sollevano la prospettiva che tale Sinodo potrebbe coincidere con una futura canonizzazione di Mons. Oscar Romero di El Salvador. Papa Paolo VI, l’autore di Humanae Vitae, è stato beatificato in connessione con il Sinodo di 2014, ei genitori di Santa Teresa di Lisieux sono stati canonizzati in connessione con il Sinodo di 2015, a causa della loro rilevanza alle questioni di famiglia in gioco a quei sinodi. Chi meglio per mostrare la reazione della Chiesa alla guerra e pace che l’arcivescovo diventato martire durante il tentativo di arginare una guerra civile alla fine del ventesimo secolo?


Secondo l’agenzia di stampa italiana ANSA:

Il Papa vorrebbe dedicare il prossimo Sinodo dei Vescovi al tema della pace. Dopo quello della famiglia, sul quale Francesco ha affidato la discussione alle ultime due sessioni che hanno portato all’elaborazione del documento Amoris Laetitia, è il tema della pace universale - secondo quanto apprende l’ANSA - quello che sta più a cuore al Pontefice affinché sia discusso nel prossimo consesso sinodale, coinvolgendo i vescovi del mondo.  Dell’argomento si è parlato il 18 e 19 aprile nel Consiglio ordinario della Segreteria generale del Sinodo, alla presenza del Papa che ha partecipato per tutto il tempo ai lavori.

Romero è stato beatificato maggio 2015. La chiesa sta raccogliendo prove di miracoli compiuti per sua intercessione a spianare la strada per la sua canonizzazione, nella speranza che possa avvenire entro il 2017, il centenario della nascita di Romero. Tale lasso di tempo potrebbe anche coincidere con il prossimo Sinodo, che non è stato ancora formalmente in programma.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Peaceful but not passive: Romero and ‘Just War’


 
BEATIFICATION OF ARCHBISHOP ROMERO, MAY 23, 2015
 
Credits: Mike Goldwater, Robert Lentz

#BlessedRomero #MartyrOfMercy
When Pope Francis considers calls to do away with “Just War” Doctrine—the set of conditions under which war is justified in the Christian tradition—he may want to consider Blessed Oscar Romero’s approach.  Facing different types of violence in 1970s El Salvador, Romero strikes a balance between the duty to oppose abuses and the law of nonviolence.  A Christian should be “peaceful,” he says; but he need not be “passive.” In Romero’s words (adopted from the Latin American Bishops’ Conference), “He can fight, but he prefers peace to war.” [See also: The Next Synod.]

Romero’s formulation accepts the tradition from St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas in its entirety, but he uses it as a speed bump to slow down the race toward war, and he highlights its requirements that call for cultivating a spirit of nonviolence.

He can fight

In the first instance, Romero acknowledges the concern raised by Pope Francis in August 2014, when he said that “where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor.”  Along those lines, Romero admits that “Every individual has the potential for a healthy degree of aggression.”  He concedes that such propensity “is an endowment by nature to enable persons to overcome the obstacles in their lives. Courage, boldness, and fearlessness in taking risks,” says Romero, “are notable virtues and values among our people.”  (Third Pastoral Letter.) In this regard, Romero seems to agree with the Spanish-Salvadoran Liberation Theologian Ignacio Ellacuria, SJ, who said that aggression “is certainly a positive and necessary value,” even though it could be bent toward diabolical purposes.
But he prefers peace

Despite that theoretical allowance, “Archbishop Romero wanted to squeeze out the last drop of hope for a non-violent solution to the social, economic, and political problems of El Salvador,” writes Fr. Thomas Greenan, who has studied Romero’s preaching.  He maintained that while there was the slightest possibility of a dialogue, war should not be an option.”  (Greenan, Archbishop Romero’s Homilies: A Theological and Pastoral Analysis, Romero Trust, London, 124, online HERE). 
Thus, Romero parts ways with certain strands of Liberation Theology and agrees with Card. Ratzinger, who warned in his 1986 Instruction that the “Systematic recourse to violence put forward as the necessary path to liberation has to be condemned as a destructive illusion and one that opens the way to new forms of servitude.”  (Romero himself would quote Paul VI, who had similarly warned that “sudden and violent changes in structures would be fallacious, ineffectual in themselves and certainly not in conformity with the dignity of the people.”)
Thus, when the Italian Red Brigades kidnapped and murdered former Prime Minister Aldo Moro, Romero warned his countrymen that “violence can never be justified and that it is always useless and causes greater evil” (compare Ratzinger, above).  He explained that “While Catholic morality allows for a just war in certain situations, yet this is permissible only after all reasonable and peaceful means have been exhausted.”  (May 21, 1978 Homily.)  He was even more explicit when he said, “This is not the time for guerrillas. At the present time, guerrilla activity and everything that encourages violence and underground activities is inappropriate when there is an appeal for open dialogue.” (Nov. 11, 1979 Hom.)
Nonviolence

Romero’s restatement of the Just War Doctrine is set forth in his last two pastoral letters.  In his Third Pastoral Letter, Romero posits the doctrine as proof that “The Church prefers the constructive dynamism of nonviolence.”  He holds up the elements of the doctrine as the yardstick by which to declare the different types of violence of his day immoral and deplorable.  Let us recall in this connection his immortal words: “We have never preached violence—except, the violence of love” (Nov. 27, 1977 Hom.).
In his Fourth Pastoral Letter, Romero admits that modern day instances when war would be justified are few and far between.  History has taught us how cruel and painful is the price of blood, and how difficult it is to repair social and economic damage caused by war,” he writes.  This is an opportune moment to recall that celebrated phrase of Pope Pius XII on war: ‘Nothing is lost by peace, everything may be lost in war’.”
Some of those that say that “Just War” Doctrine is obsolete argue that the Church should instead have a doctrine of “Just Peace.”  Blessed Romero might reply that it already does.

Pacíficos pero no pacifistas: Romero y la ‘Guerra Justa’


 
BEATIFICACIÓN DE MONSEÑOR ROMERO, 23 DE MAYO DEL 2015
 
Créditos: Mike Goldwater, Robert Lentz
 
Cuando el Papa Francisco considere las llamadas para acabar con la doctrina de la “guerra justa”—o sea, las condiciones bajo cuales la guerra puede estar justificada según la tradición cristiana—debería considerar la formulación del Beato Oscar Romero. Frente a los diferentes tipos de violencia en El Salvador de los 1970, Romero logra un equilibrio entre el deber de oponerse a los abusos y la ley de la no violencia. Un cristiano debe ser “pacífico”, dice; pero no tiene por qué ser “pacifista”. En las palabras de Romero (adoptadas de la Conferencia Episcopal Latino-americana), “es capaz de combatir, pero prefiere la paz a la guerra”. [Ver También: El Próximo Sínodo.]

El teorema de Romero acepta la tradición de San Agustín y Santo Tomás de Aquino en su totalidad, pero la utiliza como banda de frenado para detener la gira hacia la guerra, y pone de relieve aquellos requisitos que exigen el cultivo de un espíritu de no violencia.
Capaz de combatir

En primer lugar, Romero reconoce la preocupación planteada por el Papa Francisco en agosto de 2014, cuando dijo que “cuando hay una agresión injusta, sólo puedo decir que es lícito detener al agresor injusto”. En ese sentido, Romero admite que “Todo hombre tiene un potencial de sana agresividad”. Reconoce que tal cosa es algo con que “la naturaleza lo ha dotado para superar los obstáculos de la vida. El valor, la audacia, el no tener miedo a los riesgos”, dice Romero, “son virtudes y valores notables de nuestro pueblo”. (Tercera Carta Pastoral.) En ese sentido, Romero parece coincidir con el Teólogo de la Liberación español-salvadoreño Ignacio Ellacuría, SJ, quien dijo que la agresividad “es sin duda un valor positivo y necesario”, a pesar de que podría ser desfigurada hacia fines diabólicos.
Prefiere la paz

Pero a pesar de esa asignación teórica, “Monseñor Romero quiere estrujar hasta la última gota la esperanza de una salida no violenta a la problemática social, económica, y política de El Salvador”, escribe el P. Thomas Greenan, que ha estudiado la predicación de Romero. “Mantiene que mientras haya la menor posibilidad de diálogo no conviene hacer guerra”. (Greenan, El Pensamiento Teológico-Pastoral en las Homilías de Monseñor Romero, Las Comillas, Madrid, 228, en línea AQUÍ).
Por tanto, Romero se desvincula de determinadas ramas de la Teología de la Liberación y está de acuerdo con el Cardenal Ratzinger, cuando advierte en su Instrucción de 1986 que “en el recurso sistemático a la violencia presentada como vía necesaria para la liberación, hay que denunciar una ilusión destructora que abre el camino a nuevas servidumbres”. (A Romero le gustaba citar a Pablo VI, que había advertido de manera similar que “los cambios bruscos o violentos de las estructuras serían falaces, ineficaces en sí mismos, y no conformes ciertamente a la dignidad del pueblo”.)
Consiguientemente, cuando las Brigadas Rojas italianas secuestraron y asesinaron al ex primer ministro Aldo Moro, Romero advirtió a sus compatriotas que “la violencia no se puede justificar, siempre es inútil, siempre hace mucho mal” (compárese Ratzinger, arriba). Explicó que “sí es cierto que en la moral católica hay situaciones de guerra justas, pero es cuando se han agotado todos los medios razonables, pacíficos” (Homilía del 21 de mayo de 1978). Fue aún más explícito cuando sentenció definitivamente: “no es esta una hora de guerrilleros. Hoy la guerrilla y todo aquello que siembra violencia, clandestinidad, está fuera de puesto cuando se le está llamando al diálogo abierto” (Hom. 11 nov. 1979).
La no violencia

La reafirmación de la doctrina de la guerra justa de Romero se expone en sus dos últimas cartas pastorales. En su Tercera Carta Pastoral, Romero postula la doctrina como prueba de que “La Iglesia prefiere el dinamismo constructivo de la no violencia”. Aquí utiliza los elementos de la doctrina como el criterio para calificar a los diferentes tipos de violencia de su época de inmorales y deplorables. Recordemos aquí su frase inolvidable: “Jamás hemos predicado violencia; solamente la violencia del amor” (Hom. 27 nov. 1977).
En su Cuarta Carta Pastoral, Romero admite que las instancias modernas en que la guerra se justifica serían pocas e inauditas. “Por la experiencia de la historia, sabemos qué cruel y doloroso es el precio de la sangre y qué difícil de reparar son los daños sociales y económicos de la guerra”, escribe. “Es oportuno recordar la célebre frase del Papa Pío XII ante la conflagración de la guerra: ‘nada se pierde con la paz, todo se puede perder con la guerra’.”
Algunos de los que dicen que la doctrina de la “guerra justa” es obsoleta argumentan que la Iglesia debería tener en su lugar una doctrina de la “paz justa”. El Beato Romero podría responder que ya la tiene.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

A “Romeroesque” pastoral letter


 
BEATIFICATION OF ARCHBISHOP ROMERO, MAY 23, 2015
 

#BlessedRomero #MartyrOfMercy
The Archbishop of San Salvador has released a powerful new pastoral letter addressing El Salvador’s gang violence, and it is a staggering, serious, often sobering offering that is reminiscent of the work of Blessed Oscar Romero.  Signed on March 24—now Romero’s “feast day,” following his beatification last year—the pastoral letter from Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas (entitled “I See Violence and Strife in the City”) comes off as Romeroesque in inspiration, inclination, and in orientation. [See original Spanish text; and Super Martyrio translation.] [Additional coverage at Tim's El Salvador Blog.]

Obviously, it is Romeroesque in inspiration.  Archbishop Escobar signed it on March 24 and opens the letter with an homage to Romero: “Our very beloved Bl. Archbishop Oscar Romero is the wonderful light which illuminates our path,” Escobar writes, and he also closes the letter with a prayer invoking the intercession of El Salvador’s first Blessed to stem the bloodshed caused by the gang violence—which has recently placed El Salvador at the highest levels of worldwide homicide statistics.
The letter is also Romeroesque in its inclination, because it constitutes a major effort by Escobar to tackle the problems of the people.  Numerous observers had complained that the institutional church had—fairly or no—seemed disengaged from the admittedly complex and intractable gang problem.  After initially supporting a controversial gang truce, the Catholic Church has more recently appeared helpless before the crisis.  Archbishop Escobar’s letter is an ambitious response, at over 100 pages (longer than some papal encyclicals), it analyzes the history of violence in El Salvador, from the Spanish Conquest to the present; analyzes violence in the Bible and in Church teachings and draws multiple inferences for El Salvador; and, finally, it prescribes a spiritual path to reconciliation based on these profound and intensive analyses.
Abp. Escobar waves to the faithful during a pastoral visit.
Archbishop Escobar’s letter is also Romeroesque in its orientation, because it adopts Archbishop Romero’s diagnosis of El Salvador’s socioeconomic reality and the causes of violence:
Romero believed that violence in El Salvador was the result of underlying economic injustice which sowed discontent among certain groups of the population.  Those conditions were a breeding ground for violence: “The names for the violence will change, but there will always be violence as long as we do not change the roots that cause this violence and so many other horrible things that occur daily in our nation.” (September 25, 1977 Sermon.) 
Similarly, Archbishop Escobar posits that throughout El Salvador’s history, there has been a “violence in transformation,” a persistent violence that morphs from generation to generation but is continually fed by the underlying conditions of injustice (see, pars. 35-47, 63, and 139-141 of Escobar’s letter). [For more on the contents of the letter, click here.]
Blessed Romero maintained that contemporaneous manifestations of violence needed to be differentiated into underlying violence that provoked other violent responses, and violence intended to remove the yoke of oppression.  There is an institutionalized violence that provokes the anger of the people,” Romero said in an interview.  This was the violence of the military dictatorships of his day and the oligarchical interests they defended: “They want to maintain their privileges through oppression,” he said.  In reaction, other sectors took up arms in insurrection, but their violence was perpetuated by the persistence of the underlying injustices, and therefore the institutionalized violence was “the more blameworthy” of the two. 
Similarly, Archbishop Escobar classifies different violent phenomena as constituting either “primary violence” or “secondary violence” along the lines defined by Romero (see, pars. 27, 32, 40, and 143 of Escobar’s letter)—except that Escobar goes even further and applies those criteria to all violence throughout El Salvador’s 500-year history, concluding that the greed and oppression of the power groups has largely driven all the other violence in El Salvador’s turbulent history.
Finally, Archbishop Escobar’s letter is Romeroesque in its orientation in the way that it offers radical solutions based entirely on orthodox premises.  For example, Escobar recommends holding historical trials to end impunity (at pars. 61 and 140); massive investment in social programs even if means reduced profits for capitalists (at pars. 133 and 178)—and even if the current generation does not live to see its fruits (at par. 53); and going “against the grain” of “neo-liberal” economics to create an economy based on solidarity (at pars. 133 and 178). Just don’t expect to find cites to radical liberation theologians.  The footnotes here all relate to St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Vatican II documents, and the magisterium of the recent (and current) popes.
It’s probably fair to say that few people—if anyone—expected such an astounding letter to be produced by the reserved and sometimes enigmatic Archbishop Escobar.  Yet even in that surprise turn, this pastoral letter is oh-so Romeroesque—the product of “the God of surprises.”