Pope John XXIII and myself did not get on for a long time. I'll tell you why. As I was growing up in the eighties I heard and saw a lot concerning Vatican II, and as I observed what was happening in the Church, I did not think Vatican II had been a very good idea, and the so-called "Good Pope John" who ushered in what seemed to tearing the Church apart was not high on the list of those I admired (neither was Archbishop Lefebvre, by the way). He was adored by the more liberal proponents of the "spirit of Vatican II" and seeing what they were up to did not enamour him to me either. However, as I began to wiggle my way out of a bad catechetical process and the "coffee-table Mass brigade" I began to discover that Vatican II had been very different from what I, and many of my generation, had been told.
That began to change my attitude towards Pope John. His treatment of St Pio (and I love St Pio), did not mean we suddenly jumped into a fire of fraternal harmony, but it eased tensions between us. When he was beatified in 2000 I accepted the will of God and decision of the Church though not jumping for joy, but I welcomed it and congratulated him. And when I finally got to Rome as a pilgrim and later living there as a seminarian, when in St Peter's I would go to his tomb, kneel before his incorrupt body and pray. Bit by bit things are improving - we are moving in the right direction, it may be slow due to my fallen humanity, but we are getting there. I now see that what he envisioned was tremendous, orthodox and evangelical, his best interpreters are Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI, not the "spirit of Vatican II" crowd.
My attitude towards Archbishop Oscar Romero was not much better - I always associated him with Liberation Theology - and Marxists who tried to reinterpret the Gospel according to their own materialist, revolutionary ideas. Of course he was concerned for his people, but, as I began to discover, he was not a Marxist - like Blessed John XXIII he has been hijacked by an ideology, and used by the proponents of that ideology to further their own aims. As Francis Phillips points out, Archbishop Romero was a holy man, a man in full communion with the Church, who based his struggle to defend his people on the Church's social teaching rather than The Communist Manifesto or Das Kapital. Phillips in his article expresses his uneasiness with the visit of President Barack Obama to the late Archbishop's tomb: I can relate to that.
We, in the Church, have so much to reclaim - including the truth and authentic legacy of our heroes and saints, including Blessed Pope John and Archbishop Romero. I would never class myself as a victim - but I do think that I, and many of my generation, have lost something of the Church's great tradition and people who should set our hearts on fire with love and enthusiasm, but raging ideologies within the Church have given us a distorted picture and we have to overcome that in ourselves. That is why the pontificates of the Ven. Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI are so important: they are helping us reclaim what is our inheritance in this Communion of faith and love, while still being open to the world and to new (orthodox) evangelical possibilities. That is what Blessed Pope John XXIII was trying to do, and the Servant of God, Archbishop Oscar Romero in defence of his people. Francis Phillip's article got me thinking about all that again, thought I might share it.