Over the past few weeks we have been hearing in the news that the Cause of Archbishop Oscar Romero has been unblocked and his beatification is expected soon. The reports, however, do not indicate as to how it was blocked in the first place - as far as we know, and as Pope Benedict indicated during his reign, work on the Cause is proceeding. There may be difficulties and issues, the major being whether Archbishop Romero had links to, or supported, extreme Marxist Liberation Theology, but I did not hear of any attempt by Benedict or Blessed John Paul before him to block the Cause. It is usual for problems and issues to emerge in a Cause, and most of them are ironed out as the investigation proceeds. Some working on the Cause believe the Congregation for the Causes of Saints blocked the standard review of his writings, but that is coming from people working on a Cause, and I know from personal experience that when a process is going slowly people get frustrated and think someone in Rome is sitting on it.
An article in the Catholic Herald today seems to reiterate that the Cause was blocked, reporting on a visit by the President of El Salvador to the Holy Father. The President brought a gift of a piece of Archbishop Romero's blood-stained chasuble as a thank you to the Pope for "unblocking" the Cause. I notice in the photograph at the head of the article that the Holy Father is looking rather seriously at the reliquary - maybe that is just my interpretation. Remember Pope Francis is no fan of Liberation Theology and got himself in trouble with various figures in South America because he cautioned priests and faithful.
Personally I believe that during his life the Archbishop was trying to steer a middle course. Like John Paul and the then Cardinal Ratzinger, he saw the injustices in his country and understood what Liberation Theology, in its orthodox Catholic dimensions, could do to help. However, I believe he also saw the dangers and kept a distance from the extreme Marxist theologians who veered Liberation Theology in the direction of revolution. Given that it was an age of great confusion, it was not always possible to differentiate subtle differences. As the above article suggests, and as indicated by Pope Benedict, Archbishop Romero may well have been unjustly co-opted as a political figure: he was hijacked as a martyr for a left-wing cause. Personally I think that happened, and so now there is a suspicion hanging over him. We see another example of this in Blessed John XXIII who was hijacked by the "spirit of Vatican II" crowd who seemed to present the Pontiff as a screaming liberal who wanted to blow up the Church and rebuild it as a hippie commune.
I note at the end of the article Fr. Lombardi may well be slapping the wrists of those speculating on the status of Romero's Cause: he said the Cause is going forward according to Church rules and it is up to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to inform us about the process's status. And let's be realistic - the Church has to be careful when it comes to Saints. If there are issues they have to be examined; if there are questions, those questions have to be answered satisfactorily. Remember, Saints are raised up in God's time, not ours. And just because our Pope is from Latin America doesn't mean he's going to throw caution to the wind and do a job for the boys back home. If we have learned anything about Pope Francis since his election we know he has a wise head on his shoulders and he is very astute. And let us not forget, he comes from that part of the world so he knows a lot more about the subtleties, the difficulties and the hidden agendas. And if Archbishop Romero needs to be taken back from left-wing revolutionary groups who have co-opted him, then the Holy Father will know how to do that.