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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

He Is A Martyr


It has been announced that the Holy Father has signed a Decree of Martyrdom recognizing that Archbishop Oscar Romero's murder was in odium fidei, in hatred of the faith, thus clearing the way for his beatification. As you know Archbishop Romero's Cause has been a source of controversy for many years given the difficulties in separating religion from politics not only in the motivation for his killing, but also in his ministry. He has been connected with Liberation Theology, a particular form of social justice which has, in part, dabbled in Marxism and even Pelagianism, and has been a thorn in the side of the Church for many years. 

Oscar Romero's concern for the poor, emerging from his Christian faith, cannot be doubt, the problem was to discern whether he embraced the radical forms of Liberation Theology and if he was killed for his politics rather than for his Catholic faith manifested in his defence of the poor and vulnerable. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints and the Holy Father, after many years of study, have concluded that he was killed out of hatred for his Catholic faith and the position of the Catholic Church, which he emulated, to protect and work for the poor. He has become a poster boy for Liberation Theology, including those elements which have more in common with Marx than Christ, but the Archbishop cannot be blamed for that - the investigation into his life had to look at the man and his killers, not those who seek to use him to promote their political agenda.

The Archbishop will be beatified now without the need for a miracle. However, for his canonisation, a miracle would be required and I believe, for the sake of prudence and to ease the anxieties of some, the Holy Father, or his successor, should allow the process to proceed normally: God should be allowed speak. Until he is beatified the Archbishop now holds the title "Venerable".

The body of the Venerable Archbishop Romero moments after this martyrdom

The Venerable Oscar's Cause is not the first to be immersed in politics, many others had to go through a process of careful sifting and intensive study. Though an easier case to examine, the Cause of Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko was one - was he killed out of hatred for the faith or because of his work with Solidarity? After careful study, like Romero, it was because of his Catholic faith and his defence of the rights of men and women which is central to the Church's social teaching. But there are others who Causes should be examined, among them two women who suffered during the Reformation in England - one killed, the other dying in virtual imprisonment after many years of long suffering. I am of course speaking of Mary, Queen of Scots and Katherine of Aragon.

Mary, Queen of Scots: a possible martyr too? 

Mary, Queen of Scots's life is mired in politics, but she was imprisoned by Elizabeth I, not really because she was the Tutor Queen's next heir and caused a problem for her, but rather because Mary was a Catholic and had become a rallying call for suffering Catholics in England. In the end Elizabeth had to have her killed so she could no longer be a threat to her throne. If Mary had been a Protestant she would not have been such a serious threat to the Protestant Queen. I think the Bishops of Scotland should examine the possibility of opening a Cause of martyrdom for Mary. She herself was convince she was dying for her faith, she came to her execution on the 24th July 1567, she wore a red pettycoat as a symbol - those responsible for her death got the message and were none too pleased. Some may cite some irresponsible acts earlier in her life as too serious a barrier to considering a Cause - if that is the case then we had better take St Augustine off the calendar, and whole host of other Saints and martyrs, prominent among them St Andrew Wouters.  

Similarly Katherine of Aragon's Cause should also be considered: her piety cannot be dismissed nor the patience and heroic virtue she seemed have demonstrated in her years of long-suffering at the hands of her unfaithful husband, Henry VIII. As she died she forgave her husband and prayed for him, revealing true, heroic charity. In a sense Oscar Romero's case may well give us the nudge to examine cases we may have put aside because they seemed too complicated to tackle.

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