Generous Orthodoxy  

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Pope Francis and Oscar Romero

The news that Pope Francis has enthusiastically promoted the beatification of Oscar Romero, the heroic martyred Archbishop of El Salvador, is thrilling. I have written before about the film, Romero, which more or less accurately depicts the transformation of an essentially conservative priest favored by the Salvadoran elite into a courageous champion of the poor. My Protestant convictions rebel against the idea of "saints" authenticated by supposed miracles, but if there are going to be saints of this sort (as opposed to the sanctification of all believers), Romero should be one of them. My blog post contains a lot of information about Romero:

My previous posts about Pope Francis have expressed serious reservations about him based on his record as Jorge Maria Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires during the Argentine "Dirty War," when, by all accounts including his own, he failed to stand against the military regime as they killed or "disappeared" their political opponents. I personally find it impossible to forget that he was therefore indirectly responsible for the torture-murder of Elizabeth Käsemann, daughter of the revered New Testament scholar Ernst Käsemann. The Archbishop of Chile during the Pinochet years presents an instructive contrast, because he urged his priests to speak up against the cruel regime.

A lot of the adulation of Francis is either sentimental or superficial or both. However, there are several initiatives he has recently taken, of which the Romero elevation is the most recent, that deserve both praise and support: 1) his moves to enter the discussion about environmental degradation; 2) his efforts to reform the Curia; 3) his outspoken defense of the poor, and his consequent steps to support some of the tenets of liberation theology; 4) his wish to conduct a more open discussion of cultural trends; 5) his outreach to American nuns who were under suspicion. When these factors are combined with his evident allegiance to the magisterium (despite the hopes and wishes of the anti-Catholic liberal commentariat), there is reason for cautious rejoicing.

The front-page story of the Romero beatification in The New York Times strikes me as very good. Unlike a lot of secular liberal journalism, including that of the Times, it does not simply cast John Paul II and Benedict XVI as villains over against the warm and inclusive Francis, but  takes care to explain the context: