Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Is Oscar Romero back on track for Sainthood?


We had some visitors today at the Cathedral in Melbourne: about 40 students from the Tabor Bible College "Year in the Son" course (Tabor is a Pentecostal/Evangelical bible college). James McDonald (the once and future Youth Ministry Director) and I spent the whole morning with them talking about the Catholic Church and Faith and answering their questions. Then we did the stations of the cross in the Cathedral with them, answered more questions, and they stayed for lunchtime mass. Cool.

But I was intrigued that their course leader, Stephen Said, said that he was a keen fan of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Mmm, I thought. A pity a few more people weren't. Can't understand why he isn't yet at least a Blessed... All that business about Liberation Theology, they say.

Blow me down then if I didn't come across the Archbishop's name again later that afternoon when reading none other than Pope Benedict's Angelus address for Sunday. Here's what he said:
The "yes" of Jesus and Mary is in this way renewed in the "yes" of the saints, especially the martyrs, who are killed because of the Gospel.

I emphasize this because yesterday, March 24, the anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Óscar Romero of San Salvador, we celebrated the Day of Prayer and Fasting for Missionary Martyrs: bishops, priests, religious, and lay people who were cut down as they carried out their mission of evangelization and human betterment.

These missionary martyrs, as this year's theme says, are the "hope for the world," because they bear witness that the love of Christ is stronger than violence and hate. They did not seek out martyrdom, but they were ready to give their lives to remain faithful to the Gospel. Christian martyrdom is justified only as the supreme act of love for God and our brothers.
That sounds to me as if Oscar Romero is on his way in from out of the cold. And it could also be that John Allen's analysis of the Sobrino case was right--it isn't about Liberation Theology (which was yesterday's fight) but about Christology.

Anyway, its about time Oscar became Saint Oscar. Or at least Blessed Oscar. (Anyone want to argue about whether or not he was a martyr?)

Meanwhile, the "Other Oscar", Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez of Honduras, has a bold plan (according to John Allen) to revitalise the Church in Latin America: Preach the Gospel! According to Allen, the new approach will be about "aggressive grassroots evangelization", "led by passionate Catholic laity", and "rooted in scripture." Rodriguez himself says:
Our current pastoral model is exhausted. We lost our people by the Word, and we have to recover them by the Word.
The Latin American Church will make its impact yet on World Catholicism, and it won't be Liberation Theology that makes that impact.

12 Comments:

At Tuesday, March 27, 2007 10:42:00 pm , Blogger Arabella-m said...

”Anyway, its about time Oscar became Saint Oscar”.

In our parish he is! Come visit for the Easter Vigil Mass – he’s in the middle of the litany of saints. None of this waiting on Rome for us.

 
At Wednesday, March 28, 2007 11:53:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

Ho! You might suggest that they put Saint John Paul the Great in there with him!

 
At Wednesday, March 28, 2007 12:08:00 pm , Blogger Arabella-m said...

To my big surprise last year 'John Paul the second' was named! (along with Oscar Romera and Mahatma Gandi and various others .... even the still living Nelson Mandela)

We do not, however, use the title 'Saint' or 'Blessed' for any of them, though we do still call the prayer the 'Litany of Saints'. One must be inclusive!

 
At Wednesday, March 28, 2007 4:29:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

The notion that sainthood requires canonisation by Rome is a modern one. The great bulk of the saints that we venerate today have never been formally canonised under the modern procedure.

Originally sainthood arose out of popular recognition. A cult of venerating a particular saint would arise and in due course this received the “stamp of approval” when it was accepted by the ecclesiastical authorities. This was usually evidenced by invocations to the saint concerned being incluided in formal liturgies, but that wasn’t in itself an essential step.

This was mostly a local, not a universal, process, since cults usually grew up in places where the saint had lived, or to which he had a connection. Thus there were large numbers of saints who were recognised and venerated in one diocese, but unheard of almost everywhere else.

As an illustration, only two Irish saints have ever been formally canonised (St Laurence O’Toole and St Oliver Plunkett). A small number of others are venerated in places outside Ireland – Saint Gall, Saint Colmcille. They are mostly saints who left Ireland, and ministered abroad But the Litany of Irish Saints, included in Irish liturgies and Irish prayer-books of impeccable orthodoxy and tradition, contains over two hundred names. And there are many more saints who are venerated only in one diocese in Ireland, or even only in one parish. Have you heard of St Carthage? No, I thought not. But he is patron of the diocese of Lismore (Lismore in Waterford, not in New South Wales) and of its cathedral (and of the Anglican cathedral, for good measure).

Modern times (i.e. since Trent) have seen a general tendency for power and initiative to move from the local church to the universal church, and the modern canonisation process is one of the results of this. But it still depends on local cults growing up, for every candidate needs a promoter to draw him or her to the attention of Rome in the first place. And if a candidate is never invoked in prayer, how are miracles to be attributed to him or her for the purposes of the canonisation proces?

It’s no coincidence that the great majority of saints recognised under the modern process have been clerics or religious, because they tend to have connections with religious orders or dioceses who have both the resources and the know-how to advance their cause. I’ve no objection to clerics and religious being canonised, but surely the church should hold up examples of sanctity from every dimension of life?

So there should still be a place for the popular cult. I have no idea whether bishops who authorise the mention of new but uncanonised in liturgies in their dioceses are infringing some provision of canon law. But they are certainly only doing what bishops everywhere have always done, and what it seems to me they must do if the formal canonisation process is to function as it should, and arise out of genuine existing cults.

I do draw the line at invoking the names of the still-living. After all, if you want Nelson Mandela to pray for you, isn’t the obvious thing to write to him and ask him? If you haven’t done that, including him in a liturgical litany looks a bit like tokenism, no?

 
At Wednesday, March 28, 2007 8:41:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Wrong on a couple of scores as usual, Peregrinus, though right in the main (also as usual--"You are not far from the Kingdom of God").

"The notion that sainthood requires canonisation by Rome is a modern one." 'Tain't a "notion", Peregrinus. 'Tis a "LAW". Indeed the law IS a modern one--if you call "since Trent" "modern". But then the geographical and cultural diversity which has characterised the Church since the 16th Century has required (what is often called) "centralisation" just to keep the whole thing spinning in harmony (like a wheel needs a hub). The Liturgy is another case, as we have discussed before. Previous to Trent there was local organic (but extremely slow) development. These days we can be thankful that the "hub" is there to keep us all together. Witness the Anglicans if you don't believe me... But we're getting sidetracked.

The invocation in prayer that takes place as a "local cult" and which results in the attested miracles is always and everywhere to be private prayer. The Church cannot propose for public veneration in the liturgy of the Church any departed Christian until they have "certainty" (or as certain as you can be about these things) that the individual is in heaven and can act as an intercessor. Naming non-canonised/beatified individuals in the Litany of the Saints (which is a public prayer) is against the law of the Church--and the sense of the Litany. Canonisation means just that: they are added to the "canon" or "list" of saints.

And your claim that the ratio of clergy/relgious saints to lay saints is due to this centralisation is a bit of a furphy. Actually, under JPII the ratio of religious/clerics to lay saints tilted in favour of lay saints for the first time in centuries and centuries. I don't think you can make much of a case for saying that the saints of the past were predominantly lay (unless you go back to the era of the martyrs pre-Constantine). It has always been thus.

Using the names of the living in the litany shows that you don't know what the litany is. It is invocation, not commemoration or congratulation. You can't invoke the living, because they cannot hear you. You need to ring them up or send them an email to ask them to pray for you!

Also, the invocation of only canonised saints means that the non-baptised--and indeed the non-catholic--departed cannot be invoked. The Church may acknowledge that it is possible for someone who has not believed in Jesus Christ or been baptised to be saved, and that there are true Christians outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church, nevertheless she has never canonised anyone who was not a baptised Catholic. Think about it.

 
At Thursday, March 29, 2007 11:05:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At Thursday, March 29, 2007 11:06:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

Oh, and for good measure, Oscar Romero is not a local Australian saint. Neither is Blessed Theresa of Calcutta or the Venerable Servant of God John Paul II.

If we reflect on the difference that global communication technology has made to the way in which the cult of the saints is developing, we will see that it is more than ever necessary that this all be handled from a central office. Just as the media make celebrities known all over the world, the same to with those who live holy lives. So the distinction between "Blessed" (local veneration) and "Saint" (Universal Veneration) is being (has been?) lost.

 
At Thursday, March 29, 2007 11:58:00 am , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

[i]"The notion that sainthood requires canonisation by Rome is a modern one." 'Tain't a "notion", Peregrinus. 'Tis a "LAW". Indeed the law IS a modern one--if you call "since Trent" "modern". {/i]

Laws [i]are[/i] notions, David. And, yes, in the context of history, by ‘modern’ I do mean broadly since Trent/the Protestant Reformation.

[i]But then the geographical and cultural diversity which has characterised the Church since the 16th Century has required (what is often called) "centralisation" just to keep the whole thing spinning in harmony . . . [/i]

I didn’t mean to imply that centralisation was always always and everywhere a Bad Thing; just to observe that it was a reality. The church exists in the world, and adapts to the world, and is influenced by the world, and this is as it should be. We are entitled to reflect on this process, but we have to have faith in the inspiraition of the Holy Spirit, and I don’t think we can condem centralisation (or any other development) as soon as we observe one consequence that may not appeal to us.

And a minor quibble – not really a qubible, perhaps, but an observation. Centralisation occurs not only because it is [i]necessary[/i], but also because it is [i]possible[/i]. For example, the uniform imposition and regulation of the Roman rite throughout the Latin church may or may not have been desirable before the advent of the printing press, but it wasn’t possible until then. Likewise the near-universal selection of Latin bishops by the Pope wasn’t possible until the development of reliable postal/courier services providing communications between Rome and all other parts. And it probably wasn’t necessary [i]or[/i] possible until the growth of a practical separation of church and state.

On a side note, one of the consequences of centralisiation is polarisation. For a long time, there was a good degree of vagueness over whether and to what extent various communities of Eastern Christians were or were not in communion with Rome. Our “modern” “notion” (those words again) that you are either in communion with Rome or not would, I think, have puzzled them somewhat. It’s only from and after the time of the Crusades that Eastern Christians have, in effect, been forced to make a clear choice, and we have the development of separate Greek Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches within the traditional eastern rites. While ii’s a good thing to have Greek Catholics who are clearly in communion with Rome, it’s not necssarily a good thing to have Greek Orthodox Christians who are clearly not. So centralisation can be a complex process, and its oucomes are not necessarily uniformly bad or uniformly good.

[i]The invocation in prayer that takes place as a "local cult" and which results in the attested miracles is always and everywhere to be private prayer. The Church cannot propose for public veneration in the liturgy of the Church any departed Christian until they have "certainty" (or as certain as you can be about these things) that the individual is in heaven and can act as an intercessor. Naming non-canonised/beatified individuals in the Litany of the Saints (which is a public prayer) is against the law of the Church--and the sense of the Litany. Canonisation means just that: they are added to the "canon" or "list" of saints.[/i]

Yes, that’s the norm [i]now[/i]. Formal canonisation precedes, or should precede, formal liturgical invocation. But it need not, and often does not, precede public discussion of the merits and sanctity of the person concerned, the encouragement of private prayer and devotion, and even the establishment of shrines, etc.

In the past, though the situation was reversed. Invocation in the liturgy effectively [i]was[/i] canonisation, in the abaence of anything like the the formal Roman process that we have today. As you say, that is basically what canonisation means.

[i]And your claim that the ratio of clergy/relgious saints to lay saints is due to this centralisation is a bit of a furphy . . . I don't think you can make much of a case for saying that the saints of the past were predominantly lay (unless you go back to the era of the martyrs pre-Constantine).[/i]

A fair point, I concede..

[i]Using the names of the living in the litany shows that you don't know what the litany is. It is invocation, not commemoration or congratulation. You can't invoke the living, because they cannot hear you. You need to ring them up or send them an email to ask them to pray for you![/i]

Exactly the point I was trying to make!

[i]Also, the invocation of only canonised saints means that the non-baptised--and indeed the non-catholic--departed cannot be invoked. The Church may acknowledge that it is possible for someone who has not believed in Jesus Christ or been baptised to be saved, and that there are true Christians outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church, nevertheless she has never canonised anyone who was not a baptised Catholic. Think about it.[/i]

I agree with that. I might regard Martin Luther, or Martin Luther King, as examples of heroic virtue or heroic sanctity, but they weren’t a part of the communion of which you and I are a part, and that’s a truth that we ought to respect. And I think claiming as a member of our communion (which is one of the implications of canonisation) someone who was not a member and who may indeed have explicitly and conscientiously chosen not to be a member is something we ought not to do. We may confidently hope and firmly believe that either or both of the Martins sits at God’s right hand, but that is not quite the same thing.

I think invoking Martin Luther disclsoes a related error to that which underlies invoking Nelson Mandela. The purpose of the invocation is not to honour the person invoked.

Invoking Oscar Romero or John Paul II is quote different. It’s certainly a breach of canon law in place since Trent, but it’s not intrinscally objectionable. And in the scale of possible breaches of the law, I’d have to rate it as not terribly serious.

 
At Thursday, March 29, 2007 3:36:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

All agreed. Interestingly, I sometimes reflect upon whether or not Brother Roger of Taize might be canonised at some point in the future. I think the current body of opinion and evidence is that he was reconciled with Rome but not formally. In my private prayers, I do in fact invoke his intercession. While I believe re "The Blessed Dr Martin Luther" (as the Lutheran "Formula of Concord" calls him) has probably done his time in purgatory and is in heaven, I am personally convinced that at the time of his death Brother Roger was about as advanced in holiness as one can get (I can't judge his heart of course, only his actions), and am fairly confident that he is in heaven. In fact, Pope Benedict virtually said so in his brief words upon hearing of Brother Roger's death.

 
At Friday, March 30, 2007 12:31:00 pm , Blogger POLYCARPIO said...

First time posting here. Greetings to all from the far away land of California. I keep a blog called "Positio Super Martyrio" that keeps up with the Romero canonization cause. Pope Benedict's mention thrilled us Salvadorans, though we are still dystilling a flurry of facts regarding the status of the canonization cause. Generally, I agree with the main posting that Romero is in good stead with Rome. But, the Church is still crossing their T's and dotting the I's over Archbishop Romero. I think that under the acclamation model, Romero is a saint, across confessional lines even, and I am confident that he is a saint in Heaven. But, we may have to wait another five years before it's official down here (Blessed).

 
At Friday, March 30, 2007 11:10:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Welcome, Polycarpio. Perhaps you could offer us an opinion on whether or not the murder of the Archbishop was a true martyrdom? I have the same questions in regard to Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

 
At Saturday, March 31, 2007 11:22:00 am , Blogger POLYCARPIO said...

Thank you, Brother, for that welcome, and for the portentous question. Let me be clear: Yes! I believe that Archbishop Romero's murder was a true martyrdom. I have a detailed answer, but let me give you the abbreviated version. Archbishop Romero's killers acted "in hatred of the faith" (odium fidei), thus satisfying the canon law requirement for martyrdom. The day before the assassination, Msgr. Romero delivered a sermon calling for soldiers to disobey orders to massacre civilians and to disobey orders that betrayed their conscience. Army spokesmen told the Associated Press that Romero had committed "a crime" by inciting a soldier rebellion. He was murdered at his next public appearance, the following day. Archbishop Romero's appeal was consistent with Church doctrine. Very similar language appears in John XXIII's "Pacem In Terris" (paragraph 51). Just last week, a group of conscientious objectors to war had the doctrine ratified to them by the Vatican hierarchy: "there was clarity, especially at the Secretariat of State, that one must never do what one believes to be wrong, even if such action is legal or ordered by military superiors." (Catholic News Service, March 23, 2007). In essence, Romero was killed because he announced a legitimate tenet of Catholic doctrine and somebody didn't like it. Moreover, all of the "background" stuff -- the context of this sermon in light of Romero's other human rights denunciations -- were generally in keeping with the social doctrine of the Church. Therefore, Romero is a bona fide Christian martyr: a "true martyrdom," as you say. Other thoughts?

 

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home