I remember going to see the movie Romero with a group of friends when I was an undergraduate. I don’t remember how we heard about it, but we had to drive into San Francisco because of its limited release. I had more visceral reactions during that movie than during any horror flick or any other movie I had ever watched. All of us were in stunned silence as we walked back to the car and started back to the East Bay. We had to stop halfway across the Bay Bridge on Yreba Buena Island because all of us were starting to blubber. We spent a long time embracing one another and balling like babies in the cold night air on San Francisco Bay. Once all of us were “finished,” we started to talk about the movie and what had struck each of us all the way back to the College. Going to breakfast the next morning, I saw the most extroverted and gregarious of our little band, quiet and subdued, sitting alone. I sat across from him; we didn’t say a word.
All of these memories came flooding back when I read the announcement of Archbishop Oscar Romero’s beatification last week. The movie covers his life from his being consecrated archbishop of San Salvador to his death on March 24, 1980. It traces his transformation from a quiet, bookish priest who everyone assumed would be a nobody-bishop to an outspoken advocate for the poor and oppressed in his embattled nation. Raul Julia played the starring role, a role that I will forever associate with him. (Having said that, you can imagine how unsettled I felt when Julia’s next major role was Gomez Addams, opposite Angelica Houston, in The Addams Family!)
Hidden in all the hype this week was an “inconvenient truth” to those who idolize Pope Francis and demonize his predecessor: it was Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, back in December 2012, who began Romero’s canonization process by moving his case from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The former Congregation (of which he was head until being elected pope) was charged with accessing Romero’s orthodoxy in light of his association with the movement called Liberation Theology which, at the time, some adherents equated with a radical, secular Marxism rampant in Central America. The fact that Romero’s case was only two years in the Congregation of Saints, light speed by Vatican standards, only confirms what many inside and outside the Church have been saying: he was a holy man and died for his faith in Christ.
Fr. Carl, O.P.