Saturday, May 23, 2015

Today's beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero and he Pope's declaration that Romero is a martyr has brought on a historical argument as to whether the previous, conservative Pope had already 'unblocked' 'his entry into the sainthood process,' while the conservative Catholic First Things reports that Romero "stood apart from liberation theology" and "Few know that Romero received spiritual direction from an Opus Dei priest," referring to the historically conservative prelature.  The first part is patently inaccurate - for the last two years of his life he worked on his pastoral letters with liberation theologian Jon Sobrano and his homily six weeks before his murder included "Liberation will arrive only when the poor are the controllers of, and protagonists in, their own struggle and liberation."  Michael Löwy recounts "he had sympathized with Opus Dei in his youth" and "would later say to friends, he was chosen as the one most able to neutralize the 'Marxist priests.'"

What followed was a snowballing effect of radicalization in response to violence with the Archbishop in the center.  The murders of two priests in early 1977 began his "'conversion'" and he would begin to consult with Sobrano the following year.  The "liberation" sermon came a few days before he wrote an open letter to President Carter asking him "to forbid that military aid be given to the Salvadoran government." (pdf) The letter led to rumors he was in danger and he told an interviewer "if God accepts the sacrifice of my life, let my blood be a seed of freedom and the sign that hope will be reality."  The UN concluded in 1993 that Romero's assassination was carried out by Major Roberto D’Aubuisson, who once praised the Holocaust and who "worked with the CIA for years.." a fellow major told Allan Nairn.  Romero's funeral saw an estimated 250,000 convene around Plaza Gerardo Barrios, only to have the military junta open fire on them.

This scene, followed by an even larger massacre on the Sumpul River six weeks later and the National Guard's rape of four nuns seven months later, all during the end of the Carter administration, turned the apolitical like Romero into activists and activists into militants, swelling the ranks of the newly formed FMLN to wage a twelve year war.

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