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James Martin, S.J.June 06, 2011

A few weeks ago I wrote in this space about the beatification of John Paul II and talked not only about his deep faith and considerable personal holiness but also the consternation in some circles over the perceived rush of his canonization process.

There are many other people who I hope are soon named as saints and to whom I pray regularly. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., the charismatic superior general of the Society of Jesus between 1965 and 1983, is one. Father Arrupe, among other accomplishments, invited Jesuits to redouble their efforts to attend to the needs of the poor and marginalized in response to the church’s “preferential option for the poor.” Also, I would submit (you can see my bias) the names of the Jesuits of the University of Central America, along with their companions, who refused to leave the poor with whom they ministered (in the same way the Algerian Trappists portrayed in the film “Of Gods and Men” remained at their posts) and who were killed in 1989. There are also the four churchwomen, Dorothy Kazel, O.S.U., Maura Clarke, M.M., Ita Ford, M.M., and Jean Donovan, murdered in El Salvador as a result of their advocacy for the poor, in 1980. More recently, there is Dorothy Stang, S.N.D.deN., who worked with the landless poor in Brazil and was killed in 2005 as she recited the Beatitudes in the presence of her assassins. Each is, I believe, already, and will one day be declared, a saint.

In fact, a martyr does not need a miracle for beatification; the Vatican can dispense with the requirement. Thus, all those mentioned above (except Servant of God Pedro Arrupe) could be declared “martyrs of faith.” Or the pope could use the relatively new category of “martyr of charity,” first applied to St. Maximilian Kolbe in 1982: someone who dies while administering Christian charity.

But one “cause” outstanding for its delay is that of a man whom both Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI have already declared a “martyr of faith.” The foot-dragging in this case is almost unbelievable. That man is Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero.

It is hard to imagine a more clear-cut case for the beatification of a “martyr of faith.” Romero was a man whose faith moved him from being a tool of the wealthy to a champion of the poor, a priest committed to ending violence, a church leader dedicated to reconciliation and a bishop unafraid to interpose himself between violence and his flock. In a sermon addressed to repressive elements within his country’s military, he said: “In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cry rises to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you: stop the repression!”

The following day, March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass at a small chapel called La Divina Providencia, Archbishop Romero was assassinated as he held aloft the chalice. His own blood was spilled with the blood of Christ on the altar.

In some Vatican circles Romero is seen, unfairly I believe, as an overly “political” figure. But that is an odd charge given our most recently beatified cleric: John Paul II supported the Solidarity movement in Poland, worked with world powers to end the cold war and regularly conferred with political leaders. Still, the delay continues. In 2006, en route to Latin America, Pope Benedict told reporters, “Romero as a person merits beatification.” But Vatican officials later removed that phrase from the official transcript, retaining only the pope’s praise of the slain prelate as a “great witness to the faith.”

The haste to beatify John Paul II was deemed by the journalist Michael Walsh in The Tablet of London “unseemly.” Unseemly to me is the slowness of the beatification of Oscar Arnulfo Romero. Santo immediatamente!

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11 years 8 months ago
I agree with Fr. Martin's sentiments entirely regarding all the persons named.  But did the Vatican show any great support for Oscar Romero even at the time of his funeral?
Wasn't John Paul II, formed as he was in opposition to Communism, suspicious of Romero's connection to liberation theology which the pope saw as infliltrated by Marxist thought? Did Rome ever indicate that it saw Romero as a martyr?  I sadly suspect it instead saw him as a cleric too involved in politics, somewhat like our own administration officals  regarded the murder of the four women missioners in El Salvador.  Again, I do appreciate Martin's sentiments, but at the same time I find it somewhat disproportionate that of all the names named almost all are either religious or membes of the clergy?  Are there any regular married folk being overlooked in all these beatifications and canonizations that could be examples to us who are not committed to a life of celibacy?  Is there some bias in Catholicism that cannot see great holiness of life in those who relish the sexual expression of love?  "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine/There's always laughter and good red wine/At least I've always found it so/Benedicamus Domino."-H. Belloc 
11 years 8 months ago
James: I appreciate so very much your thinking in this article.  I spent ten years of my life on El Salvador and Nicaragua.  I didn't know Archbishop Romero, but I met many who knew him so I felt like he was a familiar friend.  I met him in the poor when I travelled about the country and to the villages in the mountains.   The Archbishop's chancellor became a friend and I dealt with him in providing assistance to the displaced.  in the course of a number of delegation visits I would arrange a meeting with Fr. Ellacuria at the UCA.  This brilliant man exuded the Ignatian spirit and was able to provide analysis which helped folks understand the causes and a balanced view of possible solutions.  Little did we know that the death of this man and his colleagues would bring about the end of that bloody war.  Thank you for this wonderful article. There were many holy lay catechists, human rights advocates, and labor leaders who died in that war.  They are all resting in the arms of a loving God.  What a reunion that must have been.
C Walter Mattingly
11 years 8 months ago
Fr Martin, if I may mention one of your fellow Jesuits as fully deserving and who has waited far longer, Blessed Miguel Pro. He marched to his own execution by returning to minister to his people in virulently anti-Catholic Mexico where his last words of saintly witness became the cry of Mexican Catholics who would not have their faith erased by communist tyranny, "Viva Cristo Rey!" Perhaps the new film will bring him the attention required and the impetus to sanctify his life and memory before a century has passed. Not subito perhaps, but better sooner than even later.
Michael Barberi
11 years 8 months ago
Fr. Martin: I sincerely espect your thoughts and comments in America. I do agree with the direction and content of your article. Nevertheless, we will never know the many Catholics, both lay and clerical, that are saints in heaven without being named such on earth.

To my knowledge, no other major Christian religion canonize people as saints. One of my close friends graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary and is a member of the Episcopal Church. One day we were discussing Mary and the Saints, and he said: why pray to a saint or Mary when you can pray directly to Jesus? Of course, I did not go into a lengthy explanation about Catholic religious beliefs, but he did make a good point.

While JP2 was a deeply holy man who was a good pope. For his many works and leadership his beatification was understandable. However, there are many in the Church that believe JP2, inadvertently or unintentioally, did not bridge the profound crisis in the Church between theologians and the Church Hierarchy. In fact, too many bishops and priests that did not agree with JP2's theology were removed from their posts, given other responsibilities or their licenses to teach rescinded. To many theologians, the Church is similar to, but not identical with, the Trinity. It is made up of three equall parts with different roles, gifts and authority: the laity, theologians and the clergy-hierarchy. Unfortunatley, the first two have no voice, save for those that agree with the hierarchy. While this was often true in pre-Vatican II times, the divide grew worse under JP2. It was not JP2's intention because he firmly believed in defending the desposit of faith and Church Doctrines from what he perceived to be threathened by the evil and ills of modernity. There is some truth to that belief, although some say it was too extreme.

John Donaghy
11 years 8 months ago
Thanks for push for Romero's beatification - and the others, adding Dorothy Day.  But there's one miner error. Monseñor Romero was killed in the Divina Providencia cancer hospital chapel immediately after he completed his homily. The recording makes this clear. It is possible that the chalice on the altar for the offertory was overturned since he may have been giving the homily from behind the altar or may have walked to behind the altar after completing the homily.
Sean Simpson
11 years 8 months ago
I support your sentiments Fr.Martin and concur with those of Andy Gilligan above !
Incidentally..I would also push for the canonization of Abbe pierre in France who died fairly recently... But..Too political...ie too involved in putting roofs over marginalised peoples' heads !!
Norman Costa
11 years 8 months ago

Father Jim,

If you allow me, I would like to tell the story of a WW2 Catholic Chaplain, John J. Veret, who died living his faith in the Battle of the Bulge, January 9, 1945. I was inspired to tell about Father Veret after seeing your Tweet on Memorial Day, and your recognition of Chaplains who died in war. As far a I know, I am the only person to write the following account of the moments leading up to his death in an artillery barrage. 

My father was a paratrooper in the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division at Normandy, D-Day, June 6, 1944. After the Normandy campaign the 507th was assigned to the 17th Airborne Division and fought in the Battle of the Ardennes Forest (Battle of the bulge.)

At one of the reunions of the 507th during the 1980s, my mother asked one of the veterans, “Did you know Father Veret? He married us in Alliance, Nebraska.” Across the dinner table the vet replied, “Did I know Father Veret? Let me tell you about Father Veret. He saved my life!”

The vet told how he had been carrying wounded soldiers down a hill to an aid station and ambulances. Under a constant artillery barrage he carried his fellow soldiers one at a time, over his shoulders, and then went back up the hill for another wounded paratrooper. After a short time his uniform was soaked in the blood from the wounded that he carried. He was not injured himself.

On one of the vet's trips down to the ambulance, Father Veret saw him, ran up to intercept him, took the wounded soldier from him, and put him on his own shoulder to carry the rest of the way. Father Veret had seen the vet's blood soaked uniform and assumed he was wounded, also. Father Veret said, “I'll take him. You go and get yourself taken care of [at the aid station].” Of course, the vet turned and started back up the hill to get another wounded paratrooper. He turned around just in time to see Father Veret loading the wounded soldier into the ambulance. A direct hit from a German 88mm artillery shell destroyed the ambulance and killed Father Veret and all the wounded inside. 

Father John J. Veret's name is on the memorial plaque at Arlington Cemetery on Chaplain's Hill, with the names of other Catholic Chaplains. Father Veret was killed in action - ministering to his soldiers and saving the life of one paratrooper in his flock who could tell the story of how he died.

11 years 8 months ago
Oscar Arnulfo Romero, Santo immediatamente!

Greta Green
11 years 8 months ago
Major difference between JPII and Romero was the fact that JPII was fighting communist and many see Romero as supporting socialist ideas.  JPII was on record of telling religious not to get involved in politics supporting socialist.  Good advice.  I wish some of the priests and bishops here would also stay out of politics supporting the socialist Obama or the socialist issues of making illegals legal
Norman Costa
11 years 8 months ago
@ Catherine:


@ Greta:

The logical conclusion of your comment is that JPII would have regarded Obama as a socialist, he would have equated a socialist with a communist, he would have charged his American bishops with not getting involved in the politics of the Democratic Party, and JPII would have spoke out against the socialist/communist evil of Obama making illegal immigrants legal. Would it be a mortal sin for a Catholic to support socialist/communist Obama to support the socialist/communist issue of legalization for illegals? Would it be a mortal sin to vote for socialist/communist Obama and his socialist/communist issues? Will I go to hell if I vote for Obama?
david power
11 years 8 months ago

My comment will probably not stay up as I am occasionally a bad boy and take a Socratic route which Fr Martin hates.
JP2 funneled money to Solidarity which was involved in the political sphere. He fasttracked Fr Popielsku to beatification even though he was a very radical anti-communist. The Church in Italy is in hand in glove with the Christian Democrats even though they give the mafia problems of conscience. He told Poland to Vote yes to Europe when all he was supposed to say was that "Jesus loves you".
Brzenski said that when he spoke to Carter it was like speaking to a Priest and when he spoke to Wojtyla it was like speaking to a politician.
Oscar Romero was a man of goodness and not a man of power.He defended his tortured people and never once defended or protected pedophiles.
Politics is always and everywhere the will to power.Oscar Romero was a simple Priest  with all the defects that go with that.Wojtyla was a man of power with all the manipulation that goes with that.How the heavens must weep at you comapring the two!!  
david power
11 years 8 months ago

Let it be held to me on judgement day if you vote for immigrants to enter the USA. There are two types of illegal immigrants though.The others are those in the womb. Obama should come out strong  for both of them.Without alienating the hosts in either case. Life is good,babies are good and Mexicans are good!
Women ,like rednecks, see the new arrival as a threat to the status quo.They are both right.But tomorrow is better than today. 
   "making illegals legal"

My God Greta you have just given the greatest subtitle ever for the Gospel of Jesus Christ!!!

I challenge everybody to top what Greta wrote.Give me a subtitle that better suits the message of Jesus.Lets see if all that Jesuit education is worth anything.
Norman Costa
11 years 8 months ago
@ David:

...a subtitle that better suits the message of Jesus...? Hmmmmm.

Well, take the book of James...If you assume that the author was James the brother of Jesus, and the caretaker of the Jerusalem Church, then a case could be made that the book of James is about the closest you can get to the actual words and sentiments of Jesus. It is almost without theology and exhorts his listeners to be kind, honest, care for the widow and orphan, do not cheat your workers, do not harass people by bringing them to court, do not hurt others with your words, etc. It is the most Jewish of the books in The Christian testament.

Soooooooooo, Here is my title and subtitle:


david power
11 years 8 months ago

I am tightening up the rules.The subtitle is limited to the Gospel.You are welcome to have another go :)
Norman Costa
11 years 8 months ago
Top 10 subtitles for the message of Jesus in the Gospel, that are better than (or at least as good as,) "Making illegals legal:"

10. Love God. Love your neighbor. They go together.

9. Do not be so greedy. Share what you have with those near you.

8. Your sins are forgiven.

7. Let your light shine for the world to see.

6. I have done a lot for you. Do no less for others.

5. Take care of your sheep - every last one of them.

4. Finding something that is valuable and important takes effort.

3. Sit down. Open your eyes. Listen.

2. The Kingdom of God is at hand.

1. It is time for a change of heart. 
Bill Mazzella
11 years 8 months ago
While we may have differences of opinion, I believe we should appreciate a leader such as James Martin. He works on bringing a polarized church together realizing how true it is that people cannot listen if flames are thrown at all the time. He appears to hold true to all that is listed in #16. This is why Paul listed charity above all. So let's cherish such a spirit when he or she is in our midst.
david power
11 years 8 months ago

I am afraid that after serious consideration the committee has decided that nothing tops what Greta wrote. Truly the Holy Spirit has gone funny. I think your number one is a keeper but I am too ......well I won't say the word.
I have become a bit of a Nietzschean Christian.
It is only what the Lord himself says that interests me.I think St Paul was a very distant second to Jesus and the Church should recognize this.If I quote another part of scripture catholic tradition understands it in a historical sense.It is only the Lord who is Truth.
It took a non-cleric (St Francis) to unravel the gospel in the 13th century and so place no faith in clerics or apostles etc.To be respected and authority they have.But...The Gospel is another matter.
I have pondered the story of your father a lot.How you present it is sometimes very unique.It is not just a lament of sin but often an openness to grace.Those priests who helped him in the end were not products of the Church but of the love of Jesus.  I can't explain it but I am overcome when I think of all those like your dad who carried this burden for decades. I am sure that pedophilia was prevalent in the Church for centuries and the practise was to cover it up.The new pentecost started out as the Irish problem and then spread abroad.God is truly speaking to us.The Pope is trying his best to fathom the Lord.His hearing is blocked by dignitaries and smiling  clerics.I know it may sound pretentious but I think that the church would be bettered served by a book of testimonies from people like you who can show the human aspect of what happened.Not to alienate us from the Church but to bring us closer to the Truth who is always Jesus Christ.      
Norman Costa
11 years 8 months ago

@ David,

Thank you very much for your words about my father.  Yes, what the two priests did for my father, in the few weeks before he died, was a manifestation of God's love here on earth. What that did for my relationship with my father, in the final days, and hours, and minutes of his life, is beyond what words can convey. 

I have been fortunate to see how a few others manifested God's love here on earth for other survivors of clergy sex abuse of minors. 

Among the things I have learned is that all victims need the same thing from the Church, the very same things that were given to my father: 1. acknowledgment of what happened; 2. told it was not their fault; 3. an apology from the church; 4. praying for the victim; 5. if requested, pray with the victim; and 6. do it again, and again. Some will need money and services for therapy and other consequences of the abuse.

I cannot say enough, that the right thing to do is fairly easy to figure out, and not that hard to do. I may have an opportunity, in the near future, to propose this to a significant figure in the American Catholic Church. No details now, but I will comment in AM as things develop, or not.

Unfortunately, what I see is a policy of spiritual eugenics that may do something for victims who 'still love the Church,' and screw the rest who cannot get over what the Church did to them. There are tens of thousands of victims, unidentified, who still suffer, and need what was given to my father. All that is needed is for leadership among the bishops that will make the decision to find the victims, reach out to them, and bring them home. Once the will is there to do this, and a leader says this is what they are going to do, the details will be worked out.
Norman Costa
11 years 8 months ago
@ David:

I never had the chance to discuss the expression, "Nietzschean Christian" before. I assume it is suggestive of the idea that there is only one Christian, and he died a horrible, humiliating death a long time ago. I had not thought about it much, but I am, probably, closer to your sense of sticking with the primary source [Jesus] if I have a choice about learning what he said and meant. Of course, this is easier said than done.

Paul is infused with theology, particularly Romans, of the kind that has divided the Church over the centuries on meaning, interpretation, and significance. Need I say, Martin Luther; and not to forget the East-West Schism - just to name two major divides.

That is why I so love the Book of James. There is no theology, and one is hard pressed to find theology in what we know of Jesus. It is the shortest book in the Christian testament, and for good reason. You only need one page to distill what it means to lead a good life, and how to go about doing it. Do not lie. Do not cheat. Help those who have very little. Do not hurt others with your tongue. Be fair to those who work for you, and with whom you do business. 

The  book of James is probably the most Catholic (universal) of all the books in the Hebrew bible and the Christian testament. There is not a believer or non-believer who cannot inform themselves from it, in small or large part, as to how one might live their life. This is why I have felt for a long time, not just in these comments, that the message of Jesus is "Be a good Jew."
Bill Mazzella
11 years 8 months ago
Poor Paul. All he was concerned about was Jesus crucified and people want to separate him from Jesus. You will have to prove where Paul was different than Jesus and that there was a better preacher of the gospel than he.
david power
11 years 8 months ago

It is perhaps in the way I wrote that the misunderstanding occurs.
To place anybody as being akin to Jesus is heresy.
I would plump for St Francis as a better preacher of the Gospel.

david power
11 years 8 months ago

I owe you a better explanation of what I meant.
St Paul as well as St Augustine have both had a profound effect on christianity.Perhaps we are more Pauline or Augustinian than Christian.Both of these great saints would not want that and so we must remember that they are only men who struggled to reveal Christ.Fulton Sheen,Luigi Giussani, Martin Luther also tried to fathom and reveal  the man.I agree that St Paul is on the top deck but I don't forget that he was historically conditioned and is not God.If saints preached crusades I understand it.Nor am I scandalized when women enter a church without  their heads covered. 
It was a Jesuit (John O MALLEY) who pointed out in his book a very interesting fact.That catholicism comes from the Gospels and that protestantism is far more influenced by the pauline letters.Marvellous as they are I think that with time the gospels have a different effect.I once coined a phrase to describe my theory on all this.3rd degree theology.
Augustine is 1st degree theology because he refers to god directly as does Paul.Theologians refer to what Luther or Barth said about Paul who was speaking about Jesus.Too removed .
Anyway, we both agree that St Paul was a great.      
Bill Mazzella
11 years 8 months ago

Paul brings Jesus out more fully. His claime to be an Apostle is exactly that. The negative quotes about women were added later and are not consistent with Paul's listing of so many great women at the end of Romans. Augustine and the Fathers distorted the gospels more than anyone. How anyone can give Paul the rap and let them go scott free is beyond me. We are too much an Augustinian church which is shown especially in our fierce polemics. Paul though focused was always seeking to bring the church together while Augustine never met a polemic he didn't relish. 
david power
11 years 8 months ago

We can agree to disagree.
I said that Paul was a second to Jesus and you made it out as if I were dissing the guy.
I threw in Augustine because I knew he is the saint that you like to thrash.Matador stuff.
The fact that we don't know who  wrote exactly what shows us that we should focus on Christ and not give equal weight to what anybody else say.  

William Allison
11 years 7 months ago
First and foremost we should canonize Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, one of the most important popes in the history of Christianity. John XXIII is one the great witnesses of Christ. I talk to him most every day.
Bill Freeman
11 years 7 months ago
William Allison - I absolutely agree with you!  John XXIII should be a saint (long before JP2).  He changed the world and the church by calling the Council - a reality that is currently repressed by JP2 and B16 but one that will reap more fruit for the church.  

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