I know of nobody more deserving of sainthood than the El Salvador Martyrs namely: Archbishop Oscar Romero, the Jesuit Martyrs from Central American University and the Nuns and lay workers killed in El Salvador as well.

These folks recently have been talked about as being made saints because of their heroic martyrdom. Face it, they died for the faith and that in and of itself speaks volumes to the rest of the world.

However, the controversy comes in when factions start to question just what kind of faith did they die for? Should the church celebrate their brand of liberation theology which even in Central America has come under some controversy. Was this brand of theology to closely aligned with Communism or Marxism? That seems to be the operative question. More traditional elements of the church seem to be trying to jump onto the social justice bandwagon as well. Regnum Christi has a major initiative in El Salvador these days that works with the poor and gives them starter homes that they will eventually own provided that they hold down a job. That might be speculative depending on the El Salvadorian economy and the corruption in government that keeps poor people poor.

And there lies the issue. The concept of helping the poor is not a debate. Everyone realizes that our faith demands us to help the poor and even to provide charity. The larger question and one that Glenn Beck raised recently is whether we have a demand to change infrastructures that keep people poor and more importantly, what should that look like?

“When I give people food, they say I am a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” – attributed to an El Salvadorian Priest

That indeed seems to be the larger question. And my take is that we indeed are called to change those inherent, immoral, corrupt structures that keep people in poverty.

I liken this to the scripture reading about the speck of sawdust that we point out that is in our brother’s eye when there is a giant log in our own. When we treat the poor with band-aid approaches the disease continues to fester. When we ignore our own roles in economic systems we fail to see our own failing in systemically working for change.

When we ignore the fact that people died because corrupt governments wanted them to shut up so much that they killed them we bring shame upon not only our church, but upon all the saints who clearly have welcomed them into the kingdom of God.

So today on the 30th anniversary of Oscar Romero’s death, may we not only be able to recognize saints, but may we be able to recognize what keeps people from being truly free.

0 thoughts on “Should Martyrs be Automatically Made Saints?”
  1. Via Facebook:

    From Butler Miller:

    “Not to get too psychobabbly on you, but a saint should be recognized for the things they did, like serving the sick/poor/downtrodden. For martyrs to automatically be made saints exalts them because they are victims of evil doers. The Central American martyrs knew that they were up against an unfriendly regime, so continuing their work was a choice, and that must be respected. However, I don’t think that grants them AUTOMATIC sainthood. Other factors must be considered.”

  2. Via Facebook:

    From David Dawson:

    On April 24, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI addressed a letter to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, in which he stated:

    What has changed are the cultural contexts of martyrdom and the strategies ex parte persecutoris [on the part of the persecutors] that more and more seldom explicitly show their aversion to the Christian faith or to a form of conduct connected with the Christian virtues, but simulate different reasons, for example, of a political or social nature.

    It is of course necessary to find irrefutable proof of readiness for martyrdom, such as the outpouring of blood and of its acceptance by the victim. It is likewise necessary, directly or indirectly but always in a morally certain way, to ascertain the odium fidei of the persecutor. If this element is lacking there would be no true martyrdom according to the perennial theological and juridical doctrine of the Church”

  3. Via Facebook

    From Greg Welch

    I, too, struggle with sainthood being (seemingly) easily and quickly conferred on some while others–such as those you mentioned–are viewed as too controversial. It seems to me that several popular saints–Francis, Dominic, and Francis Xavier to name just a few–would have been too controversial by the current standards. John the Baptist and Saul/Paul would certainly be hard-pressed to pass this correctness test!
    I was taught by my mother–someone called a “saint” by many, many people–that there are assuredly more “saints” than “Saints.” However, this does little to address the disparity of states of life, occupation, etc. among the Communion of [declared] Saints. Too few are the “Saints” whose lives were lived as parents, workers, laity, volunteers…
    Martyrdom has long been considered as requiring “saintly virtue” in many cases. +Romero and others continued their work in spite of or perhaps even BECAUSE of their faith and their concern for the poorest of their sisters and brothers. Jesus was ultimately put to death for political reasons; it seems odd that these women and men of faith who have given their lives because of their Christian faith should not be honored because of the tinge of politics in their work. As Christians, we are called to nothing if we are not called to engage in society–to work to right wrongs that keep our brothers and sisters poor, uneducated, hungry, ill, or oppressed.

  4. Via Facebook:

    From Eileen Markey

    it’s an interesting question, but actually to shows a misunderstanding of how a person is made a saint. contrary to what we tend to naturally think, sainthood in the church isn’t like a gold star for a really good life. It actually has to originate as a devotional thing, that is, that ordinary people are praying to dead heros for interseccion. Then the church in all its bureacracy starts to look at a case. It’s not at all how i thought things worked, but i read an interesting book called My Cousin the Saint, that explained it. So, you know, if people are praying to Romero to cure their cancer or help them unionize, someone can make a case. But the case doesn’t originate simply because we was really good.

  5. Via Facebook:

    From: Steve Lawson:

    “I think the real issue is whether the Church considers him a martyr or not.

    “During a February 18 conference with reporters in Rome, as he introduced new norms for diocesan investigations into candidates for beatification, Cardinal José Saraiva Martins was questioned about the progress of Archbishop Romero’s cause. The cardinal replied that the key question is whether the Salvadoran prelate died for the Catholic faith.

    If a killing is inspired by hatred for the faith, the victim can be classified as a martyr and qualified for beatification. But in the case of Archbishop Romero and his assassin, the motives could be mixed. “There can be political or social motives,” Cardinal Saraiva observed. “If the motive is not clear it must be studied in depth.””

  6. I have been praying to Sister Dorothy Kazel for peace for five years. She has appeared to me and told me that the Blessed Virgin saw her wandering in Heaven witha dour countenace.. rather than the upbeat countenance that had been her trademark. Dorothy said she had heard voices from earth asking her intercession for peace. The Blessed Virgin told her to bring the prayers to her and she would bring them to her Son.

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