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.