Remembering Archbishop Oscar Romero by speaking out against torture and war

Remembering Archbishop Oscar Romero
What would Archbishop Romero say in these times?

No doubt he would condemn, as did religious leaders around the world, a preemptive war on Iraq as unjust, immoral and a violation of international law. But we believe, based on his passionate defense of the poor and the victims of war in El Salvador during his three years as Archbishop, that he would also condemn the current occupation and war against Iraq as unwise and morally unjust.

He would certainly condemn the use or defense of torture, under any circumstances, by any person or government, as a gross violation of human rights and an offense against God. “Whoever tortures a human being, whoever abuses a human being, whoever outrages a human being abuses God’s image.”

But he would also condemn the growing national security ideology of our government that threatens to institutionalize lying and deception in order to pursue an agenda that favors U.S. geopolitical and economic interests. Quoting the Latin American bishops in Puebla, Archbishop Romero criticized the ideology of national security as “a new form of idolatry… leading to the abuse of power and the violation of human rights.” “In some instances,” he said, “they presume to justify their positions with a subjective profession of Christian faith.”

Romero would not be silent today. He would speak for the U.S. soldiers at risk in Iraq; for their anxious and grieving families; for the Iraqi and other victims and survivors of torture; for the Iraqi civilians. He would offer pastoral guidelines and encouragement, proclaiming the duty of every Christian and citizen to resist unjust wars. And he would remind every soldier – as he did in his famous last homily - of the duty of conscience to obey God’s law before obeying an unjust order to kill.

He would certainly question–in the tradition of Catholic social teaching–a blatant U.S. unilateralism that defies international opinion, violates international treaties, and declares itself exempt from international law, including the Geneva Conventions. And he would point the way toward peace, calling for greater justice, greater cooperation among nations, and greater commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. We have no doubt he would repeat with passion–because he knew intimately the destructive capacity of violence and war–the words Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, “War no more, war never again!” and “War is a defeat for humanity!”

He would condemn every attack on immigrants, and lift up the Gospel command to offer hospitality to the stranger. And he would certainly condemn as “institutionalized violence” and “idolatry”–as he did with his bishop colleagues at Puebla–a global economic model that “absolutizes wealth and private property,” depriving the poor without access to dignified work, essential natural resources and services–including water, health care, education and social security.

Today, we recognize in gratitude how the legacy of Archbishop Romero has shaped–and in some cases gave birth to – the work of our three organizations and inspired our Catholic and faith-based constituencies. On March 7, 1980, the Religious Task Force on Central America and Mexico was born. A year later, the SHARE Foundation: Building a New El Salvador was formed. Pax Christi USA began to broaden its nearly decade-long commitment to peace to include solidarity with El Salvador and Central America.

As we commemorate the 25th anniversary of the martyrdom of a humble and faithful pastor from El Salvador, we call on Catholic religious leaders and faithful alike to speak out, to use positions of influence, to offer another way. Lent is a season of repentance, a time for conversion. Let us be faithful to the spirit of this season, and worthy of Oscar Romero, by our actions for justice and the risks we take for peace, by our boldness in proclaiming the Gospel and the courage to bear the cost.


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Draft Resolution/Petition on the
Connection between the Iraq War and Libraries