Pope Francis Honors Salvadoran ‘Communist’ Oscar Romero Despite Conservative Opposition

One would think there would be little controversy involved about Pope Francis’ beatification of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero. After all, Oscar died while performing mass during El Salvador’s bloody civil war in the 1980s — a murder that is popularly believed to have been at the hands the country’s government forces.

Still, Pope Francis has taken heat for the decision, something that was also a problem for his predecessor Pope John Paul II who began the beatification process for Romero in 1997. It was delayed at that time because of larger investigation into the the circumstances of Oscar’s death — largely whether or not the factors that motivated his killers were religious or political.

Much of that debate over Pope Francis’ choice hinges on Romero’s ties to liberation theology, a branch of largely Latin American Catholicism that seeks to rectify social injustice. Pope Francis’ decision becomes especially troublesome for the U.S. because of the billions of dollars that were given in aid to the right-wing military government that likely killed Oscar. Romero even specifically condemned the U.S. intervention, according to Mint Press News.

“The contribution of your government instead of promoting greater justice and peace in El Salvador will without a doubt sharpen the injustice and repression against the organizations of the people which repeatedly have been struggling to gain respect for their most fundamental human rights.”

Although the aid did begin under Democrat Jimmy Carter, Time columnist Christopher J. Hale thinks the issue may specifically be a tense topic between Pope Francis and the American right.

“Romero’s beatification will likely only increase the discomfort of those Americans who presuppose that the pope and Catholic Church will rubber-stamp the current political and economic status quo of the United States, including potential 2016 presidential candidate Marco Rubio, who seemed dismayed at Francis’s latest intervention in American foreign diplomacy.”

Part of why Pope Francis’ actions have riled up such controversy is the speech that Oscar gave the day before his death. It is popularly believed that these words cost him his life, and as they are distinctly political in nature, many have long debated whether or not his death was closely linked enough with his Catholic faith to warrant Pope Francis’ beatification, reported The New York Times.

“No one has to obey an immoral law. It is high time you recovered your consciences and obeyed your consciences rather than a sinful order. The church, the defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of human dignity, of the person, cannot remain silent before such an abomination … In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression.”

In addition to Pope Francis’ making news with Oscar Romero, he also attracted attention Thursday for saying the Catholic church would be aggressively investigating sexual abuse, reported Reuters.

[Image via Telegraph]