Two Questions

I have two questions for our readers based on recent developments.

The first question: Was the Nelson compromise in the Senate an acceptable one? Obviously it is not an ideal one. But there is never a case in politics where the ideal wins out.  As far as I can tell, Nelson’s imput to the Senate passed bill allows states to decide whether federal subsidies for health care can be used on packages that include abortion coverage.  In other words, it throws the issue back to the states, which is what overturning Roe vs. Wade would do anyway.  Of course, this compromise means that there will be states where federal funds — your tax dollars — would indirectly fund abortions.  However, it also means that many who do not have health coverage will receive it.  Does the principle of double-effect apply here? Can we say that this is better than no reform at all?

Second question.  Today Rev. Jerzy Popieluszko, the “Solidarity Chaplain,” was declared a martyr by Benedict XVI.  He was killed by communist secret service in 1984.  I think this is great of course.  But it causes me to wonder: Why has Archbishop Romero not been similarly declared a martyr? And then my cynical side comes out and thinks: Is it because Jerzy was killed by left-wing fascists, but Romero by right-wing ones?  Any thoughts?


39 Responses to Two Questions

  1. Donato Infante III says:

    Nathan, maybe you can tell me. Was Archbishop Romero’s cause ever opened? And has it be said definitively that he will not be declared a martyr?

  2. Mason Slidell says:

    I must admit that the declaration of martyrdom issue does stick in my craw. Archbishop Romero and Father Popieluszko are both clear examples of the contemporary Christian martyr. Both were stirred to action by a call of conscience. Both sought to provide an oppositional voice in national political affairs. Both interwove politics and spirituality in their homilies and sacramental ministry. Both were killed by agents of an authoritarian regime because they were a voice of opposition.

    Romero was martyred in 1980 and Popieluszko in 1984. I am one who is skeptical of the “santo subito” movements that sprout up around holy men and women, so I have no problem with the length of time this has taken. But if the time has come to declare Popieluszko a martyr, then so has Romero’s time come.

    It seems I have no choice but to conclude that the disparity in declarations is because of the political nature of the respective opposition movements. Solidarity was a liberal opposition movement, while many elements of the Salvadoran opposition were communist. Nothing in Romero’s writing or speechmaking supports communism, but it seems that he is still held responsible for those views anyway. Unfortunately, the Church is spottier in her opposition to fascism then her resolute opposition to communism. Clergy who openly declared their communism were excommunicated, but not if they openly declared their fascism. Father Josef Tiso was the leader of the fascist Slovak state from 1939 to 1945 and was executed for war crimes, but never disciplined by the Church. Bishop Alois Hudal wrote in defense of Nazism and ran the famous “ratline” in which he forged refugee papers for fascist and Nazi officials to escape trial by fleeing Latin America from 1945 to 1947. Among those he helped was Josef Mengele, the doctor who performed medical torture on Jews at Auschwitz. Only after the press revealed want Hudal was doing did Rome act, removing him from various posts, but not excommunicating him for his collusion with criminals against humanity.

    Yes, these are just two examples, but that is my point. A minority opinion seeking to cooperate with fascism was allowed to exist in the Church. The allowance of this error muted the Church’s response to the fascist threat that existed in Latin America in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, while no one was confused about the Church’s opposition to communism in that same time period in Eastern Europe.

    If Father Popieluszko is declared a martyr and Archbishop Romero is not, then this warped distinction between communism and fascism perdures in the mind of the Church.

  3. E. D. S. says:

    These are great questions! I have no particular expertise, but here are some thoughts.


    Nelson’s amendment punts the abortion debate downstream, and forces state legislatures to answer this question. I don’t see how that solves anything. I don’t see how local control is a pro-life argument. For example:

    Ezra Klein writes:

    “That said, I liked David Waldman’s response. The problem with leaving the decision up to the states, he says, is that it doesn’t go far enough. “I think states should leave the abortion question up to the counties,” he explains. “Then I think counties should leave the abortion question up to municipalities. Then the neighborhoods should leave the abortion question up to each block.” And each block, as you might have guessed, should leave the abortion question up to each household.”

    And but so. I’m not excited to spin one national debate into 50 state debates. My parent’s generation – the generation currently in legislatures and statehouses – are completely incapable of discussing abortion civilly. So I’m not excited to punt this question into 99 legislative houses, so we can have 99 bitter wars.

    Nelson’s amendment is more than state control, though. Everyone has the option of purchasing a plan without abortion coverage, or a plan with abortion coverage. Now, with Nelson, pro-choice plans must be paid for with two separate checks – one for the bulk of coverage, one for abortion coverage. This doesn’t directly change access to abortion, and it doesn’t accomplish anything that a one-check abortion firewall can’t do.

    It’s mostly pointless. But as a pacifist Catholic, I like it. I like the precedent. Here’s why.

    Nelson opens the door to monetary conscientious objector status. If you can’t support abortion, you don’t have to pay for it. If you do support abortion, you have to explicitly, deliberately pay for it.

    I have a bunch of friends who are war tax resistors. According to their conscience, they can’t pay taxes, because around 55% of federal tax income pays for past, present, or future military expenses. So most of them live beneath the poverty line, so they don’t have to pay income tax and support war.

    What if Nelson’s separate check system applied to war? What if you had to write two checks to the IRS – 45% supporting social services, and 55% supporting war? What a great way to separate the immoral from the moral. Nelson obviously sees a moral culpability in funding someone else’s immoral activity. So let’s take that concept further.


    I’m with you on the cynicism, unfortunately. This may be another example of the Church welcoming right-wingers and ignoring or denouncing left-wingers. See also outreach to the Society of St. Pius X, Tridentine folks, and right-wing Anglicans – while people who use birth control or advocate marriage equality are condemned. Yeah, I think this could be the same thing. Whatever. Romero, Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton are already saints as far as I’m concerned, even if it will take another pope to canonize them.

  4. His cause has been opened and he has bee declared “Servant of God.” No, it has never been said that he will not be a martyr. JPII was chilly toward him in his lifetime and refused to allow that the situation in El Salvador was similar to that of Poland. That changed after Romero’s death when he visited Romero’s tomb and appointed as the new Archbishop a close friend of Romero’s and the only bishop to attend his funeral. I don’t know what Benedict’s position is. I hope that he will allow the cause to move forward. It seems to have stalled at this point for some reason.

  5. Donato Infante III says:

    Well, wouldn’t the declaration of him as a martyr come after being declared venerable? It seems we have one step in between we would still be waiting for.

  6. A declaration of “venerable” is a declaration of heroic virtue that I believe can only be declared if his martyrdom is confirmed to be such.

  7. From Zenit:

    “The principal stages of recognition of sanctity by the Church, namely, beatification and canonization, are united by a great bond of consistency,” he said. “To them must added, as an indispensible phase, the declaration about heroic virtue or of martyrdom of a Servant of God and the verification of some extraordinary gift, the miracle, that the Lord gives through the intercession of his faithful servant.”

    “What pedagogical wisdom is manifested in such an itinerary,” the Pope continued. “In a first step, the people of God are invited to look to these brothers and sisters who, after a first accurate discernment, are proposed as models of Christian life; then they are exhorted to develop a cult of veneration and invocation circumscribed by the ambit of the local Churches and the religious orders.”

    Finally, the Pontiff added, the faithful are called “to exult with the whole community of believers with the certainty that, thanks to the solemn pontifical proclamation, a son or daughter has reached the glory of God, where they participate in the perennial intercession of Christ on behalf of their brothers.”

    In this journey, Benedict XVI declared, “the Church welcomes with joy and stupor the miracles that God, in his infinite goodness, gratuitously gives her, to confirm the evangelical preaching. She welcomes, moreover, the witness of the martyrs as the most limpid and intense form of configuration to Christ.”

  8. E.D.S.,

    Your friends are heroic. For those who cannot live that kind of heroism Dorothy Day style, I think you are right that their consciences can at least be clear about paying taxes. It seems to me that the good of reform does outweigh the bad, but it is still a loss.

    I don’t want to throw the debate back to our parents’ generation either.

  9. crystal says:

    I don’t understand completely about the Nelson amendment, but I do think the health care reform bill should go through because so many are not now insured. Given that both the pro-life and pro-choice people are against the bill for opposite reasons, maybe in a way it’s a kind of compromise.

    I haven’t thought much about the future canonization of Rev. Jerzy Popieluszko, but given the pope’s recent remark that liberation theology is dangerous, I wouldn’t be surprised if you were right in your cynicism. What bothers me is that Pius XII will be made a saint – yikes!

  10. Donato Infante III says:

    Nathan, his life of heroic virtue would be a life of heroic virtue whether or not he died a martyr, right? That is why I think the decision on whether or not someone died a martyr and can be beatified without a miracle comes after the decision that one has lived a heroic life.

    And Crystal, why are you bothered that Pope Pius XII is being canonized? I hope it’s not related to the myths surrounding his life.

  11. crystal says:

    Donato, I’m not sure what myths you mean, but the reason I’d rather not see him a saint is his lack of action or speaking out against the Holocaust.

  12. Donato Infante III says:

    Crystal, those are exactly the myths I’m talking about. I would encourage you to go look at what the Jewish people alive during the time of Pius were saying about him, and not the false stories that arose well after the fictional play “The Deputy” was created.

    This might be a good place to start.

  13. crystal says:

    Donato, I’ve actually been reading a lot about Pius these last few days. There is contention about what effect his silence had and what his intentions were, but there is no doubt that he did, indeed, keep silent in the face of a terrible evil. It’s that silence for which I blame him. I’d l suggest some alternative reading ….

    – the preliminary report with 47 questions of the International Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission

    Under His Very Windows: The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy by Susan Zuccotti

    – and to put a human face on things, here’s a Telegraph story about Settimia Spizzichino, the only woman to have survived among a group of over 1000 Jews rounded up in Rome by the Nazis in 1943, Jews who could have been warned beforehand by Pius, but were not

  14. Donato Infante III says:

    Crystal, that he kept silent is exactly what I am contesting. Check out the article by Sanders on the page I cited before. In reference to his 1942 Christmas address the New York Times, ““This Christmas more than ever Pope Pius XII is a lonely voice crying out in the silence of a continent.”

    Von Ribbentrop at the Nuremburg war trials: “I do not recollect [how many] at the moment, but I know we had a whole deskful of protests from the Vatican. There were very many we did not even read or reply to.”

  15. crystal says:


    Thanks – I looked it up. Also looked up Pius’ christmas message of 1942 to which the TIME’s story referred. Interesting that nowhere in it are the Jews or the Nazis mentioned. I think the closest he comes in that message to addressing the issue is where he denounces … exile and persecution of human beings for no reason other than race

    On the other hand, there is a lot of evidence of him not speaking out despite entreaties from others. Here’s a bit from Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust, The Jewish Virtual Library ….

    “Throughout the Holocaust, Pius XII was consistently besieged with pleas for help on behalf of the Jews.

    In the spring of 1940, the Chief Rabbi of Palestine, Isaac Herzog, asked the papal Secretary of State, Cardinal Luigi Maglione to intercede to keep Jews in Spain from being deported to Germany. He later made a similar request for Jews in Lithuania. The papacy did nothing.(5)

    Within the Pope’s own church, Cardinal Theodor Innitzer of Vienna told Pius XII about Jewish deportations in 1941. In 1942, the Slovakian charge d’affaires, a position under the supervision of the Pope, reported to Rome that Slovakian Jews were being systematically deported and sent to death camps.(6)

    In October 1941, the Assistant Chief of the U.S. delegation to the Vatican, Harold Tittman, asked the Pope to condemn the atrocities. The response came that the Holy See wanted to remain “neutral,” and that condemning the atrocities would have a negative influence on Catholics in German-held lands.(7)

    In late August 1942, after more than 200,000 Ukrainian Jews had been killed, Ukrainian Metropolitan Andrej Septyckyj wrote a long letter to the Pope, referring to the German government as a regime of terror and corruption, more diabolical than that of the Bolsheviks. The Pope replied by quoting verses from Psalms and advising Septyckyj to “bear adversity with serene patience.”(8)

    On September 18, 1942, Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Pope Paul VI, wrote, “The massacres of the Jews reach frightening proportions and forms.”(9) Yet, that same month when Myron Taylor, U.S. representative to the Vatican, warned the Pope that his silence was endangering his moral prestige, the Secretary of State responded on the Pope’s behalf that it was impossible to verify rumors about crimes committed against the Jews.(10)

    Wladislaw Raczkiewicz, president of the Polish government-in-exile, appealed to the Pope in January 1943 to publicly denounce Nazi violence. Bishop Preysing of Berlin did the same, at least twice. Pius XII refused.(11)


    5. Gutman, Israel, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, p. 1136.

    6. Gutman, Israel, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, p. 1137.

    7. Perl, William, The Holocaust Conspiracy, p. 206.

    8. Hilberg, Raul, Perpetrators Victims Bystanders, p. 267.

    9. Gutman, Israel, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, p. 1137.

    10. Israel Pocket Library, Holocaust, p. 133; Gutman, Israel, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, p. 1137.

    11. Israel Pocket Library, Holocaust, p. 134.

  16. Donato Infante III says:

    Fascinating. Thank you for sharing that with me.

    I myself went back yesterday and reread the chapter on Pius XII from “Before the Dawn” by Israel Zolli, former chief rabbi of Rome. What conflicting views! Seems we won’t be the ones to sort it all out, so I would suggest we move on to other things, but I have greatly enjoyed our conversation. Thank you for that.

    Have a merry Christmas.

  17. crystal says:


    Yes, you’re right – so much conflicting info. Thanks for the discussion, and Merry Christmas to you and everyone here 🙂

  18. Donal Hanley says:

    A question that is asked is ‘why didn’t Pius XII do more?”. My question is: “who did more than Pius XII?” I don’t know but if any European or North Americans were more vocal than Pius XII I should like to know. His references to persecution on account of race and the objections from the Vatican

  19. Fr. Tyler says:

    Romero’s Cause is not political, at least in the ecclesiastical sense:

    The health care bill is unconscionable. The US bishops have said as much. The bill will still require people to unwillingly participate in paying for abortions.

  20. Qualis Rex says:

    Crystal, it is so sad to see you are indeed falling for the historical revisionists and their onslaught to discredit blessed Pius XII, and in effect the Catholic church. At no other time in post-reformation history was the Catholic church at greater peril than in WW II when the Nazi’s sought to dismantle it, even going so far as to kidnap the Pope. Have you ever heard the phrase “actions speak louder than words?” The hundreds of thousands of Jews saved (the ransom in Rome alone is one example) by Pius XII and those serving him garnered praise and adulation by his Jewish contemporaries, such as Rabbi Zolli, Golda Meier, Moshe Sharret and too many more to name. Upon the liberation of Rome, Blessed Pope Pius XII even greeted and blessed a Jewish soldier from Palestine in Hebrew, an act which resonated for decades later in Israel.

    You would definitely do well to consider what the contemporary sources said about Blessed Pius XII. They knew the circumstances surrounding him at the time and how he worked within the system to do God’s work. Remember, thousands of clergy and religious were targetted and killed under the Nazi regime (including Saint Edith Stein). So, what you personallly would or wouldn’t have done is not the issue. It is in fact, irrelevant.

    Blessed Pius XII pray for us.

  21. Amber says:

    I hope Bishop Romero’s cause is successful.
    Regarding Pope Pius XII I highly recommend for your reading Rabbi David G. Dalin’s “The Myth of Hitler’s Pope” and Margherita Marchione’s “Pope Pius XII: Architect for Peace”…both have excellent documentation.
    My husband who was born into a Jewish home, lost extended family members to the Holocaust and entered the Catholic Church a few years ago has a deep regard for Pope Pius XII, as do I.

  22. crystal says:

    I’d just ask those who disagree with me about Pius to at least read The Vatican and the Holocaust: A Preliminary Report with its 47 questions. It was written by the International Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission appointed by the Holy See’s Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews in 1999 and was made up of three Jewish and three Catholic scholars.

  23. Qualis Rex says:

    Crystal, your information is outdated. Many of the documents requested back in 2000 were opened since and the questions answered (including the document detailing the Nazi plan to kidnap the pope, NOT mentioned in this commission as it was not available at the time). I stand by my assertion that rather than look at the facts and statements of blessed Pius XII’s contemporaries and their statements lauding him for his work, you would rather stand by historical revisionists and pseudo-scholars who have made their “career” by trying to bring the Pope and the church down. Lastly, the Jews were NOT the only people under persecution for racism; there were the Gypsies, Slavs and other ethnic minorities. So, the Pope speaking out against racism was VERY appropriate, given the circumstances and policies.

    I highly suggest you update your reading list to something other than the Huffington Post.

  24. Qualis Rex says:

    BTW, Amber, great recommendations. Although I fear for certain people, their minds are made up long before they enter the discussion. Luckily, the church does not rely on opinion pols or outside lobbyists for candidates for sainthood.

  25. crystal says:

    Qualis Rex,

    I haven’t yet thought of using The Huffington Post as an historical reference source …. thanks for the tip. If insulting people on the other side of an argument were the way to win it, you’d definitely be owed congratulations.

  26. Qualis Rex says:

    Crystal, my pointing out your bad scholarship is no reason or justification for you to be rude and use ad hominem.

  27. Qualis Rex says:

    BTW, for those of you who do not read the Huffington Post (and I highly do not recommend it precisely for their baseless Op/Ed passing as journalism), the segment in question is Here: Bestowing Sainthood on Pius XII Ignores a Heinous Past. The first sentence is scandalously, “Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to press harder to make Pope Pius XII a saint is not a hostile act against Jews, it’s an abomination.” The arguments in the smear-piece are nearly verbatum the same as what you mentioned here. I’d find that an odd coincidence, but I don’t believe in coincidence.

  28. Please remain civil in your discussion. God bless.

  29. Mason Slidell says:

    Qualis Rex,

    You mentioned that Crystal’s concerns regarding the questions from the International Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission are “outdated” and that the questions of the Commission have been “answered.” Could you tell us where we can get access to this information, especially as it pertains to the Commission’s questions. Thanks in advance.

  30. Qualis Rex says:

    Mason – most of the documents are in Italian and have not been published widely. They have been opened and are mentioned by several scholars since the aforementioned Catholic-Jewish commission was disbanded back in 2001 (disbanded = defunct, hence outdated). There were apparently 2 major reasons for disbanding the commission; 1) the questions were in effect answered by documents provided, but several in the commission didn’t like the answers and demanded yet more “proof” 2) several agents of the commission began using it as a tool to open further documents well beyond the scope of the original mandate.

    I know L’osservatore romano has published a few of the documents on recent occasion (once again in Italian). If you are serious and genuine about wanting to read them, you can certainly do your own homework here on out. Or simply wait until about 2014 when they will supposedly be catalogued, translated and available to the general public (i.e. not just to press, scholars etc).

  31. crystal says:

    Just one last comment on this subject ….

    The wikipedia page on the International Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission gives the reasons, both the Jewish and Catholic, for the commission disbanding – it’s worth a read.

    You can find evidence for both sides of this argument on Pius and the Holocaust. You can argue that he helped behind the scenes, you can find people, even Jewish people, who think he was helpful to the Jews, and you can find evidence for the opposite as well.

    But there is one thing that is an unquestioned fact – Pius did not speak out publically and specifically against the Holocaust. That lack of taking an official stance against something so awful is why I don’t think he should be made a saint, an model for all of us of “heroic virtue”.

  32. crystal says:

    PS – Sorry, I forgot to leave a link to Pius’ Christmas Message of 1942 which is often used as the one example of him denouncing the Nazis. It’s very unspecific (doesn’t mention the Nazis or the Jews) and I wanted to leave the link so it could be read by those interested.

  33. Donato Infante III says:

    Crystal, sometimes actions speak louder than words. If everyone knows how you stand, saying something sometimes is counter-productive. Our obligation isn’t to speak up but to love, which may or may not involve speaking up. A great Jesuit missionary to Russia taught me that.

  34. crystal says:

    OK, hard to argue with that, especially on a Jesuit blog, with Ignatius having said that love is best shown in deeds not words (smile).

  35. Qualis Rex says:

    Donato, we’ve said what we can (several times now in fact). There are those who have already made their minds up to the point that no amount of evidence or proof will dissuade them. The fact that someone points to Wikipedia, which can be authored by anyone with a pulse, frankly speaks volumes. And once gain, the fact is that these dissenters’ opinions on the subject are irrelevant. The church is not a Democracy (to their utter consternation, I’m sure) and is now and always guided by the Holy Spirit. If Pius XII is declared a Saint, it is because he was one. Case closed. I, on the other hand have a shopping list of why I feel JP II shouldn’t be canonized. But once again, my opinion is just that, and means nothing if the Holy Spirit wills his canonization.

    Beato Pius XII, Ora pro nobis.

  36. crystal says:

    The wikipedia article on the international commisiion has links to the actual statements made by the members about why the commission was disbanded …. online copies of actual documents that can be read by those interested.

    As for wikipedia being a wothwhile help in the area of information for those who are willing to actually use their brains to discriminate, read Duke University New Testement scholar Mark Goodacre’s article ….. In Defence of Wikipedia

  37. Donato Infante III says:

    Qualis, I don’t think it fair to say that someone who says Pius shouldn’t be canonize is a dissenter.

  38. Qualis Rex says:

    Donato – I meant dissenting from the church decision specifically on this issue. I was not meaning “dissenter” in the widest sense of the word (i.e. to all church dogma). If the church says “Pius XII is now a Saint” and someone else says, “Nah-Ah!” then that person is a dissenting.

  39. Donato Infante III says:

    I just noticed that Ignatius press is advertising a documentary on this topic. I’ve never seen it so I don’t know if it’s good, but it’s called “A Hand of Peace,”

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