SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador -- President Obama and his family spent a packed overnight March 22-23 here and took the place by storm. Reactions in this polarized society couldn't help but be mixed, but many were positive.
Obama surprised and pleased most people by his historic visit to the tomb of Archbishop Romero, the 31st anniversary of whose martyrdom we celebrate today.
Obama arrived under two clouds.
His administration had been decisively instrumental in allowing an illegal coup to stand in Honduras a year-and-a-half ago and for the elections organized by the coup-masters to go unchallenged. And, of course, he arrived as U.S. cruise missiles were raining down on one more Arab country. While Salvadorans know tyranny of the Gaddafi stripe, they are also very sensitive to war.
For many, the mere fact that migrants have crossed the border illegally is the decisive issue that trumps all other considerations. No amnesty for lawbreakers!
Is that a responsible position? If not, how should one respond to it? What is the responsible Christian attitude toward the law, and toward law-breaking like this?
The Obama Administration continues to re-affirm its commitment to enact comprehensive immigration reform, even though passage this year is unlikely. Last December Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Tex) introduced H.R. 4321 for that purpose, and this past March Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) unveiled their version of a Senate bill. Then in April, Graham pulled back, and the governor of Arizona signed a draconian law against illegal immigration that showed, by counter-example, how urgent comprehensive reform is. We should expect plenty more political drama over immigration reform during this election year.
At this stage, what can we add to the familiar debates? I think we can add some new perspective. Here I want to review the issue from the standpoint of the sending countries themselves, in particular from Central America, and do so in the light of Christian faith and Catholic social teaching.
[Dean Brackley is a U.S. Jesuit priest and a professor of theology at the University of Central America in San Salvador. He went to serve in El Salvador in 1990 after six Jesuit priests and two coworkers were murdered by the Salvadoran army on the campus of the university. This is the homily he preached at a Mass marking the 30th anniversary of the assignation of San Salvador Archbishop Oscare Romero.]
REMEMBERING MONSEÑOR ROMERO
Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, March 26, 2010
1. Why We Gather
Thirty years ago, Monseñor Romero was murdered while celebrating the Eucharist. We come here today to REMEMBER him, because his life and his words have INSPIRED us. His memory gives us HOPE: This is what it means to follow Christ today! This is what it means to be human! We want to be like this. We want the Church to be like this.
Those of us who were born in the U.S. give thanks to our Central American sisters and brothers for the gift of Monseñor Romero and for your faith and witness. Some of you bear the scars of war, the burden of poverty and suffer now from unjust immigration policies. History has joined us together, permanently.