Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador. The newly appointed Archbishop called for the investigation of the murders and human rights violations going on in his country; he called attention to the huge disparity of wealth, with the landed gentry profiting from the hard labor of the peasants. For these efforts, Rome called him to task. From the Church’s perspective, poverty was caused by individual failings, not by systemic sin, such as a repressive regime.
On March 23, 1980, Romero gave a sermon in which he begged those carrying out the nefarious commands of the government to cease and desist–to heed God’s commandments of love and brotherhood, instead. The following day Romero was assassinated, shot dead, by a paid killer during Mass as he was preparing to serve Communion. His funeral service was attended by more than a quarter of a million people from all over the world, and many poor people who had been apolitical in the past became activists. A civil war caused the deaths of 75,000 people, and in 1992, peace accords between the Salvadoran government and the rebels were signed in Mexico–in the presence of the Catholic Church. The cease fire, which began in February of 1992, has never been broken. Elections were to be monitored by an outside observing system.
And now I move to a more current event. The day before last Sunday’s historic health care vote, President Obama spoke, unrehearsed, to the House Democrats. Near the end of Obama’s speech, he said the following: “Every once in a while a moment comes when you have a chance to vindicate all those best hopes that you had about yourself, about this country, where you have a chance to make good on those promises that you made . . . . And this is the time to make true on that promise. We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine.” (quoted by Paul Krugman, NY Times, 3/22)
There are moments in time when it is as clear as glass–we have a choice, and we know what is right. We also know that there may be a cost, and the cost may be great, in fact. But what is the alternative? To take the easy way, to give in to the wrong, may give ease and protection in the moment–but it’s never a good choice in the long haul. Because the right always emerges in the end, and the wrong always shows itself for what it is. There really is no alternative. Even if we “lose” for the moment, we never lose when we do the right thing. It’s only ever a matter of time.