Oscar Romero’s last days

Quoted excerpts are from James W. Douglass’s book, The Nonviolent Coming of God:

Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador wrote a letter to Jimmy Carter on February 17. He asked the President — “if you really wish to defend human rights” — not to send more military aid to El Salvador and “to guarantee that your government will not intervene directly or indirectly, by military, economic, diplomatic, or other pressures, in determining the destiny of the Salvadoran people.”

He read a draft of this letter aloud in his homily on Feb. 17 at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in San Salvador, and the people applauded. The next day a bomb exploded the Salvadoran Catholic Church’s radio station, on which the archbishop’s homily had been broadcast.

“On Sunday, February 24, a Costa Rican short-wave radio station began broadcasting Archbishop Romero’s homilies to all of Central America. That morning Romero made an appeal to the oligarchy and revealed a threat to himself…

On succeeding Sundays Archbishop Romero addressed ever more urgently a series of government and rightist killings…

On Sunday March 16, Archbishop Romero preached a long sermon on reconciliation, addressing every sector of the society, making specific appeals to the oligarchy, the government, and guerrilla groups…

On Sunday, March 23, the day before Romero’s death, the church radio station was back on the air. Once again his homily was broadcast to the nation. The Costa Rican station had been bombed but continued to carry the Archbishop’s words. The Vatican was urging him to tone down his preaching. Death threats had intensified.

In this final Sunday homily, Archbishop Romero recounted the violence of the previous week. Then, with the people interrupting him frequently with applause, he made the appeal to conscience that likely sealed his death sentence, but will never be forgotten by suffering Salvadorans:

I would like to make an appeal in a special way to the men of the army, and in particular to the ranks of the Guardia Nacional, of the police, to those in the barracks. Brothers, you are part of our own people. You kill your own campesino brothers and sisters. And before an order to kill that a man may give, the law of God must prevail that says: Thou shalt not kill! No soldier is obliged to obey an order against the law of God. No one has to fulfill an immoral law. It is time to recover your consciences and to obey your consciences rather than the orders of sin. The church, defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of human dignity, the dignity of the person, cannot remain silent before such an abomination. We want the government to take seriously that reforms are worth nothing when they come about stained with so much blood. In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering people whose laments rise to heaven each day more tumultuous, I beg you, I ask you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression!

The Gospel reading that day was

Jn. 12:23-26:

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I assure you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains infertile. But if it dies, it produces a great yield. Those who love their own life lose it; those who hate themselves in this world will be preserved for life eternal. Let whoever wants to serve me, follow me; and my servant will be where I am. Whoever serves me will be rewarded by my Father.

“The Good Communist”

From James W. Douglass’s book, The Nonviolent Coming of God:

“To understand Jesus parable we have to begin, then, by realizing that the man in the ditch had a deep hatred and suspicion, nourished by his history and culture, for the man who out of compassion resurrected him. Samaritans were hated enemies. Jesus is saying in his parable that the kingdom of God is like being saved from death by a hated enemy. The kingdom of God breaks into our lives in a form that we may not expect, in a form that we may in fact loath and want to destroy.

We can recall that in the chapter of Luke’s gospel just before the Parable of the Good Samaritan, James and John wanted Jesus’ approval to call down on a hostile Samaritan village “fire from heaven to burn them up” (Luke 9:54). But Jesus had rebuked them. Thus, in Jesus’ parable, the disciples’ object of hatred and destruction becomes a source of salvation.

When we understand it in Jesus’ context, the Parable of the Good Samaritan initially moves us to thank God that we, at least, are not lying in a ditch where we have to be saved from death by our enemy. But that is exactly what our situation is: We can only b saved from death by our enemy, and only if we believe in that enemy and are willing to be saved by him. Our enemy has been not a Samaritan, but a Communist. We are in the ditch of nuclear death, and during a now forgotten period of our recent history, Mikhail Gorbachev was the Good Communist attempting to rescue us from that death.

In July 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev made a public commitment to halt all nuclear tests from August 6, 1985 – January 1, 1986, even if the United States continued an active nuclear test program — as in fact we did. After the time expired Gorbachev extended the Soviet Union’s nuclear test moratorium three times, to a total of eighteen months. In each case the United States continued its underground tests. Gorbachev repeatedly made the further commitment never to test a nuclear weapon again, if the United States would cease testing. In other words, the Soviet Union unilaterally stopped its testing of new weapons and allowed the United States an eighteen month advantage and twenty-five unanswered tests, with the explicit goal of signing a comprehensive test ban treaty. In affect, Gorbachev was initiating an end to the nuclear arms race. The United States government was not, however, willing to reciprocate. As a result, the U.S.S.R. announced its resumption of testing in February 1987. Our steady drift toward annihilation continues.

The Unites States treaty with the Soviets to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear forces from Europe was, as a response to Gorbachev’s diplomacy, a disappointing step. Only about four percent of the world’s nuclear weapons were affected by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. President Bush’s September 27, 1991 proposal to Gorbachev for the elimination of all multiple-warhead land-based missiles would retain a huge United States advantage over the Soviets at sea as a result of the more numerous, more accurate Trident warheads. The “modernization” of other nuclear weapons critical to a United States first-strike policy would be allowed to continue under the Bush proposal. In spite of the Good Communist’s efforts to help, we have refused the leave the ditch.

As the president of a disintegrating empire, beset on all sides by growing freedom movements, Mikhail Gorbachev has on at least six occasions used tanks and lethal force against civilian dissenters, resulting in some 200 deaths…Jesus’ parable assumes that the Samaritan — or in our case, the Communist — has a history and capability of violence which rightly (and righteously) preconditions our attitude towards him. Neither the Samaritan nor the Communist is a saint. On the contrary, the point of the parable is in fact the shocking reality, in our eyes, of a well-proven enemy with a violent history acting in a redemptive way toward us — and if we refuse that redemptive action, the impossibility of our being saved from our own situation. Because the rejected Good Samaritan/Communist will then revert to our worst expectations of him as our enemy and will in turn use our violence to cover his own, as in Gorbachev’s repression of Lithuania in January 1991, simultaneous with President Bush’s triggering of the Persian Gulf War.”

Fr. Aleksandr Boris

The following is an excerpt from James W. Douglass’s book “The Nonviolent Coming of God“:

“We have seen [the power of nonviolence] happen during the ‘Second Russian Revolution,’ August 19-20, 1991, in response to the attempted Soviet coup. The coup was overcome by hundreds of thousands of unarmed citizens. Some, as in resisters were martyred by the tanks. Hundreds, then thousands of other citizens encircled the Russian Parliament Building in Moscow as a civilian defense force shielding Boris Yeltsin and other elected leaders from an imminent military assault. All afternoon and evening on the second day of the coup, loudspeakers blared warnings to the people that tanks were rolling toward the building and planes filled with paratroopers were preparing for an airborne assault. Yet the people kept coming. In fact a further three-pronged assault was currently being mounted against them. It was to include K.G.B. agents who had infiltrated the crowd within the building, helicopters bearing shock troops, and elite units prepared to rush into the building from twenty-four subterranean entry points whose existence was unknown to Yeltsin supporters. A Tiananmen Square in Moscow was averted only by the moral force of the resistance and the noncooperation of soldiers who refused to murder their Russian brothers and sisters.

One exemplar of the moral force which prevailed over the coup was Father Aleksandr Boris, an Orthodox priest and member of the Moscow City Council. Father Boris prayed with the civilian defenders, baptized them for their nonviolent mission, then confronted their opponents in an equally prayerful way. He went from tank to tank, distributing 2,000 Bibles to the soldiers who were expected to assault the Parliament. Only one soldier refused a Bible. Father Borisov then gave another 2,000 Bibles to the people on the barricades. Finally he took part in a key meeting with Patriarch Alexis of the Russian Orthodox Church who then made a proclamation that any soldiers who fired on civilians would be excommunicated.

It was this moral force, embodied in the lives of thousands of willing martyrs (‘witnesses’) to the truth, which rendered the Soviet coup impotent.”

On PBS tonight

https://www.vegaspbs.org/the-test/

Vegas PBS’ production The Test examines the history of atomic testing in Nevada, atomic tourism, and the consequences of being in Nevada’s “atomic backyard.”

The Test addresses atomic testing from the Manhattan Project’s secret laboratories to Nevada’s “Doom Towns” and the “downwinders” affected by radioactive fallout. During World War II and the ensuing Cold War, U.S. scientists were racing to keep the nation secure in the nuclear age. They knew the bomb had to be further tested, but the scientists initially lacked a full understanding of atomic weaponry’s destructive scope. Ultimately, atomic testing sites, including one in Nevada, were established. The program delves into the testing in Nevada and the rise of “atomic culture.” Highlights include “atomic tourism,” which describes how nuclear testing became a main event in Las Vegas as residents and visitors alike lined up to watch “the show.” Additionally, the production takes viewers to the present-day Nevada National Security Site, formerly known as the Nevada Test Site, for a tour and shows how the site is used to prepare first responders for the fight against terror and other dangers.

“The Test is part of our effort to produce programs interpreting significant events in Nevada’s history that help create a sense of place for residents and visitors,” said Vegas PBS General Manager Tom Axtell. “It is a meaningful local production resulting from a collaboration between Vegas PBS and our partners, the Atomic Testing Museum and the University of Nevada Las Vegas History Department.”

Featured interviews include Congresswoman Dina Titus, known for her expertise in the history and policies related to atomic power and the author of “Bombs in the Backyard,” and former Senator Richard Bryan, who in his early career worked at the Nevada Test Site.

No Flag on National Shrine

“Dear Pope Francis, Archbishop Gregory, and Monsignor Rossi, 

As members of the Catholic community, we implore you to stop displaying the United States flag on the bell tower of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. 

With such an enormous display on the front of the Shrine, visitors could easily assume an equivalence between church and nation. While Catholics are called to actively engage in civic life as citizens, we know that our primary allegiance is to bring about God’s Kin-dom here on earth. There are times, in fact, when our allegiance to Catholicism is in direct opposition to our allegiance to nation, such as when we must protest the taking of innocent life, whether the unborn child, the condemned prisoner, or the victim of United States military bombing missions.

Sadly, our nation’s flag has become a symbol of militarism and American exceptionalism around the world, values that our Catholic faith tradition acknowledges are antithetical to Jesus’ teachings. Since the Shrine attracts visitors from many countries, displaying it suggests that they are not one with their American brother and sister Catholics, but rather “others” in a foreign land. The Shrine needs to be a welcoming refuge, a place of safety and deep belonging for all Catholics.

For these reasons, we ask you to remove the flag permanently from the bell tower. Thank you for your prayerful consideration.”

Click here to sign the petition.

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Meet the Catholic activists involved in the Kings Bay Plowshare movement.

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