Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #6

Re: Romero (1989)

I just found out about your website, and thought of it good because of the reference from However, I am disappointed, and are doubtful now of your recommendations, after reading what you wrote about the movie Romero:

The first feature film from the Paulist Fathers’ moviemaking division, John Duigan’s Romero tells the true story of Latin America’s best-known and most revered modern martyr, Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Goldamez, a man whom John Paul II described as a ”zealous pastor who gave his life for his flock,” and at whose tomb in San Salvador the Holy Father has prayed when visiting El Salvador.”

I am a Salvadorean. I hear Msgr. Romero’s homilies. Many Catholics stopped practicing our religion because of Msgr. Romero’s homilies. I remember once, he gave Mass at my school, and he OKed taking arms in order to help the poor. I felt terrible for not doing so. Being a teenager, and coming from a Priest, my mind and heart told me killing for a greater good could not be good. His interpretation of some passages of the Bible were horrible. As an adult now, I realize how theologically wrong they were.

I have formed myself… found my way back to Church… but many others in El Salvador, including close members of my family, have totally lost trust in the Church. I think Msgr. Romero did more harm than good. Definitely, “an eye for an eye” is not the pedagogy of Christ — it was his.

I’m very sorry you recommend the film. Very sorry. If it portrays a kind, generous, gentle man… I knew him. He wasn’t. If it portrays a pastor, caring for his souls… I can tell thanks to him many sheep left the way of the Church… Please keep this message for your website. I hope it helps you.

I’m certainly aware that many films can be a completely different experience for those with direct experience or expertise with the subject matter than for those without. I often try to learn something about the subject matter of a film before reviewing it, though of course there’s only so much I can do.

Obviously, I’m in no position to debate you on the merits of Romero’s reign as archbishop. On the other hand, It does seem as if your view is somewhat at odds with the Vatican’s. There is a cause for Archbishop Romero’s canonization as a saint, and he is currently recognized as a Servant of God.

If this one review of mine has you dubious of my work as a film critic, what’s your take on the Pope’s praise of Romero? Certainly he’s in a much better position to know the facts than I would be, and his judgment is more directly related to the actual man and his legacy than my judgment of the film.

Romero may indeed have made the remark about guns you report, but he seems to be widely regarded as an advocate of nonviolence. In any case, based on what you say I can’t be sure that the remark you mention about “taking arms to help the poor” is wrong. It is not true that “killing for a greater good” can never be good. Sometimes violence is morally legitimate.

I appreciate your perspective. I’m certainly open to rethinking my review; If all Catholics in El Salvador felt the way you do, I would have to do so.

I hope you find other reviews of mine more helpful.

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