Friday, May 27, 2011

El Cielo Abierto/The Open Sky: A new documentary about Mons. Oscar Arnulfo Romero

"First was the word, then the assassins' bullet, then silence." Thus begins a new documentary about Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero, the voice of the voiceless in El Salvador, the pastor who, in the middle of one of the cruelest civil wars on the continent, dared to state that the Church's mission is to be identified with the poor. Monseñor Romero was assassinated on March 24, 1980, in one of those crimes announced far in advance, an aspect that El cielo abierto touches on as an inevitable fate, given what was happening in that country.

El cielo abierto, the work of Mexican documentary film director Everardo González and producer Martha Orozco, draws on Monseñor Romero's homilies, his letters, and his radio broadcasts over YSAX. It was released in February 2011. You can find out more about this documentary from its official Web site and its Facebook page.

The film was shown at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this month. Here's hoping that someone will sponsor a screening in the metropolitan Washington area. Sería lógico because we have a HUGE Salvadoran community here that fled the country during the civil war and never returned and most are very, very devoted to Monseñor Romero...


  1. I write this not knowing if is 100% true, but I’ve known personally this ex Monsignor of who I am going to speak about, He, long ago, left the Catholic Church to become later a Lutheran pastor. Got married and so on.
    But long ago he was the capellan at Andrews Air force Base in the D.C. area and also a well known priest in the area of Mont Pleasant-Columbia Rd.
    He wrote an article some time ago, stating that during that time, not sure of the year, some years after Mns Romero’s killing, a man came to his church and asked confession because he had taken part in the assassination of Mns. Oscar Romero, I don’t remember if he said that he was actually the shooter, but possibly he was.
    My acquaintance wrote that he told this man, that he couldn’t give him absolution for such a crime and that he hoped that God would have merci on him.
    Is too bad that I didn’t keep this article and I can’t find it now.
    Whatever you think about the refusal of this priest to grand absolution to this assassin, I believe that he acted in good conscience and because in some cases, human judgment, -even that of a priest- is not capable to determine if they have been granted power to absolve a man from an homicide, especially one of such a great magnitude.
    Can a priest absolve –in the name of God- the murderer of a man that is “de facto” speaking with the voice of God before such great crimes and injustices? ♦

  2. Priests are not supposed to use "human judgment" in confession. They are acting as Jesus would under the Church's canonical guidelines. They do have a responsibility to discern if the penitent person is telling the whole truth, if they are genuinely remorseful and resolved to try not to sin again. The gravity of the sin only matters if it is one of the few sins -- like abortion and women's ordination -- which are punished by automatic excommunication, in which case the priest cannot just absolve the penitent person because s/he is canonically excommunicated, which means s/he does not have access to ANY of the sacraments including Reconciliation until the excommunication is lifted. In the case you mention, the penitent, by having participated in the assassination of Mons. Romero, falls under Canon Law 1370, Sect.2, which states that use of physical force against a bishop results in a latae setentiae (automatic) interdict. There is a theoretical distinction between an interdict and excommunication but, in terms of the sacraments, the net result is the same. The priest should have simply stated that Canon Law did not allow him to hear the person's confession and grant them absolution until that person had gone to a bishop and had the interdict formally lifted. It's not a matter of personal opinion as to the heinousness of the crime.

  3. I don’t know if he told him that. Provably there is more to it, that what was in the article. Just what I read in the article. I didn’t dear to ask more by e-mail, because we met only once in person in Miami , 2001, a very nice group we hand then, and we met for a long week-end get together and attended service at his church, less that two weeks, from September 11. He is retired now from the Lutheran church. He told me that once met Mother Teresa and how very strong willed this woman was and that when it came to her mission and her work with the most poor in India, she would not capitulate or take BS from anyone, the church or anyone else. ♦

  4. I am part of a Salvadoran Group in Washington DC that is interested in "memoria historica" about what happened in our past. We would like to screen this movie in March 2014 during the Month Of Monsenor Romero. please contact me at if you have details on obtaining the movie. We are interested in sponsoring a viewing of El Cielo Abierto. I looked up the director on IMDB but was not sure how to contact him.

  5. It looks like the DVD is available from Laie in Spain (, As for Everardo Gonzelez, you could try reaching him through his Twitter account: He has evidently let his domain name expire and it has been picked up by some Japanese fellow for re-sale so there is no longer an "official" website for the movie for now. I will add more info if I can find anything else out.