Denison Journal of Religion


Byrnes distinguishes between personal and communal Catholicism by following the story of Archbishop Oscar Romero. When Romero was appointed to the post of Archbishop in San Salvador, El Salvador, he was a conservative member of the Church who was appointed primarily because of his belief that the Church should remain apolitical. This was particularly important for the Church hierarchy at the time as they struggled to maintain the traditional Church (equivalent with personal Catholicism) while membership in the Popular Church (comparable to communal Catholicism) was growing rapidly. The Popular Church, Byrnes explains, was theologically based in liberation theology and spoke strongly about a communal experience of religion. It adapted indigenous religious tendencies into the practice of Catholicism. Upon his arrival in El Salvador, Romero was the perfect example of the Traditional Church. However, after the first few weeks of his time as Archbishop, Romero became far more sympathetic to the cause of the Popular Church, particularly its theological bent. Byrnes encourages following Romero's example in an attempt to reemphasize social activism in Catholicism, particularly in the United States. This, Byrnes claims, would lead to a stronger sense of communal Catholicism that would serve as a challenge to Catholics to follow more closely the example of Christ.