A special Theological Commission at the Congregation of the Causes of Saints in Rome voted Tuesday to formally recognize Oklahoma’s Servant of God Father Stanley Rother a martyr. The determination of martyrdom is a critical step in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City’s Cause to have Father Rother beatified, the final stage before canonization as a saint.
“Father Rother laid down his life for Christ and for the people of his parish in Guatemala, whom he dearly loved. It is very encouraging to move one step closer to a formal recognition by the Church of Father Rother’s heroic life and death as a martyr for the Gospel,” said the Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.
If beatified, Father Rother would be the first Catholic martyr from the United States. He also would become the first priest born in the United States to receive this recognition.
During Tuesday’s meeting in Rome, nine theologians discussed the case for nearly two hours and gave a majority vote on Father Rother’s formal and material martyrdom in odium fidei (in hatred of the faith). The Cause now will move forward within the Congregation to be approved by a panel of 15 cardinals and arch- bishops, who are members of the Congregation.
The next meeting on the Cause is expected to take place in six months. If the vote of that panel is positive, the Prefect will present it to the Holy Father, who will promulgate the Decree of Beatification. Beatification, the final stage prior to canonization, permits public veneration and declares that the life of the Blessed is worthy of imitation among the Christian faithful.
Tuesday’s decision comes nearly a year after Archbishop Coakley presented a formal petition to the Congregation along with an extensive document called the Positio that summarizes the facts and testimony concerning the life and death of Father Rother.
Father Stanley Rother was born in Okarche and became a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. He later became a missionary in Guatemala where he served as pastor of the parish of Santiago Atitlan. He chose to continue serving his people in spite of death threats, and on the morning of July 28, 1981, Father Rother was shot to death in his rectory.