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Mexico on the Cross
Friday May 28, 2010
Categories: Religion

A very sad letter from a Dominican brother, used with permission:

I spent my pastoral year working at our mission in Mexico, and I also work with
Hispanics here in the states.

As a cult, La Santa Muerte is growing in Mexico and other parts of Latin
America and the United States, and it is setting itself up with Temples,
"priests", and so forth, and it is making an attempt to challenge Catholicism,
which is not silent about it in Mexico or here. I know, for example, that Card.
George and other bishops in this country have spoken out forcefully against it
as have bishops in Mexico. I myself as a deacon and in my adult catechism
classes have preached against it. Sometimes, members of La Santa Muerte
have attacked Catholic churches, and some people have destroyed their
temples. The problem is complicated.

We tend to think of Mexico as a Catholic country, and it is -- or was -- in a
way. But, as you know, things are not always as they seem. In the first place,
it is not always and everywhere a well-catechized country, much to our
shame. The faith is often not more than superficial. Also, there is the Mexican
Revolution, the Cristero War, and
70 years of anti-Catholic legislation
and rule by the PRI.
In the center of the country -- Guanajuato, Colima,
Jalisco, Edomex, Puebla, for example -- the faith is much deeper, but in the
north and the south it is not so strong and never really has been, although it
varies from place to place. I found in the north, along the border, a great deal
of indifference to the faith. There is also a lot of superstition and syncretism.

Some of this is the fault of the Church. Often priests are elevated to a new
social status by ordination, especially when they come from poor families, and
they act like it. They rarely appear in public as priests (
partially a left-over
of seventy years of laws against wearing religious garb in public),

they wear fine clothes, and they drive fine cars. This is, of course, a
generalization, but the exceptions prove the rule. Further, it seems to me that
the Church hierarchy has never really gotten over its loss of political power
with the coming of the Mexican Revolution and the fall of Porfiriato, and they
should worry more about their moral voice rather than a political one. But the
other problem, as you rightly pointed out in another article, is a crisis of
holiness and, to be honest, a willingness to shed ones blood as a witness to
the faith.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous places for religious. Last year, in the
state of Guerrero, the vocations director and two seminarians were pulled
from their car and shot numerous times. The bishops and religious superiors
in Mexico have stated that they will not pay ransoms for religious abducted by
the narcotraficantes. And make no mistake, they are being threatened more
all the time. In Juarez, sisters I know have narrowly missed being killed, and
priests and religious who work with the poor are in very real danger, in
addition to what they describe as living and working in war zone. In Tijuana,
the cloistered nuns would not let me walk around the block after Vespers
because, even in my habit, it was no longer safe to do so, and they and the
active sisters talked about the priests and religious being threatened in the
archiocese. Dioceses in Texas have received priests whose lives are in very
real danger. The greater sadness, though, is that some bishops are quietly
paying bribes to defend their priests, and those that dare to speak out are
often exiled -- supposedly for their safety. And the few bishops who dare to
speak out, such as Bp. Raul Vera, OP, of Saltillo, receive fairly regular death
threats. One day somebody will make good on them, confident that the
government will be helpless to do anything about it. There are heroic and
saintly voices in Mexico, but if the Church is to win the hearts and minds of
the people, and ultimately the salvation of their souls, then the Church there
must itself be of one mind and one heart, and that mind and heart must be
the mind and heart of Christ -- and Christ on the cross, if need be.

Read more below the jump:

On a different note, the government is losing the war, I think. Tijuana, for
example, is presenting itself as a success story, but there have already been
more narco-related murders there this year than at the same time last year,
which means they are headed for an astounding total. And of course the
battle, whether between the government and the narcos, between rival
cartels, or even between rival factions of the same cartel, is spiralling into
other parts of Mexico that have until now not really witnessed this kind of
violence. And it is not just Mexico. According to religious and others I know in
Guatemala, it is on the verge of morphing into a narco state. The government
is very unstable. I am not hopeless, but the reality is certainly grim. May the
Lord and our Blessed Lady guide us and keep us.

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