Friday, February 12, 2016

Mexico: Still the Most Dangerous Place to be a Priest

It’s almost as if President Plutarco Calles never really went away. Mexico is still , today, the most dangerous place in the world to be a Catholic Priest. Though Calles himself, author of a massive crackdown on Roman Catholicism in Mexico in the 1920’s, and his Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) are nothing more than bad memories, the drug lords of Mexico are not targeting priests for daring to speak out against their atrocities.

It is into this environment that the most senior priest of all, Pope Francis will walk into shortly, in order to confront the human rights abuses of the drug lords, and the cult of Santa Muerte.  Latin America may be one of the most Catholic regions in the world, yet it is also by far, the most violent region on earth, in large part due to the drug trade, and of course the political violence that has plagued the region since it was first settled by Europeans. and also the poverty which comes from the political corruption that permeated nearly all governments there with the possible exceptions of Costa Rica, Belize and Chile.


Catholic clergy has long been caught in the crossfire. From the time of Presidents Obregon and Calles in Mexico whose persecution of Catholicism eventually led to the War of the Cristeros, (Immortalized in the movie "For Greater Glory" ) to the military juntas of the seventies and eighties such as the Somoza regime in Nicaragua and the monsters who ruled El Salvador who murdered Oscar Romero, The church has always stood in the way by speaking out against abuses of human rights.   Today it is the drug lords who are challenging the church for the souls of the people.

It is time we in the west became more aware of what is happening to our brothers and sisters in Christ in this region of the world,  and take steps to bring it to an end.


It always comes down to “What can we do about it?”

Here are some things all of us can do to help.


1) First and foremost pray.  Prayer, especially the Rosary is the strongest weapon we have.  We need to start with the premise that ALL of the evil in the world is spiritual in origin,  Paul said that we fight not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities.  So the war is essentially spiritual in nature, between Christ and antichrist, and plays itself out in the physical realm in which we live.

2) While taking care of the spiritual angle in this war, we must also tackle the realities of the physical battlefield where all this is playing out in our lives.  There would be no drug trade if there was not a lucrative market for the drugs themselves.  Much of that market is in the western world and plays itself out in our streets, and in our homes, so this battle, and the plight of Latin America is our problem as much as theirs. We are all in it together.  One reason why drugs are so rampant in our society is because of the emptiness of secular consumerism.  God, who used to be paramount in the lives of most individuals, and was considered carefully by our political and business institutions, has been pushed aside.  Drugs are the result of spiritual emptiness, and how it renders life meaningless.  The manifestation of Satan’s empty promises, as it were.   This is why the New Evangelization is so important. We need to call fallen away Catholics back to the Church, so they can be reunited with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, and the full power of the Holy Spirit.  If we can do that, and make the Church a place of healing again, we can beat the drug lords and put them out of business.  The same things can be used to stop human trafficking.  Hearts and minds must be changed. 


3) You may think I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.... goes a line in a famous song, but there is truth in that. allow me to go back in history a bit.  England was an unholy mess in the 18th and early 19h centuries. It was by no means the prim and proper society that we are led by many to believe it was.  Alcoholism was rampant... poverty, slavery, child labour.  Reading the works of Charles Dickens gives one some insights into what life was for most of the people. It is also brought to life in the engravings of artist William Hogarth.

And yet, Christians worked-and prayed- and things such as slavery,  child labour and rampant alcoholism were overcome to an extent.

4) I mentioned Dickens and Hogarth, and Wilberforce (even though not by name) and they give us some indications of some ways we can win hearts and minds.  Dickens’  books stirred the nation into consciousness of the evils the lower classes were having to live with. Hogarth brought to light other ills in society, and Wilberforce, a one time atheist who had a conversion, worked tirelessly  and with great unpopularity to end slavery.  At this point, our society looks very much like “Jolly Olde Englande” of old.  An increasingly coarsening and Godless culture.  One reason this is so, is because we have allowed ourselves, as Christians to be pushed out of the popular culture.   What if we started writing great literature again? and producing meaningful art? And entering politics in order to reclaim that realm? And the media?  Were not most of the great composers of the renaissance motivated by their faith?
We have allowed ourselves to be pushed off into our own little worlds where we produce Christian books, Christian music and Christian journalism, which is b and large not read  by the culture at large.
What we need to do is to be able to write great novels where our message gets out and hearts are changed, because hey are read by the population at large.  Tolkien , Chesterton and Lewis were able to do this in heir time, and we need to do so in our time.  What good does it do if no one is reading or listening?
The culture has indeed been coarsened, and it is now time to refine it again, It has been done before, and it can be done today. One step at a time, but relentlessly and continuously, at every level.

5)  Purism is a big part of the problem.  We have withdrawn from much in the culture because to get involved in politics, the media, or reaching out in the culture means that we just move ahead incrementally, and take some water in our wine, and reclaim the culture the same way it was taken away from us, an inch at a time.

If we can take some of these steps, we can help our brothers and sisters and their priests  to get the message out in their country, as we will have helped weaken their oppressors by cleaning up the mess we have allowed to be created in our own back yard. Stop he drugs, stop he unethical business practices (ie dealing with companies that engage in unethical labour practices) and to help the poor and oppressed get a hand up to make it on their own in a society that will find itself increasingly unable to stop them .

Law enforcement on our side other border will have to play a role, but their effectiveness is also influenced by the  direction of he culture and the body politic.  So it really comes down to the New Evangelization.

We need to know what Jesus taught, and to walk he talk.  That is how we can best help. In other words, authenticity.

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