The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Little Religious Freedom Next Door

Although few Americans are aware of it, in Mexico there is precious little freedom when it comes to the rights of religious organizations to speak freely about anything that might be construed as "political." According to Mexican law, "priests and ministers cannot form political associations nor carry out propaganda for any candidate, party or political group." In other words, the Church is prohibited from telling the faithful that certain parties or candidates espouse policies that are contrary to Scripture, Sacred Tradition and Church teaching.

Blessed Miguel awaiting execution
This and other similar anti-clierical laws in Mexico are products of the Cristero War of the 1920s in which thousands of Catholics were murdered by the state. Among these was a young Jesuit priest, Father Miguel Pro, whose death in front of a firing squad on November 22, 1927 turned him into a Mexican hero. He was executed without formal charges or a trial. The death of Blessed Miguel (he was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988) was witnessed by a large gathering of reporters and photographers because Mexico's violently anti-Catholic president, Plutarco Calles, assumed the young priest would beg for his life and wanted his humiliation recorded. How wrong he was. After praying for a moment, Fr. Pro, raised his arms as if being crucified and cried out, "Viva Cristo Rey!" (Long live Christ the King!)

Things are heating up once again in Mexico because the nation's Catholic bishops published a set of voting guidelines for the Catholic faithful in advance of the July presidential elections. Although there is no mention of specific political parties or candidates, the guidelines state that Catholics may not "choose as a political option those who support or promote false rights or liberties that attack the teachings contained in the Holy Scriptures, tradition and doctrine of the Church." The Church's main focus is to ensure Catholics do not vote for candidates who support abortion or homosexual marriage, reminding Catholics that they "should be alert to the commitments of the candidates and their parties to respect the foremost of all rights, which is the right to life, from the moment of conception." God bless the bishops of Mexico. Pray that they will continue to speak out courageously for life and truth. Pray, too, that the people of Mexico respond not to the merchants of death, but to the supporters of life.

In recent years some of Mexico's long-standing anti-Catholic laws have been overturned. For example, in the 1990s priests were allowed to wear clerical clothing in public and the Church could establish religious schools. Both had been prohibited throughout most of the twentieth century. We hope this gradual movement toward religious freedom will continue. And we hope, too, that our nation will not set aside the religious freedom guaranteed by our Constitution, no matter how inconvenient that document might be to the political ambitions of some of our politicians.

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