At first glance, the title of this article would seem to have little or no relationship to reality. After all, the Knights and the Vincentians as organizations are each only a couple of hundred years old, and the martyrs were a very long time ago.
When Christians think of the martyrs, frequently their thoughts may jump to Roman coliseums and the lions enjoying a meal. Martyrdom is, unfortunately, alive and well. In the 21st century, the martyrs are the Christians in the Middle East, as an example, who are being routinely killed for their faith. The 20th century was however one of the low points in the history of martyrs.
We need only look back a few decades to see the martyrdom of thousands of Catholics, seizure of churches, suspension of Mass and the Sacraments, and the rape of nuns. No, we are not talking about Africa or the Middle East, we are going to explore Mexico in the 1920’s.
Mexico Martyrs? In The home of Our Lady of Guadalupe?
The following is a reprint of an article by Brian H. Gill, Editor, Sauk Centre K of C Bulletin. “The 1920s and 30s were bad years to be Catholic in Mexico. The 1910 revolution put people in power who at best distrusted the church. Their 1917 constitution included five articles that put Catholics in their place, from the point of view of the new secular state.
- Article 3 allowed only secular education in the schools
- Article 5 banned monastic orders
- Article 24 allowed public worship only inside churches
- Article 27 restricted the right of religious organizations to hold property
- Article 130, deprived clergy members of basic rights, making them second-class citizens. Priests and nuns:
- were forbidden to wear clerical attire
- were not allowed to vote
- were not allowed to criticize government officials
- were not allowed to comment on public affairs in religious periodicals”(1)
The Stage is Set
In 1924, Plutarco Elias Calles became President, the view of this 33rd degree Mason was, “the Church is the unique cause of all Mexico’s misfortunes.”(2) In 1926, the president launched a new offensive which he hoped to be definitive: “Now there must be a psychological revolution,” Calles declared. “We must penetrate and take hold of the minds of the children and the youth because they must belong to the revolution.” The Catholic schools were shut down, the congregations expelled, Christian trade unions forbidden, numerous churches confiscated and profaned (turned into stables or halls) or destroyed.(3)
On July 24, 1926, Cardinal Gaspari sent a telegram from Rome to the Mexican episcopate: “Under no condition we will accept the registering of priests.” The bishops decided to suspend public worship throughout the land starting July 31: all the places of public worship would be closed, there would be no Masses offered, nor sacraments administered throughout the country except in private chapels. This was an unheard of, inexplicable decision, unless by it they intended to push the Mexicans to revolt, for the one thing they could not bear was to be deprived of the sacraments.(3)
On July 26, an elderly shopkeeper was coldly struck down by two policemen in civilian clothes for having had a sign reading Viva Cristo Rey! Long live Christ the King! posted in his shop. Word of his death spread rapidly and led to boycotts, protests and outrage. The battle of the state to put down the Church continued.
“On an ordinary January day in 1927, as Yocundo Durán walked home in Chihuahua, Mexico, he crossed paths with Federal Gen. Miguel Valle, who was walking out of a local tavern. The general recognized Durán and had one of his soldiers detain him and ask, “Are you a Knight of Columbus?”
Durán confirmed he was a Knight and asked whether there was any evil in it. Considering this an indictment, Valle pronounced Durán a “subversive Catholic” and ordered him shot on the spot. Durán’s body was later delivered to his family in a bricklayer’s cart.” (4)
At the depth of what has become known as the Cristeros War, there were a large number of hands involved in stirring the pot. The Ku Klux Klan offered 4 million members as soldiers for the Calles regime should any group or country intervene militarily(5), American financial interests trying to protect the Mexican oilfields, the Vatican, and Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood ) who praised Calles’ campaign against the Church as a strike against intolerance, among others were involved.
The Knights of Columbus had raised funds to assist thousands of priests, monks, brothers and sisters who had to flee Mexico. The Knights were also involved in an education campaign to spread the word about the injustices in Mexico through the distribution of pamphlets and political pressuring of the U.S. Congress.
Of the thousands of Mexican civilians who were killed, there were dozens of members of the Knights of Columbus and untold dozens of members of the Society of St Vincent de Paul whose members were involved in the financial and spiritual support of the families where the head of the household had gone off in the name of religious freedom to fight with the Cristeros.
The 2012 movie, “For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada” is an excellent resource in the history of the Cristeros War. Additional resources are: Knights of Columbus (www.kofc.org), EWTN (www.ewtn.com), Catholic Net (www.catholic.net), and Mexico Connect (www.mexconnect.com).
The question is not as much “if” the same sorts of things which happened in Mexico may happen here, it is rather more of a “when” will it happen here? In 2007, then candidate B. Hussein Obama made the statement that America was no longer a Christian nation. In his defense, the full quote was, “Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation – at least not just, we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation and a Buddhist nation and a Hindu nation and a nation of non-believers.”
The tone was set and remains the same, HHS mandate, IRS threats, the PC(politically correct)-wussification of the country, and the assault on the non-negotiables. At what point will we be required to stand and proclaim , “Viva Cristo Rey”, or, how many of us will?
- Brian H. Gill, Editor, Sauk Centre K of C Bulletin
- “THE CRISTEROS CATHOLIC SOLDIERS OF CHRIST, 20th Century Mexico’s Catholic Uprising” by Olivier Lelibre (http://www.catholicapologetics.info/catholicteaching/history/cristero.htm)
- ibid (2)
- “The Untold Story of the Knights during the Cristiada, Standing with the Church against anti-clerical laws, Mexican Knights of Columbus endured violent persecution in the 1920s by María de Lourdes Ruiz Scaperlanda” ( http://www.kofc.org/un/en/columbia/detail/2012_05_cristero_war_knights.html)
- ibid 4