The Cristeros: 20th century Mexico's Catholic uprising
tratto da: The Angelus, January 2002 , Volume XXV, Number 1
The 20th century was the bloodiest century in history, the "century of massacres,"1 "hell's century,"2 the century of martyrs-just like all the others? No, not just like all the others; it was the great century of martyrs, infinitely more than the others... Never had there been so many martyrs in the space of 100 years, not even in the space of 1,000 years.3 And these tens of millions of Christians, the victims of a century in open revolt against God, remain unknown and unsung. Today I would like to recall for you the Mexican Catholics who, some 70 years ago, rose up against Freemasonry for the social reign of our Lord Jesus Christ. They were called the Cristeros.
March 1929. Between battles with the Federales,
the Valparaiso regiment attends the Mass of the Military Chaplain.
A Century of Religious Persecutions
From the time its independence was declared in 1821, Mexico had a troubled history: civil wars, dictatorships, coup d'états, revolutions (1876-1911)... Maximilian's Empire (1863-67) was but a brief and very imperfect4 parentheses in the persecutions endured by the Church once the Spanish left: property despoiled, priests imprisoned, assassinations plotted, bishops expelled... Why so many misfortunes? A proverb provides the answer: "Poor Mexico! so far from God and so close to the United States..." The United States did not want a great Catholic power at their door. At the time of Mexican independence, they worried about this potential rival whose land mass roughly equaled their own, and whose population, though less numerous (6.5 millions of inhabitants versus 9.5 millions) had become, thanks to a very lively Catholic faith, a true nation, while the United States remained, and remains even now, the "Salad Bowl."5
In the 1830's, war broke out. Betrayed by Masonic generals,6 Mexico lost its northern territory, California, Texas, New Mexico (1848), and was placed under United States political and economic hegemony.7
The puppets successively made presidents of Mexico were all corrupt Masons who immediately enforced the orders issued from Washington to "defanaticize" the country, that is, to destroy its Catholicism which dated from the 16th century when the Spanish (especially the Franciscans8), had evangelized Mexico; the order also demanded defiling the memory of its European heritage by exalting the pre-Columbian era9 and the "marvelous" Aztec civilization where the wheel and the vault were unknown, but where slavery, human sacrifice and cannibalism were practiced on a grand scale even in the 16th century!10
Here are just two examples of this policy: The first official act of President Juarez was to transform St. Francis of Mexico Church into a Protestant temple (1867),11 and the publication of Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Humanum Genus (1884) was prohibited (it condemns Freemasonry) even in the seminaries!12
In 1914, President Carranza, put in place by the US, inaugurated a period of open persecution: priests were massacred (160 were killed in Mexico in February, 1915). John Lind, one of Woodrow Wilson's advisors, rejoiced over the news: "Great news! The more priests they kill in Mexico, the happier I shall be!" An American pastor, indignant about the outraging of the nuns in Vera Cruz, received this reply from Wilson's personal representative: "After prostitution, the worst thing in Mexico is the Catholic Church. Both must disappear!"13
In 1924, Plutarco Elias Calles became President. For this descendant of Spanish Jews,14 a 33rd degree Mason, "the Church is the unique cause of all Mexico's misfortunes." For him, too, she had to disappear.15 With the complicity of a Masonic priest, Fr. Perez, proclaimed by the government "Patriarch of the Mexican Catholic Church," Calles founded a schismatic "patriotic Church," as the Communists were to do later in China.16 The wine used in the Mass was replaced by mescal. But the maneuver was met with widespread contempt. The government could finance the opening of 200 Protestant schools and Calles could smooth the way for heretical sects (already well financed by the US), but the Mexican people remained stubbornly attached to Rome!
In 1926, the president and his clique launched a new offensive which they 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. Public school attendance became mandatory, atheism was officially taught, and religious insignia (medals, crucifixes, statues, and pictures) were forbidden, even at home. God was even chased from the language! The use of such expressions as Adios, "If God wills," or "God forbid," was subject to a fine. Lastly, the priests were "registered": some states (Mexico is a federal republic) required them to swear not to proselytize, others tried to command them to marry if they wished to continue in their function! Msgr. Carvana, the Apostolic Nuncio, protested; on May 12, 1926, he was expelled. Throughout the country, Catholic public figures were assassinated, girls coming out of church were kidnapped, imprisoned, raped. Msgr. Curley, the Archbishop of Baltimore, vented his indignation: "Calles persecutes the church because he knows that he has Rome's approval. Our government has armed Calles's killers. Our friendship has encouraged him in his abominable enterprise: to destroy the idea of God in the minds and hearts of millions of Mexicans."17
On May 28, Calles received the Masonic medal of merit from the hands of the Great Commander of the Scottish rite in Mexico. On July 12, the following communique appeared in the press: "International Masonry accepts responsibility for everything that is happening in Mexico, and is preparing to mobilize all its forces for the methodic, integral application of the agreed upon program for this country."18
On July 26, an elderly shopkeeper was coldly struck down by two policemen in civilian clothes. His crime? In his shop he had posted a sign reading Viva Cristo Rey! Long live Christ the King! The Mexicans peacefully reacted to the persecution: they boycotted state-owned enterprises (tobacco purchases and railroad traffic were reduced by 74%, and in just a few weeks, the national bank suffered a 7 million peso loss), and they also circulated a protest petition signed by 2 million (out of a population of 15 million).
But Christians have something even better than that, they have prayer, and the country was crisscrossed by gigantic penitential processions: 10,000, 15,000 faithful, barefooted, crowned with thorns, implored God for their country. The powers that be could not tolerate that; their heavy machine guns dispersed the processions, and the first martyrs fell, singing.
Public Worship Suspended
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. During the final days of July, people thronged the churches day and night, going to confession, getting baptized, marrying...
And then the terrible hour came...
From the first days of August, the Mexican people, deprived of their priests (only 200 remained with their faithful) and of their bishops (only 1 remained out of 38) used force to resist the inventorying of the closed churches and the accompanying sacrileges. Their rallying cry was that of the Mexican shopkeeper: "Long live Christ the King!" To keep from hearing it, the soldiers had only one solution: cut out the tongue of those whom they were going to kill, of those whom, because of these cries, they named the Cristeros. One of them wrote before dying: "We are going to perish. We will not see the victory, but Mexico needs all this blood for its purification... Christ will receive the homage which is due Him." Blood flowed... Ireland broke its diplomatic relations with Mexico... No other state followed suit.
On September 18, 1926, Pius XI published the encyclical Iniquis Afflictisque:
In October the Holy Father declared: "The blood of martyrs has always been the seed of blessings from heaven." How could one fail to understand that one year after Quas Primas, the Cristeros were signing with their blood this text on the social reign of our Lord Jesus Christ? Freemasonry understood it, and in its American journal The New Age of December 1926, it expressed its stand:
In January 1927, Catholic Mexico rose: 20,000 combatants (30,000 by the end of the year, and 50,000 in 1929); few arms (a few rifles and carbines, but mostly hatchets, machetes, and sometimes simply sticks); few horses; but all the people supporting them, offering them their money, and necessaries. A Cristero peasant recounted how they set out with songs and prayers on their lips:
The old men and children, unarmed, followed behind the troops, in the hope of martyrdom. "The parents of Nemesio and Isidro Lopez did not want to see them depart for the war for fear that their flesh would go to feed coyotes and eagles; but they replied, "The coyotes may indeed eat our flesh, but our souls will ascend straight to heaven."22 Against them were 100 mobile columns of 1,000 men each, veritable "infernal columns" financed by the US (light armored cars, tractor-drawn artillery, combat aircraft...). The first clashes were bloody massacres. An officer of Calles wrote: "They are more like pilgrims than soldiers. This isn't a military campaign, it's a hunting party!" The president himself predicted: "It will be wrapped up in less than two months."
But when a pilgrimage takes up arms, it becomes a crusade! The Cristeros were able to equip themselves from the adversary, profiting from their cowardice or their corruption. The "Federales" were more like pillagers, drunk on tequila and marijuana, rather than soldiers worthy of the name. On March 15, 1927, they were defeated at San Julian; at Puerto Obristo, they left 600 dead. In November, the military attache of the US began to worry about the success of the "fanatics," 40% of whose troops were now equipped with excellent Mausers recuperated from the enemy. How was it possible?
The Cristiada was a succession of miracles. One was when the consecrated hosts flew into the sky before the very eyes of the squad that was getting ready to shoot them; it led to the conversion of the Masonic officer who commanded it, and who ended the war as a Cristero general. But there are very many more: God does not let Himself be outdone in generosity. I will just recount two.
A Christian general told how he arrived with 350 men who had been fasting for two days in a miserable hamlet of only 11 straw huts. He retired to write his report. Coming out, he saw his soldiers eating with gusto and an old woman with tears in her eyes saying over and over; "I just had a few biscuits, and yet there is enough for everyone, and what is left over is more than I had to begin with!"
A Cristero spy had spoken with the Federales:
The spy added:
Marvelous Cristeros! While the Federal army recorded an average of 30,000 desertions annually, they did not experience a single case of treason. A cobbler, become sector chief, was contacted by the enemy who offered to spare his life and make him a colonel, answered: "I am not fighting for a rank. I am fighting for the Church and for Christ the King. As soon as the victory is won, I shall return to my shoes." He was killed in combat in March 1928.
With diabolic tenacity, Calles's men tried to make their prisoners apostatize, but in vain. Fr. Reyes was tortured for three days and two nights. This pastor of Totolan, born in very poor circumstances (as a child he hawked newspapers) had decided to remain at his post. That was enough to unleash the hatred of the Federales, who tormented him with fire. "You say that God descends into your hands, well then, let Him descend and deliver you from ours!" his torturers taunted. They finished him off with bullets on the evening of Holy Wednesday. One of them testified: "We had already lodged three or four bullets in him when he roused himself to cry out once more: 'Long live Christ the King!'" Sabás Reyes Salazar was canonized on May 21, 2000.23
Valencia Gallardo, a Cristeros leader, was tied to a stake and tortured but only cried out throughout: "Long live Christ the King!" They tore out his tongue; he freed one of his hands from the bonds and pointed to heaven. They cut it off, and then split open his skull with their rifle butts.
Admirable Cristeros! The Cristiada was not a counter revolution with its share of exactions: it was the opposite of a revolution. Read the order of the day of one of its generals (killed in combat in 1927):
Their awareness of the supernatural character of their fight did not lead the Cristeros to neglect temporal realities: "Fight and organize; fight and moralize" was one of their mottoes. In the liberated territories, "administrators" were appointed, Catholic schools were opened (more than 200), public sins (drunkenness, prostitution) were suppressed.
Who were these new crusaders? They were the people. As one Federale wrote: "We run no risk of making a mistake (by massacring one and all): they all resist." They were 95% rural folk: peasants, artisans, miners, muleteers, or rural landholders. There was, for instance, Luis Navarro Origel, with a degree in philosophy and a third-order Franciscan: in 1926, he took the lead of the men of the village where he was mayor. He declared: "I am going to kill for Christ those who kill Christ, and perhaps die for Him if need be; I am going to offer the blood of redemption." He fell at the head of his troops on August 10, 1928, at the age of 30.
The city folk who joined them were especially students and the women involved in the St. Joan of Arc Brigades. Some of these 25,000 heroines were only 14 years old. They acted as liaison agents or scouts, nurses, collectors of money or munitions in the arsenals where they infiltrated as workers! Woe to those who fell into the clutches of the Federates' hardened soldiers... But they never betrayed any information.
Beautiful youth of Mexico. José Sanchez was 13. In February 1928 he was surrounded by the Federales. He gave up his horse to the group leader who was wounded and covered his retreat. Running out of ammunition, he was captured. "Know it well," he said, "I am not surrendering, I have merely run out of ammo." He was slaughtered. A note was found in his pocket: "My dearest Mom: Here I am a captive, and they are going to kill me. I am happy. The only thing that troubles me is that you are going to cry. Don't cry. We shall meet again." Signed, José, killed for Christ the King.
Tomasino was a member of the executive committee of the ACJM (Mexican Catholic Youth Association) and prefect of the congregation of Mary. Arrested, he was offered his freedom if he talked. "Really, you would be making a mistake: free, I would continue to fight for Christ the King. For us, the fight for our freedom of worship is not optional." In August 1927, he was hanged. He was 17.
Manuel Bonilla, a student, kept a daily diary:
He was shot at 22 years of age, on Good Friday, 1927, at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. In 1942, his body was discovered perfectly intact.
The Mystery of Iniquity
The year 1928 was terrible: the infernal columns had received the order to deport the rural population to "concentration camps"26 where famine and epidemics decimated them. At the least show of resistance, the Federates would massacre them. Harvests and flocks were seized, grazing land burned, and villages destroyed by the thousands. Despite this scorched earth policy, the Cristeros stood fast like latter-day Machabees.
In 1929, the government renounced its policy of governing the countryside. Three-fourths of inhabitable Mexico was in the hands of the troops of Christ the King, victory was in reach especially as the riffraff in Mexico were fighting each other, and in the United States Hoover, who was not a Mason, was elected! Then they learned that the secret negotiations between the Mexican government and the Vatican had resulted in an accord. On June 21, the Mexican episcopate (except for one of its members, His Excellency Jose de Jesus Manriquez y Zarate) signed a "resolution" of the conflict with the ruling power on bases "negotiated" by a US Jesuit, a Fr. Walsh. The accord provided for: (1) immediate, unconditional cease fire; (2) the resumption of public worship beginning the next day (June 22).
That was all. It restored them to the same situation that prevailed in 1926 with all the anti-Catholic laws then in effect, including the registration of priests! In the text, the Cristeros are called fanatics directed by a few third-rate priests; their revolt was an error, an imprudence, even a sin: they must lay down their arms under pain of excommunication...
Jésus Degollado, commander in chief of the Cristeros, addressed his troops, his voice breaking from sorrow:
Six thousand Cristeros obeyed, and were immediately massacred. In three years, they had only lost 5,000 men in combat! The Mexican episcopate decreed the excommunication of the Cristero priests, but those who had not been killed during the war (180) had already been martyred...All was lost.
The new president, the Masonic lawyer Fortes Gil, rejoiced. At the summer solstice banquet, he acknowledged his astonishment at the unconditional capitulation of a victorious army, and his intention to continue the fight: "The fight did not begin yesterday. The fight is eternal. The fight began 20 centuries ago." Indeed, but the novelty was that the Vatican was not on the right side. Freemasonry, condemned by all the popes from the 18th century (Clement XII, in 1738) to the end of the 19th (in 1892, Leo XIII equated Freemasonry with Satanism), had infiltrated the Church at the highest levels of the hierarchy: Were not G. della Chiesa (the future Benedict XV) and A. Ratti (the future Pius XI) the "proteges" of Cardinal Rampolla? In 1926, was it not Pius XI who condemned Action Frangaise in accordance with the sect's desires. In 1928, was not Fr. Vallet expelled from Spain and his work suppressed by a hierarchy that preferred to favor the Opus Dei.28
When, from 1934 to 1937, a new Cristiada was launched, Pius XI let the Mexican episcopate excommunicate the Cristeros and then waited until they were all dead before daring to write (in his Letter to the Mexican Episcopate, 1937):
The same year, in Divini Redemptoris, he blamed Communism for the atrocities perpetrated against the Christians of Mexico...but he did not mention Freemasonry.
The saga of the Cristeros reminds us of the famous rising of the Vendée during the French Revolution, and the two epics have many points in common:
These similarities should not, however, mask an essential difference: the sole motive of the Cristiada was religious. The defense of the faith was not mixed with any other cause, be it political, social, economic, or particular (as the refusal of the draft by the Vendée).
This single-mindedness explains the remarkable homogeneity of the Mexican counter-revolutionary movement, its purity and its efficacy. It is a lesson worth meditating on.
1. Eugenic Corti, La Responsabilite de la culture occi-dentale dans les grands massacres du XX'' siecle, Atlantide, Europe No. 2, L'Age d'Homme (Lausanne, 1998). By "Western culture," the author means the "Enlightenment."
2. French title of the book by Gustave Corçao, O Seculo do nada.
3. Jean Madiran, preface to Siècle de I'Enfer (Ed. Sainte-Madeleine, 1995), p.5.
4. Maximilian, who became a Freemason as early as 1864, readily showed toleration to Protestantism and Judaism.
5. "The Salad Bowl": a simile used by geographers to show how the different "ingredients" of the population are juxtaposed without blending. It would be useful to study the role of Protestantism in maintaining this state of affairs.
6. A. Sanders, "La preuve par le Mexique," Présent, July 19-22.
7. A. Sanders (article cited, July 22, 2000) lists the masters of the Mexican economy in 1914: Rockefeller (rubber), Goblentz (textiles), Guggenheim (mines), Hearst (alias Hirsch) who owned 3 million metric arces, and the Kuhn-Loeb bank, which financed Lenin.
8. Beginning in 1529, the Franciscans opened eight colleges for the young Indians, as well as upper level technical schools. Financed by the king of Spain, in 1536 they opened, for the Indians alone, the Superior College of Holy Cross in Mexico (Latin, rhetoric, philosophy, music, medicine). In 1551, the University of Mexico was founded, open to Indians as well as Spanish. See La Vraie contro-verse de Valladolid by Jean Dumont (Paris: Criterion, 1995), pp. 130-131.
9. Cardenas, president of Mexico from 1934-1940, named his son Cuauhtemoc, after the name of the last Aztec emperor. Having become a politician like his father, he was named the "Aztec sphinx" by the leftist media.
10. Human sacrifices were offered almost daily. The number of victims, who had their hearts cut out still beating before being dismembered and eaten, have been estimated at 20,000 a year on the average (more than 50 a day!). The inauguration of the temple at Mexico was the occasion of massacring 20,000 victims in four days (some sources speak of 80,000). See "Croisades, Inquisition...: Faut-il demander pardon?" Savoir et Servir 60, 73-74.
11. A. Sanders, art. cit. July 21 and 22 , 2000.
13. A. Sanders, art. cit., July 26, 2000.
15. A. Sanders names Calles's entourage: Aaron Saenz, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Moses Saenz, Vice Minister of Education; the US advisor Habermann (an agent of the Soviet GPU); Hirschfeld, Master of the Mexican Grand Lodge (art. cited, July 27, 2000).
16. According to M. Reboul (Monde et Vie, Oct. 19, 2000), 15 priests and 1 bishop of the Chinese "Patriotic" Church visited seminaries and parishes in France and Belgium in 1994. They concelebrated Mass with the priests and even bishops of the places visited without provoking the least protest (p. 14). Cardinal Etchegarray is also reported to have concelebrated with the functionary-priests of the Patriotic Church last October in the Marian sanctuary of Sheshan (Libre journal, Oct. 27, 2000).
17. A. Sanders, art. cit., July 27, 2000.
18. La Tribuna, July 12, 1926, quoted by F. M. Algoud, " 1600 Young Saints, Young Martyrs," 1994.
19. J. Meyer, Apocalypse et Révolution au Mexique, 1926-1926 (Archives Gallimard-Julliard, No. 56, 1974), pp.54-55.
21. A. Sanders, art. cit., July 28, 2000.
22. J. Meyer, Apocalypse et Rèvolution, p. 175.
23. The biographical information on the Mexican saints comes from the internet site http://www.sanctus.com/Paginas/SanctosMexi-canos.html
24. J. Meyer, ibid., p. 172.
25. Most of the 20 martyred priests of period (canonized in 2000) were of rural origin, and half of them of very humble circumstances (shepherds like St. Atilano Cruz Alvarado; newspaper hawkers like St. Sabas Reyes).
26. J. Meyer, "Les Cristeros," L 'Histoire, 86, February 1986.
27. A. Sanders, art. cit., July 29, 2000.
28. N. Dehan, in Sel de la terre, 11 (1994-1995), 126.
29. The letter of Msgr. de Mercy, Bishop of Lucon, in exile in Italy, deserves mention. On June 1, 1793, he wrote: "For a long time I hoped to be able to save the furniture I left...at Luçon. I might have...but the troubles in the Vendée harmed my cause, even though I do not take their side." Quoted by X. Martin, Sur les Droits de I'homme et laVendée (DMM, 1995) p.75, n.269. Absent from his diocese from 1789, he only returned from exile in 1802, and was named Archbishop of Bourges...
30. J. Meyer, Apocalypse et Révolution, pp.173-174.
32. He was dismissed. See the Madrid daily ABC, Dec. 14, 1996.