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Religious persecution has existed through the ages. We must continue to fight it, and take it as a compliment

As the sacrifice of the Mexican martyrs shows, anti-Catholicism will always rebound on itself

By on Wednesday, 22 May 2013

A painting by Mexican artist Martha Orozco featuring six priests canonised by Pope John Paul II in 2000

A painting by Mexican artist Martha Orozco featuring six priests canonised by Pope John Paul II in 2000

On Tuesday it was the Feast of the Mexican Martyrs, those 25 priests and laymen canonised by John Paul II in 2000, and whose heroic struggles are fictionalised in the great novel The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene.

The terrible persecution of the Catholic Church in Mexico in the 1920s and 1930s, which was the fruit of longstanding anti-clericalism, deserves to be better known. Reading what Catholics, especially clergy, were subjected to – such as being denied trial by jury – ought to make everyone, religious or not, very annoyed. And it should serve to underline that religious freedom is important not just for religious people, but for everyone. Despite this, we hear few people ever protest about infringements of religious freedom.

One man more than any other was responsible for the deaths of the martyrs, and that was the then President of Mexico Plutarco Elias Calles, an atheist and a freemason, who was clearly animated by a deep seated hatred of the Church. One is left wondering, why? Why does the Catholic Church arouse such hatred?

Calles was not alone in his hatred for the Church, though it has to be said that no other anti-clerical (unless one counts Lenin) was responsible for so many deaths. The greatest, if that is the word, of the western European anti-clericals was Emile Combes, who is hardly a household name any more even in France, where he was Prime Minister from 1902 to 1905.

Combes was the one who nationalised all Church property and who expelled nearly all religious orders from France. There was in those days a lot of talk about separation of Church and State, but this should not blind us to the Combes agenda which was the persecution of the Church by the State, which is hardly the separation of the two. Combes had been a seminarian in his youth, and one suspects that his anti-Catholicism was born of some personal psychosis. It is not normal, surely, to hate the Church so much?

But to return to the feast of the Mexican martyrs: Calles thought he was erasing the Catholic Church from the face of the earth. He thought his anti-clerical laws signalled its final hours; but in fact thanks to Calles, the Catholic Church, in the glory of the martyrs, was entering one of its finest hours.

All anti-clericalism and anti-Catholicism (the two are virtually interchangeable) rebounds on itself. Thanks to le petit pere Combes and his laws, nowadays all church buildings pre-dating 1903 belong to the State in France. That means one hell of a repair bill. As for our own home-grown versions of Calles and Combes, I happen to think they are doing us a huge favour. Hatred is a kind of compliment. It is not such a bad thing to be worthy of hatred; to be an object of indifference, however, is the kiss of death.

  • John_Seven

    It works both ways, of course – it has been suggested that Catholics, and the clergy in particular, have sometimes been just a little intolerant in the past.

  • $20596475

    Well said and all true. Only those unable to view things in a true historical context will disagree and pretend that their own view cannot be challenged. This is a subject which ought to be constantly under review as new information is discovered.

  • Benedict Carter

    The worst persecution of the Church nowadays is internal:

  • Benedict Carter

    Pathetic, Paul, isn’t it?

    Acleron deals with the need to choose for or against Christ by refusing to choose at all. The trick of pretending Christ did not live on this earth is merely that – a trick to get him out of the need to choose.

    But you DO have to choose Acleron. Refusing to do so will be deemed as a choice against by the Christ Who you one day WILL meet face-to-face.

  • Julian Lord

    Heretical? Blasphemous? Are you off your head, Jabba?

    It is heretical to directly preach the contrary of Church doctrine.

    It is blasphemous to deny the ability of the Holy Spirit to act according to His Divine Will through the Ecumenical Councils of the Holy Church.

    We have numerous examples of Popes making appalling decisions in history, and one or two of holding to heretical positions

    This does not authorise you to make such grave accusations against whichever individual Popes you may personally disagree with.

    Accusations of heresy need to be substantiated by reference to objectively heretical declarations by individuals.

  • Julian Lord

    Your point being what?

    … that these questions are FAR more complex and difficult than some make them out to be.

    And … really ? “the *modern* form of the heresy of Modernism” ??? The condemnations by Pope St. Pius X of Modernism are very clear-minded, but they are also complex and analytically arduous. They do not restrict themselves to condemning this or that form of Modernism only, but our Sainted Holy Father condemns the Modernist heresy in ALL of its various shapes and sizes.

    It is very important to understand that Modernism and Modernity are two completely different things ; but also that Modernism and Novelty are NOT synonymous with each other.

    Certain forms of Catholic ultra-traditionalism, NOT the healthy Traditionalist principles that you yourself adhere to dear Ben !!, are Modernist in nature, in that they seek to impose personal opinion and preference upon the constant Doctrine of the Faith. Sedevacantism is heretical precisely _because_ it is a Modernist creed.

  • Benedict Carter

    Modernism is a fruit of the French Revolution, the “rationalism” of the Enlightenment, of Darwinism and of the historiographical revolution in particularly Germany. How, pray, did it start in the fifteenth century?

    ” … are Modernist in nature, in that they seek to impose personal opinion and preference upon the constant Doctrine of the Faith”.

    No, that is not Modernism, it is Protestantism.

    That you are confused is the least I can say Jabba.

  • Benedict Carter

    “It is heretical to directly preach the contrary of Church doctrine.”

    How has Mundabor done that? Be precise please with regard to his blog article.

    “It is blasphemous to deny the ability of the Holy Spirit to act according to His Divine Will through the Ecumenical Councils of the Holy Church.”

    Mundabor didn’t do any such thing. He opines that the Holy Spirit wasn’t at this particular Council at all. I agree with him.

    Too scatter-gun in your condemnation.

  • Acleron

    Yes, little evidence. There is only an aside by Josephus to this person. The rest of the so-called evidence is from the tracts accumulated in the bible, hardly an unbiased source. We know that mythical figures can arise within one generation because this has been witnessed in the case of John Frum. There may have been a person on whom the bible stories are based but the evidence is poor. As for the majority consensus in academia, few enter that study without a belief in the first place and even fewer will prosper in such an environment by bucking the status quo.

  • Acleron

    The eternal wish to be left alone while bemoaning your victim status will not be granted voluntarily.

  • Benedict Carter

    Funny how people are quite prepared nowadays to think that Homer, writing 800 years after the Trojan War, basically got it right. That the history of the early Roman Kings is pretty accurately presented by the Roman historians; that Plato’s references to Atlantis have a real basis in fact in the Minoan trading empire of 1,500 years before but that the writers of the New Testament, either eyewitnesses or writing at the dictation of eyewitnesses, were making it all up.

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    “I have been left with a completely cynical view of the church, I believe
    in my God and my Lord Jesus Christ, but I am sorry to say, the church
    as an institution now leaves me cold.”

    INSTITUTIONALISATION of the Church of The Lord has practically done away with the Lord himself. As a consequence The Mother of The Lord keeps on intervening so frequently.


  • Julian Lord

    “It is heretical to directly preach the contrary of Church doctrine.”

    How has Mundabor done that? Be precise please with regard to his blog article.

    “there are people out there who in fact believe the Holy Ghost, instead of Satan, was the source of inspiration for [Vatican II]”

    Heresy and Blasphemy.

    Claiming that the Holy Father is “inspired by Satan is both grossly blasphemous against our Holy Church, and heretical againsqt the teachings of he Magisterium

    “we must also agree the Holy Ghost desired that theologians censored by the Church only a few years before may now be called to redefine what Catholic theology is”

    Heresy, by default.

    Theologians necessarily have lesser authority than God.

    the utter abandonment of clear theological language and Thomist thinking – found pretty much everywhere in the conciliar documents

    Grave Error.

    Thomist thinking has not, in fact, been abandoned in the slightest, and various objective lies to the contrary do not serve God.

    such a huge load of rubbish

    Grave Error, Rebellion, Blasphemy, and Heresy — so obviously that I would be embarrassed to detail it.

  • Julian Lord

    Modernism is a fruit of the French Revolution

    Wrong, it’s a fruit of Protestantism.

    Rebellion against the Church is a product of some gravely flawed 15th century philosophies.

    No, that is not Modernism, it is Protestantism

    I cannot help it if you have misunderstand the full import of Pope Saint Pius X’s description of Modernism as “the mother of all heresy”.

  • Julian Lord

    As a consequence The Mother of The Lord keeps on intervening so frequently


  • Benedict Carter

    It was the “synthesis of all heresies” to be precise.

  • Benedict Carter

    You ARE off your head!

    Good trees, good fruit. Bad trees, bad fruit.

  • Acleron

    There is no pretence in examining the evidence and the evidence is sparse and contradictory. The pretence comes from not only assuming it to be true but then taking it a stage further and insisting that everyone else has to believe it. It is that arrogance, when the church had power over society, that caused the antagonism and the atrocities given in the article. Address that problem and the persecution decreases as can be seen in non-islamic society. The reason it continues in countries where the governments are Islamic is the exact same arrogance but this time from another religion.

  • Julian Lord

    … which is how I know you to be truly Catholic, dear Ben.

  • Hennergogs

    The vast amount of historical evidence has been examined by a great many scholars over a very long period of time and the overwhelming conclusion is that he did exist. The rational approach is to accept this and move on.

  • Arden Forester

    “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If
    you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you
    are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the
    world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will
    persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also”.

    I suspect we might be in for a cranking up in the persecution stakes very soon!

  • PaulF

    So all biblical records are swept away as ‘biased.’
    All non biblical records are accepted as ‘unbiased.’
    And the two to three billion people who have experienced the Good News are deluded.
    Acleron, have you spoken to the tadpoles and told them they cannot become butterflies?

  • PaulF

    Indeed. Benedict, when new atheists come on these pages I think we should answer them as respectfully as we can, but we should not engage endlessly with their dreary repetitions of the same negation. They thrive on the oxygen of attention and their purpose seems to be to hijack the discussion, driving away people with constructive things to say.

  • Granny

    As far as I understand the term, ‘modernity’ is characterized by a method, a procedure, an ethic of cognition (the Kantian ethic of cognition) that makes an a priori exclusion of anything pertaining to some other world when it comes to understand what is going on in this one – almost as if to say: Go not outside nature in order to understand nature. Conversely, the religious ethic of cognition makes an a priori inclusion of other worlds (the supernatural etc) in order to understand what is going on in this one. The Kantian ethic rules out revelations from elsewhere, rules out sacred texts, messengers and messages.

    What is the relationship between these two ethics of cognition? Modernism is much an attempt by a religious mind to come to terms with what the Kantian ethic across a variety of intellectual disciplines implies, a modus vivendi which seeks a comfortable foot in both worlds, both camps. The dangers of this are spelled out by Gellner in ‘Postmodernism, Reason and Religion’ (no friend to Catholicism), when he comments on the accommodations that some religiously-minded people will seek to secure:

    “Generally speaking, the doctrines and moral demands of the faith are then turned into something, which properly interpreted, is in astonishingly little conflict with the secular wisdom of the age. This way lies peace – and doctrinal vacuity.”

    Both modernism and modernity were having to wrestle with truth claims, whereas postmodernism would seem to bless everyone, rule out truth and instead enthrone ‘taste’, (no judgments to be made by one cultural system against the other) so that, for example, cultural catholics are addicted to the aesthetics of taste and are uncomfortable when their more rigorous co-religionists emphasize ‘truth’.

  • Julian Lord

    As far as I understand the term, ‘modernity’ is characterized by a
    method, a procedure, an ethic of cognition … that makes an a priori exclusion of anything pertaining to some other world when it comes to understand what is going on in this one

    That is not how I understand the term.

    It could certainly be argued that modernity is a method of cognition, given its intrinsic link with the invention of the printing press, and the massive effect that this invention has had upon our collective and individual powers and structures of cognition as a framework of reason, but the notion that one should automatically exclude “anything pertaining to some other world” on that cognitive basis seems odd, given that this method of cognition precisely enables the unhindered publication and discussion of such concepts.

    Although I can see that an over-reliance on Kant can lead to such dilemma …

    I would see the difference between modernity and modernism as lying in modernism’s strategy of placing individual cognition hierarchically above collective cognition, whereas modernity has no such requirement — though it certainly allows it. The theory of postmodernism is hard to reconcile with modernity, but it is easily shown as being coherent with modernism.

    Perhaps that’s why it is so difficult to pinpoint the nature of postmodernism, because if it were a form of modernity that rejects non-modernism, as you seem to be suggesting, it would hence be defining itself on the basis of a negative rather than on a series of posits ?

  • $24570317

    “One of my posts describing sodomy as a ‘sin crying to heaven for vengeance’ (Genesis 17:20-21) never saw the light of day.”

    I’m glad it didn’t.
    Some zealots might have interpreted the quote as meaning that they should take some vengeful action against gay people.

  • $24570317

    I think you misunderstand atheists and do them a disservice.
    Their lack of belief in any God is an honest one. They do not choose not to believe – it is simply their honest view, formed by their experience of living.

    Some of them might have come onto this website to read and/or post because God could be talking to them – and, although they are unaware of this, they perhaps hear Him in their thoughts.
    Pope Francis has very recently voiced his understanding of atheists.

  • $24570317

    “Persecution, Fr. Lucie-Smith, exists on these pages too.”

    It STM that some Catholics use the word “persecution” a bit too much. It is one thing to use the word about the matters that Fr L-S raises in his article and about other similar outrages in both past and present times – but another in respect of Catholics who refuse to abide by a dress code for which they signed acceptance or to fully carry out the work that they were employed to do. To describe these latter matters, or a difference of opinion about what a Catholic website should or should not post as “persecution” is an insult to those who truly were or are persecuted – some of whom gave their lives for their faith.

  • James M

    “All anti-clericalism and anti-Catholicism (the two are virtually interchangeable) rebounds on itself.”

    ## One cause of Catholic anti-clericalism is the wickedness of Catholic clergy. The Catholics of the Middle Ages were not anti-Catholic – it was because they were Catholic, that they detested and lampooned & despised priests who lived lives that were an insult to the priesthood and the Faith, while distinguishing the evil priests from the holy sacraments that were given through them.

    Precisely because the priesthood is a vocation of almost indescribable honour for a mere sinful creature of dust and ashes to receive, the crimes of those who dishonour it by their vices and unholiness and ungodliness are more worthy of devils than of men. One of the complaints of God in the OT against His sinful & rebellious People whom He had chiosen to be His holy People, was that they dishonoured His Holy Name by sinning against Him. It is the yawning chasm between what priests are called to be and should be, compared with the too frequent evidence of priestly evil, that disgraces them & the Church more than a universe-full of Ian Paisleys ever could.

    It is unspeakably dangerous to suppose that “the two are virtually interchangeable” – this makes impossible any possibility that people are anti-clerical for reasons that are good morally, theologically, doctrinally. It makes all opposition to clerical corruption into “anti-Catholicism” – which means that even Saint who reject clerical corruption, are being “anti-Catholic”. This is a disastrous confusion of thought. Corruption is a bad thing – it is bad for the,Church, because it is disobedient to the Holy Lord of the Church. Therefore the corruption that is clericalism is sinful – and it is not good to find a Catholic priest defending sinfulness in the Church. Clericalism is not a good thing, but a distorted & exaggerated emphasis upon one gift of God to the Church at the expense of others that are some of them no less important. Clericalism in all forms is a great evil – one reason being that it harms the Church, and grievously at that. It is not those who from love of God and His Church hate clericalism who are the anti-Catholics.

  • Benedict Carter

    Excellent post Parasum.

  • Benedict Carter

    Thanks for this, great post.