Cartel-related violence in Mexico has soared out of control in recent years. Even previously safe, tourist-friendly towns like Cancun and Playa del Carmen are seeing their share of killings. Acapulco failed to retain the glamour-resort aura it acquired in the fifties and has now devolved into Mexico’s murder capital.
Mexico is now considered to be the most dangerous country to be a priest, according to the Catholic news agency Crux Now. The Rev. Juan Miguel Contreras Garcia became the 23rd church leader killed in a string of violent attacks since 2012 and the fourth priest murdered in Mexico this year. He was shot down in his parish on Friday night as he listened to confession in the western state of Jalisco.
Just two days prior, the Rev. Rubén Alcántara Díaz was stabbed to death at his church on the outskirts of Mexico City. He was killed right before Mass in his Cuautitlán Izcalli church. …
It’s a scenario that’s grown too familiar in Mexico. Stories of dead priests dumped along the highway, their bodies filled with bullets or tied up before they’re stabbed, have become recurring headlines. … [I]n the last six years, priests have been victims of mysterious deaths, intentionally sought out and often brutally abused.
The bishops‘ reluctance to support or engage with clergy fighting against drugs has raised suspicion that some may be in the pockets of drug traffickers or politicians wanting to dumb down reports of violence. The belief [that] church leaders have bowed to pressure is widespread among parishes, and [leaders’] silence over murdered priests only fuels this perception.
It should be understood that working priests are not uniquely being targeted. Others who speak out against illicit drugs and cartel violence, just as parish priests often do, are also painting a bull’s eye on their foreheads.
For instance, the job of Mexican journalists is now so risky that there’s a federal program that provides them with bodyguards and special panic buttons they can press to summon law enforcement if they’re in acute danger. The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists said last year that the number of Mexican reporters murdered for doing their job had reached an all-time high.
There are various hypotheses for why Mexican priests, likewise, may increasingly find themselves in the crosshairs of murder squads.
Theories include the murders are a retaliation over priests abandoning a long-held tradition of withholding criticism of the government. Others say the church is entangled in political corruption. …
But some civilians see the murder of priests as a result of the church’s call to end drug-related violence in a country with an impenetrable system of drug cartels.
The cartels’ intimidation campaign is expanding. When cold-blooded narcos signal that no one is off-limits — not politicians, not civil servants, not cops, not journalists, not priests — they hope to cow everyone into silence and submission.
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