The beatification of Fr. Stanley Rother, the martyr of Guatemala, is a good time to remember that the Church in Central America remains a target, often by those who see the Church and her priests as threats against drug and human trafficking cartels.
In the last four years, seventeen priests have been killed and several others the targets of violent attacks and robberies.
Those who claim some expertise on these matters insist that the priests are not being killed over “hatred for the faith,” the traditional language describing those martyred for Christ, but because the drug and human trafficking cartels see them as threats to their power over the people. To kill a priest is to establish your authority over the people, because even the Church is shown to be weak in the face of the cartels.
But, this misses the whole point of what it means to be a martyr, I think. The Church stands as a witness to what is true, good, and beautiful. The cartels stand for what is false, evil, and ugly. An attack against a priest who is condemning the lawlessness of drug crimes and human trafficking, who points to them as abuses of human rights and a denial of the dignity of the human person is an attack against the preaching and living of the Gospel.
These priests are martyrs. Their voices raised against the crimes and horrors of the drug and human trafficking cartels, or even in response to their pastoral work of empowering the local people, are silenced because the drug and trafficking lords will permit no opposition to their empires of illicit profit and human bondage.
Pray for the Church in Mexico. Pray that more priests, and bishops, too, will have the courage to speak the truth of God’s promises and grace to the people of Mexico, even in the face of danger.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.