Thursday, June 14, AD 2012
On June 15, a book tied in with the For Greater Glory movie will be released by Ignatius Press. Bearing the same name as the movie, it is a history of the Cristero Movement. The author was recently interviewed by Zenit:
ZENIT: Neither a film nor a ZENIT interview is sufficient to explain all the historical intricacies of such a complex epoch. Still, could you give us a brief overview of the Cristero War?
Quezada: The Cristero War is a chapter in Mexico’s history in the 1920s, when thousands of Catholics answered this crucial question [of religious freedom] at the cost of their very lives. President Plutarco Calles launched a direct attack on the Catholic Church using articles from Mexico’s Constitution, which created this uprising and counter-revolution against the Mexican government during that time. The original rebellion was set off by the persecution of Roman Catholics and a ban on their public religious practices.
There are two important dates to point out here.
The persecution began on Aug. 1, 1926, when the government re-enacted the penal code and forced the closure of all Catholic churches throughout the entire country with its new anticlerical laws. However, the first coordinated uprising for religious freedom did not occur until Jan. 1, 1927.
It was not until mid June 1929 when the truce was officially signed, bringing an end to the Cristero War.
ZENIT: Is For Greater Glory a historically accurate film?
Quezada: Apart from some “artistic license” the film is essentially accurate.
ZENIT: The movie alludes to some discrepancy between the Vatican’s position regarding the religious persecution, and that of the Cristero fighters. Could you explain this?
Quezada: When the oppression was about to begin, the Vatican granted permission — requested by the Mexican bishops — to cease any Catholic religious services in order to avoid confrontations. Additionally, the Holy See wrote letters to the government requesting they abolish the Calles Law. The government ignored each request. As the war intensified, Rome continued to have direct communications with President Calles to ask for leniency. Not only were Vatican officials [in Mexico] dismissed, but diplomatic relations were broken off by the government. Lastly, Pope Pius XI wrote an encyclical letter to the clergy and the faithful of Mexico to give them courage and hope during this persecution. There was really not much else the Holy See could do. On Nov. 18, 1926, the Pope sent the encyclical letter Iniquis Afflictisque (On the Persecution of the Church in Mexico) to offer prayers and encouragement during this difficult time.
Go here to read the rest. I will be purchasing the book when it is released. Another book I highly recommend is Jean Meyer’s The Cristero Rebellion: The Mexican People Between Church and State 1926-1929. A French historian, Meyer is the foremost authority on the Cristero Movement having been studying and writing about it since the seventies. Originally approaching the Cristero War from a Marxist perspective, he came to understand that this was truly a mass movement in defense of the Church by Mexican Catholics. A blurb for the book gives the flavor of Meyer’s perspective:
The Cristero movement is an essential part of the Mexican Revolution. When in 1926 relations between Church and state, old enemies and old partners, eventually broke down, when the churches closed and the liturgy was suspended, Rome, Washington and Mexico, without ever losing their heads, embarked upon a long game of chess. These years were crucial, because they saw the setting up of the contemporary political system. The state established its omnipotence, supported by a bureaucratic apparatus and a strong privileged class. Just at the moment when the state thought that it was finally supreme, at the moment at which it decided to take control of the Church, the Cristero movement arose, a spontaneous mass movement, particularly of peasants, unique in its spread, its duration, and its popular character. For obvious reasons, the existing literature has both denied its reality and slandered it.
I am quite pleased that the heroes and heroines of the Cristero Movement are finally getting some measure of historical justice. When I think of the Cristeros, I recall the words of Lincoln about those who died in another war for freedom: It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.