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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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M. had been in prison for about three years. He was normally a regular at morning Mass, skinny and skittish, with light eyes, and he had recently grown a scruffy beard. “You look like you belong on ‘Lost,’ ” [the Rev. Robert Coogan] said when he greeted him. Unlike other prisoners, M. actually had a family of some means, and in a prison system without uniforms, his style often seemed more appropriate for an indie rock club. His sneakers were clean and hip; his jeans had designer labels.
Inside maximum, M. shared space not just with hard-core Zetas but also with inmates too insane to be kept anywhere else — including one who refused to wear clothes and spoke to angels. He slept little, like any prey encircled by predators, and that morning he anxiously greeted Coogan’s arrival, signaling immediately with darting eyes that he needed to talk privately. Coogan followed him into the yard, where M. pulled out a Bible for cover and positioned himself near a faraway wall. There, he explained that the Zetas wanted him to pay them 2,000 pesos ($165), with the first half due at noon the next day. Coogan, brightening the dusty pen with his purple robes, nodded as M. spoke. He had paid small ransoms to keep M. safe from the Zetas twice already, but this latest demand was larger, more than a week’s pay. He wasn’t sure whether the Zetas were serious or if they were just toying with M. He also didn’t know if M. could be trusted. M. claimed to be locked up because a friend stole a television and he was taking the rap, but other inmates doubted his story and said he was a schemer. Coogan considered his options. Paying the Zetas would encourage extortion, but ignoring the threat, or confronting the Zetas directly, could get M. beaten or killed.
Read it all from the New York Times Magazine.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Drugs/Drug Addiction Prison/Prison Ministry Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Mexico * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Three men, field laborers by day, huddle on a bench as night descends, a mess of empty bottles of hard liquor strewn nearby. Another man gets a refresher on how to ring the bell in case of emergency. One listens attentively to orders from their leader.
It is time to guard the churches of Cholula.
A small, picturesque city 80 miles southeast of Mexico City, Cholula is said to have a church for every day of the year. There are, in reality, about 80 in all, many dating to the 17th century and filled with paintings and sculptures from that time. It is enough to draw hordes of worshipers — and thieves.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Police/Fire Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Mexico * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
With mangled corpses turning up on street corners and inside restaurants, hung from bridges, and buried in mass graves, Mexicans seem to have grown inured. Outrage, fear, anxiety, sadness — it is tough to muster such emotions again and again, especially with 50,000 people dead in drug-related killings since President Felipe Calderón began his assault on traffickers six years ago.
Other countries, of course, have gone through some version of this collective numbing: Israel in 2003, after a series of bus bombings; Iraq in 2006.
But Mexico seems to have fallen to new depths of deliberate distraction this year, and many Mexicans are increasingly disturbed by their own attitude.
Read it all.
Pope Benedict XVI said that during his recent journey to Mexico and Cuba, he experienced "unforgettable days of joy and hope."
While he went as "a witness of Jesus Christ," it was also an opportune occasion to call for reform, especially in allowing greater religious freedom, he said.
At his weekly general audience April 4 in St. Peter's Square, the pope told an estimated 11,000 pilgrims and visitors about his March 23-28 visit.
Read it all.
Santa Muerte has various names: she is la Flaquita (Skinnybones) or la Huesuda, the Bony Lady, and she has attracted many other euphemisms in the centuries that she has enjoyed underground devotion. But whatever we call her, this sinister folk saint has acquired astonishing popularity in very recent years. During the present century, she has become an unavoidable presence across Mexico and Central America. As Chesnut writes, "In just ten years, Santa Muerte has become one of the most important religious figures among Mexicans from all walks of life and thousands of Mexican and Central American immigrants in this country." Many specialized stores cater to the needs of devotees in search of herbs, potions and powders, votive candles and statuettes, many of which bear threatening slogans: "Death to my enemies!" or "Law, stay away!" Increasingly, such items appear in the religious goods sections of U.S. supermarkets as well (I have seen them in Texas, Arizona, and California). Although we have no exact idea of the scale of her following, Chesnut deliberately errs on the side of caution when he estimates a constituency of perhaps five percent of all Mexican citizens, some five million people. In underclass and criminal settings, she has far outpaced the Virgin of Guadalupe in popularity. In fact, she can well be considered an anti-Guadalupe, a dark shadow of Mexico's beloved mother figure.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Books Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Central America Mexico
Mexican prosecutors are investigating a poor family living near the Mexican border in connection with the ritual killings of three people.
It was a family people took pity on, one the government and church helped with free food, used clothes, and farm animals. The men were known as trash pickers. Some of the women were suspected of prostitution.
Mexican authorities are now investigating whether the any of them are tied to the sacrifices of two 10-year-old boys and a 55-year-old woman to Santa Muerte, or Saint Death, a figure adored mostly by outlaws but whose popularity is growing across Mexico and among Hispanics in the United States....
Read it all.
The Catholic faith has significantly marked the life, customs and history of this continent, in which many nations are commemorating the bicentennial of their independence. That was an historical moment in which the name of Christ continued to shine brightly. That name was brought here through the labours of outstanding and self-sacrificing missionaries who proclaimed it boldly and wisely. They gave their all for Christ, demonstrating that in him men and women encounter the truth of their being and the strength needed both to live fully and to build a truly humane society in accordance with the will of their Creator. This ideal of putting the Lord first and making God’s word effective in all, through the use of your own native expressions and best traditions, continues to provide outstanding inspiration for the Church’s Pastors today.
The initiatives planned for the Year of Faith must be aimed at guiding men and women to Christ; his grace will enable them to cast off the bonds of sin and slavery, and to progress along the path of authentic and responsible freedom. A great contribution will be made to this goal by the continental mission being launched from Aparecida, which is already reaping a harvest of ecclesial renewal in the particular Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean. This includes the study, dissemination and prayerful reading of sacred Scripture, which proclaims the love of God and our salvation. I encourage you to continue to share freely the treasures of the Gospel, so that they can become a powerful source of hope, freedom and salvation for everyone (cf. Rom 1:16). May you also be faithful witnesses and interpreters of the words of the incarnate Son, whose life was to do the will of the Father and who, as a man among men, gave himself up completely for our sake, even unto death.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * International News & Commentary Mexico * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI
Singing, strumming guitars and trying to shield themselves from a searing sun, tens of thousands of Mexican Catholics came together Saturday nearly 24 hours before an open-air Mass with Pope Benedict XVI.
They walked miles and took up positions in Bicentennial Park, a short distance from a hilltop monument that honors the 1920s Cristero War by Catholic counter-revolutionaries.
But as religious fervor was on display in Silao, in central Mexico's Guanajuato state, a sexual-abuse scandal involving a notorious Mexican priest threatened to cast a pall over the pope's first visit to the Spanish-speaking Americas.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Drugs/Drug Addiction Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Mexico * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI
"Pope Benedict XVI comes during a very different time [than his predecessor]. With a country wounded, depressed by the prolonged violence," [Bernardo ] Barranco says, "a country that doesn't have a clear vision of its own future."
Speaking with reporters on his flight from Rome to Mexico, Benedict denounced the drug violence that's claimed almost 50,000 lives here over the last five years.
This is expected to be one of the leading themes of his visit to Mexico. He's also expected to call for a return to traditional Catholic values.
Read or listen to it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Drugs/Drug Addiction Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Mexico * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI
Together with faith and hope, the believer in Christ – indeed the whole Church – lives and practises charity as an essential element of mission. In its primary meaning, charity “is first of all the simple response to immediate needs and specific situations” (Deus Caritas Est, 31), as we help those who suffer from hunger, lack shelter, or are in need in some way in their life. Nobody is excluded on account of their origin or belief from this mission of the Church, which does not compete with other private or public initiatives. In fact, the Church willingly works with those who pursue the same ends. Nor does she have any aim other than doing good in an unselfish and respectful way to those in need, who often lack signs of authentic love.
Read it all.
In just four years, Monterrey, a manufacturing city of 4 million people 140 miles from the Texan border, has gone from being a model for developing economies to a symbol of Mexico's drug war chaos, sucked down into a dark spiral of gangland killings, violent crime and growing lawlessness.
Since President Felipe Calderon launched an army-led war on the cartels in late 2006, grenade attacks, beheadings, firefights and drive-by killings have surged.
That has shattered this city's international image as a boomtown where captains of industry built steel, cement and beer giants in the desert in less than a century -- Mexico's version of Dallas or Houston.
Read it all.
Watch the whole video report.
The Yucatan peninsula in Mexico is estimated to have 6,400 cenotes, or sinkholes, and although they are hardly recommended for amateurs, they make for perfect diving pools for the likes of Orlando Duque.
Check it out.
Mexico has always had a reputation here as a place where things can go wrong in a hurry. But the fatal shooting of a Texas missionary across the border late last month has reinforced the widely held belief in this region that the country has become a lawless war zone.
The missionary, Nancy Davis, who had worked in Mexico for decades, was shot in the back of the head by gunmen in a pickup truck who had pursued her and her husband for miles in Tamaulipas State.
Her husband, Samuel Davis, piloted his bullet-ridden truck across the two-mile international bridge here, driving pell-mell against traffic on the wrong side of the bridge to evade the pursuers and reach an American hospital. He arrived on the United States side too late to save Ms. Davis, 59.
Makes the heart sad--read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Missions Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Mexico * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches
The 17 masked men pulled two teenage boys off the Rev. David Beaumont's truck in northern Mexico, forced them to the ground, and put guns against their heads as their mother screamed to the priest that her sons were about to be killed.
Beaumont, who was born in Hempstead and grew up in Commack, has spent the last 20 years as a Franciscan missionary in one of the most dangerous and violent areas of the world. On this day last April, he had to make a split-second decision.
"I was saying to myself, 'Well, now either I'm really going to be a missionary and be prepared to give my life for the people, or run and hide,' " Beaumont recalled in a telephone interview. "I felt it was a pivotal moment in my life. When I walked out to them [the masked men], I realized that the last thing I might see would be the bullets coming at me."
The men did not fire at the American priest in his tattered brown friar's habit, and he was able to get the boys back in the truck and leave with their mother. But for the next several days they were all so shaken they lost their appetites and could not eat.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Drugs/Drug Addiction Religion & Culture Violence * International News & Commentary Mexico * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic
Mexican President Felipe Calderon has told the BBC the US should do more to reduce the demand for drugs that is fuelling violence in Mexico.
He told the HARDtalk programme that more should also be done to stem the flow of illegal weapons from the US.
More than 28,000 people have died in drug violence in Mexico since 2006.
Meanwhile, President Calderon and other regional leaders have urged Californian voters to reject moves to legalise marijuana in their state.
Read it all.
She lived a double life. At the border crossing, she was Agent Garnica, a veteran law enforcement officer. In the shadows, she was "La Estrella," the star, a brassy looker who helped drug cartels make a mockery of the U.S. border.
Martha Garnica devised secret codes, passed stacks of cash through car windows and sketched out a map for smugglers to safely haul drugs and undocumented workers across the border. For that she was richly rewarded; she lived in a spacious house with a built-in pool, owned two Hummers and vacationed in Europe.
For years, until an intricate sting operation brought her down in late 2009, Garnica embodied the seldom-discussed role of the United States in the trafficking trade....
Read it all.
After two Mexican cardinals were criticized for speaking out against the legalization of same-sex "marriage," the rest of the bishops in that country rose to the defense of free speech.
Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, archbishop of Mexico City, and Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, archbishop of Guadalajara, were accused of "intolerance" for having spoken out against same-sex "marriage" and adoptions by homosexual couples.
In response, the Conference of the Mexican Episcopate published a communiqué Tuesday, stating, "We lament that on expressing these concepts in public opinion, there are those who recriminate and threaten, warning of intolerance, when tolerance is the possibility that we all express our opinion and positions."
Read it all.
Frederick Loos was cussing like a sailor the other night, which was surprising given that he is a Roman Catholic priest and his foul-mouthed discourse was delivered from the pulpit to hundreds of faithful gathered before him.
He spoke of God, the need to serve him and how he can transform lives. But interspersed in his sermon was the most colorful of street Spanish, which brought smiles to the faces of many of the gang members, addicts and other young people pressed in tight to listen.
“When you go to China you have to speak Chinese,” the priest explained afterward, slipping out of his vestments. “If you’re speaking to kids you use their idioms. I don’t think God is offended if it brings them closer to him.”
Those enmeshed in Mexico’s thriving drug culture — users and traffickers alike — have an unusual relationship with the church. Sniffing glue and making the sign of the cross might not appear to go together any more than killing and the catechism. But for many believers in modern-day Mexico they do.
Read it all.
The Anglican Church of Mexico, which was part of the Episcopal Church until 1995, has become the first province to adopt the Anglican Covenant.
The province adopted the Covenant during its sixth General Synod, which met June 11-12 in Mexico City.
“We are delighted to hear that Mexico has agreed to adopt the Covenant,” said the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion. “Provinces were asked to take their time to seriously consider this document, and we are glad to hear from recent synods that they are doing just that.”
Read it all.
Two goals by Carlos Tevez - one hugely-controversial and the other a wonderful strike - sent Argentina through to the World Cup quarter-finals with a 3-1 victory over Mexico.
The offside rule states there should be two players between the striker and the goal - there was not even one when Lionel Messi's ball found Tevez's head, and then the net to put Diego Maradona's side in front.
Mexico went into meltdown and a defensive howler by Ricardo Osorio allowed Gonzalo Higuain to make it 2-0. It was Tevez who sewed the match up in brilliant fashion - and legitimately this time - early in the second half with Mexico left only to savour a stunning reply by Manchester United's new signing Javier Hernandez.
Read it all.
Two second-half goals gave Mexico their first ever victory over France to leave El Tri well-placed to make the last 16 and the 2006 runners-up on the verge of elimination.
Mexico were the brighter of the two throughout but were unable to take any of their chances until just after the hour, when substitute Javier Hernandez broke the offside trap and rounded keeper Hugo Lloris before slotting home.
Another Mexican substitute, the 37-year-old Cuauhtemoc Blanco, sealed the victory from the penalty spot after a third replacement, Pablo Barrera, had been felled in the box.
Read it all.
The U.S. is giving $1.3 billion in military and judicial aid to Mexico to help Calderon's battle against the drug mafias. Mexico's drug cartels are the major foreign supplier of marijuana and methamphetamines to the United States, and Mexico is a main conduit for cocaine coming mainly from Colombia.
An NPR News investigation in Ciudad Juarez — ground zero of Calderon's cartel war — finds strong evidence that Mexico's drug fight is rigged, according to court testimony, current and former law enforcement officials, and an NPR analysis of cartel arrests.
In that border city, federal forces appear to be favoring one cartel, the Sinaloa (named after the coastal state in northwestern Mexico), which the U.S. Justice Department calls one of the largest organized crime syndicates in the world.
Read it all.
Almost 19,000 people have been killed in Mexico since President Felipe Calderón came to power in late 2006 with a pledge to throw in as many troops as needed to rid Mexico of its drug problem and end the reign of terror of its ruthless drug cartels.
This weekend the death toll grew by three. Gunmen in the city of Ciudad Juárez, which lies just over the border from El Paso, Texas, killed two Americans and a Mexican linked to the local US consulate. The killings have lifted the havoc on America’s doorstep on to a new plane.
Publicly, President Barack Obama announced that he was “outraged” by these increasingly indiscriminate slayings. Privately the White House must now be frantically recalibrating its response to the crisis in Mexico. What it has been treating largely as a more or less domestic headache of drug trafficking and illegal immigration (aggravated by sporadic gunfights spilling across the border into California and Texas), has now assumed the shape, significance and seriousness of a new kind of foreign policy problem.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Terrorism * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. England / UK Europe Mexico
Gunmen shoot a priest and two seminary students in the back. Federal police storm a Mass to capture a suspected drug kingpin. Priests pray with the families of murdered men, then face killers in the confessional.
Mexico's Roman Catholic clergy, increasingly caught in the middle of the nation's drug war, are meeting this week to draft a strategy for coping with the violence, aided by advice from colleagues who faced similar threats in Colombia and Italy.
"We have become hostages in these violent confrontations between the drug cartels living among us," said Archbishop Felipe Aguirre, who works in Acapulco, located in Guerrero state where the priest and seminary students were killed in June.
Read it all.
...when Pope Benedict XVI visits Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories starting on Friday, the world may be excused for holding its breath. In his four years on the job, this pope has not always demonstrated a deft symbolic touch. If he simply manages to get back to Rome without starting a war, some might declare the trip a success.
Yet Benedict can, and should, do much more. Granted, the pope is not a politician, and this trip is more a pilgrimage than a diplomatic mission. Nonetheless, Benedict can make a unique contribution to the peace process at a moment when it obviously needs the help.
The reason for this is that popes enjoy a tremendous advantage over Western politicians in engaging the Middle East. This is the realm of "theopolitics," where religious convictions always shape policy choices. A pope can engage those convictions in a way that secular trouble-shooters like former Senator George Mitchell, President Obama's envoy to the Middle East, never could.
Read it all.
Filed under: * International News & Commentary Mexico Middle East Israel Jordan The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI
Watch it all--very sobering.
The parallels between Pakistan and Mexico are strong enough that the U.S. military singled them out recently as the two countries where there is a risk the government could suffer a swift and catastrophic collapse, becoming a failed state.
Read it all or you may also find it there.
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