Mexican Bishop to Country’s President: ‘We’ve done Our Job as Pastors’

By Walter Sanchez Silva

Bishop Ramón Castro Castro, secretary general of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference, on July 9 responded to recent remarks by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who called the Catholic Church in Mexico “hypocritical” and urged it to fulfill its mission — which the bishops are in fact doing.

“You who have the power of the state, that’s why you exist, it’s your obligation. It’s an essential role of the authorities to provide the country peace and justice,” Castro said, addressing the president of Mexico.

“I believe this is something that the president should reconsider,” the prelate said in reference to the president’s accusations.

“We were accused of being hypocrites and of not having raised our voices during the previous six-year presidential terms,” he continued. “So I promised that we were going to make a list of the main documents where peace is talked about and where criticism is made.”

In fact, since 1968 the Mexican Bishops’ Conference has published 116 documents expressing its concern about the situation in Mexico.

The latest, published just a few days ago, called for a national Day of Prayer for Peace on July 10.

“I think it’s part of our mission. A very powerful moment was the assassination of Cardinal Posadas — the bishops’ conference rose up in protest; [also] the (massacre in the town of) Acteal, and also the problem of corruption in 2004, shameful events for Mexico, the corruption of the authorities ran really deep,” he said.

During his June 30 morning press conference, the president of Mexico lashed out at the priests, bishops, and cardinals who have criticized his organized-crime policy.

In his 2018 election campaign for the Mexican presidency, López Obrador proposed a policy of “abrazos no balazos” — a catchy phrase in Spanish that means “hugs not bullets.” This approach combats drug cartel violence by addressing the root causes of the drug trade, such as poverty, and softens the use of force by the military and police.

López Obrador’s policy is in contrast to the “war on drugs” of his predecessors. However, under his tenure, violent crime has increased.

“Why didn’t they act in that way when Calderón (was in office)? Why were they silent when the massacres were ordered, when ‘kill them in the act’ was put into practice, when the high command of the army was told: ‘You do your job and we’ll deal with human rights’? Why this hypocrisy?” López Obrador questioned, referring to the policies of previous presidents such as Felipe Calderón.

Among other statements, the Mexican bishops specifically condemned the wave of executions in 2005, the massacre of migrants in San Fernando in 2010, and the disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa in 2014.

“Here’s the proof that we have never been negligent, that we have done our job as pastors, presenting the truth and pleading for awareness of what is going on and for it to be resolved,” said Castro, who also serves as the bishop of Cuernavaca.