THE MARTYRS OF LEON
By Theresa Marie Moreau
I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the Church has done so often in human history.
― Cardinal Francis George
Socialist revolutionaries grabbed control of Mexico.
Religious persecution descended upon the country’s Catholics who resisted the atheistic ideology pushed in legislation concocted by political authorities scheming to outlaw the Church and Her traditions.
As the Catholic faithful cried for religious liberty and freedom from the oppressive regime, the Mexican episcopate issued a public statement about the takeover of the country by Bolshevism, the revolutionary Socialist ideology of the Bolshevik Party founded, in 1903, by Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924). In Russia – following the Bolshevik-led October 1917 Revolution and the ensuing Russian Civil War (1917-23) – the Bolshevik Party “progressed” into the Communist Party, which led the brutal, Christophobic, single-Party regime in what would become known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (1922-91).
The Mexican bishops rang alarm bells – not only about the future of the country’s Catholics, but also of its Christian civilization – in their pronouncement, published in the New York Times, on November 24, 1926:
“There are two factions in the fight, Christianity and Bolshevism. The defense of Christian civilization is based upon religion, the sanctity of matrimony, private property, sane liberty, as against the Communistic Utopias of Socialism, free love and the subjection of religion to the State.
“For this reason, the problem that Mexico has again raised with its Constitution and laws is of world interest, as trying to abolish the Christian civilization of a daughter of the Church, which for 20 centuries gave life to Europe and to which America owes its greatness.
“All this explains why the Pope is interested in this problem. The defense of religious liberty, which Catholics in Mexico claim, is not only in our favor, but affects conscience, the press, the teaching profession, for all, without distinction of creed.
“Enough has been read into the Constitution of 1917 and Mexican laws to convince all that not only liberty of religion, but the liberty of many other things, which for the basis of civilization, are gravely endangered.
“For Mexicans, the encyclical [“Iniquis Afflictisque: Encyclical of Pope Pius XI on the Persecution of the Church in Mexico,” November 18, 1926] of the Pope is a matter of profound gratitude, as much for the interest which he shows in our country as for the inspiration given to Catholics during this prolonged violent situation.
“The Pope, finally, in this statement, demonstrates the right he has to intervene in the religious affairs of the Catholic Church in any country, and at the same time indicates to our governors the road of concord and conciliation. Our governors ought to amend the laws, in spite of the obligation which they have to do so, as much for justice to Catholics, even though they were a small minority, as for the majority of citizens who request amendments.”
In Mexico, the Socialist politicians, their followers and their supporters used Bolshevism as the Marxist-Leninist, anti-Christian model of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat to guide them in an active Revolution of the Vanguard against their own people, to destroy social order. They agitated Communists against Christians and Collectivists against Individualists.
It is important to understand that one of the many reasons why Christianity created such a positive force in the development of Western Civilization and is unique in the entire history of mankind is because of Individualism: the principle of Christian ideology that human rights are intrinsic to the human being, granted by God, and that each human is sacred, with its own special part in the natural order of the world, per the Will of God, the Author of Nature, the Universal Cause of All Things, the First Intellectual Being.
Equally important is to understand the anti-Christian, atheistic ideology of Collectivism – the oppressive Socialist theory of rule – that denies individual rights and insists that rights are granted by the State, which is ruled by a politically elite vanguard headed by a “great” and “glorious” leader who speaks for the “People.” For collectivists, the group is greater than the individual, who must be crushed and sacrificed for the “greater good” of the greater number. In such a society, individual life has no value except what it can offer the State, and if an individual has nothing to offer the state, then it has no value.
Following the release of the bishops’ public statement, the Mexican National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty distributed, in December 1926, its own statement, “To the Nation,” a document that called for the Catholic faithful to stand against the tyrannical government:
“To the Nation.
“The current regime that oppresses the Mexican Nation keeping it humiliated under the rule of a group of men without conscience and without honor, is based on the destructive and subversive principles of a policy that aims to turn the homeland into a field of brutal exploitation and citizens in a throng subject to slavery.
“Destruction of religious freedom, of politics, of teaching, of work, of the press, denial of God and creation of an atheistic youth; destruction of private property through dispossession, socialization of the productive forces of the country, ruin of the free worker through radical organizations; waste of public goods and plunder of private property, ignorance of international obligations, such is, substantially, the monstrous program of the current regime.
“In a word, the systematic and deliberate destruction of the Mexican nation, annihilating its being inside and achieving hatred abroad; the implacable domination of a regime of bandits over an unarmed, honest and patriotic population; the total and cynical relaxation of the rights of others in all orders, political, civic, moral, economic and religious. An ironclad slavery imposed with weapons and terror by tyrants, who must be destroyed by terror and weapons.
“The holy right of defense, that is the whole moral basis of this movement. The national conscience strongly adheres to this inalienable right.
“The vital need to destroy forever the vicious faction regimes to create a national government; the irrepressible aspiration to abolish the prerogatives of force with the irresistible force of law, that is the reason for this movement, which is the popular impulse made a living reality. Mexico is in need of saving itself from its tyrants and for that it needs to destroy them.
“It is not a revolution; it is a coordinated movement of all living forces in the country.
“It is not a rebellion; it is the energetic and uncontrollable repression against the true rebels who, in defiance of the popular will, are exercising power.
“The rebellion is there, in the so-called government, which is destroying the common good against the mission of the true governments. The rebellion is in justice denied, in freedom destroyed, in the law run over, and that rebellion against society and the homeland is all the more wicked and criminal, since in order to legitimize it, the august functions of public authority are usurped.
“The people of Mexico, who want to definitely remake their nation, want to pick up the body, torn apart and throbbing, resuscitating it with the generous and fruitful blood of a good administration that circulates through the arteries of the social organism.
“Mexico is subjugated; but a strong will lives and encourages it. The tyrants will know for the first time in their lives about the worth of a people who defend their freedom and who know how to fight and die for it.
“We do not want privileges for anyone; we want justice for all, freedom and guarantees within freedom.
“Here is the program.
“In this principle, our broad and complete program is enclosed, which is published separately and whose basic points follow. The hour of the fight has sounded. The hour of victory belongs to God.
“Basic Points of the Program:
“I. Freedom of religion and of conscience. Absolute independence between the Church and the State.
“II. Freedom of teaching.
“III. Political freedom.
“IV. Freedom of the press.
“V. Freedom of association.
“VI. Guarantees for the worker.
“VII. Guarantees for national and foreign capital.
“VIII. No retroactivity of the laws.
“IX. Respect for private property.
“X. Fair ejido [state-supported communal farmland] endowment and creation of the small property.
“The Mexican people and army are called to arms, under the banners of freedom proclaiming the following plan:
“1. The Executive, Legislative and Judicial of the Union are unknown.
“2. The powers are unknown. Executive, Legislative and Judicial in the territory controlled by the usurping government in everything that does not contradict the fundamental principles of this program.
“3. The City Councils of the Republic are unknown and during the provisional government the municipalities will be appointed by the Chief Executive Power in Mexico City, in the Federal District and in the federal territories, and by the governors of the States in their jurisdiction.
“4. The initiator of this plan will assume the position of Chief of the Executive Power.
“5. The Chief of the Executive Power will designate an advisory body and will name the personnel that integrate the Secretariats of State, to the Governors of the States and will authorize the military offices superior to the rank of colonel.
“6. The person in charge of military control will have the function of maintaining discipline, unity and cohesion in the army, will grant ranks lower than that of colonel and will promote ranks and promotions higher than that.
“7. The political, economic and social reorganization of the country is in charge of the National Liberation Government.
“8. In the meantime, this reorganization will be carried out and in order to avoid the damages of a pre-constitutional regime, Articles 3, 16, 18, 19, 20, 32 and 37 of the Constitution of 1857 are recognized as individual guarantees, as they were written in that year, and Articles 1, 2, 4 and 5, deleting from the third paragraph from the words “or religious devotee” until the end of that paragraph, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 , 17, 21, 22, 23 and 24 (deleting in paragraph 10 from the words “or in temples” until the end of that article), 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35, 36 , and 38 of the 1917 Constitution.
“With regard to Article 27 of the current Constitution, it will be amended in accordance with the basic principles of respect for private property and the non-retroactivity of laws.”
“To the Nation” was signed by three generals: Juan B. Galindo, Nicolas Fernandez and Agustin Escobar, as well as Rene Capistran Garza, vice president of the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty, established on March 9, 1925, to oppose the formation of the government-backed Mexican Apostolic Catholic Church, which aimed to destroy the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico.
Capistran Garza was quoted by the New York Times, on December 5, 1926, as describing then-President Plutarco Elias Calles (1877-1945) and his goons as Socialists, “a Red minority, armed and violent, oppressing a large majority, unarmed and peaceful…Their main object is to annihilate wealth, putting the State in the hands of Red organizations, destroying all property rights and Socializing all the economic resources of the country. In Russia, it was done all at once; in Mexico, Calles is doing it gradually.”
Heeding the call in “To the Nation,” some Catholics – suffering under the weight of persecution stemming from the Constitution of 1917 and the 1926 Law for Reforming the Penal Code (commonly referred to as Calles Law) – decided to take up arms against the Reds, the Socialists who had muscled their way into power.
One of the first actions was planned to take place in El Coecillo, a working-class, Catholic neighborhood in Guanajuato’s city of Leon. A coup was planned by a small group of young men, acejotaemeros, militant members of the ACJM, the Asociación Católica de la Juventud Mexicana, the Catholic Association of Mexican Youth, established on August 12, 1913, in Mexico City, by Father Bernardo Bergöend, (1871-1943, Society of Jesus), a French Jesuit dispatched to Mexico to organize Catholic youth to restore Christian social order, with a trinity of piety, study, action.
Planners scheduled the coup to take place in the early morning hours of Monday, January 3, 1927. They had also reached agreements with other Catholics from nearby villages and towns to assist in the attack from the outside as the Leon acejotaemeros would attack from the inside.
The time arrived.
Jose Valencia Gallardo and Salvador G. Vargas – good friends, united by love for the Mother Church – stood guard at La Brisa gate, which rose between an immense orchard and an alley.
An approaching noise alerted the two waiting for the arrival of three more: Jose Vazquez, Nicolas Navarro and Domitilo Torres, who – despite being police commissioner of El Coecillo – had been asked to join the coup by Navarro, who had trusted his good friend because one had served as matrimonial godfather at the other’s wedding.
“Stop, there! Who lives?” Valencia Gallardo and Vargas shouted at those who approached.
“Cristo Rey,” replied someone, weakly.
The voice in the dark was Torres, accompanied with a gang of civil authorities, who, minutes earlier, had attacked, seized, arrested and tied up Navarro and Vazquez, while they were walking down Chayote Street, on their way to La Brisa. Torres had betrayed his friend, Navarro.
Valencia Gallardo and Vargas stood at the gate, as Torres and his accomplices rushed forward, attacked, disarmed and placed them under arrest.
Other acejotaemeros, hunkering down in a nearby field beside a murky river, waiting for the time of attack, heard the commotion at La Brisa gate and sent two – Agustin Rios and Ezequiel Gomez – to investigate.
Cautiously, they approached the gate through the alley and shouted, “Who lives?”
In the dark, an unfamiliar voice answered, “Move on!”
Undaunted, they continued, and they, too, were attacked and captured.
When they failed to return, another two men were dispatched. Of those, AJ Isabel Juarez was caught, but the other was able to flee, returned to the group and reported that the others had been seized, lined up, tied tightly together with rope and held as prisoners.
Those captured were: Jose Valencia Gallardo, Salvador G. Vargas, Nicolas Navarro, Jose Vazquez, Agustin Rios, Ezequiel Gomez and AJ Isabel Juarez.
– Jose Valencia Gallardo, 27, born in Buenavista Tomatlán, Michoacan, was single.
Consecrated to Christ and His Mother, at the age of 4, he was taken to a parish church in Buenavista by his own mother, Martina Gallardo, who forced him to kneel at the foot of the main altar where she said the following prayer:
“My Lord Jesus Christ, I offer you, as well as your beloved mother Maria, this dear fruit of my womb See it, my Lord and my God, I return him to you with all my heart, just as you have given him to me, to you who are the sovereign and the most loving father of the mother and the son; the only thing that I beg of you, the only one grace that I dare to ask of you, is that you deign to receive this little one, bathed in my tears and with your holy baptism, the number of your servants and your friends, and that you give him your holy blessing.”
As a young man, he found employment as headmaster of the children’s day school and the adult night school, in El Ebano, San Luis Potosi, where local authorities pushed Communist ideology among the workers. Undeterred, he found it an opportunity to teach catechism to combat the Socialist propaganda; however, when the local political boss heard about it, he began secretly agitating a struggle against the young teacher, using workers and children who attended Valencia Gallardo’s lectures and classes.
One night, a group of overwrought young men demanded that they be allowed to use the school auditorium for a dance. When refused, they attacked Valencia Gallardo, raged that he was a “fanatical professor,” dragged him to the outskirts of the village, beat him and tied him up. Subsequently, night after night, they attacked his home. Then the Socialists agitated school boys, who verbally attacked their teacher, calling him a “corrupter of morals,” because for Socialists, Catholicism is a corrupter of the Socialist morals. He endured all in silence.
In 1924, the young teacher left El Ebano and was hired – upon the recommendation of San Luis Potosí Bishop Miguel María de la Mora y Mora – as a professor at the Catholic College of Leon, where he became the regional delegate of the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty.
Valencia Gallardo also had a literary bend, publishing his own newspaper, The Voice of the People, and a monthly magazine, Argos, which denounced the enemies of Christ, encouraged the combat against them in defense of Christ and of His Church, documented the government’s persecution of Catholics, and reported the closure of churches, convents, religious communities, welfare asylums and Catholic schools.
On Sunday, January 2, to prepare for the impending battle, Valencia Gallardo received Communion late in the day. The last time he saw his mother, who knew nothing of the coup, he asked for her blessing and then kissed her goodbye.
– Salvador G. Vargas, 20, was single.
Submissive to the will of God and accepting of the Catholic duty to his station in life, he contentedly worked in a shoe manufacturing plant, where he served as a model of virtue and shared his faith with co-workers, drawing many deeper into the Church.
Although vulnerable to temptations, he maintained his virtuous chastity, embraced piety at a young age, nurtured a devotion to the Holy Mother and humbly and respectfully received daily Communion, from which he drew his strength.
Hungry for the intellectualism of the Church, he compiled his own library with books on religion, morals, Christianity and history, which helped deepen his knowledge through reading and meditation on the Truth. As a member of the ACJM, he learned not only the philosophical dogma of the freedom of the Church, but he also learned the apologetics on how to defend Her.
A good friend of and assistant to Valencia Gallardo, the two worked closely together to defend and fight for the Church.
On August 29, 1926, Valencia Gallardo sent Vargas to Teatro Doblado. His mission: encourage those who stood in line at the ticket box office to refrain from going into the theater, to participate in the anti-government boycott declared weeks earlier by the League. At noon, in front of the theater, he was arrested, which caused a riot by outraged Catholics storming the streets. Soon released, the rioters greeted Vargas, who – while still at the jail’s threshold – shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey!” to which celebrants replied, “Viva al Rey de Reyes!” They picked him up like a war hero and carried him around while shouting and cheering.
The night before the planned coup, a friend asked him, “And what are your chances of triumph?”
“I believe that we will die,” he confided. “We will not see the triumph, but Mexico needs blood, a lot of blood for its purification. I assure you that the triumph will come. Christ will receive the tribute that is due to Him. I assure you, as certain as I am here alive and tomorrow dead.”
Dedicated to duty, he was an obedient and affectionate son. When he left his home for the last time, at noon, he gently said good bye to his mother.
– Nicolas Navarro, 20, born in El Coecillo District of Leon, Guanajuato, was married, with one son.
After fasting all day January 1, he received Communion the next day, after which he received the blessing of his parents; however, before he left to take part in the coup, his young wife of two years frantically begged him to reconsider his decision.
“What! it doesn’t hurt to leave your son and me!” she cried, pointing to their son.
Standing up, he answered, “No. First, I must defend the cause of God, and if I had 10 children, I would leave all 10 for God. When my son grows up, you will tell him that his father died for defending his religion.”
– Ezequiel Gomez, 23, born in Leon, Guanajuato, was single, dating a devout Catholic but put marriage plans on hold while he fought for the freedom of the Church.
A loving and devoted son, he happily worked in a foundry to support the family after his father died. With a joyful nature and a youthful enthusiasm, he easily made friends. A pious Catholic in private and public, he taught catechism each Sunday to children.
To prepare for the coup, he fasted, prayed and received Holy Communion.
When he left his home the final time, he revealed to his mother, “I want to die, because I know that the Lord wants my blood to save the country.”
Not much is known of the following three:
– Jose Vazquez, 35, born in Ibarilla District of Leon, Guanajuato, was married, worked as a muleteer and also earned money on sailboats;
– Agustin Rios, 21, born in El Coecillo District of Leon, Guanajuato, was married, with a 2-year-old son;
– And AJ Isabel Juarez.
The captives were lined up, tied up and escorted to El Coecillo Police Station, where the Catholic men – considered by authorities as enemies of the State – were loaded into a truck called La Julia, which traveled down Calle San Francisco de Asis, over a bridge and continued through Santiago to a destination where they were to be interrogated.
For the occasion, a War Council had been formed ad hoc and consisted of: Ramon Velarde (president of the civil administration board), Jose Rodriguez C. (professional politician), Pascual Urtaza Gutierrez (professional politician), Antonio Galvez (paid false witness), J. Natividad Lopez (Leon police inspector) and several others.
Natividad Lopez, like Torres, had been invited to join the coup, although those who invited him were warned against it, because he was part of the government, all considered traitors and scoundrels. However, for some reason, he was erroneously esteemed as a man of honor. With joy, not only did he accept the invitation to join the movement, but he also promised to bring an additional 40 armed and mounted rural and urban forces. His only stipulation: He wanted the rank of colonel.
Captain Alcantara – head of the garrison – had been contacted to form part of the War Council; however, when he recommended that the captives be transported to the Guanajuato Operation Headquarters, his suggestion was completely rejected.
During questioning, the devout Catholics all declared that they had planned the coup to gain freedom for the Church and for their country. The written admissions that they signed were simple declarations of faith and conviction.
With confessions in hand, Velarde, head of the War Council, rendered a verdict in the kangaroo court: The men were rebels and should be shot.
Alcantara refused to execute the order. He explained that he needed the directive to come from Guanajuato Operation Headquarters and insisted that the accused be placed at their disposal.
“Nothing is going to be made available to anyone. What is not done hot, is not done later,” argued Rodriguez.
And, so, it was decided.
Lined up and tied together once again, the prisoners were escorted at gunpoint down Boulevard Miguel Hidalgo and led back to La Brisa.
As preparations were being made to execute the men, Valencia Gallardo stood up majestically in the terrifying situation and faced his executioners, reprimanding them with kindness and integrity, and, at the same time, encouraging his companions to be strong, for they deserved the reward that God and his Holy Mother would bestow upon them in Heaven.
Valencia Gallardo’s final words were to ask his companions to die with an ending prayer: “Viva Cristo Rey! Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!” But he was not able to finish the prayer, because when the members of the War Council heard the name of Christ, they brutally attacked him and ripped his tongue from his mouth.
“Now, speak!” they mocked.
Determined to show his faith, with superhuman strength, Valencia Gallardo rose, loosened the binds from his hands and pointed one finger to Heaven.
Enraged by his faith, his executioners fired their guns at him, and he fell to the dirt-covered earth below. A soldier stood over the fallen Catholic and smashed his skull.
When one of the torturers tried to grab a document from Navarro, who suffered from stab wounds, he reacted by successfully swallowing the evidence.
Enraged, his attackers beat him until they broke his teeth and blood flowed from his eyes.
But he still managed to encourage the others: “Courage, comrades, remember the cause we defend! Yes! You die for Christ, who never dies! Viva Cristo Rey!”
Overcome with hatred, the executioners stabbed him twice more and then raised and pointed their guns at the others
“Viva Cristo Rey!” shouted Gomez, Rios and Vazquez, as Vargas shouted with all his might: “For God! and for His Glory!”
Shots sounded through La Brisa.
The martyrs fell to the ground.
All died except one: AJ Isabel Juarez. Although shot along with his fellow Catholics, he was the only one to escape, the only living witness to spread the truth about the mass executions of the six martyrs of Leon: Jose Valencia Gallardo, Salvador G. Vargas, Nicolas Navarro, Jose Vazquez, Agustin Rios and Ezequiel Gomez.
At 5 a.m., acejotaemeros from the surrounding areas entered the city of Leon, and, as previously agreed upon, captured the plaza, the barracks and the police station; however, since the coup in La Brisa had failed, they had to retreat. During the attack, Benito Puente and Epifanio Sanchez perished.
Triumphantly, the Christophobic members of the War Council dragged their victims’ bodies – which revealed the horrors of the tortures – to the door of the municipal palace, originally the Grand Seminary College for Pauline Priests.
Dumped unceremoniously upon the ground, the martyrs were to serve as a chilling warning – reminiscent of Lenin’s shock tactics in Russia – to terrorize and to instill fear into the Catholics of Mexico.
Miscellanea and facts were pulled from the following: “Los Martires de Cristo Rey,” by Andres Barquin y Ruiz, with prologue by the Most Reverend Jose de Jesus Manriquez y Zarate, Bishop of Huejutla, 1937.
Theresa Marie Moreau, an award-winning reporter, is the author of Martyrs in Red China; An Unbelievable Life: 29 Years in Laogai; Misery & Virtue; Blood of the Martyrs: Trappist Monks in Communist China, and the forthcoming Cristero War: Mexican Martyrs.
THE CRISTEROS: They Died for God, Country & Christ the King
by Theresa Marie Moreau
The twin bell towers of Saint Peter the Apostle Catholic Church slowly disappeared on the horizon behind two cars speeding out of the dusty Mexican town of Chalchihuites, known wistfully as the Birthplace of Spring
Rushing along the mile-high foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidental, the two cars transported four prisoners, just informed that they were headed for the state capital of Zacatecas City, 137 miles away to the southeast.
“You will explain your position to government officials,” taunted their guards, soldiers implementing the anti-Catholic force of the revolutionary government.
Driving northeasterly for a few minutes, about a mile out of town, the cars suddenly veered to the side of the road and rolled to a stop at El Puerto de Santa Teresa, a nondescript stretch along the primitive roadway that would develop into the Sombrerete-Chalchihuites Highway.
Forced from their seats, the prisoners – Catholics: one priest and three laymen – stumbled from the cars on that August 15, 1926, forced down a parched slope of dirt, a graveyard of flora in the arid plateau’s xeric shrubland dotted with skeletal clumps of fractured grass and the occasional awkward patch of opuntia, prickly pear cactus.
High noon, the men – captors and captured – sweltered under the ravaging sun that traveled overhead, in its zenith, along its route in conjunction with the Tropic of Cancer.
As the temperature flared, so, too, did the tempers of the tormentors.
“You all conspire to revolt against the government,” they accused the four men.
“We offer you freedom. All you need to do is acknowledge the legitimacy of the anti-religious laws of President Plutarco Elías Calles. That’s all you need to do.”
Devout Catholics in an anti-Catholic Mexico, all four refused.
Two of the men – both fathers, one spiritual, the other temporal – were picked out.
Father Luis Batiz Sainz. Born on September 13, 1870, in San Miguel del Mezquital, a pious child, he began attending minor seminary at the age of 12, and received the Sacrament of Holy Orders, on January 1, 1894. As a priest, he became known for his pastoral zeal and his fervency in Eucharistic adoration. In a revolutionary time when it was dangerous to speak out, he preached against political revolution and its inherent violence. Sensing the impending death and destruction on the Catholic world, he was heard to say, “Lord, I want to be a martyr, though I am your unworthy minister, I want to shed my blood, drop by drop, for your name.”
Next to him, Manuel Morales Cervantes. Born on February 8, 1898, in the village of Mesillas, Zacatecas, shortly after his birth, his family relocated to Chalchihuites. When old enough, he worked to help support his impoverished family. Once established as an accomplished and successful baker, he married and earned the reputation of a devoted husband, one half of a happy couple blessed with three children.
At the side of the road, Father Batiz begged their captors to release Morales, for the sake of his children, whom he had to support.
In response, Morales simply said, “I die for God, and God will take care of my children.” He then – calmly – lifted his hat.
Father Batiz smiled at his companion, absolved him and comforted him with a few final words, “Hasta el cielo,” “See you in heaven.”
The executioners raised their weapons.
Morales stood and shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey y la Virgen de Guadalupe!”
Fatal gunshots sounded through the near-deserted hillsides.
As the two lay, sprawled on the ground with their blood soaking the dust, the two young cousins were ordered forward.
Salvador Lara Puente. Born on August 13, 1905, in the Durango town of Berlin, he was tall and strong and enjoyed the sport of charreada, competitive horse riding with its origins in Spain. Gifted with a friendly nature, he was a loving son to his widowed mother, whom he helped support with work he found in one of the local mines, where he was respected as a responsible worker with integrity.
Beside him, David Roldan Lara. Born in Chalchihuites, on March 2, 1907, when he was a year old, his father died, leaving his mother to care for him and his brothers. Despite the financial hardship, he attended Catholic school and served as an altar boy. When old enough, he helped support his impoverished family with work he found in a local mine, where the company deemed him an honorable, honest and hard worker. He was well-liked by friends and co-workers because of his joyful, generous, kind, understanding nature, and his girlfriend held him in esteem as an upright man.
Both men vehemently, explicitly denied their movement’s involvement in violence.
Led about 170 feet away from the bodies of Morales and Batiz, the cousins calmly recited an Act of Love as they, knowingly, walked to their martyrdoms:
“O my God, I love Thee above all things with my whole heart and soul, because Thou art all good and worthy of all love. I love my neighbor as myself for love of Thee. I forgive all who have injured me, and I ask pardon for all whom I have injured.”
Standing, helpless, they faced the firing squad.
“Viva Cristo Rey y la Virgen de Guadalupe!” both men shouted as their executioners raised and fired their weapons.
Close to death, Roldán lay on the dirt, bleeding, as one of the gunmen walked over to him and fired the final bullet, the coup de grâce.
This would mark one of the first mass executions in the bloody beginning of what would become known as the Cristero War, the struggle between devout Catholics in the Church and Christophobes in the Mexican government. It was a battle between the Christian individualists who believed in man’s God-given rights to be free to worship and the Socialist collectivists who believed it was the State that determined rights in its efforts to control everyone and everything.
What had sparked the executions was a boycott, hastily planned after Mexican President Plutarco Elías Calles (1877-1945) signed into law, on June 14, 1926 (published on July 2 and ordered to take effect on July 31), the dictates of the Law for Reforming the Penal Code, commonly referred to as Calles Law, which, basically, outlawed Catholicism.
The 33 articles of Calles Law were intended to ensure the destruction of the Catholicism in Mexico by giving the State powers over the Church, such as: all priests were to register with the government; the number of priests in each parish was to be drastically reduced; all monasteries and convents were to be dissolved; all education was to be secular; all churches were to be under the supervision of government authorities; religious garb worn outside the church was illegal; the Catholic Church could not own property; and all churches, religious houses, seminaries, parochial schools, etc. were deemed government property.
To the new laws, Catholics had two public responses: one from the laity and one from the hierarchy.
From the laity, on July 23, as a stronghold of religious defense and a socio-economic action against the anti-Catholic laws, the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty called for the boycott, to take effect on the same day as the Calles Law, July 31.
In a handout, the League proposed the following action program:
1. As of July 21 of the current year and while the Decree issued by the Executive of the Union, on June 14, is in force, reforming and adding to the Penal Code, the inhabitants of the Mexican Nation who love freedom, will develop a general action in defense or blockade throughout the country.
2. The blockade will consist of the paralysis of the social and economic life by the following general means:
A. Abstain from advertising and buying newspapers that oppose this action or do not support it. Silence will be understood as lack of support. Regarding the newspapers of Mexico City, no action will be taken against them, except by express determination of the League.
B. Abstain from making purchases that are not essential for daily subsistence (for example: not buying luxury items and, if possible, clothing items; suppress the superfluous, such as sweets, fruits, snow, soft drinks, etc., and even in the articles of first necessity to acquire only the indispensable).
C. The greatest possible abstention is the use of vehicles, especially individuals, and, if necessary, choose the least expensive.
D. Abstain from attending all kinds of entertainment, both public and private, theaters, cinemas, dances, walks, etc.
E. Limitation of electricity consumption.
F. Total abstention from attending secular schools.
This enumeration does not mean that other means of the same nature that are deemed appropriate in each locality are no longer used, for the greater effectiveness of the proposed object.
3. Each person who loves freedom must become an effective propagandist of this action and must exercise it, in a particular and energetic manner, against those who intend to break or weaken it.
4. According to the cases and special conditions of each place, the action will intensify against the interests of people or groups that are enemies of freedom.
These energetic procedures should not cause scruples or terror, as it is an extreme case of life and death for the Catholic Church in Mexico.
The program that we have just released, of the League of Religious Defense, was authorized by the Mexican Episcopate, as can be seen in the letter that we transcribe below:
Private Correspondence of the Bishop of Tabasco, Mexico,
July 14, 1926.
Mr. Rafael Ceniceros y Villarreal, Mr. Luis Bustos and Mr. René Capistran Garza.
Our dear sirs: In the session of the Episcopal Committee, on the recently past July 7, the communication presented by you was studied, in which the cooperation of our authority was requested for the peaceful campaign called SOCIAL ECONOMIC BLOCK that will be undertaken by the League for the Defense of Religious Freedom, in order to obtain the repeal of the laws that oppose said freedom.
After a careful examination of your project, we found it worthy of all commendation both for its proposed purpose and for the orderly and peaceful manner in which it will be carried out.
We are with you in this work that claims very just rights, and we effectively recommend to our clergy and faithful the most effective participation in such a laudable undertaking.
José Mora y del Río, Archbishop of Mexico,
President of the Episcopal Committee;
Pascual Díaz y Barreto, Bishop of Tabasco,
Secretary of the Committee.
God and my right.
México, D.F., July 14, 1926.
From the hierarchy, two days after the League made its announcement, the Catholic religious authorities ordered, on July 25, that, beginning August 1, clergy would not offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass nor any of the other Sacraments throughout all of Mexico:
We Archbishops and Bishops who are in agreement, to our venerable councils, to our venerable secular and regular clergy, and to all the faithful of our beloved dioceses, health, peace and blessing in Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Venerable Brothers and Dear Children:
His Holiness Pius XI, deeply moved by the religious persecution that has been unleashed against the Mexican Nation for some time, even before the dreadful upsurge in recent months, said in his Apostolic Letter of February 2, 1926: “How wicked are the decrees and laws that enemy rulers of the Church have sanctioned among you, against the Catholics of the Mexican Republic, we hardly need to say to you that, burdened for so long with a heavy yoke, you know perfectly well that such mandates are so far from being based on the ‘order of reason’ and to look to, as it should be, the common good which, on the contrary, does not even deserve the name of laws. With good reason, then, Our Predecessor, of happy memory, Benedict XV, who distinguished himself with deserved praise when he holy and justly rejected those laws, against those that you formulated a solemn protest, a protest that We ourselves by the present letter, We not only ratify, but We make it entirely ours.”
From 1917, when we raised the protest to which His Holiness alludes, until these last months, our conduct was one of prudent silence, because the anti-religious articles were not applied to the point of making the life of the Church impossible.
Indeed, the governments that have held power in this period of time, undoubtedly, put very serious obstacles to the life of the Church and dictated some excessively rigorous and often unconstitutional administrative measures against Her. They never made preaching, administration of the sacraments and general worship absolutely impossible.
Against that very serious persecution, but which could be considered in some way isolated and transitory, we were able to observe an expectant attitude, seek accommodation, tolerate humiliation, always safeguarding the principles relative to the Divine Constitution of the Church, which we exhibited in our previous Pastoral.
But the Federal Executive Law promulgated on July 2 of this year, in such a way violates the divine rights of the Church, entrusted to our custody; it is so contrary to natural law, that not only establishes religious freedom as the primary basis of civilization, but positively prescribes the individual and social obligation to worship God; it is so opposed, according to the opinion of eminent Catholic and non-Catholic jurists, to Mexican constitutional law, that in the face of such a violation of such sacred moral values, there is no longer any room for condescension on our part. It would be a crime for us to tolerate such a situation. And we would not want to come to mind in the court of God that belated lament of the Prophet: “Vae mihi, quia tacui.” “Woe is me, because I remained quiet.”
Who does not see that to convert acts prescribed or advised by God and therefore, most holy, acts protected by all the laws of educated peoples, acts that for centuries have been the soul and life of the Mexican nation? Who does not see, we say, that turning such acts into crimes, worthy of punishment, certainly more rigorous than those imposed on crimes against morality in general, against life, against property and other rights of citizens; is it a truly unprecedented offense that the last Executive Decree infers on divine rights, natural law, and the most treasured and sacred interests of Mexican nationality?
Who does not see that the Decree to which we refer does not aim at the best custody of the aforementioned rights, but only to make intangible and almost sacred the Querétaro document [1917 Constitution], whose reform ability, recognized by itself, is evident and for a thousand reasons longed for by the village? Is it not clear that said Decree, instead of promoting the common good and guaranteeing, as the Constitution itself mandates, freedom of worship, tends only to de-Catholicize Mexico and create for the same Government a very serious problem that has no reason to exist, leaving a sad inheritance to its successors?
For this reason, following the example of the Supreme Pontiff, before God, before Civilized Humanity, before the Homeland and before History, we protest against that Decree, counting on God’s favor and with your help, we will work so that this Decree and the anti-religious articles of the Constitution are reformed, and we will not cease until we see it achieved.
As we said in our last Pastoral: “This behavior is not rebellious, because the Constitution itself opens the way for its reforms and because it is a fair compliance with mandates superior to all human law and a just defense of legitimate rights.”
In the impossibility of continuing to exercise the Sacred Ministry according to the conditions imposed by the aforementioned Decree, after having consulted with Our Most Holy Father, His Holiness Pius XI, and obtained his approval, we order that, from July 31 of this year, until we decide otherwise, the public worship that requires the intervention of the priest will be suspended in all the temples of the Republic.
We warn you, beloved children, that it is not a matter of imposing the very serious penalty of the interdict, but rather using the only means that we currently have to express our disagreement with the anti-religious articles of the Constitution and the laws that sanction them.
The temples will not be closed so that the faithful can continue to pray in them. The priests in charge of them will withdraw from them to exempt themselves from the penalties imposed by the Executive Decree, therefore being exempt from giving the notice required by law.
We leave the temples in the care of the faithful, and we are sure that they will conserve with total care the sanctuaries that they inherited from their elders, or those at the cost of sacrifices they built and consecrated themselves to worship God.
Since the law does not recognize Catholic elementary schools, the necessary guarantees to impart the religious education to which they are obliged as such, we burden the conscience of parents, so that they prevent their children from going to schools where their faith and good customs are endangered, and where the texts violate the religious neutrality recognized by the same Constitution. Redouble your efforts in the sanctuary of the home, in fulfillment of the very serious mission of educators that God has entrusted to you.
It is painful, moreover, for our paternal heart, to see ourselves obliged to take such serious measures, for which we assume exclusive responsibility. But from what has been said so far, you will understand that we cannot observe another line of conduct. Trust us, beloved children, as we trust your unwavering loyalty. And let’s all trust God. “We expect a lot,” the Supreme Pontiff said recently, “of Our Lady of Guadalupe.” Sometimes it seems that the Divine Pilot is sleeping, but he always comes at the right moment, to console those who trust him.
This trust does not serve as a pretext for leading a sterile life. Remember that Nineveh was liberated from destruction by prayer and penance. Insist before the Lord and the Immaculate Virgin, with fervent prayers, with fasts, penances and alms. Do not forget the poor priests who are left without the means to live. Outwardly manifest your grief, abstaining from worldly diversions. Seek by all lawful and peaceful means the repeal of those laws that take from you and your children the necessary and inestimable treasure of religious life.
It is evident that neither your social position, nor any mandates received nor any interests, would excuse a serious crime before God and before men, to those Catholics who cooperate with the very serious evils that the application of anti-Catholic laws brings with it.
And with much greater reason you should avoid the shameful attribution of traitor to religion and avoid the grave canonical penalties incurred by those who, protected by the so-called popular action, would dare to denounce sacred people or property.
We present some of the penalties incurred by the baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ.
They incur in excommunication especially reserved to the Holy See:
a) Those who give laws, mandates or decrees against the freedom or right of the Church (Canon 2334, paragraph 1);
b) Those who directly or indirectly prevent the exercise of ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the internal and external jurisdiction, resorting to civil authority (Canon 2334, paragraph 2);
c) Those who dare to bring their own Bishop before a lay Judge (Canon 2341).
They incur in excommunication reserved simply to the Holy See:
a) Those who give their name to Freemasonry or other similar sects, who plot against the Church or against legitimate civil authorities (Canon 2335);
b) Those who bring before a lay judge a bishop not his own or a major religious official of pontifical canon law (Canon 2341);
c) Those who usurp, by themselves or by others, ecclesiastical property of any kind, movable or immovable, or prevent those to whom it belongs by right from receiving its fruits or revenues (Canon 2346);
d) Those who steal, destroy, hide or imitate a document belonging to an Episcopal curia (Canon 2405).
They incur in excommunication reserved to the Bishop:
a) Catholics who marry before a non-Catholic minister (Canon 2319, paragraph 1);
b) Parents or those who take their place, who knowingly instruct or educate their children in a non-Catholic religion (Canon 2319, paragraph 4).
On the first day of August, the Vicar of Jesus Christ, His Holiness Pius XI, in union with the entire Catholic world, will pray for the Mexican Church; let us unite with the Holy Father and our brothers around the world, making that day a day of prayer and penance.
Finally, let us comfort our spirits by remembering those words of Christ Our Lord to His Apostles, in which he announces his approaching death and resurrection: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, where all the things that the Prophets wrote about the Son of Man will be consummated. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles, and he will be mocked and spit on. And after he has been scourged, they will kill him. And on the third day he will rise again.”
The life of the Church is that of its Divine founder. Thus, beloved children, the Mexican Church is today handed over to its bitter enemies, it is mocked, reduced to a state similar to that of death. But also the Mexican Church after a short time, will resurrect full of life, strength and exuberance, to such a degree, as our eyes have never seen. Have the most firm hope in this.
This Pastoral Letter will be made known as widely as possible to our people.
Finally, we cordially impart our pastoral blessing to you, in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Given on the Feast of the Apostle James the Great, on July 25, 1926.
José Mora y del Río, Archbishop of Mexico.
Martín Tritschler y Córdoba, Archbishop of Yucatán.
Leopoldo Ruiz y Flóres, Archbishop of Michoacán.
Francisco Orozco y Jiménez, Archbishop of Guadalajara.
José Juan de Jésus Herrera y Piña, Archbishop of Monterrey.
José Othón Núñez y Zárate, Archbishop of Oaxaca.
José María González y Valencia, Archbishop of Durango.
Pedro Mariá Vera y Zuria, Archbishop of Puebla.
Ignacio Valdespino y Díaz, Bishop of Aguascalientes.
Francisco Uranga y Sáenz, Bishop of Cuernavaca.
José Amador Velasco y Peña, Bishop of Colima.
Jesús María Echavarría y Aguirre, Bishop of Saltillo.
Emeterio Valverde y Téllez, Bishop of León.
Ignacio Placencia y Moreira, Bishop of Zacatecas.
Miguel María de la Mora y Mora, Bishop of San Luis Potosí.
Vicente Castellanos y Núñez, Bishop of Tulancingo.
Manuel Fulcheri y Pietrasanta, Bishop of Zamora.
Juan María Navarette y Guerrero, Bishop of Sonora.
Francisco Banegas y Galván, Bishop of Querétaro.
Rafael Guízar y Valencia, Bishop of Veracruz.
Manuel Azpeitia Palomar, Bishop of Tepic.
Gerardo Anaya y Diez de Bonilla, Bishop of Chiapas.
Antonio Guízar y Valencia, Bishop of Chihuahua.
Leopoldo Lara y Torres, Bishop of Tacámbaro.
Francisco María González y Arias, Bishop of Campeche.
Agustín Aguirre y Ramos, Bishop of Sinaloa.
Nicolás Corona y Corona, Bishop of Papantla.
Pascual Díaz y Barreto, Bishop of Tabasco.
José de Jesús Manríquez y Zárate, Bishop of Huejutla.
Jenaro Méndez y del Río, Bishop of Tehuantepec.
Serafín María Armora y González, Bishop of Tamaulipas.
Luis María Altamirano y Bulnes, Bishop of Huajuápan.
José Guadalupe Ortíz y López, Auxiliary Bishop of Monterrey.
Maximino Ruiz y Flores, Titular Bishop of Derbe.
Luis María Martínez y Rodríguez, Titular Bishop of Anemurium.
Francisco María Campos y Ángeles, Titular Bishop of Doara.
Carlos de Jesús Mejía y Laguna, Titular Bishop of Cinna.
To prepare for the boycott – which would spark the executions – a meeting was hosted, on July 29, 1926, by the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty, of which Morales served as president, Roldán as vice-president, Lara as secretary and Batiz as their spiritual advisor.
During the gathering, Morales addressed the audience of more than 500 faithful Catholics.
“The League should be peaceful and not interfere in political affairs. Our project is to implore the government to remove the articles of the Constitution that prevent religious freedom,” he explained.
After the meeting, Father Batiz had just arrived at the private home where he resided and was settling down for the night when a group of soldiers stormed inside.
But they did not surprise him. The day before, when told that soldiers were looking for him, he responded: “May God’s will be done, if He wants, I will be one of the martyrs of the Church!”
Accusing him of being a conspirator to overthrow the government by planning an uprising against the government, they arrested him and hauled him to the municipal hall in Chalchihuites, where they locked him up and tortured him.
A few days later, Lara called together a meeting at his home, with Morales and Roldán, to discuss how they could free the priest by legal means.
During the meeting, a group of soldiers broke into the home.
The chief shouted, “Manuel Morales Cervantes!”
“I am,” he said, stepping forward. “At your service.”
“Salvador Lara Puente!” someone called out.
“Here I am,” he answered.
And so, too, the name of David Roldán Lara was announced.
All captured and in custody, the three devout Catholics were dragged to the municipal hall where Father Batiz was held, and where all suffered beatings and torture.
After townspeople demanded the release of the political prisoners, the four men were escorted from their cells to the outdoors, where two cars waited, as the soldiers pretended that their captives were to be transferred to Zacatecas.
Instead, they were driven to the patch of scorched earth, at El Puerto de Santa Teresa, now known as Los Lugares Santos where their final words “Viva Cristo Rey y la Virgen de Guadalupe!” are etched on the hillside. Each year, local Catholics commemorate the deaths of the four men, on the dirt forever stained with their blood, the blood of martyrs, who, on May 21, 2000, were canonized by Pope John Paul II as Martyrs of the Cristero War.
Theresa Marie Moreau, an award-winning reporter, is the author of Martyrs in Red China; An Unbelievable Life: 29 Years in Laogai; Misery & Virtue; Blood of the Martyrs: Trappist Monks in Communist China, and the forthcoming Cristero War: Mexican Martyrs.
Plutarco Elias Calles, Constitutional President of the United Mexican States, to his habitants, said:
By using the power granted to the executive of the union, by decree of January 7, of the current year, I have seen fit to issue the following:
Law that reforms the penal code for the federal district and territories, on crimes of the common jurisdiction, and for the whole republic on crimes against the federation, of the crimes and offenses in the matter of religious cult and external discipline.
Article 1: To exercise within the territory of the Mexican Republic the ministry of any cult, one must be Mexican by birth. The violators of this provision will be punished administratively with a fine of up to 500 pesos, or, failing that, with an arrest that will never exceed 15 days. In addition, the Federal Executive, if he deems it advisable, may expel the priest or the violating foreign minister, using the power conferred by Article 33 of the Constitution.
Article 2: For criminal purposes, it is considered that a person exercises the ministry of a cult, when he executes religious acts or ministers sacraments of the cult to which he belongs, or publicly declares doctrinal preaching, or in the same way performs religious proselytizing work.
Article 3: The teaching that is given in the official establishments of education will be secular, as well as the elementary and higher education that is taught in private establishments. Violators of this provision will be punished administratively with a fine of up to 500 pesos, or failing that, an arrest that will never be greater than 15 days. In case of recidivism, the violator will be punished with a major arrest and a second-class fine, without prejudice to the authority ordering the closure of the teaching establishment.
Article 4: No religious corporation or minister of any cult may establish or direct schools of primary instruction. Those responsible for the violations of this provision will be punished with a fine of up to 500 pesos, or, failing that, an arrest of no more than 15 days, without prejudice to the authority ordering the immediate closure of the teaching establishment.
Article 5: Private primary schools may only be established subject to official surveillance. Violators of this provision will be punished with a fine of 500 pesos, or, failing that, an arrest of no more than 15 days.
Article 6: The state cannot allow any contract, pact or agreement to be carried out that has as its object the impairment, loss or irrevocable sacrifice of the freedom of man, either due to work, education or religious vote; consequently, the law does not allow the establishment of monastic orders, whatever the denomination or object with which they intend to be erected. For the purpose of this article, monastic orders are religious societies whose individuals live under certain rules peculiar to them, through promises or vows, temporary or perpetual, and subject to one or more superiors, even when all the individuals of the order have different rooms. The monastic orders or established convents will be dissolved by the authority, after identification and filiation of the exclaustrated persons. When it is verified that the exclaustrated persons reunite in community after the dissolution, they will be punished with the penalty of one to two years in prison. In such case, the superiors, priors, prelates, directors or persons, who have hierarchical rank in the organization or direction of the cloister, will be punished with a penalty of six years imprisonment. Women will suffer two thirds of the penalty, in each case.
Article 7: Persons who induce or incline a minor to renounce freedom by virtue of a religious vote shall be punished with the penalty of a major arrest and a second-class fine, even if there are ties of kinship between them. If the accused is of legal age, the penalty will be minor arrest and a first-class fine.
Article 8: The individual who, in the exercise of the ministry or priesthood of any religious cult, publicly incites by means of written statements or preachings or sermons to his readers or to his listeners to ignore political institutions or to disobey the laws of the authorities or their mandates, will be punished with the penalty of six years imprisonment and a second-class fine.
Article 9: If as a direct and immediate result of the incitement referred to in the previous Article, less than 10 individuals intervene using force, threats, physical or moral violence against the public authority or its agents, or make use of weapons, each of them will be punished with one year imprisonment and a second-class fine. The priests or ministers of cult who are the authors of incitement shall be sentenced to six years imprisonment, plus first- to fourth-class aggravations, in the judgment of the judge; unless the disorder results in an offense that merits a greater penalty, in which case it shall be applied. If the individuals involved in the disorder number 10 or more, it will proceed in accordance with Articles 1123 and 1125 of the current Penal Code.
Article 10: Ministers of the cults may never, in a public or private meeting constituted as a board, and in acts of cult or religious propaganda, make criticism of the fundamental laws of the country, of the authorities in particular or of the government in general. Violators will be punished with one to five years imprisonment.
Article 11: Ministers of cults may not associate for political purposes. Violators of this provision will be punished with a minor arrest and a first-class fine, notwithstanding that the meeting will be immediately dissolved by the authority. In case of recidivism, the corresponding penalty shall be for a major arrest and a second-class fine.
Article 12: For no reason will there be revalidation, granting of dispensation or any other procedure that aims to give validity in official courses, for studies carried out in the establishments intended for the professional teaching of ministers of cults. Violators of this provision will be dismissed from the job or position they hold, being unable to obtain another in the same branch, for the term of one to three years. The dispensation or procedure referred to in the first part of this Article will be null and will bring with it the nullity of the professional title, for which the violation of this precept has been part of.
Article 13: Religious periodical publications, or simply with tendencies marked in favor of a certain religious belief either by its program or by its title, may not comment on national political matters or report on acts of the country’s authorities, or of individuals who are directly related to the functioning of public institutions. The director of the periodical publication, in case of infringement of this mandate, will be punished with the penalty of a major arrest and a second-class fine.
Article 14: If the periodical publication does not have a director, the criminal responsibility will fall on the author of the political comment or the information referred to in the previous Article, and if it is not possible to know the author, the responsibility will fall on the administrator or regent, the editor-in-chief or the owner of the periodical publication. In the case of Articles 13 and 14 of this law, if there is recidivism, the definitive suspension of the periodical publication will be ordered.
Article 15: The formation of all kinds of political groups, whose title has any word or indication that relates them to any religious confession, is strictly prohibited. When this precept is violated, the persons who make up the board of directors or those who head the group, will be punished with a major arrest and a second-class fine. The authority will order, in all cases, that the groups that have the character indicated in the first part of this article be dissolved immediately.
Article 16: Meetings of a political nature may not be held in temples destined for worship. When the person in charge of a temple dedicated to the cult, directly organizes the meeting or invites or takes part in it, he will be punished with the penalty of a major arrest and a second-class fine. If the person in charge of the temple simply tolerates the meeting or conceals it, without taking active participation in it, he will be punished with the penalty of a major arrest and a first-class fine. In both cases, the Federal Executive may order, in addition, the temporary or definitive closure of the temple.
Article 17: All religious acts of public worship must be celebrated precisely within the temples, which will always be under the supervision of authority. The celebration of the religious act of public worship outside the enclosure of the temples brings with it criminal responsibility for the organizers and the celebrant ministers, who will be punished with a major arrest and a second-class fine.
Article 18: Outside of the temples, neither the ministers of cults nor the individuals of either sex who profess them may wear special costumes or distinctive features that characterize them, under the governmental penalty of 500 pesos fine, or, failing that, arrest that never exceeds 15 days. In case of recidivism, the penalty of a major arrest and a second-class fine will be imposed.
Article 19: The manager of a temple, within the term of one month counted from the effective date of this law or within the month following the day in which he has taken charge of a temple destined for worship, shall give the notices referred to in the 11th paragraph of Article 130 of the Constitution. The lack of notices, within the terms indicated, makes the manager of the temple incur a fine of 500 pesos, or, failing that, an arrest no more than 15 days. The Ministry of the Interior will order, in addition, the closing of the temple, while the constitutional requirements are filled.
Article 20: Public action is granted to denounce and report the misdemeanors and crimes referred to in this law.
Article 21: The religious associations called churches, whatever their creed, may not, in any case, have the capacity to acquire, possess or manage real estate, or capital imposed on them; those who currently have by themselves or by a third party shall enter a domain of the nation, granting popular action to report the assets that are in such a case. The persons, who hide the goods and capital referred to in this Article, will be punished with the penalty of one to two years imprisonment. Those who serve as an intermediary person will be punished with the same penalty.
Article 22: The temples destined for cult worship are the property of the nation, represented by the Federal Government, which will determine which ones should continue to be used for that purpose. The bishoprics, religious houses, seminaries, asylums or schools of religious associations, convents or any other building that has been built or intended for the administration, propaganda or teaching of a religious cult, will pass, by right, to the direct domain of the nation, to be used exclusively for the public services of the Federation or of the States, in their respective jurisdictions. Persons who destroy, diminish or cause damage to the aforementioned buildings will be punished with one to two years imprisonment, and will be subject to the civil liability incurred.
Article 23: It is mainly the responsibility of the federal authorities to ensure compliance with this law. Those of the states and municipalities are auxiliaries of the former, and, consequently, equally responsible, when any of the the precepts of this law ceases to be fulfilled.
Article 24: The municipal authority, who permits or tolerates the violation of any of Articles 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of this present law, will be punished administratively by the corresponding hierarchical superior with a warning, a fine of up to 100 pesos or suspension from office up to one month. In case of recidivism, the penalty will be dismissal and disqualified from holding public office or jobs for up to five years.
Article 25: The municipal authority who, upon becoming aware of the cases provided for in Articles 8, 9, 10, 15 and 16 of this law, does not proceed immediately to make the corresponding consignment, will be considered as an accomplice or as an accessory, according to the circumstances of the case.
Article 26: The municipal authority, who does not proceed to the immediate dissolution of the associations with political aims formed by the ministers of the cults, will be punished administratively with a warning, a fine up to 100 pesos or suspension from office up to one month. In case of recidivism, he will be dismissed and disqualified from holding public positions and jobs for up to five years.
Article 27: Agents of the Public Ministry of the federal order will take care of making the respective consignments, in the cases of violation of Article 13 of this law. Negligence or carelessness will be punished economically with estrangement, a fine of up to 100 pesos, suspension from office for up to one month, or dismissal.
Article 28: The municipal authority who permits or tolerates the celebration of any religious act of public worship, outside the precincts of the temples, will be punished administratively with estrangement, a fine up to 100 pesos and suspension from office up to one month. In case of recidivism, he will be dismissed.
Article 29: The municipal authority will take care of compliance with Article 18 of this law, under penalty of estrangement, a fine up to 100 pesos, or suspension from office up to one month. In case of recidivism, he will be dismissed.
Article 30: The same authority, under penalty of dismissal and a fine up to 1,000 pesos for each case, shall ensure compliance of the provision contained in Article 19 of this law.
Article 31: The municipal authority will keep a record book of the temples and another of those in charge of them, and a certified copy of the entries of both will be sent to the Ministry of the Interior, within a month, counted from the effective date of this law or the date of the entries made subsequently. The lack of the registry books mentioned in this article will be punished with a fine up to 1,000 pesos and dismissal. If after the end of a month, the municipal authority does not send the copy of the registration book entries to the Ministry of the Interior, he will be punished with a warning, a fine up to 100 pesos, suspension of office for up to one month or dismissal.
Article 32: The municipal authority, who permits or tolerates the opening of a new temple without previously giving through the governor of the state or territory the corresponding notice to the Ministry of the Interior, will be punished with suspension from office for up to six months, or dismissal, notwithstanding the immediate closure of the temple.
Article 33: The municipal authority, who within a month does not give the Ministry of the Interior, by the proper channels, notice of the change of the person in charge of a temple, will be punished with a warning, a fine up to 100 pesos and suspension from office up to one month. In case of recidivism, he will be dismissed.
Article 1: This law shall take effect on July 31 of the current year.
Article 2: From the date this law enters into force, all provisions that are contrary to its precepts are repealed.
Article 3: A copy of this law, printed in easily legible characters, will be posted at the main doors of the temples or in the places where events of religious acts are usually held.
Therefore, I command it to be printed, published, circulated and is given due compliance.
Given in the Palace of the Federal Executive Power, in Mexico City, on the 14th day in the month of June, 1926,
P. Elias Calles.
The Secretary of State and the Office of the Governor, A. Tejeda.
To C. Ingenfero Adalberto Tejeda, Secretary of State and of the Office of the Goverment. Present.
What I communicate to you for its publication and other effects. Effective suffrage. No reelection.
Mexico, June 21, 1926. - The Secretary of State and the Office of the Governor. - A. Tejeda.