Commentators frequently like to remind us that anti-Catholic bigotry was once widespread in America. What the commentators neglect to mention is that some of that intolerance and paranoia stemmed from the knowledge of how Protestants were treated in countries where Catholics were in the majority. Several Popes issued declarations maintaining their god-given responsibility to oppress and limit non-Catholic religions in league with the civil government. Protestants were persecuted in Catholic-dominated European and South American countries right up into the mid-20th century. The intolerance continues even today in some parts of the world.
I’ve reported on the persecution of evangelical Christians in Mexico several times in the last nine months. Below are some recent stories. The Mexican bishops could put an end to this oppression with one official statement but they remain silent.
Mexico: Evangelical Christian beaten and imprisoned after he refused to convert to Catholicism – 3/30/16
Evangelical Christians Facing Persecution in Mexico for Refusing to Convert to Catholicism – 4/20/16
Mexican Evangelicals Left Without Water After Refusing to Fund Roman Catholic Festivity – 4/21/16
Back in December, I commented on how several journalists had used Donald Trump’s controversial remarks regarding Muslims to remind readers of anti-Catholicism in America in previous generations. I pointed out that the journalists conveniently reported only half of the story. The Protestant immigrants to America were painfully aware of the persecution of non-Catholics in countries where Catholics held the majority. Popes reserved the right to suppress Protestants and Protestant worship services wherever Catholics were able to gain the cooperation of the civil authorities. See my previous post here.
In the article below, Spanish evangelical Christians recall the persecution they suffered in Spain during the dictatorial regime (1939-1975) of faithful Roman Catholic, Francisco Franco (see photo of fascist Franco posing with clerical allies).
“…many Spanish Protestants were incarcerated, beginning with Franco’s victory and until the late sixties. Most of them were brought to the courts by Catholic priests. In 1965, Monroy recalls, private Protestant meetings to pray, sing and study the Bible were approved. But the meetings were only legal if there were less than 20 people. Christians were were fined and even incarcereted. In the public spaces, only Catholic ceremonies were allowed.”
But Protestants were also oppressed in many other Catholic countries during the 20th century: Salazar’s Portugal, Mussolini’s Italy, inter-war Poland, Vichy France, Pavelic’s Croatia, and several Latin American countries that were strongly influenced by Catholic clerico-fascism.
Some may respond, “Why bring this up now? It’s all water over the dam. The Catholic church is nowhere near as religiously and politically militant as it used to be.”
The Catholics who still bother to attend mass on Sunday are fed a saccharinized version of their church’s history. Why would anyone think it would be otherwise? But their church’s actual history defies all claims to Spirit-led, infallible leadership. That’s the moral of the story.
Spain, forty years after Franco’s death
We’ve all heard about Muslims persecuting Christians in the Middle East and Africa but the ongoing story of Catholics persecuting Evangelicals in Mexico is somehow left out of the evening news.
Here’s the latest sordid episode:
7 evangelical Christians jailed for refusing to convert not to Islam but to Catholicism in Mexico
For my earlier posts on this outrageous situation see here and here.
Catholicism had an ugly history of oppressing Protestants in league with civil governments in countries where it had the majority right up into the 20th-century and this legacy continues in parts of Latin America.
American journalists recently compared Donald Trump’s Muslim-baiting to anti-Catholicism in the U.S. one hundred years ago (see my post here) while Catholic intolerance continues to rear its ugly head just south of the border with no comment.