Vaya Con Dios…

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Monsignor Martinez lives! Angry parishioners from the Mexican town of Chucandiro have chained shut their church and are demonstrating outside the cathedral in the city of Morelia to protest the firing of their local priest, Alfredo Gallegos. Did Father Gallegos molest children? Steal money from the collection basket? Preach heresy? Urge churchgoers to cross into the United States illegally and vote for John Kerry? None of the above. In fact, as Gallegos supporter Gilberto Moron says, noting the priest's history of raising money for roads and hospitals, "He has united us as a people." Instead, Father Gallegos was taken out ("sacked" says the Beeb, "defrocked" says Reuters—which I don't believe) for exercising his constitutional right to bear arms.

Actually, this doesn't appear to be a constitutional right in Mexico. But self-defense is a right under God, and Father Gallegos, renowned as "Padre Pistolas" for his habit of packing "a shiny pistol beneath his robes," has got Holy Mother Church to back him up on that. Bravo to the good people of Chucandiro: Would that our own disgruntled parishioners had such cojones.

Update: Stevo Threadkiller notes this story with more background on Gallegos. (He's carrying a 9mm.)

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  1. That is a great story.

    Padre Pistolas! Indeed.

  2. I’ve heard about this guy! He sounds pretty cool, for the most part.

    The articles linked above only barely mention that he has been involved in lots of public works projects:

    He said Archbishop Alberto Suarez Inda is also uncomfortable with his high-profile fund-raising and construction projects. Gallegos has built 40 miles of roads, as well as basketball courts, schools, churches, and bridges in and around Jaral del Refugio in the neighboring state of Guanajuato, where he was the parish priest for 24 years. He said he raised millions of dollars for the projects. He makes frequent fund-raising trips to Illinois, North Carolina, and California, and migrants there have encouraged him to create a Padre Pistolas website, key chains, compact discs, and posters.

    One thing, though, is that he seems pretty flamboyant and quite a self-promoter to boot. That last bit, as much as anything, may be what gave his superiors heartburn.

    My italicised quote above comes from this article from back in June 2004.

  3. Are you sure this isn’t just the story line of a Mexican soap opera?

  4. Oddly enough, I think I’ve been inside that church; I used to live in Mexico in the early 1990s.

    Tim Cavanaugh,

    The Mexican state has a lot of control over the Catholic Church as a result of anti-clerical “reforms” undertaken from the Juarez regime (1860s) onward. So it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he were defrocked, at least from the perspective of the Mexican state.

    For example, Article 27, of the Constitution of 1917 (which, to my knowledge, and with amendments, remains the Constitution of Mexico) severely regulated the Church’s ownership of real property (I think this was relaxed somewhat in the 1990s during the Salinas regime), while religious groups were banned from engaging in political activity, involvement in public education, forbidden to wear clerical dress in public, etc. Admittedly enforcement of these provisions was always erratic, and again these provisions have been liberalized over the years (especially during the Salinas regime), but that should give you an idea of how the Mexican state treats the Catholic Church and its agents.

  5. I have no comment on the news story, since neither version really gives any information but the sensational, and I don’t have the time to search and dig.

    However… I’ve noticed lately a certain anti-catholicisme primaire from some people here. It seems to be a recurring theme.

    While many individual Catholics (including prelates) do (and have done) lots of awful, stupid things, there are many points on which Catholic teaching and libertarian thought agree. Free will, for example.

    imo, and unless an organisation is thoroughly rotten and perverse… Arguing with Catholics from a Catholic point of view is likely to be far more effective than ridiculing them. The same is true with evangelicals, Muslims, Democrats…

    (And yes, I confess to being an anti-bushite primaire. But I did exclude “thoroughly rotten and perverse”.)

    So. I don’t know exactly what this guy did or why his superiors took the action (whatever it was) they took. But a priest carrying a gun makes about as much sense to me as a nun packing a dildo.

  6. Why the priest carries a gun:

    “Four of my friends have been killed, and three of my trucks have been stolen,” he said, explaining that his ministry to drug addicts and the sick takes him through the back roads of central Mexico, where it is wise, he said, to be armed.

    A glimpse of how his superiors view him, and of his tendency to be a flamboyant self-promoter:

    Suarez, the bishop, declined to be interviewed. “Oh, God,” moaned the person answering the phone in his office in Morelia, when asked for a comment about Padre Pistolas. “Don’t pay too much attention to him.”

    But it is hard not to. He has a powerful singing voice that draws applause wherever he starts singing — at Mass, in restaurants, on the street corner. He is unabashedly comfortable with his attention-grabbing role.

    Hey, libertarians, check this:

    Recently, Gallegos had started raising money for a hospital and museum in Jaral. “The hospital had not been approved by the government,” said Jose Angel Parrales Espinoza, an official in that municipality. “We agree that there should be a regional hospital. But things should be done in a correct way.” Still, he said, Padre Pistolas is “an original,” loved by many people.

    I wonder if this is part of the padre’s problem. When he sees a need, he acts to do something about it — without getting approval “in the correct way” from Ze Proper Authorities. Like some kind of loco norteamericano cowboy.

    That reminds me a of a passage in the “dynamicist” book The Future and Its Enemies, by Virginia Postrel. As I recall, there was a description of how citizens voluntarily and spontaneously acted after a hurricane devastated parts of Florida — ordinary citizens took to directing traffic at intersections where the signal lights weren’t working. Eventually gov’t officials stepped in … to discourage the amateur traffic-directors. They had no authority, you see, and no training. So, it was better not to fill the need at all, if it could not be filled in the gov’t-approved “correct way.”

  7. While I support the priests right as an individual to bear arms, I do not think that there can be a claim against the government made in this case. Guns are illegal in Mexico, and while the philosophical defense is a valid one, the law is still the law. Anyone who flauts it enough to earn the name “Padre Pistolas” is pushing his luck. He might have been a great priest, but he still broke the law.

    While I also believe in a persons right to do drugs, for example, I also believe that if you do drugs you accept the legal risks currently involved. He assumed the risk of getting caught carrying an illegal handgun rather than the risk of being caught without one, and must now pay the consecuences of his choice. It’s not a fair choice, but it is the reality of the situation that all mexicans face, even those not lucky enough to have a congregation backing them.

    It also be of interest to note that many times in Mexico, when a priest is renouned for his fundraising prowess, he has created connections with some level of organized crime. This comes as a combination of a couple of factors such as the catholic belief of salvation through works and a attempt at legitimation on behalf of the criminals, and a desperate need for help and recognition by the priests. This might explain his need for a gun in the first place.

    I think it’s kind of unfair to put this all on the Mexican government or the catholic church, as I think a substantial portion of the blame lies in the priest. He might be a great man, but he still broke the law, and the law should not make exceptions for great men unless it will also make it for the rest.

  8. It seems we’ve got a different strain of clergy, here in Canada. I just heard that some priests of the United Church are starting a drive to become part of the Canadian AutoWorkers Union (CAW).

  9. Gallegos supporter Gilberto Moron says…

    Oh man! what an unfortunate name! No seriously! Gilberto Moron! hahahahahahaha

  10. While I support the priests right as an individual to bear arms, I do not think that there can be a claim against the government made in this case.

    Well, this is incoherent. How can you both support the right to bear arms and say that the government outlawing this right is doing nothing wrong?

    Guns are illegal in Mexico, and while the philosophical defense is a valid one, the law is still the law.

    In other words, there is no liberty, only those privileges that the state deigns to (temporarily) grant you.

  11. Ricardo,

    I’ve lived in Mexico and I can tell you that gun ownership is common there (especially in rural areas) no matter what the law says, and that there are certain areas of Mexico City where you sure as hell ought to have a gun. Indeed, the numerous bodyguards that affluent Mexicans hire to keep themselves from getting kidnapped (kidnappings are a big business in Latin America these days as is kidnapping insurance) further illustrates my point.

  12. Ricardo,
    “He might be a great man, but he still broke the law, and the law should not make exceptions for great men unless it will also make it for the rest.”

    You think the problem might be the LAW?

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