Richard H. Tierney
From December 4, 1915
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While this issue of America was passing through the press, an important document reached the office. The document is a letter written by Mr. J. P. Tumulty, Secretary to the President, in answer to an inquiry about certain conditions in Mexico. The inquiry was apparently framed to give an opportunity for an answer that would make the opposition of American Catholics to the Mexican revolutionists seem unreasonable, if not factitious. This together with the circumstance that a Catholic in the White House is replying to a Catholic in New Jersey, concerning crimes committed against Catholics in Mexico, gives Mr. Tumultys letter an importance not otherwise warranted. It is not our present intention to answer all the statements contained in the document under review. A detailed answer would obscure the main points at issue, which concern crimes against Sisters, priests and Brothers, and the attitude of the revolutionists towards religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular. In regard to the Sisters, Mr. Tumulty says: "There is no official record of a single proven case of this dastardly crime in the files of the Department of State." Proceeding, he declares that there are unsubstantiated reports which could not be verified by our Consuls or Special Agents. He then singles out crimes against Sisters reported from Zacatetas and affirms that our Agent after thorough investigation was not able to confirm the reports. The Sisters, he says, had left Zacatecas before the arrival of the Agent (italics inserted), but they remained five months in Vera Cruz and there were thrown into contact with army officers who have stated that they never heard of a single report of outrage. This paragraph of the letter ends with the ingenuous statement that Sisters may have been ill treated

 

as might have occurred in any other country under the conditions of wild disorder which then prevailed in Mexico, and especially when it is considered that the laws of Mexico prohibit a nun from wearing any garb or other insignia to indicate her calling so that she would be in no way distinguishable from others of her sex.

All this falls short of establishing any fact about the commission of the outrages; this evidence, like the greater part of that offered by Mr. Tumulty, is negative in nature, too negative either to render uncertain the proposition that Sisters were outraged or to prove the contradictory proposition that they were not outraged. Moreover the fact remains that there are in possession both of Mgr. Kelly, President of the Church Extension Society, and of the editor of America affidavits declaring that Sisters were outraged. And strange to say one of these was made at Vera Cruz on October 28, 1914, in the presence of an army officer who affixes his name thereto. This affidavit is also signed by the attestants, viz: six Sisters-by six witnesses, and by the notary. Should Mr. Tumulty desire the appended names, all save that of the army officer, will be sent him. The second statement about the same subject was sworn to by the Prioress of Queretaro in the presence of the Archbishop of New Orleans and Mgr. Kelly. This lady declares under oath that she conversed with Sisters who had been outraged. Such testimony not only makes Mr. Tumultys negative evidence useless but also furnishes moral certitude, reasonable proof in other words, that the horrid crime was committed. Nor can the crime be excused on the plea that the Sisters could not be distinguished from other women by garb or other insignia. They actually wore a garb-the legality of this act is neither here nor there at present. For the rest, it is not a matter of surprise that our special agents, and others too, did not get information about the aforesaid crimes.

The second item of Mr. Tumultys letter worthy of notice concerns Mgr. Paredes testimony about the treatment of Sisters and priests. In order that this should be evaluated at its proper worth, it is necessary to say that Mgr. Paredes is a Carranzista who holds his present position by appointment from Carranza, and by the sufferance of the Ordinary of Mexico City who confirmed the appointment, to avoid greater trouble. Mgr. Paredes admits the murder and torture of priests, but good Carranzista that he is, he accuses the Zapatistas of the crime. He could have given more extended information to our State Department, for two Christian Brothers were brutally murdered by the Villistas and some priests were tortured by them in a most revolting fashion, at a time when Villa and Carranza were such firm friends that on, was congratulating the other on the work done. The editor of America has on file affidavits made in the regular way by two tortured priests, in the presence of Bishop Lynch of Dallas, Texas. Moreover he also has a letter from a Christian Brother announcing the foul murder of two of his companions. Finally, what would Mgr. Paredes say to this document signed by two of Mexicos most saintly archbishops?

To their Eminences the Cardinals, their Lordships, the Archbishops and Bishops of the Holy Catholic Church in the United States of America.

We, the undersigned, members of the Hierarchy of Mexico now in exile in the United States of America do declare that the statements already published by the magazine Extension, and the papers America, Columbiad and Southern Messenger, of murders, tortures, outrages against the Church, the clergy and the Sisters of Mexico are, in all their general statement true. The whole truth of the terrible persecution of the clergy and religious of Mexico has not been told even yet. But it ought to be made known for the future benefit of the many innocent sufferers.

The purpose of the men who have inflicted these injuries on us is plainly to destroy religion in Mexico (Italics inserted), to banish those whom they do not kill, to steal the property consecrated to the service of God, to desecrate what they cannot steal, and to soil as much as they can the good name of the innocent. The gravest injury has been done to the cause of God and the Church in Mexico. The latter today lies prostrate…

Prudence requires the suppression of names, but I shall furnish signed copies of the documents to Mr. Tumulty on request.

One point remains to be considered: the attitude of the revolutionists towards religion. Mr. Tumultys letter dwells upon the promise of religious freedom made in the name of Carranza. This becomes a tactical mistake in view of the fact that only recently General Alvarado issued a circular letter in Yucatan, denouncing religion in a crude, ignorant fashion. Moreover the spoliation of convents and churches and the persecution of priests and Sisters have been going on merrily in Yucatan, the last State invaded by the Carranzistas. All this is quite in keeping with the revolutionary policy. Not since the French Revolution has the world witnessed such an orgy of murder and lust, such a general defiance of rights human and Divine. It is sad that churches were profaned, altars desecrated, chalices polluted, Brothers murdered, priests tortured and shot to death, and sacred virgins defiled--all these are inexpressibly sad, but they are but symptoms of the most monstrous of all evils, a systematic war on religion and morality carried on by gun and sword, and repressive decrees, and base calumnies; in short, by all the unspeakable methods prompted by the demon of crime and persecution. The finger of righteous scorn is pointed towards the Rio Grande; political exigencies, however, either hide this virtuous act from some eyes or else obscure its meaning.

Richard H. Tierney, S.J., served as editor of America from 1914 to 1925.

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