In just three years there were more than 500 reports of Catholic priests falling victim to extortion, according to a new book that offers details about almost 30 years of crime against priests and associates of the church.
Tragedy and Crucible of Priesthood in Mexico (Tragedia y Crisol del Sacerdocio en México) gathered 27 years of criminal data and concluded that most crimes involved organized criminal gangs. And during that period, such crimes have been on the increase.
More than 80% of homicides against priests have gone unsolved or their investigations have been shut down by the authorities themselves, the book claims, charging that neither state nor federal justice officials have offered clear answers about the cases.
Since the beginning of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration in December 2012 there have been 19 priests assassinated, while during the first half of the administration 520 priests were targeted by extortionists.
The most dangerous places for priests have been Guerrero and Mexico City, where eight have been murdered in each in the 27-year period covered by the book.
There were six priests killed in Michoacán and the same number in Veracruz, followed by Chihuahua with five.
Guillermo Gazanini Espinoza, a researcher and collaborator on the book, accused Mexican authorities of passing unfounded judgement in the cases of murdered priests by claiming that their deaths were caused by their own shady dealings, leading immoral lifestyles or getting involved in drunken brawls.
Publication of the book followed more than a decade of research by Omar Sotelo Aguilar, a Catholic priest and director of the Multimedia Catholic Center (CCM).
He described the assassination of nearly 20 priests as “an atrocity” but noted that many people other than priests have been victims as well.