Skip to main content
Normal View

Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 25 Apr 1928

Vol. 10 No. 12


I move:—

"That the Seanad desires to place on record its strong condemnation of the atrocities being committed by the Mexican Government on Catholic priests and people for attempting to worship their God according to the doctrine of their Church; and to take such steps as it may consider best to put a stop to the wholesale slaughter of Christian people."

As to the first part of the resolution, I do not think there is any member of this Assembly who would not condemn the Mexican Government for the atrocities that have been committed by them, and are still being committed. If there is any doubt in the mind of anyone that such atrocities have taken place, I think the statement of our Holy Father the Pope should remove that doubt. I will read a statement of His Holiness.

"Nothing like this persecution has ever been known in history, not even in the first centuries of the Church. For then, even under Nero, Caligula, and Domitian, there was no general persecution of private religion in homes, catacombs, or cemeteries.

"But now in Mexico nothing that is Catholic is tolerated, not even the private celebration of the Mass and the administration of the Sacraments, punishment for which has in many cases been the death penalty, and always fines, imprisonment, and murderous outrages."

I think that statement should remove all doubts, but if there should be any prejudiced minds they have only to refer to the investigation that has been made quite recently by the London "Daily Express." The results of that investigation have been published, and interviews have been published in the "Irish Independent" with Mexican Bishops and others. It is quite clear that the persecutions in Mexico are so bad that one could hardly mention them, as they are enough to make one's flesh creep. When these atrocities are going on it is only right that we, a small Catholic nation, should take notice and, at least, extend our sympathy. I think if any people have a right to speak in this matter it is the people of Ireland. We know what the persecution of our forefathers has been and all they suffered, and now we can state very confidently that at present in no country is there more freedom than there is in Ireland. There is toleration for all classes of people, and we are free to worship God in the way we desire. This is not a question of politics, but a question of conscience and humanity. I do not wish to delay the Seanad by reading the accounts of the persecutions that are taking place in Mexico. Priests, because they have celebrated Mass or administered sacraments to the dying, have been persecuted in a way as has never before been heard of. They have been kept over a slow fire with bayonets through their breasts. Young women have suffered in defence of their religion. This persecution has been inflicted by a man who has said time after time that he is the enemy of Christ. I am sure the facts in connection with the Mexican persecutions are known to every member of the Seanad. I am told we can do very little, but I think at least we can extend our sympathy. We know what sympathy and public opinion mean. The voice of public opinion has been very powerful in the past, and I think that public opinion is beginning to have an effect even in Mexico. We know that public opinion has brought about the talk of peace, and that talk is inspired by industrial pressure. Anything we can do to relieve the sufferings of the people in Mexico we should do for the sake of humanity, and I think we can do a good deal. The latter part of the resolution I leave in the hands of the House to take such steps as may be considered best to stop the wholesale slaughter of a Christian people. It is very hard to say what steps can be taken. I do not suggest that we should use force, but, as I have said, public opinion is very powerful, and there are other things we might do. We might get our Minister in the United States to use his influence with the American Government to bring some pressure to bear to stop these terrible atrocities.


Pardon me. I imagine there would be general approval of the first part of your motion. Then you go on to say that the Seanad shall take such steps as it may consider best to put a stop to the whole thing. It is impossible to suggest what steps the Seanad should take. If you will pardon me for saying it, I think you would accomplish your purpose by the first part of the motion. I suggest to you to omit the latter part. I do not think it strengthens it. I think it weakens it.

I fall in with your suggestion.


I think it is better. You see the motion does not call on the Government to take steps, and that is quite right.

I shall come to that. A suggestion I was going to make is that we should ask the Executive Council to appeal to the representatives on the League of Nations to bring pressure to bear on Mexico.


I think you might safely leave that in the hands of your Government. I think if you put on record your emphatic protest against these outrages you have accomplished all you could wish.

I fall in with your suggestion. I think I will not delay the House any longer. I have a great amount of literature I should like to read, but I think it would keep the House too long. I content myself with moving the first part of the resolution.

I think the terms of this motion will commend themselves to everyone in this House, whether Catholics or members of any other Christian community. Calles, the dictator of Mexico, has shown himself the enemy of Christianity by every act and work. He has publicly stated that he is the personal enemy of Christ. I think that statement, made publicly before the world, would be sufficient to gain sympathy for this motion. Captain McCullagh, who has gained international fame as a newspaper correspondent — he was in Russia and first drew attention to acts of hostility against Catholics and Christianity in general by the Bolshevik Government — delivered a lecture some time ago in the Theatre Royal, Dublin, which I attended. He there told us that he had gone out to Mexico specially to investigate first-hand the charges that had been made against Calles, and he illustrated by pictures on the screen the horrible cruelties and barbarities perpetrated by the soldiers and police of Calles. He told us that he had offered these illustrations to the pictorial papers, and that they had refused to accept them. There seems to be on this subject all over the world on the part of the Press a sort of conspiracy of silence so as to conceal the facts. The Press has its own interests to serve, but apparently it does not serve any interest by calling attention to the atrocities of Calles.

When in Mexico Captain McCullagh investigated the history of President Calles, and he found that his diabolic hatred of Christianity was rooted in and derives its inspiration from the age-long hostility of the Crescent to the Cross. Calles's father came from Asia Minor and was a Turk. In the village in which he was born Calles was called Turco. He was the son of this Turk and a Red Indian, and therefore a product of the worst type. Calles was a teacher, railway employee, a rancher, a miner and a bar tender, and if he had been a lawyer he would have gone through the gamut. He was also a policeman, and he nominated himself for the government contrary to the constitution and got himself elected, though at the foot of the poll. His principal ministers are the Minister for Agriculture, who knows nothing about agriculture, and the Minister for War, who had kept a house of ill-fame, and who wears an earring, as every bandit in Mexico does. The pictures exhibited by Captain McCullagh showed every form of tyranny that is being practised on the unfortunate Catholics in Mexico for attempting to do their duty to their God. Calles has recruited his army and police from the riff-raff of six nations. What could be expected from this material that Calles has gathered around him? These people have outraged every law of decency. When these things are being done in Mexico one would naturally expect that the other nations, especially the United States, which made itself responsible for order on the American Continent, would intervene. I think our Minister in the United States should make some representations on the matter. I agree with the suggestion that the last three lines to the motion should be eliminated. I suggest that the first part should be altered to read "worshipping their God" instead of "attempting to worship."

I should like to be associated with this resolution. I am sure it is one which commends itself to all Christian people. There is tremendous propaganda from the Calles side. I am not competent to go into the accuracy of it but it seems to me, from the account that Senator MacKean has given, that the man is one from whom one might expect any atrocity. We have been kept conversant largely through the "Independent" with a number of these atrocities. At the moment it is the Catholic people are concerned, but to-morrow it might be another section of Christians, as this appears to be a question of banishing Christianity.

This is one of these motions that one cannot be disassociated from, except one is to be looked upon as being a particular friend of Calles. I would like before condemning him wholesale to have better evidence than the "Daily Express." One need not cast one's mind back very far to remember that the British public were invited to believe on the evidence of the "Daily Mail" that truckloads of dead Germans, roped with steel hawsers, were sent in railway wagons to be transformed into nitro-glycerine. I am certain from the quotations from the paper that Calles and his Government are not only anti-Catholic but anti-Christian in a country based on Catholicism, but it is only a matter of time until he meets with full retribution. There is another aspect of the question, and that is the resentment one feels by being put such a syllogism as: "Have you or have you not left off beating your grandmother? Answer, yes or no." I think we should have longer notice to discuss such a question. If it is one on which the House should pronounce at all there should have been some liaison with the Government because it is important. The House should not be put in the position of being stultified. I do not know what we can do except to express an opinion, and I think an opinion should be expressed by more representative people than the Seanad. We have not had any Hierarchical statement in the newspapers or in the churches generally, and if we do not intervene through our own diplomatic channels we are merely abiding by Senator's Toal's opinion, that we are expressing a pious wish. I do not want to be involved in bringing about such a condition, that the Seanad should find itself stultified by ending at expressing a pious wish. If we move at all we should open avenues whereby our Irish relatives in the United States would bring pressure to bear upon the U.S. Government. That would be the sensible way of doing so. To say merely that we do not like anti-Christian behaviour is a foolish thing. No one likes anti-Christian behaviour. It is peculiar that America, a nation so nearby, with such a rich prize in view has not intervened. If the truth of Calles' conduct is paramount, it has every reason, and more than an excuse, for intervening in Mexico, to see that the Government there is run on ordinary general Christian lines — on the lines of a Christian Government. It cannot be Bolshevism. It is merely some form of blackguardism. I do not see how this House can intervene merely by expressing a pious wish. With the general sentiment of the resolution I am in sympathy but on the vague part I do not know what to say. I support it as far as possible but I make the proviso that the House is hardly in a position to do anything except express an opinion, and that is not very satisfactory.

As I understand Senator Gogarty, he speaks of our action here as expressing a pious wish or opinion. Whatever I say now I say with the hope that that pious wish on the part of Senator Gogarty may be pious determination elsewhere. I think it is the greatest outrage ever committed that religious liberty should be not only interfered with — I speak as a Protestant — but that the Christian religion should be practically stamped out as far as cruelty, murder and torture of all kinds serve that purpose. I have been wondering why so many Catholics in the United States, so many Christians of other denominations, who, I believe, following the law of the country would object to any force being used by any other country in the world to interfere in American affairs, do not take up the case in real earnest. I cannot help thinking that when these horrors, if they are true, receive full publicity action will be taken by those who are really earnest in religious matters in the United States, and all we can do is to express our highest approval of such action on their part.

Might I find out what the terms of the motion are?


It winds up at the word "Church."

That is to say, it is made definitely to relate only to the Seanad?



Question put, and agreed to.
The Seanad adjourned at 5.10 until May 2nd.