BY BRIGITTE SCHMITT AND DAVID AGREN
SEVERAL Mexican bishops have denied that the Church accepts donations from drug lords after the president of the Mexican bishops' conference said drug traffickers have been "very generous" to the Church.
Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City said that the Church condemns drug trafficking as a social evil and that it never accepts drug money.
"The money that comes from narcotics trafficking is ill-gotten and therefore can't be cleaned through charity projects," he said last Saturday.
Auxiliary Bishop Marcelino Hernandez Rodriguez of Mexico City emphasised during his homily the next day that money laundering which was carried out by making donations to the Church was completely unacceptable.
Archbishop Jose Martin Rabago of Leon, former president of the Mexican bishops' conference, categorically denied that clergy in his region accepted donations from drug traffickers. He rejected suggestions that the Church would sanction contributions from traffickers for social projects.
On several occasions Church officials have made it clear that the Church preaches salvation and that everyone who honestly repents will be forgiven. But this does not mean the Church approves of drug trafficking or would accept "dirty money", said Archbishop Martin.
Bishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Texcoco, president of the Mexican bishops' conference, acknowledged that drug trafficking gangs provide funding for the construction of churches in some of the country's most impoverished villages.
"They are generous and often they provide money for building a church or chapel," Bishop Aguiar said after the bishops' conference meeting April last week. He added that drug kingpins undertake other forms of "charity" by financing public works projects.
"In the communities where they work ... they will install electricity, establish communication links, highways rand] roads," he said in comments that received nationwide media attention.
The bishop emphasised that the Church does not condone drugs trafficking, but also that he was "saying how it is".
He added that narcotics traffickers often come to prelates in search of spiritual guidance.
"There has been a rapprochement with them as it's known that discretion is going to be kept," Bishop Aguiar said. "What they want is to encounter peace in their consciences. What they're going to get from us is a sharp response: change your life."