Cardinal Arizmendi: Mafia money

Having a clear conscience, living according to the Word of God, is worth more than all the money in the world

Cardinal Felipe Arizmendi, bishop emeritus of San Cristóbal de Las Casas and responsible for the Doctrine of Faith at the Conference of the Mexican Episcopate (CEM), offers Exaudi readers his weekly article titled “Mafia money.”



The local leader of an armed group that is dedicated to the extortion of small rural producers and all types of merchants has bought houses and land, not because they are offered to him, but because he likes them and demands that they be sold to him; He doesn’t care what price they put on him in millions; He pays immediately in cash. What interests you is having more and more possessions. And everyone who knows his background says that he went to the United States when he was young, but was expelled from there several times for being a vagabond, a drunk, and a drug addict. He returned to his town without money; He joined regional criminal groups, and now he rides in very nice vehicles, organizes loud parties, and feels very powerful. He has become rich with mafia money, not because of his honest and constant work.

It is common knowledge that different cartels in the country have influenced the electoral processes, putting a lot of money into the campaigns, so that the authorities that they later manage remain. It is very difficult to verify this, but when the river sounds… Years ago, during the campaigns for municipal presidents, one of the candidates asked to speak with me. Among other things, I told him that several people told me that he was supported by armed criminal groups; he flatly denied it. He emerged triumphant and, a few months later, he confided to me that he had had to negotiate with them, because otherwise they would not let him govern. How many candidates and leaders have they murdered, because they do not accept their conditions! The federal government denies that this happens, but we have other data. Mafia money is very powerful, and since they have heavy-caliber weapons, woe to those who do not bow down to their demands!

Bishops of Sicily and southern Italy suspended the requirement that there must be godfathers at baptism and confirmation, because parents chose Italian mafia bosses as godfathers, as a way of protecting themselves, without taking into account their lifestyle corrupted by drug trafficking and the murders, they commit to have money.

There may also be mafia money in business, political and governmental power groups. As a Church, we are not exempt. They make alliances to earn more money, to have more goods, to achieve certain positions. It is very difficult to resist the temptation to get rich in an immoral way!


Pope Francis said these harsh words to those mafia groups: “To the mafia men and women: please change your life, convert, stop doing evil, we pray for you, convert. I ask it on my knees and for your good. This life that you live now will not give you pleasure, it will not give you joy, it will not give you happiness. The power, the money that you have now, from so many dirty businesses, from so many mafia crimes, is bloody, it is bloody power, and you will not be able to take him to the other life. Convert, there is still time not to end up in hell, which is what awaits you if you continue on this path. You have had a father, a mother, think of them. Cry a little and convert” (21 March 2014).

During his visit to Mexico, in the speech he addressed to the bishops in the metropolitan cathedral of Mexico City, he told us:

I am particularly concerned about so many who, seduced by the empty power of the world, exalt chimeras and dress themselves in their macabre symbols to market death, instead, in coins that, in the end, “moth and rust spoil, and therefore thieves pierce walls and steal” (Mt 6:20). I ask you please not to underestimate the ethical and anti-civic challenge that drug trafficking represents for youth and for the entire Mexican society, including the Church.

The proportion of the phenomenon, the complexity of its causes, the immensity of its extension, like a metastasis that devours, the severity of the violence that disintegrates and its disturbed connections, do not allow us, Pastors of the Church, to take refuge in generic condemnations, but rather they require prophetic courage and a serious and qualified pastoral project to gradually contribute to weaving that delicate human network, without which we would all be defeated from the beginning by such an insidious threat. Just starting with the families; approaching and embracing the human and existential periphery of the desolate territories of our cities; involving parish communities, schools, community institutions, political communities, security structures; Only in this way will it be possible to completely free oneself from the waters in which, so many lives are unfortunately drowned, be it the life of those who die as victims, or those of those who before God will always have their hands stained with blood, even if their pockets are full of sordid money, and the anesthetized consciousness (II-13-2016).


Instead of just lamenting and denouncing these events, let’s do everything we can to educate ourselves and educate ourselves in the value of honest work, even if we are not very rich. Having a clear conscience, living according to the Word of God, is worth more than all the money in the world.​