The true story of For Greater Glory | Matthew Cullinan Hoffman | Catholic World Report
Our hemisphere’s greatest martyrs remain virtually unknown to English-speaking Catholics.
The recently-released motion picture For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada is raising awareness of a long-forgotten chapter in Catholic history that seems increasingly relevant for religious believers in America today. Few Americans—and amazingly few Mexicans—have been aware of the epic, three-year struggle to save the Catholic faith that convulsed Mexico in the 1920s, an almost mystical event that has come to be known by the faithful as “La Cristiada.”
Although the movie conveys a rough idea of the Cristiada, a war that took the lives of an estimated 250,000 Mexicans and sent shockwaves throughout the hemisphere, many aspects of the struggle have been omitted or modified. Some of the conflict’s most important figures, such as Anacleto Gonzalez Flores, are glossed over, and others are portrayed in an inaccurate or even inverted manner. In the interest of character and plot development, relationships between characters were created for the film that never existed in reality.
Origins of the Cristiada
The true story of the Cristiada begins in the 1850s, when the US-backed regime of Benito Juarez began the confiscation of the agricultural lands of the Catholic Church, as well as other reforms that culminated in a series of anti-Catholic laws declaring that all of the nation’s churches were property of the federal government, and that no religious expressions of any kind, including the wearing of clerical garb, could occur in public. Today, the government celebrates these changes, which are called La Reforma (“The Reform”), with a paid holiday.
Catholics responded at that time with the revolt of the “Religionists,” a series of violent outbursts and wholesale defiance of the government that would last from 1874 to 1876, and was only pacified by the rise of the dictator Porfirio Diaz, who relaxed the enforcement of anti-clerical policies and laws, although he continued the process of confiscating and redistributing Church lands.