A Catholic news site and the conservative blog, Breitbart, have taken a hyperbolic view of a recent tragedy where a boy was killed by other children. Christopher Marquez was killed during what was said to be a “game” of kidnap. Two 15-year-olds jail sentences if convicted of and kidnapping. Three who are under 15 would undergo psychological treatment.
In an attempt to make sense out a senseless act, Aleteia, “An initiative of Foundation for Evangelization through the Media” calls the murder part of a Satanic cult and link it to Santa Muerte Child Murders in Mexico Linked to Satanic Cult.
The recent news regarding the torture and murder of Christopher Márquez, a six-year-old Mexican boy, has not only upset Mexico and of all those who have heard the news; it continues to reveal darker aspects that relate it to the veneration of Santa Muerte (“Saint Death”) and, consequently, to the phenomenon of cults.
There is a piece of information that not all the media have taken into account when analyzing the story: the accused children venerated Santa Muerte. The neighbors mentioned to Net Noticias that the children in question belong to a criminal gang, so the murder would not have been a case of “let’s pretend to be bad guys.” People living in the area declared to various local media outlets that the children venerate Santa Muerte and were indoctrinated by criminals who made them part of a sectarian cult.
The writer notes that Santa Muerte is “related to witchcraft and satanism” and an enemy of Catholicism.
DN contacted professor of religion, Dr. Andrew Chesnut, who is an expert on Santa Muerte in society. He thinks that Catholic apologetics are bending over backwards to link the murder of Christopher to “the Satanic” Santa Muerte.
“The only established link to Santa Muerte is the fact that Christopher’s mother is a devotee, though she hasn’t been accused of being an accomplice of the teen and preteen neighbors who murdered him. The source of almost all the alleged Santa Muerte connection are local Mexican media reports, often of dubious veracity, citing neighbors in the barrio who alleged the young murderers are Santa Muerte devotees who used to harass Protestants in the neighborhood,” says Dr. Chesnut.
“As the fastest growing religious movement in Mexico, and throughout the Americas, Santa Muerte has become enemy number one of the Catholic Church in Mexico. This story is part of an ongoing campaign to demonize the dynamic folk saint,” he concludes.
Dr. Chesnut notes that Saint Death is popular among criminal elements, but most devotees are not murderers, nor do they worship Satan. While some extremists may commit such crimes, the majority of the followers are peaceful. Stories such at this, without substantial evidence, propagate fear of Sante Muerte followers. It’s not uncommon to link murders to the sect.
Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut is the Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Chair in Catholic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. See more about the world of Sante Muerte at his website here. Or check out his book here.