ROSARIO, Argentina – Across Mexico, including in the capital Mexico City, protestors attacked Catholic cathedrals, mostly by throwing paint on the churches, but some attacks incendiary devices, including Molotov cocktails.

In Mexico City, the small group of policewomen was quickly overcome by a group of violent women, who attacked the walls of the church building. Also involved where a handful of faithful who were trying to protect the cathedral from vandalism, a common occurrence during feminist rallies in Latin America.

The demonstration came during a nationwide “women’s strike” held on March 9 to protest rising violence against women in Mexico. The strike happened the day after the United Nations International Women’s Day, held on March 8.

The attack on Church property happened despite the support several bishops gave the women’s strike to support the campaign to offer better protections for Mexican women.

On March 8, Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes of Mexico City said that machismo or chauvinism is the source of the country’s growing violence against women.

“In Mexico there’s a machismo that has caused numerous femicides,” Aguiar said, using a term that has become common in the region to describe the violent murder of women by their male partners or ex-partners. “This is intolerable, and therefore, we not only want to show solidarity and accompany women who suffer violence, buy we also celebrate any initiative or public policy that helps to eradicate the harmful culture that invades us.”

The cardinal’s reflection was published in the weekly archdiocesan magazine, Desde la Fe.

He also wrote that humanity has an “incalculable and indefeasible” debt to women, and that putting an end to gender violence is not only an act of justice but a necessity because “the gift of femininity is increasingly urgent in the construction of the processes of humanization that are required in all areas of society.”

Aguiar is far from being the only bishop who voiced his strong support to women, and some even suggested that religious sisters join Monday’s national women’s strike, with the caveat that the Catholic Church as an institution cannot support some of the “rights” demanded by feminist organizations that go beyond ending violence against women, namely demands for legal and publicly provided abortion.

The Catholic church in Mexico most impacted by the feminist rallies was the cathedral of Hermosillo, in the state of Sonora. Some 80 faithful who were inside the church when demonstrators began attacking the building had to be evacuated by the national guard, leaving through side door and in small groups to avoid being attacked. Rioters broke the glass panes on the cathedral’s doors after a failed attempt to bring them down.

The attack began while Sunday Mass was being celebrated in the church, and after the incident the cathedral had slogans such as “legal abortion,” “pedophile” and “it’s going to fall” scrawled upon it. It is unclear if the last one was in reference to the Catholic Church or what feminists believe is a “patriarchal” system, as the usual slogan in Spanish is “the patriarchy is going to fall.”

Meanwhile in Colombia, radical feminist demonstrators also vandalized several churches during International Women’s Day marches, including the Church of La Sagrada Pasion in Bogota, where protestors painted pro-abortion slogans while chanting, “If the pope was a woman, abortion would be legal” and “We need to abort this patriarchal system.”

Even in Pope Francis’s homeland of Argentina, images available on Twitter showed women using the atrium of the Buenos Aires cathedral as a public bathroom during March 8 demonstrations.

The marches happened shortly after newly elected Alberto Fernández announced on March 2 he planned to legalize abortion in the country.

The debate over abortion often carries anti-clerical overtones in Argentina, where a move to legalize the procedure was narrowly defeated by the country’s senate in 2018. At the time, several female senators stood in front of Congress chanting, “If abortion isn’t made legal, we will burn down your churches.”

Other anti-clerical demonstrations during pro-abortion rallies in Argentina have included the torching of a giant Pope Francis puppet and a demonstration involving a woman dressed like the Virgin Mary simulating the termination of her pregnancy with Jesus.

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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