MONCLOVA, Mexico —
Anonymous critics have hung banners outside the cathedral asking for what they called a real Catholic bishop. And last year, the 67-year-old was summoned to the Vatican to explain a church outreach program to gay youth.
Natalia Niqo, president of Familias Mundi in Saltillo, told the Catholic News Agency last year that Vera had placed too much focus on supporting the gay community.
“A pastoral commitment to homosexual persons is necessary and welcomed, but not at the expense of the family and a solid pastoral plan for marriage and family, which is unfortunately being neglected in the diocese,” she said.
Vera, who has had government bodyguards before, said he was foregoing similar security despite the criticism and threats. Such measures were rare and frowned upon in Saltillo, he said.
“I’m not the only one exposed, there are lots of people exposed who work with immigrants, with the missing,” Vera said. “How do I cover myself? Them?”
Mexico’s Bishops Conference did not respond to repeated requests for an interview about Vera. The church’s hierarchy in Mexico did issue a statement in 2010 congratulating Vera on his human rights prize, and last year, the church condemned anonymous threats against him.
Vera’s office often lends more weight to his words, especially when he speaks up about human rights, said Emiliano Ruiz Parra, a Mexican journalist and author of a new book that portrays Vera and other “black sheep” of the church in Mexico.
“Among the defenders of human rights he is the one who hedges the least, he says things the way they are,” Parra said before Pena Nieto’s Dec. 1 inauguration. “He’s not afraid, for example, to take on the president, the one who’s leaving or the president-elect.”
Vera’s homily on an October Sunday in Monclova included a lengthy diatribe about an alleged vote-buying scheme involving grocery store gift cards critics say were distributed by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as the PRI. Citing press reports, the bishop told the crowd organized crime paid for the scheme and helped Peqa Nieto’s victory. He also labeled as “collaborators” anyone who took a gift card in exchange for their vote.