According to the Roman Catholic Church, Santa Muerte and the Catholic faith are two distinct beliefs and practices, or one follows the Mexican folk saint of death, or one follows the church. The pope, bishops and priests have stated this already frequently for years now.
But is this really the case? Let us look at a few points that the church makes in this matter.
1) The Church says that people who pray to Santa Muerte worship a demon, as death is the result of sin, so must Santa Muerte be the work of the devil. How wrong they are! Devotees of Santa Muerte do not worship her, but rather venerate her, praying and bringing gifts to the Bony Lady, just as they would do for any Catholic saint. We trust in the intercession of Santa Muerte, that through her what we pray for will be received or fulfilled. If death is the result of sin, then even the greatest saints must have been sinners because all of them have died. The claim that Santa Muerte is the work of the devil is ludicrous.
It reminds me of the scribes who accused Jesus of working with the devil, to which He responded that if this would be the case, with what power did the Jewish rabbis perform their works? Santa Muerte is a pure spirit that came forth from God, and she was sent to us as a perfect mediator. One main problem is that the Church thinks only in black or white, which is an unnatural thing. There is no black and white in creation, only gray. What is good for one person is evil for another one. Much depends on how we look at something. Santa Muerte is not concerned about what we ask from her, but we are responsible for the nature of our petitions. But that has nothing to do with black and white, that is what we call karma, or action/reaction.
2) The Church declares that Jesus conquered death on the cross, which factually is not correct. Jesus died on the cross, and descended to hell (Sjeol), according to the creed of the Church, and then was resurrected on the third day. It is then that his physical body was transformed into an immortal one. The promise of Jesus, that we all will live for ever, and the veneration of Santa Muerte can go hand in hand. Praying to Santa Muerte doesn’t mean that we no longer believe in the promise of Jesus, but that we ask the Lady of the Shadows to watch over us in life, and to guide us toward the House of the Father, when we die.
3) The Church declares that they never gave permission for veneration of Santa Muerte. However, I do not see a need for that. The only reason why the Church says that this is needed is because they want to maintain control of the faithful who must live their lives according to what the Vatican declares, or else one is considered a heretic and an apostate. We follow what Jesus teaches us in the scriptures and through tradition, and for that we do not need an institution that says they represent the love of God for his creation and then demonizes people who do not fit in their image of a Catholic believer. Fortunately there are many other denominations, independent bishops and priests, who do not share the view of the Church, and tell people they must follow their heart and conscience.
4) The Church declares it is wrong to pray to the skeletal figure of Santa Muerte, because there is nothing holy about a skeleton. But how can we truly represent Santa Muerte as an image? She is a pure being, and cannot be contained in words or images, because she transcends all of them. She is our mother, our angel, and our queen. For each devotee the Bony Lady can mean something very different, yet Santa Muerte is there for all of us who pray to her and confide in her, without regard to gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality, skin color, etc. As such, the image of death is the most perfect form for our beloved saint because she really wants to belong to all, without exception, just as death will come for all of us in the end.
By guest contributor Walter M.C. Walgraeve who is a devotee of Santa Muerte and a Traditional Catholic Bishop (Emeritus). Follow him on Twitter.