William Mills was right about so much in his account of Ecuador (“Down Ecuador Way,” Part I and II, December 1996 and January 1997) that it is unfortunate that his only reference to Gabriel Garcia Moreno was a passing one having to do with this “ruler of the country during part of the 19th century” guillotining his “enemies.” The reference reduced Garcia Moreno (1821-1875) to the stature of a tin-horn tyrant.

In truth, there was ample reason for the late Hamish Eraser to hail him as “the greatest [Catholic] statesman we have had since the Reformation.” It was also to Garcia Moreno that Pope Pius IX referred when he said, “If every ruler spent a half-hour each day in meditation, the face of the world would be transformed.” Well, Moreno, spent more than a half-hour in prayer and meditation. Mass, the Rosary, and devotions were all part of his daily routine. It was after a visit with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament that Masonic assassins killed him on the porch of the cathedral in Quito. His last words: “You cannot kill God.”

A warrior and educator (he spent time as rector of the National University) as well as a statesman, always opposed to the corrupt and un-Christian oligarchy whose misrule he replaced, “recognized by the masses [in the words of the old Catholic Encyclopedia, 1915] as a leader loyal to both their common Faith and their common country,” it is true that after sparing the lives of several leaders of a seditious movement, “though they had by all law and custom incurred the penalty of death, he was severely criticized for ordering the execution of another such when it had become evident that an example was necessary for the peace of the republic.” That execution, however, scarcely made Garcia Moreno a bloody despot accustomed to “guillotining his enemies” routinely. Nor did it prevent Pius IX from erecting in Rome a monument to the memory of the great man.

        —Gary Potter
Washington, D.C.