Continuity and Change in the Mexican Catholic Church

  • Soledad Loaeza-Lajous
Part of the Latin American Studies Series book series (LASS)

Abstract

Relations between Church and State have followed an irregular pattern in independent Mexico (1821), alternating between periods of sharp conflict and of collaboration. After the wars of independence, anticlericalism took hold as a powerful political tradition, despite the fact that some of its most notable leaders, Miguel Hidalgo and José Maria Morelos, for example, were priests. Opposition to the Catholic Church has been one of the characteristic traits of the modernising Mexican elites, who have seen the ecclesiastic institution and the values it upholds as being the main obstacles to change.

Keywords

Economic Crisis Coherence Flare Assure Arena 

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NOTES

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    The Mexican Church’s eventful history during the first half of the twentieth century has concealed the enormous importance of its role in the education of economic, political and, of course, social elites. The educational policies of the Mexican State and, in general, its commitment to the lower classes gave rise — especially after 1940 — to the Church concentrating its activities on private education, intended for the upper and middle classes, the privileged recruiting ground of Mexican elite groups. This specialisation in social groups is highlighted in the middle level. Studies carried out on Mexican elites concentrated on university education as a variable for the identification of these privileged groups, overlooking secondary education and the crucial distinction between private and public schools at this level.Google Scholar
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    According to data supplied by the archbishopric in Mexico, in 1979 92% of the population called itself Catholic. The pastoral centres in the Country (dioceses, prelatures, apostolic vicariates, parishes, missionary posts and churches), added up to 6018, with an average of more than 10000 inhabitants, and there were 361 kindergartens, 1552 primary schools with 586850 pupils, 952 secondary schools with 237 764 pupils and institutes of higher education, with almost sixtythousand students. The church also provided health services in 167 hospitals, 205 dispensaries, two leper colonies, 127 asylums, 174 orphanages, 162 marriage guidance centres, and 208 research centres (Teresa Gursa, ‘Censo: 60.6 milliones de mexicanos son católicos’, Uno más un?, 9 de octubre de 1981).Google Scholar
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    Besides taking part in joint public acts such as the inauguration of the Plaza de las Americas of the Basilica in Guadalupe in 1952, over which the president at the time, Miguel Alenán, presided, the episcopate collaborated with the State by inviting Catholics to support decisions on foreign policy or health campaigns. A study on the lower-class districts in Mexico city shows, for example, that the negotiating ability of the PRI to take steps to obtain public services assures it the support of the parish priest in the community which benefits, despite the fact that the latter might consider himself closer, ideologically speaking, to the Partido Acción Nacional. (Susan Eckstein, The Poverty of Revolution. A Study of Social Economic and Political Inequality in a Center City Area. A Squatter Settlement and a Low Cost Housing Project in Mexic?, thesis, Columbia University, 1972, pp. 271 et passim).Google Scholar
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    See for example, Pius XI’s Exhortation to Mexican Catholics to fulfil their civic duties and not ignore either their right to vote or their right to form political parties (‘Carta apostólica sobre la situaciOn religiosa en Mexico’, Christu? (1937) 18, pp. 228–399). From then on, the Mexican clergy have religiously carried out this stipulation of the Pope, and each election time invite their parishioners to vote.Google Scholar
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    De la Rosa, ‘La Iglesia católica en Mexico’, pp. 101–2.Google Scholar
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    In some cases, this radicalisation ended in violence because members of the clergy were victims of the antiguerrilla struggle. At least this is the mostly widely held explanation of the deaths of Fr Rodolfo Aguila Alvarez in Chihuahua and Rodolfo Escamilla in Mexico City, in the early months of 1977. Both were involved in work to promote and support independent social organisations in lower class districts. Their deaths were never properly explained.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Opus Dei came to Mexico in 1949. Among the institutions it supports are: Escuela Cedros, Escuela Mexicana de Turismo, Residencia Universitaria Panamericana, Universidad Panamericana, Instituto de CapacitaciOn y Adiestramiento de Mandos Intermedios, Escuela Superior de Administración de Instituciones, Instituto Panamericano de Empresa. From the beginning of 1970 onwards, there was much talk of the increase in the influence of Opus in Mexico and of its presence in the upper levels of public administration. See Oscar Hinojosa, ‘El Opus Dei avanza en la conquista del poder en Mexico’, Proces?, 343 (1983) pp. 39–53; Jesus Ynfante, La prodigiosa aventura del Opus De? (Paris: Ruedo Iberico, 1970).Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    De la Rosa, ‘La Iglesia cat6lica en Mexico’, p. 103.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Dermot Keogh 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Soledad Loaeza-Lajous

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