Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Catholic Social Teaching within Mexico

            Since the Catholic Church’s inception in Mexico by the Spanish conquistadors of 1519, Mexico has been tied to Catholicism. Though the Mexican government and Catholic Church have been quarreling for years, as of the 1990s, due to President Carlos Salinas, the two have partially reconciled, allowing for more freedoms of the Church such as voting and becoming involved in political discussions. In order to be affiliated with the people of Mexico, the Church uses Catholic social teaching. Catholic social teaching aids the Church in its attempts to provide better relations with not only the people and the Mexican government, but for Mexican citizens and other nations. The influence of Catholic social teaching with regards to issues concerning unity has been successful while it has been unsuccessful in political viewpoints and immigration.
            One aspect of society in which the Church is influential is that of unity. The Church states: “Human beings grow and achieve fulfillment in community. Human dignity can only be realized and protected in the context of relationships with the wider society” ("Major Themes"). Thus, unity leads the masses to realize and understand human dignity. The Church has been able to achieve this realization through the Virgin of Guadalupe. “The Virgin of Guadalupe remains one of the nation’s cherished symbols” (Stecklein), ever since her appearance in 1531. Such an image has united the people through their focus on this symbol, bringing people together to celebrate it: “Catholics from as far away as Perryton, Spearman and Borger united Sunday in hopes of teaching others and honoring the woman who helped convert thousands to Christianity during a turbulent period in Mexico's history” (Stecklein). Through a patriotic and religious sense of unity, the Virgin of Guadalupe has brought people together to commemorate her and her actions. Surely this has been a cause for “Mexico’s overwhelming Catholic populace (about 90 percent)” (Corcoran). The Church, in its efforts to unite the people under Catholic social teaching, has succeeded and continues to be a factor in the lives of Mexicans.
            The Church’s efforts in political affairs with the Mexican government have been unsuccessful with regards to subsidiarity. The Church’s teaching of subsidiarity is that “when the needs in question cannot adequately be met at the lower level, then it is not only necessary, but imperative that higher levels of government intervene” ("Major Themes"). However, the Mexican government has failed in providing such aid in terms of a pro-abortion law: “A proposal before the Mexico City legislature would allow births to be terminated virtually for any reason at all in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. With the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) firmly in control of the legislature, the law seems certain to pass” (Corcoran). The Church has tried to intervene in the issue, with figures as prominent as Mexico City Archbishop Cardinal Norberto Rivera stating: “‘Laws, whatever they are, are intended to respect life. A law that does not is ungodly’” (Corcoran). Yet, it is inevitable that the Church should fail if even the people themselves are willing to abide to this law: “Polls show that more than half the capital’s inhabitants, and an overwhelming majority of its women, are in favor of the bill” (Corcoran). Thus, though the Church has played a role in attempting to be pro-life, it has failed in its attempts, yet continues to persevere.
            The issue of immigration is an act the Church continues to persevere and influences the governments of the United States and Mexico. “The right to migrate springs from three separate principles in Catholic social teaching: the right of a family to sustenance, the priority of the family over the state, and the right of economic initiative” (Yuengert). In Mexico, issues such as NAFTA involvement in farms and drug cartels and crimes has led Mexican citizens in search of better lives elsewhere, mainly in the United States. Yet, this tends to be illegal with respect to government laws:

“The right of a person to migrate conflicts with the duty to obey the laws of the country in which he or she lives. In reflecting on the Federal requirement that the state of California and the city of Los Angeles provide welfare benefits and education to illegal immigrants, a case can be made that poor Mexicans who remain in Mexico have a greater claim on the resources of the state and city than those who immigrate illegally, since Mexican non-immigrants are probably as needy, and they at least are not violating United States law” (Yuengert).

Thus, though the Church accepts such actions as satisfactory, it does so with respect to laws. The Church continues to be an advocate of migration, stating that the people should be allowed to move across borders without hindrance. However, laws placed by governments are placed in a higher category than the doctrines of the Church, as people are continuously penalized for crossing borders, regardless of the viewpoints of the Church: “Although he [Pope John Paul II] states clearly that ‘illegal immigration should be prevented,’ thereby implying that states have a right to enforce restrictions on migration, he just as clearly states that illegal immigrants should be provided with ’the necessary means of subsistence’” (Yuengert). The Church, in its attempts of migration, is thwarted by governments that even the Pope views as being allowed to pass laws subjugating the movements of people illegally into other countries.
Catholic social teaching is prevalent throughout Mexico, yet has succeeded in only uniting the people, while failing in terms of politics and immigration. The Church continues to persevere for its place in society as one fighting for good causes. The role of the Mexican government and people, however, has been a contributing factor as to why the Church has not prevailed. As the Church continues on its quest to find methods to become involved in aspects of Mexican citizens, it flourishes and falls in different parts even with the use of Catholic social teaching. 

Works Cited
Corcoran, Patrick. "A Decline in Catholic Church Influence in Mexico." MexiData.info. Google, 16 Apr. 2007. Web. 16 May 2011. <http://mexidata.info/id1326.html>.
"Major Themes." Catholic Charities' Office for Social Justice. Sowers of Justice. Web. 16 May 2011. <http://www.osjspm.org/major_themes.aspx>.
Stecklein, Janelle. "Our Lady of Guadalupe Celebration: Unity the Common Thread." Amarillo. Yahoo!, 7 Dec. 2009. Web. 16 May 2011. <http://amarillo.com/stories/120709/new_news1.shtml>.
Yuengert, Andrew M. "Catholic Social Teaching on the Economics of Immigration." Journal of Markets & Morality 3, No. 1 (2000): 88-99. Act On. Center for Economic Personalism, Spring 2000. Web. 16 May 2011. <http://www.acton.org/sites/v4.acton.org/files/pdf/mm-v3n1-yuengert.pdf>.

Paul Popa


  1. Although the Virgin of Guadalupe serves as a national figure in Mexico that holds the pride of the people, Catholic social Teaching pays no attention to historical saints or figures. The themes of Catholic Social Teaching are designed simply to defend the rights that all human beings rightfully deserve. These include the life and dignity of the human person, the option for the poor and vulnerable, and solidarity. It is true that Catholic social Teaching provides unity through its call for justice; however, the role of Catholic social teaching on unity is not explained through the use of a revered figure like that of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
    It is very effective that this essay approached both successes and failures due to Catholic Social Teaching. By contrasting in such a way, it is emphasized that Mexico is making move towards reform, but change will not come easy for the people. A stronger influence on law will be needed for Catholic social Teaching to truly guide the lives of the Mexican people.

    Brian Feliciano

  2. There is too much emphasis on the failures of the Church to establish itself in Mexico as a prevalent form of influence. The Church being unable to prevent a law that is pro-abortion is a small failure in scope of the victories it has won. For instance, due to the work of clergy members, drastic changes occurred in 1992 to remove most anti-clerical laws that prevented clergy members from speaking about political subjects. The Church continues to speak out against unholy laws and political actions that it feels contradict the views of the Church, despite government protests, ordering clergy to be silent. See this article: http://countrystudies.us/mexico/61.htm. This is a great stride forward, and if the Church can continue to take steps in the right direction, then soon it can regain a greater amount of influence in Mexican politics and help guide the Mexican government and people back in the right direction.

    In addition to this, the anti-American immigration laws are not relevant to the role and effects of Catholicism and Catholic Social Teaching in Mexico. No matter what kind of influence Catholicism has in Mexico, it will not be helpful in helping life laws against migration that are in place in the United States. In order to allow Mexicans entrance to the United States more freely, Catholic Social Teaching must be applied to the United States legislature and taken up as an issue in the U.S. and has little to do with influencing Mexico. Mexicans are helpless to help lift migration restrictions in place in another country, and only Americans can work towards greater freedom and acquiring the ability to cross the borders between countries without a great deal of hassle.

    Vincent Viola

  3. The essay was well organized and had sufficient evidence but had some weak points. Despite the fact that Guadalupe is a Catholic belief, she is not a Catholic Social Teaching. As a religious figure, she was able to unite the people but didn’t specifically reflect the purpose of Catholic Social Teaching. Another weak point was the topic of immigration. Although immigration involves Mexico, it concerns the United States more. It is the land of the United States that is being infringed upon. It concerns United States’ laws against illegal Mexican immigrants. Despite the fact that Mexican citizens are involved, they are the ones who are violating US laws. The fact that Catholic Social Teaching supports individuals in migrating to find better opportunities should be directed to towards US and not Mexico. In order to view immigration from Mexico’s perspective, the essay should have stated in detail why Mexicans were desperate to leave their homeland and what did Mexico try to do to fix the situation, provide for its country, and play their role as an active government.

    Jenna Anne Chan

  4. With regards to the Virgin of Guadalupe not pertaining to Catholic social teaching, this is a false assumption.

    "Rightly, Our Lady of Guadalupe is called the Star of the New Evangelization because she announces and presents the mystery of God's love and mercy in all of its newness, as if for the first time, so that once again men may come to know and have faith in her Divine Son, place their hope in him alone, and live in his love. In the same way, Our Lady of Guadalupe is our model in fostering the New Springtime of Faith, the new encounter with Christ, which leads each of us to the conversion of our life and transforms our society ever more into a civilization of love" (University of Dallas Campus in Rome).

    Thus, because she is a symbol who people revere and pilgrimage to, people unite to rejoice in her love and come together as a community. By being revealed to God, the people glorify Him and try to live righteously as He did together in terms of love.

    University of Dallas Campus in Rome. Our Lady of Guadalupe. Global Catholic Television Network | EWTN. 14 Nov. 2009. Web. 18 May 2011. http://www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/burkeolguad.htm.

    Paul Popa

  5. Solidarity is indeed one successful aspect of Catholic Social Teaching within Mexico. While the Virgin of Guadalupe helps create a sense of unity and security among the Mexican populace, the ultimate sense of togetherness and understanding also bring people closer to one another and their faith. Wherever there is religion, there is a sense of solidarity, simply due to the fact that “it is a unity that binds members of a group together (USCCB). Solidarity is a necessary value in order for a community, or even a nation to function. It does not necessarily need to be solidarity among Catholics, but a widespread sense of togetherness and belonging help bring a people to help one another, in turn leading to the other principles of Catholic Social Teaching.

    It is true that the Church has done little to impact how or even if the people of Mexico live out the principles of Catholic Social Teaching. The presence of religion guarantees solidarity. While reforms and programs are in place to draw people back to the core values that surround the Catholic faith, they are not as efficient as they could be, due to under-funding and mismanagement.

    "USCCB." United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 May 2011. .

    Liz Newton

  6. In response to the comment that there are too many failures of the Church to make it appear as a great influence is not what the question states. One must determine what role the Church and Catholic social teaching have and how effective they are, not whether there are more positive aspects than negative aspects of the Church.

    The failure of not being able to halt the passing of pro-abortion laws is a great deal. The Church believes that:

    "...in the inherent dignity of the human person is the foundation of all Catholic social teaching. Human life is sacred, and the dignity of the human person is the starting point for a moral vision for society. This principle is grounded in the idea that the person is made in the image of God. The person is the clearest reflection of God among us" ("Major Themes").

    Human life is the basis of Catholic social teaching and must be respected; every life counts.

    In addition, immigration is a key factor in the essay. Because of domestic problems, such as unfair labor, Mexicans seek better and more just wages. Thus, because this can not be sought out at home, they go abroad, America being the most convenient destination due to its proximity with regards to Mexico. Though it appears the American government is not doing anything to better migration from one country to another, priests from America and Mexico view migration as acceptable:

    "The Church recognizes the right of sovereign nations to control their territories but rejects such control when it is exerted merely for the purpose of acquiring additional wealth. More powerful economic nations, which have the ability to protect and feed their residents, have a stronger obligation to accommodate migration flows" ("Catholic Social Teaching").

    Thus, not only should the United States, as well as other nations, allow migration, they should support them.

    "Catholic Social Teaching." Justice for Immigrants. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Web. 18 May 2011. .

    "Major Themes." Catholic Charities' Office for Social Justice. Sowers of Justice. Web. 16 May 2011. .

    Paul Popa

  7. In response to the comment that the essay possessed weak points, the Virgin of Guadalupe and immigration with respect to Mexico and the United States are essential for Catholic social teaching. As stated in the previous responses, the Virgin of Guadalupe brings unity among people through pilgrimages for the love of God. Immigration is a key factor as well because it involves both Mexico and the United States, with more emphasis on Mexico.

    Paul Popa

  8. In response to solidarity being key, this is true. Unity is necessary for cooperation and reconciliation with God. By uniting together under Catholicism, people can work together to reach a common goal such as better living conditions in areas like Mexico City with regards to farming. Only through religion can these problems be curtailed.

    Paul Popa