Mexico has been a predominantly Catholic nation since the religion was first brought to it by Hernan Cortes during the age of exploration. Because over seventy five percent of the population is Catholic, Catholicism and Catholic social teaching undoubtedly has a great effect on the people of Mexico. Catholicism plays a role in determining the legitimacy of law, in influencing society about drug cartels and crime, and is a unifying factor for the Mexican people.
For the entire period before Mexico gained independence, there was always a strong union of church and state, with the two almost being inseparable at times. However, many anti-clerical laws were put in place soon after Mexico gained independence. Recently however, the state began ignoring anti-clerical laws and then eventually repealed them, thus allowing the Catholic Church much more freedom. Modern day challenges have also encouraged the Catholic Church to step back into the limelight in Mexico:
“Motivated in part by the evangelical challenge, the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church has sought greater visibility, speaking out on sensitive public issues and ignoring constitutional bans on clerical involvement in politics. These actions ultimately led in 1992 to dramatic constitutional changes and a resumption of diplomatic relations with the Vatican.” (Merrill, Miró)
The article then continues on to say that while the Church does not associate itself with political parties, “ …the church hierarchy…argues that priests have a moral responsibility to denounce actions that violate Christian morality.” The Church continues to speak about political issues, despite government laws prohibiting such activities. The Catholic Church has worked to secure religious freedom in Mexico. In addition, many devout Catholic politicians are constantly on the lookout for their Church and regard its opinion and teaching very highly (Lenchek).
Catholicism has greatly influenced people’s thinking concerning the drug cartels and high crime rate in Mexico. Christians, both laymen and clergy, attempt to pacify the drug wars and speak out against criminal acts of violence and fighting between the groups. They also aid families that have been affected and help them meet their needs. (Jenkins). One cardinal actually came up with a way to end the crises permanently. “The head of the Mexican church, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, has opened the door to reforming Mexico's drug laws, suggesting that the issue must be re-framed as a public health problem rather than a matter for the criminal law" (Jenkins). However, the Catholic Church does not remain spotless when concerning these drug battles. Many clergy members have taken drug money and used it to make repairs on parishes and to fund welfare programs for the poor and peasants. (Jenkins) There are also many corrupt of "saints" that are venerated by drug cartels as patrons of their criminal practices. Therefore, while Christians act out nobly in many ways in Mexico, they also have some corruptions to address.
The Catholic Church and teaching also serves as a unifier for all Mexican people. Despite any conflicts that may have occurred, a majority of the population in Mexico has always remained Catholic and is strongly rooted in their Catholic faith. As said by Lenchek, “As Mexico moves toward Democracy, old political alliances may crumble, but the strength and sincerity of their religious beliefs will always sustain the people.” One example of the unifying role is the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, a story which is hundreds of years old, yet the devotion remains strong. Other devotions remain strong as well: “The UNAM national opinion poll found, for example, that nine out of ten Mexicans continued to ask intercessions from the Virgin or a saint”. Today, Mexico is quite diverse in its beliefs within Catholicism, with some resorting to more traditional rituals, to many who believe in “liberation theory” (Merrill, Miró). Despite the fact that Catholic practice and belief is quite varied in modern day Mexico, these various beliefs still all claim to be Catholic in name and thus it remains as the foundation of most Mexican people.
Catholicism has played a large role in the lives of Mexicans, due to the fact that well over a majority of the people claim to be practicing Catholics. Catholic clergy in Mexico strongly guide the political opinions of Mexicans, as well as provide direction and support for people caught in the drug crisis and help unite people in this time of political and economic instability. Should the Catholic Church be more assertive and political authorities hold the Church’s judgment in higher authority, progress could be made towards peace and recovery in many aspects of Mexican society.
Jenkins, Philip. "Mexico’s Crisis of Faith." The Christian Century. 10 May 2011. Web. 17 May 2011. <http://www.christiancentury.org/article/2011-03/mexico-s-crisis-faith>.
Lenchek, Shep. "The Catholic Church in Mexico, Triumphs and Traumas : Mexico History." Access Mexico Connect - Current Issue - The Electronic Magazine All about Mexico. Shep Lenchek, 1 Jan. 2000. Web. 16 May 2011. <http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/668-the-catholic-church-in-mexico-triumphs-and-traumas>.
Merrill, Tim L., and Ramón Miró. "Religion." Country Studies. 1996. Web. 17 May 2011. <http://countrystudies.us/mexico/>.