Monday, May 16, 2011

Catholicism and Its Influence On Mexico

            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  Recently however, the state began ignoring anti-clerical laws and then eventually repealed them, thus allowing the Catholic Church much more freedom.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. <>.
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. <>.
Merrill, Tim L., and Ramón Miró. "Religion." Country Studies. 1996. Web. 17 May 2011. <>.

Vincent Viola


  1. Although some politicians may be “on the lookout of the church,” even major leaders in Mexico, such as Mexico’s former president Vicente Fox, “continued a long tradition of ignoring Mexican poverty.” Additionally, according to the Los Angeles Times, “Fox admitted that his ranch employed minors, some as young as 11 years old,” which goes directly against the Catholic Social Teaching principle that discusses the Dignity of Workers (Guzzardi). By glazing over the neediest people of the Mexican population, Fox was merely hindering the growth of his people. Fox is not alone because “115 government employees in the state charged with corruption between 2004 and 2008” (Mexican). Politicians like Fox serve as poor role models among others in power who may see his misdeeds as a guide to their own ethical principles. And evidently, these principles are not ethical at all, as they clash with those of Catholic Social Teaching.

    However, despite the corrupt actions of politicians, some of whom still maintain power in Mexico, “social development spending have increased on average by 5.3 percent a year and poverty reduction spending increased by 14.2 percent annually since 2000,” (Mexico) which is helping Mexico progress socially. Although, it will be decades before Mexico is on the same level as countries such as the United States, the increase in social program spending is accelerating this grueling task. There is still much more that the Mexican government could be doing to help the poor and needy of the country.

    Guzzardi, Joe. "Failed, Corrupt Mexican President Vicente Fox Returns to California" CAPS Blog - Californians for Population Stabilization. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 May 2011. .

    "Mexican officials charged with corruption - National drug cartel |" National News, National Information, National Events | N.p., n.d. Web. 17 May 2011. .

    "Mexico - Poverty in Mexico - Fact Sheet." World Bank Group. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 May 2011..

    Liz Newton

  2. How active are Christian politicians in keeping Mexican law legitimate? In the case to legalize abortion in Mexico's capital, the argument was made that the Court was defending women's freedoms. However, by giving women the freedom to abortion, the court case is denying the Catholic Social Teaching that all humans have the right to life - from the moment of conception. "Since taking effect, 12,000 women have terminated their pregnancies in public hospitals in Mexico City" (Llana). Although I agree that Mexico needs to head towards a government where religion influences law, I don't believe Catholic Social Teaching has the power to do this just yet as seen in the case to legalize abortion in Mexico City.

    Llana, Sara Miller. "Mexico's Supreme Court upholds abortion law -" The Christian Science Monitor - N.p., n.d. Web. 17 May 2011. .

    Brian Feliciano

  3. This essay made some solid points with Catholicism’s influence over Mexico and it’s people. But it didn’t really focus on any aspects of Catholic Social Teaching or even its guiding principles. What specific aspects of Catholic Social Teaching would say are reflected in the points you brought up? The essay talks about the Church's influence and actions in Mexico, but not entirely the influence of the Church's beliefs and teachings.

    Jenna Anne Chan

  4. The issues addressed in the essay are issues that require Catholic social teaching. However, the issues could have been addressed in more detail. For instance, examples, such as of anti-clerical laws, how the Church aids families with regards to the drug cartels and crimes, or of a specific Catholic social teaching, could have been used to further abet the essay. In addition, there could have been more description as to how effective the Church was in its attempts to consolidate relations with the government and people.

    Yet, the issue of migration, a modern aspect of society, was not brought to light. "In
    Catholic social teaching, immigration is a right that the state cannot abridge" (Yuengert). Thus, because this issue is modern and an everyday concern of the governments of Mexico and the United States, it is an essential aspect that must be recognized in terms of Catholic social teaching.

    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.

    Paul Popa

  5. With regards to Vicente Fox as well as the other 115 government employees “charged with corruption” between 2004 and 2008, that is a negligible point. There has always been corruption in government in every society since the earliest days of government, and to say that the Church should be able to stop every possible case of corruption and child labor is a ridiculous claim. While the Church does lack significant influence still, even if it did have a large political influence, there will still always be corruption such as Vicente Fox as well as the other government employees. The second point about government spending is irrelevant to the blog and does not relate to the question at hand of the role in the Church in Mexico, and is only discussing the role of the government in Mexico.

    While the Church has failed to prevent pro abortion laws, the pro life movement is still very strong. According to this article, “according to many observers, the Catholic and pro-life vote turned the tide against López, known in Mexico by his initials, AMLO,” in a recent 2006 election in Mexico.

    I did not mention specific elements of Catholic Social Teaching because I felt that the actual outcomes and consequences of Church involvement in Mexico was more important to address than the actually doctrines and statements of Catholic Social Teaching.

    Finally, the issue of migration laws is irrelevant to the Church influence in Mexico, considering that the restricting laws are a part of the United States legislature. The Church cannot hope to change U.S. immigration laws by having influence in Mexico, and must work on this issue separately in the U.S. and find support in the U.S. for looser immigration restrictions.

    Vincent Viola