Back to Index

MEXICO: The Catholic Church

Pope John Paul II has won wide popularity because of his life story (including the assassination attempt), and he has courted it, smiling and waving from his Popemobile, embracing children, and seeking out leaders of other Churches and faiths. However, he is not ecumenical. He has not allowed the Church to participate in organizations such as United Religions.

The beatification of Pius IX raised doubts about his liberalism, but it was defended on the grounds that he was balancing that of liberal John XXIII. However, the Pope did not help his defenders by praising Pius IX for his love of the Church. The doubts were confirmed when the Vatican issued, with his approval, a 36-page document saying that the Roman Catholic Church is the sole path to spiritual salvation ("Outside of the Church, there is no salvation", as the old tag went.) It rebuked other churches for not recognizing the Primacy of Rome. The old feud over papal infallibility was reignited.

This offended non-Catholics and even some Catholics. It is significant that the only TV news program in which I have seen it discussed was Mexican Televisa. This suggests that it hit Mexicans particularly hard and provided ammunition for the anticlericals and the enemies of Vicente Fox.

It coincided with a new scandal: the threat of a lawsuit against the former abbot of Guadalupe shrine, Guillermo Shulenberg, who had been demoted from Abbot because he said the story of Juan Diego was a myth. He was now accused of shady real-estate dealings. Whether there was any ideological motivation for this charge was not clear. Nor was a charge of insanity against a woman who smashed religious icons in Mexico City Cathedral. She was shut up in a mental asylum.

What Vicente Fox was thinking about all this he did not say. The Army was shaken by the jailing of two senior officer, charged with involvement in drug operations. Fox made clear his support for the Army by saying that he intended to name an officer as his secretary of defense. Critics had demanded that it be a civilian to uphold the supremacy of the civilian over the military power. Fox seemed to have the support of the Church and the Military, the traditional props of conservative governments in Latin America.

Ronald Hilton - 9/07/00