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The Church



     Church-state relations in Mexico are coming to a head. Mexican students at Stanford have posted many long messages, ranging from hard-line Catholic to atheist. Anti-clericalism is still very much present in Mexico. As in the US, it sometimes involves the sexual habits of the clergy. A notorious case was that of Padre Juan Granados, who lived in Italy. He had been suspended by the Pope, and then was murdered apparently by a homosexual companion, who killed him with a crucifix.
     Another case, covered jointly by Televisa and a Spanish network (!), involved a "priest", Padre Martín, whose unregistered child refuge was secretly filmed. He was accused of conniving with doctors in the Hospital Santa Fe, who operated on the children, removing kidneys and selling them for large sums. Mexican Church authorities denied he was a priest. The disturbing thing is that a Televisa poll revealed that a majority of Mexicans would be willing to accept a kidney obtained illegally.
     Anticlericalism was also apparent in the debate about the role of women in the church; see the posting on Santa Tecla and Bishop Sanuel Ruiz of San Cristóbal de las Casas. The charge that he had been ordaining women was backed by films of his so doing. Jorge Medina, a representative of the Vatican, said the films were being examined; it was not clear who had made them. Now the word "priest" was replaced by the word "deaconess." Presumably the issue of priestly celibacy and the ban on their marriage were being discussed, despite Pope John Paul II's hard line on this subject.
     The clerical offensive involved the beatification of twenty-five priests killed by the Cristeros. It was assumed that this meant they would become saints, but that requires a further step, canonization. The whole process has been modified, presumably under the influence of the Jesuits, who want to replace the miracles test by an exemplary life test. The office of Devil's Advocate, whose job was to present the case against canonization, has been abolished. The demotion of Father Shulenberg, who was really the Devil's Advocate in the case of Juan Diego, was taken as proof that he was a liar and that now there was no impediment to making Juan Diego a saint.
     There was a lot of theater. The fact that top church officials had a long, private meeting with President Zedillo proved that there was consultation and probably agreement on the rescinding of the anti-clerical articles in the constitution. However, the Church authorities stated that the Church did not intervene in politics, and the government spokesman said it should not.
     Vicente Fox, supposedly favored by the Church, issued ten electoral promises which included rescinding anti-clerical articles 124 and 130 in the constitution, but Cardinal Norberto Rivera continued to maintain that the Church supported no candidate. Fox then issued ten similar promises to Protestants. who have been gaining strength. Catholics charged that the Zedillo government had been supporting Protestants in Chiapas to offset the influence of Bishop Samuel Ruiz and that the Protestants had wealth which the Church did not. The whole debate was tricky and nasty.
     The enemies of Vicente Fox and of the Catholic Church then used ad hominem attacks based on the fact that his brother, Juan Pablo Fox, was charged with corruption. Fox supporters did they had no information and that in any case the charge was irrelevant. Mexico is a violent place, but the presidential candidates were tiptoeing on clerical--shall we say Easter?--eggs.

Ronald Hilton - 5/11/00


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