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MEXICO: The Church and its Critics

Today, August 15, is the Feast of the Assumption. In Spain the most impressive celebration was in Seville, the procession in honor of he Virgin of Faith. Not too far away, the nearly naked faithless lay on the beaches adoring the sun. In Rome, young people from around the world danced and clapped like evangelicals while they waited for the Pope. They had no worry, indeed no thought, about serious doctrinal problems

In Mexico, the mood was gloomy. The issue of abortion continued to produce friction between the Church and its critics. The focal point was Guanajuato, in the area where once the devout cristeros died for the faith. Now the church-backed proposal to ban all abortions was tied up in procedural problems, while the governor of the state, Ramón Martín Huerta, equivocated.

In Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera declared that all people involved in an abortion were excommunicated, as well as the men who violated women. Televisa dug up an interview with Vicente Fox in which he supported the Church viewpoint, saying that children resulting from a violation could be adopted, offering himself as an example. He has adopted four children, but he offered no details, not did he mention his divorce, which the Church thought fit to overlook.

The women, traditionally faithful to the Church, were unhappy, many even angry. Polls showed that Mexicans favoring abortion outnumbered its opponents by 4 to 3. Presumably many women were in favor, macho males less so. For many women there was something grotesque about a crowd of supposedly celibates showing no understanding for their problems. Little is said about the sex life of the Mexican clergy. In the US, the Catholic Church has been plagued by trials in which priests are charged with being pedophiles. In Spain priests are often accused of having barraganas( concubines), a word I have never heard in Mexico. As usual, while Cardinal Rivera issued his decrees from the cathedral, across the square the civic government of the city was expressing its disapproval. Both the PRI and PRD in it are led by women.

Laws about divorce and abortion are matters for the various states in Mexico. In Yucatán the laws are quite liberal. This may have something to do with the growth of Protestantism in the area. It seems likely that the present dispute will encourage its spread. In Los Angeles, Mexican women played a prominent role in the Democratic convention. It did not sound as though they would support Cardinal Rivera's stand.

Ronald Hilton - 8/15/00