Back to Index

MEXICO: The Roman Catholic Church. Foreground and background

Protestants object to the empty formalities of the Catholic Church. Before Pope John Paul today closed the holy door of St. Peter's, millions walked through it either out of curiosity or because they thought it granted them plenary indulgence. In Mexico, A TV program showed a church with a miracle-working crucifix. The ritual calls for the faithful to approach it two steps forward, one step back, presumably the two steps forward representing virtuous acts, the one step back a relapse. A curious sight, it must have an old ecclesiastical history. Presumably Lenin derived from it his famous dictum about the progress of the revolution. Can a Lenin specialist confirm this?

Behind this theater is the reality of the struggle between the Church and its critics. Now the Church is suspended between its old ally the armies and its new clientele, the people. Strangely, in Spain Epiphany, when the Three Kings brought gifts to the King of Peace, is celebrated with a pascua militar, a mass celebrated for the armed forces by their bishop, with the King dressed in army uniform. Presumably the idea is that the armed forces and the Guardia Civil bring peace to the world. There was a similar ceremony in Chile and presumably in other Spanish American countries.

In Mexico the great concern is crime and violence, which President Fox is determined to fight. The new Chief of Police announced he was not afraid, referring to threats he had received from gunmen not to accept the job. The corruption of the previous PRI regime was illustrated by the flight to Nicaragua of Oscar Espinosa Villareal, former head of Mexico City and then tourism secretary in the Zedillo government. Accused of massive corruption, he was jailed in Nicaragua at the request of the Mexican government, which sought his extradition. To everyone's surprise, he was visited in jail by Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, primate of Nicaragua, who told journalists that he had done so at the request of Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico, whom he described as a friend of Espinosa Villareal. Newsmen sought out Cardinal Rivers, who denied that he was a friend of Espinosa, but asserted that Esoinosa was a good Catholic and therefore deserved justice. The incident left an odd feeling that something was being hidden.

Ronald Hilton - 1/06/01