Religion, Politics, and the Laity
The role of the Catholic Church and clergy is strongly affected by the importance of religion in society and how religion affects the behavior and attitudes of individual Mexicans. 1 Empirical evidence exists to support a linkage between religiosity, however measured, and sociopolitical attitudes. 2 A larger premise of this study is that priests have the potential for affecting citizen values, if not their receptiveness to specific public policies. 3 Clergy have numerous opportunities to communicate social and political messages through such channels as Masses, pastoral letters, lay education classes, poster displays, and Church publications. 4 Since Catholic religious groups account for the largest number of social organizations in the country, the relationship between religion and the laity takes on added significance. 5
Church Masses are perceived by many observers and politicians alike as having the potential for influencing partisan political choices in Mexico and Latin America. As Kenneth Wald argues, "[C]hurches do indeed promote distinctive political orientations. . . . [T]he extent of theological traditionalism prevailing in a congregation moves individual members to more conservative preferences on social issues and makes them more disposed to identify themselves as political conservatives."6 More important, the nature and depth of people's religious beliefs may well affect how they define their church's role. For example, in El Salvador, active Catholics are twice as likely (51 percent) as Protestants (24 percent) to endorse a role for the Church in resolving conflicts. 7
Since the mid- 1980s, the Church's potential political influence among the laity has taken on much greater importance. This is true for several reasons. In the first place, the overall political environment in Mexico is increasingly contentious, especially since the 1988 presidential elections. As the intensity of political opposition has increased, so has electoral fraud. 8 Church leadership has been drawn directly into party conflicts as an institutional channel for criticizing regime fraud, especially in the North, South, and West, strongholds of an activist church. 9 The peasant uprising in Chiapas and the assassination of the PRI's candidate during the 1994 elections highlighted increasing political difficulties faced by the government. The Church, through Bishop Samuel Ruiz, served as a crucial mediator in
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Crossing Swords:Politics and Religion in Mexico. Contributors: Roderic Ai Camp - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 109.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.