Crossing Swords: Politics and Religion in Mexico

By Roderic Ai Camp | Go to book overview

12
The Church Viewed through Political and Clerical Lenses

Mexico passed through one of the most economically and politically dynamic stages of its development in the 1980s and 1990s. The Catholic Church and Catholicism were witnesses to, and active ingredients in, ongoing alterations in Mexican society. It is fortuitous that field research for this project began at this juncture, especially since no one would have predicted a newly formalized relationship between church and state in the mid-1980s.

The literature on church-state relations and on the Catholic Church's potential political or social role in the region ignores the combined views of actual actors in the relationship--politicians and clergy--a serious methodological flaw. It is also important to integrate rank-and-file clergy's interpretations with those of the episcopate, not only to understand frontline troops' attitudes on implementing Catholic doctrine but also to comprehend the future direction of Church leadership drawn from this community of priests. Furthermore, an occasional interpretation of prominent intellectuals is included since much of what the Church does or can bestow on society is cultural in scope, and intellectuals have contributed heavily to the secular environment governing Mexican church-state relations.

The views of the Catholic episcopate and rank-and-file clergy are particularly important because, as Daniel Levine argues, their perceptions and self-images of the institutional Church and its religious doctrine "determine the direction, intensity, and style of action that members undertake. It is the stuff of which commitments and martyrs are made." 1 It is also the case, as Levine suggests, that religion generally shapes behavior in the daily life of the community. Implicit political messages, associated with religious traditions, may also be transmitted through the latent political culture, including attitudes toward authority. 2 Although, as we have seen, many politicians reject strong Catholic influences in their upbringing in the strict spiritual sense, they are affected indirectly by Catholic and secular cultural influences.

Throughout this work, the focus implicitly and explicitly is on the relationship between religion and politics, or the broader pastoral role the Church might play,

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