Crossing Swords: Politics and Religion in Mexico

By Roderic Ai Camp | Go to book overview

and state other than in electoral politics appears most clearly in their educational tasks. The primary question is teaching and development of basic values, of which formal education is merely a vehicle. Bishops and clergy recognize such tasks can involve them more deeply in secular matters. They rely heavily on the argument that it is the lay person they teach who must provide the necessary leadership to implement these values, not the clergy.

As long as clergy function to determine a sensitive, social conscience, to pro vide the parameters of social responsibility, and to develop basic moral outlines of Mexican values, they will find themselves confronting tensions with the secular world in general and the political world in particular. These tensions are exacerbated by the fact that within the Church, individually and institutionally, divisions exist as to the degree of its commitment to and conceptualization of the Church's social tasks. Even the Pope has not shied away from a sense of social responsibility.

The evidence from Mexican pastoral documents and recent episcopate declarations establishes unequivocally the Church's desire to play a responsible civic role and to identify the serious political and social weaknesses of government and society. The episcopate repeated these concerns forcefully and clearly in October 1994, shortly after the presidential elections. The Church, acting as an expressive conscience of the people, will confront contrary secular social and political expectations.

Finally, clergy view their differences with politicians as stemming from differences in language, in conceptualization, and in their ability to communicate rather than from fundamental differences in values. This is a significant point, and although difficult to change, these differences can be moderated. Much more social exchange needs to occur among politicians and clergy, and politicians especially require a deeper understanding of clergy, the Church as an institution, and religion. Some of the castelike features that separate Mexico's military from its civilian leadership produce similar consequences for government-Church relationships. A significant goal of priests and bishops is national unity, developing a sense of mutual respect in society. Their deep commitment to this goal is likely to reinforce the Church's role as a mediator, a task it attempted to perform in Chiapas. 112 The Church sees this task in a sophisticated light, however, understanding that it needs to provide a firm foundation on which to construct a permanent mediating mentality among the leadership and the population. Since mediation and peaceful negotiation are the cornerstones of Church values and behavior, they will mark the Church's approach in dealing with the state into the 21st century.


NOTES
1.
Daniel H. Levine, Religion and Politics in Latin America: The Catholic Church in Venezuela and Colombia ( Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), 54, 13. Levine also cautioned, and correctly, that "bishops feel a special obligation to preserve the institution itself as a source of continuity and a focus of shared values and loyalties over time and space. The way they do this depends on their images of the church and of religion

-302-

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