Issues Facing the Church
Moral and Spiritual Challenges
The primary issues facing the Mexican Catholic Church cannot easily be separated into temporal and spiritual or political and nonpolitical issues. Most of the significant problems for the Church since the 1970s have important, secular implications, often of a political nature. Nevertheless, the Church's posture on human rights, liberation theology, and Protestantism, which are grouped together for reasons of convenience rather than for scholarly logic, do share stronger theological foundations than the more temporal political issues such as elections and voting analyzed in chapter 3. One of the most important moral issues, one that places the Church squarely in the political arena in Mexico, is that of human rights.
Human rights and the clergy's role first received attention in South and Central America. In the region south of Mexico, where repressive military regimes dominated during most of the 1970s, many bishops and clergy were sensitized to the "close relationship between the existing unequal arrangement of economic and political power and the systematic violation of civil rights of individuals and groups." 1
Mexico's Catholic Church, with some exceptions, came much later to this realization, at least publicly. Compared to Latin American human rights abuses frequently identified in the popular and scholarly literature, Mexico's were largely ignored. Despite its low-key image on human rights, its record is poor at best. According to recent observers, Mexico is increasing the potential for violence. In 1989, the Jesuit Center for Human Rights Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez recorded a 400 percent increase in human rights abuses in urban areas. 2 Americas Watch, the major international organization with a specific Latin American focus, confirms these conditions and offers a pessimistic assessment of Mexico's future human rights picture. 3