To Love, Honor, and Obey in Colonial Mexico: Conflicts over Marriage Choice, 1574-1821

By Patricia Seed | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
Will

Of the three basic cultural attitudes inherited from Spain that shaped the course of the church's intervention in colonial prenuptial conflicts, the most striking was that of the importance of individual will. In the case of Juana and Gerónimo, their affirmation that they wished to marry each other of their own free will galvanized ecclesiastical officials to order Gerónimo's father to stand aside while they freed his son. The doctrine of individual consent to marry was critical in Catholic tradition in establishing normative support for allowing the child, not the parents, to make the decision regarding marriage. The doctrine of free will set the limits of parental authority--what parents could and could not do to change a child's wishes--and in particular condemned the use of force. These beliefs were rooted in Catholic teachings and Hispanic culture of the sixteenth century.

Given the significance of the Catholic Church's role in prenuptial disputes in colonial Mexico, it is necessary to understand what historical forces underlay the character of its intervention in prenuptial conflicts. Chief among these is the transformation of the church's doctrines on marriage that occurred in the middle of the sixteenth century at the Council of Trent ( 1545-63). In response to the Protestant challenges to Roman Catholic hegemony in Europe, the Council of Trent was called to redefine key elements of Catholic doctrine so as to provide a uniform and effective rejoinder to Protestant criticism.

Luther and Calvin had rejected most of the sacraments instituted

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