Marriage and the Church
Several models of marriage existed side by side in colonial New Mexico. Whether one was a priest, a marital candidate, or the parents of the bride and the groom largely dictated which model would be considered sacred and which profane. For the Catholic Church marriage was a sacrament instituted by Christ. How this sacramental theory squared with familial collectivist notions of marriage as the seal to a social alliance between two kinship groups is our concern in this chapter. But before examining the conflicts that these contradictory models of marriage provoked between clergy and laity, let us begin with a discussion of the Church's concept of dualism, which was so central to these debates.
Catholic theologians defined the human as constituted of body and soul. To engender a child, a man and woman united in intercourse, sharing physical substance, semen and an ovum. Once that child was conceived and born into the world, its rebirth into Christ and the life of the spirit was accomplished through baptism. As we saw in our discussion of Pueblo Indian baptisms in the seventeenth century, and again when we discussed slave baptisms and the selection of their baptismal godparents, the friars believed that baptism as an act of spiritual regeneration rivaled, and indeed surpassed, in importance physical generation. When a priest christened a child, said St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica, that child was "born again a son of God as Father, and of the Church as Mother." The priest who lifted the child at the baptismal font stood in the place of God, Aquinas asserted. Fray Junípero Serra clearly understood the implication of this fact for kinship politics, stating of Indian neophytes: "Sir, they are our children, for none except us have engendered them in Christ. The result is we look upon them as a father looks upon his family. We shower all our love and care upon them." 1