Friday, April 27, 2007
Some people see this week's legalization of abortion in Mexico City as a signal that the Roman Catholic Church is losing its grip on Latin America generally. Maybe. I afraid I'm in no position to judge. But Mexico has never been your average Catholic country. Its history is full of profound ambivalence toward the Church. Of course, there are many serious Catholics in Mexico. But anti-Catholic sentiment is also great there-- certainly greater than anything that folks north of the border can fathom. At times, the conflict has led to bloodshed.
Following the Mexican Revolution, the 1917 Mexican Constitution made it unconstitutional for Roman Catholic priests to wear a collar in public, to vote or to comment on political matters in the press. Monastic orders were outlawed, public worship outside church buildings was outlawed, and religious organizations' right to own property was limited. Between 1926 and 1929, an open rebellion known as the Cristero War broke out against the vehemently anti-Catholic government. In the end, about 90,000 people were killed. That kind of anti-clericalism doesn't go away overnight. It goes underground (or not-so-underground) and comes back again and again.
Weirdly enough, the Cristero War was in the news too this past week. Evidently, the Miss Universe Pageant is scheduled to take place in Mexico next month. To stir up a little publicity a photograph of Miss Mexico's dress was made public. The floor-length dress was adorned with crosses and a bullet-studded belt. The billowing skirt featured sketches of Catholic rebels facing the firing squad and hanging from trees. It was ... uh.... a Cristero War fashion statement. When the Mexican public saw it, there was an uproar. The skirt has been nixed. As far as I know, the rest of the design has been retained.
Mexico can be a strange place sometimes.
(Thank you to Skeptical for pointing out an unintentionally comical typo.)