Origins of a relationship

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The Origins of a New Relationship between the Church and the State in Mexico

On January 1992, the Mexican Congress approved legislation that reformed the articles related to Church-State relations of the Constitution of 1917. These reforms reversed the anticlerical policies that prevailed for more than a century. In the same year the “Ley de Asociaciones Religiosas y Culto Publico.” (Lawof Religious Associations and Public Worship)[1] was published. Since the restrictions against the church were removed, official diplomatic relations between Mexico and the Vatican were re-established.
These constitutional reforms originated from a debate that started at the end of the eighties. They removed most of the anticlerical norms originated after the Revolution and the liberalspirit of the Constitution of 1857 returned. Many people thought that these reforms would end the tension between the Mexican State and the Catholic Church. However, these policies are still causing serious disputes between these entities.[2] The Law of Religious Associations and Public Worship gave more liberty to religious associations in Mexico but the Mexican government imposed variousrestrictions to these organizations. Nonetheless, with these new policies religious liberty in Mexico is guaranteed.[3]
The debate is no longer based on a changing position of the Mexican government to apply or not the anticlerical law because, as mentioned, religious liberty is now constitutionally guaranteed. Instead the debate is focused on trying to draw the role of the Catholic Church and thegrowing minority churches in Mexico. Many areas of Mexico are struggling with religious violence because minority churches, especially Protestant groups are persecuted from local Catholic majorities.[4] Since the Catholic Church was force to remain silent for almost a century, now it is willing to use its new granted rights and political influence. It is fighting for a privileged position becauseit claims to be the most influential religious group, and denies the government’s authority to regulate religion.[5] Similarly, the Catholic hierarchy does not accept the restrictions to churches on education and mass media.[6]
Secular theory predicted that religiosity would slowly come to an end from social and private life with the accumulation of scientific knowledge and the growth ofsecular bureaucracies. These theories insisted that the latter would replace religions as the preferred institutional means of guaranteeing public welfare. However, the last two decades of the twentieth century witnessed an explosion of religious fundamentalism—Islamic, Christian and Jewish—which in turn is a serious threat to secularization theory.[7] This begs a question: Why has the influence ofreligion reemerged in the political arena in different countries?
Mexico offers an interesting case for analysis since it has experienced dramatic changes in church-state relations over the past 200 hundred years. Past authoritarian governments had the tendency to keep a substantial distance from churches because they believed they were intruding on the state’s interests. To deal with thisproblem the central feature of Mexican government was “corporativism.”[8] In which the government constantly regulated religious organizations behavior, either by controlling the internal workings of the Catholic Church, or by limiting its external social influence. “Mexico, despite seeming shifts in policies, promulgation of new laws and constitutions, and violent swings from bloody conflicts topeaceful accommodation, a corporatist concept of the state has pervaded the thinking of the leadership both political and religious.” [9]
If the governing PRI (Partido Revoluvionario Institutcional) utilized a combination of “appeasement, cooptation, and repression of the discontented masses”[10]; the central feature of Mexican government was “corporativism”[11]; and the constitutional...
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