Project Canterbury

Mexico: A Handbook on the Missions of the Episcopal Church.

By Frank Whittington Creighton, S.T.D.
Suffragan Bishop of Long Island
Sometime Missionary Bishop of Mexico

New York: The National Council of the Protestant Episcopal Church, 1936.

Chapter I. Mexico.

MEXICO is one of the most beautiful and interesting countries on the face of the earth. South of the 1136 miles of the Rio Grande and the imaginary line of 675 miles extending to the Pacific Coast, our neighboring republic stretches away to Guatamala and British Honduras, a great area of 757,907 square miles. Running north and south through the country there is an immense elevated plateau of volcanic origin. On either side are mountain ranges from which lateral cordilleras occasionally extend. From the central plateau the land slopes away on either side to the ocean, through a temperate zone, to a low tropical region along the coast.

There are very few rivers in Mexico but many ravines down which torrents rush in the rainy season. Strangely enough there are very few lakes. In the Valley of Mexico, which is a great saucer on the central plateau, there was once a large lake. This, however, has been drained off. All that remain are the canals at Xochimilco and the shallow, brackish lake northeast of the city. The City of Mexico was built on an island in this lake. On the border between the States of Jalisco and Michoacan is Mexico's largest lake, lovely Chapala, seventy miles long and twenty-three miles wide. Some of its shoreline is sheer mountain precipice; much of it, however, is sloping beach lined with pretentious homes and cottages for the vacationist.

Visitors to Mexico, as a rule, make the City of Mexico their headquarters. Every approach to this beautiful and interesting metropolis has its peculiar fascination. The road from Vera Cruz is one of unsurpassed scenic marvels until the central mesa is reached. An electric train winds over miles and miles of towering mountains, past snow-capped [3/4] volcanos, through gorges and tunnels and over deep ravines. Far below may be seen quaint Indian villages which appear and reappear again and again during the upward climb.

From Tampico to San Luis Potesi the train winds through the marvelous canyon of Tamasopo with its rushing streams and waterfalls. The routes from the west through Guadalajara or the trip from Acapulco and Mazatlan are a series of ever-changing panoramas which are characteristic of this land of scenic wonders.

From the capital city, forty miles away to the southeast, the great volcanoes Popocatepetl and Ixtacihuatl may be clearly seen. Within easy reach of the city are the so-called floating gardens at Xochimilco which was once the capital of an ancient Indian kingdom. There one may journey for miles through the flower-lined canals on a flat boat punted by an Indian in spotless white. Thirty miles further to the south and over the mountains which rim the Valley of Mexico is Cuernavaca with its soft and soothing climate. [4/5] Here Cortez built a palace. Here Maximilian and Carlota withdrew for rest. And here Dwight W. Morrow, when he was the American Ambassador, had his vacation home. Here, too, missionaries are sent from the altitudes to be refreshed for their work.

Nature has dealt graciously with Mexico and lavished upon her her richest gifts; for not only is the surface a thing of beauty and capable of producing fruit and vegetables and flowers of the temperate and torrid zones, but deep in her mountains arc gold and silver and copper, and beneath her coastal plains are great pools of oil.


The origin of the Mexican is in doubt (the first Archbishop of Mexico burned all the records), but students are agreed that there are Asiatic features and characteristics which justify the assumption that in the long-distant [5/6] past they crossed the Aleutian Isthmus, and made their way to Mexico along the western coast of North America. It is unnecessary to go farther back than the Toltecs who occupied the country surrounding the present City of Mexico. Undoubtedly they attained civilization and built the city of Teotihuacan, thirty miles from the capital. At the time of the Conquest the Aztecs were in possession of all this region, and had conquered many surrounding tribes. On the Peninsula of Yucatan the Mayans had built up a remarkable civilization, the remains of which archaeologists are bringing to light. On the mainland the Oaxacans dwelt in the region around Mitla and to the north the peaceful Otomis had established themselves. Still farther north the warlike Yaquis continue to hold their own despite attempts of various governments to dispossess them. The descendants of all these nations are a part of the Mexico of today.

Many languages and dialects are spoken although Spanish is known and used, at least to some extent, by practically all. The intermingling of the Indian and Spanish blood after the Conquest has produced an enormous mestizo population so that there are today in Mexico about one million creoles, i.e., those of European descent born on the American continent, about seven million Indians, and about eight million mestizos. The process of intermingling still goes on, and the Constitution of Mexico recognizes no distinctions. All are Mexicans.

The people of Mexico present greater contrasts than are likely to be found anywhere else. There are vast numbers of illiterate people, living under primitive conditions and completely out of touch with civilizing influences. On the other hand, there is a small minority of highly cultured and intellectual people. Various influences in the past have retarded the emergence of the less favored ones into a normal position in their country's society. At the present time there is a decided effort being made to level up and to raise the social standards of the mestizos and the Indians.

[7] It has been said with some degree of truth, that in Mexico one can discover representatives of every period in the development of the human race from the medieval to the present. Even in such centers as Mexico City and Guadalajara tremendous contrasts are seen on all sides. On vacant lots adjacent to palatial homes are little huts in which Indians live in the most primitive fashion. Well-dressed people rub elbows with ragged indigenas. Intelligence and illiteracy, brilliance and stupidity, wealth and poverty, capacity and dullness, are side by side. Mexico has before her a great task of social adjustment. It is to her credit 'hat she recognizes it and is attempting it.


When the restless hidalgo Hernando Conez decided to leave Cuba and extend his quest for gold and fortune to the mainland, he interrupted the even flow of events in ancient Mexico and entered upon a conquest whose results [7/9] gave new racial, cultural, and social characteristics to the conquered land. Thus the prevailing influence in modern Mexico is Latin, but Latin with Indian character.

Many factors entered into the situation created by the Spanish Conquest which must be given consideration along with the insatiable longing and untiring search for gold. Our forefathers in North America came to a sparsely inhabited country and settled it. The Spaniard came to Mexico to find himself confronted with an enormous population, and civilized groups. Mexico was not settled but conquered. The aim was not to make permanent homes for the newcomers, but to drain out the riches of the land. The desire was not to be let alone, to cultivate the soil, but to take from the people, at all costs, the treasure in their possession.

Mexico was conquered through a strange combination of bravery, avarice, religious fervor, cruelty, subtlety, sacrifice, and deceit. The Aztec had come into his power by a series of conquests which left wounds rankling in the hearts of the conquered, so that it was not difficult for Cortez to rouse a desire for vengeance and to play tribe against tribe or to bring into Mexico City, with his own little army of Spaniards, a far greater number of perfidious Indian allies. Nor were the results all bad.

However much one may sympathize with Montezuma and Cuauhtemoc, the brave defenders of the Indian Aztec capital, nothing could justify the cruel and inhuman rites and human sacrifice, which were a part of their religion. The religion which every Spaniard of that period (no matter what his real motive might be) was determined to impose upon the conquered was ethically and spiritually a benediction. Whatever subsequent methods became, or however low in all priestly characteristics the subsequent clerical influx, no one can deny that among the first priests who came into Mexico were sincere, high-minded, and Godly men.

[10] The Roman Church must be given due credit for its great part in the cultural and social influences brought to bear upon the conquered Mexican people. They were fruitful soil for the implanting of concepts with which they were unfamiliar but for which they were ready. It must not be forgotten that they had developed an advanced type of civilization with centralized governments. They had a codified system of law, a unique and impressive architecture. They were skilled in the arts and had advanced to a remarkable knowledge of mathematics and astronomy.

Within a short time after the conquest printing was introduced. The University of Mexico, the first on this continent, was founded in 1551. A money basis of exchange was instituted instead of barter. A mint was established whose product, Mexican dollars, not only served as coinage for Mexico but served as the basis of exchange between the New World and the Orient where today in some parts, they remain the standard.

In these and other respects the Conquest was a benefit to the land. Unfortunately, however, the Indian's welfare was a matter of but scant consideration. He was a pawn, a thing to be used, and eventually he became a mere slave of his conqueror. He was looked upon with scorn, and not regarded as worth considering as a member of the society which grew up under the viceroys.

It is perfectly natural, then, that the great masses should want to free themselves from their Spanish conquerors and oppressors. After many abortive efforts a movement for freedom crystallized under the influence of the Indian priest Hidalgo. There were grievances centuries old. Moreover there was a deliberate effort on the part of the mother country to keep Mexico, and not merely the Indian, in a position of productive dependence. Imposts, duties, fees, monopolies, charges, commissions, royalties, tribute, licenses, were laid upon every person. Bancroft says that towards the end of the colonial period there were more than sixty [10/11] distinct methods of extracting revenue from New Spain for the King's coffer. Industry and vice, religion and crime, were all grist to the royal mill. The King's income from New Spain, alone, averaged during the colonial period just under seven million dollars annually. In 1804, it amounted to nearly two-thirds of the revenue of Spain.""

In 1557, Bartolomé de Medina, a miner at Pachuca, discovered the amalgamation process with quicksilver that revolutionized silver mining. Immediately the Crown reserved the quicksilver monopoly to the mines in Spain and quicksilver extraction in New Spain was forbidden. [Ernest Gruening, Mexico and Its Heritage.] It is no wonder that there was some sympathy with the Indian uprising among the mestizos and even some creoles. Hidalgo found himself at the head of eighty thousand men and might have succeeded but that the creoles and mestizos feared Indian dominance.

This first attempt at liberation failed distinctly when the Church threw the weight of her power against Hidalgo and excommunicated him. He was executed after being in the field but six months. He had ordered the emancipation of the slaves, abolished tribute, and proclaimed the restoration of the land to the Indians. Such a program was feared both by the creoles and the Church, who united to suppress the uprising. Hidalgo is revered today in Mexico as the apostle-zealot and his picture is in the homes of thousands of Indian people. He lighted the fires of liberty and fanned the flames. In the stifling atmosphere of racial intolerance and politico-religious opposition, they burned but a short time.

The torch was grasped by José Maria Morelos, a mestizo priest. He was a statesmanlike leader and advanced the movement so far that in 1813, he was able to call together a congress, which on November 6 of that year declared the independence of Mexico from Spain. In 1815, Morelos was captured. The Inquisition declared him a heretic, a [11/13] propagator of heresy, pursuer and disturber of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, profaner of the holy sacraments, schismatic, lascivious, a hypocrite, irreconcilable enemy of Christianity, traitor to God, King, and Pope. He was released to the secular arm for execution.

The revolutionary cause now fell into the hands of an ambitious and unprincipled leader by the name of Iturbide. He received the support of the hierarchy and the conservatives, and proclaimed a constitutional monarchy upon the Plan of Iguala. Caste distinctions were abolished, as well as discrimination between European and American born. Roman Catholicism was made the national religion, and none other tolerated. Independence was accomplished but certainly not the kind Hidalgo had died to procure. Independence brought no shadow of liberty and no benefit to the country. Iturbide proclaimed himself Emperor. Four Bishops assisted at his enthronement in the Cathedral, escorting him to his throne and anointing him with sacred oil. The new masters were the creoles. The Indian was as badly off as before. Fortunately the Empire of Iturbide lasted but eleven months.

With its fall there emerged on the scene a former royalist officer, an opportunist and self-seeker named Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, destined to plague Mexico for many years. He was successively Dictator, President, General in the field, and unscrupulous politician. During the period of his ascendency there occurred, in 1847-48, the War with the United States. The Treaty of Guadaloupe-Hidalgo which brought hostilities to a close, deprived Mexico of thousands of square miles of territory extending as far north as Wyoming.

The years following the signing of the peace treaty were years of turmoil and upset until Ignacio Comonfort was able to take aggressive measures against Santa Anna, to send him into exile and assume the presidency in 1855. Comonfort was extremely fortunate in having as his close adviser [13/14] and member of his cabinet, the Zapoteca Indian, Benito Juarez. Born in the mountains of Oaxaca, of poor parents, knowing no language save his Indian dialect until he was twelve years old, Juarez by the very force of his magnificent character became Mexico's real liberator and constitutional President. He first studied with a bookbinder by whom he was employed in the State of Oaxaca, then in a clerical school and finally took his bachelor's degree in law at the University of Oaxaca. He was successively civil and revenue Judge of his city, secretary to the Governor of his State, a prisoner for his liberal views, Deputy to Congress, member of the Cabinet of Comonfort, and President of the Republic.

Under Comonfort he secured the enactment of the Ley Juarez, regulating judicial procedure and abolishing military and ecclesiastical courts with their obvious evils. Tremendous clerical opposition and pressure induced Comonfort to repudiate him and cause him to be imprisoned in [14/15] Mexico City. He afterward saw his mistake and released him, but the forces of reaction were now in control.

Juarez fled to Queretaro where he was installed by the Liberals as constitutional President. Here he promulgated the Constitution of 1857, giving leadership to the long struggle known as the War of Reform.

That his determination to save his country from the exploitation of the Clerical-Conservative Party might be clearly understood he issued his Laws of Reform providing for religious toleration. curtailment of the power of the clergy, the nationalization of Church property and the dissolution of religious orders, civil marriage and the complete separation of Church and State. The issue was now clearly joined. Fully 200,000 Mexicans were engaged in bloody conflict ending in the complete defeat of the reactionary Church party.

Juarez established his capital in Mexico City in 1861. [15/16] Then he made a major error. He suspended, for two years, all payments on foreign debts, and Santa Anna in his extravagant career had contracted many. To England alone Mexico owed fifty million dollars. The United States was engaged in the War between the States. The Monroe Doctrine was in abeyance. France, England, and Spain, all apprehensive of Mexico under Juarez and smarting under the sting of debt repudiation, all free to meddle in American affairs unmolested, were persuaded by exiled Mexican Bishops and politicians and papal intrigue, to offer the Crown of Mexico as Emperor to the unfortunate Austrian Archduke Maximilian.

The French Army entered the City of Mexico in July, 1863, and the short-lived Empire began. Poor Maximilian showed some liberal tendencies and was promptly abandoned and harassed by the hierarchy. Mr. Seward, American Secretary of State, demanded of France that the occupation end. The French troops were withdrawn. Napoleon III withheld financial support. Carlota, the Empress, lost her reason while pleading with the Pope for succor. All North Mexico was in the hands of Juarez. With all these things against him, Maximilian attempted a campaign against the liberal forces, moving his headquarters to Queretero. Without realizing it he had entered a city entirely surrounded by the Republicans. He was captured, court-martialed, and shot. The Republic under Juarez was restored in 1867, and the Constitution of 1857 was made effective. Juarez was reelected President in 1871, but he unfortunately died the following year.

The next great figure to dominate Mexican history was Porfirio Diaz, also a Oaxacan, and the close friend and supporter of Juarez. As an officer in the Liberal Army he had shown exceptional courage in the Battle of Puebla against the French invaders. He was reelected President many times. During his long tenure of office he reformed the finances of his country, improved its credit, organized free [16/17] schools, reorganized the Army, rid the country of bandits, and completed the great drainage canal which carries off the accumulated waters of the Valley of Mexico from the mountains to the sea.

During this brilliant period oil was discovered in Mexico, and oil fields developed with British and American capital. Railroad lines were surveyed and built, manned almost entirely by Americans. Foreign capital poured into the development of the mineral and agricultural resources of the country. Great haciendas, empires in themselves, were owned by foreign interests and the Church.

Brilliant as it was, this period is referred to by Mexicans as that of the foreign dominance. The Mexican was a rather pathetic figure in his own land. Toward the end of his era Diaz became more and more a conservative, and less and less interested in the plight of the great mass of underprivileged Mexicans, especially the Indians. In 1910, the cause of liberty was espoused by Francisco Madera. His call to Diaz to resign was upheld by millions who looked upon him as their liberator and savior. He entered Mexico City, June 7, 1911. Diaz meanwhile had resigned and was in exile.

From 1910 until 1917, the country was torn by revolution and factional disturbances. Emeliano Zapata succeeded in bringing an agrarian army into Mexico City. Pancho Villa in the North at the head of a nondescript army of disgruntled men was a menace to the revolutionary cause until he was defeated by General Alvaro Obregon in the battle of Celaya.

The aspirations of the leaders of the present Revolution, which is regarded as a continuing movement, are embodied in a Constitution adopted in 1917, while Venustiano Carranza was President. The disorganized condition of the country continued, however, until Obregon was elected President in 1920, when some semblance of order was restored. Efforts to enforce the Constitution and give form [17/18] to revolutionary philosophy were continued with varying degrees of success by Plutarco Galles who succeeded Ohregon as President, and by the Presidents, provisional and actual, who have since served.

The aims of the Revolution as set forth in the Constitution are laudable.

1. Agrarian Reform. Mexico is essentially an agrarian country. There is very little industry as compared with other nations of the same size or importance. The land, however, through the centuries had fallen into the hands of large owners, many of them foreigners. Great areas were owned by the Church and hacendados of the creole class. On the haciendas the work was done by peons, mostly Indians and mestizos, who lived in a feudal relationship to their patrons. Life for them was a dreary, debt-ridden, and hopeless experience. Madero challenged them to fight for freedom. Zapata attempted to release them by direct action. The makers of the Constitution of 1917 sought to restore the land to the people by legislation.

2. Education. The Constitution also attempts to relieve the nation of the stigma of illiteracy. The number of illiterates before the Revolution has been estimated at about eighty per cent. Prior to the Constitution of 1857, education was entirely in the hands of the Church. During Diaz 's time an attempt was made to establish universal education, but by the end of his tenure the attempt had become very feeble. There were few rural schools and those in the cities fell far below modern educational standards. Mexico was almost an illiterate nation. The Constitution removes education from all ecclesiastical influence and makes it a State function.

3. Mexico for the Mexicans. A feature of the constitutional enactment which excites much opposition is the provision which conserves the national resources to the Mexican people. During the years, particularly during Diaz's time, practically all subsoil rights had been granted to [18/19] foreigners. And for the very good reason that the Mexican has neither the capital nor the capacity to develop them. Mexican attempts to mine and produce oil have generally ended in failure. Foreign capital and resourcefulness have been welcomed. The result is that the Mexican works for the foreign investor in his own land in an inferior position, and sees the profits of his own soil go abroad.

The new spirit engendered by the Revolution has chafed under this condition and the result has been constant conflict threatening to involve foreign nations. The development of the Mexican natural resources is still in the hands of the foreigner, but the laws of Mexico impose restrictions and provide for a degree of regulation which has added materially to her income and has enormously increased the Mexican personnel employed in responsible positions by the mining and oil companies.

4. Social Reform. The Constitution is unique in its efforts to raise the social standard. It departs from principle and reaches into the lives of employer and employee in specific directions for social welfare. The value and ultimate efficacy of such attempts have yet to be proved. Legal enactment is a cold substitute for an enlightened social conscience, and that has yet to be created and its value recognized. While it is still perfectly legal for thousands to gather in the bull rings and see helpless horses maimed and cruelly torn, it is hardly consistent to attempt to say how many cubic feet of air a worker must have in a factory, or how much his employer owes him for the time when he was out on a totally unnecessary strike.

5. Then, the Constitution has much to say about Religion, and that is our immediate concern. The Episcopal Church in Mexico has had to conform to unusual religious restrictions, and carry on in the face of conditions which probably do not exist in any other missionary district. Before we consider its record or its work we might with profit examine Christianity in Mexico.


The Christian religion in Mexico began with the landing of Cortez and his army. The preaching of the Gospel, the uprooting of idolatry and the propagation of the Faith were the ostensible motives of the Spanish Conquest in the New World. However much subsequent cruelty may have characterized the impact of conqueror upon the conquered, whatever ruthlessness the desire for gold--the real motive--may have seemed to justify, the avowed purpose of the Conquest was conversion. Three years after he landed Cortez, who had declared his own purpose in coming to the New World was "to get gold," urged that the clergy sent out from Spain be of "exemplary and virtuous life." The Indians had to be converted. And they were.

The early clergy made every effort to stop the cruelty of the soldiers and to prevent the rapid enslavement of the Indians. Outstanding among them was Fray Bartolemé de las Casas, "the Apostle to the Indians," a brave and courageous priest, whose name will always be revered in Mexico. There were many others just as brave, as sincere, and as good.

Conversion was accomplished en masse. The preparation for entrance into Christianity was negligible. The language barrier in itself prevented any adequate comprehension of the new religion. Yet there were 600,000 baptisms in the sixteen years immediately following the Conquest. The process of conversion and baptism has continued unabated through the years until virtually every infant born in Mexico is baptized even though his parents may have but a faint idea of real Christianity.

In 1530, only ten years after the Conquest, a bishopric was created in Mexico City with Fray Juan de Zumarraga as first Bishop. In his zeal Zumirraga began by burning a Mexican chieftain at the stake for idolatry. In order that he might completely stamp out native paganism he gathered together in a great heap ancient picture writings which he [21/22] had collected from all quarters and burned them, because he regarded them as magic scrolls and symbols of a pestilent superstition which must be exterminated. By this act all the records of ancient Mexico were destroyed. In 1545, his bishopric was raised to an archbishopric, the most important one in the New World.

The Inquisition was established in Mexico in 1571. It began its work by burning "twenty-one pestilent Lutherans" as an act of faith. It was active in Mexico for two-and-ahalf centuries and was not suppressed until 1820, long after its activities had ceased in other parts of the world. The great power of the Roman Church, acquired during the colonial period, has enabled it not only to mold the spiritual belief of the people but also to control their education, to direct or thwart their political aspirations and to shape national policies. With such tremendous influence it has been enabled to acquire great wealth and to enjoy the income from huge estates in all parts of the country.

From the time of the Conquest until quite recent times, Romanism has been enforced, and although a large percentage of the Indians still may be considered semi-pagan, the forms and tenets of the dominant faith, sometimes faintly comprehended and largely adulterated with superstitions and practices of pagan origin, are universally held.

The Indian love for symbolism was early satisfied by the position of importance assumed by Our Lady of Remedios, an image brought over by one of Cortez's soldiers and accredited with the success of his flight from the City of Mexico when his purpose to capture the city was discovered by its Indian inhabitants. Our Lady of Remedios eventually came to be regarded as the patron of the Spanish upper classes in Mexico as the Indian interest in her gradually waned. Many times she was brought into the city from her beautiful shrine when there was drought. When insurrection broke out she was given a uniform, and a general's baton was laid at her feet.

[23] The patron of the Indian is the Virgin of Guadaloupe. The story is that an Indian boy on his way to receive Christian doctrine was suddenly visited by the Virgin who bade him tell his Bishop to erect a shrine for her. The Bishop was incredulous, but when the boy returned with the picture of the Virgin on his tunic he was convinced. The shrine was erected on the site of the pre-Conquest pagan temple of Tonantzin, the goddess of earth and corn.

When Hidalgo raised his standard of revolt and enlisted the Indians in the cause of independence in 1810, he made the Virgin of Guadaloupe his patron. Since then she has become more than ever the special protector of the Indians. Her shrine is visited by thousands every year, some of whom make long and expensive journeys to do her homage.

It has been said that Virgin has been played against Virgin in the face of shifting political allegiances. The fact is that Remedios went into eclipse with the waning of Spanish influence and that Guadaloupe is revered by the Indian masses.

By the middle of the nineteenth century the Church was dominant in Mexican life, the richest, most powerful, and most conservative factor in the nation. Liberal groups have always felt that she thwarted their efforts and that her interest was in herself rather than in the people, especially the great masses of illiterate Indians.

In 1857, after Santa Anna had been driven into exile, the Liberal Constitution of Juarez stripped the Church of many of her privileges and nationalized all the property she held. The Reform Laws promulgated two years later went even further in reducing religious influence. During the period of Diaz the Church regained much of her lost prestige and position. Once again education was largely in her hands and her influence with the Government was paramount. When the agrarian revolution at the beginning of this century was successful enough to permit the adoption of the Constitution of 1917, religion was regarded as an anti-revolutionary, [23/24] reactionary force. The new Constitution was so severe in its restrictions that unceasing strife between Church and State has resulted.

Article 24 of the new Constitution says:

Every man is free to profess the religious belief he desires, and to practice the ceremonies, devotions and other acts of his sect, either in the temples or in his home, when such practice does not constitute a transgression of the laws. Every public religious act should be celebrated, inside the temples, which arc at all tunes under the supervision of the authorities.

While this article requires that religious acts shall be celebrated inside the churches, and places them under the supervision of the authorities it also declares that every man is free to profess and practice his religion provided he does not transgress the laws.

Article 130 of the Constitution, however, imposes so many restrictions on religion of all kinds that any religious work in Mexico is carried on with the greatest difficulty.

It says in part:

1. The law recognizes no corporate existence in the religious associations known as Churches.

2. Each State Legislature may determine the maximum number of ministers of religious creeds according to its appraisal of the needs of each locality.

3. It is necessary for the minister of any religious creed in Mexico to be Mexican by birth.

4. No minister may criticise either publicly or privately the laws of the country, the authorities, or the Government in general.

5. No clergyman has the right to vote nor is he eligible to office, nor may he assemble for political purposes.

6. No new temples for public worship may be opened without the consent of the Department of Interior.

7. No religious publication any comment upon any affairs of the Government.

Article 27 also provides that religious societies, known as Churches, of any belief whatsoever, may under no circumstances acquire, possess, or administrate real estate or properties, nor mortgages on the same. The temples destined for [24/25] public worship are the property of the nation which will designate which shall continue to be set aside for religious purposes.

Many of the provisions of the Constitution of 1917 are to be found in the Constitution of 1857 which had fallen into abeyance during the Diaz régime. The Constitution of 1857 forbade irrevocable contracts including monastic vows. It forbade civil or religious corporations from acquiring real estate. It gave Federal authorities exclusive power to exercise in matters of religious worship and ecclesiastical forms such intervention as the law authorized.

Insofar as religious provisions were concerned, no immediate effort was made to enforce the new Constitution by regulatory or enforcement acts. Despite this many people felt that the religious provisions of the Constitution were applicable immediately upon enactment, others felt that they were intended merely as a warning. In the state of attendant uncertainty religion was at a disadvantage although no special effort was made to curtail it. In January, 1926, however, a statement was issued signed by all the Archbishops and Bishops of the Roman Church, protesting against transgressions against religious liberty and the rights of the Church. In a pastoral letter issued on April 21, the episcopate set forth specifically twenty-four objections to the Constitution.

An organization of Roman laymen known as the National League of Defense of Religious Liberty began a campaign to paralyze the social and economic life of the nation by boycotting everything save necessities. President Galles replied by issuing a pronouncement on July 2, anticipating an enforcement act making the provisions of the Constitution having to do with religion applicable. Facing the certainty of action by the next Congress, the Roman Church on August 1, 1926, withdrew from the Republic, practically placed in under an interdict and forbade services of any kind to be conducted by the priests in the churches.

[26] The Congress which met in the winter of 1926, adopted laws enforcing Article 130 of the Constitution. Much to the surprise and satisfaction of the English-speaking people there was appended to the new law a series of transitory articles one of which provided for the services of a foreign clergyman to his own nationals for a period of six years, thus making it possible for our Church to carry on its work among the British and American residents.

In 1929, through the good offices of Ambassador Morrow, a committee met in Mexico City composed of representatives of the Government and of the Roman Church, which resulted in a modus vivendi effective June 21, 1929, which permitted the reopening of the churches provided the law be obeyed. Since that time there have been serious differences between the Government and the Roman hierarchy, resulting in acts of reprisal by the Government, including the rigid enforcement of the provisions of the Constitution having to do with religious education. The whole question is still in abeyance with lines tightly drawn. While not directly concerned, all non-Roman Churches in Mexico have been affected by this age-long quarrel. In the main the clergymen of the various missions in Mexico have found it possible to register with the Government and to obey the law without serious interruption of their work. This is not true, however, of mission schools, many of which have been closed because they have been unable to reorganize to meet the requirements of the Government.

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