Monday, February 20, 2012

Mexican Catholic Church urges faithful to vote in accord with "reflective conscience"

Election 2012 analysis - "The Christian faithful also have the right to demand that those candidates who seek their vote make it clear that they support true religious freedom, which freedom is not just for ministers of the Gospel, but rather is a fundamental human right to which all are entitled." -- Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico City, Feb. 2012

About a century ago, Mexico underwent a violent revolution. One of the primary targets was the Roman Catholic Church, which was viewed by many as firmly entrenched on the side of governmental authoritarianism and centuries-old exploitation of the country's impoverished masses. Among the byproducts of the violent civil war was Mexico's Constitution of 1917, which was loaded up with so-called "anti-clerical" provisions. One of those is Article 130, still in force, which forbids the Church from involving itself in the political affairs of the nation, or commenting on them in a "notorious" way (legalese for "public").

Of course, that hasn't stopped Mexican priests and Church leaders from periodically speaking out, any more than similar restrictions have in the U.S. (North of the border there is no constitutional prohibition against religious officials addressing public issues, since the First Amendment expressly protects and guarantees everyone such speech. But because most American churches enjoy virtual immunity from taxation at every level, separate legal rules require them -- at least in theory -- to remain silent on matters of purely political discourse, such as the endorsement of particular parties or candidates).

In a clear example of continuing tension between church and state in a country which remains overwhelmingly Catholic (about 80% nominally), a nasty war of words erupted in 2011 when a Church official in Mexico City urged the faithful to vote against Mexico's Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), generally viewed as the leftist option in this country. The Federal District's PRD governor, Marcelo Ebrard, loudly cried foul and reminded Church officials of their legal obligations under Article 130. And in 2006, the now former archbishop of Guadalajara supposedly lobbied U.S. officials (during a meeting with them in Rome), to work against PRD's presidential candidate that year, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. López Obrador is of course PRD's standard bearer again this year. The first post just below deals with that interesting allegation of church intrusion into state affairs.

The Church continues to make its voice heard on critcal contemporary issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, which in all fairness have a mix of political, religious and social componentry. Last week the country's largest Catholic archdiocese, led by Mexico's Primate, Cardinal Norberto Rivera (an intense traditionalist), announced the publication on its website of an electronic voter's guide, designed to "orient the faithful" to the major parties, candidates and political issues in 2012. A prefatory statement says that politicians often campaign against "justice and truth," and that the Catholic Church has the duty and the right to defend the principles upon which it was founded and exists. The statement urges all Mexican Catholics, regardless of party affiliation, to "support those candidates who favor truly human values, who place the welfare of citizens at the center of their political proposals, above mere partisan interests and doctrinaire ideology."

"It is the duty of the leaders of God’s flock to orient the faithful with respect to the religious, moral and social implications of political ideas, especially those which contradict the teachings of the Church, with the ultimate objective being that political options are exercised in a moral and just way,” says the voter’s guide. Among other important factors, according to the Church statement, “A vote exercised in conscience is one which supports policies directed towards the promotion and strengthening of the family – consisting of marriage between a man and a woman” – and fighting crime while maintaining adherence to “moral and civic values,” coupled with the diligent "protection of vulnerable groups."

The guide urges the faithful to be particularly "alert" (a buzz word within the context of the statement) to "those politicians and parties who have promised to respect fundamental human rights, including the right to life from the moment of conception until its termination by natural process." This could well be construed as a trasparenlty favorable reference to Mexico’s National Action Party (PAN), whose 2012 nominee is Josefina Vázquez Mota (to my knowledge, Vázquez Mota has not issued her own policy statement on abortion).

"Faithful Catholic Christians must bear in mind that it is not morally permissible to select parties or candidates who promote false 'rights and liberties' which attack the teachings of Holy Scripture, and the traditions and doctrine of the Church," admonishes the guide.

The voter's guide also contains this powerful statement: "The Christian faithful have the right to demand that those candidates who seek their vote make it clear that they support true religious freedom, which freedom is not just for ministers of the Gospel, but rather is a fundamental human right to which all are entitled."

None of Mexico's three major political parties or presidential candidates have responded or commented. All are self-professed Roman Catholics.

Posts dealing with the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico:

Will Mexico's Catholic Church try to stop the 2012 leftist presidential candidate?:
Mexican archbishop says Los Zetas rule Durango and Zacatecas:
Controversial "conspiracy" Cardinal resigns:
Mexico is losing Catholics:
Mexican Supreme Court rules in abortion case:
Was the Pope behind Mexico's abortion ruling?:
Abortion debate likely to be revisited by Mexico's highest court:
Same-sex marriage upheld by Mexico's Supreme Court - on state-by-state basis:
Mexican Supreme Court overturns polygraph, drug test requirements for political candidates:

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