Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 29.djvu/29

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19
AN ECONOMIC STUDY OF MEXICO.

secular purposes; and the members of every religious society, from the Jesuits to the Sisters of Charity, who served in the hospitals or taught in the schools, were banished and summarily sent out of the country. And so vigorously and severely is the policy of subjugating the ecclesiastical to the civil authority, which Juarez inaugurated in 1857, still carried out, that no convent or monastery now openly exists in Mexico; and no priest or sister, or any ecclesiastic, can walk the streets in any distinctive costume, or take part in any religious parade or procession; and this in towns and cities where, twenty years ago or less, the life of a foreigner or skeptic who did not promptly kneel in the streets at the "procession of the host," was imperiled. Again, while Catholic worship is still permitted in the cathedrals and in a sufficient number of other churches, it is clearly understood that all of these structures, and the land upon which they stand, are absolutely the property of the Government, liable to be sold and converted to other uses at any time, and that the officiating clergy are only "tenants at will." Even the ringing of the church-bells is regulated by law. All those rites, furthermore, which the Catholic Church has always "classed as among her holy sacraments and exclusive privileges, and the possession of which has constituted the chief source of her power over society, are also now regulated by civil law. The civil authority registers births, performs the marriage ceremony, and provides for the burial of the dead; and while the Church marriage ceremonies are not prohibited to those who desire them, they are legally superfluous, and alone have no validity whatever." (See "Report on Church and State in Mexico to the State Department," by Consul-General Strother, December, 1883.)

Such an achievement as has been here briefly chronicled, was in every respect analogous to, and was as momentous to Mexico as the abolition of slavery was to the United States. Like slavery in the latter country, the Catholic Church had become, as it were, incorporated into the fundamental institutions of Mexico since its first invasion and conquest by the Spaniards. It had the sole management of all the educational institutions and influences of the country; it held, in the opinion of a great majority of the people, the absolute control of the keys of heaven and hell; it had immense wealth, mainly in the form of money ready to loan, buildings in the cities, and haciendas or estates in the country, and all the influences which wealth brings. And, even when Mexico achieved her independence, the influence of the Church was so little impaired by the accompanying political and social convulsions, that the national motto or inscription which the new state placed upon its seal, its arms, and its banners, was "Religion, Union, and Liberty."

Except, therefore, for the occurrence of a great civil war, which convulsed the whole nation; and in which the Church, after favoring a foreign invasion, and placing itself in opposition to all the patriotic,