Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/624

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MORELOS


566


MORELOS


Congress assembled at Chilpancingo ami there passed the (looree: "That dependence upon the Spanish 'I'hrone has eeasod forever and been dissolved. That the said Conprcss neither jirofesses nor recognizes any religion but the Catholic, nor will it permit or tolerate the practice, public or private, of any other; that it will protect with all its power, and will watch over, the purity of the Faith and its dogmas and the main- tenance of the regular bodies". From Chilpancingo he turned towards his native Vallailolid, which was then held by the royalist leaders Iturbide and Llano; driven back there he moved on Chupio. At Punuiriin his brave comi)anion Matamoros was captured, and was shot at Valladolid, 3 February, 1814. These re- verses were followed by the recapture of Oaxaca by the royalist troops. The independent Congress of Chilpancingo had removed to Apatzingan, where it promulgated the Constitution of 22 October, 1S14. Then it ditrrniined to remove again from Apatzingan to Tchuaciln, iMorclos accompanied it to protect it, and engaged in the Battle of Tesmalaca, where he was made prisoner.

Having been taken to Mexico City, on 22 Novem- ber, 1S1.5, proceedings were instituted against him by both the military and the ecclesiastical tribunal, and an advocate was appointed for him. The principal charges again.st him were: (1) Having committed the crime of tre:uson, failing in his fealty to the king, by promoting independence and causing it to be pro- claimed in the Congress assembled at Chilpancingo. Morelos answered to this that, as there was no king in Spain (Ferdinand VII having been taken to P'rance, a prisoner), he could not have been false to the king; and that, as to the declaration of independence, of the said Congress, he had concurred in it by his vote be- cause he believed that the king w'ould not return from France and that, even if he should return, he had ren- dered himself unworthy of fealty by handing over Spain and its colonies to France like a flock of sheep. (2) Having ordered a number of prisoners to be shot. He declared that he had done this in obedience to orders sent first by the Junta at Zitacuaro and then by theCongress at Chil)iancingo, by way of reprisals, more- over, because the viceregal Government had not ac- cepted the exchange of prisoners proposed instead of General Matamoros. (3) Having ignored the excom- munication fulminated against him and the Independ- ents by the bishops and the Inquisition. He declared that he had not con.sitlered these excommunications valid, believing that they could not be imposed upon an independent nation, such as the insurgents must be considered to constitute, so long as they (the sen- tences) were not those of a pope or an oecumenical council. (4) Having i'elel)ratc<l Mass during the time of the Revolution. He denied tliis, .since he had re- garded himself as under irregularity from the time when blood began to be shed in the territory under his command.

The case having been concluded in the military tribunal that court requested of the ecclesiastical tri- bunal the degradation'and surrender of the condemned priest, in accordance with the formalities prescribed by the canons; the ecclesiastical tribunal granted both requests, and communicated its decision to the vice- roy. It was at this point that the tribunal of the In- quisition intervened, requesting the \nceroy, Calleja (who had succeeded Venegas) to delay execution of the sentence four days, and citing Morelos to a public aula de fe on 27 November. On that occasion, with all the formalities jiroper to such proceedings, twenty- three charges were preferred against him: the Inquisi- tors added to the charges brought at the former trial others which they believed themselves competent to try, as implying, according to them, suspicions of her- esy. These were: (1) Having received Communion in spite of the excommunications which he had incurred. Morelos answered that he had communicated because


he did not believe the excommunications valid. (2) Not reciting the Divine Office while he wa-s in pri.son. He declared IlKit he could not recite it in the d\ingeon for want of light. (3) Having been lax in his conduct. This he granted, hut denied that scandal had been givrn, since it was not publicly known that he had Ijcgollcn children. (4) Having sent his son to the United States to be educated in Protestant principles, lie declared that, so far from wishing the son whom he had si'ut to the Ihiited Slates — as he could not place him in any institution within the kingdom — to be brought up in the doctrines of the Reformation, he had directed him to be placed in a college where he would not run that risk. In spite of these arguments, the tribunal decidi>d: "that the priest Don Jose Morelos was a formal negative heretic, a favourer of heretics, a persecutor and disturber of the ecclesiastical hier- archy, a jirofaner of the holy sacraments, a traitor to God, the king, and the pope, and :w .such was declared forever irregular, deposed from all offices and bene- fices, and condemned to be present at his oh/o in the garb of a penitent, with collarless cassock and a green candle, to make a general confession and a spiritual retreat; and that, in the unexpected and very re- mote case of his life being spared, he was condemned for the remainder of it to confinement in Africa at the disposition of the inquisitor general, with the obliga- tion of reciting every Friday in the year the peniten- tial psalms and the rosary of the Blessed Virgin, and to have his saiiibcnito (penitential inscription) placed in the cathedral cliurch of Mexico as that of a recon- ciled formal heretic".

It was one of the decrees of the Inquisition which have done most to damage the reputation of that tri- bunal in New Spain. The proceedings lacked the legal- ity and judicial correctness which should have marked them. Morelos was out of the jurisdiction of the In- quisition both as an Indian and as having been al- ready tried and condemned by another, competent, tribunal; nor was there any reason in condemning him for charges to which he had made satisfactory replies. It may be that the tribunal, re-establi.shed in New Spain only a little more than one year before this, and carried a%vay by an indiscreet zeal, was unwilling to miss the opportunity presented by so famous a case to ingratiate itself with the Government and call atten- tion to its activity.

Morelos, degraded in pursuance of his sentence, ac- cording to the ritual provided by the Church in such eases, w.as transferred from the prison of the Inquisi- tion t(i the citadel of Mexico and put in irons. On 22 Dccciiilicr he w:is taken from the city to San Crist6bal Ecati-pcc, where he was shot. As a guerilla leader, Morelos must occupy a prominent place among those who struggled and died for Mexican independence. He appeared at the moment when the first great army of the Independents had been routed at the Bridge of Calder6n, and when its first leaders were being exe- cuted at Chihuahua, and he achieved his first suc- cesses in the rugged mountains of the south. He be- gan his campaigns without materials of war of any kind, expecting to take what he needed from the enemy, and no one ever used the resources of war bet- ter than he did, for the extension of the national terri- tory. Profoundly astute and reserved, he confided his plans not even to those of his lieutenants for whom he felt the most affectionate regard. The stamp of genius is discernible in the astonishing sagacity with which he handled the most cUflScult problems of government, and in multiplied instances of his rapid and unerring insight into actual conditions. ^\Tien, after the ill-starred campaign of Valladolid, the hour of adversity came upon him, he faced disaster as se- renely as he had previously accepted good fortune, and, in that famous retreat upon Tehuacan, deliber- ately gave his own life to save the lives of his associ- ates in the Independent Government.