ABSTRACT

Tensions between the Mexican government and the Catholic Church date back to at least the Era of Reform. The Catholic hierarchy opposed aspects of the Constitution of 1917 from the start. And whereas President Álvaro Obregón had not focused on the anticlerical articles of the Constitution, President Plutarco Elías Calles sought to enforce them. In February 1926, as conflict between the Catholic Church, the Catholic faithful, and the federal government intensified, the Catholic Church once again made its protest public by republishing its criticisms in a leading Mexico City newspaper, El Universal. In the protest, Archbishop José Mora y del Río lays out several arguments, many of which date from mid-nineteenth-century church-state conflicts in Mexico (sources 42 and 43). On July 31, 1926, the archbishop declared a strike that would last for three full years. During this time, many priests refused to celebrate central rites such as baptism and last rites. Others did so secretly. Such divisions underlay the Cristero Rebellion (1926–1928), which would leave many dead and the country greatly divided. How is the written protest an expression of tensions that dated back to the Era of Reform, or even earlier—to concerns that José María Morelos had expressed in the Era of Independence (Source 33)? How does the protest use the concepts of nation and citizen?

319The 1917 Constitution wounds the sacrosanct rights of the Catholic Church, of Mexican society, and of Christian individuals; it proclaims [principles] contrary to the truths taught by Jesus Christ, which are the treasure of the Church, the greatest patrimony of humanity, and it violently uproots the few rights conceded by the Constitution of 1857….

Not presuming to implicate ourselves in political questions, we seek rather to defend, in a manner possible for us, the religious freedom of Christian people in the face of this abrupt attack inflicted on religion; we confine ourselves to forceful but decorous protest against this aggression….

1st In accordance with the doctrines of the Roman Pontiffs … and motivated also by patriotism, we are far from approving armed rebellion against the established authorities, while not believing that passive submission to any government implies intellectual and voluntary approval of antireligious and unjust laws that emanate from it. Neither do we intend that Catholics, our faithful supporters, should therefore be deprived of the rights granted them as citizens to work legally and peacefully to counter national laws, when these offend their conscience and their rights….

Our only motive is to comply with the obligation that defense of the rights of the Church and of religious freedom requires of us…. As heads of the Catholic Church in our fatherland, we protest against the tendency of the Constitutional Assembly, destroyer of religion, culture, and traditions….

For all the aforementioned reasons, we protest against all such aggressions that diminish religious freedom and the rights of the Church and we declare that we do not recognize any act or pronouncement, even those issued from a lawful ecclesiastic within our diocese, if it is contrary to these declarations and protests….