Is Mexico Still Catholic?

 

shutterstock_138057008Let me preface this by pointing out why non-Catholics and non-Christians might find this discussion worthwhile. First, Mexico is the United States’ largest source of immigrants (legal and illegal) and influential states like Texas are heavily colored by Mexican culture (the Texas population is already nearly half hispanic), so its culture is a significant influence on our own. Second, religion is the foundation of culture: it encapsulates many of the most basic perceptions and priorities on which political decisions are made. Thus, the ideas Mexican immigrants bring with them impacts all Americans.

Though more than 80% of Mexican citizens identify as Catholic, I’m hearing a different story from Catholic educators in Texas. American Catholics often complain generally about the state of catechesis (education about the faith), but it seems to be even worse down in Mexico, where many people are ignorant of the beliefs and traditions they claim as their own.

When I lived in San Antonio, I was surprised how many mexicans (the little “m” is intentional; I’m using it as a more specific term than “hispanic”) joined Protestant and Evangelical denominations. That’s not a knock on Protestants, but simply an observation of the shallowness many mexicans’ feel toward the Catholic Church. Even those remaining within it are often what we orthodox call “cafeteria Catholics” or “cultural Catholics;” i.e., Catholics who prefer the Mass, but willfully ignore Church teachings. Others, I’m told, send their children to religious education classes, but not to Mass.

My purpose is not to complain, but rather to open discussion of what Mexican and hispanic immigrants truly believe and value.

Catholicism was severely persecuted by Mexico’s government during the early 20th century. Did the culture ever recover from that oppression? Has the rise of secularism and multiculturalism in Mexican culture been similar to the same in the US? Are there truly any significant differences between the shallow bonds of Mexicans to the Church and the shallow faith of Americans?

There are 22 comments.

  1. :thinking: no superfluity of n… Member

    When I was a LDS missionary in South Texas, I eventually stopped being surprised that I knew more about Catholicism than many of the actual Catholics. It seemed a lot of them would be quite comfortable in a non-denominational church, if they also got to have the Virgin of Guadalupe…and/or the Santisima Muerte.

    • #1
    • October 26, 2015, at 9:04 AM PDT
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  2. Vicryl Contessa Thatcher

    Not being Catholic or Mexican, I can’t really speak to what they believe, but I think perhaps the greater concern for us as a nation is whether or not these immigrants hold onto Christian values, be they Catholic or Protestant. I think it’s worrying that Muslim extremists are coming up from Mexico and are trying to convert Mexicans.

    • #2
    • October 26, 2015, at 9:21 AM PDT
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  3. Roberto, Crusty Old Timer Member

    This seems to me to open up a rather broader question as to what constitutes a Catholic in this day and age. Pelosi and Biden both claim to be Catholics which might seem odd given some of their views and reports regarding the ongoing synod seem to indicate Bishops are currently considering adopting positions that once would have been considered heretical.

    If one were making a judgement as to whether or not Mexico is still Catholic a person would first have to know where to draw the line wouldn’t they? An explosive question perhaps but that does seem to be what you are asking.

    • #3
    • October 26, 2015, at 9:56 AM PDT
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  4. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Post author

    I think Republican strategists often mistake the loyalties of hispanic voters. It sometimes said that hispanics are “natural conservatives/Republicans” because they come from cultures that still favor big families, abortion restrictions, and other SoCon values. But hispanics also come from cultures of despotic nanny states and open bribery.

    The situation is harder for Republicans if those SoCon roots don’t go deep. People who aren’t educated in why their conservative traditions are good quickly fall prey to the constant barrage of progressivism in entertainment, media, and schools.

    Of course, like immigrants from any society, hispanics tend to vote Republican once they gain enough wealth and property that the greedy and oppressive hand of government becomes obvious. But unless Republicans can find some magical way to turn a majority of grunt laborers into managers and CEOs overnight, the steady influx of new immigrants prevents that natural transition from working much to the GOP’s favor.

    • #4
    • October 26, 2015, at 10:00 AM PDT
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  5. Western Chauvinist Member

    My guess? Not so much.

    My experience as a catechist in Colorado is anecdotal, but I’ve asked around about it. Interestingly, large Mexican families usually produce a priest or two. And, I’ve been told, their culture is to celebrate Mass at home, with the family. There’s something very admirable about that, but 1) it doesn’t develop cohesion in a parish and 2) it enables them not to assimilate with the broader (anglo-) American culture.

    I’m not as concerned for the country that their Catholicism is muddled. I’m concerned that their politics is socialist. Waves of socialists from across the border is no way to conserve America’s founding — just the way Democrats like it.

    • #5
    • October 26, 2015, at 1:16 PM PDT
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  6. Hammer, The Member

    I remember talking to a teenage client. She was telling me about a pretty awful circumstance – sexual in nature, with added drugs, etc… at her sister’s house. Apparently, the sister got them up the next morning to go to church. She told me I should go talk to the priest because he knew everything that had happened… assuming I had no idea what she was talking about, she added “mexicans are Catholic, so we have to go to church the next day after we do something like that.”

    • #6
    • October 26, 2015, at 9:44 PM PDT
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  7. Hammer, The Member

    Aaron Miller:The situation is harder for Republicans if those SoCon roots don’t go deep. People who aren’t educated in why their conservative traditions are good quickly fall prey to the constant barrage of progressivism in entertainment, media, and schools.

    In my experience, 2nd and 3rd generation mexican-Americans tend to be far more analogous to American blacks.

    • #7
    • October 26, 2015, at 9:47 PM PDT
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  8. RabbitHoleRedux Inactive

    Mexicans have never been politically conservative. It’s a mistake to assume that a cultural identity as Catholic translates to conservatism any more in South Texas than it does in heavily Catholic Philadelphia. Cubans in South Florida are an aberration among Catholics as conservatives, mostly because they were thrown out of their homes by Jesuit revolutionaries. Most Catholics are politically liberal.

    • #8
    • October 27, 2015, at 6:52 AM PDT
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  9. Western Chauvinist Member

    Ryan M:I remember talking to a teenage client. She was telling me about a pretty awful circumstance – sexual in nature, with added drugs, etc… at her sister’s house. Apparently, the sister got them up the next morning to go to church. She told me I should go talk to the priest because he knew everything that had happened… assuming I had no idea what she was talking about, she added “mexicans are Catholic, so we have to go to church the next day after we do something like that.”

    Oof. Cultural Catholicism at its “finest.”

    • #9
    • October 27, 2015, at 6:54 AM PDT
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  10. RabbitHoleRedux Inactive

    I think

    Western Chauvinist:

    Ryan M:I remember talking to a teenage client. She was telling me about a pretty awful circumstance – sexual in nature, with added drugs, etc… at her sister’s house. Apparently, the sister got them up the next morning to go to church. She told me I should go talk to the priest because he knew everything that had happened… assuming I had no idea what she was talking about, she added “mexicans are Catholic, so we have to go to church the next day after we do something like that.”

    Oof. Cultural Catholicism at its “finest.”

    Ack! It’s embarrassing. I saw a self proclaimed “culturally” Catholic of Italian descent unable to recite the Hail Mary! or Our Father, and had never received any of the required Sacraments. I wondered what on earth made her think she was a Catholic beyond, that’s what all her family told her she was. Trying to divine voting patterns from the American amalgam that is labeled “Hispanic” , which is nothing other than a political construct, is fraught with peril. Latinos hate each other for a whole host of reasons, LOL! none having to do with what faction of Christianity they identify with culturally.

    <going to confession now>

    • #10
    • October 27, 2015, at 8:27 AM PDT
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  11. Douglas Inactive

    Vicryl Contessa:Not being Catholic or Mexican, I can’t really speak to what they believe, but I think perhaps the greater concern for us as a nation is whether or not these immigrants hold onto Christian values, be they Catholic or Protestant. I think it’s worrying that Muslim extremists are coming up from Mexico and are trying to convert Mexicans.

    The bigger problem has been Mexicans coming to the US and then abandoning even a pretense of religion in favor of the secular consumer culture, particularly among illegal aliens. One of the things we’ve seen to destroy Karl Rove’s “natural conservatives” narrative is the speed at which fairly large numbers of these guys get here and then abandon church for the mall and the abortion clinic. Hispanic women are twice as likely than white women to abort their children in the United States. Whatever Catholic culture they had, large numbers seem to abandon it once they experience the American secular culture.

    • #11
    • October 27, 2015, at 8:27 AM PDT
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  12. Kim K. Member

    Reminds me of a girl I once worked with who was quite irreligious but, of course, got married in church because she was “born Methodist.”

    • #12
    • October 27, 2015, at 8:34 AM PDT
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  13. Joseph Moure Member

    I think that most Catholics – Mexican or otherwise are more Catholic by culture than observance. I always get a kick out of the tattoos of crosses and Guadalupes on gangsters.

    Frankly, I don’t know how Catholicism even managed to survive the Mexican government’s wrath for so many years. I find it odd that two of the most Catholic countries on earth became the most ardent persecutors of the religion in the 20th century. I’m talking about Spain and Mexico.

    From what I have experienced, the religion is meaningful to older Mexicans, much the same as everywhere else.

    • #13
    • October 27, 2015, at 8:46 AM PDT
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  14. Fricosis Guy Listener

    Aaron Miller:Though more than 80% of Mexican citizens identify as Catholic, I’m hearing a different story from Catholic educators in Texas. American Catholics often complain generally about the state of catechesis (education about the faith), but it seems to be even worse down in Mexico, where many people are ignorant of the beliefs and traditions they claim as their own.

    Lousy catechesis has been the default position for most Christian communities…even during the apostolic age.

    • #14
    • October 27, 2015, at 10:27 AM PDT
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  15. donald todd Inactive

    Roberto:This seems to me to open up a rather broader question as to what constitutes a Catholic in this day and age. Pelosi and Biden both claim to be Catholics…

    Writing as a convert, and having taught the faith, a lot of Catholics have the residue of a bad eighth-grade catechesis and whatever wonders led someone in their past to embrace Catholicism did not make it to them.

    They may have a cultural drive that causes them to attend Mass, but the underpinnings do not seem to be there. They cannot explain what they believe because they don’t believe much of anything. If it were important, they’d work to try and understand it so it could be explainable.

    Pelosi and Biden find being Democrat more important and more fulfilling then being Catholic, ergo being Catholic is subservient to being Democrat. If we all get the reward we want, I think that they’ll be in for a surprise. Whatever being a Democrat does for one in the here and now, its ability to do something in the hereafter would seem to be very limited.

    There are a lot of interests and concerns that occupy people, drawing them away from other, more important concerns. When that happens, religion, family, and other important things suffer.

    • #15
    • October 27, 2015, at 10:46 AM PDT
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  16. donald todd Inactive

    15 continued

    It would seem that Our Lady of Guadalupe is not so important to the Hispanic, especially Mexican person, as she once was. Mary has children, lots of children, but no grandchildren. Jesus did not say, “grandson behold your grandmother.”

    #3 continued. “reports regarding the ongoing synod seem to indicate Bishops are currently considering adopting positions that once would have been considered heretical.”

    If one reads a history of the Church, one finds many heretical positions offered. That has continued virtually the beginning. We have any number of theological positions which were mapped because the Church had to address a problem of that time by producing an answer. In fact when Jesus said He would send the Holy Spirit to lead the Church to all truth, this is certainly a part of that.

    The recommendations of the synod on the family will meet Peter’s successor. The recommendations can be accepted, modified, or rejected. Everyone is very aware of the issues that were brought up in the synod, and of the resistance of some of the prelates there to the ideas that were propounded.

    When Francis makes a decision, we’ll know. Not before.

    • #16
    • October 27, 2015, at 10:54 AM PDT
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  17. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Post author

    Fricosis Guy: Lousy catechesis has been the default position for most Christian communities…even during the apostolic age.

    Agreed. I think it’s unrealistic to expect most people at any place or time to dig deep into the weeds of theology. Most people are respectably focused on more immediate concerns. Philosophy is a privilege of leisure.

    In a closed society, that’s not a problem. If people are generally encouraged to be proud of their community and their traditions, then they don’t need a thorough understanding of either.

    In an open society, like a major city (a trading hub), the clash of cultures and traditions forces people to question their ways. Deviants and opportunists (like politicians) encourage regular citizens to abandon their native culture. If those outsiders succeed in suppressing defenders of tradition, then commoners are easily turned.

    Less than a century ago, Mexican officials seem to have succeeded in suppressing Church leadership in public life. Today in the United States, political correctness makes unofficial enforcers of neighbors and coworkers.

    • #17
    • October 27, 2015, at 10:57 AM PDT
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  18. Emerson Member

    It’s been a while since I got back from my 2-year LDS mission to Tampico (2001-3), but here are some random observations about the state of Catholicism in Mexico:

    • There were plenty of “old school” Catholics that would put up signs on doors saying “En esta casa somos CATÓLICOS” (and for everyone else to bug off), have large shrines for the virgin or their chosen saint, and know little to nothing about the Bible.
    • I saw a catechism once and was shocked at how different the 10 commandments were – the 4th commandment was to keep the festivals.
    • There is quite a lot of active evangelism going on in Mexico (which is part of why the old school Catholics are hostile) from many denominations. The JWs are particularly prominent.
    • A lot of Catholicism is still deeply ingrained in Mexicans. JPII was the first pope to visit Mexico, and the entire country was into it. The only other time that I saw everyone universally tuned to the same event was the World Cup.
    • Xantolo was definitely more widely (and enthusiastically) celebrated than All Saints Day (or even Christmas in some places).

    -E

    • #18
    • October 27, 2015, at 2:28 PM PDT
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  19. Profile Photo Member

    Douglas:

    The bigger problem has been Mexicans coming to the US and then abandoning even a pretense of religion in favor of the secular consumer culture, particularly among illegal aliens. One of the things we’ve seen to destroy Karl Rove’s “natural conservatives” narrative is the speed at which fairly large numbers of these guys get here and then abandon church for the mall and the abortion clinic. Hispanic women are twice as likely than white women to abort their children in the United States. Whatever Catholic culture they had, large numbers seem to abandon it once they experience the American secular culture.

    This is the anecdotal experience in my family. Mrs. Salieri has Mexican relatives via marriage, and I have Californian’s from old, old Texan stock via marriage on my mother’s side. Mrs. Salieri’s mostly came here illegally, and are dyed in the wool leftists; and of the dozen or so that live here fully or most of the year only two older sisters practice the faith at all. Their faith is mostly colorful candles, prints and prayer cards, mass going, and festivals that are kept with big dinners. The rest of the family (over two generations) is all about secular culture and socialism, and they vote.

    The Californian group is mostly patriotic, faithful Catholics, and republicans over the age of 65, and mostly left-wing democratic socialists secularist, or multicultural SJW warriors who go to mass all the way down, and they vote.

    • #19
    • October 27, 2015, at 6:40 PM PDT
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  20. Henry Castaigne Member

    Aaron Miller: Philosophy is a privilege of leisure.

    So is fantasy football. Fantasy football is much bigger in America than debates about philosophy. Also, Jews deeply valued philosophy and continued to read and study even when they were terribly poor. Values and interest matter as much to the study of philosophy as leisure.

    • #20
    • October 27, 2015, at 10:03 PM PDT
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  21. Henry Castaigne Member

    There is something that I find incredibly odd about both Catholics and Jews. Both Catholics and Jews will say that they don’t believe in God but identify themselves as Catholics or Jews.

    There is something about Jewish and Catholic identity that transcends belief.

    Alternatively, I have never met a self-identified Lutheran who did not believe in Salvation through grace and I’ve never met a self-identified Mormon who did not believe in the Mormon Church.

    • #21
    • October 27, 2015, at 10:21 PM PDT
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  22. Manny Member

    Aaron, my intuition tells me it’s poor catechizes. Or perhaps no catechizes at all. Catholic schools need to offer as many scholarships to poor Mexican families as possible. And school vouchers as a public policy would certainly help.

    • #22
    • October 28, 2015, at 9:38 AM PDT
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