Luis Cabrera.

The religious question in Mexico online

. (page 2 of 3)
Online LibraryLuis CabreraThe religious question in Mexico → online text (page 2 of 3)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

vents and of all religious essociations of monastic life. The
monastic orders existing in Mexico, not only those of a merely
contemplative nature, but also those of an educational and char-
itable nature, were abolished in virtue of these laws.

In 1874 they even went so far as to abolish the charity insti-
tution known as "Sisters of Charity," and the other regulai:
orders, especially those of the /Jesuits, w^ere then expelled.

The abolition of the monastic orders in Mexico was a meas-
sure clearly taken in defence of human liberty, which was found
to be threatened by them.

This was especially so in regard to women, whose education
was still very deficient, so that they w^ere not in a condition to
defend their liberty when the ti'emendous moral pressure of
parents and relatives was brought to bear upon them in order
to force them to enter a convent.

The Mexican woman, particularly the one who possessed riches
in her own right, was always exposed to the danger of seeing
her liberty restricted by her entrance into a convent, where it
became impossible to prove that her permanence there was not
absolutely voluntary.

The Mexican woman has not, like the American woman, an
education wdiich enables her personally to look after her owti
liberty, and before the passing of the laws of the Reform, experi-
ence taught that the existence of convents was a constant threat
to feminine liberty.

Even subsequently to the passing of these laws, rich heiresses
have always been the object of suggestions inducing them to
take the religious voav in a foreign country.

— 14 —

The laws of the Reform completely abolish the monastic or-
ders, and within the principle established by them, all religious
congregations of a monastic character must be dismenbered.

At the time of General Diaz, however, a policy of toleration
was initiated in favor of religions orders, first in regard to char-
ity institutions, later in regard to educational orders, finally wind-
ing up by assuming the same toleraUt attitude toward the con-
templative orders, which, although illegal in their existence,
were not effectually proceeded against by the judicial author-

The conditions prevailing in Italy after 1870; those which
have been prevalent for a long time in Spain, since the consider-
able excess of monastic orders made necessary the positive de-
portation of persons bound by monastic vows; and the condi-
tions recently created in France for monastic orders, especially
for those of an educational character, since 1906: — all this has
led a great number of foreign nuns and monks to take refuge in
Mexico and settle there with the character of monastic orders.

The existence of these orders was tolerated in the time of
General Diaz. Many of them constituted an o^Den violation of
the law; others, chiefly the French educational orders, tried to
conform themselves to the laws of public instruction and ac-
quired greater freedom of action in their work.

On the fall of General Huerta and the inauguration of the
Constitutionalist Government in the principal cities of the Re-
public, several monastic orders w^ere abolished, and as the mem-
bers of these were mostly foreigners, the majority voluntarily
expatriated themselves.

It is not true that the nuns were made victims of such offences
as have been attributed to the members of the Constitutionalist
army. The only occurrence has l)een the dispersion of several
religious groups, whose members have withdrawn to foreign
countries. .


The religious question in Mexico can be summarized as fol-

1. The aims of the Constitutionalist Government regarding
■the Catholic Church are not such as might be inferred from the
isolated acts which, as a consequence of the war, and above all,
of the intervention of the clergy in our political contentions, the
Catholic Church has on several occasions had to undergo.

2. The conditions of the Catholic Church in Mexico are to-
tally different from the conditions of the same Church in the
United State.s.

— 15 —

3. The laws oi' llic Eet'orm establisli a determined condition
for the Catholic Church in Mexico, which is totally different
from the condition whic'li il has according to the laws of the
United States.

4. The said laws of the lieform coriesi)ond to a sitnation
wliicli is peculiar to Latin America, and the laws in question are
absolutely indispensable in order to deprive the Catholic. Church
of the temporal power which it had before the War of the Re-

5. These laws must subsist at the present time, because the
social conditions which made them requisite are still prevalent.

6. During recent years the Catholic Church in Mexico was
entirely lawless, transgressing the regulations of the Mexican
Constitution and of tiie hiws of the Reform.

7. The intervention of the clergy in political matters, the
possession of landed property on the part of the clergy, and the
existence of convents, are acts wholly illegal and violative of the

Briefly, whatever abuses oi- excesses which, without the knowl-
edge and without the consent of the Government, may have
been connnitted, ai'e far having the importance which is at-
tributed to them, and are nothing more than a consequence of
the co7iditions in which the same Catholic Church placed itself
on taking an active part in the struggle against the Constitu-
tionalist Revolution.

The Constitutionalist Ciovei-nment has tried and continues
trying to reduce to a mininuim the possible reprisals against the
Church. The Constitutionalist Gov<M-nm(>nt intends, at the same
time, t(> maintain the absolute-separation of the Church and
State, and, therefore, it is not to be wondered at that it enforces
all. the measures which tend to deprive the Catholic clergy of
the temjjoral power which it is attempting to recover; and it
declares, if necessary, the incapacity of the religious corpora-
tions to organize political groups; and that it proceeds to con-
iiscate those properties ^^•hicll are illegally in the hands of the
Church, or of which, even when owned by individuals, the usu-
fruct can be proved to be reserved to the Church.

The Constitutionalist Government iinally proposes to make
effective the abolition of the monastic orders existing in Mexico,
and, above all, of those of a merely contemplative character.

To sum up, the Constitutionalist Government proposes to give
full guarantees in religious matters to the exercise of any cult,,
but strictly enforces the observance of the laws of the Reform
and of the Mexican Constitution.

— 16 —

. _ , , , „„ ;„ „, j„ ,..lH-i,.m. - - -, ^^ ,»,,,•' I.. ». m .i..rM.i..>- ......... - ,- — ' -' - "-

——;^^^^ " • •■■


LAW OF THE 12th OF JULY 1859,


Most Excellent Sir: — \\'i< Excellency the constitutional Pre-
sident ad interim of the iiei)ul)lic has ordered the following de-
cree to be published:

THE CITIZEN BENITO JUAREZ, Constitutional President
ad interim of the United States of Mexico, to all its inhabitants,
know ye:

That with the unanimous approval of the Cabinet, and


That the present war, promoted and sustained by the clergy,.
has for its chief aim the deliverance of the said clergy from its
dependence to the civil authorities;

That when tliese authorities have offered to better the income
of the clergy, the clergy has refused even that which w^ould be
to its benefit, in order to disavow the authority of the sovereign^

That when the sovereign people, fulfilling the mandate of tlie-
clergy itself on the subject of iDarochial imposts, attempted
thereby to remove from the clergy the hatred it was attracting
by its manner of collecting these imposts, the clergy chose ta
seem to desire to perish rather than to subject itself to any law;

That inasmuch as the determination shown in these matters by
the Archbishop proves that the clergy can support itself in
Mexico, as in other countries, without civil law regulations of
the collection of imposts from the faithful;

That if at other times there might have been some one to
doubt that the clergy has been one of the constant hindrances to
the establishment of public peace, at present all acknowledge
that it is in open rebellion against the sovereign people;

That the clergy, having diminished by waste the large funds
intrusted to it for holy purposes by the faithful, now inverts
what remains of those funds in the general destruction, sui)port-
ing and making bloodier every day the fratricidal struggle begun
by the same clergy in its disavowal of the legitimate authority,
denying the Kepublic the right to constitute a government to the-
peoples 's convenience;

— 17 —

That, since ii]) to the pi'esent all efforts to end a war that is
ruining the lvei)u])li(' iiave failed, to leave any longer in the hands
of the sworn enemy the resources which it has misused so
grievously would be to become its accomplice, and

That it is an imperious duty to put in execution all measures
that may save the situation and save society;

I have thought it wise to decree the following:

Article 1. — All the property that the secular and regular
clergy has been managing under various titles, whether in the
shape of landed proi)erty or in whatever name or form it may
have been held, comes under the dominion of the nation.

Art. 2. — A special law will determine the mariner and form of
entry, into the treasury of the nation, of the wealth above

Art. o. — There shall l)e perfect independence between the af-
^ fairs of the State and the affairs purely ecclesiastical. The gov-
ernment will limit itself to protect w-ith its authority, the public
worship of the Catholic religion, as well as of any other religion.
^ Art. 4. — The ministers of the faith for the administration of
the sacrament and other religious functions, wdll be permitted
to accept the gifts and oblations offered in return for services
rendered. Neither gifts nor indemnizations can be rendered in
the shape of real estate.

, Art. 5. — The existent religious orders, regardless of the de-
nomination to which they may belong and of the purpose for
which they may have been created, as well as alThconfratern-
ities, confraternities and Ijrotherhoods united to the religious
communities and the cathedrals or parishes or whatever other
churches, are suppressed throughout the Republic.

Art. 6. — The foundation and construction of new convents or
religious orders of archconfraternities, confraternities and
brotherhoods of whatever form or apellation, are hereby pro-
hibited. In the same manner the wearing of the dresses of the
suppressed orders is forbidden.

Art. 7. — As this law reduces the regular clergy of the sup-
pressed orders to the secular clergy, they will be subject, as the
latter, to the ordinary ecclesiastics, in religious matters.

Art. 8. — To each one of the regular ecclesiastics of the sup-
pressed orders, wdio will not disobey the law, the government will
give 500 pesos once only. To the regular ecclesiastics who,
because of sickness or old age, are incapacitated in their duties,
in addition to the 500 pesos there shall be given 3,000 pesos in-
vested in propert}^ so that they may support themselves com-
petently. Of both sums they may dispose freely as of their own

Art. 9. — The members of the suppressed orders will be em-
powered to take to their homes furniture and other appertain-
ances which they had in the convent for their j)ersonal use.

Art. 10. — The images, embroideries, robes and sacred vessels

— 18 —

of the suppressed regular cliuiches shall he delivered over to
the bishoj) of tlie diocese for formal inveutory.
t/ Art. 11.— The governor of the District and the governors of
the States at the demand of the M. R. Archbishop and the R.
Bishops of the dioceses, shall designate those temples of the sup-
pressed regulars that are to l)e used for religious sei'vices, ex-
j)laining first and scrupulously their necessity and utility.

Art. 12. — The books, manuscripts, paintingsj and antiques and
other objects belonging to the suppressed religious comnumities
shall be turned over to the museums, public schools, libi-aries
and other ]Hd)li(' establishments.

\i Art. 13.— The regular ecclesiastics of the suppressed orders
who after fifteen days from the publication of this law in each
place continue to wear in public the ecclesiastical robe, or to live
in communities, will not receive their share as mentioned in
article 8, and after the fifteen days have elapsed, should they
continue to live in communities, they will be immediately expell-
ed from the Republic.

1^ Art. 14. — The convents of the nuns which are at present in
existence shall remain, observing the private regulation
of their cloister. The convents of these nuns which were subject
to the spiritual jurisdiction of some of the suppressed regulars,
remain under that of the bishops of the diocese.

Art. 15.— Every nun that may leave her convent shall i-eceive,
on leaving, the sum given as dowry on her entrance to the con-
vent, whether this was given as paraphernalia, or obtained as
a private donation, or acquired from some pious foundation.
Each sister of mercy who had brought nothing to her convent
shall receive a sum of 500 pesos on the act of leaving the convent.
Of the dowry as well as the pension they shall dispose freely as
of their own property.

Art. 16. — The political and judicial authorities of the place
shall offer all manner of help to the outgoing nuns, so as to
make effective the payment of the dowry or the sum mentioned
in the above article.

Art. 17. — Each nun shall keep the capital which in the shape
of dowry may have gone to the convent. This capital will be
secured to her in landed property or real estate by means of
official documents which will be issued to her individually.

Art. IS.^^To each one of the convents of nuns there will be
left a sufficient capital so that with its proceeds they may attend
to the repair of the factories and expenses of the feasts of their
patron saints and of Christmas, Holy Week, Corpus Christi,
Resurrection and All Saints and to other expenses.

The suijeriors and chaplains of the respective convents shall
give the estimates for these expenses, which shall be presented
within fifteen days after the publication of this law to the gov-
ernor of the District and to the governors of the respective
States for their revision and apin-oval.

— 19 —

Art. 19. — All the wealth reiiiajning in the convents shall be
tnrned over to the general treasni-y of the nation in accordance
with article 1 of this law.

Art. 20. — The nuns which shall remain cloistered can dispose
of their respective dowries, bequeathing them freely according to
law. In case they do not leave a will or have no kin who can
receive that inheritance, then the dowry will be tnrned into the
public treasury.

Art. 21. — All the convents for nuns will be closed forever to
the novitiate. The present novices will not be permitted to take
their vow^s and on leaving the novitiate they will receive what
they have brought to the convent.

Art. 22. — All transfers of wealth mentioned in this law^, be they
,by some individual of the clergy or whatever persons who should
uot have received authorization from the constitntional govern-
ment, are null and void. The buyer, be he a native or a for-
eigner, is obliged to return whatever was brought, or its value,
and furthermore shall be lined five per cent of the value. The
notary who authorized the contract shall be deposed and for-
ever debarred from public service, and the witnesses will suf-
fer the penalty of from one to four years in the penitentiary.

Art. 23. — Ail those who directly or indirectly shall oppose or
in whatsoever manner prevent the fulfilment of this law, will be,
according as the government qualities the gravity of the offense,
expelled from the Republic or turned over to the judicial au-
thorities. In this case they will be judged and iDunished as con-
spirators. There will be no appeal of pardon from the sentence
which wall be Tironounced against tliese culprits by the com-
petent court.

Art. 24. — AH the penalties which this law imposes will be made
effective by the judicial authorities of the nation or by the
political ones of the State, these communicating immediately
with the general government.

Art. 25. — The governor of the District, and the governors of
the States in their turn, shall consult with the government the
means which they will find convenient for the fulfilment of this
law. Therefore I order it printed, published and circulated.
Given in the government palace in Veracruz, 12th, of July, 1859.
BENITO JUAREZ. Melchor Ocampo. President of the Cabinet,
Minister of the Interior in charge of Foreign Relations, and of
War and of Navy. Lie. Manuel Ruiz. Minister of Justice,
Ecclesiastical Affairs and Public Instruction. — Miguel Lerdo de
Tejada, Minister of the Treasury and in charge of ''Fomento"
(Public advancement).

I communicate this to Your Exc. for your information and ful-
ftlment. Palace of the general government in Veracruz, 12th. of
July, 1859.

Ruiz. Most eicllt. governor of the State of

— 20 —


of the 25th. of September 1873 on additions and reforms
to the Constitution.

Department of the Interior, — First Section.

The citizen President of tlie Eepublic has forwarded to this
Depai'tnient the following decree:

SEBASTIAN LERDO DE TEJADA, Constitutional I^resident
of the United States of Mexico, to all its inhabitants, know ye:

That the Congress of the Union has decreed the following:

The Congress of the United States of Mexico in the exercise
•of the facnlty conceded by article 127 of the political Constitu-
tion promulgated the 12tli. of February 1857, and in accordance
with the approval of the majority of the Legislatures of the
Republic, declares the following articles to be additions and
reforms to the same Constitution:

Article. 1. — The State and the Church are independent from
each other. Congress cannot dictate laws establishing or pro-
hibiting any religion.

Art. 2. — Matrimony is a civil contract. This and other acts on
the civil state of persons are of the exclusive jurisdiction of
civil functionaries and authorities, in the terms provided by the
laws, which w^ill have the force and validity attributed to them.

Art. 3. — No religious institution maj^ acquire real estate or
capital invested in real estate, except only as established by
article 27 of the Constitution.

Art. 4. — The simjole promise to tell the truth and to fulfill the
contracted obligations shall substitute the religious oath with
its effects and penalties.

Art. 5. — No one may be compelled to lend his personal services
without a fair retribution or without his full consent. The State
•cannot admit the validity of any contract, pact or agreement, by
virtue of which a man may impair, lose or irretrievably sacrifice
his liberty, whether by reason of work, of education, or of
religious vows. The law, consequently, does not recognize
.monastic orders, nor can it permit their establishment, whatever
their denominations, or the object with Avhich they claim to be
formed. It cannot authorize pacts by which a man agrees t«
his proscription or to his exile.

— 21 —


Tlie aiilerjor additions and rei'oniis of tlie Constitution shall
be pu])lished at once with the greatest solemnity in the wliole
Republic. Palace of the Congress of the Union, September 2r)th.
1873. Wherefore I order that it be printed, published, circulated
and obeyed. Given at the National Palace of ]\rcxico on the
24th. of September 1873. SEBASTIAN LERDO DE TEJADA.
To the citizen Lie. Cayetano Gomez y Perez, in charge of the
Ministry of the Interior. I forward it to you for your cognizance
and for its consequent effects. Independence and Liberty, Me-
xico, September 2r)th., 1873. Cayetano Gomez y Perez, Acting,

Citizen governor of the State of

— 22 —




Department of the Interior. — First Section.

The citizen President of the Repnl)lic lias ordered to puhlisli
the following' decree:
SEBASTIAN LERDO DE TEJADA, Constitutional President of

the United States of Mexico, to its inhabitants, know ye:

"'That the Congress of the Union has decreed the following:

"The Congress of the Union decrees:


"Art. 1. — The State and the Church are independent from each
other. No one will be empowered to dictate laws estal)lishing or
proliibiting any religion; but the State exercises authority over
them, in regard to the preservation of public order and the
respect of the institutions of the State.

"Alt. 2. — The State guarantees the exercise of all cults in the
Republic. It will only prosecute and punish practices and acts
authorized by some cult, which may l)e in violation of our penal

^' Art. 3. — No authority or corporation, or organized body, may
take part officially in the acts of any cult ; nor under the pretext
of religious solemnities will they be permitted to make any de-
monstrations or celebrations. Therefore no holidays are author-
ized except those which have as their object the solenmization
of purely civil events. The Sundays are designated as days of
rest for the offices and public establishments.

"Art. 4. — Religious instruction and the official practices of
any cult whatever, are forbidden in all the establisments of the
Federation, of the States and of the municipalities. The prin-
ciples of morality will be taught in those establisments where it
may be relevant to do so, without reference to any cult. The
infraction of this article will be punished by a government fine
of 25 to 200 pesos, besides the dismissal of the guilty parties in
case of repetition of the offense. Persons living in a pul)lic
establishment may, if they so desii-e, meet in the temple of their

- — - Z.)

i'ailli aiul receive hi the same efetablisliment, in ease of extreme
urgency, the spiritual assistance of the religion they profess. The
corresponding regulations will lix the manner of carrying out
this authoi-ization without impairing .the object of the establish-
ment and without infiactiou of article 3.

"Art. 5. — No religious act can take place in public, but only
within a temple, under penalty of stopping the act and
X)unishing its authors by a government tine of 10 to 200 pesos or
imprisonment from ten to tifteeii days. Should the act have taken
a solemn character by the number of persons attending it,
or for any other circumstances, the authors of it, as well as
the persons who wdll not obey the intimation of the authorities
to desist from it, will be imprisoned and turned over to the
judicial authorities, incurring a sentence from two to six months

"No religious minister, or individual of either sex, member of
a cult, is permitted to wear distinctive or characteristic ro])es of
his cult outside of the temples, under penalty of 10 to 100 pesos.
"Art. (). — The ringing of bells will be limited strictly as a call
to the performance of religious acts. The police shall regulate
the ringing of bells so that it may not cause any inconvenience
to the ]3ublic.

"Art. 7. — For a temple to enjoy the |)rerrogatives of i?uch, in
accordance wath article 969 and with the other articles on this
matter of the Penal Code of the District, which articles are here-
by declared in force throughout the Republic, the existence and
installation of the temple must be communicated to the political
authorities of the locality, where it shall be entered in a registry
kept for this purpose, and from wdiere notice shall be given to
the government of the State, which in its turn shall advise the
Ministry of the InteriorJv As soon as a temple is known to be
used for other purposes than those exclusively of its cult, it shall
be stricken from the registry of temples for the effects of this
article. \

"Art. 8. — The legacies and institutions of successions which
may be made in favor of ministers of any cult or of persons who
dwell with the aforesaid mi,nisters, if these should have given
any manner of spiritual help"^to the testator during the sickness
from wdiich he died, or have been his confessors, are null and
void. ■ - <,

"Art. 9. — Equally null and void are the institutions of succes-


Online LibraryLuis CabreraThe religious question in Mexico → online text (page 2 of 3)