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Bishops: What you don’t know, can’t hurt us

20 April 2010

AHA… the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Mexico (CEM, Conferencia del Episcopado Mexicano) have identified the real culprit when it comes to the problem caused by the uproar over child-molesting clerics:  free school books.

How can anyone argue with that?  If Mexican students weren’t given free textbooks, less of them would have knowledge about sexuality … and fewer kids would know they were molested.  No complaints, no problems.

Showing how far Mexican education has declined because of free textbooks, the  SNTE (State Teachers’ Union) rejects the logic of that out of hand.

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Patron Saint of Corporate Immunity?

One thing that occurred to me about the whole clerical/pedophilia scandal — and Mexico, “thanks” to Marcial Marciel and Cardinal Norberto Rivera’s coverups of pedophile priests is at the center of several of the more alarming scandals  — is that the Church, as an institution, is better positioned to weather the storm here than in most countries.

Not because Mexicans are particularly devout (they’re not), nor because the present administration is full of believers, but because of the radical separation of Church and State that has existed since 1857.  As an institution, the Church owns very little property in Mexico — church buildings erected prior to 1992 are owned by the state, as are the artwork and other objects.  In a civil suit, there isn’t much actually owned by the Catholic Church, as a corporate body, that could be attached to pay damages.  Large properties, like universities, and various Church organizations are separate “Asociationes Religiosas”.   Church investments are “technically” separate from the church.  Proving they are the property of an offending cleric, or the “intellectual author” of a tort would be nearly impossible.  In short, one can’t — for the actions or inactions of the Bishop or the Church as a whole, punish anyone but the actual individual wrong-doer — who probably is not worth suing in civil court, although they could face criminal charges.

While, since Juarez, the State has recognized the Church’s rights to its internal governance, the Church and clerics have always been subject to secular law.  Clergymen — even Bishops — have been jailed or exiled without significant harm to the institutional body.  Secondly, with a shortage of priests throughout history, and, at time — notably during the Cristero Wars when the Church had to operate clandestinely, a more or less underground clergy  — the faithful managed to muddle through.

However, the Bishops have, since 1857, continually pressed their luck, trying to undo the law, or skirt it, and have always ended up losing the rights they have won.  Returning the country to its normal tension between the maestros and the curas is not a smart move.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Rebecca permalink
    20 April 2010 9:29 am

    Unless I’m missing something, the bishops are blaming the *lack* of free textbooks and the inadequate state of sex ed. The article you link to quotes them as saying “Ha FALTADO más educación sexual desde las familias y escuelas”, la cual es reducida a una mera información genital que a veces lleva al libertinaje sexual.”

    Of course, that still doesn’t make much sense.

    When I lived in Mexico 10 years ago, textbooks weren’t free – which was a huge problem. Has this changed?

  2. Hugo permalink
    20 April 2010 11:20 pm

    What the bishops mean is that there is lack of catholic sexual education (don’t-do-it type of moralistic approach, abstination, abortion is crime, etc.). Textbooks have been free in public schools in Mexico since the educational reforms in the 1930s.

  3. 21 April 2010 4:24 pm

    Rebecca, your translation is why it doesn’t make sense. Richard’s is correct. And Hugo has it right, primary textbooks and secondary textbooks ARE free and have been since the 1930s. BUT although free and printed by the government – SEP – Secretaría de Educación Publica – rarely are there enough to go around, so you see lines of school children at the local copyshop every year getting the “free” textbooks copied.

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