Tuesday 11 October 2022

Catholic Mexico - Edward Lodge Curran - International Catholic Truth Society

Catholic Mexico
Edward Lodge Curran
International Catholic Truth Society

Reading this book was a surprise on many levels. I stumbled across this and a couple of other titles from The International Catholic Truth Society while doing research for a review of a different volume about the Cristero Wars. These three volumes were published between 1927 and 1935. The three I found on Open Library were:

Catholic Mexico - Edward Lodge Curran
Rebel Mexico - Edward Lodge Curran
The Mexican Crisis Its Causes and Consequences - Rev. Michael Kenny, S.J., Ph.D.

The description of this booklet:

A brief, clear and forceful account of three hundred years of Spanish rule and Catholic influence in Mexico (1524 to 1824).

A reading of this pamphlet together with Rebel Mexico will make your knowledge of Mexican history complete.”

Reading this volume was fascinating. The author seems to do a mix of promoting 300 years of good things under Catholic in Mexico, Bashing the last 100 years in Mexico, comparison Mexico to the Us, and even the Irish under British rule and oppression. He covers a lot in such a short volume. But also seems to be a little all over the place. This volume would never be published today, and as such it offers a great insight. I highlighted many passages. I will share them here to give a feel for the volume:

“THIS pamphlet is the first of two which shall be written to acquaint our fellow American Citizens with the truth about Mexico. The present pamphlet deals with three centuries of Catholic influence. The second pamphlet will deal with the anti-Catholic and anti-Religious century of revolution in which the Church was not allowed to play any part and for the devastating results of which she can in no way be held responsible. The author is pleased to dedicate this pamphlet to the memory of those Mexican Catholics who have lived and died and who still live and die for what is dearest and best in Mexico.”
“American citizens know little about Mexico. Catholics as well as non-Catholics must be included in this indictment. In the mind of the average American there is some vague remembrance of the Revolt of Texas, of the Mexican War, of Woodrow Wilson's "Watchful Waiting."”
“Little knowledge is had of the anti-religious, and not merely anticlerical, provisions of the Constitution of 1857, of the "Reform Laws" of 1859 and of the Constitution of 1917, which robbed the Church of her properties, of her right to exist as a distinct legal personality, and even of her opportunity to work for the spiritual betterment of the overwhelming majority of the Mexican population, ninety to ninety-five percent, who have been willing and who still are willing to commit themselves to her spiritual care.”
“The American nation and the American government owe a lasting apology, an apology whose depth should be gauged by the physical impossibility of ever making adequate retribution, for their treatment of the American Indian.”
“An isolated monument to the Jesuit Martyrs or to Father Marquette or to Father Juniper Serra is all that remains.”
“Generally speaking, the Catholic tradition and invasion of Mexico and Central America was pro-Indian. These and a multitude of other facts must become a part of the mental makeup of every living American throughout the land.”
“The present day Republic of Mexico is not geographically identical with the Mexico which greeted Captain-General Hernando Cortes and six hundred followers and sixteen horses and thirty-two crossbows and seventeen firearms in the spring of 1519. I trust that the reader will re-read the number”
“Besides its present area of 767,005 square miles and its present distribution into twenty-seven states, three territories and a federal district, Mexico of the sixteenth century embraced present day Guatemala and British Honduras to the south, and the whole stretch of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and southern California, constituting now our own American southwest, to the north. The eastern coast slopes gradually to the Gulf of Mexico.”
“Finally, the Spanish conquerors had come to Christianize. This fact is amply proven by the presence of priests with the army and by the history of subsequent events. Many of those who came with firearms in the original detachment of Cortes threw down their arms, laid aside their military trappings and devoted themselves to prayer and the sacrificial life of Spanish Missionaries.”
“The Franciscans were the first to offer themselves. Twelve of them formally took possession of the missions in 1524. Prior to that, three Flemish
Franciscans, one of them the famous lay brother, Peter of Ghent, a kinsman of Emperor Charles V, had already joined the priests of the original expedition.”
“Today, the Indian population is the backbone and the heart and soul of Mexico.
Only eighteen per cent of the present Mexican population is non-Indian. Thirty-five percent are pure Indian and forty-seven percent are Mestizos, possessing half or more than half of Indian blood. Extermination of the Indian because he is an Indian was the unofficial policy of non-Catholic America, a policy which resulted in Indian Wars throughout the nineteenth century and in the failure of the Federal government, until the middle of the nineteenth century to treat the Indian as a brother and grant him full exercise of those inalienable God-given rights which he, too, despite the subsequent distortion of the Declaration of Independence, possesses.”
“In 1876, upon the discovery of gold in the Black Hills of the Dakotas, in the homelands of the Sioux tribe, white settlers were still driving the Indians from their American homelands, at the point of the musket and for the sole purpose of securing gold. Let those who talk and write about the Spanish invasion of Mexico for gold keep silent until the extinction of the American Indian for gold and lands has received its proportionate historical statement and development.”
“Many of the missionaries attained the martyr's crown. During a formidable rebellion of Indian tribes in New Mexico in 1680, twenty-one Franciscans were martyred and Christianity was all but exterminated. The names of those who, unprotected by the sword and uninspired by any Captain save the Captain of souls, converted Mexican territory to the North, where the Spanish sword never conquered and where peace came through Christ and not Cortes, are amongst the noblest names that any nation reveals upon its roster. Father Salvatierra, who secured Lower California for the government, and Father Junipero Serra, who founded the missions of Upper California, are but two of the many gentle ambassador of Christ whose gifts and graces are as pressed spiritual rose leaves between the pages of history.”
“A consideration of the methods of Spanish Conquest reveals several interesting conclusions. In the first place, it was not an exceptionally bloody conquest. It was no bloodier than the Cromwell's conquest of Ireland, over a century later. It was no more savage than the English conquest of the Boers, three and three-quarter centuries later. Spanish troops engaged in the conquest were no crueller than the troops of Sherman marching through Georgia, than the invaders of Belgium, or than the troops of any of the armies along the western front. In fact, the balance wheel turns in favor of the Spaniard.”
“In the third place, the Spanish m1ss10naries and the Spanish occupation of Mexico regarded the Mexican Indian, whether Nahuas or Mayas or Otomis or Mixtecas Zapotecas, the four races which have produced two-thirds of the modern Indian population, as human beings with a right to life and as possessors of a culture and economic existence worthy of preservation and development.”
“Moreover, the survival of the slavery of the black in the United States, down to 1865, with all the attendant horrors of importation from Africa and division of families, should temper the pen of any American historian who presumes to write about the indentured service status of the Mexican Indian immediately following the Spanish conquest.”
“Thus, through the aid of the missionaries, the Spanish Government obtained from
Pope Paul III a papal document which gave the Indian equal rights with the white man and proclaimed his right to receive the Christian faith in its entirety. The will of the Spanish Queen Isabella entreated the Spaniards to treat the Indian as a freeman and a spiritual equal.”
“The historian who contrasts the history of the Indians to the north and east of the Rio Grande with the history of those to the south and west of the same "great river" will acknowledge the greater humanity and prudence and Christianity of the Spaniard.”
“The fact that the Mexican Indian is civilized today is due to the seeds of civilization that were sown by the Catholic Church and watered by the Catholic Church and harvested by the Catholic Church during those three centuries of unbroken peace. Schools and hospitals and literature and progress need a peaceful soil wherein to fasten their tender roots.”
“Wherever the Catholic missionary went, the arts of peace accompanied him. In each new centre a school was attached to each church and convent. From eight hundred to a thousand children attended the larger schools. Thus Bishop Zumarraga, the first Bishop of Mexico, founded eight or nine schools for girls in his diocese.”
“The churches of Mexico today, nearly all of them, go back to the time of the Church's benign influence. The schools of Mexico are likewise traceable to her labors. The anti-clerical rulers who have governed Mexico for the past twenty-five years, when they opened schools, have merely reopened those closed by some one of their vicious predecessors or established a substitute for an older school whose doors will never again hear the shuffling sound of Indian feet across the threshold.”
“Three centuries of absolutism cannot, therefore, be laid at the door of the Catholic Church. Rulers then, as rulers now, interfered in every way with her freedom of appointments and with her freedom of activity. Such was and is the danger to religious freedom from every state that conceives itself to be powerful in its own right. Such was the temper of the times.”
“The expulsion of the Church's influence in Mexico began with the expulsion of the clergy as teachers from the public schools in the year 1833. A hundred years have elapsed between that acorn and the mighty oak of wholesale persecution whose baleful shadow covers the presidencies of Obregon and Calles and their successors. The Catholic Church need not apologize for what she did for Mexico between 1524 and 1824. The military tyrants who forced themselves into the presidency between 1833 and 1934 must take the blame for the present condition of Mexico.”
“At the present date, by the restriction of one priest to every twenty-five or fifty thousand souls, and by the prohibitions against the wearing of the clerical dress, against the holding of religious services outside religious buildings, title to all of which is vested in the State, the Catholic Church is forbidden to exercise her purely spiritual ministrations. What right has anyone to blame the Catholic Church for the past century of misrule, of constant warfare, blood-thirsty general succeeding blood-surfeited general in the presidency, of closed schools, of oppressed peons, made slaves to foreign owners of oil fields and rubber plantations and copper mines, of misery and hardship and modern paganism and historical lies and political tyranny and economic enslavement!”
“American Catholics love their persecuted brethren in Mexico. American Catholics repudiate the economic invasion and the political blundering on the part of American capitalists and American diplomats in Mexico.”
The Verdict
The Catholic Church guided the progress of Mexico, despite civil absolutism, from 1524 to 1824. She offers no apology for the glorious history of those golden years of triumph in Mexico.
The Catholic Church has been refused the slightest leadership or direction in the past hundred years of Mexico's enthrallment. Therefore, she is absolved of all responsibility for the condition of Mexico today. Others must apologize for the history of those red and purple years of tragedy in Mexico.”

While reading this the volume The Skull Measurer's Mistake by Sven Lindqvist, it was another fascinating read of 22 stories of people who historically stood up against racism. But even in those examples Some stood against racism against Native Americans but had no issue with slaves. Thus exhibiting a contradiction or dichotomy in their own thought. I feel the same way in part about this volume. Over the last couple of years I have read much about Saint Junipero Serra, I do believe he is getting an undeserved rap these days. But I also do not think things were as clean and clear cut as Father Curran presents. As such I believe this is an interesting historical document. I am thankful I read it and do plan on reading the companion volume. But I by no way agree with it 100%. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here. This volume is from the International Catholic Truth Society, not the Incorporated Catholic Truth Society in the UK. 

Other books about Catholic Mexican History:
The Mexican Crisis Its Causes and Consequences - Rev. Michael Kenny, S.J., Ph.D.
Blood-Drenched Altars: A Catholic Commentary on the History of Mexico - Francis Kelley
Saints and Sinners in the Cristero War: Stories of Martyrdom from Mexico - James Murphy 

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