I met a guy yesterday – a graduate student at UNAM, the national university here – and we got to talking Mexican politics; a topic that invariably leads to a discussion of corruption. So once on that subject, I asked him to explain the apparent paradox of a country that is at once both intensely religious and completely rife with corruption. He had a pretty interesting answer; what he said was that Mexico is so corrupt precisely because it is so Catholic. He feels that a church that so easily forgives its followers of their sins – just so long as they go to mass, to confession and drop a little bit of cash in the donations basket – engenders a corrupt congregation. People can feel free to lie, cheat and steal, he says, because they know that their church and their God will forgive them in the end.
Furthermore, he said that the Mexican Catholic church itself has been such a model of corruption here that there’s really no way it could serve as any kind of deterrent. And because not many people actually read the Bible themselves, he said, the scripture itself doesn’t have nearly as much influence over people’s moral behavior as do the Church’s sermons, which he claims are heavily tilted towards forgiveness of sin rather than following the teachings of Jesus.
Interesting stuff, I thought, and this from a guy who himself claims to be Catholic.
On a related note, I read an article recently that said that in the 1990 national census, 99% of Mexicans declared their reliogion as Catholic. Today, 82% make that same claim.