Church and State in Bourbon Mexico
In the eighteenth century the Mexican Church experienced spiritual renewal and intellectual reform. The establishment of Franciscan missionary colleges, of the Oratory, and of convents and sisterhoods was to the great benefit of the diocese of Michoacán. Thriving confraternities demonstrated the vigour of parochial life. But the secular clergy remained divided between a wealthy elite and an impecunious mass of curates and country vicars, with the cathedral chapter dominated by a group of enlightened peninsular canons. Charles III and his successor expelled the Jesuits, secularised mendicant parishes, investigated closely popular religion, stripped the clergy of their immunity from royal courts and then seized their wealth. In 1810 priests from the Michoacán diocese led the popular Insurgency which challenged Spanish rule. Here therefore is a rounded portrait of the Mexican Church at its meridian, touching upon virtually all aspects of religious life. At its core is the clash between post-Tridentine baroque Catholicism and enlightened despotism.