Clashing clerics [electronic resource] : intraclerical conflicts in sixteenth-century new Spain
- Guillaume Larocque Beaudin.
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- 1 online resource.
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- This dissertation investigates religious conflicts between the Augustinian order and the diocesan clergy in sixteenth-century New Spain. Using letters, lawsuits, and theological treatises, it reconstructs discussions over the nature of the Church that took place in the viceroyalty in the middle decades of the century. Augustinians, later joined by their Franciscan and Dominican counterparts, argued that European ecclesiastical institutions could not be transplanted wholesale to the empire and oversee non-European populations, while bishops came to hold the opposite view. These debates led not only to the formulation of divergent ecclesiological theories by the intellectual leaders of each side. They also led to the violent enactment of these ideas in Amerindian villages by Augustinian friars and diocesan priests. Chapter I reconstructs the arguments over the ecclesiastical tithe that raged in New Spain starting in the 1530s. It argues that these debates eventually became a proxy to discuss the future shape of the Church in New Spain. Some bishops were partisans of this tax, for it would be allocated, for the most part, to the diocesan hierarchy. The tithe question was subsumed into the crown's fiscal policy for its indigenous subjects, which dictated that their tax burden should be lighter than before the Spanish conquest. The mendicant orders became the crown's trusted interpreters of pre-Hispanic cultures, and were able argue that the royal policy of fiscal alleviation was incompatible with the ecclesiastical tithe. The chapter ends in 1554, with the arrival in New Spain of two staunch advocates of the Amerindian tithe, Bishop Vasco de Quiroga of Michoacán, and Archbishop Fray Alonso de Montúfar of Mexico. Chapter II follows the career of the Augustinian theologian Fray Alonso de la Vera Cruz, from his training under Fray Francisco de Vitoria at Salamanca, to the Augustinian college he founded in Michoacán, and subsequently to various leadership positions within his order in New Spain, culminating in his appointment at the new University of Mexico. With his university lectures on the tithe (1554-1555), which asserted that this tax could not be imposed on Amerindians, he played a predominant role in the formulation of the mendicant ecclesiological project. Vera Cruz's argument for mendicant supremacy among Native Americans implied the division of the Church into two organizationally distinct units, with mendicant orders ruling over indigenous people, and the bishops supervising the religious life of everyone else. This chapter also describes how the episcopal attempts to impose the tithe were defeated by a coalition of royal officials, indigenous municipalities, and religious orders, while Archbishop Montúfar denounced Vera Cruz's ideas to the Council of the Inquisition. Shifting to a microhistorical mode, chapters III through VII reconstruct the clashes that occurred when the episcopal and mendicant visions of the Church came face to face in the small indigenous village of Tlazazalca, in the diocese of Michoacán. There, from 1558 to 1562, Bishop Quiroga took a stand against the Augustinian order, who under the leadership of Vera Cruz, sought to replace the priest the bishop had assigned to the village, a tactic promoted by Vera Cruz in his university lectures. When this priest refused to leave, religious authority in the village was divided. I show how Bishop Quiroga, the Augustinian leadership, and the viceroy all took part in this conflict. In defense of their bishop's jurisdiction over the village, Quiroga's subordinates harassed, brutalized, and imprisoned the friars' followers. The Augustinians saw their outdoor chapels dismantled, their baptismal font smashed, and their church burned to the ground. This conflict resulted in three lawsuits, with testimonies from clerics and indigenous villagers, which form the main documentary basis for this account. The events at Tlazazalca demonstrate the tangible effects of academic debates on the lives of the indigenous peoples of New Spain. The epilogue recounts how Vera Cruz traveled to Spain in 1562 to defend his ideas on the tithe against Archbishop Montúfar's accusations of heresy. While at court, he successfully lobbied for the crown to defend the privileges the mendicant orders held in the Spanish empire, just as the pope determined to revoke them as contrary to the Tridentine principle of the supremacy of each bishop in his diocese. In the end, this victory for the religious orders was but a temporary reprieve. Their project of a mendicant Church suffered unsurmountable setbacks with the crown's need to extract more resources from New Spain, a further demographic collapse of the indigenous population, and the channeling of mendicant reinforcements to newer missionary fields in other parts of the empire. The consecration in 1573 of Pedro Moya de Contreras as archbishop of Mexico heralded the end of the mendicant project and the triumph of Tridentine Catholicism in New Spain.
- Publication date
- Submitted to the Department of History.
- Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2017.
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