The Catholic Church just announced on Friday it will reopen the cases of at least two heroes who were excommunicated for their actions against Spain during Mexico’s war for independence that began on September 16th, 1810. The two principle figures in question are Padre Miguel Hidalgo, who is considered the “Father of Mexican Independence”, and one of his closest followers and a former student of his, Padre José Maria Morelos. The primary leader, Miguel Hidalgo, was captured in 1811 and executed by the Spaniards. After they killed him they chopped off his head and hung it high up on a wall in the City of Guanajuato, where the fighting of the rebellion began. It hung there until 1821 when Spain finally capitulated and withdrew from Mexico after 300 years of colonial rule. You can still see the iron hook in the wall where his head hung in a wire cage.
It is worthy to note that Spain and the Catholic Church walked hand in glove in those days and whoever became the enemy of one also became the enemy of the other. Now that Mexico is approaching its bicentennial in 2010 the current powers that be want to tidy up a bit. The Church in Mexico was a bit corrupt in the days of Hidalgo (to say the least) and after Mexico won independence the Mexican people never forgot that the Church took the side of Spain. The political struggle between church and state continued for many years until liberals like Benito Juárez and others began to severely limit the church in anything but purely spiritual matters. There was even a war between elements of the church and the state called the “Cristero War” that began in 1926 during which many people died. There is still a struggle between church and state that is seething underneath the surface and I think that this sudden impulse for forgiveness on the part of the Church is an attempt to cool the flames a bit.
This whole affair makes me wonder what Hidalgo and Morelos think about all this. After all, if the church excommunicated them they must be sitting in Hell, right? Then what happens now if the church has a bureaucratic change of heart? Does the Devil suddenly fling open their cell doors and say, “Okay you two, you’re free to go”? How to you go to Heaven after 200 years in Hell? Whatever the case, I’ll bet it will feel great. Personally I think that Miguel Hidalgo was a great guy and you will have to look pretty hard to find a man more dedicated and determined than José Maria Morelos. I have studied the histories of both in detail and to me they are both heroes. I sincerely hope that they do end up in Heaven and that I do too. I would really like to shake hands with them. It shouldn’t be hard to recognize them. They will probably have a “singed” look about them.