too many unemployed priests who were attracted more to the status and privileges accorded to priests, than to a life of service. Certainly, they had a point. In 1790, in Mexico City there were only 59 positions in parish service while 517 secular priests lived in the city. Those without positions, it could be argued, lacked a proper vocation. But whatever the condition of their vocation, they were still an important social group and by the end of the eighteenth century the Bourbons had forfeited their loyalty. The redefinition of the role of pastors in local communities, the attacks on legal immunities, and the contemptuous behaviour of royal officials threatened all priests. The crown's virtual expropriation of the endowments of their chantries in 1804 ultimately stripped many of a major source of income, and crown social policy after 1770, which encouraged bishops to consider mestizos and Indians for the priesthood, offended their sense of racial order. Many Creole priests, then, rejected the Spanish state and identified themselves as American when the crisis of the revolutions began. As a result, diocesan priests played an important role in the formation of the new nations.

But the cumulative effect ofthe Bourbon period had another consequence. Soon after independence, the number of regular clergy and diocesan priests declined sharply and fell below the level necessary to maintain the cult. The lack of personnel, combined with the hostility of the lay leadership of the new nations and the universal suspicion of the Bourbon bishops who almost to a man had supported the monarchy until the very end, greatly reinforced the secularizing tendencies of the nineteenth-century states. A church that had organized and sustained colonial culture was now brought low.


1. D. A. Brading, Church and state in Michoacan, 1749-1810 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 167.

2. ErickLanger andRobert H.Jackson (eds.), ThenewLatinAmericanmission history (Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 1995), p. 28.

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