two phases. In the first, 1820-60, a post-imperial church clung to its privileges in a time of secular state-building. In the second, 1860-1910, a reformed church clashed with liberal regimes and lost much of its public power. Throughout the century the church expanded and the faithful multiplied.
The church reflected secular society. Bishops and higher clergy were of the elites, alongside landowners, businessmen and bureaucrats. Many ofthe lower clergy belonged to the poor. The church inherited from its colonial past great wealth in real estate and revenue from annuities. But there were inequalities of income between upper and lower clergy, between wealthy city benefices and poor parishes in the country. In rural societies priests were often younger sons who were not expected to inherit land and found an alternative career in the church. This created a reserve of recruits for the clergy and was an asset to the church, though it did not guarantee good vocations or ensure that priests kept their vows.
The church began its new life short of priests. In post-war Venezuela in 1837 there were 200 fewer priests than in 1810 and regions such as the llanos of Apure hardly saw a priest from one year to the next. It was the common people who kept the faith alive while the bishops struggled to raise clerical numbers and standards. In Bolivia, where in 1850 the clergy were 50 per cent fewer than in 1800, the church was served by priests who were as diverse in training as they were in dedication. As elsewhere in Latin America they suffered from a poor public image, and were criticised for living with women and using parish funds for their own benefit.
In Mexico, in contrast to South America, statistics tell a story of more vigorous life. After the losses at independence, the number of clergy remained fairly constant throughout the nineteenth century. There were 3,463 in 1826, 3,232 in 1851, 3,576 in 1895, 4,015 in 1900 and 4,533 in 1910. Assuming that the number of nominal Catholics was almost coterminous with the population, this meant that in 1895 (total population 12.6 million) there were fewer than three priests for every 10,000 inhabitants, and in 1910 (total population 15.1 million) just over three. The training available for priests was expanded in this period. Diocesan seminaries increased from nine in 1826 to ten in i85i,and twenty-nine in 1910, while the Conciliar Seminary of Mexico City was raised to the status of Pontifical University in 1896.
The qualitative life of the church and the standards of the clergy were also changing. During the first decades ofindependence many Mexican priests, like
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