Mexican Court Upholds Conviction of Two Clerics

January 27, 2022

According to the Court, ministers of religion in Mexico are prohibited “from proselytizing for or against a political party, candidacy, or political association, in order to safeguard the principles of the Mexican democratic system.”

The days when priests and religious were deprived of political rights in Mexico seemed to be over.

However, the Superior Chamber of the Electoral Tribunal of the Judiciary of the Federation of Mexico (TEPJF) upheld the conviction of a cardinal and a priest for encouraging a Catholic vote in favor of the defense of life, family and the common good, in the context of the 2021 federal elections.

As reported by David Ramos of the ACI agency, during the January 19, 2022 session, by three votes to one, the Superior Chamber of the TEPJF ruled that the Archbishop Emeritus of Guadalajara, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, and Fr. Mario Ángel Flores Ramos, former rector of the Pontifical University of Mexico (UPM), have transgressed the “principle of separation of Church and State.”

The president of the High Court recalled that it is “specifically” prohibited for ministers of religion “to proselytize for or against a political party, a candidacy, or a political association, in order to safeguard the principles of the Mexican democratic system.”

This judgment partially confirms the November 2018 decision of the special chamber of the TEPJF, which condemned Cardinal Sandoval and Fr. Flores Ramos, as well as the Archbishop Primate of Mexico, Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes, the Bishop of Cancún-Chetumal, Bishop Pedro Pablo Elizondo Cárdenas, and Fr. Ángel Espinosa de los Monteros, from the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ.

The decision of the Superior Chamber cancels the sanction previously imposed by the special chamber against Bishop Elizondo Cárdenas, since in his message “it is not possible to identify a specific political force to which it was intended to benefit or harm.”

But neither in the session on January 19 of this year, nor in the statement published by the TEPJF, is there any mention of the cases of Cardinal Aguiar Retes or Fr. Espinosa de los Monteros.

The case against the Mexican bishops and priests was opened following complaints filed by deputies from the Morena party of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, nicknamed AMLO, although the political group later withdrew its complaints.

On June 1, 2021, Cardinal Sandoval had called on people not to vote for those who are "in power", because "the dictatorship is coming or freedom will be lost because it is a communist, socialist system, “which enslaves.” He also said that in this electoral process, “the family was also at stake, the good of the family and of life, because this government has adopted gender ideology.”

Fr. Flores was targeted giving a conference in which he asked people “not to give more power to those who have not known how to use it for the common good” and “not to give more confidence to those who devote themselves to dividing, not uniting, not developing.”

The TEPJF said the two clerics “unequivocally intended to incite people to vote against a political option and that these actions were carried out through social networks, that is, social media.” The sanction has been entrusted to the Ministry of the Interior: it could range from a simple reprimand to a fine of three million pesos (150,000 dollars).