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José María de Jesús Belaunzarán y Ureña: On False Philosophies

José María de Jesús Belaunzarán y Ureña. Carta pastoral que dirige a su clero y diocesanos el ilmo. y rmo. sr. D. Fr. José María de Jesús y Ureña, obispo de Monterey. México: Impr. de Luís Abadiano y Valdés, 1835. (Pamphlet, 34 p., 22cm x 16cm)

Bridwell Library’s collection of printed Mexican religious ephemera possesses 13 documents written by José María de Jesús Belaunzarán y Ureña, Bishop of Linares (Monterey) from 1831 to 1839 and one of the most influential clergymen of post-Independence Mexico. He was described as “one of the two great figures (along with Portugal of Michocán) who led the clergy against the ideas of the early ‘reformers.’” The selections below highlight the bishop’s unremitting defense of the freedom of the Catholic Church.

In this letter written on January 16, 1835, Belaunzarán addresses his clergy, regular and secular, and diocesans in response to “the very rapid progress that each day and every moment false philosophy is making, in the hearts of those that [are] unwarily overtaken by the spirit of novelty, which S[aint] Paul calls: spirit of error; [and who] are fed by its deceiving fables and evil sophisms.” The “spirit of novelty” to which Belaunzarán refers was Deism, a school of thought that originated in late seventeenth century England, which was based upon rational thinking that often criticized the official teachings of the Church. Belaunzarán does not specifically explain the tenets of this “false philosophy” that he condemns in his letter, merely alluding to the “the lights that the children of this century make shine today, which they have so much persistence in acquiring and propagating at all cost” but which “are nothing but the most dense darkness and obscure shadows.” In this letter he staunchly affirms the validity of Catholic traditions and beliefs and strengthens his arguments with references to Scripture and appeals to logic.