The author of this study states that the Church “reforms” led by Bernardino Rivadavia in the province of Buenos Aires in 1822 were responsible for retarding the strength and welfare of the Argentine Church for years. Moreover, he affirms that the anticlerical measures adopted by the government at Buenos Aires made it easier for many devout persons to support or tolerate Rosas or other provincial caudillos who championed “religion” in their opposition to the free-thinking unitarians.
Although critical of much that Minister Rivadavia and his clerical collaborators planned and executed in asserting the real patronato and curbing the privileges of the clergy, this work, in a broader sense, is a condemnation of the entire range of regalist, anti-Papal doctrines that shaped the religious thinking of many early nineteenth-century liberals. The Old World origins of Rivadavia’s religious program are traced briefly in this study. To the writings of the Spanish cleric Juan Antonio Llorente the author assigns much of the responsibility for the immediate inspiration of the program of Rivadavia and his clerical supporters. An analysis of the titles in Rivadavia’s personal library in included in this work as further proof of the Old World origins of his Church policy.
Little-used documents in the National Archives at Buenos Aires are cited in this volume to detail the value of the property acquired from the religious orders by government action. And in the presentation of those large totals, perhaps, comes the chief contribution of this study. At the same time, the author raises the question of personal profit to Rivadavia and other Buenos Aires officials in those transactions. He notes that the documents fail to show continued payments of interest on debts owed by some officials to religious corporations after the latter’s assets came under government administration.
The author’s genuine disapproval of the trend of religious developments at Buenos Aires in the 1820’s is evident throughout the volume. However, he does not label Rivadavia and his supporters atheists, but characterizes them as products of Freemasonry and the misguided secular thought of that age. Well-documented and well-written, this study, nevertheless, leaves this reviewer with the opinion that the author has failed to show how the rather moderate Church reforms of Rivadavia’s ministry were as detrimental to the welfare and growth of the Argentine Church as he so stoutly affirms.