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ing minds, impatient under the restraint of , a cloister, weary of its infipid uniformity, and
fatigued with the irksome repetition of its frivolous functions, offer their service with eagerness, and repair to the New World in quest of liberty and distinction. Nor do they pursue distinction without success. The highest ecclefiaftical honours, as well as the most lucrative preferments in Mexico and Peru, are often in the hands of regulars; and it is chiefly to the monastick orders that the Americans are indebted for any portion of science which is cultivated among them. They are almost the only Spanish ecclefiafticks, from whom we have received any accounts, either of the civil or natural hiftory of the various provinces in America. Some of them, though deeply 'tinged with the indelible superstition of their profession, have published books which give a favourable idea of their abilities. The natural and moral history of the New World, by the Jesuit Acosta, contains more accurate observations, perhaps, and more found science, than are to be found in any description of remote countries published in the fixteenth century.
Diffolute manners of some of them. But the same disguft with monaftick life, to which America is indebted for some instructors of worth and abilities, filled it with others of a very different character. The giddy, the
profligate, the avaricious, to whom the poverty and rigid discipline of a convent are intolerable, consider a mission to America as a release from mortification and bondage. There they soon obtain some parochial charge, and far removed, by their situation, from the inspection of their monastick superiors,, and exempt, by their character, from the jurisdiction of their diocesan, u) they are hardly subject to any controul. According to the testimony of the most zealous catholicks, many of the regular clergy in the Spanish settlements are not only destitute of the virtues becoming their profession, but regarda less of that external decorum and respect for the opinion of mankind, which preserve a semblance of worth s where the reality is wanting. Secure of impunity, some regulars, in contempt of their vow of poverty, engagé operly in commerce; and are fó rapaciously eager in amaffing wealth, that they become the most grievous oppreffors of the Indians, whom it was their duty to have protected. Others, with no less flagrant violation of their vow of chastity, indulge with little disguise in the most diffolute licentiousness x).
Various schemes have been proposed for redressing enormities fo manifest and offensive. Several persons, no less eminent for piety than
u) Avendano Thel. Indic. ii, 253.
discernment, have contended, that the regulars, in conformity to the canons of the church, ought to be confined within the walls of their cloisters, and should no longer be permitted to encroach on the functions of the secular clergy. Some publick-fpirited magiftrates, from conviction of its being necessary to deprive the reg ulars of a privilege, bestowed at first with good intention, but of which time and experience had discovered the pernicious effects, openly countenanced the secular clergy in their attempts to affert their own rights. The prince D’Esquilache, viceroy of Peru under Philip. III. (1618.) took measures fo decisive and effectual for circumscribing the regulars within their proper sphere, as ftruck them with general con fternation. y) They had recourse to their usual arts. They alarmed the superstitious, by representing the proceedings of the viceroy as innovations fatal to religion. They employed all the refinements of intrigue, in order to gain persons in power; and seconded by the powerful influence of the Jesuits, who claimed and enjoyed all the privileges which belonged to the Mendicant orders in America, they made a deep impression on a bigoted prince, and a weak miniftry. The ancient practice was tolerated. The abuses which it occasioned continued to increase, and the corruption of monks, exempt
y) See NOTE LIX.
from the restraints of discipline, and the infpection of any superior, became a disgrace to religion. At last, as the veneration of the Spaniards for the monastick orders began to abate, and the power of the Jesuits was on the decline, Ferdinand VI. ventured to apply the only effectual remedy by issuing an edict , (June 23. 1757.) prohibiting Regulars of every denomination from taking the charge of any parish with the cure of fouls; and declaring, that on the demise of the present incumbents, none but secular priests, subject to the jurisdiction of their diocesans, shall be presented to vacant benefices. z) If this regulation is carried into execution with steadiness in any degree proportional to the wisdom with which it is framed, a very considerable reformation may take place in the ecclesiastical state of Spanish America, and the fecular clergy may gradually become a respectable body of men.
The deportment of many ecclesiasticks, even at present, seems to be decent and exemplary, otherwise we can hardly suppose that they would be held in such high eftimation, and poffefs such a wonderful ascendant over the minds of their countrymen throughout all the Spanish settlements.
Small progress in converting the Indians to Christianity.
But whatever merit the Spanish ecclesias, ticks in America 'may possess, the success of their
2) Real Cedula Ms. penes .
endeavours in communicating the knowledge of true religion to the Indians, has been more imperfect than might have been expected, either from the degree of their zeal, or from the dominion which they had acquired over that people. For this, various reasons may be assigned. The first missionaries, in their ardour to make profelytes, admitted the people of America into the christian church, without previous instruction in the dock trines of religion, and even before they themfelves had acquired such knowledge of the Indian language, as to be able to explain to the natives mysteries of faith, or the precepts of duty. Resting upon a subtle distinction in fcholaftick theology, between that degree of affent which is founded on a complete knowledge and convi&tion of duty, and that which may be yielded when both thefe are imperfect, they adopted this strange practice, no less inconsistent with the spirit of a religion which addrefles itself to the understanding of men, than repugnant to the dictates of reason. As foon as any body of people, overawed by dread of the Spanish power, moved by the example of their own chiefs , incited by levity, or yielding from mere ignorance, expressed the flightest desire of embracing the religion of their conquerors, they were instantly baptized. While this rage of conversion continued, a fingle’clergyman baptized in one day above five thousand Mexicans, and did not defist until he was exhaufted by