Title: Church-state relations in education in Argentina since 1943
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Title: Church-state relations in education in Argentina since 1943
Physical Description: xvi, 401 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Leonard, Virginia Waugh
Copyright Date: 1975
Subject: Church and education -- Argentina   ( lcsh )
Church and state -- Argentina   ( lcsh )
Education -- Argentina   ( lcsh )
History thesis Ph. D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- History -- UF   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis--University of Florida.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 381-400.
Additional Physical Form: Also available on World Wide Web
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: Vita.
Statement of Responsibility: by Virginia Waugh Leonard.
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Virginia Waugh Leonard



@ Copyright

Virginia Waugh Leonard



To prepare this study I received assistance from

institutions and persons to whom I am grateful. I would

like to thank the University of Florida for allowing me

the use of its library and for arranging my study schedule

so that I could pursue this work. I am also indebted to

the Organization of American States for awarding me a fel-

lowship for field research in Argentina. I acknowledge

the wonderful resources of the U.S. Library of Congress

and the Argentine Biblioteca del Congreso. I am especially

grateful to Miguel Petty, S.J., and the Centro de Investi-

gaciones y Accion Social for providing me with statistics

on Roman Catholic schools found nowhere else. I am also

grateful to Hermano Septimio, head of the Consejo Superior

de Educaci6n Catl6ica, for orienting me on Roman Catholic

education. I am most grateful to Dr. David Bushnell of the

University of Florida for his counsel, criticism, and aid,

at all stages of the writing and research of this manuscript.

The author of this study takes full responsibility for the

errors and deficiencies of the text in its final form.



Argentina is known as a Catholic country. Its Con-

stitution and laws favor the Catholic church. For example,

the President and Vice-President are required to be Roman

Catholics. The church also receives state subsidies for

its buildings, missionary work, and schools. A divorced

person is forbidden to remarry, a law which conforms to

Catholic doctrine. The church has always enjoyed a privi-

leged position in Argentina where over nine-tenths of the

people are Roman Catholic.

But Argentina also has a secular, anti-clerical, and

lay tradition which reached its zenith in the 1880's when

religious education was excised (though reinstated from

1943-1955) from the national schools. Protestants, Jews,

and lay groups may receive state subsidies for their pri-

vate schools. Presidents such as Frondizi have been nomi-

nally Catholic. The principal democratic parties and stu-

dent groups have fostered the national universities, sup-

ported the university "Reforma," and opposed Catholic uni-


Interest groups and political parties have opposed

the church on certain issues in the field of education.

Two issues in particular have engendered the largest and

longest disputes: catechism in the public schools and

state recognition of the titles and degrees of private

universities. On the first issue the church has lost out

to lay and secular education on the national level. But

this loss has not been uniform: religious education is

given in the majority of public provincial schools. On

the issue of Catholic or private universities, the church

won a stupendous victory in the post-Peronist era--the

state agreed to recognize the titles and degrees of pri-

vate universities under certain conditions. Yet this vic-

tory was not total: the state refused to provide finan-

cial aid to private universities.

Church-state relations on education were examined

because the church regards teaching its doctrine as a cen-

tral part of its mission and therefore enters the political

arena to fight for its way in education. To achieve its

educational goals the church must vie for social and po-

litical power with other groups and institutions. The two

issues selected for study were chosen because they were

major issues in Argentina. Economic support of Roman Cath-

olic schools was never much of an issue in Argentina, un-

like in the United States. On the other hand, private uni-

versities were disputed in Argentina but not in the United

States. The Argentine context itself thus established the

focus of this study. Peripheral contests over religious

freedom and economic support for Roman Catholic education

were examined insofar as they related to the above two


One conclusion that emerges from this study is that

the fate of private education is inextricably wound up with

the fate of Catholic education. The church and its pro-

ponents promote private schools and universities in order

to promote Catholic schools and universities. Another con-

clusion is paradoxical: private or Roman Catholic educa-

tion seems to thrive when Argentine governments are lay

and secularist. When the church was in an open alliance

with the government (1943-55), public--not Catholic--edu-

cation enjoyed its greatest promotion and expansion. The

recent progress of church education leads to a third con-

clusion: other groups, especially those that support lay

and secular education, are not able to compete with the

church on an equal political and socio-economic footing.

In Catholic and developing Argentina, the weakness of

countervailing groups and institutions makes for little

competition. The scholastic policy of the church results

in.the education of the elite in its schools, and it is

this group that wields socio-economic and political weight

in Argentina: if the elite is not in the key government

posts, it is not far from those in them. Thus, provincial

and national Ministries of Education become the main pro-

mDters of private education. This conclusion is warranted

in spite of church protests that government bureaucracy

restricts its schools and universities.

Church-state relations are not easily quantifiable.

They arouse passions and action behind the scenes. It is

difficult to predict when an Argentine Catholic will rally

around his church as he did during the overthrow of Peron

in 1955. Even statistics on the number of Catholic schools,

pupils, and teachers are difficult to obtain. This is due

to two factors: in statistical records church education

is lumped together with other private schools, pupils, and

teachers in the general category of private education.

Secondly, the church is reticent to divulge any information

about itself.

The sources of church "influence" on politicians

are even more elusive. It can only be taken for granted,

and not proven, that elected legislatures reflect the opin-

ion of Argentines on church-state issues. During times of

dictatorship, it is even more difficult to ascertain the


feelings of Argentines about church-state relations, and

to conclude that the officials in command reflect the Cath-

olicity of the people. It is more likely that Argentine

governments reflect the religious opinion of the elite.

And the religious opinions of the elite may be linked to

the social and political power of the Argentine Catholic

church as an institution. Roll-call votes in Congress and

provincial parliaments can be tabulated; but the decision-

making process cannot always be ascertained from a mere

tabulation of yeas and nays. It is not easy to calculate

if a person acts in a certain manner because he is Roman

Catholic, or because he seeks church support behind his

career, or whether he fears the church's power to defeat

him rather than acting out of love for the .church. All

these factors may influence his decisions and the fact

that he was affected by them illustrates the "influence"

of the church. Oftentimes a practicing Catholic might not

side with the church on education issues whereas a nominal

Catholic promotes, say, church universities. Then, the

reasons for political decisions lie in the realm of pol-

itics or economics and will involve speculation and hypoth-

esizing, countervailing power, and compromise.

To understand church-state relations on education


in Argentina, therefore, it has been necessary for the

author of this study to supplement quantifiable data with

written reports and personal interviews. Interviews had

to be balanced between statists and clerics, between pol-

iticians of a pro-Catholic stance and those of a secular

bent. Among statists and clerics there were divisions.

Some interviewees had a clearer or less prejudiced opinion

of the issues than others; some simply lied. Few people

are neutral on the subject of church-state relations.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS . . . . . . . . . iii

PREFACE . . .. . . . . . . . iv

KEY TO ABBREVIATIONS . . . . . . . . xiv

ABSTRACT . . . . . . . . .. . xv


Colonial Era
Independence to 1884
Rosas, 1835-52
Buenos Aires and the Confederation,
National Organization, 1862-1884


Proponents of Secularism
The Educational Uproar of 1884: Law 1420
Roman Catholic Resistance
Law 1420
The Argentine Counter Reformation: 1884-1943
The Press
Acci6n Catolica Argentina
Religious Education in Provincial Schools
Church Built Its Own School System
The Universities: 1884-1943
La Reforma
Catholic Universities Blocked


The Military Government
The Decree of Ensenanza Religiosa, December
31, 1943
Bishops Denied Collaboration
Administration of the Decree
Critiques of the Administration of
Ensenanza Religiosa

1943-1954: PART I . . . . . . 86

Government Religious Policy
Religious Education Becomes Law
Presidential Election of 1946
Opposition to Religious Education in
the Public Schools
The Deputies Debate, March 1947

1943-1954: PART II . . . . .. 115

Gratitude of the Church
Reaction of the Radicals
Educational Militancy of the Church
Acci6n Cat1lica Argentina
Estatuto del Docente, 1947
Other Educational Demands of the Church
Slow Growth of Private Schools
The Universities: 1945-1955


Incipient Church-State Conflict
The Conflict Looms

Seven CHURCH-STATE STRiFE: PART II . . . . 187

Government Offensive
Ecclesiastic Offensive
Perdn's Overthrow

GOVERNMENT: 1955-1956 . . . . . 220

No Religious Education in the Public Schools
Expansion of the Catholic School System
The Universities: Moves to Change the Law
Decree 6403
Catholics and the Decree
Reaction to Article 28
National University Rectors, Professors
and Students
The Supreme Court
The Junta Consultiva
Student Demonstrations


Catholic Universities Formed
Development of Catholic Campaign
Catholic Rectors and Professors
Catholic Students
Gathering of Outside Support


Preliminaries of Debate i-
Special Committee Report
National University Protest
Catholic Counter Protests
The Bill
Heated Debate in Chamber
More Riots
Question of Implementation



Political Background
Religion and Public Schools Since 1958
1958 Estatuto del Docente
EnseHanza Religiosa in Public Schools
Provincial Level
National Level
Religious Objects in Classrooms
Religion in Public School Textbooks
Spread of Catholic Schools Since 1958
Increase in Number of Catholic Schools


Political Background: Frondizi to Ongania
Provincial Universities
Catholic Universities
National Universities

EPILOGUE . . . . . . . .. . . . 369

BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . 381

BIOGRAPHICAL. SKETCH.:*. . . . . . . 401



DSCD Argentina. Congress. Camara de Diputados. Diario

de Sesiones de la Camara de Diputados. The year

given in citations is that of the sessions, not

year of publication. Certain of the debates of the

1946 session actually took place early in 1947, but

they were printed as part of the 1946 series and

will be so cited.

DSCS Argentina. Congress. Senado. Diario de Sesiones

de la Cimara de Senadores. The year given in cita-

tions is that of the sessions, not year of publica-


ALA Argentina. Anales de Leqislaci6n Argentina. The

year given in citations is that which is found on

the bound volume and is not necessarily the year

of the decree, resolution, or law.


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate
Council of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Virginia Waugh Leonard

August, 1975

Chairman: Dr. David Bushnell
Major Department: History

Argentina is known as a Catholic country, but inter-

est groups and political parties have opposed the church on

certain issues in the field of education. Two issues in

particular have engendered the largest and longest disputes:

catechism in the public schools and state recognition of

the titles and degrees of private universities. In 1884,

Congress passed a law that established public education as

basically laic during school hours. The church never ac-

cepted this decision and openly collaborated with the Cath-

olic nationalists who implanted religion in the nation's

public schools in 1943. However, this alliance ended when

church and state became rivals in the field of education

and Juan Peron abrogated many privileges of the church,

including religious teaching in the public schools. Though

the nation's schools have remained laic since that time,

Catholicism has continued in or has been introduced into

the provincial schools of the most poulous provinces, and

the church's own school system has expanded rapidly, bene-

fiting from increasing state subsidization.

On the issue of Catholic or private universities,

the church won a stupendous victory in the post-Peronist

era when the state agreed to recognize the titles and de-

grees of private universities under certain conditions.

Yet this victory was not total: the state refused to pro-

vide significant financial aid to private universities.

This dispute, like the former, symbolized the inability of

a fragmented Argentina to attain either a true national

consensus on policy or even a coherent policy imposed by

one faction upon another. Church-state quarrels of the

19th century continued to absorb time, money, and energy

that could have been applied to pressing economic and

social problems, problems that did not receive adequate

attention from Argentina's private or public educational






This study undertakes to examine the church in Argen-

tina as a political institution. Its canon law, dogma,

doctrines, and official positions treat the field of educa-

tion: in fact, it regards its mission to teach its dogmas

and laws as its most important task. The Spanish crown

recognized this "right" of the church and helped finance

the educational aspect of the church's mission. But as

modernization and growth took place in Argentina after In-

dependence, the state began to view schooling as essential

to its aim to create an "educated" and "Argentine" citizen-

ry. This outlook which, at first, led to cooperation be-

tween church and state in educating the young, later led

to competition between these two socio-political institu-

tions toward the end of the nineteenth century.

Colonial Era

Spanish monarchs willingly gave the church a free

hand in the education of Spaniards and the civilization of

Indians in the centuries preceding Independence. In the

colonial era there were three types of primary schools:

state schools established by the cabildo (also known as the

king's schools), religious schools, ani private schools.

Religious orders taught the Indians Spanish and catechism

in mission schools. Because there was little tradition

for the state school and because Argentina was sparsely

settled by Spaniards, a school was a luxury and usually re-

ligious, run by Roman Catholic clerics.

Secondary schools grew out of the need of regular

and secular clerics to further educate their prospective

members. They were also attended by laymen, almost always

the well-heeled sons of ranchers and merchants. If-a-stu-

dent wished to continue on to university studies, he had -

three choices: he could study theology for a doctoral- --

degree at the University of C6rdoba, which was founded by

the Jesuits in 1622; he could study for a doctorate of med-

icine at the University of Chuquisaca (La Plata), founded

in 1623 in what is now Bolivia; and he could study for a

doctorate of law at the University of San Felipe which was

founded in 1757 in Chile, pr at the University of CSrdoba

as of 1795,1 or at the University of Chuquisaca.

Juan Carlos Zuretti, Historia eclesiastica argen-
tina (Buenos Aires: Editorial Huarpes, 1945), pp. 113, 115,

In primary school a student learned the 3 R's and

catechism. He then entered a secondary school to study

grammar or Latin and Latin literature for two years; he

next graduated to courses of art or philosophy which last-

ed two to three years. Philosophy was a study of logic,

metaphysics, and physics, usually taught by a cleric who

gave an overall examination. The student who successfully

graduated was considered magister-artium and ready to

attend university to study law, theology, or medicine.

Those laymen who were teachers usually had failed in

other endeavors and took the job for the small recompense.

It was common for cabildos not to pay the teachers hired

by them, so teachers relied on the parents of their stu-

dents to pay them money or kind. By contrast, the reli-

gious schoolteachers did not charge tuition, since the re-

ligious orders supported them. The Jesuits, who ran the

best primary and secondary schools and Argentina's only

university, lived off the profits of their estancias; the

Franciscans lived off alms.3

2Ibid., p. 113.

For a good discussion of colonial education see
Juan Carlos Zuretti, "La evoluci6n de las ideas pedag6gicas

The Spanish Crown controlled all activities of the

church in the new world; similarly, the cabildos oversaw

religious as well as lay education. The Real Provisi6n de

1771 set standards for the hiring of teachers which includ-

ed an examination of their writing, reading, arithmetic,

and Christian doctrine, information of good conduct, and
limpieza de sangre. Cabildos had to approve the estab-

lishment of any schools within their jurisdiction as well

as the teachers, the tuition charged if it was a state

school, the salary of teachers (often paid to support re-

ligious teachers also) and the texts and equipment. And

state subventions supported many religious schools if the.

cabildo was willing and able to grant them.

Despite some state funding, education had a privi-

leged and aristocratic character and was mainly for boys.

Some poor students were able to attend state schools with-

out paying when they were supported by funds from the

cabildo and the tuition of other students. Girls attended

en la Argentina: II--La escuela colonial," Criterio, XIX
(November 28, 1946), 517-18.

4Antonio Salvadores, La Instrucci6n primaria desde
1810 hasta la sanci6n de la ley 1420 (Buenos Aires: Consejo
Nacional de Educacion, 1941), p. 19.


the few schools for them established by rich ladies and

nuns, often acting jointly. In general, not very many

school-aged children attended school because they could

not afford them, schools were scarce, and poor teaching

methods were used: rote memorization and drills, as well

as corporal punishment. 5

Lay teachers were expected to teach the Roman Cath-

olic religion to their pupils: religion was not excluded

from Argentine state schools until the latter half of the

nineteenth century. However, Argentine state schools began

to exclude clerics as teachers and administrators.6 For

example, Manuel Belgrano, honored as the father of Argen-

tine primary schools, left money to establish schools run

by laymen, but Christianity was to be taught in these

schools along with other subjects.7

Laicism in the sense of lay or state administration

of education was promoted by the rapid economic development

of Buenos Aires, which was partly stimulated by the Bourbon

5Rosalba Aliaga Sarmiento, La instruccijn priaria
durante la dominaci6n espanola (Buenos Aires: Consejo
Nacional de Educaci6n, 1940), pp. 84-86, 107.

6Salvadores, pp. 19-20.

7Aliaga Sarmiento, pp. 201-3.

reforms of Carlos III. More money was directed toward pub-

lic education and a system of municipal schools. In 1805

Buenos Aires even made public education free, the first

cabildo in Argentina to do so.8 But the English invasions

and the independence movement retarded this development.9

Independence to 1884


The upheaval that ensued with the revolution for in-

dependence caused education to retrogress because the

cabildos could not spare money for state schools and be-

cause authorities were occupied with other matters. Schools

disappeared altogether after the struggle for independence

began in 1810 in the provinces of San Juan, San Luis, and

La Rioja. In C6rdoba, the rural schools set up by Bishop

San Alberto and, later, Viceroy Sobremonte, disappeared.

Salta, once a leading center of education, was hard hit.10

Though Belgrano donated 40,000 pesos to found four schools

in the provinces, only one was ever completed--in Jujuy in

8These municipal schools were begun in 1720, and
were managed by the University of Buenos Aires from 1821-
1828 when they were dependent on the provincial government.
Later, they became national schools.

Salvadores, p. 17.

10Ibid., pp. 110-11; 198-99.

1825.11 In this period, school systems survived only in

those provinces with the means and traditions of public

support for education--Buenos Aires, C6rdoba, and Mendoza.12

The church was no longer in a position to step into

the educational vacuum left by the state. Its organization

was disrupted by the impact of the independence struggle

and the interruption of normal ties with Rome, which under

the patronato had passed through the Spanish court; all

existing bishoprics were vacant after 1819. The number of

clerics and, therefore, cleric teachers dwindled, and the

two seminaries in Cbrdoba and Buenos Aires were deficient

in graduating priests to replace those who left Argentina;

Without supervision many of the secular and regular clergy

fell into corrupt ways.3

State officials realized that education was deplor-

11Ibid., p. 230.

1Salvadores, pp. 64-66.

1The Pope finally appointed titular bishops to these
vacant sees in 1832. (J. Lloyd Mecham, Church and State in
Latin America chapel Hill: University of North Carolina
Press, 19347, pp. 57, 84-86, 226.) For a synopsis of the
sorry position of the church after independence consult
Guillermo Furlong, S.J., "El catolicismo argentino entire
1860 y 1930," Historia argentina contemporAnea, 1862-1930,
Academia Nacional de la Historia (4 vols., Buenos Aires:
El Ateneo, 1963-67), II, 251-52-

able in both the public and private sectors and interested

themselves in remedying it. In 1810 the cabildo of Buenos

Aires commissioned two reqidores to study educational re-

form: they visited every school in Buenos Aires. Church

and state were educationally allied: the priest Dean Funes

approved the recommendations of the two regidores for im-

proving instruction in church schools, and courses on

Christianity were favored for public schools. Reforms that

the cabildo and Junta tried to institute came to naught.14


As a minister in the government of Buenos Aires in

the early 1820's, Rivadavia carried out a reform of the

church with the support of the provincial legislature and

some liberal ecclesiastics who were opposed by other cler-

ics who even dabbled in plotting the overthrow of the gov-
ernment. In 1822 tithes and the ecclesiastical fuero

were abolished, and the smaller houses of the regular cler-

gy were disestablished. Some church properties were con-

fiscated and, in turn, the province agreed to give the


14Aliaga Sarmiento, p. 194.

15Ricardo Levene, A History of Argentina (Chapel
Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1937),
pp. 364-65.

church an annual subsidy and to construct church buildings;

but the net effect of Rivadavia's measures was to weaken
the church.

In 1821 Rivadavia authorized the setting up of the

University of Buenos Aires under the direction of Dr. Al-

berto Shenz, an ordained priest. The cabildo eclesi&stico

provided funds from its treasury for the chairs of philo-

sophy and Latin.17

Rivadavia also concerned himself with the schooling

of girls. In 1823 he set up a separate school system for

girls under the Ministry of Government; money for these

schools was to be raised by rich ladies in the Sociedad de

In 1825 a commercial treaty between England and Ar-

gentina gave the English the right to found schools and to

16Guillermo Gallardo, La political reliqiosa de Riva-
davia (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Theoria, 1962), pp. 71-72.

17The University was inaugurated in 1821 and includ-
ed a department of primary schools which controlled all
primary schools except those for girls, which were organized
under the Sociedad de Beneficencia in 1823. Since the Uni-
versity contained all grade levels it was a microcosm of an
educational system for all Argentina. (Levene, pp. 365-67.)

18Salvadores, p. 106.

practice their religion publicly or privately (article 12).

In 1827 the first English academies opened: the curricu-

lum was humanistic and commercial, and religion was not

mentioned. The best families sent their children to these

English private schools, downgrading the public schools and


Rosas, 1835-52

As governor of the province of Buenos Aires, Rosas

allied himself with the church and tried to diminish the

influence of the English schools since they were run by

Protestants, but neither they nor their teachers disappear-

ed despite two decrees of 1831 and 1844 requiring teachers

to profess the Roman Catholic faith.20 Rosas continued

the policy of preceding governments of granting state sub-

sidies to religious schools and backing religious educa-

tion in the public schools. The Jesuits, expelled from

Argentina since 1767, were invited to return by Rosas, who

restored the convent and school of San Ignacio to them.

But the Jesuits did-not adequately extol the virtues of

19Zuretti, "La evoluci6n de las ideas pedag6gicos
en la Argentina: IV--Las escuelas pdblicas y privadas de
1813 a 1829," Criterio, XX (January 2, 1947), 15.
20Salvadores, p. 195.
Salvadores, p. 195.

his government to their young pupils, so they were again

expelled in 1843; half of the total of 39 Jesuits had al-

ready emigrated since 1841. Rosas also purged the Uni-

versity of Buenos Aires of Unitarian professors and insti-

tuted religion courses in the curriculum. Government

financial stringency meant that subsidies were smaller,

and the University stagnated.

The government's ability to subsidize education was

diminished by a French blockade of its port, and in 1838 the

Sociedad de Beneficencia was notified that state funds were

unavailable and that it would have to charge tuition in its

schools. Private and public primary schools folded from

1830 to 1850; in 1830 there were 39 public primary schools

with 50 teachers serving 2,500 pupils and 75 private schools

with 80 teachers and 2,500 students; whereas, in 1840,

Buenos Aires province had only 5 public primary schools with

10 teachers and 700 pupils and 30 private primary schools

with 40 teachers and 1,500 students--a situation that did
not change materially for the remainder of the-decade.

Provincial schools were turned over to the police

2Enrique Arana (h.), Juan Manuel de Rosas en la
historic argentina, Instituto Panamericano de Cultura (3
vols., Buenos Aires: CompaTia General Fabril Financiera
S.A., 1954), I, 625-26.
22 pp. 554, 558 560.
Ibid., pp. 554, 558, 560.

department to administer in 1842.23 The poor remained

largely outside the educational system of Buenos Aires--

except in the girls' schools of the Sociedad--until the

advent of Sarmiento.

Provinces.--The state of education depended in large

measure on the governor or caudillo of a given province, a

strong man leaving his imprint upon the school system. Usu-

ally the municipalities attended to the schools in their

locale. Entre Rios stands out for the efforts of its gov-

ernors Pascual Echague and Justo Jose de Urquiza to extend

public education. Religious education was omnipresent,

teachers had to be Roman Catholic, and many provinces re-

fused to recognize the religious toleration of the 1825 Eng-

lish commercial treaty, e.g., San Luis, Tucuman, Corrientes,

Santa Fe, and C6rdoba.24 The governors of Mendoza, Entre

Rios, Salta, and Cordoba emulated Rosas in inviting the

Jesuits, although they did not necessarily act upon the in-

vitation,to set up schools (especially secondary) in their


23Ibid., p. 559.

24Guillermo Furlong, S.J., La tradici6n reliqiosa en
la escuela argentina (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Theoria,. 1957),
pp. 48-50.

25Arana, I, p. 624.

In spite of economic blockage and internal civil

strife, provincial private--and especially public--educa-

tion gradually improved. Although the figures can be re-

garded as approximations at best, one source suggests that

by 1840 there were 76 public primary schools with 78 teach-

ers and 3,830 pupils and 36 private primary schools with

38 teachers and 1,740 pupils; whereas, in 1830, there had

been 45 public primary schools with 48 teachers and 3,010

students and 41 private primary schools with 45 teachers

and 2,010 pupils. And by 1850 there were 125 public pri-

mary schools with 139 teachers and 7,700 pupils and 45 pri-

vate schools with 52 teachers and 2,003 students.26

Buenos Aires and the Confederation, 1852-61

Buenos Aires.--After the fall of Rosas, Buenos Aires

functioned for a time as a separate state enjoying de facto

independence from the rest of Argentina. During this peri-

od, educational development was hurt by political infight-

ing, lack of economic resources, and administrative con-

fusion. There was a proliferation of educational agencies--

Sociedad de Beneficencia, the University, the municipalities,

26Ibid., I, pp. 554, 558, 560.

the province--as well as frequent changes in the adminis-

trative mechanisms charged with overall supervision of ed-

ucational problems.27 This state of affairs changed for

the better when Domingo Sarmiento became Chief of the De-

partment of Schools in Buenos Aires from 1856 to 1861.

Sarmiento worked to expand the public school system of the

province, but allowed the teaching of religion in the pub-

lic schools by Roman Catholic priests outside of class

The Confederation.--The other provinces joined to-

gether in a Confederation under the Constitution of 1853.

The Constitution made Roman Catholicism a state religion,

with the patronato to be exercised by the President and

Senate. Both the President and Vice-President of Argentina

had to be Roman Catholic, and the state was obligated to

sustain the church. Among other things, Congress was to
further the conversion of Indians to Roman Catholicism.

27Juan Manuel Chavarria, La escuela normal y la
cultural argentina (Buenos Aires: El Ateneo, 1947), p. 292.

28Speech by Deputy Absal6n Rojas, DSCD 1946, X, p. 573.
Juan Casiello, Iglesia y estado en la Argentina
(Buenos Aires: Editorial Poblet, 1948), p. 334.

Education, however, was left up to the provinces, as had

been the practice since 1821; article five made public ed-

ucation gratuitous but said nothing about it being obliga-


The Confederation Congress voted the church a reg-

ular subsidy that was to compensate it for its loss of in-

come from the tithes, which had now been abolished in all

provinces.30 Such funds were technically available for use

in founding church schools. But education advanced very

little except for the organization of its administration

on the provincial level. Governors regarded themselves as

vice-patrons in exercise of the national patronato and

thus converted convents into schools, contracted clerical

teachers,and invited orders to their provinces to found

schools. Some provinces such as San Juan and Corrientes

made education theoretically obligatory in their constitu-

tions, but most let the municipalities take care of it,

and they lacked the resources to reach more than a small

minority of the school-age population. The University of

C6rdoba was nationalized by the Confederation in 1854.

Urquiza also extended national secondary education, but

30Furlong, "El catolicismo," p. 256.

post-elementary education was rare in the Confederation.3

President Urquiza ordered in 1855 the publication

and use in the public schools of a catechism Instrucciones

cristianas by Escolastic Zegrada. His successor Santiago

Derqui also arranged with Pope Pius IX for the return of

the Jesuits to reopen the schools of C6rdoba and Santa F.32

National Organization, 1862-1884

In 1862, with Bartolom4 Mitre as president, Argen-

tina began its modern history as a unified nation. Educa-

tion could now be constructed on a national level: a Min-

istry of Religion, Justice and Public Instruction was set

up. An 1865 accord was signed with eight provinces to give

their schools financial aid from the national treasury.

Mitre became known as the "Founder of Secondary Education

in Argentina" when he set up in 1863 the Colegio Nacional

de Buenos Aires as a model for national secondary schools.

Its first rector, a cleric, was succeeded by a Frenchman

who drew up a six-year plan of studies for the bachillerato

degree with religion and sacred history included in the.

31Leoncio Gianello, "La ensenanza primaria y secund-
aria (1862-1930), Historia argentina contemporanea, II,
p. 120.

32Furlong, La tradici6n, pp. 71-72.


Sarmiento became president in 1868 and planned with

his education minister Nicolas Avellaneda to educate all

social classes everywhere in Argentina. Ley 463 of 1871

provided for the subsidizing by the national treasury of

school buildings, furniture, books, supplies, and salaries
of teachers and inspectors.3 Avellaneda as president

(1874-80) continued to promote education. Plans of study

were made uniform for national primary, secondary, and

normal schools. But since provinces for the most part

controlled education within their boundaries, no uniform

law of education was drawn up.

In 1875 the Province of Buenos Aires drew up a Ley

de Educaci6n Comun de la Provincia. A Consejo General was

created to approve the establishment of public and private

schools; every district would elect its own Consejo. Teach-

ers were no longer required to be Roman Catholic but only

to have good mental and physical health, good conduct, and

professional qualifications. Private schools were no long-

33Chavarria, p. 76.

34Anales de leqislacidn argentina: complemento, aeos
1852-1880 (Buenos Aires: Editorial La Ley, 1954), p. 934.

er subsidized. Roman Catholicism was still taught, but the

religious beliefs of others were to be respected.35

In the same year Congress passed a law, No. 758, to

establish normal schools for teachers of primary pupils in

the capital of every province. A previous law had already

established two in Parana and Corrientes. The four-year

plan of studies did not include the Roman Catholic religion,

only courses of morality. Sarmiento began to recruit teach-

ers from abroad to set up normal schools and to teach in

the universities. Sixty-five teachers from the United States

came between 1869 and 1898 to found or rehabilitate eighteen

normal schools, each with its model grade school and kinder-

By 1880 the civil strife between the Province of

Buenos Aires and the other provinces had receded enough to

allow the organization of the government on a definitive

basis. The city of Buenos Aires was federalized as the

capital of a united Argentina. At the beginning of 1881,

In accordance with this law, the Sociedad de Bene-
ficencia handed over its schools to the Consejo General
and Sarmiento was named the Director General of this Consejo.
(Salvadores, pp. 227-36, 336-48.)

36Alice Houston Luiggi, 65 Valiants (Gainesville:
University of Florida Press, 1965).

the municipality of Buenos Aires ceded its schools to the

Nation, and it was decreed that the provincial school laws

of Buenos Aires would still apply to these schools. Thus,

primary education was free and compulsory since these schools

were under the 1875 Ley de Educaci6n Comin de la Provincia.

At the same time, a decree created a Consejo Nacional de

Educaci6n to govern these national schools. Sarmiento left

the Consejo General de Educaci6n of the Province of Buenos

Aires to become the Superintendent of the Consejo Nacional

de Educaci6n (CNE); eight inspectors made up this entity

along with the Superintendent. Besides arranging for the

Congress Pedag6gico of 1882, the CNE also carried out a

school census in 1883, which showed that only 29.3% of the

school-age population (five to fourteen years old) was at-

tending school.37 Both the Congress and Census of 1883

spurred on efforts to draw up a national education law

that would encompass the former decrees and promote lit-

eracy. Congress began to work on such legislation during

the administration of Roca (1880-86), a procedure which

embroiled laicists in a battle with the church.38

37Salvadores, p. 360.

38Ibid., pp. 355-62.

The Church.--The Argentine church was plagued through-

out the nineteenth century by a lack of clerics, regular and

secular. Its hierarchy and leaders tended to reflect a tradi-

tionalist conservative mentality and did not favor progres-

sive Catholic organizations when they did appear. Rather

than come up with constructive ideas of their own, the

church's leaders tended to resist and to lash out at the in-

creasingly secular and liberal cultural and intellectual cli-

mate of Argentina. Argentine Catholicism was isolated from

Europe and did not meet the challenges from Masonry and anti-

clericalism which were gaining ground among professionals,
teachers, and politicians.

It was not until the 1860's that the church became

organized on a strictly national basis; until 1865 the

dioceses of Argentina were under the control of a foreign

metropolitan, the Archbishop of Charcas, but in that year

two archdioceses were established in Argentina, those of

Buenos Aires and Paran&. The church sought to restore its

influence by building up the number of clerics and teach-

ing catechism in both the public and private schools. The

39Nestor T. Auza, Los cat6licos argentinos: su
experiencia polftica y social (Buenos Aires: Ediciones
Diagrama, 1962), pp. 12. 72, 76, 125.

government agreed to subsidize seminaries to graduate more

priests, and Ireland and various European orders sent

clerics to help. The Jesuits, who had been invited back

to Argentina in 1860, opened schools in Santa Fe and Buenos

Aires (Colegio del Salvador) that became universities a

century later. Evangelization of the Indians in the North

and South was carried out after 1875 with federal aid.40

The church also received state subventions for its own


The conservatism of the church led it to hamper ef-

forts to create a public and secular school system. It con-

sidered the schoolteachers imported from abroad as enemies

of the faith and protested the "dechristianization" of ed-

ucation. Thus, in Parana, for example, clerical protests

succeeded in putting a course in religion, morality, and

civics into the curriculum of the local normal school. But

the national government insisted that it be taught by a

priest before or after regular class hours and.that it not

be required.42

40Furlong, "El catolicismo," pp. 256-59, 262-63.

4Maria Elina R. B. Demaria, La instrucci6n primar-
ia en la Argentina, 1884-1936 (Buenos Aires: El Ateneo,
1936), p. 61.

42Chavarria, pp. 66-73, 76.



Proponents of Secularism

Argentina's economically dominant classes of the

1880's sought to modernize the country and themselves by

adopting the ideas and institutions of the more developed

countries of England, France, and the United States. The

generation of 1880 turned to Masonry, liberalism, mater-

ialism, positivism, and laicism. Both the upper and middle

classes wanted to diminish the influence of revealed reli-

gion and provide an opportunity to the young through educa-

tion, itself an instrument for the modernization of Argen-
tina and a tool for its unification.

The groundwork laid by secularists in the post-inde-

pendence period flowered into a series of laic reforms in

the 1880's. These reforms consisted of civil marriage,

abolition of parochial registration of births, marriages,

and deaths, the secularization of cemeteries, and Law 1420,

Torcuato S. Di Tella, "Raices de la controversial
educational argentina," in Los fraqmentos del poder, de la
oligarqula a la poliarqula argentina (Buenos Aires: Edi-
torial Jorge Alvarez, S.A., 1969), p. 312.

which excluded religious education from the public schools

during school hours.

Lay and secular ideologies became entrenched among

the professionals, teachers, and politicians of the Argen-

tine upper and middle classes. Masonic lodges promoted

laicism, and President Roca's Minister of Justice and Pub-

lic Instruction Eduardo Wilde was a Mason, as was "Grand

Master" Sarmiento and other prominent politicians who had
the seats of power. French positivist thought permeated

the normal schools and the Faculty of Law of the University

of Buenos Aires and looked upon revealed religion as unsci-

entific. Normal school graduates became teachers in pro-

vincial schools and spread positivist philosophy. The

American instructors in these normal schools were mainly

Protestant and opposed to catechism in public schools.

Little wonder, then, that the growing professionalization

of Argentine teachers pitted them against clerics who had

long dominated Argentina's educational system because of

their superior formal education.4 French liberalism was

2Furlong, La tradici6n, pp. 67, 100.

Chavarria, p. 76.

4John J. Kennedy, Catholicism, Nationalism and Dem-
ocracy in Argentina (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of
Notre Dame Press, 1958), p. 190.

imitated by prominent Argentines, who also emulated its

anticlericalism and secular thinking which saw society as

made up of all creeds and the school as a neutral terrain

for all inhabitants, a source of solidarity and social uni-
ty. "Arqentinidad" would be promoted by the secular,

public school. And lastly, the material development of the

nation was to be patterned after that of the United States

which drew its immigrants from northern Europe. Argentina

could better attract these mainly Protestant immigrants if

its Roman Catholicism was downplayed and a free and lay ed-
ucation offered to their children.

The Educational Uproar of 1884: Law 1420

The culmination of lay and liberal influence in Ar-

gentina was Law 1420 which provided a national administra-

tive structure for primary education and established that

national primary schools would be tuition-free, based on

promotion between grades, and laic. It was this latter

Speech by Juan B. Terin in 1933, quoted in Bishop
Antonio Caggiano and Archbishop Nicolis Fasolino, "Pastoral
a los Catl6icos de la Provincia de Santa F6," April 22,
1945, in Criterio, XVIII (April 26, 1945), 367-69.


principle that raised a furor in the 1880's and is still

being disputed even today.


As early as 1877 Congress adopted Law 934 which gave

the state the exclusive right to grant titles to the grad-

uates of secondary schools. Graduates of private second-

ary schools had to pass examinations given by a committee

of five persons, three of whom represented the national co-

legios. Only then would their certificates be recognized

by the national colegios and universities. Another article

in this legislation of 1878 provided that students from pri-

vate or provincial institutes of higher education could en-

ter national university faculties only after passing exam-

inations given by the national universities on the subjects

studied in those institutes. This law thereby affirmed the

power of the state by which it could force private schools

on the secondary and higher levels to meet national stand-

ards. However, no uniform system of national secondary

schools was set up. Instead, laicists and liberals turned

their attentions to the primary level.

Ley 934, September 1878, is discussed in detail in
Americo Ghioldi, Libertad de enseTanza (Buenos Aires:
Universidad de Buenos Aires, 1961), pp. 48-77.

The question of establishing an administrative

structure for national primary schools funded by public

taxes also involved the question of religious education in

these schools. Two congresses that met in 1882 wrestled

with the issue of Catholic teachings in the national pri-

mary schools. One was a Congress of Workers presided over

by Pietro Geriomet in the Teatro Verdi in the Boca. Al-

though this congress was more concerned with working class

morals and salaries, it also addressed itself to the issue

of religion in the schools where workers sent their children.

The congress declared itself in favor of public schools
without dogmas. This secular position of the workers may

be explained by the fact that they were foreigners of di-

verse nationalities and creeds (or of no religious creed

whatsoever). Also, clerical influence upon the working

class was not strong. Since workers in Argentina had little

political power at the time, this congress influenced the

national Congressmen far less than the Pedagogical Congress

of 1882.

The Pedagogical Congress of 1882 was presided over

8Speech by Silvano Santander, DSCD 1946, X, p. 591.

by Onesimo Leguisam6n and influenced by Sarmiento's news-

paper articles in El Nacional: it was held under the aus-

pices of the Ministry of Justice and Public Instruction

headed by Eduardo Wilde. Its ostensible purpose was to

bring together the teachers who could help in improving

public instruction through a coordination of methods and

standards. Since participation was limited to secular

teachers, to the exclusion of clergy and religious teach-

ers, Catholic writers such as Furlong claim that it was
rigged against the church. One of the conclusions of this

Congress was: "Las escuelas del Estado deben ser esencial-

mente laicas: las creencias reliqiosas son del dominio

The struggle between opponents and supporters (who
included President Julio A. Roca ) of Law 1420 had one of

its principal battlegrounds in the press. Sarmiento, who

opposed catechism in the public schools during class time,

headed the journalistic battle. His nephew Belin obtained

Furlong, La tradici6n, p. 89.


11Much credit for this law must go to Roca who want-
ed Congress to formulate a law for primary schools and back-
ed its laicism from 1881-84. (Jose Arce, "Genesis y tram-
itaci6n de la ley 1420," Publicaciones del Museo Roca, XII
uenos Aires: Tecnica Impresora S.A.C.I., 19667, 149-83.)

the support of Mitre and other newspaper publishers, in-

cluding those of foreign language newspapers. Liberals,

as they came to be called, such as Sarmiento, Mitre,

Groussac, Gallo, Saenz Pena, shaped newspapers such as La

Naci6n, El Nacional, and Sudamerica as bastions of the

principles of laicism. The ideas diffused by this press

helped to prepare the educational as well as the political

and economic thought of the national Congressmen.12

Roman Catholic Resistance

Astounded by the headway that laic ideas were making

in Catholic Argentina, Argentine Catholics fought back. Of

all the lay reforms, none gave rise to such a fierce battle

as the issue of secular versus religious education in the

public school. The hierarchy of the church insisted on cat-

echism in the public schools as a necessary means to main-

tain the faith. Canon law and the Syllabus of Pius IX con-

demned the separation of education from Roman Catholicism.

In the first half of 1882, Argentine Catholics organ-

ized themselves to fight laicism. Catholic laymen head-

ed by Jos& Manuel Estrada founded a newspaper La Union in

Buenos Aires to counterattack the liberal press; the Jes-

12Maria Elina R. B. de Demaria, La instrucci6n
primaria en la Argentina, 1884-1936 (Buenos Aires: El
Ateneo, 1936), p. 10.

uits of the Colegio del Salvador aided La Uni6n. Two weeks

later the archdiocese began its own newspaper La Voz de la

Iqlesia, headed by an ecclesiastic. Other pro-Catholic

newspapers were founded in the provinces by laymen and
clerics. But it was realized that a religious press was

not enough to combat liberalism and laicism since the more

prominent newspapers, political parties, and the government

were in the hands of the liberals: political organization

would be necessary.

The Asociaci6n Catl6ica de Buenos Aires was formed

in 1883 by Jos4 Manuel Estrada as an offshoot of the Club

Cat6lico, founded in 1876-77 by the priest Felix Frias.

Aided by a monsignor, this Asociaci6n organized the Primer

Congress Nacional de los Cat6licos Argentinos in 1884.

Made up of lay and clerical leaders from all over Argentina,

the congress sought the entrance of Catholics into politics

to counter liberals and their programs, especially Law 1420.

A Catholic political party Uni6n Cat6lica emerged from this

Both Furlong, "El catolicismo argentino entire 1860
y 1930," Historia argentina contemporinea, 1862-1930 (Buenos
Aires: El Ateneo, 1964), II, 270; and Auza, Los catolicos
argentinos, pp. 27-29, contain a nice synopsis of the Cath-
olic press in Argentina but go into little detail.

14Auza, pp. 33-38; and Furlong, ibid., 270-73, 280.

Law 1420

But Roman Catholic resistance to Law 1420 was too

little and too late. The national Congress had debated it
from July 4 to 14, 1883, and had passed it on June 23, 1884.

Law 1420 dealt principally, though not exclusively, with the

national primary schools, which in 1884 were found only in

the Federal District, national territories, and certain-un-

important agricultural colonies. It reaffirmed the author-

ity of the Consejo Nacional de Educaci6n (CNE), which had

been established by decree a few years before, over these

schools, and it earmarked certain specific sources of rev-

enue for their support. It also provided that the CNE

should direct the national normal schools, whose curriculum

was to be established by Congress and the Ministry of Jus-

tice and Public Instruction. And it further set minimum

standards, for private as well as public primary schools.

A Consejo Escolar de Distrito was to oversee both private

and national schools in each school district. These public

bodies could approve or disapprove a private school's site,

1For a blow-by-blow account of the passage of this
law, consult Gregorio Weinberg (ed.), Debate parlamentario
sobre la Ley 1420, 1883-1884 (Buenos Aires: Editorial
Raigal, 1956).

building conditions, classroom conditions, and capacity of

a teacher to teach. They could inspect to assure that re-

quired subjects, plus hygiene and morality, were being

taught. If standards were not met, the Consejo Escolar

could close down a private school in its district..

The main debate on Ley 1420 was over its article

eight which stated the following:

La ensenanza religiosa s6la podrS ser dada en las
escuelas pdblicas por los ministros autorizados
de los differences cultos, a los niRos de su
respective comui6n, y antes o despu4s de la
horas de clase.

Catholic anxieties were fed by the fear that all public

schools might soon be secularized, even though this article

eight only pertained to the national primary schools. The

latter were not very numerous until the passage of the Ley

Lainez in 1905, which provided for the establishment of

national schools in the provinces. The more numerous pub-

lic schools belonging to the provinces were left out of

this legislation. Neither did it refer to secondary schools.

And proponents of the law further pointed out that it did

not ban religious education from the national schools: it

only restricted the hours in which it could be given. The

1A partial text of this law may be found ibid.;
article eight is quoted on p. xxvii.

required curriculum itself was not irreligious: it includ-

ed a course on morality that discussed God and His laws.

Catholic opposition to Law 1420 was not directed at

the state's prerogative to oversee and set standards for

private schools. Rather, it was against the restriction

of the teaching of catechism in the national schools. Cat-

echist classes in the more numerous provincial and private

schools were untouched by this law. Initial Catholic opposi-

tion, it must be concluded, was not just to the immediate

consequences but also to the presumed long-range intent of

this law: it was an effort to hamper the creation of a pub-

lic school system free from Catholic influence of control.17


The Argentine church maintained its opposition to

laicism, while the government demonstrated its intention

to expand public and lay education on the primary level.

Right after the passage of Law 1420 the government found it-

self embroiled in a dispute with the church: the Capitular

Vicar of C6rdoba issued a pastoral to the laity forbidding

them to send their children to a normal school directed by

1Luiggi writes that the church was "jealous of its
lost opportunities . was continually hampering the ef-
forts . of Sarmiento and the government .. to create
a school system free to every dweller in Argentina.- . "
(65 Valiants, p. 27.)

Protestant women. He was supported-by the Bishop of Salta,

who issued a similar pastoral to his own laity, and by two

other vicars. When the government tried to force the Ca-

pitular Vicar of C6rdoba to back down, the Cathedral chap-

ter protested and supported him, as did Catholic professors

at C6rdoba and Buenos Aires national universities. The

government retaliated by suspending all of the vicars and

the Bishop of Salta, and by dismissing the professors. The

government also ejected the Apostolic Delegate from the

country when he met privately with the Protestant director

of the C6rdoba normal school in hopes of getting her to

permit the teaching of catechism in the school in exchange

for the church's lifting of its pastoral ban against the
school. The government had made its point that the church

should not interfere in the public schools.

In 1884, the Primer Congreso Nacional de los Cat6-

licos Argentinos resolved to combat Law 1420. The govern-

ment replied with harsher rulings. An 1885 directive stat-

ed that ministers of different faiths must receive permis-

sion from the district school councils and have at least

fifteen pupils in order to hold religious classes in the

1See Furlong, "El cat6licismo," pp. 268-69; and
Mecham, Church and State in Latin America, pp. 239-41.

schools.9 Moreover, in 1904, the CNE ruled that religious

education was to be given only to those students whose par-

ents previously requested it. A later ruling said that

religion classes had to end one-half hour before school

began, or begin one-half hour after school classes ended.20

The Argentine Counter Reformation: 1884-1943

The church failed in the 1880's to convince Argen-

tines who held the reins of power and teaching posts and

guided political parties that a Roman Catholic education

was better for Argentines than a liberal and secular one.

Not only did the church not overturn Law 1420, but, as will

be seen, its one university folded after a decade (1910-

20). The greatest setback for the church after the laic

legislation of the 1880's was the Reforma of the national

universities, which further secularized them. In general,

Argentine Catholicism was not fecund in ideas and works

responding to new situations from 1870 to 1920: progres-

sive Catholic organizations were not supported by the hier-

archy and even stymied by it.21

1Casiello, Iqlesia v estado en la Argentina, p. 332.
Furlong, La tradici6n, p. 101.

Auza, Los cat6licos argentinos, pp. 23, 72, 76, 125.

On the national level, Argentines were not pursuing

"Catholic" goals and did not see religion as relevant to

the socio-economic issues of Argentina. They saw the legal

and constitutional traditions of Argentina as adequately

protecting Roman Catholic interests; after all, the church

was subsidized by the state and the president of Argentina

had to be Roman Catholic. Because of the prevalence of

such attitudes on the part of the laity, a Roman Catholic

political party hardly got off the ground.22

After 1920 Catholic groups with explicitly Catholic

goals began to attract more adherents. The church con-

vinced laymen to work for its ends especially through the

Uni6n Popular Cat1lica or Acci6n Cat6lica Argentina. More

conservative governments rescinded many of the gains of

the university Reforma and replaced liberal administrators

and professors with ultra-nationalist and Catholic ones.

But the greatest triumph of the church's "counter reforma-

tion" came in 1943, when a military junta suspended Law
1420 and established catechism in the public schools.

Ibid., p. 23.
Richard J. Walter, Student Politics in Argentina:
The University Reform and Its Effects, 1918-1964 (New York:
Basic Books, 1968), pp. 80-83, 90-115.

The Press

The Catholic press continued to fight liberalism and

laicism. The Third Catholic Congress held in C6rdoba in

1907 urged the diffusion of Roman Catholic ideas through

the press. At the same time, the Catholic press began to

expand, as a result of journalistic activities of clerics

and laymen. In 1911, the magazine Estudios was started by

Jesuits; it became rightist after the death of one of its
co-founders in 1925. Acci6n Cat6lica Argentina controlled

directly or indirectly 700 publications, plus publishing
houses such as Editorial Difusi6n. Its official daily

newspaper, El Pueblo, was anti-democratic, and during
World War II was nearly black-listed. A strongly Catholic

layman Manuel Fresco, who as governor of the Province of

Buenos Aires had implanted religious education in the pro-

vincial schools in 1936, was editor of the pro-fascist

24Furlong, "Breve historic de la revista 'Estudios,'"
Estudios, XLVII, no. 500 (December, 1958), 759; 761-62.
Overseas News Agency, "Memorandum on Argentina,"
Buenos Aires, February 24, 1944, p. 3. National Archives
file no. 835.404/42.
Acci6n Cat6lica Argentina forbade its members to
read a pro-democratic magazine, Orden Cristiano. (Ibid.,
p. 2.)

Catholic daily newspaper Cabildo. Another Catholic lay-

man, Atilio Dell'Oro Maini, founded the magazine Criterio

in 1928; in 1932 the hierarchy named Monsignor Gustavo J.

Franceschi as its editor. This magazine best reflected

the thoughts of the Argentine hierarchy, becoming, after

Franceschi took it over, more ultra-nationalist and anti-
liberal, for the authoritarian views of many clerics and

Catholic laymen were being reinforced by the fascist ide-
ologies of Europe of the 1930's.

Acci6n Cat6lica Argentina

Catholic laymen and progressive priests had organ-

ized leagues and associations after the 1880's like the

Circulos de Obreros, Uni6n Dem6crata Cristiana, and the

Liga Social Argentina. All were impeded by a narrow and

conservative hierarchy that either disbanded these organ-

28James M. Byrne, "Catholic Influence on New Regime
in Argentina," Summary of despatch no. 13193. Buenos Aires,
December 14, 1943, p. 2. National Archives file no.
29 '
29Marysa Gerassi, "Argentine Nationalism of the Right:
1930-1946," Studies in Comparative International Develop-
ment, Social Science Institute, no. 13 (St. Louis, Mo.:
Washington University, 1965), 181-94.

izations or absorbed them.3

In 1919 the Argentine hierarchy approved the statutes

of its main apostolic organization, Uni6n Popular Cat6lica

Argentina, later to be called Acci6n Cat6lica Argentina

(ACA). It was modeled after an Italian organization which
was conceived of as the clergy's secular arm. ACA came

to be divided into four branches: the Asociaci6n de Hombres

de Acci6n Cat6lica (AHAC), the Asociaci6n de Mujeres de

Accion Catl6ica (AMAC), the Asociaci6n de los J6venes de

Acci6n Cat6lica (AJAC), and the Asociaci6n de las J6venes

de Acci6n Cat6lica (AJAC). A fifth branch was added in

1952--the Asociaci6n de Profesionales de Acci6n Cat6lica.

ACA was organized on the archdiocesan, diocesan, and

parochial levels. On the archdiocesan level was formed a

Junta Central in the capital, which was the seat of Se-

cretariados Centrales: Economic-Social (founded 1934),

Moralidad (founded 1935), Publicidad y Propaganda (founded

1937), Educaci6n (founded 1947 and dissolved in 1963), and

Auza, pp. 60-120.
Ibid., pp. 117-18; cf. Gianfranco Poggi, Catholic
Action in Ital'.y: The Sociology of a Sponsored Organization
(Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1967), pp.50,
54, 217-19.

Defense de la F6 (founded 1947).32

Institutions such as Scouts Catilicos Argentinos,

Congregaciones Marianas, and the Confederaci6n Argentina

de Maestros y Profesores Cat6licos (founded 1936) adhered

to ACA as affiliates and were assigned asesores or advi-

sors who were clerics with the final word on any decision.

Catholic students attending public schools were organized

into federations which were either in the boys' or girls'

branch (AJAC). Catholic students at Catholic schools were

organized into Centros Internos and also belonged to the

branch of their sex in AJAC. Catholic university students

could join the Federaci6n de los Centros Universitarios of

ACA; these federations and centros were headed by ecclesi-

astical advisors.33

A United States Embassy despatch from Buenos Aires

considered ACA to be the most important Catholic group
wielding political influence in Argentina in 1943. In-

deed, ACA did attract numbers. AHAC with 4,048 members in

Interviews with civilian administrators of ACA,
R. Diaz and J. Iglesias, Buenos Aires, August 18 and 21,


3Byrne, "Catholic Influence," p. 3.

1933 had an index of growth of 201 to total 8,161 members

by 1943; AMAC had 5,177 members in 1933 and 15,061 by 1943,

a growth index of 290; AJAC (girls) had 7,150 members in

1933 and 22,871 by 1943, a growth index of 319; and AJAC

(boys) had 3,831 members in 1933 and 12,407 by 1943, a

growth index of 323. There were also preparatory sections

founded in 1935 for little girls and boys, numbering over

7,000 and 6,000 members respectively, plus sections of
future members numbering 10,000 men and 13,000 women.

From the very beginning, ACA pressured for religious

education in the public schools. AHAC chose religious ed-

ucation as its campaign topic for 1933.36 The Junta Central

of ACA heard a paper in 1934 that described the laic school

as "atheistic" and "contrary to the national Constitution."

The Junta voted in favor of "reclaiming as a right the es-

tablishment of religious education for all orders of offi-

cial teaching."37 In 1938 the ACA organized its members to

35Faustino Aranguren, "Datos estadisticos," Boletin
de la Acci6n Catblica Argentina, XXI (April, 1951), 169-70.

36"Respuesta de la Acci6n Catl6ica Argentina al cues-
tionario de la Oficina Pontifica, 'Actio Catholica,'"
Boletin de la ACA, XVII (November, 1947), 307.

37Campobassi, Ataaue v defense del laicismo escolar
en la Argentina, 1884-1963 (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Gure,
1964), p. 27.

lobby in Congress against the Coll bill, which would have

maintained and extended the.neutrality of the public schools

in religious matters. ACA won this battle and went on to

organize in 1939 a Segunda Semana Nacional de Estudios Soci-

ales, held in Buenos Aires as the opening phase of another

campaign to install religious education in public schools,
and to make private schools independent of state control.

ACA's theme for 1939 for its congresses and assemblies was

"La Educaci6n Cristiana," based on the papal bull "Divini
Illius Magistri."39 In 1942 the ACA again took as its

campaign topic the theme of religious education in the
state schools.

The ACA, it must be recalled, was reflecting the opin-

ion of the Argentine hierarchy. In turn, the episcopacy was

acting generally in accord with the policies and objectives

favored by the papacy itself. ACA's activities were to

bear fruit in 1943 when an ACA member, Martinez Zuviria,

became the national Minister of Education and decreed the

Mercedes Terren, "La ACA en la educaci6n argentina,"
in 30 anos de Acci6n Cat6lica, 1931-1961, ed, Manuel N. J.
Bello (Buenos Aires: Talleres Graficos de Don Rudecindo
Sellares, 1961), pp. 190-91.

39"Respuesta de la ACA," Boletin de la ACA, p. 306.
Overseas News Agency, "Memorandum on Argentina,"
p. 3.

reintroduction of religious education into the regular

class hours of the national schools.

Religious Education in Provincial Schools

Before moving on to the topic of religious educa-

tion in provincial schools, a few words must be said in re-

gard to the state of provincial education. Education had

been left to the provinces by the Constitution of 1853, but

they lacked the funds to establish an outstanding system of

primary schools. The provinces needed to receive national

subventions for their schools, a procedure begun in 1871,

but "the logical tendency of national authorities to place

funds, teachers, and efforts in areas where obstacles seemed

less staggering, robbed the interior of any fair share in
Argentina's educational campaign." In provinces such as

Salta, Santiago del Estero, and Jujuy, less than 50% of

school-age children attended any school in 1914, in con-

trast to the more than 60% who attended schools in the Prov-
ince and City of Buenos Aires. Though great strides were

made toward wiping out illiteracy from 1868-1890, efforts

James R. Scobie, Argentina: A City and a Nation
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1964), p. 154.


slackened from 1890-1930.43 According to the 1940 census,

30% of school-age children did not attend primary schools.44

The Socialist Americo Ghioldi pointed out in 1942

that the provinces received only 4,530,000 pesos in 1918

(the budget of 1917 gave them about this amount out of a

total of 26,531,228 pesos for all primary education45) from

the national government, and, as of 1942, they were still

receiving a small amount. Ghioldi proposed that the nation-

al subvention of provincial schools be increased in order

to guarantee provincial teachers 75% of the salary of
national schoolteachers.

Although the provinces received national subventions

for their schools, many of them implanted religious educa-

tion through provincial laws, decrees, and reqlamentos.

Salta, for example, passed a law in 1886 which made the

Gianello, "La ensenanza primaria y secundaria,"
Historia argentina contemporanea, II, p. 155.

44Speech by Amirico Ghioldi, DSCD 1941, II, p. 638.

4Argentina, Ley del presupuesto general, 1917
(Buenos Aires: Talleres Graficos del Ministerio de Agri-
cultura, 1917), pp. 486, 528.

46DSCD 1942, I, pp. 700, 702.

teaching of the Roman Catholic religion obligatory. C6rdoba

followed suit in 1896, calling for the teaching of morality

and religion.47 A subsequent law in 1908 said that reli-

gious education should be given in schools to children
whose parents or guardians did not object. In Catamarca,

an education law of 1900 allowed the province's Consejo de

Educaci6n to dictate a curriculum that would include the

Catholic religion.49 Santa Fl's legislature passed an ed-

ucational law declaring the religious formation of children

to be necessary. Schoolchildren would be taught morality

and Catholic doctrine by a teacher if no cleric could do


When the legislature of Santiago del Estero passed

a law implanting religious education in its schools, the

CNE threatened to cut off national subventions to its

schools, and the governor vetoed the law. However, the

national Congress did not impose on the right of provinces

to make laws for their schools. A bill of December 1914

4Furlong, La tradici6n, p. 120.

48Speech of Deputy Alfredo Palacios, DSCD 1914/15,
VI, p. 684.
4As of 1914, this law was not applied but neither
was it repealed. (Ibid., p. 683.)


to cut off national subventions to provinces with laws

permitting religious education in their public schools was

defeated. It was pointed out by its sponsor that educa-

tion was lay only in the provinces of Buenos Aires, Corri-
entes, Entre Rios, Jujuy, San Luis, Mendoza, and La Rioja.51

In the 1930's the governing elites and military be-

gan to turn against the liberalism of the 1880's in reac-

tion to the socio-economic crisis of the great depression

and the challenge posed by new urban middle- and working-

class groups. Their self-confidence shaken, despite their

return to power, the Conservatives52 on the provincial and

national levels turned increasingly to a romantic tradition-

alism, one of whose features was support of historic Ca-


In response to this new climate Buenos Aires implant-

ed religion in its schools by a reglamento of its Consejo

General de Educaci6n (1936). A national interventor de-

5Ibid., pp. 685, 691.

5Conservative parties operated mainly on the pro-
vincial level and went by different names; only in the Pro-v-
-ince of Buenos Aires was there at one time a major party
by that name. Here the term is a generic designation for
the "oligarchy."

53Henry Stanley Ferns, Argentina (London: Ernest
Bonn Limited, 1969), p. 160.

creed religious education in the provincial schools of Cata-

marca (1937), and a governor of Mendoza made it an optional
course in the provincial schools (1937). In one way or

another, between 1936-37 religious education was also im-

planted in the provinces of Corrientes, San Luis, La Rioja,

and Jujuy.55 It was also inserted in this period in prov-

inces where it had previously existed but had later been
eliminated: Santa F4, C6rdoba, and Salta. Hence, the most

populous provinces in Argentina had religion being taught

as part of the regular curriculum in the provincial schools.

Small wonder, then, that a 1940 pastoral of the Ar-

gentine bishops applauded those who had worked to conserve

a "Christian education" in the provincial schools, besides

reminding Argentine Catholics that religious education was
still a goal of the church. The church's influence on the

elite was helping it achieve a Catholic curriculum in

5Furlong, La tradici6n, pp. 121-22.

55Campobassi, Ataque y defense del laicismo, p. 36.

5Ibid., p. 36.
"Pastoral del Episcopado Argentino Sobre la Educa-
ci6n Cristiana," June 29, 1940, quoted in Revista Eclesiastica
del Arzobispado de Buenos Aires y del Obispado Sufraggneo de
Azul, XL (July, 1940), 385-98. (Hereafter cited as the Re-
vista Eclesiastica de Buenos Aires.)

public schools.

Church Built Its Own School System

The Generation of 1880 was active in the field of

primary education, and national schools proliferated. In

1885, one-fourth of all primary students were attending
private schools; it may be assumed that three-fourths of

them were Catholic. By 1937, only 7.5% of Argentine pri-

mary students were in private schools; the overwhelming ma-

jority were evenly divided between provincial (46.2%) and
national (46.6%) primary schools. In fact, from 1908 to

1938 the number of primary schools had doubled, the number

of students had tripled, and the number of teachers had
quadrupled. This expansion was the result of Congres-

sional and Executive action: Ley Lainez and financial

support for national schools and teachers.

But by no means had the church given up on spread-

ing its own school system in the face of state activity.

At the same time that it began to organize lay groups such

58Demaria, p. 28.

59Alejandro E. Bunge, "Reflexiones acerca del regimen
educacional--constataciones numericas," La ensenanza national
(Buenos Aires: Espasa Calpe Argentina, 1940), p. 149.

60Ibid., p. 152.

as Acci6n Catilica, and at the same time that clerics and

laymen founded a Catholic press, the bishops founded the

Consejo Superior de Educaci6n Cat6lica (CONSUDEC). All

church-administered schools, parochial or religious, were

made dependent on CONSUDEC in 1922, their statutes being

dictated by the Argentine episcopacy. The goals of CONSUDEC

were to orient, coordinate, inform, and, if necessary, to
defend all Catholic schools.61

The church decided to concentrate on the establish-

ment of secondary and normal schools, and to leave the pri-

mary schools chiefly to the public sector. In 1918, one out

of five secondary students was enrolled in private schools;

in 1943, more than two out of five secondary students were
studying in private schools. (It is assumed that three-

fourths of these private schools were Catholic.) In 1918,

13% of Argentina's normal school students were enrolled in

private normal schools; in 1943, this percentage had in-

creased to 66%.63 Almost all of the private normal schools

Information in a letter to the author from Hermano
Septimio, the head of CONSUDEC, Buenos Aires, March 19, 1974.

62Di Tella, "Raices de la controversial educational
argentina," Los fraqmentos del poder, p. 314.



were Catholic. The church was assured of reaching the

children of the middle and upper classes by concentrating

on secondary school students. And the church was molding

the teachers of primary schoolchildren by operating more

normal schools, thereby reaching more primary school pupils


Ley 934 of 1877 only mentioned secondary schools,

stipulating that private secondary school students would

have to submit to state examinations given by the national

coleqios; left outside of this law were private normal

schools.64 Thus the graduates of Catholic normal schools

did not have to submit to state administered examinations

in order to receive state recognition of their diplomas or

certificates. Catholic normal schools faced no legal ob-

stacles, therefore, and increased in number faster than the

national ones. By the early 20th century Argentina had a
surplus of primary school teachers; while the state and

provinces moved to slow down the growth of their own normal

schools, the church kept on increasing its number of normal

64Ghioldi, Libertad de enseanza, p. 89.

65The CNE in 1920 projected a surplus of 25,000
primary schoolteachers by 1930 if present growth rate were
maintained. (Deputy Juan F. Cafferata, DSCD 1927, II,
p. 294.)


The church's school system was also aided by the

state. The national government and some provinces gave

subventions to private schools. In 1938 the federal gov-

ernment spent thirty million pesos on private schools out

of a total education budget of 310 million pesos; 211 mil-

lion went to the national schools, and sixty-nine million
went to the provincial schools. In 1928, President Hip61-

ito Yrigoyen and his Minister of Education permitted pri-

vate secondary schools to waive the final national examina-

tions required by Ley 934 for those pupils who achieved a

high grade-point average, thereby lifting state control

over private secondary school certificates. The result was

an immediate upsurge in the number of private secondary
schools operating more like businesses than academic centers.

The church's growing number of schools was abetted

by the state's lack of action on the secondary (and normal)

school level. No state bureaucratic interest group devel-

oped to promote secondary education as one did on the pri-

mary level because Congress failed to pass a law creating a

Bunge, p. 148.

6Ghioldi, pp. 97-98.

Consejo Nacional de Enseffnza Secundaria.6

There were few national secondary schools in the

provinces; in 1900 there were only sixteen. In this same

year, there were 3,609 secondary students in the national

colegios and 3,272 secondary students in private schools
in all of Argentina. The national government was leav-

ing secondary education up to the provinces, but they did

not have the money, and, in fact, were closing down some
normal schools in 1900 because of lack of funds. What

the national government did do, however, was to commit re-

sources for non-bachillerato secondary schools, beginning

commercial schools (1890), industrial schools (1897), and

special schools for the deaf, dumb, and blind. In 1903

Congress approved a law creating an Instituto Nacional del

Profesorado which graduated teachers especially for the
secondary schools.

68There were many attempts throughout the 19th and
20th centuries; for one example, see DSCD 1894, pp. 528,

69Deputy Alejandro Carb6, DSCD 1900, pp. 1180, 1269.

70Ibid., p. 1180.

71Gianello, pp. 120-23, 126-30, 140-44.

The Universities: 1884-1943

Presidents Mitre through Roca promoted education be-

cause they deemed it important for Argentina's social, eco-

nomic, and political development, and they saw the univer-

sity as the pinnacle of Argentine education. During the

period of lay reforms of public education, President Roca's

government (1880-86) defined the relationship of Argentina's

national universities to the federal government by sponsor-

ing the Ley Avellaneda (Law 1597). The law governed the

universities from 1885 to 1967 except for an interruption

during the Peron era, 1947-55. As originally passed, it

gave the university a juridical status known as "limited

autarchy": the university could decide its own regulations

and basic norms and administer its internal finances. Un-

der this law the national universities had the exclusive

right to grant professional titles. Their autonomy was

limited, however, in that the President of Argentina ap-

pointed professors on the basis of nominations of the

superior council of the university; the national executive

could also remove professors from their posts; and the leg-

islative and executive branches annually approved the uni-

versity budgets. Changes in university statutes had to be

approved by the President of Argentina.

At the time the Ley Avellaneda was passed, the only

national universities were those of Buenos Aires and Cordoba,

which had come under federal control during the period of

national reorganization. Subsequently, other institutions

were added to the national system. La Plata was originally

planned as a provincial university, but in 1905 was turned

over to the Nation and soon functioned as a national uni-
versity. Santa Fe originally had a Jesuit colegio with

a law faculty that awarded degrees recognized by the two

national universities, 1875-1884. In 1890 this colegio be-

came part of the provincial university of Santa F6, and in

1919 it was nationalized by Yrigoyen as the University of

the Litoral and included former institutes in Rosario, Par-

ana, Corrientes, and Entre Rios. TucumAn-was also a former

provincial university which was nationalized (1921) after

Reform statutes had been approved for it by President
Yrigoyen in 1920. Cuyo was made the sixth national uni-

Maria Terren de Ferro, "Educaci6n: la universidad
actual y su autonomia," Estudios, no. 496, XLVII (August,
1958), 460-61.

3Gran encyclopedia argentina, ed.. Diego A. de
Santill5n, ( 8 vols., 1953-66, Buenos Aires: Ediar Sociedad
An6nima Editores, 1963), VIII, p. 250.

74Jos& Torre Revello, "Historia de las universidades

versity in 1939, growing out of various institutes in Men-


La Reforma

All the national universities, in existence or that

came into being from 1918-21, had their statutes written

and approved by the national executive to incorporate the

ideas of the "Reforma." This reform movement began at the

national University of Cordoba in 1918 and was carried out

by alumni, students, and professors. They wished to change

the rigid university structure that allowed certain tradi-

tional families from C6rdoba to monopolize professorships.

As these families were generally conservative and Catholic,

the struggle was also against the church and religious in-

fluences at the University of C6rdoba. The reform even-

tually spread to all Argentine universities and other Latin

American countries, bringing a tripartite system of univer-

sity government: alumni, students, and professors would

govern the university under conditions of university auto-

nomy---the state would not interfere in university life.

y de la cultural superior," Historia argentina contemportnea,
1862-1930 (Buenos Aires: El Ateneo, 1964), II, 188-90.

75Richard J. Walter, Student Politics in Argentina:
The University Reform and Its Effects, 1918-1964, pp. 39-77.

Other changes were that class attendance was no longer ob-

ligatory, examinations could be taken by students who did

not attend classes, and professors' chairs were opened to

other than the elite families' members.76

The Reform reflected student attitudes and ways of

thinking that would become characteristic: nationalism,

idealism, rhetorical solidarity with the working class,

support for social justice, and solidarity with youth in

other Latin American countries. Moreover, a by-product of

it was the creation of a national organization, the Fed-

eraci6n de Universitarios Argentinos (FUA), to coordinate

all of Argentina's student groups through pamphleteering,

meetings, etc., and to make the students' weight felt in

national politics--through meetings with the President and

violence if necessary.

The Reforma, like lay education, was soon subject

to a counter reformation. The government of Alvear inter-

vened the universities of the Litoral and Cordoba and rolled
back several of the Reformista renovations. Reform-

76Maria Mercedes Bergad5, Argentine Survey S.J.:
II--Situaci6n educational (Buenos Aires: Centro de Investi-
gaciones y Acci6n Social, 1968), Part 2, pp. 249-50.

7Walter, pp. 55-60, 77.
Ibid., pp. 80-83.

ists again suffered setbacks after 1930. Ironically, they

had worked to bring about the overthrow of Yrigoyen by mil-

itary coup in 1930, even though he had restored many of the

reforms to the universities; but they soon came to regret

their contribution to his overthrow. Under the military

dictatorship set up in 1930 and the fraudulently elected

Conservative coalition to which it gave way in 1932 (the

"Concordancia"), most of the universities were intervened,

and the administrators and professors opposed to the Re-
formista program replaced those of more liberal tendencies.

Governmental repression of students led to their increasing

politicization. Marxist groups grew in strength, as did

certain extremist groups of the right. But the main body

of university students identified with the democratic par-

ties (and with the Allies at the outbreak of World War II).

The principles of the Reform remained only as ideals dur-

ing the years 1930-43: and their university centers and

federations became foci of opposition to the national gov-

7The Second National Student Congress that met in
Buenos Aires in 1932 voiced opposition to the Concordancia
and demanded that the church not interfere in political af-
fairs. (Gabriel del Mazo, ed., La reform universitaria
/La Plata: Edici6n del Centro de Estudiantes de Ingenieria,
19417, II, 370-90.)

80Walter, pp. 90-115.

Catholic Universities Blocked

The anti-conservative and anti-clerical bias of the

Reform made Catholics more conscious of their own failure

to found a Catholic university. Various attempts had been

made before: in 1871 a bill submitted to the Buenos Aires

provincial legislature by Estrada was defeated; it would

have allowed private universities to grant scientific de-

grees, but not habilitating titles to practice a profession
unless the state approved. A Jesuit colegio in Santa Fe,

as noted above, had obtained approval of its law school

graduates' degrees from the two national universities,

1875-84. But it was not until 1910 that the church hier-

archy along with Catholic laymen founded the Universidad

Catolica de Buenos Aires. The state refused to recognize

the degrees of the university's graduates, and it ceased

to function around 1920-22.82

Meanwhile, however, Catholic activists as early as

1910 had formed Centros de Estudiantes Cat6licos in the na-

Horacio O. Domingorena, Articulo 28: universidades
privadas en la Argentina: sus antecedentes (Buenos Aires:
Editorial Americana, 1959), pp. 19-20.

82This Catholic University had faculties of law and
social science; Mons. Luis Duprat was rector. (Auza, Los
cat61icos argentinos, pp. 73-74.)

tional universities; they included secondary as well as

university students and alumni. Each Centro had an eccle-

siastical advisor, and Tribuna Universitaria was published
to propagandize their ideas and orient the movement. At

the same time, Catholic laymen organized the Cursos de

Cultura Cat1lica, in which Catholic professors met with

students in informal seminars to teach them about Catholic

culture and philosophy. The future Universidad Cat6lica

de Argentina grew out of these Cursos, as did the Ateneo

de la Juventud, founded in 1934. Many of the participants

such as Dell'Oro Maini, TomAs D. Casares, and Rafael Ayerza

became active in Argentine intellectual life and were to

use their influence to help the church achieve its educa-

tional aims.

The Tribuna Universitaria was edited by Dell'Oro
Maini, in 1917. See Tribuna Universitaria, October, 1917,
p. 103.



The Military Government

On June 4, 1943, the government of Argentina was

forcibly replaced by a new group of military leaders. This

group identified itself with nationalist and Roman Catholic

forces. Its revolutionary proclamation stated that one

goal of the revolution would be "acercar a los ninos a la

doctrine de Jesuscristo" and "educar a la juventud en el
respeto a Dios."

Nationalist Catholics applauded this coup, and moved

into governmental posts. Six days after the new government

took office, Father Gustavo Franceschi wrote an editorial

for Criterio which praised the actions of the armed forces

and called the revolution "una racha purificadora del ambi-

ente social." The "duty" of Argentines was to support this
government. In the next issue of Criterio appeared a let-

ter from General Pedro Ramirez, who had become President,

1Campobassi, Ataque y defense del laicismo escolar,
p. 40.
"Comentarios: la revoluci6n," Criterio, XVI (June
10, 1943), 128.

- ________

openly thanking Franceschi and Criterio for their support.

Franceschi replied by complimenting Ramlrez for his "inte-

gral Catholic Christianity" and his proposal to seek social

justice in the manner laid out in the papal encyclicals.3

General Ramirez also called on Cardinal Copello and told

him that his government intended to lean heavily on the

church for assistance. Ramirez had a cleric as his per-

sonal advisor, Father Roberto A. Wilkinson Dirube, who

also was credited as being his speech writer.

The Catholic militancy of the new government showed

up in the field of education. The Minister of the Inter-

ior Hector Bernardo, who headed a nationalist group pro-

fessing to be followers of St. Augustine, issued an order

for the intervention of the province of Tucumin. While the

province was intervened, the provincial Minister of Educa-

tion sent out a nationalist circular to all schools that

called for the extirpation of liberal democracy. This was

followed by the installation of enseTianza religiosa in the

Franceschi, "Nuevas consideraciones sobre la re-
voluci6n," Criterio, XVI (July 1, 1943), 200.

Despatch no. 11024 from Ambassador Norman Armour
to the Secretary of State. Buenos Aires, July 17, 1943,
p. 7. National Archives file no. 835/1671.


provincial public schools. The action of the Catholic na-

tionalists in the public education system of Tucumin was a

preview of what they would do in the national schools.6

The new Minister of Justice and Public Instruction,

Gustavo Martinez Zuviria, was a member of ACA and an ex-

treme Catholic militant who had written nationalist and

anti-semitic novels under the pen name of Hugo Wast. In

December 1943, he issued the decree by which religious ed-

ucation was implanted in the national primary and second-

ary schools; by religious education was meant the teaching

of the Roman Catholic religion. The provincial governments

followed suit and established religious education in their

provincial public primary and secondary schools by local


Martinez Zuviria named another Catholic militant,

Jose Ignacio Olmedo, as President of the Consejo Nacional

de Educaci6n; he announced pro-clerical and nationalist

principles upon assuming office on March 25, 1944. Two

days later, Olmedo issued a decree suspending all primary

schoolteachers, specialists, and administrators, pending

Byrne, "Catholic Influence on New Regime in Argen-
tina," Summary of despatch no. 13193, Buenos Aires, Decem-
ber 14, 1943, p. 1.

a review of their fitness. All continued in their posts

until each individual case was decided, but the net effect

was to put primary education safely in the hands of the

clerics and nationalists.

Martinez Zuvirfa directed the intervention of all

the universities, except the University of La Plata, and

ended student participation in university administration.

He declared FUA and all its centers to be illegal and dis-

solved; FUA, however, continued to operate clandestinely.8

Pro-democratic professors and administrators were removed

from office or resigned in protest. Ultra-nationalists

and reactionary Catholics replaced them. The main uni-

versity with over 90% of all Argentine university students

was the University of Buenos Aires, whose interventor was

Tom5s D. Casares, a member of the Cursos de Cultura Cat6-

lica, ACA, the organizing committee of the First Congress

of Ibero-American Culture, the Club del Plata, and Con-

Telegram from Ambassador Norman Armour to the Sec-
retary of State. Buenos Aires, March 28, 1944. National
Archives file no. 835.42/185.
Despite government repression, university students
managed to force the resignation of some reactionary profes-
sors and administrators. (Walter, Student Politics in Ar-
gentina, p. 123.)
9Water, Student Politics in Argentina, pp. 121-22.
Walter, Student Politics in Argentina, pp. 121-22.

vivium.10 Other Catholics who belonged to some of these

same organizations played a role in the University's inter-

vention: Atilio Dell'Oro Maini, Interventor-Dean of the

Law School of the University of Buenos Aires; and Rafael
Ayerza, Interventor-Dean of the School of Science.

On May 4, 1944, Dr. Alfredo Baldrich succeeded Mar-

tinez Zuvirla as Minister of Justice and Public Instruction.

He, too, was a Catholic nationalist and appointed another'

Catholic nationalist as his subsecretary, Silenzi de Stagni.

So was Jordan Bruno Genta, the former interventor of the

University of the Litoral, who on June 6 became rector of

the Instituto del Profesorado, the leading secondary school-
teacher training center. A course in religious educa-

tion and morality had been added to its curriculum since

the decree for religious education also applied to second-

ary schools. By such means, secondary education was brought

10Casares was named to the Supreme Court in 1944 and
rose to be its president under Peron in 1946. He typifies
these Catholic nationalists in that he sided with the church
during its showdown with the government in 1955. (Inter-
view with Casares, Buenos Aires, September 11, 1972.)

Byrne, pp. 4-5.
Letter from Cultural Attach4 Hayward Keniston to
the Secretary of State, Buenos Aires, June 9, 1944, p. 6.
National Archives file n. 842.6/15018.

increasingly under the control of Nationalist Catholics.

Catholic nationalists had carried out the educa-

tional policies of the new government and vice versa. Gen-

eral Edelmiro Farrell, who replaced Ramirez as President

in February, 1944, summed up the government's educational

activities on June 4, 1944: dangerous elements had been

eliminated from the universities and the teaching profes-

sion generally; students would have no share in the govern-

ment of the university, nor should they devote themselves

to political problems. He explained the implantation of

ensenanza religiosa as the "restoration of the rule of

the National Constitution in the proper interpretation of.

its text and spirit."13

The government had sought the support of Catholic

nationalists because it genuinely shared the church's

values; there was a close identification between the mil-

itary men and the church on the critical importance of or-

der, hierarchy, authority, and tradition.14 When interview-

ed many years later, Colonel Enrique P. Gonzalez, President


Interview with Jose Luis Imaz, sociologist, Buenos
Aires, December 2, 1971.

Ramirez' secretary and a key advisor in the government dur-

ing its first phase, stated that the government had wanted

to use the Catholic religion to fight leftist ideologies:

communists and anarchists were seen as formidable foes who

wished to destroy the family and take Argentina into an era

of terrorism in order to establish a despotic regime. The

communists especially wished to infiltrate youth, attack-

ing the home and religion with their "ideas disolventes,"

which only could be combated with religious instruction of
the young in the schools. The Jesuit historian Guillermo

Furlong likewise claimed that ensefanza religiosa served
to combat totalitarianism, especially of the Soviet brand.

The military government already had support and did

not need to woo the Argentine church, but it'wanted the
church's backing. And the church wanted the national

government to implant religious education in the schools

so that the young would know its teachings. The church al-

so managed to eject other religions from the public schools.

15Interview, Buenos Aires, April 10, 1972.

16La tradici6n, pp. 125-26.

17Telephone interview with Robert A. Potash, Buenos
Aires, July 14, 1972.

Law 1420 had allowed the ministers of other religions to

teach their respective communicants. The 1943 decree was

exclusionary--only the Catholic religion could be taught.

The Roman Catholic Church of Argentina now enjoyed:

. el control mas o menos absolute de las
tres ramas educativas de la Naci6n por ele-
mentos cat6licos y clericales . el triunfo
politico mfs amplio q la Iglesia--la jerar-
quia--en el period.

The Decree of Ensenanza Religiosa, December 31, 1943


On December 31st the Minister of Public Instruction

Dr. Gustavo Martinez Zuviria promulgated decree no. 18.411,

which said:

Articulo Primero.--En todas las escuelas ptbli-.
cas de ensenanza primaria, postprimaria, secun-
daria y especial, la ensenanza de la Religi6n
Cat6lica ser& impartida como material ordinaria
de los respectivos planes de studio.
Quedan excluidos de esta ensenanza aquellos
educandos cuyos padres manifiesten expresa opo-
sicibn por pertenecer a otra religion, respe-
tandose asf la libertad de conciencia. A esos
alumnos se les dara instrucci6n moral.

Art. 2 .--Los docentes que tengan a su cargo la
ensenanza de la Religi6n Catdlica sergn desig-
nados por el Gobierno debiendo recaer las nom-
bramientos en personas autorizadas por la Au-
toridad EclesiAstica.

18Alberto Ciria, Partidos v poder en la Argentina
modern, (1930-46) (Buenos Aires: Editorial Jorge Alvarez,
1968), p. 220.

Art. 30.--Los programs y textos destinados a
la ensenanza religiosa seran aprobados por el
Gobierno, de acuerdo con la Autoridad Eclesiistica.

Art. 40.--En los: establecimientos de ensenanza
media y especial dependientes de las Universi-
dades Nacionales, asi como en las escuelas co-
munes dependientes del Consejo Nacional de Edu-
caci6n regiran las disposiciones del present

Art. 50.--Crease la Direcci6n General de Instruc-
ci6n Religiosa a los efectos de organizer y
dirigir esta rama de la EnseIanza en las escuelas
dependientes del Ministerio de Justicia e Instruc-
ci6n Publica y del Consejo Nacional de Educaci6n,
y la Inspecci6n General de Instrucci6n Religiosa,
cuyas funciones respectivas seran oportunamente
reglamentadas por el Ministerio en cada juris-
dicci6n, con el acuerdo o la consult que, segun
los casos, corresponda hacer a la Autoridad

Art. 60.--Los gastos que demand el cumplimiento
del present Decreto ser&n incluldos come Item
especial en el Presupuesto General de la Naci6n.

Art. 7 .--Communiquese, publiquese, an6tese, dese
al Registro Nacional y archivese.

RAMIREZ (signed)
Gustavo Martinez Zuviria, Luis C. Perlinger,
Cesar Ameghino, Benito Sueyro, Diego I. Mason, 19
Alberto Gilbert, Edelmiro J. Farrell, Juan Pistarini.

The decree was signed by all the ministers, giving

it the force of law. A long preamble to it gave the gov-

ernment's reasoning for instituting ensednanza religiosa in

19Casiello, Iglesia y estado en la Argentina,
pp. 336-37.

the public schools: a school system without religion had

helped contribute to administrative corruption and "la de-

formaci6n del alma del pueblo" because it had stripped Ar-

gentina of "el inico fundamento valido de toda moral pri-

vada v public v, para nosotros los argentinos, la destruc-

ci6n de uno de los mAs fuertes vinculos de la unidad nacio-

nal."20 It was also pointed out that a future Argentine

President, since he was required by the Constitution to be

Roman Catholic, should know the catechism.

Bishops Denied Collaboration

The episcopacy never admitted that it helped draw

up this decree. Instead, it took the official position

that the decree was unilaterally issued by the military;

that the church had no hand in drawing it up; and that the

bishops were even surprised by it. This does not mean

that Catholics did not favor the decree. The bishops laud-

ed it in a letter to President Ramirez, and in a pastoral

letter: ACA praised it; Criterio enthusiastically greet-

ed it; clergy, bishops and Cardinal Copello publicly and

20Ibid., p. 335.

21See Franceschi, "La posici6n cat6lica en la Argen-
tina," Criterio, XVII (February 8, 1945), 133-40; Boletin
de la Acci6n Cat6lica Argentina, XXV (1955), pp. 55-62,
quoted in Casiello, p. 338; and DSCD 1946, X, p. 690.

repeatedly praised the government because of its restora-

tion of ensenanza religiosa.

It was reported that the church was well aware of

this decree before it was issued and, in fact, had with-

held its endorsement of the decree for several months out

of fear of a negative public reaction to it. Minister of

Public Instruction Martinez Zuvirfa purportedly overcame

Cardinal Copello's qualms, and the decree was issued the
end of December.22 Further verification that the church

did know of this decree was supplied by President Ramirez'

former secretary and chief advisor Colonel Gonzalez, who

stated that Martinez Zuviria periodically consulted the

episcopacy while drawing up the decree for enseianza re-


After the promulgation of the decree, an article in

Criterio reassured Catholics that the church would have a

major part in administering the decree. The government

could not impose its political will on the church because

the teachers and texts had to be authorized by the eccle-


22Letter from Counselor Edward L. Reed to the Secre-
tary of State, Buenos Aires, January 8, 1944, p. 2. Nation-
al Archives file no. 835.42/179.
Interview with Col. Enrique Gonzilez, Buenos Aires,
April 10, 1972.

siastical authorities. A Director General had to be con-

sulted on the organization and administration of enseManza

religiosa, and a distinguished priest with firm character

would be appointed with the concurrence of the hierarchy

to this post to ward off chances that the government would

dictate to the church.

The church was defensive in face of the charge that

it had meddled in politics to get by force what it could

not get by persuasion. The decree had been announced on

the same day that political parties were ordered dissolved,

thereby linking religious education with military dictator-

ship. The hierarchy maintained that they were not the on-

ly ones who favored religious education. They argued that

it had been a demand of the people, a right of the church,

and part of Argentine tradition; it was something the gov-

ernment was duty-bound to do by virtue of divine law.

El establecimento de la ensenanza religiosa cat6-
lica en las escuelas de un pals no constitute un
libre obsequio del gobierno a la Iglesia, sino
el reconocimiento del derecho de Cristo a llevar,
par- medio de dicha Iglesia, su Verdad al alma
de los niHos.25

2Franceschi, "Un 'grave problema argentino'
imaginario," Criterio, XVII (January 27, 1944), 83.

25"Pastoral Colectiva del Episcopado Argentino
Acerca de los Deberes de los Catl6icos en el Momento Actual,"
November 5, 1945, quoted in Criterio, XVIII (November 22,
1945), 497.

Administration of the Decree

That the bishops, or at least those familiar with

their viewpoint, were almost certainly in on the drawing

up of the decree is apparent in the text of the decree it-

self, whereby the Argentine episcopacy must decide on the

texts and curricula and nominate the teachers for religious

education. The episcopacy was also to be consulted by the

government on the functions of the General Directorate of

Religious Instruction (Direcci6n General de Instrucci6n

Religiosa) and the General Inspection of Religious Instruc-

tion (Inspecci6n General de Instrucci6n Religiosa).

The Director General was responsible for religion

and morality in the schools. Underneath him were two head

inspectors--one for the primary schools and the other for

the secondary schools. The Director General's activities

were regulated by the Minister of Justice and Public In-

struction and were to be conducted in close consultation

with the Church hierarchy. The chief inspectors, in turn,

headed a staff of inspectors situated all over Argentina.

These inspectors would visit the schools every week through-

out Argentina, and mainly were to orient the teachers of

ensenanza reliqiosa and morality. However, the Director

also tried to have a priest appointed for every school to

serve as an advisor for the teachers of religion and moral-




primary schools secondary schools

I I I I I i I I
I I 1 I I I

i i I i

The General Directorate was officially established

by decree on May 20, 1944, although the first Director Gen-

eral was appointed in March to set up the office. It was

composed of four members plus the Director General, all of

whom were nominated by the government, and a sixth member

appointed directly by the episcopacy. It thus epitomized

Interview with Pbro. Dr. Jesus E. Lopez Moure,
Second Director General, 1944-47, Buenos Aires, August
9, 1972.

collaboration between church and state on public education.27

All of the Directors were clerics. The first, Juan

R. Sepich, lasted two months, March-April, 1944. He was

succeeded by Father L6pez Moure, who directed the program

of religion and morality in the schools from April 1944 to

April 1947. The hierarchy approved books for use in the

teaching of morality and religion before they were finally

screened by the Directorate. They were checked by the bish-

ops for doctrinal errors; the Directorate checked them for

their suitability in the classroom. The hierarchy approved

the teachers of religion and morality if their diplomas and

titles showed them to have had formal training in Roman

Catholic dogma. The Director reviewed the list and passed

it on to the Minister of Public Instruction (for secondary

and normal schools) or to the CNE (for primary schools),

who then appointed them to teaching positions within the

schools. The CNE was appointed by the Minister of Public

Instruction, who in turn was appointed by the Chief Execu-


When the program began, there were few teachers pre-

pared to teach religion and morality, and the Directors,

27L. Edward Shuck, Jr., "Church and State in Argen-
tina," Western Political Quarterly, II (December, 1949), 438.

therefore, used graduates--mainly clerics--of the Instituto

de Cultura Religiosa Superior and an institute run by the

Benedictines in Belgrano. Meanwhile Directors Sepich, and

later Moure, pressured the bishops to begin training courses

in the dioceses for future lay and clerical religion and

morality teachers. Teachers were certified to teach these

classes in secondary schools only if they passed an examina-

tion, written and oral, made up and administered by the

individual bishop of the diocese. The training courses

consisted of three years of dogma, morality, sacred liter-

ature, church history, ascetic theology and mysticism, lit-

urgy, philosophy, and sociology. At the end of three years,

a teacher of morality or religion would be awarded a cer-

tificate recognized by a diocesan bishop.

On the primary level, the training and selecting of

teachers was handled in a different way. There, volunteers

were sought among the regular elementary teachers to teach

morality and religion. This was because the religion con-

Interview with L6pez Moure, Buenos Aires, August 9,
Around 1949 a Corporaci6n de Profesores de Religi6n
y Moral was founded with an ecclesiastical advisor appointed
by the bishops. (Luis R. Capriotti, "Documentos: los cat6-
licos, el profesorado de religion y de moral y la ley 12.978,"
Criterio, XXII /June 9, 19497, 310.)

tent of the courses was simple enough to be handled by a

volunteer, and there were already so many teachers in the

primary schools that additional ones to teach religion and

morality would have added excessively to the numbers.30

However, the church did act to ensure that its religious

doctrines were taught by lay teachers. Priests or inspec-

tors who were priests were sent to the schools twice a week

to give one-half hour training courses to the volunteers.31

Texts and curricula.--In 1944 the only books avail-

able as textbooks for ensenanza religiosa were catechisms.

Pages were mimeographed from these catechisms and distribut-

ed along with religious pamphlets to the classes. By 1948,

however, there was a published series of books for indivi-
dual grades that followed the church-approved curricula.

A decree of November 28, 1944, issued by the Con-
sejo Superior de Ministros with the collaboration of the
Directorate General of Religious Education stated: "Ensenarfn
Religion los mismos maestros en sus respectivos grades; si
algin maestro no se creyere capacitado hacerlo . sera
reemplazado en esta signature por la Direcci6n General de
acuerdo con las Autoridades del Consejo Nacional de Edu-
caci6n." (Quoted in Gustavo J. Franceschi, "El problema
de la enseRanza religiosa," Criterio, XVIII 1guly 26, 19457,
Interview with L6pez Moure, Buenos Aires, August
9, 1972.

3Ensenanza reliqiosa: programs aprobados por el
poder ejecutivo de la Naci6n (Rosario: Editorial "Apis,"
1948), p. 2.

Under the first Director General experienced teach-

ers of catechism drew up the curriculum for the first two

years of primary school and secondary school. The lack of

money and teachers of religion initially impeded religion

from being offered in the other grades. Two years of moral-

ity or religion had to be passed by secondary students in

order to graduate. Later on, the curriculum for religion

and morality was drawn up for all grades. These curricula,
too, were submitted to the episcopacy for their approval.

For the primary grades, ensenanza religiosa consist-

ed of Doctrine (faith and law) and Sacred History (Old and

New Testament). On the secondary level--national colegios,

liceos, escuelas normales, comerciales, y industriales--

ensenanza reliqiosa was more specialized. In general,

Faith was offered the first year of secondary school, Law

the second year, Sources of Grace the third, History of

the Old and New Testament the fourth, and Social Doctrine

of the Church the fifth year. But these course varied

somewhat according to the type of school: normal schools

offered a course on the Teaching Profession of the Church

in the fifth year; professional and technical schools taught

33Interview with L6pez Moure, Buenos Aires, August
9, 1972.

History of the Old and New Testaments in the third and fourth

years in lieu of Sources of Grace and Social Doctrine of the

The texts and programs used to teach religious ed-

ucation were similar to the ones used for religion classes

in the church schools. Dr. L6pez Moure explained the small

difference between religion texts used in the public and

private Catholic schools in a 1945 circular:

Que la Gnica diferencia que poseen con los pro-
gramas oficiales es que los mismos temas se tra-
tan con mayor amplitud, consecuencia l6gica de
ser institutes de formaci6n integral religiosa.

If parents asked that their children be excused from

classes of enseanza religiosa, their children would be en-

rolled in the alternative course of morality. But a con-

tent analysis of the texts used for morality reveals that

they hardly differed from those used for ensenanza reliqi-

osa. The morality texts taught the Roman Catholic view-

point of man, God, society, family, and civil authority.

They taught that the only true, legitimate, and valid mar-

riage between Christians was between baptized persons

34Enseianza reliqiosa, pp. 5-6, 22-48.

"Circular No. 32," Buenos Aires, November 7, 1945,
quoted in Criterio, XVIII (November 22, 1945), 501.

married with the sacraments of the church. Adultery, free
love, and prostitution were denounced. Hobbes' and Rous-

seau's theories of civil society were denigrated as false;

St. Thomas of Aquinas' views were presented as good. Lib-

eralism was denounced as an erroneous doctrine.37 Humility

was a virtue achieved by submitting to the will of God.

Remedies for pride were the recognition of God as the Sumo

Bien and Suma Bondad, and the recognition of reality as

God, neighbor, and society.38

These morality textbooks would also have had to con-

tain nothing contrary to Catholic teaching because they

were subject to the approval of the Argentine episcopacy,

just as were the texts of religion.

Critiques of the Administration of Ensenanza Reliqiosa

The hierarchy's role in making up curriculum and ap-

proving teachers and textbooks meant that any shortcomings

or violations of the decree of religious education could

36Miguel Angel Etcheverrigaray and Alberto Franco,
Moral, libro IV para 40 ano de la ensenanza media (Buenos
Aires: Ediciones Itinerarium, 1951), pp. 129-34.
Ibid., pp. 170-78, 205.
Etcheverrigaray and Franco, Moral, libro II para
2 ano de la ensenanza secundaria (1949), pp. 143-44.

be attributed to the church as well as to the government.

When criticism was leveled at the disruption of regular

classes by the addition of religion and morality courses,

the church was not directly criticized. But, however o-

blique the criticism, church spokesmen and groups took it

upon themselves to answer the charges, since the church was

responsible for these classes.39 The government itself al-

so disciplined those who were critics or potential critics

of religious education courses in the public schools. Dr.

Manuel Villada Achaval suspended the rector E. F. Rondanina

of the Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires for writing an arti-

cle that criticized ensenanza religiosa.40 The church was

purportedly in on the arbitrary dismissal of public school

rectors and teachers, including a large number of Jews.41

Father Franceschi did not wholly deny this charge but

claimed that members of the clergy intervened to save many

in 1944-45.42

"Comentarios: diligencia por una parte y caballer-
osidad for otra," Criterio, XXIII (February 25, 1950), 113.

40Osvaldo Francella, "Comentarios: el Profesor Ron-
danina," Criterio, XVII (April 27, 1944), 393.

41George P. Doherty, "The Cross and the Sword: A
Catholic View of Argentine Nationalism," Harper's Magazine,
CXC (June, 1945), 110.

42Gustavo J. Franceschi, "La posici6n cat6lica en la
Argentina," p. 138.

Clerical teachers of religion were found ill-pre-

pared and inept by their critics. Priests in the second-

ary schools teaching religion, a Protestant American liv-

ing in Buenos Aires charged, were improvising as teachers,

unable to handle increasingly dissatisfied students with

inconvenient questions. A Peronist priest claimed post-

1954 that the hierarchy violated the intent of the decree

by nominating priests instead of laymen for secondary teach-
. 44
ers of religion.

The religious education program was also scored by

the United States Cultural Attach& in a private letter for

teaching ideas of an authoritarian nature. Religion and

morality classes taught that civil authority came from di-

vine authority and thus, implicitly, that political obedi-
ence was required by God. Along this same line, the

General Directorate of Religious Instruction asked that in

classes of ensenanza religiosa the teachers explain to the

George P. Howard, "Clericalism in Argentina's Cri-
sis," The Christian Century, LXII (October 17, 1945), 1184-85.

44Pedro Badanelli, Per6n, la iglesia y un cura
(Buenos Aires: Editorial Tartessos, 1960), p. 77.
Letter from Cultural Relations Attache Keniston
to the Secretary of State, Buenos Aires, June 9, 1944.
National Archives file no. 842.6/15018.

students that:

el fundamento solidisimo de la autoridad de
los propios padres, es la representaci6n de la
autoridad divina, representaci6n que se exti-
ende, tambign, al maestro, y se agranda en la
autoridad civil, necesaria para el ordenamiento
de la vida de relaci6n sobre la tierra, y que
culmina en la autoridad eclesiastica, como
orientadora de la vida del hombre hacia su
destino supremo y definitive.46

Thus, church and state were acting in concert to instill

concepts about the sacredness of the church-state relation

and their institutional infallibility.

Critics charged that the church wanted all classroom

textbooks, instruction, and teachers to conform to its reli-

gious teachings. This accusation could not be denied by
the church since this is what it indeed wanted. Critics

pointed to a 1945 circular signed by Father Alberto Escobar,

Inspector General de Enselanza Religiosa, as proof for their

charges. In this circular, he told schools to apply Roman

Catholicism to the teaching of all subjects: for example,

history should consider Christ as the center of world his-

"Circular," June 3, 1944, Boletin del Ministerio
de Justicia e Instruccion Publica, VII, no. 52 (June, 1944),

7Octavio Nicolis Derisi, "El fin ultimo y los fines
inmediatos de la educaci6n cat6lica," Criterio, XIX (Decem-
ber 19, 1946), 583.

tory; in writing class, students should copy "yo amo a

Dios" or "quiero ser buen cristiano." A "unified" school

was the goal: "En la escuela unitaria, el maestro puede

ensenar religi6n juntamente con las demrs materials"4 8

This circular went on to recommend that religion

classes begin with prayer and the sign of the cross and

that trips be taken to temples and sanctuaries to explain

Roman Catholic dogma and symbols, giving rise to more

charges that the intent of the decree of 1943 was being vi-

olated. The point is perhaps arguable, but Colonel Enrique

Gonzalez later agreed that religion classes were not meant

to be religious services but theoretical and historical in

their treatment of religion.50

Detractors pointed out the intolerance built into

the religion and morality classes. First of all, the text-

books were biased against other religions and civil laws.

One such text, La religion explicada by Ardizzone, scorned

Protestantism as sustaining "principos que conducen a la

4Critics of this circular were Deputy Alberto Candi-
oti, DSCD 1946, X, p. 693;'and Campobassi, Ataque y defense
del laicismo escolar, pp. 48-49.

4DSCD 1946, X, p. 693.

50Interview with Col. Enrique Gonzalez, Buenos Aires,
April 10, 1972.

immoralidad y al crimen."1 The Manual de instrucci6n re-

ligiosa, a text provided by the CNE, attacked civil mar-

riage and the lay school, although both had been sanctioned

by national laws.52 Secondly, pressure was put on students

not to opt for the morality classes, even though they hard-

ly differed from the religion classes. Students who left

the classroom to attend them were often jeered by their

classmates and called "Jews";53 parents had to take the ini-

tiative in requesting that their-children not be enrolled

in religion but in morality classes and often would not

bother or be too intimidated to go to the school authorities
with this request; and students graduating from secondary

school faced difficulties, it was charged, if they had

taken morality instead of religion.55

Church spokesmen countered almost all of the above

charges by insisting that morality was an accepted alterna-

5DSCD 1946, X, pp. 696-97.

5Deputy Cipriano Reyes, DSCD 1946, X, p. 776.

Interviews with former students of morality,
Buenos Aires, 1972.

54Deputy Absal6n Rojas, DSCD 1946, X, p. 705.


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