Religion and Politics in Spain

Estado español. Gobierno. Papel de la Iglesia

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RELIGION AND POLITICS IN SPAIN
/While the Spanish Church was being prodding into loosening its political ties with the regime , it had no intention of relinquishing  claims on its traditional spheres of influence, especially in education , marriage and sexual mores, which Francoism had protected .Significant markers were laid  down for a future in which Church doctrine  might no longer  be enshrined in Spain’s legislation .Education was already on  the agenda and their Assembly held on 11th off July 1970, the bishops issued a communiqué concerning a new Act .Though  welcoming its emphasis on the ‘Christian concept of education’ , they regretted the priority  to be given  to funding places in State schools, claiming that this ran counter to the Francoism Spaniards’ Charter of 1945 , under which the government was to ‘ foster and protect ‘ private schools.
Clearly the hierarchy not only wanted to maintain its hold on education, but to continue to be paid by state coffers, thus maintaining influence in society while not serving financial dependence on the regime .The education issue, particularly the church influenced ‘parents’ right to choose‘ the kind of school they considered  most appropriate for their children in the context of the ‘socio-religious reality’ of Spain, would feature again and again in their  documents .All of them echoed Mgr Cantero’s demand in 1963 for State protection for the historical , sociological, and political reality of a Catholic Spain in which  ‘national community’ was equated with ‘Catholic community’ .Moreover , to show that they intended  to remain  the moral watchdogs of the nation , despite their public acknowledgement of the autonomy  of civil society , the bishops indicated in a document on ‘The Moral Life of Our People’ that they would co-operate in showing  the authorities  what  laws ought to govern public morality.

2…/As if to underline the financial dependence of the Church on the State, the government had a short time earlier stopped subsiding some twenty seminaries –admittedly surplus in the light of the drop  inn the number of seminarians- and officials spoke  of a reappraisal of the problem  of financing private (Church) secondary school  and the clergy ‘s stipends. The Spanish Church, although wealthy in terms of real estate, gold and art treasures, would find it challenging, if not impossible in the short term, to maintain itself without state subsidies, for congregations were dwindling and anyway unaccustomed to marking an open-handed contribution to supporting their pastors. Although the Join Assembly had urged financial independence from the State , the bishops, while recognising that the normal upkeep of the Church – personal, material an d apostolic activities- ought to depend on the voluntary  contributions of its membership , continued to find themselves  unable to give up State subsidies.

3./In  January  1973 an Episcopal document ‘The Church an the Political Community’ emerged after  a difficult and  protracted labour .It passed by the narrowest majorities .One of the section of this document was ‘Church and State relations’ .The bishops’ statement trod a very delicate path through  the issue of what it called ‘economic help’. Declaring that State subsidies given to the Church were now considered to be a service to the people, enabling them to develop their religious dimension, the document emphasised the historical role of the Church in providing all manners of schools, hospital, old people’s homes, housing and social services .In such circumstances, it claimed, state subsidies could not be considered a privilege .In any case ,a distinction had to be made between the (modest) stipends allotted to the clergy and the larger sums allocates to the Church ‘s educational and social  services, maintainance of religious monuments  and the building and repairing of  church buildings .The documents seemed to imply  - realistically, perhaps – that, even though  the Church  must take its member aware  that they ought to give it  proper financial support , that would not be enough ; it did not  propose to turn  away help given by the Spanish people via the State .The burden argument in this part  of the document was on ‘freedom for the Church for the sake of serving the community’, in an attempt to show that it received from the State was its due, not a grace and favour subsidy.
               Deep down the bishops were aware that the Church occupied a privileged position –both legal and de facto- in society in general and in education in particular , within a  regime where  for others the margin of freedom was very narrow .The bad conscience arose in them by this led to constant self-justification .the section of ‘The Church and the Political community’ concerned with education was headed ‘rights of the Church ‘ and claimed  that its rights in education were often confused with privilege .The first right enabled the Church , strictly for the common good, to teach  any subject in conditions of equal opportunity .The corresponding duty of the State was to offer the church the necessary means to achieve its educational aim insofar as the country’s general economic situation allowed and without discrimination in favour of the State schools .The second right was that all of Spanish Catholics  to receive religious instruction in State schools.
They have already been a spate of Episcopal documents on this issue, and the hierarchy ‘s argument continued to be that the existence of Church schools and religious  instruction  were the  wish  and the inalienable right of Spanish society which knew itself to be Catholic: religion on the school  curriculum was the only viable way of  reaching  all children .The bishops were still here  harking back to a never-never  land of unanimity  in the faith, and so to a church rightfully supported by the secular authorities .They based   their arguments on the  premise that the Spanish society  had always been  and still remained  Christian, and specifically, Catholic.

4…../Right teaching –whether view from Rome or Madrid- was part of evangelisation, which  was the raison the etre of the Church ‘s existence .The Church  had to know  how to deliver its orthodox message to a clientele  that was increasingly  disinclined to listen .The omens were not good. The social an d economic changes related in the fifties  and sixties to the breakdown of the agrarian and artisanal structure of Spanish society  were accentuated in the 1970s.By then, the Church’s traditional interpretation of the world and life , the goals and behavioural norms  it sought to impose  on its membership,  had been widely rejected or ignored  and it seemed unable to find the answer .Even the ‘loyal position’ who remained  inside the church  continued  their criticism of institutionalised authority of all kinds, and this  was accompanied by a crisis in the religious  orders, a drop in vocations to priesthood , the haemorrhage  of men leaving the priesthood ,tension between generations and devaluation of some of Church’s  sacraments, especially penance .The situation was unprecedented, a plurality of views inside the Church – some of them heterodox – being freely expressed  by individuals  or groups, priests and lay people and certain organs of the Catholic press.
5.../ By the time of first post-Franco election, education powerfully concentrated the Church ‘s mind .According to an opinion poll carried out by the General Sociology  Office of the Episcopate, 93 per cent of parents wanted their children to  receive a religious education .CONCAPA Catholics Parents  Federation, under its leader, Carmen Alvear, fought  for ‘Catholic rights’ in season and out of season. And in its stance sometimes proved to be ‘more Papist than the Pope’. For the bishops at the XXVI Plenary Assembly of June 1977 there was no such  thing as  ‘neutral education’ ; the State  had no right to fix the educational  model without reference to society  and the rights  of parents (as indicated by the Church).in a pastoral letter to the diocese of Zaragoza, Mgr Elias Yanes, chairman of Episcopal Education Commission, insisted on the rights  of parents in education and protested  that an attack  on the ‘historical identity of our people’ would be  perpetrated  if there were to be schools where children  of Catholic parents could not hear Christ spoken  of in a religious sense .On the other hand , the bishops of Pamplona –Tudela , San Sebastian and Vitoria, without denying the legitimacy of a church  presence in state schools, considered that the essential places for  religious  education were the Church’s own institutions, like parishes and Christian communities.

6…./There were three major Church –related issues  debated in the constitution :the establishment  of a  State religion , education and marriage .This had been extensively  discussed by  the bishops .They were  concerned about what they  saw as excessive State intrusion  in education, which  they feared  might  become a State monopoly   threatening the very existence of church schools (which  perpetuated the church’s dependence  o the  State  but which  the bishops used all manner of arguments to maintain).UCD an AP proposed continuing  such subsidies while the PSOE, which favoured a single, secular, State school system, pressed for an end to them . The PCE, which had kept a low profile throughout the discussion  of the constitutional  matters which affected  the Church, sided  with UCD and AP .Behind-doors agreements  between UCD and the PSOE , and the application of the guillotine in Congress, avoided a broader debate and confrontation by leaving  everything to the future and to whatever government might be in power.
The bishops as a body left the faithful free to make up their own   minds on the subsequent referendum to approve the Constitution .There were some reservations about Article 32.2 on marriage  which referred  to ‘dissolution’ and also Articles on education, because, although the Church was permitted to fund schools, there was no guarantee that the State would fund them .Despite general Episcopal acceptance of the Constitution, nine of the bishops attacked it and wrote hostile pastoral letters to the people of their dioceses .Cardinal Gonzalez Martin of Toledo, having denounced the constitution-  because it would set up an agnostic state , omitted  any reference to God, did not sufficiently safeguard the moral values of the family and failed  to put  an absolute  ban on abortion – then left his flock ‘ free’ to vote according to conscience .Similar repudiation  came from Mgr Guerra Campos of Cuenca .The ultra-right Fuerza Nueva  deputy  Blas Pinar called the other bishops traitors who had done nothing when God was torn out of the Constitution .The President of the integrist Hermandad Sacerdotal said that  anyone voting in favour of   the constitution committed a grave sin,  and the similarly right-wing lay group San Antonio Maria Claret declared that such people were automatically excommunicated.

On 6 December 1978 the Constitution was ratified by national referendum and, at the end of the month Suarez announced a general election for March 1979.Cracks in the UCD coalition soon became apparent , with the sector critico  feeling outraged by the concessions on divorce and education made behind the scenes to the PSOE .It was then that church moved toward a more openly  active role inn  politics .

7…/In 1979 the Spanish government and the Holy See signed  some Partial Agreements  which replaced the 1953 concordat .The main areas covered by the new accords were : (1) legal status of the church  including the right to exercise  its apostolic  mission, and the recognition of canonical marriage; (2) the right of parents to choose  the moral and religious education of their children , the inclusion of (optional)  instruction at all level of education in conditions comparable  to those  of the other core subjects, and the  right  to State subsidies;(3) religious ministry to the Armed Forces and the military service  of priests and members of the religious orders;(4) a State undertaking  to collaborate  with the Church in appropriate  financing, including certain tax exemptions, with a ‘religion tax’  on personal income to replace the annual State grant within three years, while the church  undertook to achieve self-financing in the long term.
The new accord did not suit  John Paul II .The Pope was said to be  displeased by these apparent concessions .Spanish hierarchy did not obliged  the government to give clear recognition of  the jurisdiction of   ecclesiastical courts, of the indissolubility of canonical marriage and of freedom for the Church in education .The Vatican did not  understand how in  country which , like Poland, was a bastion of Catholicism, the Church was unable to maintain a more assertive  position.
The PSOE (all the indication were that church would soon have to be negotiating with a socialist government) was to some extend favourably disposed  towards the accords , since some of its earlier criticisms had been met satisfactorily as, for example, in an amendment concerning the church and the media. But the PSOE vote against the education accord on the grounds that children in church schools  might not be able to opt out of a religion classes , and that some powers would be wrongfully delegated from State to church.

Encouraged by Rome, the bishops  of the conservative sector of the Spanish  church  hardened their attitudes during 1980 and 1981.their support  went to the largely  like-minded  sector critico  of UCD , which  appeared to be  on the verge of forming  a right wing splinter group with an openly Christian Democrat label, and heir concerns centred on church ‘s role  in a forthcoming Schools statute(Estatutos de Centros Docentes ), a new law on university autonomy ( Ley de Autonomia Universitaria) and the future of divorce law .The Estatuto de Centros Docentes  was a more satisfactory  proposition than the precious  (1970) Education Act: it clearly  encouraged  private education and parent’s rights and gave  proprietors control over the  ethos  of their schools .for the same reasons it met  with strong opposition from the left .After much parliamentary  debate and  some persuasive talk by Adolfo Suarez with dissidents in his own  coalition, it was passed, thanks to support from AP and other smaller parties .the left  would have its chance when PSOE came to power  in 1982.Linked to the School Statute was the university autonomy law, which included a proposal that individuals or institutions should be  permitted  to found  Universities .As far  as the church  was concerned , it would  be free to establish its own universities in addition  to those already existing –Comillas, Deusto, Navarre and Salamanca –
One important bill was on the stocks in 1980.It passed into law in July, concerned about religious liberty (Ley Organica de Libertad Religiosa), guaranteeing the right of all citizens to religious freedom and worship .At first UCD had pressed for a  specific mention of the Catholic church in article 7 of the Law but later withdrew its proposal, since this was already written into the 1978 constitution .From the PCE it was said that it was a law that came late, since before Parliament had had the opportunity to debate it , the agreements with the Holy Se had been signed ,and the Estatuto de Centros Docentes , whose provisions were contrary to the principle of religious freedom, had been approved.

8…/Church –PSOE relations had got off to a difficult start .The first full year of the Socialists’ mandate, 1983, was sometimes referred to as the ‘ years of the three wars of religion’. It began with a bill decriminalising abortion in three circumstances: rape, malformation of the foetus and grave danger to the life of the mother. The next war was concerned a catechism of Christian doctrine for the fifth and sixth school grades , which the bishops issued without waiting for the required approval of the ministry of Education. When the government refused its authorisation, the church complained that it was a case of  ‘government intolerance which wanted to control even matters which were nothing to do with them’. In the Ministry’s view, the Church has published textbooks deemed to be pedagogically unsound, bearing in mind the age of the children who would be using the catechism, since abortion, terrorism and war were condemned as equally reprehensive in moral terms .In the end a compromise was reached when the church agreed to add a separate explanatory sheet of ‘pedagogical criteria ‘ for the use of teachers.
The third war was also fought over education on the introduction of the LODE (Ley Organica de Libertad Religiosa/ Organic law for the Right to Education)which undertook to make  education free even in private schools by granting a 100 per cent subsidy , but with strings attached .The Church which owned and ran some 90per cent of private schools protested .One of the main points at issue was the Catholic ethos (ideario) of church schools, which the hierarchy felt might  be undetermined  because its definition  would be subject  to ministerial authorisation, because the LODE also affirmed academic freedom, and because he disparate  members of the governing body ( consejo escolar)might put constraints on the way the school was run. While filibustering antiLODE  amendments , 4160 in al, were tabled by the parliamentary opposition, various pressure groups of Catholic teachers and parents  particularly the  Catholic Parents’ Association (CONCAPA) and the Federation of Religious in Education (FERE)organised huge rallies against  the Bill but they were unable to persuade any member of the hierarchy to take part.
Some bishops , like Mgr Yanes who headed the CEE Educational Commission, were hardline in their demands; the more moderate line pursued by the majority , and by the Christian schools of Catalonia, was reflected in a statement by Cardinal Jubany of Barcelona that a bad agreement was preferable to a good lawsuit .Such a willingness to compromise was shared by  the Catalan Minority Group in Parliament, which succeeded  in negotiating with the socialists a few substantive amendments to the original LODE.

With the introduction of the LOGSE (Organic Law for the General Regulation of the Educational System) the education issue flared up again .The bishops claimed that the LOGSE contravened  the 1979 education and Cultural Matters Agreement with the Vatican, which declared that the teaching  of Catholic religion would be included at all levels and in all schools, in conditions on a par with those of other ‘core’ subjects .Such teaching was not obligatory for pupils but it had to be on offer and under  UCD the alternative subject had been ethics, whereas none was envisaged in the LOGSE .The PSOE came to decree a series of different options, all of which threatened to downgrade the status of religion as a core  subject .Cardinal Suquia urged Catholics to ‘fight , to demand  tour fundamental rights even against the establish power’ and the hierarchy appealed successfully to the Supreme Court.

The issue would continue to smoulder, unresolved, beyond the PSOE government’s election defeat in March1996.the communist-led United Left (IU) wanted religion taken out of schools and called for a revision of the 1979 accords .Nor did all Catholics believe that the school was the appropriate place for instilling the Catholic faith. Some grass-roots Christian communities, for example, as well as representatives in Catalonia, maintained that, while school should be free to offer religious education-as a cultural subject and not as a indoctrination – the rightful place for  transmitting  the faith was within the community of believers.

9..//With abortion education and corruption issues providing ammunition for Church attacks on the socialists, the spasmodics skirmishes must have played a part of the  Felipe Gonzalez’s refusal to receive Mgr Suquia during the last four years of his  CEE presidency : clearly the Prime minister found the attitude of the church under his mandate unacceptable.

FIN