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Spanish bishops resist ‘secularist’ agenda

06 April 2023


A detail of the Passion façade of the Sagrada Família Basilica, Barcelona, illuminated during a retelling of the Passion through words and music

A detail of the Passion façade of the Sagrada Família Basilica, Barcelona, illuminated during a retelling of the Passion through words and music

ROMAN CATHOLIC archbishops in Spain marked have urged the country’s citizens to resist changes in the law which represent “rampant secularism”.

“We’ve launched a cry for life in the face of recently passed laws which threaten it,” the Archbishop of Barcelona, Cardinal Juan José Omella, said. “Let us unite in prayer with people suffering because of war, famine, violence, abortion, or euthanasia, praying with and for those caring for the sick until the end of life, and for those accompanying pregnant women who are alone and in difficulty.”

The Cardinal, who is President of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, made his appeal as the Constitutional Tribunal approved new laws, backed by the Socialist-led government, to withdraw state subsidies from single-sex church schools and allow euthanasia for patients suffering from “intolerable physical or psychological conditions”.

Another archbishop accused the government of seeking to “reduce Christianity to clandestinity” and “violently eradicate all evidence of Christian deeds”.

“States can be non-denominational, but people are believers — and our relationship with God can be confessed through the Christian faith, or censored by secular ideology,” Archbishop Jesús Sanz of Oviedo told a Lent conference on Monday. “We have taken strange and exclusive lurches from national Catholicism to rampant secularism, and we need to reactivate our identity as Catholics in a society that has distanced itself from the Christian faith.”

The clash was the latest between the Church and the government of Pedro Sánchez. In June 2018, Mr Sánchez became the first prime minister of Spain to decline to take his inaugural oath on the Bible. In January 2020, he formed a left-wing coalition with the radical party Podemos, which promised a liberalisation of many laws.

Other legislation, enacted in February, will allow 16-year-olds to obtain abortions without informing their parents, and to re-register their gender through a court declaration without medical or legal procedures. Legislation also liberalises sex education, and criminalises praying outside abortion clinics.

In a 108-page statement issued in January, the Bishops’ Conference accused the government of prioritising the “absolute power of the individual”. It said that Spanish families had been placed “at the centre of ideological polarisations” at a time when one third of the population lived in poverty, and the national birth rate had fallen by more than one third in 15 years.

A planned Ley de Familia (Family Law), however, will recognise 16 family types, while a Democratic Memory Law, adopted in October, envisages a ban on crosses and monuments deemed to exalt the dictatorship of General Franco, who died in 1975.

Tax exemptions on church donations and public works, established in 2001 under an agreement with the Vatican, were also scrapped last week.

The conservative opposition parties Partido Popular and Vox have opposed the new laws, accusing the coalition of both overturning Spanish values and violating the constitution and international law.

In a rare intervention in February, the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, told a conference at the RC Francisco de Vitoria University, Madrid, that Mr Sanchez’s government was “too focused on objectives the Church does not share”. He regretted that current legislation prescribed “18 months in prison for killing a rat, while everything is facilitated for performing an abortion”.

In a recent interview, the Bishop of Coria-Cáceres, the Rt Revd Jesús Pulido, told the weekly paper Periódico Extremadura that the framers of the new laws had “dispensed with scientific, moral, and religious considerations”. He was confident that the measures could still be reversed.

Religious vocations and attendance at mass have dropped sharply across the 70 dioceses and 23,000 parishes of Spain. While 53.7 per cent of the country’s 47 million inhabitants still identify as Roman Catholics, according to March data, only one in five practises ther faith, and there has been a sharp drop in three years. More than half of all 18- to 34-year-olds declare themselves to be non-religious. The Church, nevertheless, projects a strong influence through schools and charitable institutions.

Mr Sanchez’s government holds only a two-seat majority in the 350-member Congress of Deputies, and faces local elections in May and parliamentary elections next December.

Spanish pro-life organisations staged a mass “Yes to Life” rally in Madrid on 12 March, denouncing “abortion, euthanasia, attacks on the embryo, and gender ideology”.

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