Spain: Bishops in strong opposition to the socialist government

Source: FSSPX News


Madrid, December 26, 2004. The Spanish Bishops Conference published a document entitled “Man and Woman He created them”, in which they declare homosexuality “intrinsically evil from the moral point of view”. They refuse all right of marriage and adoption to homosexuals. This stand goes against a Spanish government bill authorizing marriage and adoption for homosexual couples.

 “We cannot choose to be either a man or a woman,” says the Bishops Conference, “it is something that is given to us.” It considers “erroneous” the concept of “sexual orientation”. For the Church in Spain, “homosexual behavior is always morally reprehensible, even if the culpability of each person has to be judged with prudence.”

 The socialist government of José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero passed a bill last October, authorizing marriage and adoption for homosexual couples, which is due to become law in 2005. This text constitutes grounds for major disagreement with the Catholic Church in Spain, which states in “Man and Woman He created them”: “It is necessary to oppose in a clear and incisive manner (this government bill for) the legal recognition of homosexual unions.” It likewise calls for the “rejection” of the right to adoption by homosexual couples who “do not constitute adequate candidates for the adoption of children”.

 The Spanish bishops’ criticism does not stop at the question of homosexuality. In an interview published by ABC, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, president of the Spanish Bishops Conference, launched a direct attack on the government of José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. He believes that the government’s position on questions linked to education and the family is unacceptable from a Christian point of view. Adding that in fine, the Spanish government was following a line of conduct which is “neither in accordance with the Gospel, nor Christian, and is opposed to traditional moral values and human rights.” (sic).

 Rome, January 24, 2005. John Paul II called on the Church in Spain not to yield to a “mentality inspired by secularism”, for fear of a restriction of religious liberty.

 While receiving around forty Spanish bishops during their ad limina visit, the pope paid particular attention to the social domain, where “a mentality inspired by secularism was spreading” – an ideology which leads gradually, in a more or less conscious manner, to the restriction of religious liberty.” There is “a risk of relegating the faith to the private sphere, when its public expression is opposed.”

 John Paul II also stated that “new generations of Spaniards are growing up under present circumstances, influenced by religious indifference, ignorance of the Christian tradition of a rich spiritual patrimony,” and what is more, are “exposed to a permissive moral code.” He added: “young people have a right, from the outset of their formation, to be educated in the faith,” specifying: “the education of so many young people can not leave out religious teaching at school.” The pope also hoped that “the mark of the Catholic faith [would] endure in Spanish culture.”

 According to him, this secularist ideology has come, henceforth, to be presented as “the unique way to rationalization”, and as a consequence, “an integral notion of religious liberty” is no longer considered. One can not reduce religious liberty without depriving men of something fundamental”.

 These views, which run counter to the Spanish government and its policy on abortion and gay marriage, have been around for quite some time. On June 18, 2004, receiving the new Spanish ambassador to the Holy See, Jorge Dezcallar de Mazarredo, John Paul II recalled the importance of the values of marriage, the family and life, in a Spain greatly marked by her Catholic heritage. On June 24, the pope also repeated his warnings against the political programme of the Spanish Prime Minister, elected on March 14. From the start of his political campaign, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was in favor of homosexual marriage and of the possibility of easier abortion, of the suppression of religious study in school curricula and of more freedom in the domain of assisted procreation.

 Madrid, January 25. The tone is certainly not one of appeasement between the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Spain and the Zapatero government. The latter made strong appeals to the Catholic Church not to meddle in the affairs of the state. And now, division between Catholics themselves seems to be increasing, following the pope’s criticism of the secularization of Spain – critcisms widely reported, often judged “severe” by a press divided between “conservatives” and “progressives”.

 The first reaction, on January 24, was that of the Spanish Minister of Justice, Juan Fernandez Lopez Aguilar: the Church and the government are “two completely distinct areas in every democratic society.” The government of Rodriguez Zapatero “does its job,” he said, adding: “The role of the government is to take the political initiative and to answer for this before the people.”

 The Minister of Defence, José Bono, a practising Catholic, took his turn and stepped into the breach the next day (January 25), in spite of his “respect” for the “moral authority” of the pope. He challenged anyone to find a government in Europe which treated the Catholic Church better than the Spanish government did, alluding to the convention which has linked the administration and the Holy See for more than 20 years on the financing of the Catholic Church in Spain and the teaching of religion. And he wondered why the Church was “permanently obsessed by sex”, whereas “today, Christ would certainly be more concerned about the 25,000 children who die of hunger each day in the world, and by these devastating wars which are breaking international law.”

 “One cannot constantly criticize the government for its secularism. The Spanish government is not here to preach Chrisianity”, added José Bono. In his opinion, “faith is not something that a government may impose.”

 The same day, January 25, the papal nuncio in Spain, Mgr. Manuel Monteiro de Castro, was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where he saw the government of José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero express its “surprise”.

 Mgr. Manuel Monteiro de Castro was received by the Deputy Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Luis Calvo Merino. According to the Madrid press, the Deputy Secretary of State showed particular surprise at the reference of John Paul II to the “duty of the authorities to guarantee the right to religious education and to ensure the requirements for its application”. He reminded the papal nuncio that religious instruction was governed by an agreement between Spain and the Holy See, dating back to 1979.

 During the discussion at the Palace of Santa Cruz, Luis Calvo Merino expressed the government’s anger at these criticisms – described as harsh – made by the pope. Nevertheless, he reaffirmed during the conversation a “desire to maintain a productive accord with the Church” through “an enduring dialogue, founded on deep respect, within the framework of the agreements between Spain and the Holy See.”

Rome, January 26. The Vatican gave its reaction to this convocation and the government’s proposals. Rome took note “with satisfaction, the desire of the Spanish government to keep this fruitful accord with the Church, through a permanent dialogue inspired by mutual respect,” said the Vatican spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls.

 The Vatican also expressed its will to dialogue with the Spanish government in a spirit of “mutual respect”, while at the same time, calling on Madrid to read “attentively” the pope’s speech, perceived as criticism of the Socialist government . Joaquin Navarro-Valls reaffirmed, however, that the speech of John Paul II explained clearly the Church’s position.

 The intervention by the spokesman of the Holy See followed not only the summons of the nuncio to Madrid, but also the declarations made by the head of the government. In fact, José Luis Rodrigez Zapatero had himself reacted, on January 26, to the pope’s speech, affirming that Spaniards today lived in a climate of “the greatest religious, ideological and political liberty ever known in Spain”. He declared himself “profoundly respectful” of the opinions of the pope, stressing that the accords with the Vatican were “scrupulously” respected. The Prime Minister felt that John Paul II had the right to express his opinion on the action of governments. Nevertheless, he considered it “exaggerated” to say that there was a problem regarding religious liberty in Spain.

 By way of a provisional conclusion. At the beginning of February, the priest of a small village in Andalusia refused Communion to a man who was living with another man. The moment the priest saw this man, aged 30, take his place in the queue to receive Communion, he went to the microphone and asked him, in front of the whole congregation, if he had not “married” another man in December.


The two men, Juan Diego Fuentes and Angel Garcia have told the press that they had taken legal action against the priest. “We have not brought this action because he refused to give us Communion, but first and foremost, because he shamed us in front of everyone,” said Angel Garcia

 A few weeks ago, the archbishop of Pamplona, Mgr. Fernando Sebastien, described homosexuality as a “veritable epidemic”. The prelate, vice president of the Spanish Bishops Conference, also said that homosexuals “could change their situation if they so wished”.