Sunday, 30 October 2011

The myth of a Catholic Spain that never dies

In today’s Christian Science Monitor, there is a serious discussion of Spanish protests against the government funding the visit of Pope Benedict XVI. According to the Monitor, the protesters are not anti-Catholic per se, but are arguing that a government that is in terrible financial trouble should not spend up to 100 million euros (132 million Australian dollars) on this when it is making cuts in other areas to deal with a huge public debt.

What is troubling about the Monitor is how it calls Spain “one of the world's most Catholic countries” and says:
“While Spain has been a Catholic bastion for centuries, in recent years the Vatican has clashed with governmental leaders here over the country's turn toward secularism as they have legalized gay marriage, banned mandatory religious education in public schools, and eased abortion restrictions.”
What it does not realise is that for at least eighty years and probably more nearly one hundred and twenty, Spain’s politicians and wealthy classes (especially landowners) have consistently sided with the Catholic Church against the urban working masses over political issues such as religious education and sexual morals. When the Catholic Church was openly campaigning against eugenics in the 1930s, working classes in eastern Spain (Aragon) were strongly campaigning for it and the legalisation of extramarital sex – a legalisation that would have taken place decades earlier than the 1970s if mass opinion in urban Spain had been reflected in the ruling classes. Even when Francisco Franco’s dictatorship tried to use education to promote the teachings of the Catholic Church, it had no long-term, inward effect on a Spanish psyche that was firmly secular, even anti-religion.

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