The spectre of Spanish revolution
Wlodzimierz Redzioch talks to Archbishop Canizares Llovera of Toledo, Primate of Spain, Vice-President of the Spanish Bishops' Conference.
In the late 1990s the Popular Party headed by Jose Maria Aznar came to power. Spaniards deprived Prime Minister Gonzalez of power. His Socialist Party was accused of gigantic misappropriation and scandals. The eight years of Aznar's rule was a period of dynamic economic growth and Spain's strengthening in the international arena. Therefore, political analysts spoke with one voice that Aznar would again win the election to be held on 14 March 2004. The terrorist attack on the train at the Atocha station in Madrid, which took place the day before the election and which was some 'punishment' of the Islamic extremists for the participation of Spanish troops in the Iraq war, caused that the Socialists unexpectedly came to power. The Socialists' candidate Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero promised his voters that after his election he would withdraw troops from Iraq at once, which he actually did. For a year the socialist radicals have carried out the laicistic revolution, which is to change thoroughly the face of this once deeply Catholic country.
Wlodzimierz Redzioch: - Today Spain is only associated with the laicistic revolution of the Socialist radicals who have been in power in this country for one year. Your Excellency, what is going on in 'Catholic Spain'?
Archbishop Antonio Canizares Llovera: - I am not the right person to talk about how other countries see Spain and Zapatero government. However, the fact is that since the change of power the Prime Minister has been implementing a secular programme, its foundation being laicistic ideology. You can see that phenomenon all over Europe. The constitutional treaty of the European Union also assumes that Europe is to be secular in the laicistic sense. This is not only that it does not speak about Christian roots of our continent, but also - as the Holy Father John Paul II stressed many times - it identifies itself with laicistic ideology and not a healthy laicity of the state, which the Church has always recognised, especially after the Second Vatican Council. What is worse, the laicistic front is more and more influential in Europe.
- Which elements of Zapatero's programme does the Church consider negative?
- The Church is anxiously looking at these elements of the governmental programme which concern life because they mean liberalisation of abortion, which is to be introduced in the next term. Since taking office the government has pushed through legislation allowing the embryonic stem-cell researches. It has also started regulating the law by making it easier to get a divorce (the so-called express divorce). The Parliament has passed the law legalising 'same-sex marriages' (I use inverted commas since one cannot call these homosexual unions by the word 'marriage'). Moreover, the Spanish government has rejected the fundamental bill, which the previous government prepared (by the way, the law has not taken effect yet), regulating the teaching of religion in school. No one knows what the result of the law will be but this is an important problem to us.
Summing up, one can say that we are anxious about the issues concerning life, family and marriage as well as teaching of religion.
- It is clear that the Socialists want revolutionary secularisation of the society. Whereas in Poland our anticlericals claim that as a matter of fact the Spanish Church concerns herself only about money.
- Certainly not. All the more that there are no big changes to be expected concerning this concrete point (although who knows). The Church can live in poverty and this does not dismay her. She will not stop being faithful to her teaching because of economic reasons. But the Bishops Conference is anxious about the teachers of religion who must receive salary like other teachers. Citizens have the right to demand the teaching of religion for their children and the state is obliged to meet this demand. Therefore, teachers of religion are not at the service of the Church. The teaching of religion in school is the parents' right and not the privilege of the Church. The Church does not make any profit on this.
I would like to add that the Socialist Party has had 'a cultural project' for Spain for years. In 1976, i.e. after General Franco's death, a group of Madrid's intellectuals prepared a document entitled 'Alternative for teaching', which assumed that school should only be public, secular and autonomous. The programme began being carried out after the Socialists had won in 1982. In the 'cultural project' of the Socialists there is no place for God and that's why religion is not a separate subject like other school subjects (the agreement between our state and the Apostolic See contains this point). The question whether the teaching of religion is a fundamental subject or merely additional one is by no means a side issue.
- Several months ago, in his address to the group of Spanish bishops John Paul II spoke about the Christian roots of your country, about your faith in Christ and belonging to the Church, which had inspired the activities of Spaniards throughout ages. However, this wonderful past contrasts with today's situation, which is alarming. The Pope said, 'There have been huge changes in the social, economic and religious sphere, causing sometimes religious indifference and certain moral relativism, which influence Christian practice and social structures themselves'. He added that 'the mentality inspired by laicism in being spread in the society; this ideology gradually leads, in a more or less conscious way, to limiting religious freedom, despising or ignoring the religious sphere, removing faith into the purely private sphere and opposing its public manifestation'. How did this happen?
- The address to the Spanish Bishops was wonderful. It is a synthesis of what the Holy Father John Paul II spoke on other occasions. First of all the Pope said that bishops carried out their mission in special conditions when there was an attempt to force laicism upon the society, laicism which always - in Spain and everywhere - provides for limitation of religious freedom. Speaking about this the Pope did not accuse the Spanish government of limiting religious freedom. To generalise one must say that laicism imposes limitation of religious freedom because it reduces faith to the private sphere and consequently, the faithful cannot manifest their faith in all its dimensions (ethical, social, political and cultural).
- How do Catholics react to this massive attack of laicism that can cause a dangerous split in the Spanish society?
- Laicism is an ideology which exerts a strong influence on the cultural sphere. Sometimes people do not realise how powerful this influence is and they are enslaved by this ideology. Therefore, the Spanish Church has been intensively carried out the mission of new evangelization. We agree with John Paul II's statement that Spain is to be evangelised and has to evangelise. That's why the pastoral programme of the Spanish Bishops Conference focuses on strengthening faith, faith that penetrates and forms the whole of man and creates a new mentality. We want to re-evangelise our believers so that they become evangelisers in their environments.
- Why did the Church fail to stop the process of secularisation of the society?
- At this moment the Church does not turn her back on the society. On the contrary. We are aware that the fundamental problems of the society are the dilemmas: to believe or not to believe; world with God or world without God. These are by no means side issues. The consequence of 'forgetting' God is the destruction of true humanism and moral split. The Church proclaims Jesus Christ, living God so that people are more human and they respect the truth about man. Perhaps all believers have been secularised to some extent. That's why in the pastoral programme the bishops pay attention to the inner secularisation of Christians themselves. The secularisation of the society and culture also embraced the Church, which caused us to have little energy to evangelise. Only the dynamism of faith, witnessed in daily life, can arouse hope for future.
- The Spanish mass media are concentrated in the hands of the large multimedia group 'Prisa', which belongs to Jesus de Polanco. This group openly promotes laicistic vision of society. What is the influence of the liberal-libertarian and anticlerical media on the formation of the young generation in Spain (although it is sometimes a real 'deformation') and in what ways do they try to eradicate Christianity from the Spanish culture?
- Certainly the mass media have contributed to the secularisation of the society (especially at schools and universities), to the popularisation of the hedonistic way of life, the sexual 'revolution' and weakening of the institution of marriage and of family. These destructive processes have been supported by certain theological currents like the theology of 'God's death', the regressive theology showing Christ only as a social and moral leader, the anti-Church theories resorting to the slogan 'Christ - yes, the Church - no'.
The multimedia group you have mentioned was one of the promoters of this process, especially in intellectual environments.
- In Spain a new book of the Protestant writer Cesar Vidal has just been published. Its title is 'Los masones: la historia de la sosiedad secreta mas poderosa' (The Freemasons: History of the Most Powerful Secret Society) published by Planeta. Among other things, the book addresses the Masonic influence in the most important events of recent Spanish history, especially since the election last March of the Spanish Socialist Labour Party (PSOE - Partido Socialisita Obrero Espanol). Your Excellency, what is the influence of freemasonry on social and political life in Spain?
- The role of Freemasonry in Spain is the same like in all Europe. We could see the influence of Freemasonry during the discussions about the EU constitutional treaty. Freemasonry is responsible for spreading laicism because it claims that God who revealed himself in Jesus Christ cannot be taken into account. Thanks to the means Freemasons have at their disposal they managed to penetrate the environments of state administration and culture.
- Some regions in Spain demand greater autonomy from the government in Madrid. Is there a danger of division, 'balkanisation' of the country?
- The unity of Spain is very important. This is not only a political problem but also a moral one. The Church hopes that we will avoid 'balkanisation' because this would have negative meaning not only for Spain but also for all Europe.
- Thank you for the conversation.
Wlodzimierz Redzioch talked to Archbishop Antonio Canizares Llovera.
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Zenit News Agency: Can one say that Freemasonry is behind secularist tendencies in Spain?
Csar Vidal, Protestant historian, author of the book 'Los Masones: La Historia de la Sociedad Secreta M s Poderosa' (The Freemasons: History of the Most Powerful Secret Society): 'the secularist current promoted by the government headed by Jos Luis Rodr guez Zapatero shares more than enough Masonry's rank anti-clericalism.'
It is worth knowing that Rodrguez Zapatero's grandfather was a Freemason and many prominent activists of the Socialist Party (PSOE) belong to the Freemasons.
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Archbishop Fernando Sebastian Aguilar of Pamplona: 'I am convinced Zapatero governmental programmes seemed bent on the establishment of secularism within the society. This is nothing to do with warranting a secular character of the state, which is the basis of freedom for various cultural and religious manifestations. There is a desire to embrace every level of social life with this absolutely materialistic concept in order to marginalize faith. The Church could exist like other groups believing in magic or Martians but the Church will not have any influence on dynamic social relationships.
The archbishop said that new policies suggest an attitude that the people must be liberated from 'the influence that the faith still exercises in society.' However, while attacking the religious principles on which Spanish society is based, the government 'is not proposing anything new or better,' the archbishop charged. As a result, the government programmes point toward 'an empty and absolute form of freedom,' he said. 'That is not reform; it is nihilism.'
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Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 'We are facing an aggressive secular ideology which is worrying ... In Sweden a Protestant pastor who had preached about homosexuality, based on a line from Scriptures, went to jail for one month. Laicism is no longer that element of neutrality which opens up spaces of freedom for all. It is being transformed into an, ideology which is imposed through politics and which does not give public space to the Catholic or Christian vision, which runs the risk of becoming something purely private and thus disfigured. In this sense, a struggle exists and we must defend religious freedom against the imposition of an ideology which is presented as if it were the only voice of rationality, when it is only the expression of a 'certain' rationalism'.