Spain’s Catholic bishops have pledged to seek agreement on some of the positions in the socialist-led government’s program for secular reforms.
Cardinal Juan Jose Omella, president of the Spanish bishops’ conference, and Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo met in Madrid for two hours on 24th June before a joint statement said the two sides agreed ‘to establish a broad working agenda’ for a mixed commission.
It said the meeting, the first since Cardinal Omella was elected conference president in March, was in line with ‘policies aimed at exercising the right to religious freedom’, adding that both sides had ‘willingly and freely addressed issues of mutual interest’.
However, Alfa y Omega, Spain’s Catholic weekly, reported on 25th June that discord remained intense over government reforms, especially in education, adding that there were ‘no plans for compromise’ over ‘fundamental rights’. It said the bishops’ education commission ‘stressed the need to protect and promote the right to education, as set out in our constitution’.
‘Spanish society is wondering how the eighth education law in 40 years is now close to being approved when there is no will to build consensus. The outlook is bleak,’ the weekly said.
The government unveiled plans for law reform that would restrict parental rights and downgrade religion classes.
Other projected legislation includes permitting ‘a dignified death and euthanasia’ at public expense, the ‘recovery of assets improperly registered to the Church’, and a guarantee of ‘state secularity and neutrality toward all religious denominations’.
The reform program was partially shelved during the Covid-19 pandemic, which had left more than 28,000 Spaniards – including at least a hundred priests – dead by 25th June.
Preaching in Valencia cathedral on 21st June, Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera said the proposed education law would “impose models of knowledge and ethics” and urged legislators to reject it.
However, Spain’s La Vanguardia daily said on 25th June the ‘times are long gone’ when the bishops’ conference could ‘act as a battering ram against the socialist government’, adding that the 24th June talks appeared to signal ‘a new stage of attunement and collaboration’.
Picture: Cardinal Juan Jose Omella of Barcelona, Spain, is pictured in a file photo. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz).