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Aug 22 2011
an interesting viewpoint on Catholicism in Spain

Spain's World Youth Day has little to do with Catholicism

Miguel-Anxo Murado, Monday 22 August 2011

I'm talking about World Youth Day, an event that, somewhat disconcertingly, lasted for six days, was organised by the Catholic church and had gathered hundreds of thousands of youngsters and one old man the pope in Madrid.


What has surprised many outside Spain is the hostility with which this has been met by a large part of Spanish society. Yes, there have been daily marches protesting at the pope's visit, scuffles between the saints and the sinners (let's call them that), arrests, police charges. But that is because people tend to forget that while Spain is a traditionally Catholic country, it is traditionally anti-clerical too.


In the course of the last 40 years, Spain has rapidly become a secular country and today is no different from other western societies in this respect. Most couples shun religious marriage, with only a minority opting for it. Less than 15% of the population ever attends mass. Same-sex marriages were recently legalised with ample popular support (and that great form of tolerance that is indifference), and polls show that general views on abortion or euthanasia are hardly those of the church.

That's why those who rant at every preaching of the church miss the point.


The issue is power, and the Spanish church has an awful lot of it, but it lies somewhere else. Its kingdom is of this world. As a reaction to secularisation, the church has become an American-style political lobby, which no longer shepherds souls but votes. With its radio and TV stations and its vast network of schools and universities, it shapes the conservative political camp. It is its ability to deliver busloads of school children to Madrid that makes rightwing demonstrations possible and massive.


And this is what World Youth Day was about: the joy of triumph and the anticipation of more concessions to come from the next government. Journalists scrutinised the long and repetitive speeches of the pope as if they were all about theology, but they weren't. The medium is the message. The message is the massive presence, like a seraphic version of the International Brigades, of the Catholic church on the streets of Spain, the old faithful country gone astray.

See this Guardian article for more.

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