Catholic Church demands that Spain scraps citizenship lessons

Catholic Church demands that Spain scraps citizenship lessons December 4, 2008

THE Catholic Church in Spain is heading for a showdown with Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s socialist government over a new course introduced in schools for 12- to 14-year-olds.

An example to be followed: Prime Minister Zapatero will not be bullied by the Catholic Church
An example to be followed: Prime Minister Zapatero will not be bullied by the Catholic Church
The innocuous-sounding Education for Citizenship course is intended to give youngsters an understanding of the meaning of the constitution and the rights that every citizen of Spain can expect.
But the curriculum has become the latest battleground in a raging war between Spain’s leftist government and a Roman Catholic Church that is rapidly losing ground in that country.
Church officials and conservative social activists are trying to have the mandatory courses scrapped, contending that the curriculum promotes ideas that go against church teachings. Among those is acceptance of homosexuals and, by implication, same-sex marriage, which the government legalised three years ago.
Last night, BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight programme reported that opinion polls in Spain clearly show that, for most young Spaniards, Catholicism plays little or no part in their lives. You can hear it in full here.
Said reporter Steve Kingston:

Conservatives in the church accuse the government of deliberately encouraging this trend, and that the citizen classes are further evidence of an alleged push by Prime Minister to secularise Spanish society.

Last year, ahead of the introduction of the lessons, Sister Maria Rosa de la Cierva, a nun who is the church’s liaison to the Education Ministry, was quoted as saying:

This is a frontal assault on the Catholic religion. This is an authentic scholastic war … and part of a clear persecution, little by little, of the Catholic faith.

At the beginning of the year, an angry Prime Minister Zapatero hit back at the church, saying that the Spanish Constitution ensured that there was room for everybody in Spain, that everybody has the right to have rights, whatever they think, and whether they belong to a religion or not.
Most encouraging part of last night’s broadcast were the opinions voiced by a group of around eight Madrid youngsters, all but one of whom admitted to being Catholic. One vociferously declared:

I do not believe in God.

Another said:

I don’t believe the Catholic Church is relevant today to young people … It disapproves of the use of condoms for young people.

Education is only the latest squabble driving a wedge between the church and the state in Spain.
According to this report, church officials, a so-called pro-family conservative lobby and rightist opposition politicians have reacted with horror to the government’s liberalisation of abortion and divorce laws, its reduction of state funding for churches and its efforts to better separate church and state.
At the heart of the conflict is a Vatican-backed effort by Spanish conservatives to restore traditional Catholicism to a place of importance in public life – and to recapture the power and influence that go with that.
The Socialist government, however, sees the promotion of secular values and its socially liberal agenda as essential to the nation’s modernisation, especially in today’s fast-changing, multicultural Spain.
Modern Spanish history is replete with the ups and downs of tumultuous relations between the church and state. As the renowned Basque writer Pio Baroja once put it:

Spaniards through the ages have followed their priests – either with candles, or with clubs.

Under Franco, Catholic instruction became compulsory in school. To this day, under a treaty that Franco signed with the Holy See, Spain is obliged to offer Catholic instruction in all public schools.
With the citizenship curriculum introduced this term, that arrangement raises the possibility of contradictory lessons. A pupil could be instructed in the beliefs of the Catholic Church in one schoolroom, then hear opposite arguments in another.
Education Ministry officials say that teaching about citizenship and laws, and all that goes with it, including tolerance for minorities, is essential in a Spain that is no longer homogenous. The number of children of immigrant parents in Spain’s pre-university school population, officials point out, has grown nearly tenfold in the last decade.
Alejandro Tiana, secretary-general of the ministry, said in an interview:

The reality of Spain today is that students are coming from different kinds of families. The education system should teach the importance of fighting discrimination and avoiding homophobia.

But opponents contend that the government is using the courses to impose its own beliefs. By refusing to establish marriage between man and woman as the only acceptable form, for example, the instruction creates a kind of “relativism” in which there are no rules or absolute truths, the critics maintain.

Said Benigno Blanco, head of the Spanish Family Forum, a coalition of conservative organisations:

If you can’t tell good from bad, then you can’t be a good citizen.

The new curriculum, he said, “makes a moral code of what the government of the moment wants.”

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • newspaniard

    As a resident of Spain, I wholeheartedly approve of any legislation which reduces the political power of ANY religious group.

  • Great news, about time a social education, ie a fiction vs non-fiction subject. More countries should follow this

  • valdemar

    Gosh, seems like Spain’s civil war didn’t actually end any more than ours did. They’re both continuing by other means. Viva La Republica, and all that. Let’s form an International Brigade of militant atheists to stand around in Barcelona openly mocking the Vatican. This may, of course, slightly resemble ‘going on holiday’ to the uninitiated.

  • Palehorse

    Oh, well, it isn’t the Catholic Church anyway which was eclipsed by that new church. Read Bella Dodd’s testimony to the Senate Committee in the 50s.

  • Bravo, excellent news!
    Sister Maria Rosa de la Cierva, is quoted as saying, “This is a frontal assault on the Catholic religion.”
    How? How *exactly* does a curriculum of Spain’s constitution and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship equate to a “frontal attack?” I don’t know how the Spanish constitution works, but the State’s job is to inform its students how the State works and how to work with the State. Here in the U.S. (and I presume in Spain it is similar) it is not the State’s job to teach, support, or endorse, the pet doctrines of ANY church. Here in the U.S. the State is supposed to be “hands-off” when it comes to religious peculiarities. “Hands-off” and “religion-neutral” is NOT an attack. If the Catholic Church (there) or the fundamentalist Christians here wish to be relevant, that’s their own problem to figure out.