Socialist riposte sees tensions with Church soar
Party accuses Catholic hierarchy of "moving away from democracy."
3 January 2008
MADRID - Spanish bishops have turned their backs on the "essential foundations" of democracy in Spain by launching a scathing politically motivated attack on the Socialist government little more than two months before a general election, the Socialist Party charged Wednesday.
The statement marked the party's formal response to a march in Madrid on Sunday organised by the Spanish Catholic Church and attended by 160,000 people, including representatives of the main opposition Popular Party. During the protest, prominent bishops from across Spain accused the government's family and social policies of weakening democracy and human rights.
"We will not take one step back... on legislation that has expanded the rights of Spaniards," the Socialist Party said in the statement. It alleged that it is the Church, not the government, that is "moving away from the essential foundations of democracy."
Speaking in Huelva, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero drove home his party's position. "Spain is going to carry on this way... because under the Spanish Constitution there is room for everyone, everyone has the right to have rights and think what they want whether they are religious or not," Zapatero said.
Zapatero has frequently found himself at loggerheads with the Church during the past legislature in which he has ruffled Catholic feathers by legalising gay marriage, easing divorce proceedings and changing the way religion in taught in schools.
The Socialists allege that the PP is behind the Church's campaign in the hopes of rallying Catholics against the government when Spaniards go to the polls on 9 March.
[Copyright El Pais 2008]
Subject: Spanish news