Spanish government defies criticism by Catholic Church
10 January 2008
MADRID – The Spanish government Thursday rejected criticism of its social reforms by the Catholic Church, saying it would not accept "moral guardianship" from anyone.
Spaniards had "accepted and integrated" reforms such as homosexual marriage and fast-track divorce, Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said, explaining that the church could no longer "impose" its morals on all Spaniards.
A long-running rift between Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s Socialist government and the church has deepened after several bishops said the government’s social reforms had eroded democracy and human rights.
Cooperation between church and state did not undermine the "secularity" of the state, Vega said.
The government respected the church’s right to criticise it, but demanded the same respect for "legitimate powers" such as the government and parliament, she said.
The conservative opposition People’s Party (PP) has called for "respect" for the church, but does not intend to abolish divorce and abortion as demanded by the Catholic hierarchy.
The PP was not even expected to cancel homosexual marriage, introduced by the Socialists, unless the Constitutional Court decided in favour of the party’s earlier complaint against it.
The Catholic Church is rapidly losing influence in Spain, the daily El Pais reported Thursday. Only 77 per cent of Spaniards defined themselves as Catholics in 2007, down from 83.5 per cent in 1998.
Only 17 per cent of Catholics attend Mass practically every Sunday.
More than 44 per cent of weddings were civilian in 2006, and 26 per cent of children were born out of wedlock in 2005.
The Vatican sees Spain as one of the main territories to be "reconquered" by the Catholic faith, according to reports in Spain.
[Copyright dpa 2008]
Subject: Spanish news