PP pledges Family Ministry as Deputy PM lashes Church

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De la Vega accuses bishops of lack of respect for government, parliament.

11 January 2008

MADRID - The fallout from a campaign by the Catholic Church against the Socialist government's social and family policies continued Thursday, more than 10 days after bishops brought 160,000 people onto the streets of Madrid in protest.

As Deputy Prime Minister María Teresa Fernández de la Vega addressed Congress to explain the state of the government's relationship with the Church, opposition leader Mariano Rajoy seized the opportunity to appeal to Catholic voters ahead of the general election on 9 March. Speaking in Toledo, Rajoy promised to create a "Ministry of the Family" if elected, suggesting that the traditional Spanish family needs protection in the wake of the Socialist government's legalisation of homosexual marriage and approval of fast-track divorce, neither of which Rajoy has said he would repeal.

"We are going to support the family. The family needs social and legal protection... it is the basic building block of society," Rajoy said.

The proposal, which was met with incredulity in many sectors, appeared to be an effort to capitalise on the campaign by bishops against the government's social policies. During the protest in Madrid on 30 December, the archbishop of Valencia, Cardinal Agustín García-Gasco, accused the government of fomenting "radical secularism that could lead to the dissolution of democracy," while the archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, argued that its social policies are a "step backward for human rights."

Addressing the Congress Constitutional Committee yesterday, De la Vega said the bishops are "not telling the truth" and argued that Spanish society "does not need to be lectured about morals."

"This administration respects freedom of expression and the right to criticise, but it will not tolerate the ecclesiastical hierarchy lacking respect for the government and parliament and being dishonest," De la Vega told legislators.

[Copyright EL PAÍS / Carlos Elordi Cúe /Ángeles Espinosa 2008]

Subject: Spanish news

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