Church in Spain has right to address political issues, says bishop

.- In a letter to the faithful of his diocese, Bishop Jose Sanchez of Siguenza-Guadalajara said the Spanish bishops are not trying to meddle in politics, but they will not renounce their right to freely speak about political issues.

Bishop Sanchez said the outcry was so great over the Spanish bishops’ latest statement on Catholics and voting that he felt “obliged to provide an explanation to the diocese.”  “I sit on the Executive Committee,” he said, “and I feel responsible for the statement.” He noted that since 1979 the bishops of Spain have issued similar statements during election seasons.

While he noted that the bishops have no intention of intervening in party politics or in the crafting of laws, he stressed that the bishops are not just limited to speaking from the pulpit or the sacristy.  “We interested in the issues of the world in which we live, to which we belong and in which we have our own responsibility and duties,” he said.

“As such,” he added, “we offer, but never impose, criteria for discernment based on what we consider to the nature of things and proper reasoning, reinforced by the principles that are derived from the Gospel and that are developed in the Social Teaching of the Church.”

“We do not impose or recommend voting for a particular political party, now or never.  The meaning and direction of one’s vote is a personal responsibility.  We do however affirm that no one political party or human program exhausts the Gospel or is completely in keeping with it,” Bishop Sanchez stated.

He went on to list the concerns the bishops outlined in their statement: respect for life from conception to natural death, respect for the institutions of marriage and the family, freedom of education and the right of parents to decide the matter for their children, terrorism and unemployment.

While he acknowledged that, “as with every human effort,” the statement could be further refined, he expressed regret that “the reaction that has come from the government, from certain media outlets and certain social and even religious groups has been one of insults, threats, manipulations, demagoguery, division and discrediting of the bishops.”  He warned that Spain’s past is not the best when it comes to religion being turned into a political confrontation, especially when agitated by political leaders, the media or entertainment personalities.

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