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Bishop describes 'troubling disagreement' between Spanish episcopate, government

Campaign posters depicting PSOE leader Pedro Sanchez and Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias Credit Olaf Speier Shutterstock Campaign posters depicting PSOE leader Pedro Sanchez and Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias./ Olaf Speier/Shutterstock.

Spain’s bishops have a “troubling disagreement” with the country’s coalition government, led by socialists, which aims at restricting freedom of conscience and marginalizing the teaching of religion in schools, the secretary general of the bishops’ conference has said.

Bishop Luis Javier Argüello Garcia, Auxiliary Bishop of Valladolid, said that while relations in ordinary interactions with government agencies are "cordial and constructive," with regard to the government’s legislative program there is "troubling disagreement.”

Euthanasia was legalized in the country earlier this year.

Pedro Sánchez of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party is prime minister of Spain. His government is a coalition with Unidas Podemos, a left-wing alliance. 

"We are concerned about the (government’s) legislative program because we are seeing how an anthropological vision is being proposed and set in place," Bishop Argüello explained.

He pointed to recent laws which make clear the government’s anthropological vision, such as the education law which eliminates the optional subject of religion from the student’s grade point average and sidelines state subsidized (mostly Catholic) private schools to the point of their probable demise; the legalization of euthanasia; and the law on minors which undermines parental rights. 

Proposed legislation includes a bill allowing minors to seek gender transition without parental consent, and to allow 16 and 17 year olds to procure abortion without parental consent.

"Certainly this proposal worries us and so in our relationship with the government and its legislative agenda we are a state of disagreement," Bishop Argüello said.

He said a bill on conscience “reduces religious freedom to a matter of conscience alone, certainly in line with a general proposal to privatize the life of faith, or to box in the exercise of one's own faith within the conscience or in the sacristy of each church.”

That bill, which seeks to establish a strictly secular state with no relationship with the Church, was part of the platform in the deal struck between PSOE and Podemos to form a coalition government.  

The freedom of conscience bill  “doesn’t take into account that religious freedom, which undoubtedly has to do with conscience, also has to do with belonging to a people, it has to do with the enlightenment of reason and the ability to form judgements on everyday events and to express one’s faith. Not only in worship but also in the public square, which means the people living their faith as the believers themselves see it,” the bishop said.

Bishop Argüello stressed that the bishops of Spain "are concerned" about this bill that seeks “the reduction of the religious to the private sphere, the reduction of conscience without its public expression or limiting it to the sacristy, excluding it from the public square or the social fabric."

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