Spanish Supreme Court rules divorced-and-remarried religion teacher must be reinstated 

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Spain’s Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a religion teacher whose declaration of suitability to teach religion was withdrawn by the Archdiocese of Valladolid because her life “was not in accordance with the postulates of Christian life” must be reinstated.

The teacher was married in the Church and had two daughters by in vitro fertilization. She subsequently attempted to contract a second marriage without having sought a declaration of nullity. At the time of her dismissal, the teacher was living with a third partner, a divorced man with three children.

In 2018, several parents of students at the school where the teacher taught complained to the archbishop about the teacher's way of life.

According to an agreement between the Spanish state and the Holy See, in order to be a religion teacher in Spain the candidate must receive a “ecclesiastical declaration of suitability” from the local bishop, who can withdraw this permission for legitimate reasons.

This applies to public as well as Catholic schools, as students in public schools in Spain can opt to take religion classes. 

The archdiocesan official who oversees the teaching of religion pointed out to the teacher the irregularity of her situation and encouraged her to seek an annulment and to regularize her marital situation to maintain the required ecclesiastical declaration of suitability to teach the Catholic religion.

However, the teacher didn’t take any steps to regularize her situation, and so the Archdiocese of Valladolid withdrew the declaration of suitability and the missio canonica, necessary to teach religion, because her life "was not in accordance with the postulates of Christian life.” 

Accordingly, the Ministry of Education of the autonomous regional government of Castile and León followed through and dismissed the teacher from her position.

However, the Supreme Court overturned the dismissal July 28, ruling that the Ministry of Education will have to reinstate her in her job as a religion teacher because in the court’s opinion "the fundamental rights of the worker were violated." The Supreme Court’s decision also obligates the Ministry of Education to pay the teacher the salary she stopped receiving after her dismissal.

The Code of Canon Law stipulates that “those who are designated teachers of religious instruction in schools, even in non-Catholic ones, are outstanding in correct doctrine, the witness of a Christian life, and teaching skill.”

In addition, “the local ordinary has the right to appoint or approve teachers of religion and even to remove them or demand that they be removed if a reason of religion or morals requires it.”

The Spanish bishops’ conference requires that the candidate must be baptized in the Catholic Church, have the corresponding civil and ecclesiastical degree, and the Ecclesiastical Declaration of Suitability that supposes "correct doctrine and the witness of a Christian life.” The declaration  can be revoked by the bishop “when any of the considerations for which it was granted ceases to be fulfilled and will not be valid in other dioceses.”

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