Spanish Gov't, Church Spar Over Liberal Policies

The confrontation between Spanish government and the Roman Catholic Church remains heated over the liberal social policies of the former, which said they "cannot go back in time" while the latter accused them of being the "Third Reich."

The Socialist-led government has fired back against criticism from the Roman Catholic Church over its liberal social policies claiming that the Spanish majority supported change in tune with the present time.

"Society is not ready to go back to the time when a single moral standard was imposed on all Spaniards," Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega recently told a parliamentary commission on relations between the Church and the government, according to Agence-Frence Press.

"Fortunately, these times have been overtaken by the desire expressed by the majority (of Spaniards), a majority that is not ready to go back in time," she said.

The remarks were in response to the rally held by Catholic Church on Dec. 30 in defense of the family values. The rally had gathered tens of thousands in Madrid.

The relationship between the Catholic Church and the Spanish government became sour after the Socialist Party came into power in 2004 and started to accelerate its social liberal policies by legalizing gay "marriage," introducing fast-track divorces and ending religious education in schools.

Spain has undergone a liberal transformation in the more than three decades since the death of right-wing dictator General Francisco Franco, who was in power from 1939 to 1975.

Alfredo Dagnino, president of the Asociación Católica de Propagandistas, says the government intends to strip public life of religious beliefs, and to build belief on individualism – a theory with "similar roots" to the Third Reich or to Marxist countries, according to the news website Typically Spanish.

He said that a religious, pacific, and healthy campaigning, such as that seen in the Plaza de Colón in December, did not warrant statements such as those from the Socialist Party. He said that that some of the government's policies had the deliberate intention to do away with God, the Church and Christianity in the vision of the world.

During Dec. 30 rally, Cardinal Antonio Canizares of Toledo said that the government was "shaking the foundations of the family with its wicked and unjust laws."

"The culture of radical secularism is a fraud which only leads to abortions and fast-track divorces," Cardinal Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia told the gathering.

In response, Deputy PM De la Vega said the government respected "the expression of opinions and the right to criticism".

But she said it was "intolerable" that part of the Catholic hierarchy "is undermining the respect due to the legitimate authority, which is the government and the parliament."

Criticism of the rally also came from one of the leading Catholic socialists, Francisco Vázquez. Vázquez, the Spanish ambassador to the Vatican, told the El País newspaper that Cardinals Antonio María Rouco Varela and García-Gasco had led a Church attack against the government which was unheard of in the times of democracy in Spain.

Meanwhile, discussions and debates are expected to escalate as Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is seeking a new mandate to continue the policies in Mar. 9 elections.