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Legal Status of Catholic Church in Spain Threatened over Opposition to Mandatory Pro-Gay Citizenship Course

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By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

  SPAIN, August, 10, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The eminent socialist Gregorio Peces-Barba Martínez, one of the authors of the current Spanish national constitution, made headlines in Spain Wednesday when he threatened the Catholic Church with a "new status" in Spanish society if it didn’t stop attacking his new "Education for Citizenship and Human Rights" program for Spanish public schools.

"Education for Citizenship", which purports to instruct students in matters of ethics, is in reality a vaguely-worded program that seeks to indoctrinate children with the sexual ideology and social agenda of the Spanish left, including the acceptance of homosexuality.  The program’s stated goals include teaching children to reject "existing discrimination for reason of sex, origin, social differences, affective-sexual, or whatever other type" and to exercise a "critical evaluation of the social and sexual division of labor and racist, xenophobic, sexist, and homophobic social prejudices." 

  Under the heading of "key concepts" for instructing junior high school students, the program lists masculine and feminine identity and states that this would also be a "good moment to revise the students’ attitude to homosexuality".  The program also suggests that "a good exercise is to make a list of every type of disrespectful expression referring to foreigners, people of other races, homosexuals, etc., and open a dialog over how they are used in daily life and if they are or are not disrespectful."  The program will be mandatory for all students in public elementary and junior high schools.

  The Spanish Catholic bishops have responded with condemnations of the program, including an official statement that says that the program "implies a serious wound to the original and inalienable right of parents and schools, in collaboration with them, to choose the moral formation that they want for their children.  This is a right recognized by the Spanish Constitution (article 27.3).  The government cannot supplant the society as an educator of the moral conscience." It goes on to state that "the educational centers of the government, losing their obligatory ideological neutrality, will impose on whomever has chosen the Catholic religion and morality another moral formation that hasn’t been chosen by them."

  The archbishop of Madrid, Antonio María Rouco Varela, later clarified that "no one rejects the idea of having an obligatory course on citizenship, which is good," but added that "the concrete form" in which the government has developed the course "is an ethical-moral educational program that negates religion".  Bishop Varela has left open the possibility of appealing to the Constitutional Court of Spain to negate the law.

  In his opinion article, published in the Spanish socialist newspaper "El Pais", Peces-Barba expressed outrage at the bishops’ opposition to his plan, accusing them of "an extreme arrogance, a sensation of impunity and an insufferable sense of superiority, derived from the fact that they administer ‘superior truths’" and claims that they have "spent years defying the legitimate authorities, the Constitution and the law, attempting to impose their criteria before the common good and the popular sovereignty residing in the Parliament." 

  The bishops, complained Peces-Barba, "assume a tradtional anti-modern and clerical culture that is opposed to many legal conclusions of the democratic Government, and that it intends to sell as the truth that sets us free. Now it is Education for Citizenship, before it was divorce, abortion, the teaching of religion, and homosexual marriage." 

  Although the bishops’ objections are based on the fact that the program will be imposed on Catholic children contrary to the will of the parents, Peces-Barba accused them of  "harassing those who are heterodox" and "showing disrespect for individual consciences".  "They cannot nor should they continue down this road, nor pull so hard on the rope", warned Peces-Barba.  "They are responsible for the agitation that impedes social peace and are belligerent against the policy of the government and against any progress." 

  The socialist added that the Catholic Church must back down from criticism of its plan or suffer consequences.  "If this new climate is not obtained in the next legislature," he wrote, "it will be necessary to address the topic of the actions and situation of the Church and establish a new status, that puts them in their place and that respects the autonomy of the civil authority."

  The warning, made in the Spanish socialist newspaper "El Pais", followed on the heels of a speech by Spanish President Emelio Zapatero on July 22, who said, in defence of the Education for Citizenship program that, "no faith can impose itself on the law", a statement understood as a reference to the Church, and subsequently cited by Peces-Barba in his article.  According to Spanish media sources, the ruling socialists are eager to make changes to the existing legal status of the Catholic Church in that country.

  Peces-Barba’s statements are considered significant because of his influence in Spain’s government, and his membership in the country’s powerful socialist movement, which is currently dominant at the national level.  Peces-Barba was one of the authors of Spain’s constitution, and is Professor of Legal Philosophy at the Carlos III University in Madrid.  He is also the former high commissioner for Victims of Terrorism in Spain and an author of the "Education for Citizenship and Human Rights" course program.

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