By Hilary White

SAN SEBASTIÁN, Spain, December 19, 2009 ( – The appointment of Bishop José Ignacio Munilla to the diocese of San Sebastian in northern Spain, has been repudiated in a letter signed by a majority of priests of the diocese.

Since the rejection early in 2009 by the Austrian bishops conference of the pope's pick for bishop of Linz, some European bishops and priests have stepped up their defiance of papal wishes on appointments and Catholic teaching. 

The letter said that Bishop Munilla is “not suitable” for the post and said the appointment would “discredit the ecclesiastical life of our diocese.” It was signed by 131 priests, nearly 80 per cent of the diocese's complement. The letter is believed to be politically motivated, given that the Catholic Church in the Basque region is known for its “progressive” stands and its sympathy for the Basque separatist movement.

Bishop Munilla is known for his “conservatism” and was the choice of both Pope Benedict and Madrid Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco, head of the Spanish bishops' conference. At a book launch, Munilla called for the respect of parental rights in the education of their children as the government considers a proposal to remove crucifixes from public schools and is working to impose pro-homosexual sex education.

Munilla explains the Catechism of the Catholic Church every day on Radio Maria Spain, and is a prolific columnist on religion. He is set to be installed as bishop of San Sebastian on January 9.

San Sebastian is the capital city of the province of Gipuzkoa, in the Basque country of Spain. Inigo Urkullu Renteria, a Basque nationalist politician and president of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) said, “The imposition” of Bishop Munilla is a sign of an ideological trend “in the Catholic Church in Spain and Rome.”

Arbil Forum, an organization that defends “Christian values in society,” has defended the new bishop of San Sebastian, criticizing the “intolerance” of the pastors who signed a statement against the new prelate. “A bishop should be appointed by the Pope for transmitting the gospel and not the disclosure of a particular vision of a political group,” the group said.

In related news, the president elect of the Swiss Catholic Bishops Conference has told media that priests should be allowed to marry and that this opinion is shared by most of his brother bishops.

Bishop Norbert Brunner told a Swiss newspaper, “There should be the possibility of making married men priests.” He argued that there is “no fundamental link” between celibacy and the priesthood, and said that the Swiss bishops were “quite unanimous” in their support for a married clergy.

Like the Austrian bishops who earlier this year rejected Pope Benedict's selection of a doctrinally orthodox priest as auxiliary bishop in the ultraliberal diocese of Linz, Brunner, head of the diocese of Sion, is an adherent of the concept of “national” churches. This doctrine that is taking hold among many episcopal conferences and priests in Europe, holds that the central authority of the Church Rome is incapable of understanding the needs of the “local church.”

Bishop Brunner said at the Synod of Bishops in 2001, “Once again we ask, with serious preoccupation, what value do the pastoral needs of the local churches have for the Roman curia?

“At the universal level of the church, only what is necessary for the unity of the church should be resolved centrally,” Brunner said.

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