Catholic Church’s New Reign In Spain Falls, Mainly

A band of Catholic bishops in Spain attempted to intervene in the country’s March 9 elections by disseminating a message to voters containing thinly veiled criticism of the ruling Socialist Workers Party, but the ploy failed when the party was returned to power.

In their message, the bishops urged voters to act “responsibly” and attacked policies favored by the Socialist Workers Party, such as legal abortion and same-sex marriage. The message did not mention any party by name but stated, “Not all [party] programs are equally compatible with the faith and demands of Christian life.”

The letter was seen as an effort to boost the fortunes of the conservative Popular Party, which opposes legal abortion and same-sex marriage.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero expressed outrage at the clerical interference in politics. The government took the step of formally protesting to the Vatican, expressing “surprise” and “perplexity” over the statement.

“I think the great majority of Spanish Catholics are tolerant and not fundamentalists,” Jesus Caldera, a Zapatero cabinet member, told a meeting of foreign correspondents. He added that the Popular Party is in “clear alliance with the most ultraconservative sector of the Spanish Catholic Church.”

The bishops’ missive failed to sway Spanish voters. The Socialists won the election, gaining five new seats for a total of 169 in the 350-seat parliament.