National Catholicism

National Catholicism
   Despite its authoritarian character, the Franco regime had no clear political ideology, but instead used religion as a force for national cohesion, building on the long-standing identification of Spanish nationality with Roman Catholicism. The Catholic hierarchy had overwhelmingly supported the Francoist insurgents during the Civil War as a defence against "godless Communism", and in the years after the war provided the main legitimization for the regime, more important even than the Falange. Franco in turn accorded the church legal status as a fundamental institution of the state. Though there was some limited toleration for minority religions, the state was defined as officially Catholic. Bishops had seats in the parliament and in the Council of the Realm, and the church was given a large measure of control over education. Catholic religious instruction was obligatory in all educational institutions, whether state-run or private.
   In addition, the civil and criminal law embodied Catholic moral teaching. Divorce was banned, and couples who wished to marry were obliged to do so in church if either party had been baptized, even if they were no longer practising their religion. Adultery was an offence under the Penal Code, though it was more frequently enforced against women than against men, and the offences of "blasphemy" and "public scandal", which could lead to prosecution for kissing in public or wearing a bikini on the beach, were only removed from the Penal Code in 1987, though the economic importance of international tourism had long since caused them to fall into abeyance. The church also exercised a wide measure of control over intellectual and cultural life. The founding charter of the state-sponsored research body, the CSIC, declared that its mission was to restore the unity of Christianity and science. State censorship of films and printed material was supplemented and reinforced by ecclesiastical censorship, which was stricter, and could sometimes lead to the banning of works which had been passed by the state censors.
   The symbiosis between church and state had been a feature of Spanish life for centuries, and had been codified most recently in the Concordat of 1857. The provisions of this document were restated and extended in the Concordat of 1953, which gave Franco, as Head of State, virtual control over nominations to vacant bishoprics. The state also granted the church other privileges, such as the immunity of clergy from prosecution on criminal charges except by permission of the bishop. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, however, relations between church and state underwent a gradual transformation, culminating in the constitution of 1978, which confirmed the separation of church and state, and established a non-denominational polity.
   Though nacionalcatolicismo as a concept is dead, Catholicism as a cultural identity marker is still deeply rooted in Spanish life. Official state occasions retain a religious character, and the Virgin of Pilar (Zaragoza) is honoured as patron of the armed forces. Football teams sometimes offer the trophies they have won at the shrine of their local madonna. Furthermore, the centre-right PP government elected in 1996, reported to contain several members of Opus Dei in its ministerial team, has attempted to reverse the secularization of the state by, for example, re-introducing religion as an examinable school subject.
   See also: history; politics
   Further reading
   - Carr, R. and Fusi, J.P. (1979) Spain: Dictatorship to Democracy, London: Allen & Unwin (pp. 28–31 provide a succinct summary of the influence of the church under Franco).
   - Lannon, F. (1987) Privilege, Persecution and Prophecy: The Catholic Church in Spain, 1875-1975, Oxford: Oxford University Press (a classic study of the cultural and political significance of the church).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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