Roman Catholicism

Roman Catholicism
   Roman Catholicism, which for centuries was considered to be an essential part of Spanish identity, has not only ceased to be the established religion but has also increasingly lost adherents as society becomes more secularized, to the point, some claim, of neo-paganism. Even during the religious triumphalism of Franco's time, the church-state symbiosis (see also National Catholicism) did not mean that all Spain was truly Catholic and was often counter-productive: rejection of institutional religion was bound up with the fact that the church had legitimized the Franco regime, allowed itself to be used as an instrument of social control and shared the values of the then ruling élites. Furthermore, fundamental changes in Spanish society, linked to increased migration, urbanization and economic development, coincided with a new freedom of conscience blessed by the Second Vatican Council. This led in the late 1960s to an awareness of a crisis in Spanish Catholicism in which religious practice declined, priests left the ministry in huge numbers and vocations to the priesthood slumped. A modest rise in ordinations has not compensated for the declining number of priests, as they approach retirement age. Catholicism, which ceased to be the official religion of the state with the promulgation of the 1978 constitution, is still the religion of the majority of Spaniards—over 90 percent—but membership is not the same as practice: only 30 percent go to mass with any degree of frequency and 45 percent never or hardly ever attend; the decline is even higher in the 18 to 35 age group. Spain is no exception to the pattern of waning attachment to institutional religion found generally in the west, and to a "supermarket" selectivity regarding church doctrines; inroads have also been been made by relatively new sects. Even so, Catholicism as represented by the institutional church is still a significant force in Spain. Of the principal lay religious movements, the influential Opus Dei, founded by José Maria Escrivá de Balaguer in 1928, and the Neocatechumen Communities, founded by Kiko Argüello in 1962, enjoy the special favour of the Vatican. The workers" arm of Catholic Action (HOAC) was notable for its struggles against socio-political injustices during the Franco period until reined in by the Catholic hierarchy in 1967; it never recovered the dynamism of its heroic period. Popular religion is characterized by devotion to the Virgin Mary or other patronal saints; processions, especially those of Holy Week in which emotional piety blends with the superstitious; and pilgrimages to shrines often made in an atmosphere of exuberant, even pagan, festivity (see also Holy Week Processions). Spain has 103 bishops governing thirteen ecclesiastical provinces, 20,000 priests, 20,000 men and 70,000 women in religious orders, some 2,000 seminarians, as well as over 7,000 missionaries abroad. There are over 43,000 Catholic schools, five Catholic universities, ten university colleges, and other higher education establishments. Charitable and social work is undertaken by members of religious orders and lay organizations such as Cáritas (committed to helping Spain's needy and marginalized) and the Third World solidarity group, Manos Unidas (Hands Together).
   Further reading
   - Brassloff, A. Religion and Politics in Spainthe Spanish Church in Transition (1962–1996), London: Macmillan (discusses the secularization of Spanish society).
   - González Blasco, P. and González-Anleo, J. (1992) Religión y sociedad en la España de los 90, Madrid: Fundación Santa María (survey of Spanish attitudes towards religion).
   AUDREY BRASSLOFF

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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