How Spaniards perceive Catholicism has evolved over the centuries. Spain a monarchy with a Socialist Prime Minister was a bastion of Catholicism during the Protestant Reformation in Europe. The saying was “What was lost in Europe was regained in Latin America.” Spain itself was born as a nation due to a eight century long religious war “La Reconquista” that reclaimed the Iberian peninsula from Islam.
Spain is an illustration of what happens when you make any religion “The State Religion.” The old adage that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is not limited to the secular sphere. What was initially the religious zeal of Theresa of Avila and John of the Cross, soon devolved into the Spanish Inquisition. The Church became a department of the state and theological beliefs became a matter of national law and security. Sound familiar?
In the Twentieth century all of this boiled to the surface. A Civil War followed by decades of unrest in Spanish society only began to heal after the death of Generalissimo Franco and the introduction of authentic democracy in Spain. Perhaps the most striking difference between Spanish and American societies is that the former had a State Religion and Inquisition and the latter desires both.
The remnants of centuries of State Catholicism will greet Benedict XVI when he visits Barcelona. The Spanish have planned a same-sex kissing event to protest Benedict’s visit. They are offended at Benedict’s attempts to cast the Church as the final authority in Civil Marriage laws.
A university professor of Spanish removed his glasses during a lecture. He held up the pair of glasses and said that studying a foreign language is like putting on a pair of glasses. Everything out there remains the same; however, your perception of that reality changes. Reality is now perceived through the history and culture of another people and that enriches the student. That same year our professor told us of a national contest in Spain held by “El Pais” (The Nation) a leading newspaper. The newspaper wanted a drawing that captured the “national spirit.” The winning submission was a boy spelling out the words “Viva Yo” (Long live me) on the sand, in his own stream of urine.