Free «Spanish politics» Essay Sample

The changing relationship between the State and the church has had a remarkable impact on Spanish politics

The state and the Church in Spain have had close links for centuries. With the historical reinstitution of the Inquisition in the country, in early fifteenth century, the state used draconian measures in o enforcing religious unity within the country (Marci 2005, 231). This was in an effort to make sure that the country upheld political unity. Strong measures in pursuit of separating the state and the church were enacted especially during the short-lived Second Republic. However, these measures never succeeded as they were nullified by the efforts of the victorious Nationalists (Daniel 2009, 112). In the years of the Franco regime, state and the church had an exceptionally close and mutual relationship with a beneficial association between the two (Philip 2002, 123). The Roman Catholic Church royalty to the Francoist state was the beginning of legitimacy to the country's dictatorship that in turn enhanced and restored the church's traditional privileges. During this period Franco, who was the leader of the Nationalist forces, headed an authoritarian regime in the country that came to power immediately after the Civil War (John 2001, 1). Until he died in November 1975, he ruled Spain claiming to be "Caudillo by the grace of God." He used religion as his main weapon of staying in power long enough without opposition. He was the generalissimo of the armed forces and had the powers as both head of government and chief of state, with ranks as the ultimate and legitimate source of authority all in the name of the church (Mark 1965, 156).

During Franco's rule, the established political structures represented his pragmatic approach. Franco never formulated a comprehensive, true, constitutional system leading to instability in the politics of the region (Philip 1995, 245). There were tensions in the region where the church had affiliations to the state and vice verse. Franco had enormous flexibility in dealing with domestic changes as well as international situations shifts, which made his superiority a success in Spain (Marci 2005, 231). The Seven decreed fundamental laws during his rule were supportive of the semblance of constitutionalism during this period. The establishment of the Labor Charter, the Constituent Law of the Cortes, the Law on Referenda, the Law of Succession and the Law on the National Movement principles were a boost to his control in the politics of the region (Philip 2002, 123).

After the Vatican Council in the year, 1965 had set the stand of the church on human rights; there was a change in the church moving from a position of giving Franco unswerving support to one of guarded and strong criticism of his rule (Daniel 2009, 112). During the final years of Franco's dictatorship, the church in Spain withdrew its support from Franco's regime and started over as one of his harshest critics. This church evolution in the Spain took varying positions and divided Spanish Catholics as well as the politics of the country (Philip 1995, 245). The right-wing sentiment institution took a stand as an opposition to any democratic change typified by the close and born Brotherhood of Spanish Priests. This group published vitriolic attacks and directed them on church reformers thereby bringing a change in politics with the involvement of the priests as members (John 2001, 1). Opposition during this time took a more violent and brutal forms in groups for instance the rightist Catholic terrorist organization that was formerly the Warriors of Christ the King (Daniel 2003, 237). This group engaged in politics and brought in an aggressive face of Spain's politics assaulting progressive priests including the members of their churches (Philip 2002, 123).

Whereas this intransigent faction was enthusiastic in its resistance to change within the church in Spain, other Spanish Catholics experienced frustrations at a slow pace of the church's reform and in society bringing in a change and more involvement in leftist organizations (Daniel 2009, 112). In between the country's extreme positions, a small, influential group of Spain's Catholics, who previously were involved in lay Catholic organizations for instance Catholic Action were in favor of liberalization in the regime as well as the church (Philip 2002, 123).

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However, the group did not enter the country's opposition forces and never sustained in politics. They formed a group that they named Tacit, which brought in a major influence to the country's politics. The group urged a transition of the country's politics to a democratic monarchy. The members of tacit group published articles that advocated for Christian democratic Spain. This enhanced a political stand and influenced politics of the country with many revolutions coming up following the efforts of the regime (Philip 1995, 245).

The church continued its opposition to the Franco regime in Spain throughout his dictatorship's final years and sweeping changes were experienced in his regime. This brought in changes in the political arena, following a drastic shift of focus on the side of the church (Daniel 2003, 237). It was a difficult decision for the church and one that engulfed divisions in support of and resistance to the Franco's regime (Daniel 2009, 112). A Joint Assembly of priests and Bishops held in 1971 was the beginning of an important phase in the country's separation and distancing of the Spain's church from the state. This group avowed the progressive determination of the Second Vatican Council and started a resolution requesting for the pardon of the people for the country's hierarchy partisanship during the period of Civil War (Philip 1995, 245).

During the 1973 Episcopal Conference convened in Spain, there were demands by the bishops on separation of the state and the church, and they demanded a revision of the country's 1953 Concordat. There were subsequent negotiations for this revision, but they broke down because the then leader Franco refused to relinquish any of his powers to the proposed veto Vatican appointments (Philip 2002, 123). It was the start of a political drift when dictatorship took stands and engulfed the country. Until Franco's death, he never understood or gave in to the opposition of the church in his rule. To him, there was no other ruler in Spain, who dared enact favorable measures to the church as he had done, which is why he complained acrimoniously about the ingratitude of the church (Daniel 2009, 112).

Political changes imparted in Spain with the revolution of democratic concepts. With the church already beginning its transformation and development into modern institution some years before the dawn of democracy to the country, it was able to take over an influential role during this period of transition following Franco's death. Although there were still disagreements over church-state relations in this period and over other political issues of interest to the then Roman Catholic Church, the questions could be handled in a less adversarial ways under the liberal atmosphere of the country's constitutional monarchy (Philip 1995, 245).

Other changes in the state brought in an influence to the Spain's politics. The approving of a revision of the Concordat in July 1976 following the new Suarez government was the beginning of many other changes in Spain. The country experienced negotiations resulting in bilateral agreements. This situation never was during the previous period as autocracy and dictatorship engulfed the authority governing the country (Daniel 2003, 237). It was a considerable influence to the country's politics because it delineated the relationship between the new democratic state and the Vatican. From Spain's Constitution in 1978, it is confirmed of this separation of the state and the church and the recognizing the Roman Catholic faith role in the entire Spanish society (Philip 2002, 123).

Because of the establishment of this basic framework for the developed relationship between the state and the church, divisive issues in the country remained unresolved in the 1980s. The church traditionally was in a position to exercise influence in the education area, and the changes led it to join opposition parties that mounted protest against the country's education reforms impinging on its control of Spain's schools (John 2001, 1).

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There were even more acrimonious debates ensuing over the issues of abortion and divorce because the whole issue had been politicized. The church at the time mobilized its influence and supported the effort lobbying against proposed legislation, which was contrary to the doctrines of the Roman Catholic (Philip 2002, 123). The 1981 passage of a law legalizing civil divorce was a considerable blow to church's influence in Spanish society, and it changed the perception of the people and radically shifted the focus into the politics of the country. In addition, in 1985, a law legalizing abortion was passed. This furthered the church's fierce opposition to the governance of the country and developed into a battlefield on the control of the state's politics (John 2001, 1).

Another political manifestation of the redefined church role in Spain was contained in the set measures. They aimed at the reduction of direct government subsidies and subsequent elimination of the same to the church. This was as part of the 1979 agreements where the church concurred with the set plans for developing its financial independence. Late in the 1980s, Spain government announced officially that, after considering a three-year trial period, the church in the country would not receive further direct aid from the state (Daniel 2003, 237). Rather, it would be solely dependent on citizen's choice to provide funds, either through kind donations or by the designation of a portion of the country's income tax to the church in Spain. Although the exempt status of the church composed of indirect subsidy, the effect of the state on this new financial status and the ability of the church to wield political influence was a dilemma in the country (John 2001, 1).

Although church-state relations involved potentially polarizing issues, the church played a cooperative and supportive role in the emergence of plural democracy in Spain. Although the church no longer had a position and did not have privileges in society like before, its independence from the country's politics made it a better and influential force in Spain (John 2001, 1).

Following the introduction of the state and an influence on democratic reforms brought forward by the church, Spain facilitated the October 1982 poll and the PSOE emerged as the winner, under the Felipe Gonzalez leadership. The revolution was a first time introduction of the first one-party government in Spain changing the political field a fantastic deal since the Civil War (Daniel 2009, 112). There was also an increase in participation of voters in the country, rising from less than 68 percent to 80 percent in the year 1982. It was the beginning of inception of democracy and an affirmation by the citizens of the democratic process within the country. The country also facilitated the regional and municipal elections, in May 1983 introducing the Socialist government popularity, which obtained over 43 percent of the country's vote (John 2001, 1).

The politics of Spain in the period of church reforms introduced a socialist government that brought about reforms in the country's system of educational. It was a political move to entice the church and gather more support for Franco and his regime during his period of reign. Jose Maria, the then Education and Science Minister introduced legislation in 1984. The provision provided for increased control of the state over private schools that in turn received government subsidies (Daniel 2009, 112). The law gave parents a better role in the teacher's appointment and in establishment of the curricula. This was at the respective schools, a case that never was in the political stands in the country, prior to the revolutions. This had an effect on society, because in 1980s approximately over a third of students did attend the schools that usually held a religious affiliation. The Roman Catholic Church in this period collaborated with the right-wing Popular Alliance and joined forces that mobilized an antigovernment rally. The forces protested against the new educational policies, and it influenced the politics of governance in Spain, in the year 1984 (Philip 1995, 245).

The changes in the state and the introduction of Socialist government were the begging of more problems politically as it imparted a new era of Basque terrorism. The government started another prominent political menace following its inception of socialism. Although democratization was influential in bringing in unprecedented degree of autonomy to Spanish communities, there still existed an increasing frustration in the Catalan and Basque regions with the process of regular transferring powers to the respective regional governments (Daniel 2009, 112).

The occurrence of PSOE with the implementation of the LOAPA that was passed in 1981 by the UCD government led the Catalans and Basques to consider the Socialists as principal proponents of centralization. There were more changes politically as terrorist activities engulfed Spain from the militant Basque Freedom. The Basque separatist organization in 1959 founded by a splinter group from Basque Nationalist Party thrived unabated in Spain following the PSOE rise to power after the elections. This was the main ingredient that increased violence, in the splinter group and enhancing a destabilizing feature that threatened the country's hold on democracy through the temptations of the right-wing forces to consider a coup in its efforts to restore order (John 2001, 1).

More changes engulfed the country politically as it started efforts to control terrorist activity within and to calm the country military. The Socialist government brought in strong antiterrorist legislation that received popular support globally and led to alliances of the country with other foreigners in the far west (Daniel 2003, 237). Nevertheless, there was still a continued violence from the terrorist groups, which threatened to destabilize the collapse of the country's politics. Moreover, the government of Spain received a setback in its campaign against terrorism in 1984 (Daniel 2009, 112). This period was when the Supreme Court unceremoniously overruled a decision by the country's Ministry to ban the unity of the political party that associated with ETA Military Front. The ministry wanted to ban the party from regional or national representation in the parliament, but a change of events compromised fight against terrorism. There was a change of the state laws and a transformation of the politics of the country making it difficult for a merge to fight terrorism in the region (Marci 2005, 231).

During his rule, Franco introduced many reforms and merged the church to the state bringing in more changes to the country's politics. The National Movement that was a coalition of right-wing groups termed as political "families" or a "communion" instead of a party was taken to be the sole forum for the country's political participation (Daniel 2003, 237). The law of the country reaffirmed the nature of Spain as generally a traditional, Catholic monarchy. All the country's top government officials including all possible successors to Franco in future were mandated to pledge their sole loyalty to the respective principles. These were embodied in the catholic law that was presented actually as a fusion of all previous set fundamental laws (Mark 1965, 156).

More political-changes were felt in the military following the reformations in the state. Although the moderate approach of the socialist to economic issues involved a slow rate of change, there was remarkable progress achieved in the military. These changes were more on the military reorganization of the country (Daniel 2009, 112). In October 1983, the Defense minister Narcissi Serra announced sweeping plans for a reduction in the military that was geared towards national defense not necessarily in internal security. The 1984 Legislation placed the country's armed forces under the control of the country's prime minister with the help of the civilian defense minister. Increased subordination of the country's military to the civilian government became more palatable to the hierarchy of the military. This was by an increase in military spending geared towards modernizing the equipment of the army as well as increasing its weaponry (Philip 1995, 245).

The Second Republic was a period existing during a period of economic depression that resulted to high rates of poverty and unemployment. This in turn, led to total dissatisfaction of the people and reform groups within Spanish republican government including the traditional centers of power, for instance the Church. It gave birth to civil unrest during this period and fired up cases of violence for instance assassination. The period led to political instability in the region resulting from evolutionary general strike. This was a political challenge to maintain the political governance of the state following the drastic protests from the nationalists groups (John 2001, 1).

In conclusion, the transition from dictatorship to democracy in Spain facilitated by the church was a tasking process. The politics of the country had gained roots in Franco. The Catholic Church in Spain had earlier given all the support and actively played a substantial role to his rise in power. Therefore, it was difficult for them to change the beatitudes and go against him with a similar force to bring his political ambitions down (Daniel 2009, 112). The support of Franco's uprising that gave him superiority over the Second Republic was enormous and Franco had gained roots since his rise in 1936. In addition to this, the Catholic Church had legitimized his regime as the appropriate regime to follow in Spanish republic by participating fully in the indoctrination and education of all young Spaniards and re-educating those who were against the Catholic tradition. In some reality, the catholic church "sold its soul" to the state and became particularly involved in the politics of the country (Marci 2005, 231).

Franco, in exchange to the gratitude's and support of the church, gave the Catholic Church a forerun in the politics of the country. At the end of Spanish Civil War in 1939 and Franco emerging as the victor, the Catholic Church took the responsibility assuming its new role as the sole ideological leader of the regime of dictatorship even without its knowledge (Daniel 2003, 237). The Church in its political mobility legitimized without its consent the political structures, the ethos, as well as the legislation and activities of the country (Daniel 2003, 237). In this period, politics of the country became unstable leading to the suffering of the Spaniards who suffered the ethos, imprisonment, the ethos, and repression all because of the church stand in prior support of Franco's regime. By the time the church tried to break the previous deal with Franco, there was massive damage to the country's politics and almost thirty-four years passed, leaving the church with a lot to answer for (Mark 1965, 156). Even up to date, the country still experiences political changes emanating from the reforms in the state and the church. Immense support from the state still goes to the church mainly the catholic. With the country holding more Catholics than protestants, the politics of the country are still engulfed by the prospects of the catholic church and prospects of the church influence are more applicable to the state in ceremonies, swearing in of ministers and government officials, and other government related activities in Spain (Marci 2005, 231).


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