As Spain begins to recover from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the Catholic Church is urging politicians to work together to make the transition as easy as possible for everyone.
The Cardinal Archbishop of Barcelona and President of the Spanish Bishops Conference, Juan José Omella, called for the country’s leaders to “walk together” amid the spiral of political confrontation that is taking place in Spain due to the pandemic and the national response to it.
Interviewed by a TV news program on Wednesday, the prelate lamented the lack of unity in facing the coronavirus crisis: “We have to make an effort and leave tensions aside. Now is the time to walk together. I ask [politicians] to, as much as possible, overcome these moments of tension and put themselves at the service of the common good, which is what the political parties, administrations and governments are for.”
He thanked King Felipe VI for the interest he showed on Wednesday in the work the church has done during the pandemic.
Assessing some social issues that have arose from the pandemic that killed over 27,000 people in Spain, Omella recalled that the Catholic charitable organization Caritas is seeing triple the requests for help than before the virus. He also defended the work carried out by Church-run nursing homes, which “generally work with great dignity and affection” towards the elderly.
The prelate has also confirmed that they are in “dialogue” with the government to release a protocol to allow for religious pilgrimages, processions and other religious events in outdoor areas.
“If there can be a demonstration or if people can gather on terraces, why can’t you do a pilgrimage?” Omella asked, insisting that they can be organized while observing social distancing.
New law for protecting infancy
Cardinal Carlos Osoro of Madrid sent out a Tweet on June 11 that, for most observers, might have been obvious but, lacking context, somewhat random: “The measures to support and protect the most vulnerable are good news. Let’s not leave anyone lying on the road.”
Observers quickly connected the dots between the short message to the approval of the preliminary draft of a law for the Protection of Children and Adolescents against Violence. The bill is now ready to begin its parliamentary procedure after it was halted by the 2019 elections and the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The draft was approved by the Council of Ministers and presented by the second Vice President, Pablo Iglesias. Among those tasked with drafting the legislation was the Pontifical Comillas University in Madrid. Though the Catholic Church is not mentioned in the bill, its intended to extend the reporting period for the most serious crimes committed against children, giving child victims until the age of 30 to report abuse.
It also establishes a duty to report situations of risk to the competent authorities, even if they don’t constitute a crime.
Yet criticism to the bill has, unexpectedly, come from within the coalition government, specifically the leadership of PSOE, the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party that is currently in government with Podemos, the left-leaning party led by Iglesias.
The leadership of PSOE is calling for a modification of the bill to specifically combat violence against girls. The so-called “Alliance against the erasure of women” - which includes high-ranking members of PSOE - released a statement on Wednesday accusing Podemos of ignoring the specific sexual violence women suffer from birth.
The Alliance said the bill is an attempt “legalize concepts - such as gender identity - that do not have social or academic acceptance.” They also accuse the draft legislation of confusing the difference between sex and gender and said it “denies the material reality of sex that is at the origin of violence and discrimination suffered by girls and adolescents. This is a setback of years.”
They argue that denying the difference between sex and gender - one is biologically set at birth, and the other some see as a social construction - is a part of the “Queer theory” which advocates the progressive disappearance of sex as an element of identity so that it is replaced by gender as an individual option.
They said “women are killed for being born women, girls have their genitals mutilated, for being born women; they are socially assigned responsibility for care, for being born women; they are forcibly married because they are born women.”
“If gender replaces sex, the situation of structural inequality of women with respect to men is blurred,” they argued.
When asked about the bill, Omella said that he valued the measure as “important,” as children must be protected from abuse, though he recalled the importance of the family in this process and urged the government not to forget that the education of children is primarily the responsibility of their parents and the government is not to “meddle too much.”