Posted: March 18th, 2023
Catholic church and public policy have remarked that the members of American clergy in general, without even excepting those who do not admit religious liberty, are all in favour of civil freedom; but they do not support any particular political system. They keep aloof from parties, and from public affairs. In the United States religion exercises but little influence upon laws, and upon the details of public opinion; but it directs the manners of the community, and by regulating domestic life, it regulates the state.
Alexis de Tocqueville
In making this statement, Alexis de Tocqueville sought to record religion’s influence on American public life in the 1830’s. Today, the intimate relations among political culture, political behavior, and church state circumstances that Tocqueville so aptly described are accurate in describing the relationship between politics and religion in the United States, and abroad.
In recent times and throughout history, politics and religion have been the source of much debate. Both religion and politics evoke strong passions. Men and women have been known to “discuss, debate, argue, demonstrate, resist, fight, and kill – or be killed – on behalf of their religious and political beliefs.” Much of the debate surrounding political and religious issues is attributable to the important role of politics and religion in providing meaning to both individuals and societies alike.
Domestically, a number of recent circumstances have reinforced the importance of the relationship between religion and politics. Religion has been a highly visible factor in many of the most controversial political events in the last three decades, including the mobilization of the civil rights movement, the rise of the New Christian Right to the presence of ministers as presidential candidates, the public debate over “traditional values,” and the Supreme Court’s adjudication of moral conflicts and church-state conundrums. In recent history, and for centuries, the Catholic Church has been one of the most dominant and important socio-political institutions of the United States. That is, the Church has been of significant influence on controversial issues including, but not limited to abortion, divorce, same sex marriages.
Religion has been an equally important, if not more imposing force in influencing political life in countries around the world. Religious divisions have underpinned political divisions in nearly every corner of the world. Religious differences have fueled violent conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland since the Protestant Reformation. Religious differences are the genesis of perhaps the most volatile conflict in recent times between Judaism and Islam, which dates back 3,000 years in history. Differences in religious beliefs are the source of the threat of nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan. These are among the most well-known and extreme cases of the impact of religion on politics in recent history.
While religious differences have been the source of civil unrest in many regions around the world, there are a handful of countries which can identify with the experiences of the Catholic Church in the United States. One such country is Spain. Throughout Spain’s history, Catholicism has been an important factor in nearly all of the country’s major political events. The battle between the devoutly Catholic and liberal segments of society have been the genesis of the civil wars in the nineteenth and twentieth century, and still exist to some extent today. But while Spain and the United States both share Catholic traditions, this is not the common trait which compelled me to make them the subject of my work. The determining factor in utilizing Spain and the United States in a comparative politics work emerges from the common experiences of the Catholic Church in the United States and Spain in the last three decades. Spain, similar to the United States, has experienced a resurgence of religion in politics. In both cases, the Catholic Church has had to reassert its position on social values and norms in society. While the Catholic Church in the United States has had to state and defend its position in regards to issues including morals and church and state, the Spanish church has had to reevaluate and defend its positions on issues including religion and public education, abortion, and censorship.
In my work I hope to establish a parallel between the experiences of the Catholic Church and politics in the United States and Spain through the examination of the church’s role in political history and its influence in public policy. In establishing these parallels, I hope to draw inferences about the political development of the two cases. Namely, in understanding the relationship between the Catholic Church and politics in Spain and the United States, I hope to draw inferences about why two countries with different religious traditions have managed to develop politically, very similarly in recent times.
The Influence of the Catholic Church in the United States and Spain:
My work will examine the role of the Catholic Church in shaping public policy in the United States and Spain from the 1970’s until recent times. More specifically, I will demonstrate that religion has become an increasingly important factor in politics. I will accomplish this by analyzing the extent of the Catholic Church’s influence on hotly debated issues including abortion, religion and education, and social issues including the civil rights and poverty.
On a very basic level, I have picked these countries to be the subject of my study because of their differing political systems in dealing with the separation of church and state, as well as their vastly different political histories. While I will go into much more into detail in latter sections about the separation of church and state, the political histories, and the religious compositions of the United Stated and Spain, the following sections will provide general insight into these areas.
The political system of Spain has historically combined church and state. That is, religion and politics have shared a legal and formal connection, where the church exercises influence on the state through coercion or support. Catholicism has been the dominant religion throughout Spain’s history. The Catholic Church, a beneficiary of public funding and taxes, has played an active role in shaping the public education system, as well as in determining the state’s position on morally or ethically charged issues.
The political system in the United States has historically separated church and state. Under the “disestablishment” policy, religious institutions and governmental institutions remain legally separated. By virtue of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, the government is forbidden to show preference to any religion while, it is also prohibited from enforcing an official religion or discriminating against other religions: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” In relation to the Catholic majority in Spain, Roman Catholics are the largest community of faith in the United States, making up approximately one-fourth of the population of the United States.
While the differing role of church and state in Spain and the United States play an important role in differentiating my work from other contemporary literature, the recent political histories of the United States and Spain in the past three decades makes for an equally compelling comparison. In 1980, the Spanish democracy had only been in existence for five years. Dictator Francisco Franco served as head of state for the last 40 years, largely isolating Spain from Western political and cultural ideals, ideas and movements. In the subsequent democratic elections of 1977, 1979, and 1982, the Spanish electorate displayed their discontent for the political Right and its connections to their former dictator by electing prime ministers from Left and Left center parties. However, in recent years the Alianza Popular or Popular Alliance has managed to shed its association with Franco through a re-articulation of ideology, and ultimately become attractive to moderates and moderate liberals. Evidence of this comes from the re-election of Prime Minister Jose Aznar (since his reelection, the Opposition Party PSOE recently placed Jose Zapatero in the presidency).
The United States is not a fledgling democracy and has never been a dictatorship. However, similar to the case of Spain, the Right has also surged in popularity in the last three decades. Liberalism dominated American politics from the post World War II era to the late 1970’s – a period of nearly 30 years. However, following the Kennedy and Johnson administrations in the 1970’s, the tide began to turn in the favor of the American Right. Ronald Reagan, emphasizing certain “conservative” economic and moral absolutes – laissez-faire economy, free enterprise, and religion as a basis for social order – was able to assemble a coherent and systematic conservative program that received widespread political support. Today the United States has a Republican president in office, preaching similar moral and economic values to those in Spain.
The religious compositions of Spain and the United States provides for another interesting point of comparison in my study. As I previously mentioned, the Spanish population is religiously homogeneous. Roman Catholics compose of 99% of the population, while the remaining 1% of the population is composed of those belonging to Jewish, Protestant, Muslim, and Buddhist faiths. In relation to other countries in the European Union, Spain boasts one of the most “religious” populations. As data from a study of religiosity in the European shows, as late as 1982, only Ireland surpasses Spain in religious practice. Further, by the end of the decade, the percentage of individuals identifying themselves as “religious persons” ranged from a low of 48% in Denmark to 72% in the Irish Republic. The Spanish percentage of 68% exceeded all other countries except Ireland, Portugal and Greece. In stark contrast to the religious homogeneity seen in Spain, the populace of the United States is composed of several different religions and cultures. Generally, Protestants make up 65% of the population, Catholics 25%, and 2% are Jewish, while the remaining 10% is composed of a variety of denominations including Buddhists and Muslims.
Throughout the course of my work, I will concentrate on re-affirming three general claims. First, on a very general level, I look to provide much needed insight into the impact of religion on politics, proving that religion is of fundamental importance in defining contemporary political life. As I mentioned previously, I hope to dispel the claim that religion is only of political relevance when church and state experience conflict. Moreover, I hope to demonstrate that religion is important in a number of political contexts, including its role in the shaping of public policy and its role in shaping political opinions. Secondly, and more specifically, I look to provide insight into the declining/expanding role of the Catholic Church in the secularizing (Spain) and secular society (the United States). This comparative study of two politically and religiously diverse countries will allow me to highlight differences and maintain similarities between the experiences of the Catholic Church in politics in the two countries. By highlighting differences between the two, I will confirm the work of many, while by maintaining similarities, I hope to direct attention to overlapping areas often overlooked in contemporary political literature.
While examining the three claims mentioned above are all general objectives, my work will also address more specific claims. My work will delve further into the role of the Catholic Church as a reactionary force in shaping public policy on issues abortion, contraception, and Namely, I assert that the Catholic Church in Spain and the United States are representative of the Catholic Church in countries around the world
While many recognize that politics and religion are two very important themes in the history of the world, few can pinpoint their definition, or define their relationship. I will elaborate on these subjects in the following sections.
Working Definition of Religion
There are a number of ways to define religion. Some define religion in terms of power, where religion is concerned with the classification of power, where some forces are classified as helpful, some harmful; some powers are classified as ordinary, others as extraordinary, supernatural, or mysterious; some powers are to be cultivated, others are to be avoided. Others look to define religion in terms of its functionality in society. Namely, religion creates a value system for its believers, defines moral guidelines, and indicates what is appropriate and acceptable for its group. While these definitions account for different aspects of religion, I believe that it would be most appropriate to use a combination of them both in devising a definition of religion for my work. The aspect of power in religion is very important in the discussion of politics and religion. Religion and power are both patterns of power, dynamic processes of action and interaction, and systems of power relations that reinforce the general distribution of power within society. Likewise, the functionality aspect of religion is also important in addressing the practical applications of religious power. The ability of religion to create a value system, define moral guidelines, and indicate what is appropriate to its believers, essentially translates into power.
Working Definition of Politics number of definitions exist in defining the role of politics in society. Similar to religion, some define politics in terms of power. On a very basic level, as Robert Dahl states, politics are human relationships that “involve to a certain extent, control, influence, power, or authority.” On a deeper level, politics can be defined as the force that shapes “the lines of authority, the instruments of control, the strategies of domination, and that contributes to a certain pattern in the distribution of power within a set of social relations.” While some claim that power is the most important aspect in defining politics, others claim that the close association between the concept of the state, and government and politics is the most vital factor in defining politics. V.O. Key defines politics in terms of the workings of government. According to Key, the impact of governments on people, the method of government operation, and the process by which governmental leaders attain and retain authority define politics.
The functioning of politics in society is another useful factor in defining politics. Primarily, two areas define the functioning of politics within society. First, politics provides a means to achieve collective goals for a society. Those holding public office normally advance the interests of the common citizen in hopes of creating a greater good for all. Secondly, politics plays an important role in “conflict resolution.” When an issue arises in the community, politics provides the arena for debate, and eventually confronts and resolves the debate.
Those claiming that politics most closely identifies with power, state and government, or its functionality in society all have valid points. However, the “most widely accepted definition” of politics among political scientists does not identify completely with either of the two aforementioned definitions. Rather, the “most widely accepted definition” of politics among political scientists, according to Corbett and Corbett, focuses on the “authoritative allocation of values,” or variations of it as described by David Easton. Easton defines a political system, as “those interactions through which values are authoritatively allocated for a society.”
The Overlap of Politics and Religion
The exercise of power is at the center of the polity and in virtually all cultures power is an attribute to divinity.
Donald Eugene Smith
Politics and religion clearly serve different functions in society. However, their realms often overlap. The core element of politics – Easton’s authoritative allocation of values – coincides with the central principle in the definition of religion – the ability of religion to create a value system, and moral guidelines for its followers. Both politics and religion are concerned with the pursuit of values – personal, social or transcendent. Another important characteristic of religion and politics is that they both “concern the distribution of power.” The political system distributes power by means of creating and enforcing laws, and codes, essentially “allocating values in society.” Religion distributes power within its own realm by creating a value system and deciding what is appropriate and inappropriate for its followers, allocating values within its group. Chidester explains, “Religion and politics are dimensions of human experience engaged in the meaningful exercise of power… they are necessarily interrelated in the systematic distribution of power within society.
Perhaps the most important area of overlap between religion and politics in regards to my work comes in the common situation where “the values taught by particular religions might become the authoritatively allocated values within the political system.” Under these circumstances, the government becomes, in a sense, a tool of religious groups. Examples of this include “religious groups that use the power of the state to express or reinforce their religious values, religious groups that engage in political conflict to in order to have their own values prevail, or the values generated or supported within the political system might permeate religious views.”
While religion and politics both concern the distribution of power, there remains a distinction between the types of power that each commands. One way to distinguish between political and religious power, according to Chidester, is to say that religion is involved with sacred power, while politics is engaged with ordinary, mundane, or profane power. Historian George Kelly Armstrong elaborates, “Politics is the ultimate control system of the profane and religion is the ultimate control system of the scared.”
Politics and Religion: An Overlooked Intersection of Power
Politics and religion are of fundamental importance to individuals and societies because “they both are rooted psychologically and doctrinally in fundamental assumptions of power.” Politics involves to a significant extent, control, influence, power, or authority, while religion encompasses an integrated system of beliefs, lifestyle, ritual activities, and institutions by which people give meaning to their lives by orienting themselves to what they take to be holy, sacred, or of ultimate value.
However, while students and scholars alike agree that religion and politics have had a large impact on shaping human life and societies, surprisingly little research has been conducted into the dynamic relation that exists between them. One such overlooked aspect of the intersection of religion and politics is the impact of religion on voting behavior. Religion was believed to have little effect on voting behavior until the latter half of the twentieth – century.
Political pollsters of the modern era never considered the impact of religion on voting behavior. George Gallup, the first professional pollster and devout Protestant, did not ask respondents for their church affiliation until 1944. Furthermore, as late as 1959, during the Kennedy- Nixon presidential race, Elmo Roper challenged the “myth of the Catholic vote,” denying any connection between religion and voting.
Two studies dispelled the notion that religion was of little importance to voting behavior, a central aspect of politics. The “revolution in American political history” began during the 1940 presidential campaign. During this election, Paul Lazarsfeld and his associates at the Bureau of Applied Social Research at Columbia University systematically surveyed voters in Erie, Ohio. In his study, Lazarsfeld found that the single most important factor in influencing voting behavior was not sectional economic rivalries, or class conflicts, as had been proposed by classic historians Frederick Jackson Turner and Charles Beard, but rather churches or “social reference groups.” The survey found that when controlling for socio-economic factors, Protestants and Catholics clearly differed in voting and party identification. So compelling were Lazarsfled’s findings that George Gallup began to ask respondents of his surveys for their church affiliation.
Lazarsfeld’s work, while important in shedding light on the relationship between politics and religion, made way for a groundbreaking study by Lee Benson. In Benson’s 1961 work, The Jacksonian Democracy: New York as a Test Case, he makes an important statement defining the role of religion in voting behavior: “At least since the 1820’s, when manhood suffrage became widespread, ethnic and religious differences have tended to be relatively the most important source of political differences in the United States. I assume that men tend to… be more influenced by their ethnic and religious membership then by their membership in economic classes or groups.” With this, the work of Lazarsfeld and Benson pose fundamental questions into the relationship between religion and politics in different countries and across time.
What role do specific denominations play in influencing public policy? How do religious denominations function as interest groups? To what extent does religious affiliation affect political behavior?
While evaluating the impact of religion on voting behavior is not a central focus of my work, I believe that it demonstrates a lack of research into the subject of religion and politics. As Kenneth Wald highlights in the introduction of his work, Religion and Politics in the United States, three basic generalizations are made in evaluating the relationship between politics and religion. The first generalization assumes that religious issues play a secondary role to the government’s more important tasks, including economic growth, public safety, world peace, and social justice. The second generalization assumes that church and state generally only come to mind only under special circumstances, namely conflicts between church and state involving issues including prayer in public schools, and abortion policy. The last generalization is a combination of the two, assuming that religion is not a dominant factor in influencing contemporary political life. Through the examination of the Catholic Church in Spain and the United States, I hope to dispel these generalizations, and demonstrate that the role of religion in influencing politics is by no means limited.
Religion and Politics in Spain:
The Impact of the Catholic Church on Politics
In order to understand the influence of the Catholic Church on United States and Spanish society in recent times, we must understand the political, economical, and social landscape that has shaped changes within the church and government in their respective contexts in twentieth century. The following section will analyze the changing role of the Catholic Church in different political contexts in Spain from the middle of the 20th century onwards. The Spanish section will consist of two sections. The first will address the Catholic Church’s influence on Spanish society prior to secularization; namely from the beginning of the Franco regime until the 1960’s. The second section will address the influence of the Catholic Church’s on Spanish society in the early stages of secularization. This section will highlight the changing role of the Catholic Church during the end of the Franco regime through the transition to democracy, the drafting of the Constitution, and the 1977 elections. One note to the reader: Given Spain’s diverse political and religious history -namely, its fairly recent transition from dictatorship to democracy, and the evolving role of the church in dealing with modernization and secularization – I will be analyzing be Spanish case with great detail and care.
Historical Perspective of Church and State in Spain
En ningun otro pueblo del mundo del historia y la cultura estan tan totalmente identificadas con el catalicismo como en el de Espana.
The history and culture of no other people in the world are more totally identified with Roman Catholicism than those people of Spain
El Catolicismo Espanol”
In the last sixty years, the mutation of the Spanish Catholic Church has been extraordinary. It is though we had been watching a play of several acts, complete with changes of scenery, of the plot, and of the personality of the characters and even the emotional tone: furious in the thirties, exalted in the forties and fifties, troubled an inquiring in the sixties, moderately euphoric throughout the seventies, and discrete, with a sense of both satisfaction and disillusion in the eighties.
Victor Perez Diaz
Iglesia y Religion en la Espana Contemporanea”
It is no surprise that Spain has historically identified with Roman Catholicism more than any country in the world. The Catholic Church has been one of the most important institutions in defining social and political life throughout Spain’s history. Nearly every major political conflict in the country’s history has had a “religious backcloth and a crucial, and usually reactionary, role for the Church hierarchy.” The Church has remained a centerpiece of nearly all of the country’s major political conflicts. The civil wars of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were steeped in religion, both involving conflicts between traditional, devout, and rural segments of society against those in favor of advancing liberal and modern ideals. Nationalists touted the second Spanish Civil War of as a crusade against “those without God.” The Catholic Church also provided “legitimacy for the dictatorship by which the right-wing victory was institutionalized.” This came in the form of the Spanish hierarchy’s Collective Letter in favor of the nationalists, “To the Bishops of the Whole World,” published on July 1, 1937.
While the Catholic Church has been the predominant institution in defining Spain’s social and political history, it has undergone major transformation in the course of the twentieth century. Much of this change has been caused by the church’s evolution in adapting to new social and political attitudes. Much of this evolution would come during the Franco regime. After over forty years as a dictatorship under Francisco Franco, Spain became a democracy in 1977. The Catholic Church responded in manner appropriate to its best interests, it recognized that “its institutional security, in Catholic education and in moral influence could be better secured in a pluralistic regime than in a widely hated dictatorship.” The Church transformed itself from being one of the state’s staunchest and most faithful supporters to one of its most vocal critics. In addition to new thoughts regarding political change, new social attitudes regarding civil liberties and human rights also began penetrating Spanish society during the collapse of the Franco regime. The Church responded by issuing statements supporting not only political pluralism, but also religious pluralism, as well as the extension of basic human rights.
Before exploring the Spanish Catholic Church’s political influence on more current issues including abortion, and education policy, we must first examine the effectiveness of its adaptation to social and political change in Spain. The Church’s ability to adapt to major social and political change provides us a basis for examining the Church’s political influence on public policy in more recent times.
Spain during the Franco Regime
Although my work will concentrate on the influence of the Catholic Church from the 1970’s until recent times in Spain, this section examines the political history and the role of the Church in the Franco regime. The Franco regime is essential in providing a thorough analysis of the role of the Catholic Church in Spain. Specifically, in examining the church-state relations in the Franco regime, I hope to draw a more complete picture of the Catholic Church’s transformation in Spanish society in contemporary times.
The Franco regime most clearly demonstrates the unparalleled influence of the Catholic Church on Spanish society in contemporary times. Few religious institutions have enjoyed a position of privilege with the state, as the Catholic Church did with the Spanish government during the Franco regime. Catholicism became the official religion of the state, the Church controlled the education system, and the clergy became publicly funded. The Catholic Church was also in charge of fashioning social behavior in Spanish society. The Church was in charge of defining state positions on morally charged issues including divorce, abortion, and contraception. Catholic ideals were Spanish ideals, and vice versa. The Catholic Church, identifying closely with social and political conservatism, became “virtually synonymous” with the Franco regime.
The regime of Francisco Franco has defined much of Spain’s political history in the 20th century.
Franco controlled nearly all social, political, and economical aspects of Spanish society from the end of the Civil War on April 1, 1939 until his death in 1975. The dictator was responsible for shaping the political and social life of Spain to fit his ultra conservative, extreme Right values. The main goal of the regime was to isolate the country from “pernicious cultural and social influences, and to “cleanse society of them” by returning to “a properly Catholic and truly Spanish ideals of family life and morality, and a respect for hierarchy.” From the conclusion of the Civil War, he was anxious to demonstrate the extent of his power, personally appointing himself “chief of state, head of government, prime minister, and president.” By the decrees of January 30, 1938 and August 8, 1939, he bestowed upon himself the power to pass any law he chose.
The role of the Woman, the Family, and Education
Francisco Franco utilized his power in creating laws to regulate the social behavior of the Spanish people. The Catholic Church articulated moral and social absolutes, while Franco used his power to put them into practice. In particular, the church and state intervened in laws pertaining to family values, the role of the woman and education. Church and state alike perceived the family to be the foundation for social stability. In addition, similarities between the family and the regime were drawn. The family functioned similar to the regime, but on a smaller scale. Both the regime and the family were based on an authoritarian model. The patriarch commanded the family, just as Franco commanded Spain. In addition, those in the family and Spanish society each had their proper place. Both functioned to “reproduce the nation as a source of morality and a barrier to deviance and illicit passions of all kinds.”
Since the family served as the basis for social stability, it was not be separated. Marriage laws practiced during the Second Republic did not apply to the Franco regime. Divorce and civil marriage were illegal. Couples separated during the Second Republic were forced back together or faced punishment. Some marriages were no longer legally recognized. The male authority was responsible for keeping the family together. The male head of the household la cabeza de la familia retained legal status. They were responsible for other family members, as well as representing the family in the public.
The Franco regime also redefined the “proper place” of the woman. Prior to the civil war, women began to shed their traditional role as homemakers and servants to the male figure in their households. Women began entering the workforce, and became an important part of maintaining Spain’s wage economy. Despite this, women were forced back to the home, where they were to “fulfill their biologically determined destiny as wives and mothers.” The 1938 Labor Charter stated that women were to be “freed from the workplace and the factory.” A similar law was introduced in 1942 stated that married women should be dismissed with the compensation of a marriage dowry.
As head of the household, men exercised great control over women. Wives could not lawfully “embark on any sort of activity outside the home. She could not take a job, start a business or open a bank account or undertake any journey of nay length without her husband’s approval.” While adultery was to command a prison sentence between six months and six years for both men and women, women were punished with more severity. In addition, men were punishable for adultery only under certain conditions: “Men were only culpable if adultery took place in the family home or if he was living with a mistress or his adulterous behavior was public knowledge.” Church and party also controlled the production of children. The production of children was a part of the Church’s teachings on the family and the woman’s role. The state perceived the production of children as a means of pursuing “Spain’s imperial future.” Millions had been lost to exile and death in the civil war. Family allowances (subsidio familiar), family bonuses (plus de cargas familiares) were created to encourage procreation.
Considering the importance of future generations in building an ideal Spanish state, the Franco regime exerted stringent control of the education system. Schools opened under the guidelines of the Second Republic were “either closed or handed over to the church.” Educational content differed according to gender. Girls were educated in home economics and in domestic duties while boys, more “fit for the public sphere,” were educated in humanities, math and the sciences. Religious instruction played an important role in the education of the Spanish youth. During the regime, religious instruction was compulsory for both boys and girls, and Catholic private schools flourished. Forty-nine percent of all secondary students attended Catholic schools at their high point in 1961.
Censorship and Political Life
Francisco Franco regulated the social behavior of the Spanish people by “controlling access to information, cultural life, and leisure.” Censorship was essential in preserving Franco’s vision of a pure Spanish state. The 1941 Law for the Defense of Language banned the use of non-Castillian language and other foreign loan words. Similar laws forbade non-Castillian symbols, songs, dances, and rituals. A 1938 press law allowed the Press and Propaganda Office to regulate censorship, and render punishment for disobedience. All printed publications had to be submitted, and all published material was to be pre-censored.
Thousands of journalists, writers and artists, musicians, athletes and other public figures were jailed, exiled or imprisoned. The lengths to which the Spanish government went to censor “inappropriate” material were most evident in its treatment of foreign movies. Many movies were mangled beyond recognition, with whole scenes unsuitably cut out, and plot lines changed to avoid hints of sexual innuendo. Equally extreme were the enforcement of public dress codes on women with short skirts, and the renaming of streets, regional dishes to reflect a sense of national pride.
An important aspect of the censorship measures adopted by Franco’s regime was its impact on political behavior. The Spanish Army was Franco’s preferred tool for quieting political enemies. Since the army held jurisdiction over political offenses, it was used to silence and jail political enemies, and others creating opposition to the Franco regime. The army was also responsible for enforcing censorship laws, and maintaining bans on Leftist literature, arbitrarily raiding newspaper offices and theatres. In addition to serving as a tool in shaping political behavior, the Spanish Army was also a force in enforcing institutional order: “At least three generals or admirals permanently represented the service in government, and the combined voice of the service ministers could be decisive in a divided cabinet on issues of public order.”
The Spanish Army was one of the three pillars, or “institutionalized families” within the Franco regime. The other two pillars were the Falange and the Catholic Church. The Falange (which included the Carlists, all army officers and civil servants), was described as a blend of “traditional patriotism” and “authoritarianism.” Its main objective was to create an authoritarian welfare state. While the movement gained momentum in the early years of the regime, its objectives differed too greatly from those of Franco for it to prosper. The totalitarian and imperialist state envisioned by Falangists did not fit Franco’s vision of Spain.
The Catholic Church was the final and perhaps most important pillar of the Franco regime. In contrast to the two other pillars of the Franco regime – Spanish Army and the Falangists – the Catholic Church was responsible for legitimizing the regime to the Spanish people, as well as the international community. In the Concordant of 1953, the Vatican officially recognized the legitimacy of the Franco regime (the emergence of the Cold War also helped to legitimize the Franco regime – specifically, it led countries including the United States to court Spain as a partner against the spread communism). In return for sanctioning Franco’s rule, the dictator integrated church and state to levels not seen since the First Republic. The Church became the official religion of Spain, and the state’s official interpreter of moral and social issues. The relation between the Catholic Church and the Franco regime will be explored more in depth in the following section.
While the “institutionalized families” within the regime struggled for power, it was Franco who personally controlled political life in Spain. He publicly banned political parties in his constitution, the Fundamental Laws or Leyes Fundamentales. No other party was to exist aside from his Nationalist Movement Party. Franco claimed that self-interested party politicians could not be entrusted with the future of the country. Their record spoke for itself. Selfish party politicians had been responsible for the disaster of 1898, the year when Spain’s colonial empire collapsed, losing the territories of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines to the United States. Free elections were also out of the question. According to Francisco Franco, democratic parliamentarianism based on universal suffrage had destroyed Spain.
In a December 4, 1952 speech Franco proclaimed, “We hate political parties,” stating that the “inorganic democracy” of universal suffrage and political parties must be replaced by “organic democracy” based on a corporative suffrage that would represent the “true” interests of the nation, neglected by party politicians who appealed to selfish individual or class interests.”
The Spanish economy
While the Spanish economy is not a central theme in my work, the enormous changes that it has experienced are important in reflecting the social and economic conditions to which the Catholic Church has had to adjust in the last three decades. The economic policies practiced by Francisco are important in reflecting upon the political, social and economic change that has enveloped Spanish society in the last three decades.
Francisco Franco’s emphasis upon national pride in cultural matters – Franco outlawed non-Castillan language, rituals, dances, and songs – applied directly to his thought process in shaping Spain’s economic doctrines and policies. Francisco Franco believed that the Spanish economy would prosper without outside intervention and by its own means. On the one hand, this meant self-sufficiency. Spain’s economy was focused on “maximizing domestic output.” The production of food stuffs was considered the “most noble activity” in helping the state. On the other hand, Franco’s policies meant economic isolation and protectionism. Spain isolated itself from the international economy through a number of measures including, the creation of tariff barriers and trade controls. As expected, these measures protected domestic agriculture and industry from outside competition. However, the creation of tariff barriers and trade controls also limited exports and access to raw materials and equipment: vital materials in the process of industrialization. Together, the regime’s policy of self-sufficiency and protectionism retarded the process of industrialization. The years between 1939 and 1950 were known as Spain’s “economic winter:” the agricultural workforce ballooned to 47.6% of the total workforce, GDP per head did not recover to 1929 levels until 1954, and industrial production did not reach levels previously achieved in 1929 until 1950. Spain’s economy remained rural, stagnant and backward until adopting liberal economic measures in the 1960’s.
Religion and Politics in the Franco Regime
Throughout the Franco regime, the Catholic Church derived the bulk of its influence from two sources. The Church’s main source of political influence came in its role as the institution which legitimized the Franco regime to the Spanish people, and more importantly, the world. The second source of political influence within the Catholic Church came in its role as the regime’s voice on moral issues. However, while the Catholic Church served as the legitimizing force of the regime, as well as the state’s interpreter regarding social and moral issues, it still must be understood that the Catholic Church was held on a similar plane to other dominant groups and institutions of the Franco regime – it had to struggle, jockey and lobby to retain its political influence.
The following section will analyze the Church’s influence in its two main political roles, as the legitimizing force and interpreter of moral issues the regime.
In addition, it will also address the Catholic Church as a historically reactionary force. This will provide more insight into its transformation and its declining/growing influence through time.
The Catholic Church played a powerful role in shaping cultural, social and political life during the Franco regime. The Catholic Church in Spain “legitimized the ethos, the political structures, the legislation, and the activities of the Franco regime,” and was a “willing instrument of social control.” The Concordant of 1953 marked the pinnacle of church and state relations during the Franco regime. Under the Concordant of 1953, the Catholic Church became the official religion of Spain, something “guaranteed as never through a binding international treaty.” More importantly, the Concordant reinforced the Church’s position as the only institution capable of legitimizing the regime. In return for its privileges within the regime, the Catholic Church endorsed and ultimately legitimized the regime of Francisco Franco in the Concordant of 1953.
The extent of the Catholic Church’s influence on political life during the Franco regime was a product of the regime’s identification of Spanish nationalism with Catholicism. Catholic ideals of family life, morality, and a respect for hierarchy became Spanish ideals. Church and state shared similar objectives in shaping Spain’s future. They both embraced a cleansing of society and a return to Catholic and Spanish ideals, while rejecting liberalism and secularism. The Catholic Church was able to exercise political power by means of its close relation with the state. The Catholic Church’s political power came in many forms, including its power to shape censorship laws, the banning of contraceptives and birth control, the enforcement of public dress codes, and laws concerning family values, the role of the woman, and education.
The Catholic Church in Spain demonstrated its political power by assuming its role as the state’s interpreter of social norms and values. As we noted in the introduction, the political system distributes power by means of creating and enforcing laws and codes, while religion distributes power within its own realm by creating a value system and deciding what is appropriate and inappropriate for its followers. The Catholic Church in Spain, by holding the power to prescribe moral absolutes to the all of Spanish society, retained political influence and essentially, political power.
The extent of the influence of the Catholic Church during the Franco regime is most clearly exhibited in examining the close bond between church and state. Catholicism was the state imposed religion, Catholic and Spanish ideals were synonymous with one another, and the Catholic Church served as the state’s interpreter in regards to moral issues. In a speech to parliament, Francisco Franco claimed that stating that “In a nation eminently Catholic like ours,” separation of civil and ecclesiastical powers, which “liberal systems advocate,” was impossible. Church and State must work together to “fulfill the destiny assigned by Providence to our people.”
While the Catholic Church possessed significant political influence during the regime, its power largely remained subservient to the power of Francisco Franco. The Church, similar to the Spanish Army, and the Falangists, served as a tool of Franco: “Francisco Franco had no intentions of modifying the regime in accord with Catholic aspirations.” The Catholic Church was also played a subservient role in the making of social and economic policy: “the Catholic Church hierarchy avoided taking the regime to task for its neglect of social justice except in veiled terms and refrained from calling for fundamental social or economic reform.”
The Catholic Church had to struggle to advance its position on social and economic issues just as other interest groups did during the regime. The Franco regime had restored only a fraction of the power the Church had grown accustomed to during the years prior to the Second Republic. As a result, it was forced to compete directly with other groups within the “political families” and pillars of the Franco regime. William Callahan comments on the political position of the Catholic Church during the Franco regime, “Stripped of the autonomous action developed over the three decades before 1936, the Church was reduced again to functioning primarily as a lobby, admittedly a powerful one, engaged in behind the seasons jockeying as one of the regime’s interest groups, along with the military, the Falange, monarchists, and Carlists.”
The ACNP (Asociacion Catolica Nacional de Propaganistas) was one of the channels the Catholic Church used to express its political views and utilize its influence. As Carr notes, “the ACNP claimed that it was not a political party, in that its members acted individually, but it had a clear political mission: “to endow Spain… with an elite to train men for public service.” Catholic organizations like the ACNP acted to influence all areas of society ranging from politics, and education to business. However, the ACNP, as well as the other Catholic political organizations, “formed only one of the political “families,” “clans,” or “coeteries” manipulated by Franco to sustain the dictatorship.”
Throughout its existence in Spain, the Catholic Church has served as a reactionary force.
As Audrey Brassloff states in the foreword of her work, “Almost every major upheaval of an especially turbulent period (in Spain) had its religious backcloth and a crucial, and usually reactionary role for the Church hierarchy.” The role of the Catholic Church during the Franco regime was a reactionary one. Specifically, the Franco regime served as an extension of the civil wars of the nineteenth and twentieth century, which were based on a struggle between the traditional and liberal sectors. During the Franco regime, the Church reacted to its victory by imposing its moral and religious values upon those that were in favor of modernization and liberalism. Modern and liberal ideals were to be halted in their place. Under the Second Republic, the Spanish people were responsible for creating and molding their own social and moral identity. The Catholic Church during the Franco regime reversed nearly all of these freedoms. Catholicism became the state imposed religion, divorce was abolished, birth control was illegal, civil marriages were no longer recognized, and censorship of literature and cinema became commonplace. Taken in a historical context, the Franco regime had only reinstated a fraction of the power and influence of the Catholic Church. Relative to the power of the Catholic Church prior to the Second Republic (as you will recall, during the Second Republic, Catholicism served as the state imposed religion, the clergy was subsidized by the state, and the Church possessed full control of the education system) the Catholic Church had only regained a few of these privileges.
The Collapse of the Franco Regime
The Franco regime derived its strength from the level of control it exercised over the political, social, and economic life of Spanish society. Political parties and any other forms of opposition were illegal, dress codes were enforced, movies and literature were censored, and the economy focused on maximizing domestic output.
However, between the late 1960’s and the early 1970’s, state control began to wilt to sweeping social change. Social and political opponents slowly gained freedom in expressing opposition to the regime, censorship and moral values were put into question by society, and the economy experienced rapid modernization. The rapid economic development and the resulting social changes which Spain experienced in the 1960’s and 1970’s put into question the Franco regime’s ability to control society.
Social opposition grew in the form of labor unions, regional nationalists, and student protests. Labor demonstrations and strikes were not only economically, but politically motivated. Laborers protested against insufficient wages paid by employers, as well as against the policies that had favored employers. While unions protested against unfair wages and wage laws created by the state through strikes and demonstrations, regional nationalists demonstrated against the Spanish state’s repression of Basque language and culture through violent means. The most prolific group of Basque separatists was the terrorist group, ETA. This group attacked government offices, large financial institutions, and the mass media. Student protests were also a force in challenging the existing social order. They derived strength from numbers. In the mid-1970’s the student population (400,000) was a population larger than most of the cities in Spain at the time. By demanding free elections, representative democracy, and/or revolution, students created a “climate of mobilization” and an image of “widespread rejection of the dictatorship, making it impossible for the regime to control society.” Student protests, regional terrorists, and labor unions generated formal opposition to the ultra conservative ideas, values, and principles imposed on Spanish society by the Franco regime.
Spain’s social transformation was accompanied by enormous economic change. Between the 1960’s and 1970’s Spain endorsed the doctrines of economic liberalism through the lowering of tariff barriers and increased commerce with the international community.
Protectionism and economic isolation have given way to free commerce and trade. Spain’s economy shed its traditionally agricultural and stagnant economy to become a force in the manufacturing and the services sector. Rapid industrialization and increased exposure to the world’s values and norms fostered a social transformation within society. Free trade and commerce spurred economic growth and higher living standards, encouraging the pursuit of material wealth and urbanization. Spain became accustomed to mass culture and consumerism. Spain’s urban centers of Madrid and Barcelona experienced a massive influx of migrants. In 1960, there were 5 passenger cars per 1,000 inhabitants; in 1985, where were 240. In the same period, the number of television sets showed a similar increase, and the number of telephones per capita increased sixfold.
The material and economic transformation experienced by Spain between the 1960’s and 1980’s were met with corresponding social changes. A few of the major changes included the collapse of traditional rural life, a widening class structure, and changes in gender relations. Millions vacated rural Spain in search of opportunity in rapidly growing industrial centers. The traditional rural class that had served as the base of Franco’s support collapsed. The influx of those living in rural Spain triggered changes in the existing class structure. A middle and working class were born. Urbanization also impacted existing gender relations in Spain. Due to “increasing demand for female labor in new industries and the service sector, women were no longer confined to the private sphere.” Social change was fueled not only by increased exposure to commercial goods, but also by new cultural and social attitudes. The literature and cinema brought in by tourists exposed Spanish society to cultures uninhibited by the strict censorship that Spain had grown accustomed during the Franco regime. The rapid economic expansion of Spain in the 1960’s initiated its journey into becoming a secular society: “the process by which sectors of society and culture and removed from the domination of religious institutions and symbols.”
Religion and Politics during the Collapse of the Franco Regime:
Rupture in Church-State Relations and the Church’s Struggles in a Secularizing Society
The situation of the Spanish Catholic church and the Franco regime in the postwar period (defined as the period from 1945 to 1957) has important implications for the analysis of religion and politics everywhere. Any regimes that lies on a religious basis of legitimation – particularly transnational religions – risks a crisis of legitimacy should the political ethic of the region change, in other words, should emerging clerics, religious intellectuals, and ecclesiastic leaders questions the interpretation that served the regime. The heteronomous character of religion with respect to the polity is always a latent challenge.
Church and State in Spain: From the Civil War to the Return of Democracy
In late Franco Spain the Catholic faith could never be formally challenged, much less overly attacked. It was, instead, undermined, diverted, and ultimately in considerable measure transformed by the most rapid process of social, economic, and cultural change that ever took place in any single generation of Spanish history.
El Catolicismo Espanol
Among the many political families and institutions of Spain of the Franco regime, no other institution experienced greater change than the Catholic Church in the 1960’s and 1970’s. In the course of a decade, the Catholic Church went from being one of the main pillars and most important sociopolitical institutions of the regime, to “almost complete institutional disengagement.” Citing the social and, economic and cultural changes encompassed by a secularizing society, as well as political challenges in the collapse of the Franco regime, the Church became part of the aggiornamento or modernizing of the Church, urged by Pope XXIII. Among other things, this would entail a fundamental shift in attitude towards religious toleration, political pluralism, and human rights and civil liberties. In the last decade of the military dictatorship the Spanish Church became “as much its critic and opponent as its faithful supporter.”
In the decades prior to 1960, the Catholic Church in Spain derived the majority of its political influence in providing legitimacy to the Franco regime. In the Concordant of 1953, the Church publicly endorsed the Franco regime, providing it legitimacy in the eyes of the Spanish people, as well as the people of the world. In 1973, the bishops of the Vatican issued a joint statement, The Church and the Political Community, which declared the “political neutrality of the church and its respect for social and religious pluralism.” The document recognized the right of the political community to determine it own constitutional system. The Catholic Church dealt a great blow to the regime by withdrawing its public support. It had put into question Franco’s vision of a state dominated by both Spanish and Catholic ideals – “the language and teaching of Catholicism were no longer exclusive property of regime.” In addition, the 1973 document had separated the regime from its most important institution in shaping policy regarding social and moral issues – “the institutions of the Church which had been so important in the creation of and delivery of policies were lost to the regime, and in some cases, havens for opposition.” The withdraw of the Church’s “ideological validation” not only crippled the regime in the sense that it lost its instrument of social control and its identification with the Catholic Church, but it also expedited the collapse of the regime. Frances Lannon elaborates, “It is unlikely that the dissolution of the dictatorship from within could have been so rapid or so relatively lacking in conflict and anguish had not the Church earlier withdrawn its ideological validation.”
The 1973 statement issued also clearly stated the Church’s opposition to abuses in human rights and social justice that had become commonplace during the regime. Specifically, the Church hierarchy affirmed the Church’s right to engage in the “prophetic denunciation” of abuses, especially in the realm of human rights and social justice: “By promoting social justice and the effective recognition of human rights, the Church aids the dynamism of a society in its evolution towards unity and the progress of healthy civil and economic socialization.” A few years earlier, the state had already begun distancing itself from the church. In Francisco Franco’s 1970 end of the year address, the Minister of the Interior commented that “the Catholic faith is no longer neutralizer of our familiar demons” – he implied that the state could no longer entrust the Church as its “instrument of social control.”
On January 1, 1972, the Catholic Church via the National Justice and Peace Commission for World Peace Day launched another “full blooded attack” on the Franco regime in its document entitled “If You Want Peace, Work for Justice.” Among other things, the document called upon the Church to intervene in “prophetically denouncing” the “social injustice and official repression” of the state. The excerpt below demonstrates the Church’s condemnation of the state’s abuse of justice and peace:
At the same time that the Church proclaims the principles which concern justice and peace, and strives to apply them to the real events of the world in which it lives and which take place within the Church itself, it must also assume the risk of the prophetically denouncing injustice, wherever this be found or attempts to install itself, even when doing so draws upon the Church, upon members of its hierarchy or of its laity, criticism, lack of understanding and even contempt and persecution of by the powerful in the land.
While the rupture of church and state relations was obvious in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the reasons for the rupture were not quite as clear. In understanding the schism between church and state, Frances Lannon points out that the church’s shift in values could not be solely attributed to a sudden change in principles, but rather an attempt by the Church to adapt to the rapidly changing social, economic, and political climate of Spain. She states,
It was naive to conclude that from these astonishing shifts of value, as many both within and without the Church could now be counted on as an unconditional ally of democracy, tolerance and progressive causes… Gradual accommodation of irreversible social and cultural trends was sometimes more productive than excoriating them, and essential ecclesiastical interests -particularly in its own institutional security, in Catholic education and moral influence – could be better secured in a pluralistic regime than a widely hated dictatorship.
In recognizing the productivity of “gradually accommodated irreversible social and cultural trends” rather than resisting change, the Catholic Church demonstrated, to a certain extent, versatility. The Catholic Church, as one of the oldest and most conservative institutions in the world, had recognized then adapted to changing cultural, social, and political norms in Spain and elsewhere in the modernizing world. The versatility of the Catholic Church in adapting to major social, political, and economic changes during the collapse of the Franco regime provide reason for its continued political influence in Spain and around the world. The Catholic Church has managed to remain a contemporary political force in the face of broad social, political, and economic change. While this theme is important is in demonstrating the influence of the Catholic Church during the collapse of the Franco regime, it will be revisited and reaffirmed in later sections regarding the Catholic Church’s impact on public policy issues in the United States, and Spain.
While the Catholic Church attempted to adapt to changing social, political, and economic changes encountered in Spain during the early 1960’s and 1970’s, its efforts were not completely successful. While its embracing of human rights and social justice appealed to the public, the Church simply began losing relevancy in Spain’s ever expanding and modernizing society. Mass consumerism, mass media, and the development of a “TV culture” convinced the Spanish public that they did not need God to improve their lives – in the words of one Spanish Catholic publication, “today the economy offers the worldview which was previously offered only be religion.” The greatest loss of appeal in the Church’s teachings was observed within Spain’s youth. As an article in one of the Catholic publications in Spain, Vida Nueva, reveals, only 20% of younger people believed in the divinity of Christ, only 25-30% believed in an after life, and less than half (40%) believed in the Church. The article elaborates on the indifference of Spain’s youth:
The young were neither in nor out of Church. And what is more serious, it is a question which really does not worry them. Many no longer expect anything from it. Only a troubled minority becomes impatient and dreams of a different Church. Young people follow events in the Church as something distant. If the Church speaks, it leaves them indifferent, they accept or reject whatever they like, without thinking whether to oppose or to abandon it.
Religion and Politics during the 1970’s and 1980’s:
The Catholic Church and the Spain’s Transition to Democracy
The Church’s problems in democracy and the drafting of the constitution were to be different from those it had encountered under Francoism. By the time the General died, it had already survived one identity crisis. It had learned from the Second Vatican Council and also from its base to take a stand on human rights and freedoms, and in the regime’s latter stages had provided sanctuary to those in opposition. But now it faced another crisis. How was it to react to the new pluralism in Spanish society that was not only political but affected almost every aspect of life? What place did the institutional Church have in such a society?
Religion and Politics in Spain
Two of the largest challenges faced by the Catholic Church in the 1970’s and 1980’s involved Spain’s transition to democracy, and the drafting of a democratic constitution. The Church was seen as a legitimate participant in Spain’s transition to democracy: the bishop committed in principle to political change, the lower clergy agreed on the fundamental reworking of Church State relations, and Catholic associations had begun participating in mass protests against the regime in late Franco Spain.
In addition, the Church issued several statements advocating democratic change for Spain. Namely, these statements supported democratic change in advocating “full public participation in the electoral process” and for the “electorate and political parties to act in accord with the common good within civilized “rules of the game” based on fairness and tolerance” – “the hierarchy left no doubt of its opposition to a radical solution to the country’s political problem.”
While the Catholic Church appeared to be confident and firm in its support of democracy in Spain, it was still very uncertain of its political status in the new democracy. Namely, the Church was in need of a political party that would secure and advance its existing interests. In large part because of the fear of a socialist victory and in part because of its concern with protecting its interests, the Catholic Church identified itself with the UCD (Union del Centro Democratico), a center right party composed of mainly Catholics and those that had identified with moderate components of the Franco regime.
The Constitution of 1978 was the second most important religious-political challenge presented to the Catholic Church in the 1970’s. It was a very important and special challenge to the Church because it compromised the privileged position the Church had enjoyed in shaping education and social policy during the Franco regime – it would be the first Constitution not to accept the special position of the Catholic Church vis-a-vis the state. The Constitution speaks of the church in many areas, but the two most important section where those relating to derecho a la libertad religiosa (the right to religious liberty) and derecho a la educaci n (the right to education). Under the new Constitution, as opposed to Franco’s Constitution (Leyes Fundamentales), Catholicism was not to be the state imposed religion. Specifically, Article 16 of Constitution states that there will be complete religious freedom and that there will be no state religion. The document guaranteed the protection of religious activities of either groups or activities, “where no one shall be obliged to reveal his or her religion or ideology, and no religion shall enjoy state protection.” Derecho a la educaci n (the right to education), in Article 27 of the Constitution, altered the Catholic Church’s influence on the Spanish education system. Specifically, Clause 6 of Article 27 recognized the right of individuals and groups to found centers of learning. This is of particular interest Catholic Church which at the time, controlled most of the private schools of Spain, the private sector providing education for 40% of the 6-14 age group. The Constitution also endorsed the obligation of the state to continue giving grants to private schools. Together, the 1978 constitution put into question the precise status of the Church as a national institution, the Church’s role in maintaining education, and it’s custody of the nation’s morals. While the Catholic Church in Spain derived its influence from either legitimizing or de legitimizing the Franco regime, the 1970’s and 1980’s would cast a different role on the Church. Namely, the Catholic Church in Spain, much like the Catholic Church in the United States and other countries around the world, would have to struggle against other political and religious groups to assert its voice as one of the country’s many interest groups. The Catholic Church’s influence on these individual issues in Spain and the United States will be examined with more detail in coming chapters.
Religion and Politics in the United States: A division of Church and state.
According to the primary concern of those who formed our country, their desire was to build a governmental system which could both govern the newly formed country for it’s well-being, while simultaneously restricting the central powers from becoming overly involved in the daily lives of the American citizen.
The federal government, according to the Declaration of Independence, was a body which “derived their just powers from the consent of the governed.” And whose purpose centered around “laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.”
Misconstruing definitions and intents of common words can be a problem with which our national leaders struggle. The courts have struggled with the definition of the words “freedom of religion” during the past half century.
As the courts have considered this issue, the concept of “freedom of religion” has been subtlety changed into the right to have “freedom from religion.” Those who pursue this course do not seek to have their own rights to religious expression guarded, but rather insist on restricting others from using their constitutionally protected freedoms.
In contrast to the Franco dictatorship of Spain, our nation’s laws were built upon a system of checks, balances, and judicial review which no other nation has been able to create. The dedication of the founding fathers was to create a system in which all men, who had been created equal and endowed by their creator with inalienable rights, would continue to be treated equally. Their desire was to create a federal government which was restrained from becoming unduly entangled in the lives of its citizens. In order to understand the outlook of the Unites States, and their steadfast opposition to the creation of a government like Franco’s, we will digress and look at the understanding of the co-existence of Church and State power structured which was built into the American system.
For many years the constitutional framers wrestled with the idea of a unified central government charged with the country’s oversight. Their fear was that they might recreate a step-daughter of the oppressive monarchy which they sought to escape, like that recently rejected by Spain. The result of negotiating with this fear was the creation of government made up of a confederation of states, but as it became clear that a federal government was needed, the colonists undertook the task of creating a limited federal government. The first step in this task was to sway the attitudes of the governed of the need for such a government which was the task of the Federalist Papers. The Federalist, commonly referred to as the Federalist Papers, is a series of 85 essays written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison between October 1787 and May 1788.
In the Federalist papers, it is interesting to note that the words church and state appear together in only Federalist paper, #71, and in this context the writer refers to the mutual responsibilities of the church and the state government to stay within their respective boundaries. In the Federalist papers, a reader cannot find the words “separation of Church and State,” nor the use of the words church and state together in more than one publication. The word “church” is only printed in 2 of the 85 papers. What a reader does find in the Federalist Papers is extensive page space dedicated to describing how the new government will not be a replication of those left behind in Europe. For example, in # 69, the subject of the elected president is described. Alexander Hamilton points out before the end of his second paragraph:
The first thing which strikes our attention is that the executive authority, with few exceptions, is to be vested in a single magistrate. This will scarcely, however, be considered as a point upon which any comparison can be grounded; for if, in this particular, there be a resemblance to the king of Great Britain, there is not less a resemblance to the Grand Seignior, to the khan of Tartary, to the Man of the Seven Mountains, or to the governor of New York. That magistrate is to be elected for FOUR years; and is to be re-eligible as often as the people of the United States shall think him worthy of their confidence.”
Throughout the 85 Federalist publications, great time is spent to convince the citizens that the new government would not bear resemblance to, nor have the ability to evolve into a dictatorial system. Papers 1-36 discuss the need for a federal government. Papers 37-77 break down the constitutional limited powers of the proposed government so the people could understand that the new federal govt. would not be a dictatorship in colonial clothing. The systems of checks and balances are spelled out so the common man could understand that the tendency of one sector of the government to seek power for itself would be held in check by the other. Colonists understood from these papers that their experiences of judges who were merely puppets of the chief magistrate, or church pontiff would not be repeated in the new federal government.
The surprising absence of any discussion regarding the interaction of the church power structure and the state democratic republic is the testimony of the founding fathers concern for this issue. From the beginning, U.S. politicians understood that the power wielded by the church had no business controlling the political affairs of men. It was also understood that the power allotted to the federal government should have no sway in the daily administration of the authority of the church. The founders of our nation felt charged with the responsibility that they not create a church run state, as they were equally committed to preventing the ascension of a state run church. These same men held no presupposition that the wall which divided sacred and secular power would in any way interfere with Godly and pious men who wished to exercise their religious freedom, in their daily lives or in government office. The issue, for the founders of the country, was the wielding of power, not the influence of religion on men’s souls, or actions.
Evidence of these beliefs and commitments are clearly seen in the first and final lines of the Declaration of Independence. Standing as bookmarks to the document which birthed our country are these words:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness… (therefore, because the British govt. had willfully and continuously violated these rights) these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political… be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor. ”
American political leaders understand that even though both the church and state monitor and influence the affairs of men, the two power constructs are completely incompatible if they are exercised together. The original intents of the founding fathers were to keep these two constructs from interfering with the appropriate exercise of both, and to allow men to benefit from each. This was the purpose of the First Amendment. As our fledgling nation struggled to identify itself as both a unified nation which would respect and honor the rights of others, and an organization of separate states and peoples with individual interests, the intents of the founding fathers were tested, and clarified.
The concept is challenged, and illustrated.
Occurring shortly after the ratification of the Constitution, a disagreement between two religious sects occurred in Connecticut. The majority religious group was taxing all the people and using the moneys to support the majority citizen’s church. Even though president Jefferson agreed that an “illegal alliance between Church and State” existed, Jefferson refused to allow the federal government to get involved in the affairs of the state. The constitution limited the powers of the federal government, and being bound by the rule of law, Jefferson replied that the federal government could make no laws affecting the free expression of religious life. The key to Jefferson’s unwillingness to step into the conflict even thought he conflict existed in violation of the constitution, was two fold:
Jefferson was unwilling to overstep the boundaries of the constitutional limited federal governments power
Jefferson was equally unwilling to wield the power of the state in favor of one denomination, or another.
In 1777, Thomas Jefferson drafted the first version of the Virginia Bill for religious liberty. Although it was not passed until 1779, this bill echoes the principle of the Constitution’s first amendment. Because of the length, the Virginia bill also gives opportunity to more completely understand the intent behind our countries legacy of free religious expression. (Italics and comments added)
Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind frees;
that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do; (the legislature recognized that religion cannot be forced on free men) that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time; (one religion cannot set itself up as the only true faith) that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical; (contributing to religion cannot be forced) that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporal rewards, which proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labors for the instruction of mankind; (a church member cannot even be forced to support his own minister.) that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions…
A that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honors and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it; (political power mixed with the church corrupts the church)
Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities. This bill was built upon a list of principles to which all U.S. citizens could agree.
The exercise of religion could not be forced on any free man.
No religion was above another, and even giving to a church of which you were a member was voluntary.
As such, religious practice could neither be enforced by a secular power, nor prohibited, for to do so was to breach his freedom.
The free exercise and practice of religion was neither to be held as a reason to promote a man into secular service, nor hinder his ability to serve.
This list is the foundational understanding of U.S. social policy today, and it is also the direction toward which the world wide catholic church has taken as a result of Vatican II.
Vatican II and the Human Vitae
Vatican II was both a monumentous event in church history, and the beginning of a change process. The Vatican II documents issues a call for he church to move beyond the formal hierarchy of the past centuries and toward a more worshipper centered understanding of the church’s presence in the world. After all, the people were the ‘body of Christ’ in the world. The 5 significant areas which the Vatican II council addressed were:
The Liturgy. After Vatican II, almost every altar in a Catholic church in the United States was turned around. For the first time in at least a thousand years, the priest said Mass facing the congregation; and it was said partially (soon totally) in English. The insistence of performing the catholic mass in Latin was forever changed, with the approval of over seven-eighths of American Catholics
Ecumenism. The council was now willing to admit that Protestant denominations were indeed churches and that Catholics should strive for mutual understanding with them in friendly dialogue. “The heretics, schismatic, Jews, and infidels down the street were now suddenly separated brothers and sisters.” (Greeley, 1998)
Meat on Friday. This change resulted from a decision of the American bishops. It may have been the most unnecessary and the most devastating. Fish on Friday had been a symbol that most visibly separated Catholic Americans from other Americans.
Birth Control. This is the story of how an attempt to preserve the authority structure of the church in fact weakened and eventually came close to destroying it. There was strong sentiment among the bishops at the council to address the question, but Pope Paul VI, not trusting his fellow bishops with the issue, removed it from councilor debate. Still, he had a special con, mission to report to him on the subject, the existence of which became common knowledge. Laity and clergy alike assumed that if change were possible, it would occur, especially after learning that the commission had recommended change almost unanimously.
Priests and nuns. Another critical change in the structure of the preconciliar church was the dispensation of priests to leave the priesthood and enter ecclesiastically valid marriages, often with former nuns. The development confirmed not only the possibility of change, but the willingness of church authorities to back down at least partially in the face of pressure. (Greeley, 1998)
While these individual elements seem small to the outsider, change coming forth from the papacy was like getting water from rock. THE formal Catholic church hierarchy, for the first time is centuries, was bowing to the pressure of a changing social order, and recognizing that the church must also adapt itself to the behaviors to the people in order to remain relevant and effective in the world.
The Humane Vitae followed a few years beyond the official documents of Vatican II, and dealt exclusively with the topic of conjugal love and the presence of birth control in the marriage. The documents, while encouraging men and women to uphold the biblical teaching of fidelity. The Humanae Vitae also declared the churches position on birth control in the presence of a marriage, or ‘anything that prevents the conception of life’ through he course of marital conjugation. The church declared any and all forms of birth control to be outside of God’s purpose for marriage, and therefore birth control in any form was deemed to be something that should be turned away from.
While Vatican II reached toward people, and created a more people friendly church, the Humanae Vitae added the weight of unnecessary laws to the lives of Catholics, and thus set the stage for the coming battle over Abortion. The church was not yet ready to relinquish is dictatorial approach to influencing men’s lives. Unfortunately, their desire to win the battle over contraception, they set themselves up to loose the war over the life of the unborn.
Comparing the U.S. And the Spanish socially constructed understanding of the place of Religion in Politics.
These two nations have walked significantly different paths of their experience of the interaction between religion and politics. Yet today, the two nations are heading in the same direction, and the catholic church is also seeking to find it’s own place in the nations as they relinquish their authoritarian hold over Catholics’ lives in response to the Vatican II documents.
Spain experienced the religious dictatorship, like that which the United Stated guarded against through it’s constitutional republic. The Franco regime was a political and religious construct which practiced government in the name of religious doctrine. The Franco government tilted the social order in the direction of the Roman catholic church, and the churches practices were forcefully made a part of secular and political life. When a church takes this approach to secular life, they necessarily oppress those who do not believe in the same doctrines and dogmas as the church which is in power.
In the United States, this is the very construct which the nation wanted to avoid. The diversity of religious sects which made the United States their home wanted to be guaranteed personal freedom to practice their faith as they believed, while at the same time enjoying the benefits of a social order which was freely influenced by religious men on an individual and social basis.
Both nations, in their current political climate are responding against a perceived pressure to control political life with religious doctrines. The Spanish want the freedoms of democracy, as well as the economic freedom to build relationship with non-catholic and non-religious organizations and states. This practice was prohibited, or severely taxed under the Franco regime, therefore making it unprofitable.
The United States is also responding against the perceived attempts of conservative political leaders, and religious organizations to control political life. Organizations such as the ACLU have an agenda which opposes any existence of religious thought in the public arena. Whether or not the attempt to control American life in the name of religion is accurate or not, the political climate in the U.S. is significantly influenced against such influence by current liberal media organizations, and government officials.
In America, the two parties’ national platforms indeed have offered contrasting ProChoice and Pro-Life positions since 1980 (Daynes & Tatalovich, 1992). With a strong message coming from the public, interest groups, and political parties, state legislators more easily could perceive and incorporate public preferences into abortion policy.
Although the public has strong positions on abortion, these are not necessarily polarized positions.
Early research on public policy in the U.S. focused almost exclusively on economic issues, such as state welfare expenditures or highway construction, and sought to test the relative importance of economic and political factors in explaining variations in public policy (Asher & Van Meter, 1973). More recently, however, attention has turned to diversity in morality policy, such as the regulation of drugs, alcohol, and sexual conduct. Morality policy has several distinctive characteristics: the issues are not complex technically, they are highly salient to the public, and the policy debates evoke a wide variety of citizen participation (Gormley, 1986). Moreover, compromise is more difficult to achieve in morality than economic policy (Lowi, 1988). Although contending sides in a tax dispute easily may negotiate differences on the wording of a loophole, or even on the proposed rate of taxation, greater difficulty arises for the antagonists in debates over abortion, sex education in schools, and drug laws.
Public opinion has been demonstrated to match public policy in the United States (Page & Shapiro, 1992). The effect of public opinion is thought to be especially strong on morality policy. Morality policies generally are not complex, allowing a wide range of citizens to participate (Gormley, 1986). Moreover, religious institutions frequently mobilize their members in an effort to influence morality policy (Fairbanks, 1977).
Of course, the impact of public opinion on morality policymaking in the states is likely to vary across issue areas. In general, we expect that public opinion will have the greatest impact on morality policies when individual and aggregate opinion is relatively stable, opinion is represented by organized interests, an issue is sufficiently salient to influence voters’ decisions, and the political parties take reasonably distinctive positions. The accurate perception of public preferences is a difficult task for legislators. Only when a consistent message is received from multiple sources should we expect a high level of representation of public preferences in state policies.
These conditions may exist for the abortion issue. Abortion is a non-technical issue that has been debated continually and loudly in America since Roe v. Wade (1973). Most citizens hold a position on abortion. Indeed, the percentage of respondents who do not express an opinion on abortion questions in national surveys is very small. There is strong evidence that once voters realized that state officeholders could affect abortion policy after Webster, abortion became an issue affecting vote choice in these elections (Cook, Hartwig, & Wilcox, 1992; Cook, Jelen, & Wilcox, 1994). All of this suggests that state abortion policies should reflect public opinion on the abortion issue.
Public opinion could play a lesser role on morality politics, however, in cases where policymakers themselves hold highly salient personal positions influenced by religion, interest groups distort aggregate public opinion significantly, and parties position themselves to attract the energies of interest group activists rather than the median voter. Under these circumstances, state legislators receive distorted cues and even may be unaware of the public’s true opinions. All of these factors also apply to the abortion case. Interest groups have organized around the strictly Pro-Life and Pro-Choice positions (Tribe, 1990), but a majority of Americans take a more nuanced view that supports abortion under some but not all circumstances (Cook et al., 1992). Thus interest groups distort opinion, and legislators are likely to interact with interest group activists.
From the perspective of the catholic church, their unbending approach the topic of abortion ignored the sentiments of the public that supported abortion in some cases. The church attempted to address the issue from a perspective of controlling public opinion rather than influencing public opinion in it’s direction. The result was a loss of stature for the church, and its relevance to current cultural issues.
The Impact of the Catholic Church on Politics
In order to understand the influence of the Catholic Church on United States society in recent times, we must understand the political, economical, and social landscape that has shaped changes within the church and government since the 1970’s. The following section will analyze the changing role of the Catholic Church in different political contexts in the United States from the 1970’s onwards. However, since the Catholic Church in the United States derived its political influence from different means than the Catholic Church in Spain this section will examine the political and religious identity of Catholic Americans by looking at factors such as social movements within the catholic church which have been successful at influencing political life, and those which have been unsuccessful.
American Catholics have entered civil and political life in three styles distinguished by David J. O’Brien. (1996)
Civic-republicans (John Carroll, John Courtney Murray, U.S. bishops’ pastoral letters) correlate discipleship and citizenship. This viewpoint believes that good catholic life necessarily translates into good citizenship, and will attempt to influence political life for catholic or conservative moral values.
Interest-groups (Legion of Decency, USCC lobbying on parochial schools, Catholic League) press Catholic causes, such as parochial schools, anti-abortion causes, social justice, etc.
An evangelical style (Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Pax Christi) appeals directly to the New Testament as their justification for action, and encourage citizens to do the same. (This third construct is the minority of the three.)
Each of these three constructs takes their cue from Vatican II, which sought to minimize the hierarchy of the catholic church, and disseminate some of their power into the hands of the church members. Vatican II was designed to usher in a renewed Catholicism that is a “public church” (Marty, 1981) as a whole and on the basis of official ecclesiology. This new approach to catholic life was not because of public initiatives by some individuals, or due to political movements started from the top of the organization, but rather based on Catholic principles lived out in every day Catholics engaging their culture with the purpose of influencing public policy. (Hughson, 2001)
The new approach to catholic life influencing political policy belongs to what Bernard Lonergan (1972) considered a “redemptive action of the church in the modern world,” part of “Christian service to human society to bring about the kingdom of God.”
The new role for the catholic church should not be misunderstood as a departure from its social agenda. Rather, the new direction was characterized by traits that Michael and Kenneth Himes underlined, “respect for the legitimate autonomy of other social institutions…, acceptance of some responsibility for the well-being of the wider society… commitment to work with other social institutions in shaping the common good of the society,” (Himes and Himes) with a focus on the poor, marginalized and oppressed.
The Catholic Church and Abortion Politics
The Catholic church is learning the difference between the dominating people lives via an outdated hierarchical approach to religious life, the pre-Vatican II church paradigm, and influencing people’s lives, and public policy by influencing individual’s lives, the Post Vatican II paradigm. The church is finding in the modern era, influencing individual’s lives in order to secure their willing engagement in the political system, rather than building a socio-religious hierarchy which forces individual courses of action is a much more successful course of action.
E.E. Schattschneider (1960, p. 66) once observed that.”.. The definition of the alternatives is the supreme instrument of power.” In otter words, power is obtained when a group can define the choices, and then influence public attitudes toward the choice which the group supports. Nowhere is this truer than in the case of abortion policy. There has been an unremitting struggle among abortion activists, religious groups, and the judicial and legislative branches to define the issue and to shape it accordingly.
For pro-life activists, abortion is murder for pro-choice forces, access to abortion is central to women’s equality and falls under individual liberties protected by the Constitution for the courts and the legislatures, abortion resides in a no-man’s land of federal-state relations.(1)
The anti-life groups were successful in changing public policy because they were successful in redefining the argument in their own terms. Actually, the different groups have been talking about different things, and they have been employing different discourses. By discourse, Hajer’s (1995, p. 44) definition of the term is an.”.. ensemble of ideas, concepts, and categorizations…” that mobilize competing forces. Schattschneider’s paradigm of power, in which competing forces attempt either to narrow or to widen the scope of the conflict for political gain, supports the interpretation of discourse as a political weapon that groups use first to shape the way policy issues are understood, second to discredit their opponents, and third to bring about change. (Nossiff, 1998)
As the abortion debate developed in the 1960s, several “discourse coalitions” organized, which is defined as different groups which share a world view about an issue and act on it to shape policy outcomes (Hajer, 1993). Discourse coalitions are a particularly helpful way to examine the battle over abortion policy because they are based on social constructs that seek to interpret events, like abortion, that are ambiguous morally (Hajer, 1993). Regarding the Abortion debate, beginning in 1965, two competing definitions of abortion gradually emerged that united the various groups involved.
The religious discourse, articulated by the Catholic Church held that since life began at conception, abortion for any reason was murder and was essentially a moral issue. Their approach to the subject was unbending, and thus unable to respond to the opposing forces argument when they changed the content of the discourse. The conservative approach to the issue was challenged by a legal discourse based on the American Law Institutes’ (ALI) model penal code. The ALI guidelines recommended that ‘therapeutic’ abortions in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity, and when the mother’s mental and/or physical health was endangered be decriminalized. One of the code’s main intents was to protect physicians who were performing therapeutic abortions without clear statutes to protect them in the event their medical judgment was questioned. The guidelines also were supported by physicians and public health professionals who were concerned with the practice of illegal abortions (Fried, 1988). In the late 1960s, radical feminists expanded the legal discourse with the argument that unrestricted access to abortion was central to women’s equality and reproductive rights. (Nossiff, 1998)
These differing definitions of abortion became the basis of the two main discourse coalitions. On the anti-abortion side were religious activists and the Catholic Conference, the political arm of the Catholic Church which sought to retain restrictive abortion laws by using a religious discourse. On the pro-abortion side were various groups of lawyers, physicians, and activists who used a legal discourse as the basis of their campaign to reform state abortion laws.
In 1965, the Catholic Church concluded a series of meetings concerning the role of the Church in contemporary society. One of the main resolutions of Vatican II was to bring the Church into the modern world by encouraging it to become involved in current social and religious problems. Although abortion had not yet become a political issue in 1965, it was defined as an unspeakable crime in the Pastoral Constitution, one of the documents written during Vatican II:
For God, the Lord of Life, has conferred on men the surpassing ministry of safeguarding life- a ministry which must be fulfilled in a manner worthy of man. Therefore, from the moment of its conception, life must be guarded with the greatest of care, while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes (Benestad & Butler, 1981, p. 150).
From the start, the Catholic Conference opposed any liberalization of abortion laws on moral grounds, and due to the churched unbending approach to merging public policy and religious life, the church presented the world with a take-it or leave-it option. According to Byrnes (1991) the Church also viewed efforts to change the abortion laws as an opportunity to involve itself politically in an issue it could speak to with considerable authority. This approach to public life was consistent with the directives of Vatican II
In the same year that Vatican II concluded, the Supreme Court established the legal foundation of the pre-Roe debate which begins to head in a direction opposed to the Church. In its 1965 decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, the Court held that a Connecticut law that prohibited the sale of contraceptives to married couples was unconstitutional, because it violated the individuals’ “right” to be left alone, an interpretation commonly understood to mean that a “right to privacy” was guaranteed by various amendments. According to Nossiff (1998) the significance of Griswold was threefold.
It created a “zone of privacy” in marital areas, including birth control, with which the state could not interfere.
In terms of the wider context of public opinion, it articulated a popular desire for more privacy (Westin, 1967).
By grounding the concept of privacy in the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment, Griswold provided the legal precedent for future civil rights litigation (Faux, 1989). Abortion policy thus became embedded in the “rights rhetoric” that characterizes mainstream American popular thought (Glendon, 1991).
In the pre-Roe period the main obstacle facing pro-abortion activists was to redefine abortion in order to bring about legislative reform. By combining legal, medical, and feminist discourses, they challenged the Catholic Conference’s definition of abortion as murder and created an alternative definition based on ‘political rights.’ The results was that in a culture which honors freedom above religious constriction of public life, the argument for abortion was accepted, and the absolutist approach of the catholic church was rejected.
As the Vatican II approach to public life influenced more of the Catholic’s public engagement of the political system, as individuals realized the success of influencing public opinion as a course of influencing public policy, the Catholic church and conservative political agenda items began to slowly remake their appearance in the public eye.
In 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services gave stales an ambiguous authority to regulate access to legal abortions. This ruling seemed to invite states to experiment with restrictions on abortion, and several states and territories quickly accepted that invitation (Halva-Neubauer, 1993). The opinion of states’ citizens played an increasing role in the passage of these new abortion laws. One could argue that public opinion would have a strong effect on morality policies, including the regulation of abortion. On morality issues, citizens are likely to have strong, stable opinions. Such intense preferences should lead citizens to become active in interest groups, and these interest groups should reflect the public’s positions in their lobbying of state legislators. The starkly polarized positions of abortion interest groups (Woliver, 1998) also may move the political parties to adopt distinctively different sets of policy options,
The case of Webster vs. Reproductive Health Services, the catholic church, and those supporting conservative political policy agreed that the constitutionally founded ‘right to privacy’ was an unassailable maxim. So they approached the topic in the same way the pro-abortion groups approached Roe v Wade. They reformatted their argument, and approached the subject in terms which the public would be likely to agree with.
They approached the argument with the well being of the women as the primary concern, and groups which brought the case insisted that because of the dangers to women, that public facilities no longer be allowed to conduct abortion on demand. The risks to the women were too great, and therefore their argument was that the women should be protected, and publicly funded facilities not be allowed to perform the procedure. Because of the change in approach, and in spite of the now established liberal political agenda, Webster v Reproductive Health Services was decided in favor of conservative discourse groups.
A plurality of Americans favors abortion in some, but not all, circumstances (Cook, Jelen, & Wilcox, 1992). Interest groups and parties, however, may cater to the more extreme positions on this issue. State legislators themselves also may have strong preferences on abortion, and by adopting a trustee role, legislators may incorporate their own preferences into public law. The research in this field suggests that conservative religious beliefs, like those of the Catholic Church, do influence the individual political choices of the voters, and thus influence public opinion, and therefore influence public policy.
Spain’s experience of the Abortion Debate
Research data specifically on Spain’s experience of the abortion debate is not known to exist to the researcher. However, research has been conducted on the influence of Catholic thought on the continent of Europe, and the presence of abortion on the continent. Since the Catholic church is the most significant social force opposed to abortion in Europe, the relationship between abortion policy and the presence of Catholics is a significant measure of the churches influence.
In Wilcox (1993) the effects of Roman Catholicism on attitudes toward abortion throughout Western Europe are examined at the individual and country levels. At the individual revel, Catholicism consistently occasions negative attitudes toward legal abortion. However, the contextual effects of Roman Catholicism run in the opposite direction, meaning that non-Catholics living in predominantly Catholic countries are more likely to approve of legal abortion.
In Europe, as in the United States, the issue of legal abortion remains highly controversial. As the political structure of Europe changes as the result of West European integration the abortion issue is on its way to becoming a focal point for the articulation of national differences. As the nations of Europe engage in increasingly close cooperation, there may be substantial pressure for uniform policies with respect to abortion. Since abortion is a highly volatile, emotional issue, which may be difficult to compromise (Tribe, 1989), the abortion issue may become the focus of international political debate.
There is little agreement among European countries on the “correct” stance toward the termination of pregnancies. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, several European nations made liberalizing changes in their abortion laws. Unlike the United States, abortion is not regarded as a fundamental right in any European country (Glendon, 1987; Tribe, 1989). In some nations, such as Ireland and Spain, abortion has been regulated rather strictly and has been difficult to obtain legally (Randall, 1986; Tribe, 1989). Across Europe, there is a rough correspondence between the Catholic proportion of a country’s population and the strictness of its abortion law. All of the countries with the most restrictive laws have large Catholic majorities, while none of the most permissive nations do. (Wilcox, 1993)
The Catholic Church is a very interested participant in the abortion debate in Western Europe. In recent history, the Church has regarded abortion and contraception as violations of natural law. This “pro-life” stance has been reaffirmed by Popes. As a result, there are at least three possible mechanisms by which Roman Catholicism could influence public attitudes toward abortion.
The Catholic Church might be effective at inculcating pro-life attitudes among its own members, but might not have any systematic influence beyond individual socialization.
The Catholic Church could have both individual and systematic effects on abortion attitudes, by defining the terms of debate. The Church might socialize individual Catholics, who might then in turn influence the attitudes of non-Catholics with whom they are personally acquainted (Sprague, 1982). In this contextual argument, Catholicism occasions pro-life attitudes beyond its own membership, via a kind of “ripple effect” of public discourse (Noelle-Neumann, 1984).
The visible presence of large numbers of Roman Catholics could result in a pro-choice counter mobilization among non-Catholics. If citizens who are non-adherents of the Catholic Church come to perceive that the Church is dominating the political process, they may be motivated to oppose the Church’s position on the abortion issue.
The purpose of this brief study is to investigate the extent and type of influence Roman Catholicism has on abortion attitudes in Western Europe. Does a large Catholic presence in a country’s population have an influence on that country’s political culture beyond the numerical strength of the Roman Catholic population? In which direction would such a contextual effect operate?
The results of Wilcox’s study suggest that the effects of Catholic teaching on the abortion debate in Europe may be mixed. At the individual level, the effects of Catholic socialization are quite straightforward: Roman Catholics are less likely to approve of legal abortion than their non-Catholic counterparts. Therefore countries with higher populations of Catholics tend to have more restrictive abortion laws. By contrast, the effects of a social context in which Catholics are dominant appear to lie in the “pro-choice” direction. Non-Catholics who live in primarily Catholic environments are most likely of all to favor legal abortion and to prefer it with stronger social opinions. If the Catholic Church is perceived as part of the “establishment,” a pro-choice counter mobilization appears to occur. The social learning of religious values may be easiest in settings in which particular theological traditions are not part of the prevailing political environment. Religious values may be more salient as sources of political criticism than as participants in the exercise of political power.
The Catholic Church and American Politics: A History of Conservatism
For most of the twentieth century, the Catholic Church in the United States has been closely associated with conservative political causes. Ultimately, public opinion should be expected to play a role in the shaping of abortion legislation in the states is a debatable question even though representation is a difficult task, especially if legislators receive mixed cues from the public, activists, and the political parties. In a study by Norrander and Wilcox (1999) they found that grass-roots activism and public opinion tend to match, and both are reflected in state abortion policy. More Pro-Life policies are found in states with a tradition of conservative policies in other areas, Republican majorities in the state legislature, more Catholic residents, and fewer women legislators.
These trends for conservative policy being influenced by religious majorities also are evident in the are of social justice. Extensive, valuable emphasis on social justice as a dimension of and path toward a common good leaves room for treatment of the issue of social justice as a way of common truth, a practice of truth. Some common meaning and truth underlie practical and theoretical agreement on a common good. For this reason, the catholic Church, which is interested in religious truth affecting the lives of her members, believes in social justice as a function of, and a priority of the church. To the contrary and about the United States, for example, John Courtney Murray argued the length and breadth of his career on behalf of attention to a consensus on some truths that underlie social and political life according to the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Democratic institutions and justice under law depend on a limited, prior consensus not only that the common good comprises public order, prosperity, and the moral norms basic to both, but on national agreement with those few truths given enduring expression by the Declaration of Independence and then embodied in the legal and political order erected on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
In Murray’s analysis, public discourse on the common good of the nation must involve and depend on the tacit, formative presence of prior acquiescence in those judgments of truth that he called the “public philosophy” or “public consensus.” (Murray)
We hold these truths…,” it can be said in reliance on Murray, grounds and shapes what Lonergan calls the “institutional basis” for a “good of order” that makes possible recurrent attainment of particular, concrete goods by citizens. Likewise, Lonergan’s analysis of common meaning as the formal constituent of community points to common experiences, common understanding, common true judgments, and on that basis, decisions in and by a community. Might it not be the case that social-ethical attention to the common good sometimes treats it as if independent of common understanding and common truth when it comes to social justice? Agreeing with Murray and Lonergan on the formative role of true judgments held in common leads to emphasis on social justice as a practice formed by true judgments and as an outcome that proportions structures of cooperation to basic aspects of humanity grasped as true.
Social justice is personal practice and social institutionalization of three true judgments:
that all human persons are equal in dignity, that human nature is intrinsically social, and that institutions or structures of cooperation enter deeply into social and personal existence.
The first two have long been part of Catholic philosophical and ecclesiastical tradition, are interwoven into social Catholicism yet by themselves are not social justice. The third is the least widely affirmed and may not be a common element in what social scientists have identified as a “Catholic difference.” And yet precisely knowing and acting on the third true judgment give new effect to the first two. Bryan Hehir remarks that Catholic social teaching advanced beyond legal or general justice and into social justice precisely because of insight into the “structured organization of society” and an associated stress on “the need to shape the institutional patterns of social life in accord with the demands of justice so that commutative and distributive justice may be more easily fulfilled.” Insight into the structured organization of society and a judgment that this belongs to social existence can shape the meanings of personal and interpersonal interaction. Yet without insight into how structures of cooperation affect persons and the common good, social justice is missing in action.
Social justice relates these truths to the common good of a society according to an option for the poor. The outcome sought is a social order whose institutions and structures enable all persons to participate in the cultural, social, civil, economic and political life of a society. To the extent that social justice is lacking, Christian hope expressed in “Thy kingdom come!” becomes an orientation to an alternative social order respecting truths about our humanity that the gospel also affirms and deepens. Social justice can be defined as personal and social practice of truth about our humanity, for the sake of a practical proportion between these truths (equality in dignity, intrinsically social, intrinsically structural) and participation in cultural, social, civil, economic, and political institutions. Social justice institutes and maintains societal structures that allow practical expression of being created in the image of God. (Hughson, 2001)
Answer why these issues reflect the growing political influence of the Catholic Church in Spain and the United States
Why have we picked these issues
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