It was the first visit of a Pope to Spain in history. Since then, there have been several more – John Paul II himself traveled four other times to our country, and Benedict XVI, twice – to what Karol Wojtyla called “Mary’s Land”. 40 years have passed since October 31, 1982. But also a tsunami of ideological radicalization of the ultra-Catholic groups blessed and supported by the Polish Pope: kikos, Opus Dei, Legionaries of Christ or propagandists. And, at the same time, a growing secularization of the country, with data on those who confess themselves as Catholics or practitioners that do not stop falling. “Spain has ceased to be Catholic”, said Manuel Azaña in 1931 and his proclamation has finally turned out to be a prediction.
These are all the enemies of Pope Francis within the Church
Spain was ceasing to be Catholic little by little. Along the way, the Church within the borders leaned towards a maximalist and conservative position that linked it closely to the ideas of the most extreme right. Little remains in Spain of the inheritance of Cardinal Tarancón, ousted by John Paul II himself a few months after visiting our country. In these four decades, the bishops have dampened the hopes of those who, after the Second Vatican Council, trusted that episcopate capable of confronting the regime and defending a democratic solution.
Today, despite the multiple invitations received, nobody expects Francis in Spain. At least, not ‘theirs’, who are a clear minority in our country. “John Paul II, the whole world loves you”, cried the faithful in 1982 as Wojtyla passed by. The same could not be said today: not everyone loves Bergoglio. At least not all Catholics.
The resignation that Tarancón never presented, but was surprisingly accepted in the Vatican, was the first step in the appointment of a line of strictly conservative bishops who, led first by Cardinal Suquía and, later, by Antonio María Rouco Varela, began the path of the Spanish Church that would make it one of the most conservative in all of Europe. All with the invaluable help of the Work and the new ecclesial movements, which sought to compete in relevance with historical orders also born in Spain, such as the Jesuits. “Evangelizing Spain of half the world; Spain hammer of heretics, light of Trent, sword of Rome, cradle of Saint Ignatius…; this is our greatness and our unity. We have no other”, Menéndez Pelayo would say in a motto that Franco made his own after the “holy Crusade” of 1936-39.
A trip organized by Opus Dei
The plan was drawn up in advance: Opus Dei and sectors of Christian democracy (which still existed in Spain at the time) threw themselves into organizing a trip that was to take place a year earlier and was postponed due to the attack against Wojtyla on May 13, 1981. The followers of Escrivá de Balaguer devised the logo of the trip: Totus tuus (I am all yours), a complete declaration of intentions of a Church that put itself in the hands of the Polish Pope in his task of demolishing the “progressive fickleness” of the worker clergy and the Spanish missionaries, who exported their ideas to Latin America in the form of a Liberation Theology . At the same time that the red priests under the tutelage of Wojtyla and his successor, Ratzinger, were harshly condemned, what exported the Spanish clergy to the New Continent went to dozens of priests and religious accused of abuse, in a policy of silencing pederasty that still hampers the work of the Church today.
The Polish Pope did not disappoint his faithful: in the 50 speeches that he pronounced over ten days in Spain – it is the longest trip of a pontiff to the country, and without a doubt the most intense – Wojtyla attacked divorce, abortion, condoms and promoted a traditional morality that for decades continued to mark the passage of episcopal doctrine. With a careful staging, more typical of a tour of a rock star than of a Pope (20 million people followed the trip on TVE, and several hundred thousand filled each and every one of his acts), John Paul II drew up a roadmap with a successful formula: tough doctrine, friendly face.
The ten days that the trip lasted – in which the pontiff visited Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Ávila, Toledo, Zaragoza or Santiago de Compostela – were declared a holiday in schools and hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets with the flags of Spain and the Vatican. No one wondered, then, who financed the trip: it was assumed that the State. Even Seat manufactured for Wojytla the popemobilewhich has since become an indispensable element of any papal trip.
Today, on the other hand, institutions such as the ACdP and the CEU organize congresses where, with the excuse of paying homage to the previous Pope, Benedict XVI, the opposition to the current pontiff is cheered on, with prelates such as Munilla, Reig, the essential Rouco Varela and Cardinal Müller, considered the greatest internal opponent of Bergoglio and who, to make matters worse, visited the Cuelgamuros Valley last Tuesday, officiating mass with the Benedictines of Santiago Cantera. Even among the prelates closest to Francis (such as Cardinals Omella and Osoro, president and vice president, respectively, of the Episcopal Conference) they are not sufficiently supported to implement the changes that, for almost a decade, Francis has promoted from the Vatican. An increasingly less Catholic Spain that no longer loves, at least as much, the Pope.
A Church that is no more
The historian Juan Mari Laboa wonders in the DR, “Forty years later, what remains of John Paul II? What remains of Felipe González? What remains of Julián Marías? What remains of Tarancón? What remains of the HOAC?… There are more believers in Spain than it seems, confused like all the others, capable of clinging to any movement. And that has us all absolutely baffled.”
Certainly, with the numbers in hand, very little remains of the Church that gave a mass bath to a young John Paul II. A Spain that, three days before, had given the greatest victory in the history of democracy to Felipe González’s PSOE, which had just organized a World Cup and had just overcome an attempted coup.
At that time, 90.2% of Spaniards declared themselves Catholic, and a large majority went to mass every Sunday and on holy days. Today, the CIS shows us that they do not reach six out of ten, of which two thirds do not go “never or almost never” to Church. Believers without Church.
In 1982, 58% of Spanish homes had a crucifix hanging in their living room. Today, finding them is a rare exception. At that time, divorce continued to be a source of conflict in Spain (98.3% of marriages were in the Church), there was no right to abortion (it was approved, with restrictions, in 1985) and even abortions were considered “totally immoral”. premarital relationships, or marriages without children.
The reality today is totally different. Also inside the institution, immersed in a historic crisis of vocations to the priesthood or religious life, with the numbers of baptisms, weddings, communions and confirmations plummeting, and with popularity on the ground due to scandals such as that of clerical pedophilia , registrations or opposition to any social evolution in what John Paul II himself called “indispensable principles” (defense of life, male-female marriage, Church privileges). In Rome, for the first time in history, a Jesuit Pope, from Argentina, and with ideas of reforming the Church that, at least in Spain, have not caught on. Perhaps because, forty years later, the Spanish bishops continue to look more to Wojtyla than to Bergoglio.
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