Some have criticized the pot-banging protest during the speech of King Philip VI on the coronavirus crisis we are experiencing, amid a great controversy – that was watered down by the context itself – about the misappropriation of millions of euros by his father Juan Carlos de Borbon. Criticism did not only come from those who have always taken sides with the monarchy, but also from the more progressive and republican sectors. Some believe that we will have time for protests later, others prefer to focus the attention on the applause at eight o’clock in the evening, and others simply resign themselves to a monarchy that is very much rooted in the system.
It is clear that in a context like this, the executive’s machinery has to focus on the fight to combat the global pandemic we are in. And in fact, the whole of society has to prioritize this fight. But probably, the most uncertain scenarios are also good moments to take advantage of the situation to articulate strategies so we are able to influence the political and the media agendas once the health crisis is over.
The economic crisis that will result from the conflict is easy to foresee and so will be the need to draw resources together in order to alleviate its most devastating effects. It would be absurd to go back to talks about austerity and budget cuts while continuing to feed the Catholic Church with absurd privileges. This is where the defenders of secularism have to present their proposals. Not only regarding the political duty of the governing parties to fulfil their electoral promises: to develop a formal complaint about the 1979 concordat between the Spanish State and the Holy See, but also to present to the public opinion the need to end the privileges of the Catholic Church (privileges derived from the agreements concerning the economic, juridical, educational, and cultural spheres) and what the end of these privileges would entail for the system as a whole.
Privileges derived from a concordat approved only 4 days after the entry into force of the Spanish Constitution, a concordat that only partially repealed the 1953 concordat, leaving its base almost intact. On economic matters, the Church continues to enjoy tax exemptions at different administrative levels, receives funding from tax returns, and is allowed to own assets in its own name through the mechanism of registrations.
The agreement on education and culture states the obligation to guarantee religious education at all stages of education, with content and teaching decided by the Church, and also guarantees the presence of the Catholic Church in public universities. According to data from the 2018 Ferrer i Guardia Report, there are 35,000 religion teachers who cost the State around 500 million euros per year. In the legal sphere, the Church can exercise its duties: worship, jurisdiction and teaching, as well as the right to religious assistance of clergymen in prisons and hospitals, with salaries financed by public funds.
These rights are in contradiction with Article 16 of the Spanish Constitution, which states that no religion shall have a State character. Also, they do not match the social reality of our country: increasingly secularised and with a smaller number of practising believers. In 2018, 49% of young people were part of non-religious options of conscience (Ferrer i Guardia Report, 2018).
We the privileged ones, let’s seize this moment to stop and reflect on all those things that are taken for granted; let’s use the crisis to redefine and rethink the fundamental issues our way of life, of our society. Let’s go out to pay our daily tribute to those who are making every effort to get us out of this situation, but let’s also switch on our critical thinking in order to challenge pre-established issues and thrive from the health and economic drama in a more critical and strengthened way, so we can build a stronger, fairer and egalitarian society.
Mar Fernández is Project Officer at Fundació Ferrer i Guàrdia.
Read the original article here (in Catalan).
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