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Church and State



     The Catholic Church is trying now to put into practice the Christian principles of peace, love and reconciliation. This is easier said than done. In Chiapas, Bishop Samuel Ruiz tried to serve as an intermediary with the Zapatistas, only to be denounced as their accomplice.
     This was the fate of the Bishop of San Sebastian, who just retired on account of age. He had been accused of siding with ETA, and immediately the rumor spread that it was really pressure from the Aznar government which caused his removal, which, it was implied, would use any trick to avoid a discussion with ETA.
     Government spokesman Manuel Pimentel immediately went on the air to deny this, using surprising language. The Franco regime is a non-subject in public political debate, but Pimentel said that Spain is now a secular state, unlike the Franco regime, when the church worked with the state. This frankness was to rebut the charge that the Partido Popular was a continuation of the Franco regime.
     This talk of a secular state sounded hollow, coming just after the great ceremony in El Escorial which culminated the whole series of events honoring the deceased Queen Mother Marķa de las Mecedes. It had in fact stressed the historic ties in Spain between church and state. It was probably this which caused the outburst.
     The monarchy is the most popular institution in Spain; the anti-monarchists may have fueled these rumors to damage this popularity. The monarchy is the great stabilizing influence in Spain. Tim Brown says:
     "I have long thought that the importance in the modern world of monarchs has been underrated by political science. They have been major if not decisive stabilizing influences in a number of countries transiting from old to new systems. Thailand, Spain, Belgium, Norway, and Great, and no doubt there are others. Britain immediately come to mind. Do any WAISERs know of recent studies of this phenomenon in the 20th century?"
     The problem with monarchy is that it seems an outmoded, feudal way of selecting a head of state, although I agree entirely that the head of state should be a generally respected figure above politics. In the American system he is not. As stated earlier, my preference would be for the chief justice to become head of state, assuming that the office is non-political, which unfortunately is not true in the United States and other countries. He should have some traditional symbol of office, expressing the historical dignity of the law.
     Getting back to Spain, the heir Felipe, Prince of Asturias is being groomed vigorously for his kingship, and he seems to be an excellent student. Unfortunately he shows no sign of getting married, so we get back to one of the basic problems of a monarchy.

Ronald Hilton - 1/14/00


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