BY HUW TWISTON DAVIES
A SPANISH cardinal who is head of a Vatican dicastery has hit out defiantly at the acceptance of abortion in Spain, criticising pro-abortion politicians of all parties.
Cardinal Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments and former Archbishop of Toledo, was speaking at a summer course at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid when he condemned the liberalisation of abortion in the country.
He said Spain was in the grip of a “dictatorship of relativism” and had succumbed to the trivialisation of sexuality and gender ideology.
These elements, he said, were to blame for the “contempt” for the unborn that had led to the law’s enactment.
Cardinal Cañizares exhorted Spaniards to defy the law, saying it was not possible to respect it. He said that where a law legalises abortion or euthanasia it “ceases to be a true morally binding civil law”.
The cardinal said that this was not civil disobedience, but an attempt to “defend society”, as well as “the immense value of life”.
“Let us refuse to support any initiative that goes against life, not give our support to individuals, institutions, works or measures to be or intended to go against life. We can not associate ourselves with those who deny something so fundamental,” the cardinal said.
He went on to describe abortion as a “violation” of the moral order and a “crime against the person and the common good”. He also described the praise for the new law in some sectors as “disgusting”, asking: “How can you applaud a law to kill?” Cardinal Cañizares also claimed that the law would destroy democracy, arguing that “whoever denies the right to life is against democracy and leads society to disaster”.
He added that a country which is “killing the innocent” can have no true justice, since this necessitates protecting the life of the unborn. Spanish law, however, treats the unborn as a “something, not a someone or a who”, he said.
“Instead of intervening to defend the innocent in danger, the law authorises and contributes to a death sentence,” he said, adding that “a nation that kills its own children is a nation without a future”.
Cardinal Cañizares was promoted to Archbishop of Toledo in 2002. He was created Cardinal-Priest of San Pancrazio, Rome in 2006, and appointed Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship in 2008. In March this year he was appointed a member of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses.
The “dictatorship of relativism” is considered a key theme of the current papacy. Cardinal Cañizares is thought to be very close to the Pope theologically and is sometimes known as “Little Ratzinger”.
Cardinal Cañizares’s comments came just a month after a law introduced by Spain’s socialist government liberalising abortion came into force. The new law allowed abortion on demand for pregnancies up until the 14th week of gestation.
Cardinal Cañizares has been outspoken against abor tion in the past, saying last year that it had “legally destroyed 40 million human lives”. Speaking in the context of a debate on abortion prompted by Spanish government proposals, Cardinal Cañizares said that the child abuse scandal “cannot be compared with the millions of lives that have been destroyed by abortion”.
The Spanish government also sought to reduce the age of consent for abortion to 16, but the law now requires that the mother has her parents’ consent if aged 16 or 17, except in cases of abusive parents. An estimated one million people protested against the new law on the streets of Madrid.
Abortion has been legal in Spain since 1985 on grounds of danger to the mental or physical health of the mother, the pregnancy being the product of a rape which had been reported to the police, or if the child would suffer physical or mental handicaps. The abortion rate doubled between 1998 and 2007, from 54,000 to 112,000.
Tensions in Spain between Church and state have heightened since the election of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero as prime minister in 2004, with the legal recognition of same sex marriage, gay adoption in 2005, easier divorce, and the abolition of compulsory religious education triggering deteriorating relations.
The Spanish constitution, written after the death of General Francisco Franco, defined Spain as a nonconfessional state, but acknowledged the “special place” of Catholicism in Spain’s history.
While Mr Zapatero has promised to enter dialogue with the Church, others in his cabinet are less enthusiastic.
For instance, deputy prime minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega has devised a “roadmap” to make Spain fully secular, which includes recommendations to ban religious symbols in public places.
There have also been attempts by secularist MPs to abolish the conscience clauses of medical professionals in cases of abortions, to introduce controversial sex education materials into schools and even to extend human rights to animals such as apes.
Although the Church remains influential in Spain, and 94 per cent of Spaniards are baptised, under a quarter of these go to Mass regularly.