BY A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT ASMOULDERING conflict between Catholic
labour leaders and Spain's bishops has come to a showdown with an open letter calling for the Church's involvement "in the urgent plight of the workers."
Signed by the heads of the Catholic Action Workers' Brotherhoods, the Young Christian Workers and the Workers Vanguard, the letter lists the "grave" impact of rising prices, lower wages and unemployment on the lower classes.
The letter was delivered to the Spanish Bishops Conference shortly before its sixth plenary meeting opened in Madrid on Tuesday.
The document openly points to "the progressive worsening of the class struggle in recent years," and says that deterioration of general economic conditions in the country has brought untold strains on the worker's budget.
The Catholic workers blame the inefficiency of the Falange Trade Unions—a governmentcontrol led organization—and pressure groups. They say workers lack the proper means for the defence of their rights. Against such a background of economic chaos "violence has recently erupted,"
One of the major issues is Spain's new minimum wage law of 96 pesetas a day (13s. 3d.). which workers claim does not cover even half the daily expenses for a small family.
There is also discontent over "stingy" social security benefits.
MASS FIRING Workers committees have denounced the current practice of many firms of declaring themselves "in crisis" a legal term next to bankruptcy--in order to bypass sanctions for mass-firing.
The bishops on uesday were also scheduled to discuss
the worker-priest movement which is closely linked with the "wprker-student "Catholic tholic Spain." says one of
the country's 50 worker-priests, "is really a mission country in this respect: thousands of workers are entirely alienated from the Church. We know Much of the shyness of the priest-workers—they refuse to give interviews or be photographed at their jobs— is due to the hesitancy of many bishops to support this new approach to pastoral work.
HOUSE ARREST• The bishops' vacillation is understandable under the present tensions in the social and political life of Spain.
Last October when police launched a wave of arrests before and during the nationwide demonstrations, over 400 people were put in jail, including 10 or 12 priests, Even if released, or kept under house arrest, these priests will be brought to court and hence into the limelight of public attention. For some of the bishops, according to their view of Church-state relations, this situation is embarrassing.
Even stronger opposition to the priest-workers comes from those lay Catholics in positions of power—economic, social or political. The Spanish upper class has too much at stake to allow social ferment—or any "pious" encouragement of it. Most middle-class intellectuals also resent the action of the priest-workers.
Meanwhile the work goes on. Some priests act alone. Others join in small "communities" that include workers. One such community is in a Madrid suburb of low-income families. The pastor works as a mason at a nearby building project, His church is plain. It has a crucifix, but no statues; on the walls are two large murals depicting the privation and the hopes of his parishioners.
One poster on a wall says: "Housing is our problem now. Homes for 'the workers are scarce, while thousands of luxury apartments go unoccupied, many built with government help."
Father X, the 29-year-old pastor, explains: "For us, the Mass is truly an assembly of the people of God, a Christian community in which problems are discussed as they bear on the community's internal life, or on its influence on the world.
"I earn my bread with my hands, a perfectly normal way. I have no right to ask for sustenance from my people, who are already exploited by others. Perhaps the day my workers receive enough income for their basic needs, they might decide that I should quit working and devote all my time to their service . . . Then I will lay down the trowel."
Marriage fee in Ireland up to £22 los NEW regulations specifying definite marriage offerings for couples in the diocese of Cork and Ross have been decided upon as effective from November I last and are expected to be officially announced shortly by Bishop Lucey of Cork and Ross.
Fluctuating figures had caused some concern to couples planning marriage. The new arrangements break the contributions to be made into three definite income groups—higher, middle and lower.
They are: Higher income. groom £7 10s., bride £15; middle income, groom £5, bride £7; lower income, groom £3, bride £3.