Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Stand Off In San Sebastion

The priests of a Catholic diocese in Northern Spain have overwhelmingly rejected the bishop sent to them by the Vatican. This is a different situation than what occurred last year in Linz, Austria. In Austria it was a conservative bishop sent into a liberal diocese. In the case of predominantly Basque San Sebastian, Spain it is a Spanish bishop that has been sent.

The Catholic Church supported the Royalists in the Spanish Civil War and greatly benefited when that side won and set up dictatorial rule for the next 35 years. The exception was in the Basque region in the North. The Catholic Church there, as well as the populace, supported the Republican cause. During the War, many Basque Catholic priests were persecuted and some were killed. After the war, the Catholic Churchmen in the North continued to lead the opposition and armed insurrection against the reviled Generalissimo, Francisco Franco. The Basque Catholic Church and the Church in the rest of the country have never been friendly since. The Basques see this new bishop in terms of being asked to take a viper to their bosom.

The Pope seems disposed to push the issue and force the North to accept his choice of a Spanish man to lead this Basque diocese. The upside for the Pope is that he hopes to finally heal the rift in the Church between the North and South. The downside is that he runs the risk of more deeply alienating Basque Catholics. Basque Catholics are the most devout and traditional of all the Catholics in Spain. The Basque lands are also the most prosperous areas in Spain and the population the most educated and affluent.

It may not be simply an exercise in debate. The Basque Churchmen are still the political leaders of the Basque separatist movement and largely responsible for the autonomy of the local government. They have great influence in that government. They also have great influence with the partisan movement, who are very skilled with the knife, gun and bomb. This new bishop may not be disposed to spend much time at his new home in the North.

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