Interior columns of Basilica of Sagrada Familia. This church seems to have a much more feminine feel than the usual Cathedral or Basilica.
Benedict just finished a week end trip to Spain where he continued his attacks on secularism and his re evangelization of Europe. I was going to write about this yesterday, but after reading this report from Austen Ivereigh, I had to....well not write. After you are done reading that report, you have to read Bill Lyndseys' take....just for fun.
The following extract is from the Christian Science Monitor. I chose to focus on this report because there is some interesting information in it not found in other articles. Certainly not Austen Ivereigh's.
“The renaissance of modern Catholicism comes mostly thanks to Spain. But it is also true that laicism, a strong and aggressive secularism was born in Spain, as we saw in the 1930s,” the Pope said on board his plane just before arriving in the northwestern coastal city of Santiago de Compostela. “This dispute is happening again in Spain today. The future of faith and the relations between faith and secularism have Spanish culture as its epicenter.” (No, not the future of faith, or the relations between faith and secularism, but the future of Roman Catholicism. All through out this trip Benedict conflated faith and God with Roman Catholicism. They are not the same.)
While officially consecrating Barcelona's Sagrada Familia church as a basilica on Sunday, the pope continued his push.
“The Church opposes all forms that negate human life and supports everything that supports the natural order in the realm of institution of the family,” he told the 6,500 people inside, almost a fifth of them from the clergy. (There really wasn't anything particularly 'natural' about the Holy Family.)
But the low turnout to see Benedict XVI on his second visit to Spain as pope seemed to illustrate his concern that Europe is shedding its Catholic roots. (Other articles talk about the 250,000 who turned out on the streets in Barcelona, but this number is way down compared to his and JPII's previous visits.)
Crowds of in the tens of thousands sometimes seemed to only slightly outnumber the vast security detail that closed off much of Spain’s second-biggest city, and many streets along the papal route were nearly empty. Also, small, unusual protests such as a gay "kiss-in" by couples as Benedict XVI waved from his vehicle drew the ire of loyal Catholic followers.
King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia greeted the pope, were present in the consecration mass, and bid him farewell at the airport, but Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero was conspicuously absent and only met the Catholic patriarch for a private meeting in the airport minutes before he returned to Rome...
....The fallout in relations between the current government and the Vatican, however, is not seen as a real challenge from the state. That would probably not be tolerated by a majority of Spaniards, analysts say.
Recent surveys show the number of practicing Catholics is dropping fast, to around 20 percent currently, mirroring a broader European trend, but the vast majority of Spaniards still declare themselves Catholics. And the Catholic Church has great perks here, starting with around $9 billion annually in different forms of direct and indirect government funds from tax revenue to financing of religious schools. The Spanish Church is the second biggest property owner in the country, trailing only the government. (This should help explain why JPII and now Benedict enable and promote all the Spanish Catholics cults which have sprung up since Franco came to power. Opus Dei, the Neo Cats and the Legionaries did not get where they are at in the Vatican because they prayed the rosary.)
Church defends its political perks
“Spain is a bastion of the Catholic Church in Europe. It doesn’t treat all religions equally. It has preferential treatment for the Church,” says Ferran Requejo, a political science professor in the Universidad de Barcelona. “Relations with the government have been cold for some time and the Vatican has been pushing to weaken the secular push.”
The Vatican has also been aiming to derail a government electoral promise to reform “religious freedom” legislation that is now broadly considered discriminatory against other faiths.
It has been indefinitely postponed, though, to avoid further alienating Catholics as the government is already facing massive discontent over the economic crisis. (And all along I thought this Papal attention was because the people were so faithful, but now I see it's really about money and power.)
Spain is not officially secular, as most western states are. Rather, it is legally neutral in terms of religion, implying it is a faith-based state. In practice that has translated into huge benefits for the Catholic Church that leaders from other religions, namely Muslims, Protestants, and Jews, say are unconstitutional because they are discriminated against when getting access to government aid and public space.
In Santiago, Benedict XVI met the leader of the main opposition Popular Party, Mariano Rajoy, who has promised to turn back secular laws passed by the Zapatero government if elected.
I would really appreciate it if I could take anything this Pope says or does at face value, but it would be folly in the extreme to do so. Every thing this Vatican does is always, in it's core truth, about power and money. If throwing gays to the wolves or advising women to die in childbirth will convince a certain mindset to follow the Church, that's great, because that belief translates into political numbers. It translates into non accountable, non transparent power for the hierarchy. No surprise then, at least on a symbolic level, that Benedict starts his campaign to re evangelize Europe with photo ops with Europe's last few remaining monarchs.
The image I will retain from the dedication of the Basilica of Sagrada Familia is that of one thousand male clerics and 150 male bishops enacting this particular production from the theatre of the absurd, while eight women nuns clean the altar and re drape it. Eight women with bit roles as cleaners, 1150 clerics and one monarchical pope as the stars of the main show. And underneath all the theatrics the issue is not Jesus, it's power and money. Male power and money. The 'natural' way of the family.