Pedro Sánchez has returned as leader of Spain's Socialist Workers' Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español, or PSOE). He has promised that, if PSOE reclaims the government from the more centrist People's Party, the socialists will erase Catholicism from the school curriculum nationwide - and replace it with a mandatory, secular "Education for Citizenship and Human Rights" (EfC) curriculum.
After resigning from PSOE last October 1, Sánchez came back to office by winning this May’s primary elections with the 49.8 percent of the vote. With that, he successfully transformed the PSOE into a radical left-wing party, closer to the views of the far-Left Podemos, an alliance that includes open Communists. It is the third party in terms of parliamentary representation, which rules in the main cities of Spain thanks to PSOE. The process is often referred to as “podemisation.” Like Podemos, PSOE has moved toward a predictably left-wing position on every subject. It opposes the CETA free trade agreement, envisions a “plurinational Spain” along the lines of Bolivia, and opposes the constitution’s requirement for “budgetary stability.”
If the socialists come to power, Catholic schools could pay the price.
One of the characteristics of leftism and progressivism is laicism – the secularization of society in general and education in particular – with its main target being Christianity and, in the Spanish context, the Roman Catholic Church. The anti-Western outlook of the Left implies its opposition to the religions whose values form the basis of Western liberties. In the case of my country, they hate the “idea of Spain,” something that implies not only opposition to Catholicism but also supporting internal nationalist movements like Catalan independence. Leftist policies threaten freedom of religion and conscience. And chief among these is a pending attack on Catholic education. If the socialists come to power, Catholic schools could pay the price.
What are exactly the plans of the socialist Pedro Sánchez?
In October 2015, two months before the election, he promised to remove the subject of the Catholic religion from school curricula, repeal Spanish national agreements with the Holy See, and erase the Spanish Constitution’s pledge to maintain “appropriate cooperative relations” with the Catholic Church. In a meeting organized by Spanish newspaper El Mundo the following May, Sánchez called for “more control by the State” over education.
Perhaps most clearly, the document containing the campaign promises he made while he was running for General Secretary of PSOE – Sí es sí. Por una nueva socialdemocracia (in English, “Yes is Yes. For a new social democracy”) – contains a section titled “A laical society.” It pledges to remove the Catholic religion from public schools’ curricula, remove religious symbols from state buildings and schools, and secularize national ceremonies like state funerals.
Additionally, the 39th Congress of the Party, that was held this June 16 to June 18, produced a paper calling for the withdrawal of the Catholic religion as a subject taught (voluntarily) in school curricula. Meanwhile, they propose restoring the subject of “Education for Citizenship and Human Rights” (EfC), which was imposed by the former prime minister Zapatero and is based on a project of “progressive indoctrination.” (Unlike religious education, it’s compulsory.) This curriculum teaches laicism. Although it has been repealed at the national level, it remains in force in some portions of Spain, such as Extremadura, thanks to regional autonomy over education. At the same time, the new executive board of Socialist Workers' Party has announced a focus on laicism, indicating that the Left intends to make this a major focus of its next administration, should it return to government.
Trying to take away parents’ rights over their children’s education, especially over religious and moral issues, should be seen as unconstitutional. The twenty-seventh article of the Spanish Constitution guarantees “the right of parents to ensure that their children receive religious and moral instruction in accordance with their own convictions.” So, there’s no reason to end the rights of parents to choose for their own children to be educated according to their values – which, in many cases, means being taught Catholicism.
Nonetheless, the left-wing parties have begun coordinating their next steps. On July 17, PSOE and Podemos had a meeting at the Congress of Deputies, to begin cooperation and set the foundations for an “alternative government.” It seems similar to the Popular Front, a coalition of left-wing and far-Left parties created during the Spanish Second Republic in the 1930s. Its leader, Casares Quiroga, replaced religious teachers with secular teachers, stripped crucifixes from the walls, and removed Catholic schools from the state system.
The July meeting showed that regional socialist leaders that previously supported Susana Diaz, the president of Andalusia, instead of Pedro Sánchez as party leader have reconciled themselves to Sánchez. The same is true of the followers of Guillermo Fernández Vara, the president of Extremadura, and Emiliano García-Page, the president of Castilla-La Mancha. He has consolidated his support, so his views will hold sway.
Observers should find these developments deeply troubling. Liberty would be replaced with state coercion. Laicism would be imposed at the cost of the Roman Catholic Church and her communities – just as is already happening with the ideology of sexuality and gender (which increasingly seeks to ban Catholic teachings on issues such as the family and same-sex marriage).
The solution is some combination of returning education to civil society, developing a full liberalization of education, and/or implementing either a school voucher or tax credits. Given the state of Spain, the Overton window would make the second option the easiest to achieve. Such an arrangement would respect the principle of subsidiarity, which is enshrined in Catholic social teaching.
Yet people of faith must remember that the less competence the state has over education, the less it can persecute or twist the teachings of religious communities – whether Roman Catholic or any other religion. We must stand steadfast against such encroachments and, as a society, proudly reaffirm our religious values. Only then will politicians respect the place of the Roman Catholic Church in our nation’s history, tradition, and present culture. In the meantime, they must be made too weak to place more restrictions over the freedom of education and the right of parents to choose the way in which they raise up their children.
(Photo credit: PSOE Extremadura. This photo has been cropped. CC BY 2.0.)