Spanish cardinal says Church teaching rejects national independence

| November 30, 2017 | 3 Comments
Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera

Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera CNS file photo/Paul Haring

Less than one month before elections in Catalonia, a Spanish cardinal said Catholics everywhere are violating church teaching if they support pro-independence movements.

“In democratically constituted nations, there can be no moral legitimacy for unilateral secession,” Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera of Valencia said in a Nov. 29 commentary for the Madrid-based La Razon daily.

“When certain nations are linked by historical, cultural and political ties to other nations within the same state, it cannot be said that these nations necessarily enjoy a right to political sovereignty. Nations, considered in isolation, do not enjoy an absolute right to decide.”

The Dec. 21 elections in the Catalonia region will replace the region’s Parliament. In late October, Parliament voted to unilaterally declare independence from Spain, so the Spanish prime minister invoked an article of Spain’s constitution and dissolved Catalonia’s government.

Cardinal Canizares said the Catholic Church recognized the right of people to change the political order “without violence, by democratic methods.” However, he added that it was “morally unacceptable” for nations to “claim independence unilaterally by their own will.” He said nationalist demands could only be justified “with reference to the common good of the entire affected population.”

“When the will to independence becomes an absolute principle of political action and is imposed at all costs and by any means, it is comparable to an idolatry that gravely undermines the moral order,” he said.

In a separate Nov. 26 interview with La Razon, Cardinal Canizares said he was “hurt” that many Catalan clergy had backed independence, allowing referendum boxes to be hidden in their churches. He said he believed, and believed Bishop Xavier Novell Goma of Solsona, who also supported secession, had been confused and untruthful.

He added that he hoped the church would clarify the “non-legitimacy of secessionism in democratic countries” to discourage nationalism in other European regions such as Scotland, Corsica and Bavaria.

“No one can claim a church basis for secessionism,” Cardinal Canizares said. “The independence movement has aroused a hatred which didn’t exist, whereas the church will always work for unity, coexistence and harmony.”

During a Nov. 20-24 meeting of the Spanish bishops’ conference in Madrid, the conference president, Cardinal Ricardo Blazquez Perez of Valladolid, also reiterated his church’s support for Spain’s 1978 constitution as “the fundamental regulation of coexistence.”

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  • VisPacem

    Sounds like the Cardinal would support the Falange and Franco … but unified ‘nation’ states are hardly an inviolable absolute, nor have they existed ‘desde siempre’.

    • Charles C.

      I don’t understand. Where is it in Catholic teaching that “it was ‘morally unacceptable’ for nations to ‘claim independence unilaterally by their own will.’ ”

      And why do people have no right to secede if they are in a democratically based country, but they do if it’s a monarchy?

      Why is this a religious question?

      And is voting to leave a particularly violent and extreme approach to declaring independence?

      • VisPacem

        All of your questions are excellent, and I doubt these churchmen who have claimed to be authorities in these issues would be able to respond to them well at all. Neither history nor lots of great thinkers would agree with what this cardinal said.

        All I can say is that some of the Church’s personnel, including bishops and cardinals, have not always been learned, profound, or holy. That’s not the fault of Christ, but it is the fault of those who don’t or can’t live up to what they should be in the service of Christ and the Church.

        And our time seems to be one in which a noticeable number are mediocre or even sub-mediocre in having wisdom, knowledge, and prudence.

        Best regards.