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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Basque Catholics and Rome

The historically literate will know that Basques have been of many religions through history: Catholics certainly but also Muslims, Protestant and certainly Pagan and very prone to "witchery". But in the last centuries the dominant religion used to be Catholicism and even two major national uprisings were held in the name of "God" in the 19th century. The very roots of Basque Nationalism lay there and therefore the oldest nationalist party defines itself as "Christian-Democrat" and the Basque banner is full of crosses.

But the historically literate will also know that Rome never actively supported a separate Basque identity. Basque states were never militant crusader nor had the Roman Imperial cultural and ideological legacy as strongly marked as their neighbours. In the end the Church is with the winners and with those who provide the armies that could force the expansion of their ideological domain. As such imperialist states like Spain and France have been very much the favorites of the Popes through history.

Well, the case is that there is a long article in Gara today on the whereabouts of the Basque church: Roma prepara un golpe de timón en la iglesia vasca (Rome plots a U-turn in the Basque church). It's an abtruse topic for me, as I am not Christian and, in the line of what legends say of ancient lamiak, I never step inside a church. And I always say to dissident Catholics (most) to split from Rome and live their lives more happily. But for the sake of information I will try to synthetize what is going on.

The Basque church is devoid of priestly vocations: there are virtually no seminarists anymore and lay people have been getting in charge of the local churches and even officiating masses. Paradoxically it's maybe the only church of Spain that is not dependent on state subsidies (it's self-financed), so it's really an odd case. The local hierarchy, the bishops that were nominated in the 60s and 70s, under Fundamentalist Fascism, happened to be quite progressive ("liberal" in US terminology), always in the context of what Catholics are, and somewhat supportive of the Basque national claims (use of Basque language, support for working class demands, criticism against torture and state violence). This attitude was in line with the Vatican II Council but nowadays is not welcomed in Madrid nor in Rome anymore.

As time passes the old bishops die or retire and are being replaced by new ones, most of them foreigners and all very conservative. This what the article means by a "U-turn". The new bishops are educated in a spirit of obedience to authority that is pretty much against Vatican II and the prevailing feeling among Basque Catholics, but in agreement with the hierarchy of Madrid and Rome.

The problem is, as an unidentified insider mentions, that the new reactionary bishop will emphasize the contradictions inside a church that knows a lot of foral pass (traditional Basque legal practice towards foreign impositions: "acknowledged but not obeyed") and is not as easy to manipulate as some believe. The wisdom of our elders and common sense will prevail over disciplinary landings.

We'll see. Personally, would I be Christian, as many people I know (not a majority anymore certainly but still a significative minority), I would already have split from that fascist church. In fact I did when I was like 12 years old (how could they be against divorce?!) but later evolved towards atheism as the whole paradigm became more and more unbelievable, alien, meaningless. But for the believer it seems to me it would be the logical thing to do: break apart and reorganize in a grassroot fashion that is anything but alien to Basque culture and history. It's also probably the case in Latin America, where the Eurocentric, burgueoise and pro-Gringo hierarchy is nothing but a burden.

My two cents from the outside anyhow.

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