While anti-clericalism and secularist currents have a long history in Spain, recent events suggest a new stage of confrontation between the Catholic Church and other segments of Spanish society, reports The Tablet magazine (Feb. 5).
In the last year, clashes in the cultural arena between artists and Catholic officials also reveal new church-state tensions. The Madrid playwright Inigo Ramierez de Haro’s recently performed play, Me Cago en Dios, was controversial enough in its scatological references to God for the city’s Archbishop Antonio Maria Rouco Varela to seek blasphemy charges against the production. But it took the new film, The Sea Inside (Mar Adentro), to release the floodgates of church protest and indignation.
The film, nominated for an Oscar in the U.S., “makes an open plea for the legislation of euthanasia while poking fun at the church,” writes Julius Purcell. This comes at a time when Spain’s socialist government, elected after the terrorist attack last March, has infuriated the church with proposals for gay marriage and relaxation of the abortion and divorce laws.
Despite repeated denials, many Spanish Catholics fear that the government is planning to legalize euthanasia, particularly after Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero praised the Sea Inside as a “song to life.” The film is based on the real life and very public death of Ramon Sampedro, making the Sea Inside “a new symbol of Spain’s historical, social and political divide,” concludes Purcell.