The Roman Catholic Church criticized the Spanish Government’s plans to legalize gay marriage, saying Monday that it would be like releasing a virus into society. Spain—which was until recently one of Europe’s most devout countries—may see homosexuals “marrying” as early as next year, said the government.
Sources say the Spanish Cabinet is expected to pass a bill on Friday allowing same-sex “marriages,” setting predominantly Roman Catholic Spain on course to join the vanguard of largely secular northern European countries that allow gay marriage or some version of it.
The bill has prompted a harsh response from Roman Catholic bishops, who have already expressed disapproval of the Socialist government’s agenda of social reforms, such as streamlined divorce and a relaxed abortion law.
"It would impose on society a virus, something false, which will have negative consequences for social life," said Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, spokesman for the Spanish Bishops Conference.
Camino said the church has nothing against homosexuals but feels a union of two people of the same sex is simply not marriage.
Allowing this would create "a counterfeit currency in the body of society," Camino said in an interview on Spanish National Television.
Reports say the changes have distressed and outraged the Church, whose influence on Spaniards has declined precipitously since the death in 1975 of the dictator General Francisco Franco, whose right wing regime was closely linked to the church.
Polls show that nearly half of Spain's Catholics almost never go to Mass, and a third say they are simply not religious. And according to a survey published Monday in the newspaper El Pais, which supports the Socialist party, 62 percent of those questioned support gay marriage.
If Spain legalizes marriage it would be the third nation in the world to do so, joining the Netherlands and Belgium, which legalized marriage in September 2000 and January 2003 respectively. Sweden and Denmark have "civil union" laws for same-sex couples, short of allowing outright gay marriage. However, in both of these countries the union can be blessed by the Lutheran Church, which is the official state religion.
After Friday's expected approval in a Cabinet meeting, the bill goes to Parliament for debate.