Church and State in Contemporary Europe: The Chimera of Neutrality

Church and State in Contemporary Europe: The Chimera of Neutrality

Church and State in Contemporary Europe: The Chimera of Neutrality

Church and State in Contemporary Europe: The Chimera of Neutrality

Synopsis

Recent developments in European societies are re-shaping relations between the church and religion and the legal, social and political processes that have traditionally held sway across the continent. These essays examine the current situation as it relates to the principle of state religious neutrality.

Excerpt

Catholicism and Democratic Consolidation in Spain and Poland

John anderson

The processes of democratisation evident in many parts of the globe since the mid-1970s have thrown up major challenges for religious institutions in general and the Roman Catholic Church in particular. For several centuries the latter institution had at best been sceptical about, and more commonly openly opposed, to democratic government, but during the post-war years the church came to favour and sometimes actively promote democratisation. in part this shift arose out of the post-war capitalist-communist confrontation which made democracy look the lesser evil, but it also stemmed from the intellectual and practical decisions emerging from the Second Vatican Council. in consequence, in Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Asia many (though not all) national hierarchies came to support movements for political liberalisation. Hence in Spain a new generation of bishops led by Archbishop Tarancón sought to distance themselves from the Franco regime and to criticise its social and human rights policies, whilst in communist Poland the Catholic Church provided a major space and voice for those critical of the communist system. However, once democratic governance had been achieved the two national churches faced new problems as they sought to define their role in rapidly changing polities and societies.

This article explores the efforts of two national hierarchies to develop their relationships with the new democratic orders, in particular during what political scientists describe as the 'consolidation' phase. the concept of 'transition' is generally used to refer to the process whereby the authoritarian regime is replaced by a new order enjoying democratic legitimacy. Yet in some ways the next task, that of consolidating democratic governance, is far more problematic insofar as it may involve changing the practice and attitudes of public and elites towards political power. Political leaders have to acquire the skills of bargaining and negotiation in a more open political setting, and be willing to abide by the democratic 'rules of the

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