Sticking their noses where they don’t belong

Freedom of expression and religion is apparently a flexible concept. At least as far as the city council of the town of Alaca in Spain is concerned. Apparently, the aforementioned freedoms are rights which only apply if you say things that the popular majority agrees with. That is what the Catholics of the Diocese of Alcalá de Henares recently discovered as the aforementioned city council called for the removal of Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Plá, following statements which were deemed homophobic.

Following Bishop Reig Plá’s Good Friday homily, in which he formulated the Church’s teaching that homosexual acts are inherently disordered and criticised sexual behaviour in modern society, several leftist organisations, together with Spain’s Socialist Party, tabled a motion to have the bishop transferred to another diocese, as well as banning him from all official functions in the city.

The diocese’s response rightly called this “a sad and intolerable violation of human rights and of the principle of the separation of Church and state”. Bishop Reig Plá has the support of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, his own priests, the International Federation of Associations of Catholic Doctors, and, strikingly, some 20 individuals with same-sex attraction from his diocese.

Reading all this, I have to wonder why people continue to be surprised when a bishop supports Catholic teaching? Is it because they somehow assume that the Church is in favour of current sexual morality and the behaviour of some homosexual people? Do they think that a bishop who says something that is difficult and challenging is out of touch with  the Church? Bishop Reig Plá’s words are nothing new. Sexual behaviour in modern society is a source of serious concern, and certain examples of homosexualist behaviour, such as gay pride marches, do nothing but sexualising the human person under the banner of tolerance. Well, it should be clear that exactly these groups, as well as many on the left side of the political spectrum, are the ones who are intolerant. It is they who do not allow different opinions and apparently consider basic human rights and freedoms to be selectively applicable.

The modern response to some undesired statements is the call for the banishment of everyone and everything that is not in full agreement with the opinion of the popular majority (or what some people think the popular majority should think and want). That is not freedom or tolerance. It is intolerance and the dictatorship of relativism.

Everyone enjoys the right to freely express themselves and to live according to their faith. These are basic human rights. No one has to agree with what a person says, but that person still has every right to say it, without suffering criminal prosecution or political harassment. Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Plá is a shepherd and teacher of his people. On Good Friday he taught about sexual morality. He has every right and duty to do so, and no one has a right to force him from performing the duties he was consecrated for.

WYD destinations – Madrid

Cardinal Rouco Varela, seen her presenting the WYD backpack to the pope, will be hosting the WYD for the second time

When we leave Zaragoza for Madrid on 15 August, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, archbishop in the Spanish capital, will be receiving the youth of the world for the second time in his career as bishop. When the World Youth Days of 1989 were held in Santiago de Compostela, he was archbishop there. In 1994 he was moved to Madrid, where, from 16 to 21 August, the 2011 edition of the WYD will take place.

The Metropolitan Archdiocese of Madrid lies in the Spanish heartland. It is one of the smaller dioceses in size, but not in population, since it contains the urban sprawl of the Spanish capital. There are an estimated 3.5 million Catholics  (about 90% of the total population) living in the archdiocese. As a diocese, Madrid is not very old. Only in 1885 was it split off from the Archdiocese of Toledo. In 1964 it became an Archdiocese, but it took until 1991 for two suffragan dioceses, Alcalá de Henares and Getafe, to be split off from Madrid., and it to become a Metropolitan see. The map below shows the location of the triangular Province of Madrid, with the archdiocese in dark green.

Map showing the location of the Archdiocese of Madrid

The current episcopal hierarchy of Madrid consists of the aforementioned Cardinal Rouco Varela and three auxiliary bishops – Msgr. César Franco Martínez, Msgr. Fidel Herráez Vegas and Msgr. Juan Martínez Camino.

The cathedral of the archdiocese if the Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena – the Cathedral of Our Lady of Almudena – located on the western edge of Madrid’s old centre. It is also a fairly new cathedral, only consecrated by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1993.

It is not known yet if the cathedral will be playing a part in our own travel plans. While in Madrid, there will be daily Masses as well as catechesis session, but the latter will be taking place in the Basílica de Nuestro Padre Jesús de Medinaceli, located only a few hundred meters from the location where Pope Benedict XVI will be welcomed into the city on 18 August. The basilica is built around a statue of Jesus the Nazarene, which has gained a solid devotion over the course of centuries. It is said to play a part in the Stations of the Cross on 19 August.

The interior of the Basilica of Our Father Jesus of Medinaceli