We are moving (Lord willing) to a very diverse city where some of the following statements may not be true. After all, they are statements about the country as a whole. Either way, here’s a snapshot of what we’re getting ourselves into.
In Spain the church presents all these contradictions: it is culturally very strong, and rooted in one half of a divided society. It is losing its sway over people’s behaviour but retains a loud and controversial voice. Some 28% of people in Spain call themselves practising Catholics, and another 46% non-practising Catholics; as many as 38% profess devotion to a particular saint or image of Christ or the Virgin Mary. But secularism, and a long-term backlash against the Catholic authoritarianism of the past, is on the march: 2009 was the year when town-hall weddings finally overtook those in church.
In recent weeks thousands of Spanish Catholics have joined church-backed rallies against a new, liberal abortion law, part of the ruling Socialists’ programme of radical change. In other measures, gay marriage has been legalised and religious (in effect, Catholic) education has been downgraded. Rallies in favour of the new abortion law were just as large, though, and a centre-right government would be unlikely to change it. The church can still mobilise, but it cannot impose its will.