Dear Christian Sisters and Brothers,
We are sending you a fraternal letter. We want to know your opinion about some issues that are happening in our Spanish Church, and to search together for a fair solution based on the Gospels. The facts are of such importance that they cannot leave us indifferent. Some of them fill us with satisfaction but others cause us perplexity and anxiety.
1. We rejoice in the acts of solidarity that, in this pandemia, many of our brothers and sisters are carrying out from parishes and communities serving the most vulnerable people. Although it is not a final solution, the care for vulnerable persons is a christian imperative and virtue. We are happy that these areas of attention exist for vulnerable people at no cost to the recipients.
2. But, on the other hand, we are very perplexed by another news item
that is also happening in our Church and which fills us with sadness. We refer specifically to the Immatriculations*. In our opinion, this is not a minor issue. From the information that is reaching us, this matter is having a great impact both within our own community, among the more conscientious brothers and sisters, and outside the Church itself.
If what Asociacion Recuperando states is true, we would be facing a monumental scandal that would bring the Catholic Church into disrepute and shame those of us who, of our own free will, continue to belong to it.
In this letter we are not going to go into the confusing origins of the religious heritage that has been inmatriculated (as to who was the author) , nor into its legal dimension (its legality and legitimacy). We leave this task to other specialists in the field. We limit ourselves to simply echoing the news that is reaching us these days and to propose a Christian solution to this problem.
* It is said that the Catholic Church has immatriculated, that is to say, it has appropriated and registered some 100,000 properties from the national heritage that belong to all the citizens of Spain. The Spanish Government, at the repeated insistence of different civil and religious associations associations, has made public a list of some 35,000 buildings and grounds, whose apparent owner is currently the Catholic Church and it is not known if all these heritage properties fall under the suspicion of misappropriation.
This list is being scrupulously examined by specialists and, for the time being, they have already pointed out significant shortcomings and defects in the list.
Firstly, the list is insufficient because it only covers one of the three periods in which the registration of ownership of these heritage properties has taken place, namely the period between 1998 (the reform of the Mortgage Law by the Aznar Government) and 2015 (the annulment of the bishops' registration privilege by the Rajoy Government). The other two periods - between 1946 (the entry into force of Franco's Mortgage Law granting registration privileges to the bishops) and 1978 (the approval of the Spanish Constitution), and between that date and 1998 (Aznar's reform) - do not appear on this list. In other words, more than 50 years are missing from the Government's list!
But, in addition, the list is defective because it does not allow the properties to be adequately identified. Under the word "aledanyos" (adjoining areas), there are other buildings or places as emblematic as the Giralda or the Patio de los Naranjos, described as "aledanyos" of the cathedral of Seville.
Specialists point out that the procedure devised to resolve possible conflicts of ownership of these properties is very complex and in fact involves official recognition of the Church's current ownership. Because, if someone (an individual or legal entity) claims ownership of a given property, they have to report it to the competent authorities and prove it. And this means such a multiplication of judicial interventions and such a cost for the possible denouncers that they will end by giving up, as impossible, the restitution of these heritage sites. Consequently, this implies a disguised amnesty for these disputed properties.
3. Faced with this phenomenon, we are surprised by the silence of our bishops who have not made any resounding declaration denying the truth of these facts. It is not possible to turn the page when the data is so scandalous. We think that, if the figures turn out to be true, the immatriculation carried out by the bishops and registrars has been a monumental mistake.
This is because we do not quite understand what objectives were being sought. The Catholic Church, with respect to the properties destined for worship, was already using and possessing them with general tacit consent. Was it not aware that the use and possession was being carried out without the need to also have ownership? Did it not realise that it was unduly exercising a privilege graciously granted by the Franco Regime and continued in democracy, a privilege that goes against the equality and justice proclaimed in the Spanish Constitution? Was it unaware that these are properties that belong to the common heritage, that they are "demanial" assets, i.e.: publically owned properties, which, being in the public domain, are inalienable, unprescriptible and not subject to embargoes? (Legal Dictionary of the RAE (Royal Spanish Academy)
4. Finally, we cannot forget that these appropriations of ownership affect very directly the content and essence of our Christian faith. It will be difficult for us to maintain or build a Christian Church today without taking into account Jesus' attitude to the ownership of property. The Gospel mentions the rich young man that could not follow Jesus "because he had many properties". And Luke's beatitudes, the Magnificat and the Letter of James are enough to remind us of how the early communities understood the radicalism involved in following Jesus.
In this spirit, referring to the "common destiny of goods", Pope Francis says in the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si': "The Christian tradition never recognised the right to private property as absolute or untouchable and emphasised the social function of any form of private property" (n.93).
If these matters turn out to be as they have been reported, it is worth asking ourselves not only about a "legality" made with privilege, but also about the "christian and ecclesiastical legitimacy" of acts done in the name of a whole Church (formally a community, a collectivity), without consulting male and female christians. Is this not a clear sign of patriarchalism that openly contradicts the statute of equality of all women and men in the faith? Is it possible to understand today an institution (a Church) where the leaders ignore the members?
Faced with the gravity of this news, Spanish Catholics need to react and join our voices to those who from different places are demanding, on the one hand, that the Spanish Bishops' Conference give a clear and exhaustive explanation of the truth of the facts; and, on the other hand, that the public authorities cancel the immatriculations carried out by the bishops without accrediting documents.
The dimensions of these events are not limited, in our opinion, to the massive immatriculation of property, but also encompass other factors that affect all the catholic faithful very directly, such as the financing of the Church and, above all, property as understood from the perspective of the Gospel. The solution to these problems is not only in the hands of our leaders, it is a matter for the entire Spanish Church.
In this sense, we ask you:
Will you support our request for a National Assembly of the Spanish Church (Synod) at the beginning of 2022 to find a solution to these problems?
Before we say goodbye, we hope for your understanding and we encourage you to join us in this effort in requiring a public presence of the Church more in line with the Gospel.
A fraternal and affectionate embrace.
St. Thomas Aquinas Community
Popular Christian Communities
Grassroots Christian Women and Men in Madrid
Kindly click on Inmatriculations to read the original text in Spanish
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)