an essential part of a hierarchical society and possessor of immense riches used to sustain a numerous body ofpriests and religious, the imposing church of the past staggered before the liberal offensive. Moreover, the ecclesiastical changes associated with liberalism posed a religious challenge for the church. The disappearance of the male religious orders during the i830s, until their reintroduction later in the century, deprived the church ofan important instrument of popular evangelisation, while the controls imposed on the parochial clergy during the civil wars of the period disrupted parish life significantly in many regions.
With few exceptions, clerical and lay defenders of the church saw liberal ecclesiastical policies as the fatal result of corrosive, secular ideas bent on the destruction of religion. The reformers of the Cortes of Cadiz (1810-13), Spain's first modern parliamentary assembly, were accused of passing legislation 'under the cover of every kind of insult to religion and its dogmas'.2 In fact, every Spanish and Portuguese constitution ofthe nineteenth century affirmed Catholicism as the state's religion. With the exception of the Spanish constitution of 1869, none authorised the introduction of religious liberty, although the Portuguese constitution of 1822 and the constitutional charter of 1826 allowed the private practice of other religions, as did the Spanish constitution of 1876. Legislation ordering religious instruction in primary schools (Portugal, 1832, 1836; Spain, 1838) remained on the books into the early twentieth century. Moreover, no liberal governments in Spain and Portugal ever contemplated abandoning the crown's historic patronage rights over episcopal appointments. The issue at stake was never Catholicism or anti-Catholicism. Liberals sought to redefine the church's place in a political and social order radically different from that of the eighteenth century in the interests of a 'pure, peaceful and perfect religion' practised through a church working harmoniously within the new liberal society and its political and social institutions.3
Fulfilling this expectation proved impossible. Spanish and Portuguese liberals carried out a political revolution, but their ideas on civil-ecclesiastical relations fell within the regalist tradition of eighteenth-century absolute monarchy. This was not only a question of control over episcopal appointments and ecclesiastical resources, it also involved the direct involvement of the state in virtually every sphere of the church's activities, even those of a pastoral nature. In Spain, for example, the Cortes of 1820 proposed a radical parochial
2 Quoted in Cuenca Toribio, 'La Iglesia sevillana', pp. 155-6.
3 Longares Alonso, Politicay religion en Barcelona, p. 207.
Was this article helpful?