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Spain Diary Notes

Bell tower of the Seville cathedral (Dan Lewis/Shutterstock)

A few odds and ends from the trip so far:

1. The Spanish reader who tipped me off about the radical sex education the provincial government of Navarra is forcing on all schools there writes with more information:

To reply to some commentators, colleagues and people generally recognize how radical Skolae is…it is every bit as radical as it seems to be, encouraging all sorts of erotic games and role playing for the very young, etc etc.

Back in Nov. there was hope Catholic and other “concerted” schools would be exempted from Skolae, and CitizenGo/Haszteoir Christian online platform even sent out an email claiming this partial victory. Then they had to correct themselves, as the regional government confirmed it would be applicable to everyone, including Opus Dei schools (the same ones being choked off by the new numbers limitations- people in the know tell me all of this is to make Navarra less attractive to large Catholic families coming in [it was a magnet for years], and to force some out, like we had to do — as we went to live in another region). Let me see later if I can find an update, but

A few links on the underhanded efforts to choke off Catholic “concerted” schools [those that have a partial state subsidy] with class-size limits:


Blog posting on the matter with a slide show of additional related articles:

2. Last night in the Sevilla audience, someone said that they didn’t understand what the big deal was about the Benedict Option. Aren’t we Christians supposed to be doing these things already? The answer is yes! But we are not doing them. The Ben Op is a call to repentance.

But it is more than that. It is also a call to recognize that we small-o orthodox Christians live in a world that is far more hostile to what we believe to be true. Accepting that reality requires us to be far more countercultural than we are accustomed to. It means we will have to radically adjust our expectations for life, and develop new ways of living out the faith that build resistance and resilience. We have to be what Benedict XVI called “creative minorities” — accepting the reality that ours is a post-Christian society, but responding to it with creativity.

In The Benedict Option, I give examples of Christians doing exactly this (e.g., the Tipi Loschi of Italy, the Benda family of Prague, the Catholics of St. Jerome School in Hyattsville, Maryland, and others). One main goal of the book is to wake up Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Christians, and encourage them to form networks of mutual support, and foster creative resistance to the Zeitgeist.

3. Last night in Sevilla, a woman in the audience was overheard remarking that one wishes for the courage simply to stand up and say that what is going on is crazy and intolerable. Everyone she knows says this privately, but no one is willing to say it publicly, because they are afraid of the Left. They are afraid of being called a fascist, a bigot, and so forth. This fear must be cast out. I learned from a local I met yesterday in Andalucia that the political party Vox, which was recently voted into regional government in a province that has always voted Left since Franco’s death.

The press calls Vox a “far-right” party, which says more about the media than it does Vox, I’m guessing, but I refrain from passing judgment until and unless I know more about the party. My interlocutor told me that the people he knows that voted for Vox are not racists at all, but they are above all sick and tired of the endless inflow of migrants from Africa, who land on Spain’s shores then disappear into Europe. And they’re tired of being told by the left and the mainstream that they are racists for wanting to keep Spain like it is. They see the mainstream conservative parties as useless in fighting for Spain.

Again, I don’t know enough about this party to support or oppose it. I’m simply repeating what an Andalucian who came to hear my speech said to me. I suppose he could have been misleading me, but this same pattern can be observed all over Europe, and even in the United States: people don’t understand why they should be ashamed to surrender their countries and their traditions, and they are fed up with political correctness making them afraid to say what’s on their mind.

One thing I hope comes out of my Ben Op tour of Spain: that I will have encouraged traditional Spanish Catholics to realize that they are not alone in this country, that there are others who agree with them, and who are tired of dealing with Catholic schools that are Catholic in name only, and sick of dealing with governments that seem determined to destroy the faith and its practices.

4. Politics, though, cannot answer every problem. In talking with Andalucians yesterday, I heard that young Spaniards are strongly resisting marriage, and starting families. Spain has one of Europe’s highest rates of delaying marriage; the average age of first marriage for men is 38, and for women 35. The number of church weddings in Spain is remarkably low — only about one in five.  More:

Now, Pérez-Agote feels that Spain is undergoing a third wave of secularization.

“Today’s youngsters are the children of people who have no interest in religion; when they think about getting married they don’t think about doing so through the Church, which feels alien to them,” he notes.

I heard two adult Catholics in Andalucia — neither married, both wanting to be — saying that it is very, very hard to find marriage partners who take the faith seriously. Seems to me to be one very important Benedict Option project: establishing a network through which serious Christians can find each other and marry. Last year in Italy, someone told me that Catholic families like his are in touch with other young Catholic families, all of whom have a Benedict Option attitude towards the future of the faith, and who are building family networks in hope that their children, having been raised as serious Catholics, will marry each other and raise Catholic families. Said this man, “This is how the Church is going to survive in Europe during this century.”

Anyway, politics can’t solve the problem of the steep decline of marriage culture. A few years ago, I spoke to an American academic who studies family formation and cultural factors. He had been hired by the European Union to do a paper recommending ways to raise the fertility rate without religion. He told me that he researched the question, and reported back that it couldn’t be done. They were not happy with that result. Apparently in a modern society, unless you believe that children are a primary good, the reasons not to have children are convincing. But that’s how a people dies off.

For what it’s worth…

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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