Sunday, January 31, 2016

Interview with Juan José Tamayo: "Educational centers can't be places to catechize young people"

by Cristina Corte (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Redes Cristianas
January 28, 2016

"Spain isn't secular. Articles in the Consitution impeded it, so it's necessary to reform it," points out the professor of Theology and Religion in the Modern World.


Juan José Tamayo Acosta (Palencia, 1946) is professor of Theology and Religion in the Modern World at the Universidad Carlos III in Madrid and from there he also directs the Ignacio Ellacuría Chair in Theology and Religious Science. He is also one of the most prestigious and recognized voices at the national and international level. Professor Tamayo advocates a reform of the Spanish Constitution to "put an end to the privileges of the Church." Professor Juan José Tamayo is the author of 72 publications in which he supports liberation theology.

Tamayo also works actively in the area of feminism, specifically in the critical study and analysis of sacred masculinity, based on patriarchy. He got a degree in theology from the Pontifical University of Comillas in 1971 and a doctorate in theology from Salamanca in 1976. He has been a professor at various institutions in Spain and America. He also has a diploma in Social Science from the Instituto León XIII in 1972 and a degree (1983) and doctorate (1990) in Philosophy and Letters from the Universidad Autónoma in Madrid.

Theologian Juan José Tamayo Acosta visited Llanes for the first time to participate in a discussion on non-denominationalism, the state and religion, in which he denounced Spain's lack of secularism and called for constitutional reform "put an end to the privileges of the Church."

Is Spain secular?

It's neither secular nor non-denominational. The Spanish Constitution has two articles that prevent it from being so -- 16.3 and 27 -- and therefore it's necessary to reform it. The first puts the [Catholic] Church in a seat of honor and establishes second tier religions. The second allows for the incorporation of religion in the schools not as information but as an element in ethics. In addition, after the Parliament approved the Constitution in full, agreements with the Holy See were disclosed, which are an update of the Concordat and provide lots of fiscal, educational, cultural, military and legal privileges to the Church. In Spain there has been a political transition, with many limitations, but not a religious one and there are still residues of national Catholicism.

Should religion be taught in educational centers?

It doesn't need to disappear, but the centers can't be places to catechize and convert young people to one religion. It should be studied as a history of religions that is secular, scientific, critical. A cleric, an imam, a rabbi or a minister doesn't have to teach it by virtue of being such, but a specialized person regardless of their connection with any religion. Nor should religious authorities intervene in the development of the program, evaluation criteria, and the selection of teachers, as is happening now, because it's an undemocratic interference.

Is there a difference between a secular and a non-denominational state?

There is a 2001 Constitutional Court ruling which says it is indistinct. Some conservatives think that secularism is a way of organizing society that persecutes religion and defends atheism, but it's not. Secularism is an organizational model of state in which the cohesion criterion of those who are part of it, is the principle of citizenship, and the focus is human rights.

Are secular states more democratic?

Yes, because the secular state rules for everyone from legal criteria based on the Constitution and ethics based on human rights. A confessional state can't be democratic because it treats the believers of the religion it professes preferentially over the rest of the citizens.

Are the governments in Spain at the service of the Church?

All the governments of the democracy have been hostages of the Catholic Church. The Centrist ones, which bore the brunt of the drafting of the Constitution, but also the Socialists, who in their fourteen years in office didn't take one step forward in the separation of church and state and maintained the agreements and privileges with the Holy See that could have been denounced. It's reflected when they're sworn into office with the Bible and crucifix next to the Constitution.

What about the emerging parties?

They are bound by their own program, in which they advocate separation of religion and state and removal of privileges, to establish disengagement with the Vatican.

Are religions necessary nowadays?

I dare not say they're necessary. The religious dimension isn't inscribed in human nature; it's a personal option that you choose, live out and transmit in the social and community environment, and that can lead you to happiness, although throughout history it has made human beings more unhappy because of the image of God that has been presented, the dogma and repressive morality.

What role should religion play in these times?

Religion's place is in the excluded areas, the world of marginalization and poverty, of oppression. It must exercise a critical role in a world of inequality between the poor and the rich.

You were critical of John Paul II and Ratzinger. Are you in a honeymoon period with Pope Francis?

I'm in a spirit of critical dialogue, but it's true that he's working in the right direction. To come to fruition, he has to democratize the Church, incorporating women and transforming the Vatican Curia.

Hasn't the attitude of the papacy towards women changed with Francis?

No, he follows the same exclusionary line as his predecessors, which is reflected in the refusal to recognize women priests, the yielding of responsibility and access to the sacred. Francis has to be clear that without feminism, any attempt to reform the Church will end in failure.

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