Bishops in Spain have sharply criticised the Catalan independence movement after Sunday’s violence, although Church leaders within the region have defended the vote.
The day after the vote, Demetrio Fernández, Bishop of Córdoba, said “the fatherland is in danger” and blamed the situation on a “deterioration in the moral life and a desire to banish God”.
Referring to a rise in patriotic sentiment across the rest of Spain in the wake of the vote, the bishop said: “Love of the fatherland sprouts from the Fourth Commandment of the Law of God, which requires us to honour our parents and includes obligations towards the fatherland and its legitimate authorities.”
The bishop expressed his “support, affection and appreciation for the [Spanish] police, the rule of law and the constitutional order.”
The Archbishop of Oviedo, meanwhile, condemned the Catalan independence movement and accused nationalist politicians of using the region’s education system to indoctrinate children.
What is happening now, he said, is the result of a school system that tries to “use the innocence and vulnerability, the malleability, of children and young people” so they can put up this fight.
Although wanting independence is not itself a sin, the bishop added, if one “defends it with lies, with violence, with maliciousness, with corruption, with misappropriation, that is immoral, that indeed is a sin.”
On the day of the vote, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, the Archbishop of Valencia, said there is “no Spain without Catalonia nor Catalonia without Spain”.
“The Catalans are inseparable from the rest of the Spanish people, they are our brothers and friends,” he said.
Bishops in Catalonia, however, condemned police violence and called for politicians to respect the rights of the Catalan people.
As voting drew to a close on Sunday, the Archbishop of Barcelona, Cardinal Juan José Omella, condemned the “deplorable” violence and called for the “God of peace” to intervene.
The Bishop of Solsona, Xavier Novell, made a point of turning out to vote in the referendum. He later said he admired “the courage and peaceful resistance of those who defended the legitimate exercise of the right to self-determination of our people,” referring to people who occupied polling stations to stop the police closing them.
He also condemned “all the acts of violence that have happened, especially those committed by ‘public servants’” and likened the Spanish police to a paramilitary group.
“I ask that all politicians work towards of peaceful and just outcome for the Catalan nation that respects the legitimate rights of this people, of which the right to self-determination is the most important.”