Guest commentary by María José Mansilla-Arcos, director of Association Spei Mater, HLI’s affiliate in Spain.
The Institute for Family Policy in Spain recently published a report titled Demography and Birthrate in Spain. Even though demography is not often publicly discussed in Spain, the report has been picked up by the mass media due to its devastating conclusions: Spaniards are extinguishing themselves.
What has happened in Spain? How did we arrive at this point? The Spanish are beginning to discuss the reasons that couples either do not have children or have fewer of them. While many lay the primary blame upon the economic problems suffered by the nation, this does not explain the dramatic shortfall: the wealthiest families do not necessarily have more children, and immigrants seem to have the highest fertility, though they are as a group the most disadvantaged socially and economically.
The report also considers the question of whether longer work days and lowering job stability are exerting downward pressure on fertility. Not considered in the report is the perspective that the collapse is cultural: Spain is a country that has been devastated by the culture of death.
Spain holds a strategic importance for those who see progressive social engineering as the way to the future. The nation once widely referred to as “Catholic Spain” has long been a testing ground for policies that inhibit fertility and give the state greater importance than the family.
Several laws have eroded our social and moral consciousness. The ‘Aído Law’ of 2010 (named after Bibiana Aído, who was the former Minister of Women’s Equality of Spain) declared that abortion is a “human right.” Other laws promoted widespread divorce and redefined marriage to include couples of the same sex. Worst of all, there is no national political party in Spain that promotes pro-life and pro-family policies. All of the political parties accept without question the ideology of the culture of death, and attack anyone who is opposed to them.
When analyzing the situation in Spain, one must mention the 2014 diocesan open letter written by Bishop Juan Antonio Reig-Plá of the Diocese of Alcalá de Henares, which was titled: ‘For a bowl of lentil soup’ (in reference to Esau, who in the Old Testament sold his birthright for a bowl of soup).
In his letter, Bishop Reig-Plá discussed the withdrawal of a 2014 bill that would have amended the abortion law, at least reinstating several of the abortion restrictions removed by the “Aido Law.” It would not have been a strong pro-life law, but it would have provided some level of protection for the unborn child in the country. Bishop Reig-Plá claimed that the reason that the bill failed was that Spain wanted to become a member of the United Nations National Security Council, a position that it obtained soon after. In 2013, the Spanish prelate received Human Life International’s Cardinal Von Galen Award for his courage in defending life and family in his country.
The study mentioned above proposes several measures to alleviate the dire demographic situation in Spain, most having to do with an increase in maternity support measures and compensation for each born child. All of these policies might be helpful: In several of the European countries where these policies are being implemented, one can see a small increase in national birthrates.
Nevertheless, the battle is more encompassing and profound. It is a battle against an anti-culture where human life has no intrinsic value and no dignity, where children are not seen as a gift from God. Instead children are seen as subject to the desire of adults. If they are not desired, they are discarded. If they are desired, then every method possible is employed to obtain them, such as by in-vitro fertilization or surrogate motherhood.
As Saint Paul reminds us in Ephesians chapter 6, “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” At the same time, one must look to the future with hope, knowing that God has already overcome all evil. Spain, which sadly finds itself in the present malaise, is also a land of great saints and great deeds carried out on behalf of the faith. Each of us must serve this great mission of proclaiming the Gospel of Life. Let us embrace life and the Author of life, who has told us that: “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”