Eventos Académicos, 39 ISCHE. Educación y emancipación

Tamaño de fuente: 
Two models of resistance to laicism. The opposition of the Catholic Church to laic policies in the Spanish, Austrian and German republics during the interwar period
Antonio Francisco Canales Serrano

Última modificación: 2017-07-17


Austria, Germany and Spain presented during the interwar years the remarkable parallelism of rehearsing a democratic and progressive republican regime that attempted to develop a laic education policy. In both cases, this policy founded the radical opposition of the Catholic Church. However, the Church's views regarding laicism in education were very different in each country and respond to two different models of understanding of the presence of the Catholic religion in education.

The Spanish case has a great similarity with the French model. The Spanish republicans never hid their open admiration for the Third French Republic that was the guide for much of their political approaches. Thus, once in power, they tried to apply in Spain a model of laicism based on the absence of religion in schools complemented by the prohibition of running schools to religious orders. This constituted a frontal attack against the Spanish Catholic educative program, since its priority had always been to defend and expand the Church’s network of schools against state schools. And, in fact, the Catholic victory in the Spanish Civil War meant not only the Christianization of all educational practices under Franco regime, but especially the contraction of the public-school network, especially in secondary schools, and the unprecedented expansion of schools owned by the Church. Consequently, the school network of the Church was, and is still nowadays, the key question in the debate about laicism and education in Spain.

However, this never was a central point for the Catholic Church in Germany and Austria, since in these countries the Church did not have a network of schools comparable to the Spanish one or the French one before the prohibition of 1904. The priority for the German Church was the survival of a school system organized by denominational lines, which made denomination a fundamental criterion not only for the character of the school, but also for the definition of teachers and their training. Hence, its opposition to the projects of interdenominational schools under the Weimar Republic. The situation was very similar in Austria during the first Republic. In both cases the struggle did not dealt with the Church schools and their circumstances, but rather about the denominational nature of the public education system.

The German and Austria approaches define a second model of resistance to laicism very different from that of Spain and France, but also of Belgium and Latin America, countries where the question was the Church-owned school network. Taking into account this second model when talking about laicism and education can be useful for a comprehensive approach to the question.