When I was young, which I admit was long ago, Spain was considered one of the most devout Catholic countries in Europe. Franco was at the height of his power and as church and state were intertwined no doubt devotion to the Church of Roman was one way of showing your equal devotion to the Caudillo – the chief.
In the intervening years, especially since democracy was introduced, there has been a major shift from dominance by the church to a more secular society. True Spaniards still show great devotion to the Semana Santa processions at Easter and to the celebrations for their local patron saint but they have little to do with organised religion.
Now according to data issued by the National Institute of Statistics (INE) there has been a major shift in how Spaniards get married. In 2009 more people tied the knot in a civil ceremony rather than the Catholic Church.
Last year 94,993 weddings were civil compared with 80,174 officiated in a church. In 2008 the church held 99,104 wedding services (19 per cent more than last year) whilst the civil total was 94,170. In 2009 there were also785 services involving “other rites” which is inline with previous years.
Since 2000 the number of civil weddings each year has increased whilst at the same time the number of church services have collapsed. In that year there were 163,636 church weddings whilst those carried out by judges, mayors, councillors and authorized people stood at just 52,255.
The senior professor of Sociology and professor of investigation of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientifícas, María de los Angeles Durán, says the explanation is the general process of secularization in Spain and the effects of the economic crisis.
Indeed the state of the economy may have speeded up the trend to secularization but whilst it is true that the Catholic Church is the major religion in Spain it is equally true that Spaniards are no longer devout Catholics.