The Spanish Network for Refugees has initiated criminal proceedings against the Archbishop of Valencia, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, charging him with inciting “hate crimes,” after the prelate spoke out publicly against a reigning “gay empire,” criticized radical feminist groups and decried Europe’s open-door policy toward migrants.
In their statement, the network said that Cañizares “is an ultra-conservative trying to subvert the constitutional order,” and accused him of nostalgia for “other times when immigrants, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals and women were subjected to the dictates of a society governed by the powers of the Catholic Church.”
The advocacy group claims that the archbishop, nicknamed “Little Ratzinger” because of his theological acumen and similarities to Pope Benedict, has criticized feminist organizations as well as speaking out against European policy toward migrants.
The statement said that in his opposition to open borders, the Cardinal was “aligning himself with neo-Fascist organizations” which, like Cañizares, “consider persons of other ethnicities or religious beliefs as dangerous and potentially criminal.”
Last month, Cañizares slammed the “gay empire” for its attacks on the family, as well as joining Pope Francis in criticizing “gender ideology,” which he reportedly described as “the most insidious ideology in the history of humanity.”
The Cardinal spoke these words on the eve of the International Day Against Lesbophobia, Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, at a Mass celebrated in the chapel at the Catholic University of Valencia.
The Cardinal recently flew to Rome for a Jubilee year pilgrimage, where he had a private audience with Pope Francis.
In their statement, the Network said that the Archbishop had manifested an “evident disdain” toward groups at risk of social exclusion, and moreover had launched “a frontal attack on human rights and the whole system of protection of minorities, under Constitutional protection in our legal system.”
The statement did not offer an opinion regarding the protection of free speech, a sore point among human rights groups in Spain.
In March 2015, the Spanish senate voted to enact controversial changes to the nation’s public security laws, in what many saw as suppression of the rights of freedom of assembly and expression. At the time, Virginia Pérez Alonso of the Platform in Defense of Freedom of Information called the legislation “one of the worst attacks on liberties that we’ve seen in Spain since the times of Franco.”
As the New York Times gingerly noted in reference to the Spanish ruling, some European countries “have long placed stricter limits on political and hate speech than has the United States.”
Some civil liberties groups “are growing increasingly alarmed at the broad ways such laws are being adapted,” the paper observed, and “there is no telling how the statutes could be applied in the future.”
Joining the attack on Cardinal Cañizares was Monica Oltra, the vice president of the Valencian government, who said that the Cardinal’s words “encourage a feeling of hatred and associated crimes,” accusing him of throwing around “misogynistic messages that devalue the image of women” as well as the LGBT community.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome