On Tuesday, the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office of Valencia initiated criminal proceedings against the Archbishop of Valencia, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, who has been charged with inciting “hate crimes,” after the prelate spoke out in a homily against a reigning “gay empire,” criticized radical feminist groups, and decried Europe’s open-door policy toward migrants.
“The family is haunted today, in our culture, by an endless threat of serious difficulties, and this is not hidden from anyone,” Cañizares said in his May 13 homily, pronounced 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.
“We have legislation contrary to the family, the action of political and social forces, with added movements and actions of the gay empire, of ideas such as radical feminism, or the most insidious of all, gender theory,” he said.
A criminal complaint was filed on June 3 by the Lambda LGBT collective accusing the Cardinal of hate speech. Cañizares subsequently retracted his expression and offered an apology, if his words had “hurt or bothered anyone.”
In response, Lambda lashed out at the Cardinal, stating that his words are “full of hatred, homophobic and sexist, and only incite hatred against those who do not enter fit into the archaic models defended by the Catholic hierarchy.”
A coalition of 55 pro-LGBT associations joined in Lambda’s complaint, including the Communist Party of Valencia, Verds Equo València, the movement against intolerance, and the collective of lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual of the Safor (CLGS), among many others.
In an online statement, the Spanish Network of Help to Refugees 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.”
Cañizares, the former prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, has been nicknamed “Little Ratzinger” because of his theological acumen.
The Cardinal recently flew to Rome for a Jubilee year pilgrimage, where he had a private audience with Pope Francis, who encouraged him to stand firm in his positions, according to Breitbart sources.
The case has also renewed debate concerning the protection of free speech, a sore point among human rights groups in Spain.
In March 2015, the Spanish Senate enacted controversial changes in 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 noted at the time, some European countries “have long placed stricter limits on political and hate speech than has the United States.” The paper added that civil liberties groups “are growing increasingly alarmed at the broad ways such laws are being adapted,” and “there is no telling how the statutes could be applied in the future.”
In a similar case, in June of 2005, Pastor Ake Green of Borgholm Pentecostal Church in eastern Sweden was sentenced to a month in prison for preaching against homosexuality.
Green did not advocate aggression towards homosexuals, but restated the biblical understanding of homosexual activity as evil. This was considered sufficient for a guilty ruling.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome.