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The Concordat of 1851 was a concordat between the Spanish government of Queen Isabella II and the Vatican. It was negotiated in response to the policies of the anticlerical Liberal government which had forced her mother out as regent in 1841. Although the concordat was signed on 16 March 1851, its terms were not implemented until 1855. (A second concordat was negotiated in 1859, as a supplement to the Concordat of 1851.) The concordat remained in effect until it was repudiated by the Second Spanish Republic in 1931. Ten years later, the first three articles were reinstated by Generalissimo Francisco Franco's 1941 Convention with the Vatican. Eventually, a new concordat was signed in 1953.
From 1833 to 1840 civil war raged in Spain over the succession to King Ferdinand VII, who had ruled under the liberal Constitution of 1812 until it was abolished in May 1814. After Ferdinand's death in 1833, the Constitution was in force again briefly in 1836 and 1837. The Carlist Wars were fought between supporters of the regent, Maria Christina, acting for her daughter, Isabella II of Spain; and those of the late king's brother, Carlos de Borbón (or Carlos V), who hoped for the return to an absolute monarchy.
"The first Carlist war was fought not so much on the basis of the legal claim of Don Carlos, but because a passionate, dedicated section of the Spanish people favored a return to a kind of absolute monarchy that they felt would protect their individual freedoms (fueros), their regional individuality and their religious conservatism." Aided by the United Kingdom, France and Portugal, the supporters of Isabelle were able to compel the Carlists to come to terms.
Relations with the Church
Most of the clergy did not support Carlos; but neither were they in favor of many of the reforms. When priests found with the rebels were shot, it turned a number of bishops against the government, which then viewed the clergy as disloyal. A period of fierce anti-clericalism followed. Rome delayed recognition of the government and the appointment of any new bishops, (subject to government approval), until it knew with which government it would be dealing. Isabella's government viewed this as a grave insult. In the summer off 1834, Liberal (Isabeline) forces set fire to the Sanctuary of Arantzazu and a convent of Bera.
Some bishops were in prison, others in exile. As the government was in grave need of money, church property was seized and religious houses closed. Some larger convents whose work involved teaching and nursing, remained open until 1837.
The situation had largely stabilized by the late 1840s. A Spanish force assisted Pope Pius IX at Gaeta, after his flight from the Roman Republic in November 1848. Despite their anticlericalism, the Moderates concluded arapprochement with the church, which agreed to surrender its claim to confiscated property in return for official recognition by the state and a role in education. This, however, did not win the Moderates conservative rural support.
According to the Concordat, "The Apostolic Roman Catholic Church, to the exclusion of all other religions, will continue to be the only religion of Spain, always protected in the dominions of His Catholic Majesty and enjoying all rights and prerogatives according to God’s law and regulated by the sacred canon."
The concordat addressed the protection of episcopal rights, changed the boundaries of dioceses, regulated the affairs of territories dependent on military orders, ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and the constitution of chapters, benefices, the right of the Church to acquire property and the right of the monarch to appoint to ecclesiastical offices. The right of presentation to certain of the latter was reserved to the pope; others were left to the queen.
A second concordat was signed 25 November, 1859, as a supplement to the Concordat of 1851.
Education in all the colleges, universities. etc. was mandated to conform to Catholic doctrine, and it was promised that the bishops, "whose duty it is to watch over the education of youth in regard to morals and faith," would meet no obstacle in the performance of that duty.
Rights of clergy and religious orders
The bishops, and the clergy under them, were to enjoy the same rights in all else that regards their functions, especially in what concerns the sacred office of ordination. The government agreed to assure the respect due to them and lend its aid "notably in preventing the publication, introduction or circulation of immoral and harmful books."
Religious orders of men or women, who to contemplation add some work of charity or public utility, as education, care of the sick, missions, etc., were retained or re-established. The Spanish government agreed to pay the salaries of bishops and priests. In addition, it agreed to provide an income to churches and seminaries. However, this provision was never implemented.
The right of the church to own and acquire new property was recognized. As to property of which it had been previously despoiled, whatever property had not been alienated was to be restored, but whatever the state had taken may be sold, and the price invested in government bonds, for the benefit of the rightful owner. The Holy See renounced its right to property already alienated. With regard to unforeseen points, the concordat referenced the canons and the discipline of the Catholic Church.
- Bradley Smith, Spain: A History in Art (Gemini-Smith, Inc., 1979), 259.
- Chadwick, Owen. A History of the Popes, 1830-1914, Oxford University Press, 2003, p. 439 et seq.ISBN 9780199262861
- "Spain - Liberal Rule", Country Studies, U.S. Library of Congress
- "Spanish Concordat of March 16, 1851", Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, Georgetown University
- Kelly, Leo, and Benedetto Ojetti. "Concordat." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 10 January 2019 This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
- "Concordat of 1851", Sidney Morning Herald, May 29, 1931
- De Bourge, Gaston. “Concordat”, Dictionnaire de l’économie politique, 1852, (John J. Lalor,, ed.) Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States by the Best American and European Writers, (New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co., 1899. First published: 1881.)