Catholic rites less important in Spain

by Deborah Cater
Catholic rites, such as chiurch weddings, are declining in Spain
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Pandemic year 2020 set new records in many areas. In the field of marriage, for example, never before have so few church weddings been performed as in the previous year. However, the declining popularity of Catholic rites was happening long before 2020.

In twenty years, the percentage of marriages concluded in church has fallen from 76% to barely 10%. In 2020, 26 couples a day sealed their marriage in a church – the lowest number in history.

Catholic marriage becoming a rarity

In 2008 the percentage of marriages had already fallen from 76% (in 2000) to 45.5%. In 2015, the decrease continued to 31.7%. Last year, the number of marriages halved compared to 2019, illustrating the rapidly declining popularity of Catholic marriage.

In the year 2000, 163,000 Spanish couples married in the church. This number fell to barely 10,000 in 2020. The number of civil marriages, on the other hand, rose from over 44,000 in 1996 to 129,000 in 2019.

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Not only is the interest in religious marriage declining, but also other Catholic rites are less popular, such as baptism or Holy Communion. Even the number of funerals is decreasing as cremation becomes more popular.

Freedom of choice wins over Catholic doctrine

In addition to the diminished need for religious symbolism at major life events, the younger generation of Spaniards is also resisting Catholic doctrine surrounding mate choice, sexuality, and cohabitation before marriage. Hardly anyone follows these Church precepts and young people do not want a lecture from the Church.

According to sociologist Fernando Vidal, the Catholic Church itself must take action to prevent a further exodus. For example, it should be more open to other forms of cohabitation. Furthermore, cohabitation before marriage should no longer be considered a sin. Young people won’t wait for the Church to punish them for their free choices.

Regional differences

The percentage of church weddings is not the same everywhere in Spain. In Catalonia and the Basque Country, for example, this percentage is between 10% and 14%, while in other regions it is still well above 20%. There are also differences within regions themselves. In Andalucia, 40% and 48% percent of married couples in the provinces of Córdoba and Jaén, respectively, marry in church. Meanwhile, in Malaga it is less than 20%. In Barcelona and Girona, Catholic marriage is the least favourite choice.

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