José Jiménez Lozano
Spanish meditation on religious freedom
Ed. Encuentro, collection 100XUNO, no 74, Madrid 2021
The book La meditación española sobre la libertad religiosa, published by José Jiménez Lozano (Langa, Ávila, 1930 – Alcazarén, Valladolid, 2020), which was published in 1966 by Editorial Destino and has just been made available to readers by Editorial Encuentro, with a foreword by Javier María Prades López and with the collaboration of the Institución Gran Duque de Alba, of the Diputación de Ávila, is surprisingly still relevant today. The prologue written in 2020, on the occasion of the author’s 90th birthday and apostilled after his death, provides an interesting reading in a topical key. Prades states, under the title “El aroma de la libertad” and obviously referring to the author of the book, that “the perspective of the years leads one to admire the finesse with which he distinguishes his purpose from other objectives that are perhaps close, but not identical”.
And he explains that Jiménez Lozano “wanted to open a channel of dialogue that would not be polemical, that would not offend those who had other points of view, in the knowledge that he was entering delicate terrain, because the history of Spanish Catholicism and anti-Catholicism had been full of disqualifications, aggression, mutual exclusion and condemnation” (p. 11). In other words, the aim was none other than to investigate Spanish Catholic and anti-Catholic sentiment and to contribute to the rapprochement between both conceptions and attitudes from conciliatory stances – so necessary today – to offer “a broad and free meditation on Spanish religious sentiment in general and more specifically on religious freedom” (pp. 20–21). A meditation, in short, that remains fully up to date as a result of the profound, open and timeless vision of our winner of the 1992 National Prize for Spanish Literature, 1998 Critics’ Prize and 2002 Cervantes Prize.
To put this briefly in context, it should be remembered that Meditación española sobre la libertad religiosa was published at the end of the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), when the Franco regime was beginning to crack ideologically and when some Christian groups were clearly mobilising in favour of political and religious dialogue, in a dynamic that had been fostered by different thinkers and groups such as those who participated in the Conversaciones de Intelectuales Católicos de Gredos from the early 1950s, among them Elías Querejazu, Pedro Laín Entralgo, Dionisio Ridruejo, José Luis López Aranguren, Luis Felipe Vivanco, Luis Ro- sales, Joaquín Ruiz Giménez, José María Castellet… All of them tried, as Olegario González de Cardedal wrote and Ricardo Ruiz de la Serena recalled (Alfa y Omega, 18-7-2019), “to establish an intellectual connection between Spain and Europe”.
Jiménez Lozano himself considers the book to be “a historical essay” or, modestly, “a simple meditation” “aimed at the man in the street” or “the Christian most in need of certain clarifications and historical revisions to put his own ideas and feelings in order”. In my opinion, it is in the same way and above all an excellent sociology of religion. Whether or not he had read Les formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse (1912) by Emile Durkheim (1858–1917) and The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905) by Max Weber (1864–1920), in which Weber analyses the Calvinist affinity with the entrepreneurial spirit, it can be said that all three agree fully in explaining religious behaviour from a social psychology and a sociology of the religious fact, or communitarian, in the case of Durkheim.
In his search for the profiles of the Spanish Catholic, the writer from Avila, also awarded the Gold Medal for Merit in the Arts (1999) and the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross (2017) by Pope Francis, confronts the gap or distance between the pacifist reformism, which asked the Church and its priests for poverty and openness, and the counter-reformist traditionalism of the “homo religiosus hispanicus”, given to hagiography, order and openness, which asked the Church and its priests for poverty and openness, and the counter-reformist traditionalism of the “homo religiosus hispanicus”, given to hagiography, order and fidelity to doctrine from a psycho- logy of certainty and an identification of heterodoxy with error and evil. The book takes a historical tour of these two positions, highlighting the believing and critical role of figures such as Fray Hernando de Talavera, Fray Domingo de Valtanás, the “orthodox nonconformists” of the 16th century and other thinkers of all periods. He does not, therefore, avoid criticising certain intransigent positions throughout the book, as he does with regard to Castel Sant’Angelo, inviting the reader into “bitter meditation on the human violence that bloodies history, even Christian history, which should always have been the kingdom of freedom” (p. 21).
But, in a spirit of open-mindedness he was a convinced defender of the conclave convened by John XXIII at the end of his papacy and of his proposals for the search for truth, freedom of research, conciliar Catholicism; not so much of the concept of tolerance, which implied a negative attitude of concession and grace in the face of radical human freedom, nor as support for a non-confessionalism which, in the Spanish case, he argued, was anti-Catholicism. It could be said that he considered Vatican II as a true dividing line between a Christianity of non-dialogue and a more open and understanding Christianity, to the point of maintaining that those who criticise certain old positions of the Church are unaware of the Council’s advances.
From a conception of Christianity as a liberating religion and also from a view of paganism as an oppressive fetishism, he also argues that “human free- dom, of which religious freedom is only the deepest expression, is the basic principle of Christianity and its great leaven in the pagan universe of oppressions and taboos, which stifled the human spirit until the coming of Christ” (p. 21). He has left many messages in the book that are still valid 55 years after its publication. For our hedonistic, welfare-driven society, in which euthanasia is used as a way of avoiding pain, Jiménez Lozano dared to affirm the value of suffering through joy and resignation: “bitterness is not Christian, but the cross is, and no Christian can reject the cross from his life” (p. 111).
Regarding the historicist debate on the authenticity of certain undocumented relics, Jiménez Lozano states that some critics “do not seem to have wanted to understand that what the Church defended, in the midst of all the abuses that one might wish, was the cult of the saints and the veneration of their bodies, not the physical authenticity of each one, which in the end was of very secondary importance” (p. 42). At a time when the presence and activity of the laity in the Church and the secularity of the State are also being debated, the words of Jiménez Lozano, following Professor Vialatoux, ring true: “Christianity is, above all, a secularism” (p. 66), but not an anti-religious or anti-clerical secularism.
He also upholds a vision of the Church “dear Mother whom we love as the pupils of our eyes and with whose fate we feel solidarity”, but also, and for this reason, from “non-conformism, cavils and rebellion”. This revived Spanish meditation on religious freedom, which presents on the cover the author in one of his last images, full of autumns and expressiveness, because it was intended to be published on the occasion of his 90th birthday, is completed with a very rich contribution of carefully selected notes and texts that invite deepening of this always renewed reflection.