The constitutional principle of cooperation is one of the most important in the relations of the Spanish State with religious denominations and the Catholic Church. Year after year, the Spanish Episcopal Conference presents its activity report, in which it shows what the Catholic faith allows it to give back to the society in which it lives. Attention in hospitals, charity centers, soup kitchens, schools, universities, associations, foundations, parishes and other institutions have taken on special relevance during the time of the pandemic.
Everything that the Church is, what it receives and what it has, it puts at the service of others, because the Church cooperates. Cooperate when defending the religious freedom of all citizens,
and your own; cooperate when defending life; cooperate when defending educational freedom; he cooperates when he moves his faithful to help the most disadvantaged; cooperates in receiving foreigners and refugees, in caring for the sick, elderly and vulnerable; burying the deceased and comforting their relatives; and it also cooperates when it builds, maintains and spreads the ancient heritage bequeathed by so many generations of Catholic Christians, as a generous expression of their faith for the service of future generations.
Once again, the issue of registrations comes to the fore of public opinion. The legitimacy of the property of the Church with respect to the property registered by certificate is questioned. It is forgotten that this system was born with the Property Registry itself at the end of the 19th century, was maintained by the Second Republic and continued with successive modifications until its definitive abolition for the Church in 2015. The double registry access system, Complex for inscriptions and simple for registrations, it allowed the only two institutions with real estate prior to the constitution of the modern State -the Catholic Church and the State itself- to register -that is, register for the first time- their properties lacking title Sunday, increasing registration entries and making the Property Registry a useful and safe tool. In other words, the more registrations there were in the Registry, the more secure the Registry was in what it stated.
However, when reading the beginnings of the Property Registry from the perspective of the 21st century, it is often asserted, erroneously and unfairly, that the Catholic Church has appropriated something that is not its own, by using the only legal system of registration that it could be used for many of its assets, and it tends to be forgotten that registration and registration is not constitutive of the property right over registered assets, but merely declarative of the registry content.
If the Church had not registered any goods, it would continue to be the owner of those goods without registering. But the Church cooperated and acted diligently, complying with civil regulations at all times, thus facilitating the work of the Administration.
In 1998, a large part of their property had still not been registered due to an exclusion clause -not a prohibition- that affected places of worship as they were considered inalienable, and was applied, sometimes yes and sometimes not, to a good part of the churches and cathedrals with the impossibility of registering them in many cases, which once again affected the insecurity of the Land Registry. And the Church also cooperated in the interest of greater clarity and security regarding the ownership of its assets.
Let us not deceive ourselves, the hermitages in ruins, the churches under swamps or the chapels buried by roads that appear on the list of properties that the Government delivered to the Congress of Deputies in February 2021 are not of interest, but rather the usual cathedrals, as demonstrates the invasion of the autonomy of the Church over its own heritage presupposed by the new Preliminary Draft Law on Spanish Historical Heritage, of June 25, 2021, by constituting boards of trustees that decide above their legitimate owners on the use of sacred places most important that have been declared Cultural Assets of World Interest.
But the Church has once again cooperated, because it has never been opposed to collaborating with the secular authorities in the face of any patrimonial irregularity of any kind. Thus, he offered his availability to participate in the working group proposed by the Government and the Spanish Episcopal Conference to study the list. It has cooperated once again by studying the list in depth between the Episcopal Conference and all the Spanish dioceses, detecting its repetitions, registrations made by transmission -not by registration and therefore should not appear-, non-existent assets, transmissions not yet registered by third parties, about a thousand farms that they do not know to have registered and that nevertheless appear registered along with other irregularities. And finally, the Church has once again cooperated by delivering to the Government the analysis of the list with all the irregularities detected, without knowing why, given that, presumably, there will hardly be any of the irregularities that are of interest to the regional or local authorities. .
Today it is presumed again in many media that the Church has illegitimately appropriated what is not its own, despite the fact that the former minister, Mrs. Carmen Calvo, stated in February 2021 that “the registrations made by the Catholic Church have occurred at the protection of a legal situation”.
The Church has the right to use and enjoy its patrimony with the constitutional freedom that corresponds to it in the rule of law, a patrimony that, certainly, belongs to the citizens: those who call themselves Christians and are surnamed Catholics.
However, the Church will continue to carry out a diligent… and intelligent cooperation with its Heritage.
Carlos López Segovia is Deputy Secretary for General Affairs of the Spanish Episcopal Conference