Conscience Prevails Over Party Discipline, Says Catholic Politician

Madrid’s Mayor Comments in Wake of Vatican Note

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MADRID, Spain, FEB. 2, 2003 ( José María Álvarez del Manzano, the three-term mayor of Madrid, seconds the recent Vatican note on the commitment and conduct of Catholics in political life.

A member of the Popular Party, Álvarez del Manzano has always manifested his Catholic faith publicly.

This interview with the 65-year-old mayor is the first in a series that ZENIT will conduct with politicians over the note published Jan. 16 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Q: Is it possible to be a Catholic of conviction and be involved in politics without prostituting the faith?

Álvarez del Manzano: One of our obligations as Catholics is to witness to our faith wherever we are. We cannot be divided according to the different situations in which we find ourselves.

When principles are defended, they must be defended regardless of the consequences. And this, especially in politics, makes us be the object of attention, which adds to our responsibility. I have tried to do this during the 12 years of my mandate.

Q: Has your public manifestation of your faith caused you problems?

Álvarez del Manzano: Yes, it has involved me in numerous controversies. Many have said to me that because I am the mayor I should not go to Mass or to religious processions. However, our Constitution is not aconfessional; it is neutral.

The day that Madrid has a Muslim mayor, he will have to live according to the Koran. In electoral campaigns, I have always shown myself as a practicing Catholic, and then I have tried to live according to my convictions.

Q: Moral conscience, therefore, prevails over party discipline?

Álvarez del Manzano: Without any doubt. We must prioritize our values and hold to them. If you are militant in a political force, it is imperative that you defend what you believe. It is something else that others share those beliefs, but you have the duty to uphold them. What is evident is that one cannot be militant in a party that has ideas that are absolutely contrary to one’s beliefs or moral principles.

Q: However, lately many Catholics in Spain are reproaching your party for not defending Christian values.

Álvarez del Manzano: In my party, I have always defended what I believe. At times I have made decisions that did not coincide with what other members of the Popular Party believed, but I have defended my beliefs.

However, I do think that the PPC’s approaches and Christian doctrine coincide. There are different approaches at the heart of the party on different matters, but the decisions that are then taken coincide with moral principles.

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