THE NEW divorce law passed in Spain last week brought a predictably hostile reaction from the country's bishops at the weekend.
In a joint statement published on Sunday the bishops warned Catholics of the consequences of taking advantage of the new law, which enables couples to obtain divorces by mutual consent within a year.
The bishops said they regretted parliament's decision to approve a measure "which gravely upsets the stability of marriage and, moreover, leaves to such a large extent the decision over ending the marriage to the partners themselves." They said they would publish a guide document for Catholics.
Later a spokesman for the hierarchy. Bishop Antonio Montero of Badajoz, said that priests would be justified in refusing communion to, or hearing confessions from. Catholics who obtained divorces under the new law. The government expects about 500,000 petitions to be brought to the courts as a result of the measure.
Over the past few months the bishops have waged a vigorous campaign against the proposals. Their efforts had the support of the Vatican: it is possible that the issue may now be taken up by the papal nuncio in Madrid in the light of agreements made in the past between the Spanish state and the Vatican.
However, the law seems to have general support. Opinion polls have indicated that more than 70 per cent of Spaniards supported the proposals to legalise divorce, which has been outlawed since 1939.