From his appointment as Archbishop of Toledo at the
end of 1971, Marcelo González was Spain's senior Catholic prelate
during 23 years that saw the church's position transformed. He was uncomfortable
witnessing the end of Francisco Franco's "national-Catholic"
dictatorship and the emergence of a vibrant and increasingly secular democracy.
The same Cardinal whose funeral homily praised Franco as "the father
of our homeland" died in the company of José Bono, the Socialist
Defence Minister. As president of Castilla-La Mancha, Bono had awarded
González the region's Gold Medal, and the two were firm friends;
but for most Spanish progressives, within the church and outside it, González
was seen as a relic of an age of reactionary clericalism.
Marcelo González Martín, son of a small businessman, enrolled
in the diocesan seminary of his native province, Valladolid, at the age
of 17 and graduated in theology from the Pontifical University of Comillas.
He was ordained in 1941 and appointed to lecture in dogmatic theology
at Valladolid, where he was made Canon of the Cathedral. His first bishopric
was Astorga, in León, where he was consecrated in 1961.
His promotion as Coadjutor Archbishop of Barcelona came five years later,
and he succeeded as Metropolitan Archbishop in 1967. The appointment displeased
Catalonia's Catholic laity, who launched a campaign called "Volem
bisbes catalans" (we want Catalan bishops), arguing that the imposition
of "outsiders" distanced the hierarchy from its flock.
González served just under five years in Barcelona before becoming
Archbishop of Toledo and thereby Primate of Spain, with elevation to the
College of Cardinals in 1973. The see of Toledo covers some 20,000 square
kilometres and González made a point of visiting every parish within
it. A relentless evangelist, he made the promotion of priestly vocations
and the training of lay catechists his top priorities, opening new seminaries
and training centres. The archdiocese was the first in Spain to set up
its own broadcast outlet, Radio Santa María.
Although González voiced concern for the disadvantaged, he headed
a Spanish hierarchy that was intimately identified with the winners of
the Civil War. When Franco died in November 1975, weeks after signing
five death warrants in the face of papal pleas for clemency, it fell to
González to deliver the funeral homily. He made oblique references
to reconciliation, forgiveness and hope - but the main thrust was "the
shining light of gratitude for the immense legacy" the old tyrant
left to "Christian civilisation, without which freedom is but a chimera."
González took part in the conclaves that elected Popes John Paul
I and II in 1978. He remained a vigorous advocate of conservative morality,
opposing Spain's democratic constitution because it neglected to acknowledge
the sovereignty of God and opened the path to legalised divorce, birth
control and general debauchery. In 1983, he made headlines by refusing
Holy Communion to Franco's granddaughter, on the grounds that her recent
divorce made her an adulteress.
He retired in 1995 to his mother's home village of Fuentes Nava in Palencia,
where he died after a long illness.
Marcelo González Martín, priest; born Villanubla,
Spain 16 January 1918; ordained 1941; Bishop of Astorga, 1961-67; Archbishop
of Barcelona, 1967-71; Archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain, 1971-95;
elevated to Cardinal, 1973; died Fuentes de Nava, Spain 25 August 2004.