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Study Notes

The 1931 Constitution


Last updated 30 Jul 2018

On December 9th 1931, the constituent Cortes finally ratified the new Spanish constitution, establishing Spain as a democratic republic with elections to be held based on universal suffrage. Individual rights and liberties were also protected under the new constitution, such as the right to civil marriage and divorce.

Changing the role of the Catholic Church

Many left-leaning politicians, such as Manuel Azana, viewed the Spanish Catholic Church as a barrier to progressive and democratic reform. Spain's new constitution therefore contained a number of anti-clerical measures that restricted the rights and power of the Catholic Church:

Article 3 - Declared that the Spanish state has no official religion

Article 26 - Ensured that the Spanish state no longer gave economic assistance to churches or other religious institutions

Article 44 - Gave the state the right to nationalise private property, including property belonging to the Church.

The Controversy of Church Reform

Church reform was extremely controversial. Many on the conservative right, including leading right-wing politician Jose Maria Gil-Robles, believed that Spain should remain a Catholic country and the reforms restricting the Church's power represented an attack on Spain's traditional institutions. Prime-minister Niceto Alcala-Zamora, a republican but also a committed Catholic, resigned in protest against the anti-clerical legislation, as did Miguel Maura who had served as minister of the interior. Effectively, church reform encouraged the Spanish right to form an alliance to oppose anti-clerical aspects of the constitution.

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