Martínez Camino: the scourge bishop of Zapatero who presides over masses for Franco in Cuelgamuros

“He is tremendously intelligent. So much so that he is ruthless. And dangerous. That's why no one will speak ill of him in public." A Spanish bishop summarizes the image that a good part of the episcopate has of the auxiliary bishop of Madrid Juan Antonio Martínez Camino.

Martínez Camino was the first Jesuit bishop of our country. He became a scourge of the Government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and executing arm of Cardinal Rouco Varela between 2003 and 2013 when he led the Episcopal Conference. This week he has returned to the forefront of the controversy by preside over a mass in the Valley of the Fallen, called by far-right groupsthe eve of Franco's "Uprising" (with that name it was called) that caused the bloody Civil War and forty years of dictatorship.

And it is that Martínez Camino – whose appointment as secretary general and spokesman for the Episcopal Conference was practically imposed by Rouco Varela on John Paul II and that today Pope Francis does not know where to send – is one of the most conservative bishops in our country and one of the few (along with other controversial bishops, such as Juan Antonio Reig or Jesús Sanz) who publicly admits his friendship and support for the prior of the Valley of the Fallen, Santiago Cantera.

The 69-year-old Jesuit has been auxiliary bishop of Madrid for 14 years and it seems that he will not move from there, although, in the past, his career seemed brilliant. Thus, between 1993 and 2001 he directed the Secretariat of the Episcopal Commission for the Doctrine of the Faith, the branch of the ancient Roman Inquisition in the Spanish Church. From there, he hammered heretics against progressive theologians.

In 2003, his main supporter, Cardinal Rouco Varela, called him to the General Secretariat of the Episcopal Conference, in a particularly controversial period in Church-Government relations. So much so that, during the first legislature of the Executive of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the Socialists considered the Catholic Church "the main opposition party".

And it was not for less: led by the Rouco-Camino tandem, the bishops went out, up to two times (something unprecedented in democracy), to demonstrate against the subject of Education for Citizenship and, especially, against same-sex marriage. That week, about twenty prelates stood behind the banner. Seven days later, in a demonstration under the slogan 'Zero Poverty', only one of them was seen: the current president of the Episcopal Conference, Juan José Omella. Two very different styles.

During those years, in addition, the so-called Columbus masses became popular, which involved authentic concentrations against the Executive, for the defense of the unity of Spain, and religious education and which Martínez Camino coordinated from his office at the headquarters of the Episcopal Conference , with the invaluable support of ultraconservative groups such as the kikos, Communion and Liberation, the Legionaries of Christ and HazteOir.

During that period, Camino blocked reports that the ultra organization belonged to El Yunque secret society and he was one of the few who, when prohibited from participating in diocesan activities, continued to attend their meetings. Camino, together with Reig Plá, have received the HazteOir awards.

With Martínez Camino in the Spanish episcopal dome, in addition, the largest mass beatification of martyrs of the Civil War in history was promoted, in November 2007 when almost half a thousand priests, religious and laity were killed during the Second Republic and the Civil War they were elevated to Catholic altars in opposition to the memory policy of the Zapatero government. From his hand, in addition, controversial campaigns against abortion or euthanasia arose, such as the one that pointed out that Spain protected more the life of the lynx than that of human fetuses, he said.

In 2008, Benedict XVI, who three years later traveled to Madrid to close the World Youth Day and consecrate Rouco Varela as Spanish vice-pope, named Camino auxiliary bishop of Madrid, breaking an unwritten rule that prevented Spanish Jesuits from being bishops.

In 2013, after two five-year periods (it was not possible, due to statutes, to revalidate), Camino departed from the General Secretariat of the Episcopal Conference. Many assured, then, that he would be elevated to some relevant diocese. Even, He came to be proposed as military archbishop, but the Royal House vetoed the appointment.

Finally, the tables of power turned, and both Rouco and Camino fell out of favor in Rome, although they did not lose their influence. In fact, even today, he is president of the Episcopal Subcommission on Universities and Culture, and representative of the Spanish Church before the European bishops. Now, after a time away from the spotlight, Martínez Camino returns to the headlines, this time on the occasion of a mass in commemoration of July 18, called by the extreme right, and presiding over the altar of Cuelgamuros.

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