[John Allen:] 2. Has Zapatero paid any political price for the various positions of his government that run afoul of the Church?
[Robert Duncan:] That’s an interesting question, if you believe the rumor-mill in journalist circles there are many Socialists who are shaking their head at some of Zapatero’s policies, and indeed alienating some of the more center-left party members – many of who are practicing Catholics. Many of the policies that seemed to go head on with the Church, some people would argue, were based purely on winning swing votes or stealing voters from the more radical left.
I’ll step out a bit here and say that it could be argued that many of the Socialists’ more radical planks in their platform were included, not because they seriously thought they were going to win the elections, but in an attempt to close the gap against the PP with swing voters.
Duncan also talks about the meeting between Benedict and Zapatero at the archbishop's palace and if it qualified as a state meeting:
In fact, there was some local press here that suggested that it wasn’t an official State visit, but that Zapatero insisted that he be allowed to greet the Pope as a head of state. Supposedly the organizers of the World Congress said no, that this was a pastoral visit. (NOTE: There was also a ruckus in February, when a government official originally said the Pope was coming to Spain as a result of a personal invitation from Zapatero) Again, I don’t have the full story on that …. But, if true, then it would suggest that meeting at the archbishop’s palace was an agreed upon compromise to allow Zapatero to save face. Again, I cannot say for sure here, although it does seem strange that the meeting of the two is not to happen in the Valencian autonomous government building, where Pope Benedict is meeting the Spanish Royal family. I can only guess it was a matter of timing and agendas?
When I first read that the Holy Father was going to be meeting Zapatero in the archbishop's palace, my first thought was Benedict's trip to Cologne for World Youth Day and the meetings he had in the archbishop's palace. I don't view an archbishop's palace as a compromise location. Rather it could be said that such a palace of a senior churchman could be considered a mini-Vatican. 'I'm not going to meet you in some government building or in public. We're meeting in the palace of the senior prelate of the Holy Catholic Church.'