surinenglish

The end of 17 years of penance

Resurrección and Johannes at their home in Níjar.
Resurrección and Johannes at their home in Níjar. / EFE
  • After a long battle and several court cases, a teacher in Almeria is returning to the job she lost because she married a divorced man

The start of this school year is very special for Resurrección Galera, who is returning to teaching religion again after being banned from doing so by the Catholic church 17 years ago. The reason? A few months earlier she had married a divorced man, Johannes Romes, in a civil ceremony, and she has been fighting ever since to be allowed to return to her job.

It has not been an easy battle for this 52-year-old from Níjar, in Almeria. Several courts have found in her favour, but the Church authorities placed so many obstacles in her path that it is only now that she has been able to return to the school to prepare for the start of the new term next week.

This has all gone on too long, says her lawyer, Amalia Robles. "We are very happy about the result, but it has been very difficult. The legal process should have been much faster, but with so many appeals and bureaucratic problems it has taken much longer than it should."

Resurrección had been working at the Ferrer Guardia school in Los Llanos de la Canada (Almeria) for seven years when in 2001 the Diocese decided not to continue employing her because of her marriage. It simply removed her name from the list of teachers for the forthcoming school year.

She has only just been reinstated despite the fact that in 2011 the Constitutional Court decided that the Church was contravening her right "to suffer no discrimination on the grounds of personal circumstances, ideological freedom in connection with the right to marry in a legally approved manner, and personal and family privacy". It also said her marriage "does not affect what she is teaching".

The Diocese appealed, and in 2016 the Supreme Court again found in her favour, saying her dismissal was unlawful because it contravened her fundamental rights. Even so, it was not until July this year that the Education authorities obliged the school to give her back her job. The Court also ordered her to be compensated for all the salary that she should have received during the 17 years.

Resurrección declined to comment on this occasion, but in 2012 she said that her beliefs remained the same, married or not, and that she had done nothing wrong.

"Nobody questioned my teaching ability. The problem arose because of the agreements with the Holy See, which are causing situations like this," she said.

Then came another blow: in October that year, she was told that by the Diocese that she had not been issued with the 'missio canonica', a certificate to guarantee her suitability to teach, and without which she could not do her job. "The Catholic church is apparently above the law," said her husband Johannes at the time.

The Diocese has not commented on Resurrección's return to teaching, but theologist Juan José Tamayo of the Juan XXIII association says it had not behaved well.

"Its attitude has been arrogant and it has not respected the court decisions. It hasn't even apologised or admitted the error," he said.