The Catholic Church and Fascist Dictators


#1

I have a problem with some of my atheist/agnostic family members - they cannot respect our Catholic Church because of the purported close relations between Franco, Pinochet and our recent Popes and Cardinals including our dear departed John Paul 2nd - may he rest in peace. They applaud what the Holy Father did for Eastern Europe and Russia, yet cannot understand why we did not do more for Peru and Fascist Spain under the Pinoceht and Franco regime, they take the view our Church supported these regimes. I have found a blog which sums up their view quite succinctly for your info…

diderotslounge.blogspot.com/2005/04/public-health-professionals-and-john.html

I have told them to look at the whole picture and see the greater good the Church has done throughout its history - teaching moral values etc. - but still they cant accept the apparent hipocracy of what the Church teaches and what it actually does. My answer here has been that this is because none of us are perfect - they answer - true - but to support a fascist totalitatrian dictatorship can never be excused away - how can we support a hypocritical organisation?

Help!

Does anyone know more about the Church’s involvement in Peru, Spain?

PS - has anyone heard that the Catholic Church is in decline in Poland now? - can anyone explain this?


#2

I’m not an expert on what he says but lot’s of handwaving and accusations going on in that article that we are just supposed to acccept. The realtoinship between the Church and governments is a difficult one. Romans 13 says that Governments are ordained by God and even at times use the sword to kee order. The Bible is not pro-democracy. And neither is the Church, which does not mean it is anti-democracy. One Pope during the french revolutoin (can’t recall the name offhand) condemned decomacracy. But it happened to be the aethistic democracy of the French revolution, while Pius XII praised democracy, but it was the democracy of the United States. Not sure how he would look upon us today.
As for condemnations it is not the place of the Pope to condemn the attrocities of the past by governments but to leave them to the judgement of God. Jesus never condemns the killing of the innocents at his birth. He doesn’t even condemn those who were putting him to death, saying “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. The Roman government was very oppressive and he never condemns it. Paul behaves in a friendly, rather than challenging manner to Agrippa and other Roman governors, hoping to win them over in the book of Acts. I don’t think the fact that the Catholic Church is cordial to a dictator is evidence of anything.

Canonizations are a complex process taking great amounts of time. I don’t think we can judge why one person has been canonized before another. Perhaps the Church has concerns about that Bishops dealings with liberation theology which has been condemned.

I hope that gives you something to think about.


#3

Thanks you Thessalonian for your reply.

I am not sure that I would agree that Romans 13 implicates that the Bible is not pro-democracy. I see this passage as St. Paul instructing the Church in Rome to obey the Roman Government, and also to be charitable to everyone, all this happening before anyone had heard of democracy.
I have frequently condemned fascism, communism, and extreme capitalism to others as these ideals trample on human dignity and freedom, I would hope this is the position of our Church.
But I still have no answer to give to others who ask why John Paul 2 did nothing to speak out against Pinochet or his policies during his reign of fascist terror, and why he actually went to visit him? And I still have no answer to give to others who ask to why the Church was so involved with Franco during his regime of terror also?
These are the questions which I need to answer, in order to dispel any misunderstanding that my family members may have about the Church - and hopefully help them to re-think their view of the Church and religion in general.
As things stand just now, it would seem to me that the Church tries to dispel communist totalitarian regimes (ie. USSR), but from time to time encourages fascist totalitarian regimes (ie. Pinochet / Franco).
Why? - is it because the Church judges a persons freedom to worship in the Catholic Church to be more important than living in a democratic state? Is this reflective of Christ’s teachings?

I would appreciate your comments.

Yours with thanks, D


#4

[quote=deekod1967]I have a problem with some of my atheist/agnostic family members - they cannot respect our Catholic Church because of the purported close relations between Franco, Pinochet and our recent Popes and Cardinals including our dear departed John Paul 2nd - may he rest in peace. They applaud what the Holy Father did for Eastern Europe and Russia, yet cannot understand why we did not do more for Peru and Fascist Spain under the Pinoceht and Franco regime, they take the view our Church supported these regimes. I have found a blog which sums up their view quite succinctly for your info…

diderotslounge.blogspot.com/2005/04/public-health-professionals-and-john.html

I have told them to look at the whole picture and see the greater good the Church has done throughout its history - teaching moral values etc. - but still they cant accept the apparent hipocracy of what the Church teaches and what it actually does. My answer here has been that this is because none of us are perfect - they answer - true - but to support a fascist totalitatrian dictatorship can never be excused away - how can we support a hypocritical organisation?

Help!

Does anyone know more about the Church’s involvement in Peru, Spain?

PS - has anyone heard that the Catholic Church is in decline in Poland now? - can anyone explain this?
[/quote]

The trouble with defending or trying to defend the Church by arguments drawn from history is that history is open to re-interpretation and revision: so yesterday’s missionary martyr becomes tomorrow’s tool of Western imperialism; for example. And the Church’s understanding of her history is no less variable - the saintly foe of heresy of centurie ago can come to be viewed as an imprudent and violent fanatic.

Instead, go back to first principles - to Christ :slight_smile: ##


#5

Human beings make mistakes. I think its pretty clear, in retrospect, that the people in the Church hierarcy who allied themselves with Mussolin and Franco were mistaken. Why try to defend the indefensible? Do your relatives wish to renounce their American citizenship, or the entire democratic system, because the U.S. has made grievous errors in the past?

The faults of the Church are failures to live up to her own mission, not failures of the validity of the mission itself.


#6

[quote=deekod1967]I have a problem with some of my atheist/agnostic family members - they cannot respect our Catholic Church because of the purported close relations between Franco, Pinochet and our recent Popes and Cardinals including our dear departed John Paul 2nd - may he rest in peace.
[/quote]

Hej: Many people have this problem: They are blind, and they want to remain so. First of all I will recommend them to read some history books. And the proper use of words. Pinochet’s regime in Chile (not Peru) and Franco’s regime in Spain were not fascist. Strictly speaking, the only fascist regime was the one headed by Benito Mussolini in Italy, with two main characteristics: popular support and corporate governance. Much close to fascism was Peron’s regime in Argentina, thus had the two above-mentioned characteristics. In 1955 Peron ordered the burning of the churches in Buenos Aires downtown. Spain suffered a civil war (1936-1939) between the nationalists and the communists. In the communists zones priests were mass murdered and churches completely destroyed. What the Church was supposed to do according these champions of democracy and freedom? A real champion of democracy and freedom, Winston Churchill, praised Franco for saving Spain from communism. Franco’s regime between 1939 and 1975 was an authoritarian one, nothing to do with fascism. It was not a regime of terror and the Church did a lot to soften the regime. In Chile the socialist-communist government of Salvador Allende led the country to a situation of almost civil war. When the Armed Forces overthrew Allende almost all the Chilean society applauded Pinochet. Pinochet left the power after a clean referendum, and his ideas and government achievements have lots of followers, even today almost half of the country agrees with him. Also Argentina suffered a situation of civil war during the seventies. The military took power in 1976 when the civil government collapsed. The civil war there counted almost nine thousand victims, mainly terrorists. The Argentinean Church pointed out several times the humane rights abuses during the so called National Reorganization Process.

As the democratic guys are so worried about the victims of the “fascist totalitarian regimes”, do they know how many people die by hunger under the Latin American democratic regimes nowadays? Do they know how many die by abortion under the democratic regimes of the Western countries? Opsss, I forgot: according to the self proclaimed democrats if a law is voted by the representatives of the people, no matters who die, it’s okey.

To sum it up: 1) we can not speak about these facts without having a minimum historical knowledge; 2) we can not generalize using expressions like “the Church” when a few members of Her take a position in favor or against a government; 3) the first and only mission of the Church is to spread the gospel and save the people souls, to teach the truth and defend the faith. The Church does not preach democracy, nor recommends political regimes. She respect governments and regimes, and try to work together in some common fields. Any regime that violates divine law (even democracy with abortion laws) becomes illegitimate.


#7

[quote=deekod1967] . . .it would seem to me that the Church tries to dispel communist totalitarian regimes (ie. USSR), but from time to time encourages fascist totalitarian regimes (ie. Pinochet / Franco).
[/quote]

The Franco and Pinochet governments were authoritarian, not totalitarian–a huge difference. Had Stalin won in Spain and Allende in Chile, the carnage would be been unbelievable.

btw…every Jew who made it to Spain was safe under Franco. Over 60,000 were saved. Franco could have caved to Hitler, allowed German troops to transit Spain, take Gilbratar and deny the allies access to the Mediterranean.

When Pinochet relucently acted against Allende (at the urging of the Parliament) Czech StB, East German Stasi and Cuban Secret police were in the country in large numbers. Chile was at war.


#8

[quote=barsapp]Hej: Many people have this problem: They are blind, and they want to remain so. First of all I will recommend them to read some history books. And the proper use of words. Pinochet’s regime in Chile (not Peru) and Franco’s regime in Spain were not fascist. Strictly speaking, the only fascist regime was the one headed by Benito Mussolini in Italy, with two main characteristics: popular support and corporate governance. Much close to fascism was Peron’s regime in Argentina, thus had the two above-mentioned characteristics. In 1955 Peron ordered the burning of the churches in Buenos Aires downtown. Spain suffered a civil war (1936-1939) between the nationalists and the communists. In the communists zones priests were mass murdered and churches completely destroyed. What the Church was supposed to do according these champions of democracy and freedom? A real champion of democracy and freedom, Winston Churchill, praised Franco for saving Spain from communism. Franco’s regime between 1939 and 1975 was an authoritarian one, nothing to do with fascism. It was not a regime of terror and the Church did a lot to soften the regime. In Chile the socialist-communist government of Salvador Allende led the country to a situation of almost civil war. When the Armed Forces overthrew Allende almost all the Chilean society applauded Pinochet. Pinochet left the power after a clean referendum, and his ideas and government achievements have lots of followers, even today almost half of the country agrees with him. Also Argentina suffered a situation of civil war during the seventies. The military took power in 1976 when the civil government collapsed. The civil war there counted almost nine thousand victims, mainly terrorists. The Argentinean Church pointed out several times the humane rights abuses during the so called National Reorganization Process.

As the democratic guys are so worried about the victims of the “fascist totalitarian regimes”, do they know how many people die by hunger under the Latin American democratic regimes nowadays? Do they know how many die by abortion under the democratic regimes of the Western countries? Opsss, I forgot: according to the self proclaimed democrats if a law is voted by the representatives of the people, no matters who die, it’s okey.
[/quote]

The trouble with pointing out the flaws possible or actual under democratic regimes, is that this does not answer objections about the Church’s involvement with fascist ones.

Attempts to divert attention from the Italian Church’s dealings with Mussolini (say) by pointing out that abortion is widely available in a non-fascist country, does nothing to show that the Church’s involvement with Mussolini was either not as immoral as some might think, or defensible, or morally right: let alone worthy of Christians.

No argument that does not address the issues raised and resolve them convincingly, is going to be very helpful to those who ask for help in addressing this issue.

Catholics are much too fond of this diversionary tactic - all it shows, if it shows anything, is that (in this case) democracy is not proof against all the evils found in fascist regimes: but it does nothing whatever to show that the Church was not behaving unwisely or immorally in its dealings with certain regimes: and it is that, that seems to be the issue - did the visible body which claims to be uniquely well-equipped by Christ to manifest His Presence in the world, do so convincingly when it came into contact with Fascism ? Or was its behaviour no better than any merely this-worldly organisation ? It can’t claim to be “more Christian than thou”, and not expect to be judged by the claims it makes. We cannot appeal to the past when it suits us to do so, and ignore the past, when this is inconvenient. ##

To sum it up: 1) we can not speak about these facts without having a minimum historical knowledge; 2) we can not generalize using expressions like “the Church” when a few members of Her take a position in favor or against a government; 3) the first and only mission of the Church is to spread the gospel and save the people souls, to teach the truth and defend the faith. The Church does not preach democracy, nor recommends political regimes. She respect governments and regimes, and try to work together in some common fields. Any regime that violates divine law (even democracy with abortion laws) becomes illegitimate.


#9

So… I suppose that John Paul II’s support of the solidarity movement in Poland during his time there as Cardinal just doesn’t count at all…nor the fact that it was this effort that ultimately brought down the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall.

As the old saying goes: "People believe what they want to believe…"
Pax tecum.


#10

It’s disturbing to see people being apologists for Franco here. That’s really not a good path to go down. Furthermore, it’s unnecessary. As I pointed out in my post further up, mistakes by members of the Church don’t invalidate the Church itself. They do, however, serve as a reminder that the Church as a whole, just as much as the Church’s individual members, are constantly in need of critical self examination (so important that this is actually one of the seven sacraments).

Let’s not make the short-sighted and ill-advised mistake of compounding past failures by excusing them.


#11

[quote=Philip P]It’s disturbing to see people being apologists for Franco here. That’s really not a good path to go down. Furthermore, it’s unnecessary. As I pointed out in my post further up, mistakes by members of the Church don’t invalidate the Church itself. They do, however, serve as a reminder that the Church as a whole, just as much as the Church’s individual members, are constantly in need of critical self examination (so important that this is actually one of the seven sacraments).

Let’s not make the short-sighted and ill-advised mistake of compounding past failures by excusing them.
[/quote]

Well hang on there…is every aspect of Franco’s rule indefensible? Let’s not make the short-sighted and ill-advised mistake of compounding past failures by using them to paint with a brush so broad as to reduce serious historical inquiry to meaninglessness just so we can placate Church-bashers who will just look for another stick to beat the Church with.

Scott


#12

First, we need to draw some serious distinctions:
(1) Unconditionally supporting everything a regime does
(2) Supporting a regime in what it does that is good and remaining silent about what it does that is bad
(3) Supporting a regime as a better alternative than the other options out there (Franco comes to mind)
(4) Remaining publicly silent about a regime
(5) Actively condemning a regime wholesale

I would have to ask if the fifth option is ever useful. After all, the Church is still trying to minister to the unfortunate citizens of even the worst-run government in the world, and all that a public condemnation will do is make the government mad and the Church’s job harder. (The history of Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge provides an excellent example of this.)

Second, we need to find out honestly what the history of the Church’s involvement with the dictatorial regime–and of the regime in question itself–really is. There is so much misinformation and disinformation about regimes and rulers of the latter half of the twentieth century, as well as outright lies about the Church’s level of support, that I would take just about anything written on the subject with a grain of salt. In particular I would view the blog you cited with considerable skepticism. Wait another generation for the dust to finish settling.

Third, we need to ask exactly what these critics of the Church wanted the Church to do in Pinochet’s Chile or Franco’s Spain, and exactly how the Church was supposed to go about doing these things. It’s a lot easier to play armchair critic than it is to get things done, especially in dangerous situations.

  • Liberian

#13

Well, if America were suddenly taken over by Fascists, what would we all do? We are limited in options.

  1. Make like Emiliano Zapata and become revolutionaries.
  2. Stay in society, but do a few illegal things very carefully.
  3. Stay in society, obey all the laws, and close our eyes while other people disobey them. We also don’t stop the police from rounding up and killing these disobedients.
  4. Join the Party! Be a Smarty! (Like the candy). Go to the rallies and yell “Heil!”
  5. Join the party, become sniveling weasels, and rat on whoever we can.

Now, taking it from the standpoint of an organization like the Church, which is most effective?

If the Church tried Option 1, it would get rooted out pretty quick. Guerilla warfare is expensive, troublesome, difficult, and endangers its participants, in this case, the members of the Church. The idea is to preserve them, not to get them killed.

Option 2. This is the most effective, the semilegal status. Obey 99% of the rules and usually you can get away with breaking 1%, you just have to pick the right one percent. You won’t be bothered by police, who are busy disposing of the Option 1-ers, but you can still do some good to those who have been victimized by the regime. This is what Pius XII opted for, and while he gets a lot of flack for not going Option 1, in the long run it was much more helpful to both Catholics and Jews. The Church didn’t get shut down and was able to continue helping Jews and various other people who needed it. A good movie about this is “In Scarlet and In Black” starring Gregory Peck.

Option 3. LIve and let live. This may be good for the Church that exists, but it will alienate those outside of the Church who most need her help. “I was hungry and ye did not feed me, homeless and ye did not take me in,” is a decent summary. It is good for the people in the church, who don’t have to worry about the laws, but the people the Church is trying to help will afterwards proclaim from the rooftops that these believers in Christian charity don’t practice what they preach.

Option 4. Yecchh. This may endear the organization to the regime, but it’s more likely to breed contempt from the officials. They can respect someone who sticks to his guns, but the quisling who changes sails with each breath of wind gets a coward’s reward. Naturally, the people you inform on aren’t going to like it too much either, and everyone in the Church would be so busy looking over his shoulder that he would try to do the backstabbing before it was done to him. Pretty soon no one is left.

Option 5. See Option 4, and take it to an even more extreme level. This is like the Hitler Youth.

So of all those options, the one that saves the most lives and does the most good is Option 2. And that is what the Church has done.


#14

Thank you all for your replies, I particularly value the response from Philip P - ie:

“The faults of the Church are failures to live up to her own mission, not failures of the validity of the mission itself.”

This for me underpins the answer to the questions being posed.

The Church is not without sin, only Christ and Mary have walked this earth without sin.

Therefore the Church cannot always practice what it teaches because we are all born in sin striving to follow Christ, but the Holy Spirit still guides guides the Church to show the path of Christ to humanity.

We cannot defend the indefensible, we are all guilty of not “practising what we preach”. But that does not deny the truth of Christ’s message to humanity.

I believe I have my answer for my family now, once again I thank you all for your valuable discussion.

God bless,

D


#15

[quote=deekod1967]Thanks you Thessalonian for your reply.

I am not sure that I would agree that Romans 13 implicates that the Bible is not pro-democracy. I see this passage as St. Paul instructing the Church in Rome to obey the Roman Government, and also to be charitable to everyone, all this happening before anyone had heard of democracy.
I have frequently condemned fascism, communism, and extreme capitalism to others as these ideals trample on human dignity and freedom, I would hope this is the position of our Church.
But I still have no answer to give to others who ask why John Paul 2 did nothing to speak out against Pinochet or his policies during his reign of fascist terror, and why he actually went to visit him? And I still have no answer to give to others who ask to why the Church was so involved with Franco during his regime of terror also?
These are the questions which I need to answer, in order to dispel any misunderstanding that my family members may have about the Church - and hopefully help them to re-think their view of the Church and religion in general.
As things stand just now, it would seem to me that the Church tries to dispel communist totalitarian regimes (ie. USSR), but from time to time encourages fascist totalitarian regimes (ie. Pinochet / Franco).
Why? - is it because the Church judges a persons freedom to worship in the Catholic Church to be more important than living in a democratic state? Is this reflective of Christ’s teachings?

I would appreciate your comments.

Yours with thanks, D

[/quote]

I do not believe I said that the Bible was against democracy. Certainly it is fine with a good democracy. But I think a broad brush all democracy is good is a mistake. My point was that benevelance toward a government by the Church is not neccessarily approval for all it does. It is just a recognition that GOD put them in power. All of them.

1 Sir 17
Over every nation he places a ruler,
but God’s own portion is Israel.

Thus while we may not approve of all that they do we must recgonize that God has given them a certain authority to do things which may not seem pleasant to us. To set God up as someone who desires that the whole world be a democracy is simply not understanding scripture. He set up a king over Israel. I think there is much more evidence that he would be pro-monarchy if you are going to look at it from a scripture alone point of view. The better view is that God simply places ALL governments in power. To some end the Church needs to have some respect for them. To some end the Church needs to stand back and let history play out in them.

A part of the point of my post is should we have misgivings about Jesus and Paul because they did not openly condemn the dictators of their day who killed children and persecuted the Jews? Jesus Christ inserted himself in to history in such a way as to change it’s course by grace rather than by political activism (which is the kind of Messiah the Jews wanted). The Church is to do likewise.

Blessings


#16

[quote=thessalonian]A part of the point of my post is should we have misgivings about Jesus and Paul because they did not openly condemn the dictators of their day who killed children and persecuted the Jews? Jesus Christ inserted himself in to history in such a way as to change it’s course by grace rather than by political activism (which is the kind of Messiah the Jews wanted). The Church is to do likewise.

[/quote]

This is a very good point.

The Church is not set up to be an approver or disapprover of governments, giving each government either a yes or a no approval rating. Bitter denunciations of governments are rare from any Church.

In some places including Chile, catholics have been persecuted for opposing right wing Juntas - a leading case is Archbishop Romero in Salvador. In other places it has been governments of the left.

In Spain, the Church was pushed into the hands of Franco by the activities of the extrteme Marxists and Anarchists within the republican forces, who were in favour of state Atheism and sacked and destroyed Churches and Monasteries and executed religious.


#17

[quote=deekod1967]Thanks you Thessalonian for your reply.
I see this passage as St. Paul instructing the Church in Rome to obey the Roman Government, and also to be charitable to everyone, all this happening before anyone had heard of democracy.

[/quote]

Actually the great greek and roman societies were democracies so this is not true.

fresno.k12.ca.us/schools/s090/history/democratic_ideals.htm


#18

[quote=deekod1967]I have a problem with some of my atheist/agnostic family members - they cannot respect our Catholic Church because of the purported close relations between Franco, Pinochet and our recent Popes and Cardinals including our dear departed John Paul 2nd - may he rest in peace. They applaud what the Holy Father did for Eastern Europe and Russia, yet cannot understand why we did not do more for Peru and Fascist Spain under the Pinoceht and Franco regime, they take the view our Church supported these regimes. I have found a blog which sums up their view quite succinctly for your info…

diderotslounge.blogspot.com/2005/04/public-health-professionals-and-john.html

I have told them to look at the whole picture and see the greater good the Church has done throughout its history - teaching moral values etc. - but still they cant accept the apparent hipocracy of what the Church teaches and what it actually does. My answer here has been that this is because none of us are perfect - they answer - true - but to support a fascist totalitatrian dictatorship can never be excused away - how can we support a hypocritical organisation?

Help!

Does anyone know more about the Church’s involvement in Peru, Spain?

PS - has anyone heard that the Catholic Church is in decline in Poland now? - can anyone explain this?
[/quote]

Why do your atheist/agnostic family members expect the church to do anything? Are they inferring that there is more to the church than they openly admit?

I always find it amusing how many times Protestants deny the authority and validity of the RCC, sometimes even going as far as to say it is the work of the devil, yet - they never stop asking why the church isn’t doing more! (Amazing how they expect so much from a corrupt organization!)

Those against the church will always find accusations against it. For instance, while it is true that Pius XII signed a concordat with the Nazi regime, it was meant to gurantee the survival of the church in Germany, and it was enacted before the death camps. It is easily to look on the German government under Hitler now and accuse the church of wrongdoing. But such accusations come from people who did not live then, nor did they have any responsibilities concerning the issues then. So it is easy to accuse the church of not taking a sterner position against Hitler.

Yet, I remember a Bishop relate a story about how when he was a priest in a concentration camp, every time the Pope did speak out against the regime, he and the other priests and Protestant ministers would be abused by the guards. After each beating, the Protestant ministers would chew-out the Catholic priests…“What’s wrong with your Pope? Why doesn’t he keep his big mouth shut? Every time he talks, we pay for it!!”

Isn’t it beautiful? When it is an accusation against the Pope by people who did not have to live under those conditions, the pope should have done more. When a righteous proclamation is rendered by the pope, and it results in the discomfort of the Protestants, he should keep silent!

Maybe you should ask the Protestants/agnostics/atheists why they are not doing more.

Thal59


#19

Critics of the Catholic Church will always find something to throw in the faces of the faithful.

The Inquisition (the English during and after Henry VII were far worse)
Pinochet
Franco
WWII and blaming Pius XII for not “speaking out” against the Nazis
etc., etc.

Well, where were the atheists and agnostics to defend the Jews against Hitler?
Should the Catholic church have taken the side of Allende and the Spanish Republicans? Allende was a Nazi before he as a Communist. Allende’s writings from the 1930s were in favor of eugenics. The Spanish Republicans wer backed by Stalin. Many of them fled to the Soviet Union after the Nationalists took power and were locked up in slave labor camps by Stalin.

The Church in Poland is doing okay. Church attendance is not what it was during the days of Communist suppression but still more than half of Poles attend weekly Mass and well over 90% consider themselves Catholic. Poland has thousands of young men in its seminaries. The challenge of the Church in Poland is to continue to grow and thrive in a land that no longer has His Holiness, John Paul II of eternal memory, here with us to visit and evangelize his homeland.


#20

Why stop at Franco and Pinochet? What about Saddam Hussein?


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