The Church and the Spanish Civil War

I have read some very serious accusations against the Church, can someone clarify?

Why, allegedly, did the Church:

  1. Support nationalist forces that were just as evil as republican forces and turn a blind eye to those martyred by nationalists?

  2. Not recognize the martyrs of the Basque country?

  3. Why was that psychopathic murderer Franco given a papal medal?

  4. Why did the Church oppose labor?

I guess all of them are variants of a single “Why did the Church support the Nationalists and not the Republicans?”. Well, the simple answer is that, in many cases, Republicans were hostile to the Church and Nationalists were not. In general people tend to become friends with people who do not try to kill them… For the same reason Nazi Jews were not very common…

OP, it sounds like you have been listening to Communist agit-prop. Disregard it.

Yes, I was reading communist literature, but I want a rebuttal, not dismissal.

I’m aware that the republicans were generally hostile to the Church but there were also many Catholic republicans, including priests, who were murdered by nationalists and have gone unrecognized.

Christians don’t need to debate with Communists, they need to reject Communism. Those statements are absurd and not deserving of respect.

The Church does not oppose labor, the Church has been the best friend the working class has ever had.

The Church did not put or keep Francisco Franco, or any other dictator, in power. Considering the Communist massacres of Catholics, it could hardly be surprising that some or many Spanish Catholics favored the Nationalist side.

The Christian ethic of sparing the innocent, even in wartime, was rejected by the modern atheistic dictators. This is the fault of atheism, not the Church.

Franco was no democrat but it is worth noting that he could have been a great help to Hitler and Mussolini in WWII by seizing the British base at Gibralter but refused to do so.

That’s a really unconvincing response. You need to debate anyone whose views you wish people not to believe. That is to say, if I find author X making a plausible point, you need to refute it or accept that I may be convinced by author X. When people with inquiring minds are repeatedly told not to ask questions, not to read certain sources, not even to bother trying to refute particular points, the cumulative, inductive conclusion they will most likely come to eventually is that the faith on behalf of which people are giving them this silly advice is probably indefensible.

So every time you say something of the kind you said above, you are contributing to undermining the Catholic faith in the minds of others. You are guilty of giving scandal–of putting a stumbling block before your weaker brothers and sisters.

The Church does not oppose labor, the Church has been the best friend the working class has ever had.

How was this shown, specifically, in 1930s Spain?

The Church did not put or keep Francisco Franco, or any other dictator, in power.

But is it not true that the Spanish bishops pretty uniformly supported him and gave the Spanish people the impression that the Church, and hence God, was on his side? And isn’t it true that the Vatican never told the Spanish bishops that they were wrong for so doing?

Doesn’t this add up to the Church having something to do with his coming to power and remaining in power?

One of the things that I find most disturbing about Catholicism, and that has made it most difficult for me to accept Catholicism, is the way Catholics talk as if any time the institutional Church does something clearly bad it suddenly becomes, for the purposes of that act, a gaggle of separate individuals.

Considering the Communist massacres of Catholics, it could hardly be surprising that some or many Spanish Catholics favored the Nationalist side.

This is a typical partisan tactic: take one side’s atrocities, in isolation, and speak as if they were just unmotivated acts of depravity; then claim that your own side’s atrocities, if they existed at all, were just sporadic and understandable responses to the evil of the other side. The next step, of course, is to accuse the person who points out this inconsistency of “blaming the victim.”

As far as I can see, both sides in the Spanish Civil War were pretty awful. I think that from a moral point of view it’s hard to choose between them. And yet some conservative Catholics (including many people living at the time whom I respect, such as Tolkien, and a few folks still today) seem to portray the nationalist side as the good side just because the other side was viciously anti-Catholic.

The Christian ethic of sparing the innocent, even in wartime, was rejected by the modern atheistic dictators. This is the fault of atheism, not the Church.

But Franco wasn’t an atheist, or even a lapsed Catholic with bizarre and confused religious opinions (like Hitler, who wasn’t exactly an atheist either but certainly wasn’t a practicing Catholic or any kind of orthodox Christian). He was a self-proclaimed loyal son of the Church. His followers believed themselves to be good Catholics. And they disregarded the Christian ethic of sparing the innocent just as much as their opponents did, from all I’ve heard. When did the Church speak out about this? (This is a genuine question–I know that secular historians do slant things, and I’m quite willing to be shown evidence that the Church did speak out on Franco’s atrocities.)

Franco was no democrat but it is worth noting that he could have been a great help to Hitler and Mussolini in WWII by seizing the British base at Gibralter but refused to do so.

I can’t see that this is remotely relevant to the present discussion.

Edwin

See:

REV. DR. RYAN TRACES ORIGINS OF THE STRUGGLE


Basques and Moors

“If the people of Spain hadn’t risen against such atrocities they would not have been the valiant sons of Spain that they are but despicable cowards,” declared Very Rev. Dr. A. H. Ryan, Professor of Scholastic Philosophy, Queen’s University, Belfast, in an address on “Spain” in St. Mary’s Hall, Belfast, last night.

Over 200 people attended, among them the Bishop of Down and Connor, Most Rev. Dr. Mageean. Mr. Raymond Burke presided. Dr. Ryan said that the deplorable events in Spain since the outbreak of the civil war had produced most extraordinary reactions in many places and especially in Ireland.

The fact that the Catholic Church had suffered had produced the usual type of exultation in those bigoted circles that could not see that the Catholic Church was fighting the battle, not alone of Catholicism, but of every religion.

It had produced joy also in those antediluvian circles which interpreted Catholicity in terms of the Spanish Inquisition and walled-in nuns. Amongst Liberals it was interpreted as a war of Democracy against Fascism, while strangest of all was the attitude of Labour circles.

Whilst the English Trade Union Congress wisely recognised that Communism was its most deadly enemy at home, it did not regard it as inconsistent to send fraternal greetings to the frankly Communist regime in Spain under Largo Caballero.

CHURCH AND FASCISM

They were asked did it not suggest that there was something wrong with the Church in Spain. Others, better informed, were disquieted when they saw the apparent alliance between Fascism and the Catholic Church in European countries, including Spain, and asked was there any truth in the charge that the Catholic Church was going hand in hand with Fascism against the liberties of the people.

The natural answer, but not the most effective in the long run, was to point to the series of atrocities that had been committed – Church burnings, the desecrations of the dead, the sacrileges, and say: “What is to be done with the perpetrators of these deeds except to exterminate them?”

Proceeding, Dr. Ryan said that the insurgents in Spain were not engaged in a wanton revolt against Democratic government.

It was not a revolt of Conservatism against Liberalism because many leaders who spent their lives in exile under the Monarchy were fighting with the insurgents. It was not a revolt of the Monarchy against Democratic government, because many of the leaders were Republicans.

It was a revolt of the decent liberty-loving people of Spain who dared to suggest that priests and nuns had the same right of life as dogs against the barbarism imported from Russia.

It was regrettable that Moorish troops had to be called in to fight Communism but it must be remembered that the Moors were part of the regular army and compared to Communist terrorists, Moors were gentlemen.

The Moors fought against barricades, not monasteries.

They fought against soldiers, not nuns.

How was it, they were asked, that such ferocity could be stirred up in an overwhelming Catholic country?

The answer to that was that those who talked of Spain being a Catholic country in anything like the sense of the Irish Free State were completely ignorant of Spanish history.

From the days of Napoleon the church has been harassed under the influence of Continental Liberalism, the religious orders had been expelled many times from the eighteenth century till recent times. The attacks on the Church were no new things, any more than they were in Italy, Germany or Ireland.

freerepublic.com/focus/religion/2613388/posts

Also note from comments section–recommended reading:

I have read Combat Over Spain by Jose de Larios. He presents more truth about the origins of the war in about 12 pages than in any twelve volumes at a typical public library.

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell is essential reading for the period too. Very fascinating, as Orwell was a dedicated, Trotskyite leftist who barely escaped with his life from his more Stalinist “comrades”.

The Passionate War by Peter Wyden is left of center, but not insanely so, and does candidly present a lot of the chicanery flourishing between the Kremlin and Madrid, and puts in proper context the relative amounts of ‘foreign assistance’ from Moscow and Paris on one hand, and Rome and Berlin on the other. It was interesting to read of the transfer of virtually all of Spain’s gold bullion from the treasury into Soviet vessels. Quite Wagnerian. Ironic that some of Moctezuma’s gold may now be in the hands of Soros.

Er, don’t you mean “an explanation”…? For I do not see what is there to give a “rebuttal” to. For example, why would this one need a rebuttal:

If the assertion was that Republicans were good and Nationalists were evil, that would be something that might need a rebuttal. But what exactly is wrong with supporting one evil against the other? In WW2 UK and USA supported evil Soviets against evil Nazis - what exactly was necessarily wrong with that? And Finland supported evil Nazis against evil Soviets - likewise, what is supposed to be that wrong with that?

So, the Church has supported the Nationalist side. We can explain, why that specific choice was made, but what is supposed to be wrong with that choice? And what was supposed to be a better alternative?

I suppose we would need numbers (how many were killed by Nationalists, and how many by Republicans) and specific cases in order to answer that…

The one coherent response to this entire thread. Congratulations.

It seems like everyone else prefers to knee-jerk defend the Church without ever admitted that something unflattering and probably immoral happened. Because you can’t ever vehemently disagree with a Bishop! No, that would be schism!

It handed Eastern Europe over to totalitarianism for fifty years?

Perhaps it was the best choice for the Allied governments to make at the time. I’m not sure it was, but I’m not sure it wasn’t. I’m glad I wasn’t the one making the call.

But the Church isn’t a secular government. The Church does not need to support either side. Yet in this case the Spanish Church chose to, and as far as I know the Vatican did not rein them in.

Edwin

The Church, in any nation, always has a threefold responsibility.

  1. To be good and loyal citizens, like St. Paul tells us.
  2. To oppose injustice and defend the lowly.
  3. To provide for it’s own existence.

Often, it has been difficult to do all of those.

In the Spanish Civil War, the Church in Spain saw itself being attacked by radical communists, and it turned to the other side that set itself up as a defender of the Church. In reality, it seems this move was probably much to quick and resulted in sinfully ignoring some of the crimes committed by the nationalist side in the Civil war.
The Spanish Church didn’t seem to be fulfilling it’s role after the Civil War and seems to have defaulted on part of its obligation and of the call of the second Vatican council.

That being said, the nationalistic side was not always a monolythic movement, and many credit the Church’s influence as causing the “thawing out” of the dictatorship in the mid 1950’s and the improved situation that followed.

Well, when evil fights with evil, sometimes evil wins…

Of course, UK and USA didn’t handle the matters in the best way (to say the least). That’s why I only said that the general choice wasn’t wrong in itself (or “necessarily wrong”).

For example, supporting Soviets against Polish government-in-exile over Katyn was not something to be proud of…

Secular governments could stay neutral as well (some did). Anyway, it is also a choice - and not the one that is automatically better than alternatives. Maybe you can make a case that neutrality was better than supporting the Nationalists. But the original post didn’t cite such a case. That’s why I’m saying that there is little to answer or “rebut” here.

OK, so, what exactly do you want to get here? Why did you ask for “rebuttal” or “clarification”, if you really want “an admission”…?

It’s not even a question of “saying neutral.” If two vicious, totalitarian regimes are fighting, it’s the Church’s job to bear witness to both. It’s a completely different question than that faced by a secular government.

Your response gives ammunition to those who say that the Catholic Church is really a theocratic state which functions essentially like any other political power. This isn’t true, but it’s certainly true that the Church has sometimes stooped to acting like this, and some conservative Catholics seem to accept this as normal.

Edwin

Well, the problem is that saying how those approaches differ would require many details, and the original post effectively asks us to discuss “the big picture”, leaving *all *details out… That’s why I am pointing out that such criticism with no details is simply not effective.

Of course, should the discussion get to any details, it would probably be a good idea for me to stand aside, since I do not know that much about the Spanish Civil War itself… :slight_smile:

Having participated in a number of lengthy Spanish Civil War threads in the past, I’m not in a hurry to rehearse the whole business, partly because it does tend to become a ‘oh, yes it was/oh, no it wasn’t’ sort of argument.

On the other hand, I’d suggest that it might be important for some Catholics to consider whether and to what extent the Church was part of why Spain found itself in that particular crisis.

For those of us who tend to be unconvinced by ‘thedevildidit’ ‘naughtyanticatholicswantedtokillpriests’ explanations, the fact that the structure of Spanish society and its economic interrelationships, was far past its sell-by date is telling. Were people angry with the Church because the devil wanted them to kill priests or was it that they were angry with the Church because it was a major factor - it was a major landholder and held about a third of the country’s wealth - in maintaining a system that last worked well a couple of centuries before?

I’m not sure systems have “sell-by dates” in any morally relevant sense, and I’m not sure that the Spanish system had ever worked well. It was, as far as I’m aware, the result of the unification of the country in the fifteenth century. It was forged in nationalism, religious persecution, and (if the term isn’t anachronistic) racism. It’s example no. 1 for why Christians shouldn’t seek too zealously for victory in culture wars. . . .

Edwin

I’m not sure where they ‘morally relevant’ fits in really, you’d have to explain that to me, I’m afraid.

Spain never really recovered from the inflationary pressures created by Empire and gold and the drift of peasants and money from Castile but, by the early 20th Century, it rather shared the situation in late Tsarist Russia with rapid industrial growth in a few areas within a context of near-feudal social relationships elsewhere - it had the same kind of futile anarchic/anarchist opposition groups as well.

Morally relevant fits in because we’re discussing a moral issue–the Spanish Church’s tacit or explicit support of a vicious fascist regime because of its fear of the murderous leftist revolutionaries (I think that all the evidence indicates that they were murderous, and that they have been undeservedly romanticized by some secular Westerners).

The Spanish system “worked” well in the sixteenth century in the sense that it brought great power and wealth for a while, but from a moral and spiritual point of view there was already something rotten underneath the splendor, it seems to me.

Of course, some here would say that I’m still influenced by sixteenth-century English propaganda–the “Black Legend.”

Edwin

Which rather does assume that the ‘murderous leftist revolutionaries’ would have achieved dominance of the Republican side without the actions of the ‘murderous rightist revolutionaries’.

As to whether this is a ‘moral issue’ is another matter - this was a war about money and power, the Church owning a third of the wealth of the Country may well have been a moral issue but it certainly was a practical issue.

The Spanish system “worked” well in the sixteenth century in the sense that it brought great power and wealth for a while, but from a moral and spiritual point of view there was already something rotten underneath the splendor, it seems to me.

The Spanish were not unique in that. What seems to me to be the case is that Spain was one of those sclerotic societies that failed to move on.

Of course, some here would say that I’m still influenced by sixteenth-century English propaganda–the “Black Legend.”

Or those Protestant work ethic virtues . . . :slight_smile:

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