Page 5, 11th July 1975

11th July 1975
Page 5
Page 5, 11th July 1975 — Misconceptions on Portugal

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Locations: Lisbon, London, Santiago


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Misconceptions on Portugal

As a practising Catholic. I must protest most vehemently at the editorial entitled Flower Power Turned Sour and Douglas Brown's article on The Grim Face of Portugal. (June 27).

The editorial's description of the "sinister" scene in Lisbon after April 25 1974 (and not last April as stated in the editorial) gives a completely wrong impression of the revolution and the reader can make one of two conclusions.

Either you have purposely twisted the facts, which is indicative of irresponsible journalism or you do not know the facts, which indeed is irresponsible journalism.

What sinister and ulterior motive have you in describing the scene with "smiling soldiers hugging young girls"? If you saw the scene, as is implied in the opening words, why have you not said also that in spite of the Armed Forces' appeal for people to remain at home, the bulk of the population came to rejoice in the streets?

This was reported by the BBC television and the British press. Were you perhaps sleeping all through those reports, or were you too busy cancelling your orders for port and Portuguese sardines?

Why is it fair for a supposedly responsible journalist to "assume" things rather than base his sinister remarks on facts?

I am not in any way condoning the injustices taking place in Portugal, least of all those surrounding the Republica and Radio Renascenca affairs. But simply because it affects some Catholics should not be a reason to give a wrong impression of the country.

In the second editorial you, being the cad referred to. remind Rev Buti "that all men are equal in the eyes of God." If you are a sincere man and a thoughtful Catholic, indeed merely a true Catholic, and if you believe the words you utter and write, then why have you shown no interest in the real problem and seen the events in perspective, rather than affirm your bigotry by writing off all Catholics in Portugal as Cornmunists?

As for implying that Fascism did not exist in Portugal or that it exists in Spain, would you like to explain to your readers why it was that Salazar and Cactano needed the notorious secret police commonly known as the PI DE?

Why was it necessary to set up the Tarrafal concentration camp at Santiago de Cabo Verde? Why was vicious torture necessary in prisons? For what purpose was every youth in Portugal and its colonies obliged to join the Portuguese Youth Movement, whose trappings included a uniform which had a belt with an "S" as a buckle and the fascist salute?

Why was it necessary to keep the bulk of the population in Portugal and the colonies ignorant? In Portugal alone, over 30 per cent of the population is Why was it necessary to send young Portuguese men to fight a war they did not want to fight, for an "ideal" they did not believe in? Why was it necessary to use napalm bombs in Africa? Why were there massacres of Africans, while the Government claimed it did not know anything? Why was it necessary to have General Humberto Delgado murdered?

Perhaps you, the editor of the Catholic Herald, do not know anything because you do not read newspapers!

As for the existence of Fascism in Spain, you would do well to consult the many Spaniards living in exile in this country — Catholics as well — who could enlighten you on the man who, having revolted against a legal government and killed thousands of his own countrymen, and who owes his victory to such likeable characters as Hitler and Mussolini, for the repose of whose souls he very diplomatically attends public Masses and who now allows priests to be persecuted and beaten while you, a "thoughtful Catholic," plan your next holiday in the Costa Brava or sip sherry as you search for inspiration to find the right word and style to compose an assault on the minds and intelligence of your readers.

Turning to Douglas Brown's article, he too has chosen to give the impression that Fascism was non-existent in Portugal prior to April 25, 1974, and has portrayed the (Portuguese) Catholic Church as "the only institution dating from the previous regime that survives as an independent moral force."

If only this were true, perhaps now the Catholic Church (which is the only Church with a voice in Portugal) would not be so attacked now.

Why is it that the Church in Portugal has only now found its voice to speak out against injustices? Surely it is hypocrisy to say that before the revolution, the Church was "more concerned with the spiritual than with the material welfare of its members," while now it is "in the front line of the struggle for liberty, is undergoing persecution on that account and has thereby attracted the support not only of the traditionally anti-clerical liberals but of the moderate Socialists."

The new attraction is only for political convenience, as everyone knows. As for the Church being in the front line of the struggle for liberty, surely Mr Brown is not suggesting that during the long Fascist night, the Catholic Church — the established Church — was ignorant of the fact that, because there was no redress against injustices then, the Communists were strengthening their position by underground action, as Mr Brown himself stated in the Catholic Herald on September 20, 1968.

Why is it that the Church in Portugal, unlike the one in Spain and Brazil and many other countries, during the years of Salazar and Caetano, did not speak out against the colonial wars and against the massacres in Mozambique and other colonies?

Why did the Portuguese Catholic Church defend government action when the White Fathers decided to pack up and go? Why did the Portuguese Catholic Church in Angola prompt the expulsion of the Spanish missionaries of the Order of the Sacred Hearts (Sagrados Corazones)?

Why did the Portuguese Catholic Church keep silent at the murder of General Humberto Delgado? Why did the Portuguese Catholic Church not stand by the very few priests who dared to criticise government policy and action? Why were there no Africans in the Portuguese Catholic Church hierarchy?

Why did the Portuguese Catholic Church not condemn the separation of whites and blacks in churches, to the point of there being a special Sunday Mass for Negroes only?

Why did the old Archbishop of Lourenco Marques publicly condemn people for joining in the carnival celebrations, while he himself was having a whale of a time as the Cathedral was filling up with churchgoers?

Is this moral or is it something best forgotten or preferably not mentioned? Why did the Catholic Church in Portugal not speak out against a Fascist regime which, as a matter of policy, kept its people at home and in the colonies underpaid, undernourished and ignorant, so that Portugal to this day is the most backward country in Europe?

As for Fatima, Mr Brown obviously is not aware that. most regrettably, it became a "dirty' word associated with Portuguese Fascism only because Salazar and Caetano invoked it whenever it suited their propaganda. Had Mr Brown spoken to people in Portugal he might have heard it being said that Salazar gave Portugal the 3 F's — Fado, Farda and Fatima (Facto, uniform and Fatima).

Caetano also remembered Fatima when he nearly broke diplomatic relations with the Vatican because the Pope had the "effrontery" to receive the nationalist African fighters. Ironically, when the crisis was over, the Pope received a group of Coimbra students. who sang Fados to His Holiness!

Surely Douglas Brown, as a Catholic and as a journalist wants to inform people of the truth rather than feed his readers with false emotion.

There is no doubt that Portugal and its ex-colonies can serve as excellent examples of what can happen when people are kept in obscurantism and blissful ignorance; and his mission would be better fulfilled if he were to truthfully enlighten his readers instead of clouding their vision of the truth.

Yours faithfully, F. X.' T. Fernandes 202b Crystal Palace Road, London, SE22 9EL.

If Fernandes had read my leading article of June 27 with any attention, ne would nave seen that at no point did I defend the Salazar regime; that at no point did I write off all Catholics in Portugal as Communists and that at no point did I suggest that !litter and Mussolini were likeable chaps — ED.

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