Page 7, 16th September 1938

16th September 1938
Page 7

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Organisations: Red air force


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The bitter attack which Georges Bernanos, the famous French Catholic writer, has made on the Nationalist authorities and the Church in Majorca in his book Les Grands Cimetieres Sous La Lune (reviewed in the CATHOLIC HERALD May zo), has been refuted by the Archbishop-Bishop of Majorca, Dr. Joseph Miralles Sbert, in a fifty-page letter to Cardinal Hinsley.

Chief points of the letter are :—

1. When Franco took control of Majorca there was a disruptive minority sympathising with the enemy Red forces. For the safety of the island the Nationalists had to reduce this subversive group to impotence, which they did by means legal in any war.

2. There was no massacre of prisoners taken in the retreat of the Catalan invaders of the island during August, 1936.

3. The Archbishop had none of the intimate knowledge of the workings of the civil and military authorities of which Bernanos accuses him.

4. The Archbishop intervened successfully to save the life of Seiler Rosello, the Socialist leader who had been condemned to death by a military tribunal, 5. Bernados's assertions that people were blackmailed into making their Easter communion. by fear of arrest if their names were not on lists of Easter Communicants sent to the Nationalist authorities are " quite fantastic," and are seemingly based on an imperfect understanding of an old custom on the island by which the people after their Easter Confession go through a short examination on doctrine, and afterwards receive a certificate, with their name, the date of their Confession, and the name of their parish.

6. Bernanos's statement that the Pope ought to question the Archbishop on conditions on the island since the Nationalists took control is answered by the fact that the Archbishop gave the Pope in March a full account of all that had happened in Majorca since July, 1936.

61 Red Air Raids

The Archbishop begins his letter by summarising the history of the outbreak of civil war in Majorca. A Communist revolt had been prepared on the island as in the rest of Spain. Under the influence of the Left and the Masonic Lodge of Pythagorus, the armed forces on the island had been notably reduced and the chiefs of Falange imprisoned. Lists had been drawn up of "reactionary " leaders.

The revolution was, however, shortcircuited, and the Nationalists took control of the island. But their control was not at all secure. There was a strong underground Socialist movement directed by Selior Rosello which endeavoured to make contact with the Red enemy which had control of the neighbouring island of Minorca, From July 21 till August 27 the Red air force made 61 air raids on Majorca.

On August 16 there was the first of a series of invasions by the Catalan Re publican forces. The islands of Ibiza, Formentera and Carbera were captured and Majorca remained in great peril until the Reds were driven out on September 4.

No Massacre of Prisoners

Bernanos stated in his book that during the defeat of this Rod invasion a great number of prisoners were taken in Manacor and all were executed in one night without trial and without the Sacraments. He states also that the Archbishop knew of this but made no protest.

The Archbishop denies all knowledge of the supposed massacre. After reading Bernanos's book he enquired of the chaplains who were with the Nationalist soldiers as to what really took place. They told him that less than a hundred of the invading Catalans were taken prisoner and of these less than fifty were shot; and these were not shot until they had been given trial by court-martial and time to make their peace with God.

After the more pressing dangers had been cleared the Nationalist authorities had to reduce the disruptive forces still on the island to impotence, if only for the safety of the mass of the people, for these forces were friendly with the enemy. The means taken to defeat treachery on the island would have bee.' taken hr any war, The work of investigation into the extent of the disruptive elements was undertaken by the Public Order Services aided by the Falange.

Saved Socialist Leader from Death

Bernanos accuses the Archbishop of having an intimate knowledge of all the work of repression subsequently undertaken by the authorities, including the execution of 3,000 civilians. The Archbishop categorically denies any such knowledge.

Since the publication of the book he has made exhaustive enquiries which reveal that many people were shot after open trial by military tribunals. The total number of executions has been less than two thousand, and the death sentence was never carried out until it had been endorsed by the Military Governor of the island. The Archbishop also points out that the total population of Majorca is 292,442; so that

the 2,000 executed do not form a very big proportion though one big enough to be deplored all the same.

On no occasion did the Archbishop have direct access to information about authoritarian action as he had appointed an Army Vicar to the Nationalists as soon as the civil war broke out.

When any case of harsh treatment or injustice reached the ears of the Archbishop he intervened, usually with effect, as on the occasion when he saved the Socialist leader Rosello from execution.

Perhaps the most serious accusation Bernanos made against the Church in Majorca was that the priests compiled lists of all people making their Easter Communions and sent these lists to the Nation. alist authorities to help them in their campaign against disruptive elements. In other words if you wanted to avoid arrest, make your Easter Communion.

" Why Should I Protest?"

The Archbishop denies such occurrences. The only evidence of anything which could have given Bernanos a foundation for his " fantastic accusations " is the old Majorcan custom whereby after the Easter confession, the penitent goes through a short oral examination of Christian Doctrine.

When he has passed he receives a certificate from his parish priest, on which is marked his name, the date of Confession, and a small printed notice that he has made his Easter Communion, together with the name of the parish.

But this kind of certificate has been given each year to the people of Majorca during some centuries past.

Finally the Archbishop makes it clear that he has given the Pope a precise and presumably satisfactory account in March of this year of all the events in Majorca since July, 1936, so that there is no need for the Pope to take advantage of M. Bernanos's advice and "question the Archbishop."

The Archbishop asks in winding up his apologia : "Why should I protest against Nationalist action here, as M. Bernanos demandsn have never heard once of anything about the civil authority which deserved even a mild reproof."

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