Page 3, 4th January 1946

4th January 1946
Page 3
Page 3, 4th January 1946 — THE CHURCH IN SPAIN

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Locations: Madrid, Barcelona


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• • Impressions from a Recent Visit

by Arnold Lunn

AT the end of a lecture which I gave at an American Bornber Station, a Jew who had listened with courtesy and attention placed um in his debt by asking a question which I was glad to have an opportunity of answering. " If the Pqpc has not been on the side of Fikorn, why did he support Fascism in the Spanish Civil War? " The fact is that the Vatican never withdrew recognition from the Republican Government, but it must be admitted that Catholics suffer from the same neurosis as Jews They definitely dislike being murdered, and consequently

it was as difficult for Catholics to he enthusiastic about the Republican regime, in whose territory thousands of priests and nuns were, as for Jews to feel enthusiastic about Hitler.

There would be less nonsense written about the Church in Spain if it was more generally realised that political affiliations and political alliances are as often determined by common antipathies as by. common sympathies. The United Nations, tar instance, were only united in their common antipathy to the Nazis. I, for one, rejoiced when the Russians defeated the Germans. because Germany at that moment was a greater danger to my country than Russia. Similarly, the coalition under General Franco was only united by common antipathy to the Reds. The uneasy association of the Spanish Church and the Falange is based not on common sympathies so far as political ideas are concerned. but on common antipathy to those who, if they came into power, would begin by persecuting the Falangists and thc priests. Against such threats the Church seeks allies where she can, and in this she behaves exactly as any other human group, just as the Jews behave.

Again, it is'a tradition of the Church to respect the Civil power and not to oppose it until and unless the Civil power makes it difficult for men to fulfil their spiritual duties to the

Church. Render unto, Caesar the things that are Caesar's.

The Church and the Republic When 'King Alfonso lelt Spain, the Church made every effort to work with the Republic. I myself have heard more than one member of the Spanish Royal Family criticising in the strongest possible terms thC policy of appeasement followed by Pius XI and his Nuncio in Spain, a policy which led among other things to the retirement of the newly appointed primate, Cardinal Segura. because he was distressed by the Republic.

Henry Buckley was no friend of the Nationalists, or indeed of the Catholic Church, but in his book Life and Death of the Spanish Republic, he admits that the Catholic weekly. 1.:4 Debate, which Incidentally was suppressed by the Falange when they came into power, laid down the duty of Catholics to accept the,. established form of State, even if they did not directly approve it. Talk of coups d'i-!tat by the Con.. servetivers after the return of the popular front in 1936 received no support from the Church.

" My impression." writes Buckley. " is that the hand of Cardinal Pacelli, now Pope Pius XII. was behind this opposition to military dictatorship in the fear that this would lead to a Fascia" regime in Spain which might be as anti-Catholic as the movements in Germany and Italy."

What the Bishop of Madrid Said In 1941 I was received by the Bishop of Madrid, who made some remark in the effect that at least we should be grateful to the Germans for saving Europe from Bolshevism. I asked him if he really thought that Nazism was a great improvement on Communism. He replied at once, " Nn, it is even worse," and devoted the rest of out interview to anxious and repeated requests that I would not betray his confidence by reporting what were obviously an unpremeditated indiscretion. In those days the German legions were on the frontier. America was not in the war, and the Germans had their own ways of making things disagreeable for Spanish bishops who did not conceal their views; but there is no harm in repeating to-day a remark which, because it was unpremeditated was first class information on what the Spanish Church really felt about the Nazis. My visit in 1942 coincided with that of a party of Hitler Youth (female). 'Their leader Passed before El Green's famous painting of the Virgin and said " We do 'find

our old fashioned folk lore so enchanting." The Spanish girl who was showing them round replied, " A million Spaniards died to prove that this was not folk-tore, and a million more will die again, if necessary." .

I was shown round the great Benedictine house of Monserrat by the same monk who showed Himmler round. The Abbot had refused to receive him. I limmler bragged that he was an enemy of .the Church and had suppressed Benedictine monasteries for immorality. The perfect guest! The Abbot and the monk who showed him round were offered decorations by the Nazis. which they returned. It was Nazi ineptitudes such as this which proved to be an important factor in keeping Spain out of the war.

The Church's Handicaps

During my recent visit to Spain in October of last 'year I discussed the position of the Church with a well known Catholic intellectual who is anopponent of the present regime.

"To all appearances." he said. " the Church seems to be committed to the support of the present regime, but our press is strictly controlled, and whereas if a pro-Franco praises the regime it is front-page news,' if a bishop criti7iSeS the regime the press is silent. People often ask wiry the voice of the Church was nor raised on behalf of mercy after the Civil War. Well, in the first place no priest could ever be induced to testify against a prisoner accused of atrocities., and in the second place there was a great deal cif pres sure r mercy."

the scenes on the side of

c) The Church often gets the blame for things for which she is in no sense responsible. Here is a case in point. A Protestant minister who was imprisoned on a political charge refused to kneel during the consecration on the grounds that his knee was bad. He was examined by a doctor who could detect nothing wrong with his knee. Next day he again refused to kneel, and was dragged out. The Archbishop of Burgos, who was celebrating, said to the Governor, " I heard a scuffle during mass," and the Governor explained what had happened. The Archbishop replied, " You arc completely in the wrong. Canon Law forbids us to force the Catholic religion on non-Catholics, and you had no right whatever to insist that a Protestant pastor should attend MaAsnsOther story illustrates the same point ; a Protestant pastor in , Barcelona wrote an admirable booklet in defence of the existence of God. The Bishop of Barcelona warmly recommended it for use in the seminaries. Then came the Civil War, and 'when the Falangists entered the city the Protestant pastor was accused of Red sympathies. lie appealed to the forme, Bishop of Barcelona. who had been translated to another See, for his intervention, and proved to be entirely successful.

A Luncheon Party

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Senor Art*. was good enough to arrange a small luncheon party at which I could meet a number of representative Catholics, among others the Auxiliary Bishop of Madrid and the President of the Catholic Action, who succeeded the Minister when he resigned on accepting his appointment as a Cabinet Minister. Many good Catholics regretted that be had joined the Cabinet, but others rejoiced that a man of proved devotion to the Church should accept the responsible post.

The Bishop, the President and the Minister insisted that the Church was completely independent, that Catholic papers published what they wished to publish and in mo way accepted dictates from the Government.

I then raised the question of the Protestants. Spanish Protestants are, of course. a small and uninflucntial sect. Many of their Ministers are fnreigners and American Protestant Missions have been accused of buying converts: all of which merely confirms my belief that even on the lowest grounds this negligible sect might be conceded full freedom to propagate their beliefs. They are allowed freedom of worship and their own schools in the only places where there are enough Protestants to supports a school ; but a Protestant who wrote a book defending Protestantism and attacking Catholic dotarine would be refused permission to publish it. I therefore could not agree with the Minister that there was no persecution of Protestants, for I should certainly regard myself as persecuted if I was prevented from publishing books of Catholic Apologetics. I should be happier if the Spanish Government was as liberal in her treatment of Spanish Protestants as are Eire and Belgium.

I was interested in the practical effect of the recent political amnesty, for the persecution of opinion is something which no Catholic in the English speaking world is prepared to defend. I mentioned to the Minister two cases of men apparently in prison merely for their political views. lie listened with great courtesy to what I had to say on the matter, and next day I was informed that these cases were being reviewed.

" Had I been the Minister," a Spanish friend of mine who was present at the interview remarked to me next day, " I should have replied. My dear Mr. Lunn, the position of Protestants in Spain may not be ideal. but they are not soaked in petrol and bum alive, or otherwise butchered, as was the case with thousands of our priests, without protest from any but a very small minority of British and American Protestants of the locus standi AngloSaxons, the overwhelming majority lof whom approved and supported the regime in whose territory there was the most bitter religious and political persecution. They are protesting against the comparatively mild disadvantages which opponents of this regime still offer; and by what right do you people who have been servile in your appeasement of Russia, the bloodiest tyranny in the history ot Europe, seek to impose democracy upon Spain?"

The Difference 1 hough Falange Spain has some of the objectionable features of other Totalitarian States, such as the single party system and the controlled press, the points of resemblance -are less striking than the points of difference. Nobody seemed to resent the candour with which t discussed and criticised the Falange system. My lecture in skiing, delivered before the leading men in the Falange hierarchy of sport, was, in effect, an attack upon the whole system of the control of sport in the interests of a political patty ; but though three young men came up after the lecture and said they would have hissed me had not General Moecardo sbeen in the chair, the General himself remarked at the end of the lecture that much that I had said shOuld be inscribed in letters of gold over every ski-ing club hut.

My personal sympathies with the Monarchists were well known. Don Juan's particular representative in Spain, the Infante Alfonso, was recently deprived of his Command, and is under house arrest: but when I exexpressed a desire to see him, I was sent in a Government car to visit the Government's prisoner.

One can hardly imagine Hitler making all the necessary arrangements to ensure that a guest of the Nazi Government should spend a few quiet days with Schuschnigg.

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