Fr. Drinkwater's Credibility Test
An attack on Catholic newspapers for their attitude to the war in Spain was made On Press Sunday by the Rev. F. H. Drinkwater when he preached at the Holy Family Church, Small Heath, Birmingham.
Press Sunday is a day especially set aside this year for the first time by the Hierarchy so that parish priests may devote their sermons to the support of the Catholic Press. On May 23, Press Sunday was observed in the dioceses of Hexham and Newcastle, Salford, and in the Province of Birmingham. The dates are not yet settled for its observance in other dioceses.
Father Drinkwater's attitude, which is shared by many other prominent Catholics, has been made public on more than one occasion.
The most notable of these was in February when Mr. Alfred Denville, M.P., challenged him to visit Red Spain at Mr. Denville's expense to see for himself whether the Catholic case against the Red Government, as given in the Catholic Press, was not justified. The offer had to be turned down owing to pressure of other work.
Guernica Ambulance Woman's Evidence—page 9: Fr. Drinkwater's Credibility Test—page 6.
In his sermon on Press Sunday, Fr. Drinkwater said :
" As rewards our weekly newspapers, in some ways they are better now than they ever have been, and I wish I could recommend them to you. I hope the time will soon come when I can recommend them to you, and I think you know pretty well why I cannot honestly recommend them at present.
"Since the Spanish war began, our newspapers instead of using the opportunity to show forth the Catholic qualities of truthfulness and moderation and justice and charity, have frankly abandoned themselves to war-time propaganda, and are still doing so. You will understand the sorrow a priest feels in having to say such a thing and also his unwillingness to say any more about it from the pulpit. But if anybody cares to ask me personally I shall be quite willing to give them full reasons for what I have just said."
The Charges The reasons for Fr. Drinkwater's attitude are, the Catholic Herald understands, tabulated in seven points which include the following charges in connection with the Spanish war :—Taking sides in the war and setting up partisanship before truth; involving religion in it as deeply as possible; printing atrocity-stories of the more lurid and insufficiently-evidenced kind; reprinting atrocity story of early date as current news by omitting dates; making insinuations against the ecclesiastical character of Spanish clergy who do not support the insurgents; concealing the fact that all Catholics in foreign countries do not agree with their views on the question; and, denying or whitewashing the " massacre " at Guernica. while refusing to condemn it.
The fact that the Catholic Herald is still sold at the church door of the Holy Family is a sign that this paper is considered less " guilty " than others, but no exception was made in its regard in so many words.
Three Points In one form or another, Fr. Drinkwater's charges have been answered again and again in the Catholic Herald. We may, however, note that (i) the Catholic Herald does not print date-less atrocity stories when dates are available, nor is it easy to understand why " luridness " should be considered as a sign of mendacity. Surely a Catholic who believes in original sin and the reality of evil is better prepared to expect bestiality from human nature under certain circumstances than the sentimentalists who have faith in the dogma of universal goodness—barring avoidable accidents!
Father Drinkwater now admits " facts which are dreadful enough." Was he prepared at the beginning of the war, to believe that they might have taken place or did he dismiss them as " propaganda "?
(ii) The Catholic Herald has never printed anything about Spanish ecclesiastics or other Catholic apologists for Madrid which
was not in fact true. The information about Fr. Lobo given last week by the Vicar-General of Westminster is typical of the need for such information given that Red apologists quote ecclesiastics of his status as evidence of Catholic sympathy for their cause.
Guerrlica (ifi) The Catholic Herald has never denied the fact of the bombing of Guernica. It, moreover, described the very idea as
appalling " and expressed its " indignation " (see issues of April 30 and May 6). It did analyse the detailed accounts given in the British Press and refused to accept their story as it stood until better authenticated. It admitted (May 6) that an airraid must have taken place, but stated that the nationality of the plane could not be proved by an eye-witness. To this day it considers that the evidence remains sufficiently contradictory and unsupported to make it impossible as yet to know the true and full story of how and why Guernica was destroyed. But even if it should prove that Guernica was destroyed by German planes and that Red incendiarism played no part in it, its caution (proved right in many other instances) would simply be the result of its natural scepticism in regard to Madrid— inspired news.
Father Drinkwater is equally cautious about Burgos-inspired news.
Our attitude is therefore, the same with the simple difference that Fr. Drinkwater appears to have greater faith in Socialist, Communist and Anarchist sources, while we have greater confidence in the word of Catholics.