Friday, July 27, 2007

Traditionalist Trifecta

The 20th Century is being called "the Century of Martyrs".
The question is, who really deserves to be called a martyr?
Must a martyr be a victim for the faith, for politics, or for both?

Republican militiamen "executing Christ" at the
Cerro de los Ángeles, Getafe, Spain - 1936

Warning... This is going to be a very long post.

Pope Benedict and the hierarchy of the Spanish Church are not getting along too well with the Socialist government of Jose Luis Zapatero in Spain. The ill feelings are probably mutual.

After a first year of what were mostly positive reviews for B16, especially after the extraordinarily warm response to the release of his first encyclical, there are clear signs now that the honeymoon period is coming to an end. More mixed reactions started coming in after the Regensburg speech, and the Pope's visit to Brazil. Now more concerned reactions are being voiced around a pronounced, rightward lurch in Benedict's vision for the Church that was more recently seen in the issuance of the Motu Proprio freeing up the 1962 Missal, and the kerfluffle over the meaning of the word "subsists" in the Vatican II documents. The third indicator that he intends to move unambiguously towards advancing a traditionalist agenda, a move which actually preceded the other two, was the announcement of the intention to beatify hundreds of clerical martyrs of the Spanish Civil War.

Once again, I rely heavily on Tom Ashbrook's On-Point radio program. Listen in either Windows Media or Realplayer format to this program from July 17th called The Spanish Civil War and the Vatican's Beatification of the 'Martyrs'. Almost 7,000 priests, nuns, and other religious were killed during the Spanish Civil war, mostly in the first few months of the conflict. A beatification ceremony for almost 500 of them is scheduled to take place on October 28th, 2007. Although no one claims that these murders were not a crime, this announcement is not without controversy. Strong emotions still run high in Spain over the Civil War and its repressive aftermath. There are still many survivors from the 1936-1939 conflict.

(To put things in perpective... Most estimates put the number of people killed during the three years of the Spanish Civil War in the range of 500,000 to 700,000. Within days of the Spanish military's Nationalist insurrection against the Republican government, much of the northern part of the country and the southern cities of Sevilla and Cordoba fell to the Nationalists. The Republicans retained control of Madrid, Barcelona, and other major cites, mostly in the Eastern (Catalan) and southern (Andalucian) parts of the country. In the towns in each zone, the early victors erupted in a brutal paroxsysm of violence and murder against their perceived class opponents. It is estimated that in the Republican (loyalist) zone, 75,000 people perished between the months of July and September of 1936. In the Nationalist zone, it is estimated at 75,000 to 100,000. In the Republican zone, the repression was brought under control and stopped after a few months. As for the Nationalists, the repression never really stopped until Franco died in 1975)

Partisans on both sides still argue about who was in the right and who was wrong. Political judgements and implications are seen in the Vatican announcement, and some see it as an impediment to national reconciliation. As the tagline for the On-Point program puts it:

The Spanish Civil War was Europe's grim curtain raiser on the horrors-to-come of World War II. It was Ernest Hemmingway's bloody backdrop to "For Whom the Bell Tolls".

The Soviets backed Spain's leftist government. Nazi Germany backed the rightwing backlash and dictator-in-waiting Francisco Franco.

So did the Roman Catholic Church.

Half a million or more Spaniards died. Now, Pope Benedict has moved to put hundreds of Spanish clergy killed in the war on the path to sainthood.

In Spain, that is still a hot political act.

"Los Nacionales"

Republican Civil War poster characterizes the Nationalists as military officers, Moroccan Army Regulars, fascist financiers, and bishops.

The Zapatero government that came to power shortly after the Madrid train bombings are the heirs to the side that lost the war. Tensions have been high recently between the Vatican and this government as this article explains the recent events and the history around it:

The Spanish Church opposes several reforms introduced by the leftist government in Madrid, most notably those liberalizing divorce, permitting gay marriage and stem cell research and making religious instruction in public schools optional. According to a recent survey by the Opina Institute, 82% of the Spanish population says it is Catholic, but only 42% are practicing. Most Spaniards in this group vote for the Partito Popular (PP, right-wing). However, 2/3 of Spaniards believe that the Church is far divorced from social realitities...

But in Spain, battles between Church and State may take on exaggerated proportions, given the sad history of the 20th century. Certain Spanish Catholics compare the attitude of the Zapatero government with the anarchist and anticlerical experiment which, according to the Church, nearly crushed the “soul” of Spain...

Historian Bartholomé Bennassar reminds us that the Spanish Civil War was a war of religion. Franco’s forces marched in a crusade in the name of Christ the King against “Marxists,” and carried out hundreds of summary executions of the “red vermin.” The Republicans were equally brutal and placed priests, nuns and bishops in front of the firing squad. 7,000 clerics lost their lives during the Spanish Civil War...

The Catholic Church was the pillar of Franco’s régime. Its backing permitted Franco to don a sort of moral mantle, marking his distance from Fascist and Nazi régimes. The Franco government encouraged the teaching of religion in schools, acceded to every demand of Reconquista Catholicism, and insisted on the right of nomination of candidates for bishop before their appointment by the Pope. But, thanks to internal changes within the Catholic Church of the 1960s and 1970s, Pope John XXIII’s Encyclical Pacem in Terris, the Vatican II Council (1962-1965), the teachings of Pope Paul VI on liberalism, the respect for the right of the press to go on strike, the Catholic Church, with the exception of a few ultra-Francoists and technocrat ministers with membership in Opus Dei, distanced itself from Franco...

El Caudillo, who had his hands full with the separatist Basque clergy, claimed that he was stabbed in the back. He detested Paul VI, who did not reply to his invitation to visit the country. Cardinal Vicente Enrique y Tarancon (1907-1994), Archbishop of Toledo and Madrid and Primate of Spain, preached national conciliation, condemned Catholic triumphalism in the aftermath of the Civil War, demanded liberalization and protested repression...

In the conflict which is occurring now, thirty years later, between the Church and Spain’s socialist government, we should bear in mind the passions of yesterday and the widespread resentment, intolerance and violence which accompanied them. But this unhappy past must not justify an attitude of systematic opposition [to reform] uncoupled from the legacy of Cardinal Tarancon and the Vatican II Council. The way in which Benedict XVI will handle this crisis in the coming months will be an indication of the direction which he has chosen for his pontificate.

As I try to look behind the scenes here, I think I have a feeling for what's going on, in at least some respects. Benedict is very big on precision in speech, writing, and thought. Although he bemoans Europe's secularization and lack of appreciation for its roots, and although Opus Dei (who would most certainly be sympathetic to matters related to the Franco side) is very influential and powerful in the Vatican these days, I think there is a little bit more to this.

There has been a push in some circles over the last 25 years or so to have the late Salvadoran archbishop Oscar Romero beatified and to be declared a saint, along with many other Latin American marytrs who've been victims of repressive governments. Last May 9th, as he was on his way to Latin America, Benedict said of Romero:

"That the person himself merits beatification, I do not doubt," while adding that Romero was "certainly a great witness of the faith, a man of great Christian virtue who worked for peace and against the dictatorship." Then, recalling that the archbishop of San Salvador was assassinated during the consecration of the host while saying Mass, the Holy Father said Romero's was "an incredible death."

Still... Romero's beatification seems stalled. Going nowhere. Interesting parsing of words above, from Benedict regarding Romero... He wouldn't come right out and say that he personally considered him to be a saint or martyr for the faith. It seems that if any case needs to be advanced that might smack of leftism or liberalism in some way, it must be balanced (or even heavily outweighed) by causes from the right. Nowadays, one hardly ever hears of the case for Blessed John XXIII anymore, but much is heard about Pius XII. That has to happen first. Not much is heard about Oscar Romero and Central American martyrs anymore... The Spanish martyrs must come first.

Laurence Cunningham, in an article in America about martyrdom, had some interesting insights into Benedict's thoughts on what constitutes a martyr, which is considered restrictive by some:

In his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI remarked that the essential functions of the church are three, for which he gives the Greek terms: leitourgia (worship), marturial/kerygma (witness/proclamation), and diakonia (service). He uses the word marturia (witness) in the original sense of the term-the public attestation of one's faith. It is used frequently in that sense in the New Testament, although the meaning "witness unto death," which is the way we often use the term today, also is found there. The Acts of the Apostles, for example, uses the term martyr (Greek martus) to describe St. Stephen.

In a letter written to the head of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints on April 24, 2006, the pope again brings up the designation martyr, but for a more technical reason. He does not wish the term "martyr" to be used so elastically as to attenuate its sense, common in the tradition, of one who dies because of hatred for the faith. He cites no example of a too generous use of the term, but he may well have had in mind the recent murder of an Italian priest in Istanbul at the hands of a young man, who killed the priest while shouting out "God is great" (Allahu akbar). The popular press described this priest as a martyr at the hands of a fanatical Muslim. In fact, he died at the hands of a mentally disturbed youth.

Benedict's letter insists that the congregation, when it considers causes brought before it, should have a precise sense of what constitutes a martyr in the technical sense of the term. The pope argues that, according to the ancient tradition of the church, a martyr is one who dies, either directly or indirectly, out of hatred for the faith-as the Latin has it, in odium fidei. The papal caution, expressed with the care one expects from a learned theologian, is simultaneously a gentle reminder to the congregation to be precise in its considerations and a reminder that the word "martyr" has both a loose and a precise meaning in church usage, which ponders the various senses of the term in the New Testament…

One of the absolutely new dimensions of the contemporary world is that many people who died for the faith have met their fate at the hands of people who themselves were baptized Catholics. The roll of those Central American martyrs-the victims of the death squads, the activist religious and priests, the bishops (think of Oscar Romero)-includes many who were killed by Catholics and, further, in some cases, by people who argued that what they did was in defense of "Catholic" civilization against the depredations of Communists and leftists. Some bien pensants of the contemporary right have offered that argument to slow down the beatification process of Oscar Romero, maintaining that his death was political and had nothing to do with religious belief. That line of argument seems tendentious, since, obviously, it could be turned against the cause of the Rev. Jerzy Popieluszko, who was murdered by state security forces in Poland in 1984 because of his presence among those who supported Solidarity in their struggles against the Communist state. Such debate is part of the contemporary discussion on martyrdom. It is clear, as Karl Rahner and others argued in a series of essays in the periodical Concilium a generation ago, that a more nuanced understanding of martyrdom was needed if for no other reason than the fact that many have died for the faith in so-called Christian countries.

The key to a better understanding of martyrdom might be found in the refined distinction that Benedict XVI makes between direct and indirect hatred of the faith. When the Rev. Pino Pugliesi was murdered by a Mafia-hired killer in Palermo in 1993 because of the priest's vociferous denunciation of corruption and crime in his poor parish, he was hailed by John Paul II as a martyr. It is clear that his murder was carried out to stop him from speaking against the crime syndicate. But a Sicilian Jesuit pointed out that what Father Pugliesi actually died for was his stout resistance to the burden put on the poor of his parish. It was for that reason, Bartolomeo Sorge, S j., wrote, that he died not directly in odium fidei but in odium caritatis-out of hatred for love. One can also safely say that he died as a violent protest, albeit indirectly, out of a hatred for the faith that impelled his love and solidarity for the poor...

A final point made in a series of books and essays by Jon Sobrino, S.J., is worth recalling. While we single out those who for conspicuous reasons are held up as martyrs,it is crucial that we not forget the countless number of unnamed persons who have been murdered by death squads, in gulags and through judicial malfeasance, who will never be raised to the altars. They died, like Jesus, amid thieves and insurrectionists, because of hatred. To that hatred we can add any number of prepositional phrases: hatred of faith, of love, of justice. They too are martyrs, and like the Holy Innocents whose designation was defended by Aquinas, deserve the name even if the title will not pass muster after official scrutiny.

Dying for "hatred of the faith" dispenses of the need for miracles. Do I think that the Spanish martyrs are going to be strong Catholic role models, models of heroic virtue for Spain and elsewhere? Do I think that Oscar Romero deserves to be canonized more than thay do? Can someone say, Jeff, how can you look at the murder of 7,000 religious and compare it to the murder of one? All I can say in response is to say that I believe that Romero was at least as much a victim of a "hatred of the faith" as they were, and also that Romero died in part for defending his flock from repression and violence and for being their advocate, while in the case of the Spanish clergy of the 1930s, they were largely perceived as being aligned with the powerful oppressors rather than with the oppressed and the poor. Neither has Romero been alone. Thousands have died for the same cause for which he died.

For those religious who were killed in Spain... Was it the fault of the cloistered nun that the landless day-laborers in Andalucia were treated by the owners of the large estates as if they were subhumans? Certainly not. Was it the fault of the individual, humble parish priest that the Spanish military chose to rise up against the Popular Front government? No, but in looking at these events from many years later, might it not give the Vatican pause that the side on which the clergy were aligned in 1937 used methods such as enlisting Hitler's Luftwaffe to undertake history's first large scale aerial bombing of an undefended civilian target when they obliterated the town of Guernica? What is the larger message being made, in addition to the message concerning martyrdom? Especially when the same consideration is not given towards thousands of Latin American victims of oppressive violence, both religious and lay workers, who happened to be on the opposite side of a nearly identical political divide?

I'm going to write a bit about what little I understand of the Spanish Civil War and about Spanish anticlericalism, and people can draw their own conclusions. Two of my frequent correspondents here are historians who've actually lived in Spain. If I'm way off in my analysis, I invite them to chime in and let me know.


The Spanish Civil war was one of the most dramatic and fascinating events in the history of the Twentieth Century. All of the great themes and currents of the times were coalesced onto one boiling cauldron - an epic battle between Democracy vs. Dictatorship, Communism vs. Fascism, Anarchism vs. Authoritarianism, and Catholicism vs. Anticlericalism.

Spain is known for outbursts of intense religious fervor, but also for some of the most intense anticlericalism that can be found anywhere. The causes of the anticlericalism are complex, but much of the root of it can apparently be traced back to the end of the Napoleonic Wars in Spain in the early 19th Century. Large scale ecclesiastical control of certain landholdings was lost, and in the view of some historians, the Church lost favor with the peasantry when it subsequently needed to rely more and more on the wealthy gentry to sustain the Church's institutions and activities. The real origin of the anticlericalism was the latifundist economic system, in which enormous landed estates are in the hands of a few oligarchs, and day-laborers are forced to work them in order to survive. A paramilitary force called the Guardia Civil, well recognizable in their tricorned patent-leather hats, were organized to protect the interests and property of the landowners, and to keep these day-laborers, barely surviving on starvation wages, in line. From the wiki article:

In the Iberian Peninsula, the Castilian Reconquista of Muslim territories provided the Christian kingdom with sudden extensions of land, which the kings ceded as rewards to nobility, mercenaries and military orders to exploit as latifundia, which had been first established as the commercial olive oil and grain latifundia of Roman Hispania Baetica. The gifts finished the traditional small private ownership of land, eliminating a social class that had also been typical of the Al-Andalus period. The possessions of the Church did not pass to private ownership until the desamortización, the "secularization" of church-owned latifundia, which proceeded in pulses through the 19th century. Big areas of Andalusia are still populated by an underclass of jornaleros, landless peasants who are hired by the latifundists as "day workers" for specific seasonal campaigns. The jornalero class has been fertile ground for socialism and anarchism.

This latifundist system was especially strong in Andalucia. In the northern parts of the country in places such as Galicia and Navarre, it was not quite as prevalent. In those areas, there were deeply conservative farmers who owned their own plots, and a small middle class. Anticlericalism was not as widespread in those areas either. In my view, this is most significant in analyzing what happened to the Spanish Republic, and why things broke during the Civil War the way that they did.
In 2007, the latifundist economic system still persists in one place today, ironically enough... In Latin America.

The Second Spanish Republic came to power in 1931, with the Spanish King stepping down, and a military dictatorship coming to an end. On the left, hopes were high that land reform and labor reform would soon take place. In an act of very poor judgement, however, the Republic undertook a series of anticlerical laws and policies that very likely sowed the seeds of its own destruction. They felt that in order to transform Spanish society and bring about lasting change, the Church's complete control over the educational system needed to be broken. Church priviliges were removed, clergy were banned from teaching, crucifixes were removed from schools, the Jesuit order was dissolved, and the top cardinal in the country was sent into exile. In addition, extreme elements on the left undertook violent actions in the burning of churches and convents. Ghoulishly, there were instances where the bodies of carmelite nuns were disinterred and displayed on street corners to prove to the pious that the bodies were not incorrupt. The Republican government took very few steps to bring these abuses under control. Class and religious animosities deepened and hardened, and within five years, all sides felt that the situation had gotten so out of control that war was not only imminent, but welcome. Rarely has class hatred ever manifested istelf as viciously as in Spain in 1936. In July, the generals acted.
The Civil War
I've read quite a few books about the Spanish Civil War, most of them quite openly sympathetic to the Republic. Both the Republican and Nationalist sides were combinations of disparate forces. The Republicans tended to be a mix of liberal Social Democrats, Socialists, Communists, Trotskyites, Libertarians, and Anarcho-Syndicalists. The Nationalists were a mix of conservative Catholic parties, military officers, fascists, monarchists, and Carlists (a traditionalist group longing for the restoration of the Spanish Bourbon monarchy). The Republicans had outside aid in the form of miltary advisors and equipment from the Soviet Union. They had limited manpower help in the form of the anti-fascist "International Brigades", volunteers from around the world. The Nationalists were supplied by the fascist powers, with direct military assistance from the Nazi "Condor Legion" and Italian troops.
Many authors have speculated on the reasons why the Republic lost the war, in spite of the fact that they had control of the the navy, the industrialized cities, and the ports. There is much that is made of the fact that France, the US, and England pursued a "Non-Intervention" policy that starved the Republic of equipment, the introduction of Soviet NKVD agents (the precursor to the KGB) that directed a purge of the Communist party's opponents within the Republic's forces, much like was being done in Russia, the squabbles between the Republican factions on whether to pursue revolution first or to win the war first, and the aid from Germany and Italy to the Nationalist cause. I could be entirely wrong, but it seems to me that the Soviet assistance to the Republic was at least as extensive as Germany's assistance to the Nationalists. The Italian forces were considered a joke by both sides. Their acronym, the CTV, was jokingly translated in Spanish to "Cuando Te Vas?" (When are you leaving?). The most effective troops on either side of the war were probably the Carlist Requetes from Navarre, on the Nationalist side.
I'm more inclined to think that the most significant reason why the Republic lost was because in a country that was at least nominally 90% Catholic, they recklessly pursued an anticlerical program that scared the heck out of what used to be called in political circles, the bourgeoisie. Small business men, conservative northern farmers, civil servants, schoolteachers, clerks and the like, had felt that the country had descended into chaos. This does not mean, however, that in my opinion, the Church covered itself in glory in this episode.
A collection of quotes below outline the dangers of letting economic injustice fester for far too long, and for class hatred to run rampant.

Convent of Trinitarian Nuns, burning in Madrid, 1931

The religious situation of a country is not constituted by the numerical sum of beliefs and believers, but by the creative effort of its spirit, the direction followed by its culture... All the convents in Madrid are not worth the life of one Republican.
-- Manuel Azana, Prime Minister of the Republic in 1931, on why he took no action to protect churches and convents.

We shall win. We have a faith, and ideal, and a discipline. Our foes have none of these.
-- General Francisco Franco, upon launching an insurrection against a democratically elected government.

Gil Robles, head of the Confederation of Rightist Autonomous Parties (CEDA)
and the Catholic Accion Popular

While anarchic forces, gun in hand, spread panic in government circles, the government tramples on defenseless beings like nuns…
When the social order is threatened, Catholics should unite to defend it and safeguard the principles of Christian civilization.... We will go united into the struggle, no matter what it costs.... We are faced with a social revolution. In the political panorama of Europe I can see only the formation of Marxist and anti-Marxist groups. This is what is happening in Germany and in Spain also. This is the great battle which we must fight this year...
We must reconquer Spain.... We must give Spain a true unity, a new spirit, a totalitarian polity. .. . It is necessary now to defeat socialism inexorably. We must found a new state, purge the fatherland of judaizing Freemasons.... We must proceed to a new state and this imposes duties and sacrifices. What does it matter if we have to shed blood! ... We need full power and that is what we demand.... To realize this ideal we are not going to waste time with archaic forms. Democracy is not an end but a means to the conquest of the new state. When the time comes, either parliament submits or we will eliminate it.
-- Gil Robles, head of CEDA

The Spanish people would rather die on its feet than live on its knees. And do not forget, and let no one forget, that if today it is our turn to resist fascist aggression, the struggle will not end in Spain. Today it's us; but if the Spanish people is allowed to be crushed, you will be next, all of Europe will have to face aggression and war.
-- Communist Dolores Ibárruri, "La Pasionara"

Sewers caused all our troubles. The masses in this country are not like your Americans, nor even like the British. They are slave stock. They are good for nothing but slaves and only when they are used as slaves are they happy. But we, the decent people, made the mistake of giving them modern housing in the cities where we have our factories. We put sewers in these cities, sewers which extend right down to the workers' quarters. Not content with the work' of God, we thus interfere with His will. The result is that the slave stock increases. Had we no sewers in Madrid, Barcelona, and Bilbao, all these Red leaders would have died in their infancy instead of exciting the rabble and causing good Spanish blood to flow. When the war is over, we should destroy the sewers. The perfect birth control for Spain is the birth control God intended us to have. Sewers are a luxury to be reserved for those who deserve them, the leaders of Spain, not the slave stock.
-- Franco's propagandist, Captain Gonzalo de Aguilara

My dear fellow, it only stands to reason! A chap who squats down on his knees to clean your boots at a cafe or in the street is bound to be a Communist, so why not shoot him right away and be done with it? No need for a trial - his guilt is self-evident in his profession.
-- Franco's propagandist, Captain Gonzalo de Aguilara, on why it was a mistake on the part of the Nationalists not to shoot all of Spain's boot-blacks before the war

Muerte al los intelectuales! Viva la muerte! (Death to the intellectuals! Long live death!)
-- Spanish Foreign Legion General Millan Astray
Madrid sera la tumba del fascismo! No pasaran! (Madrid will be the tomb of fascism! They shall not pass!)
-- Republican slogan

We hated the bourgeoisie, they treated us like animals. They were our worst enemies. When we looked at them we thought we were looking at the devil himself. And they thought the same of us. There was a hatred between us - a hatred so great it couldn't have been greater. They were bourgeois, they didn't have to work to earn a living, they had comfortable lives. We knew we were workers and that we had to work - but we wanted them to pay us a decent wage and to treat us like human beings, with respect. There was only one way to achieve that - by fighting them ...
-- Anarcho-Syndicalist Juan Moreno

The bulk of the recruits were peasants from Galicia and Navarre, attracted to the Legion by the higher pay and the excellent food: fish and meat every day. They were men, he observed, without an ounce of political awareness - Men who had had it drummed into them by their priests that the reds were the devil incarnate who attacked the church and would rob them of their plots of land and their livestock. That made a big impact on them. I remember more than one saying that if he caught a red he'd cut his ears off as a trophy. They had the mentality of the small peasant - individualistic, egotistical, tied to their land and the church ...
-- Basque Republican Eugenio Calvo, describing the rightist troops in the Spanish Legionnaires

As the night sky softened with the first gray lights of dawn, the executions began. Sergeant Emilio Paton, the man who had dreamed of retiring to the shores of Galicia, was first. Then, one by one, his policemen followed. Angel Ramero, the town barber, and his brothers were next. Only one prisoner was missing: Lucia Blanca Ortiz, the lady pharmacist, who had been imprisoned for her work in Catholic Action. Her sex had won her the right to a private execution and burial place by the banks of the Guadalquivir. Before each burst of fire, Don Juan Navas, the parish priest, stepped to the edge of the pit and murmured a hasty absolution to his condemned parishioners. Soon the common trench was filled with forty bodies and Don Juan was alone with his captors. He closed his breviary, bowed his head in a rapid prayer and then stepped in his turn to the edge of the pit. He turned and raised his eyes to the firing squad before him. Behind him the early morning sky was now milk-white and the black cassock draping his erect figure stood out like a dark tree trunk against the lightening horizon. A voice called to him from the circle of poised figures.
"Don Juan," it said, "we are not killing you because of what you've done. You were always good for the town. We're killing you for what you stand for." The priest sighed. "My poor sons," he said, "blood shall beget blood. In a few days you too shall, perish here for your crimes." With a sad, and heavy gesture, he offered the last blessing of his life to these men gathered to kill him. Some of them, forgetting for an instant the mission that had brought them to the graveyard, made the sign of the cross along with him. Their shots rang out and Don Juan's body toppled into the pit.
-- The execution of rightists and Fr. Don Juan Navas in Palma del Rio, Andalucia. His prophecy was correct. Within days a Nationalist column captured Palma del Rio, and the executioners and over 300 other men were machine-gunned in the town’s bullring.


Mike McG... said...

Excellent reflection, Jeff. The final vignette is particularly compelling.

One wonders if there were Spaniards in the 1930s torn between the two competing narratives. Was there a 'pox on both their houses' camp or was everyone compelled to declare fish or foul?

Perhaps the more discerning view is a priviledge of subsequent generations not available at the time. We may attempt to get beyond tribal loyalties but at some deep level we seem trapped.

I wonder how much this canonization reflects Benedict's sense that European Catholic sensibilites are increasingly marginalized. Perhaps he wishes to express solidarity with a tradition under seige, from his perspective. And, from his perspective, this tradition is indeed under seige.

"Soldiers of Salamis" by Javier Cercas is a magnificient contemporary novel that succeeds at getting beneath the nationalist-republican binary narratives. Highly recommended.

crystal said...

Really interesting ... the comparison of the priests killed in Spain and El Salvador ... the quotations at the end. When I saw the story about the canonizations, I wondered if you would write about it. I'll hve to read up on this - thanks.

crystal said...

PS - so on which side was Lorca?

Jeff said...

Hi Mike,

I've no doubt that you are right, that B16 is feeling that tradition is indeed under siege, but I'm not sure that approaches like this are going to help matters. He seems to want a leaner, more disciplined Church, whittled down to what he considers to be the true believers. That it will probably wind up leaner under his direction, I'm inclined to concede.

When I look at the history of that war, it appears difficult to find many true democrats in the mix. I think that in the 1930s, there was a sense all over Europe that liberal democracies and capitalism were finished, and that the totalitarian roads of Communism and Fascism were the choices set before them.

That book sounds very interesting. How did you happen to hear about it?


As you've probably read, Lorca was killed by the Nationalists, by members of the "Falange Espanola", which was the fascist party. His killing reveals one of the strange ironies of how this whole thing played out. The founder of the Falange, Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera was reportedly a friend and admirer of Lorca's. The Republicans executed Primo de Rivera about a year later.

jackjoe said...

I am certainly no expert on the Spanish Civil War, but let me say a word or two. I have been playing around on the blogs for 3 or 4 years now and nothing has shocked me as much as this posting!!! First, and this may offend, I do not consider the causes of the Nationalists and Republicans equal. Of course as in all wars there are extremes on both sides but the long range cause of the Republicans was no where as despicable as the Nationalists. The right of a church to "run" a country is far worse than allowing some religious latitude, call it secularizing if you like,in a society. I believed our founding fathers saw the danger to a state AND to religion by uniting them was a greater danger than separation. And did not Vatican 2 at least hint at that.

And now B16 recent moves to a "leaner, tighter " church and in making catholocism synomymous with "western civilization"--in other words a return to a golden catholic past-- does this not smack--only slightly, I agree, at this time--to Fascisms return to a pure aryan culture? Of course such a return will not happen but one must suspect that in his deepest prayers, B 16 desires such.

This is crude, I know, but can we be sure that B 16 didn't learn a little more in Nazi youth than he admits to. Oh, no, no, you scream, but certainly you are aware that the far right catholic political fringe in the U S highs behind their 'love' of natural law because of their hatred of secularization, and their craving for a "christian" America.

I think I saw some of this swing to the right in JP2, trying to move away from J 23 and Paul6. A catholic church craving for the old days of "there is no salvation outside the Church"

Let me close my interruption into this scholarly discussion by quoting my wife, Alice, author of---well no books. "B15 is nothing but a german fascist." Take that Weigel!!!

Incidentally I suggest all catholic german soldiers killed in WW2 be declared martyrs because most thought they were defending western christian civilization against atheistic , anti western, decadent tendencies.

Okay, back to the parsing scholars.

jackjoe said...

Of course B16. My mistake . Do not want to cause seizures in the "parsers". You're not a "parser". Jeff. Jack

Jeff said...


Huh? My post shocked you?

I'm sorry, but you have me baffled here... Are you saying that the news about the beatifications shocked you, or are you suggesting that I'm equating the Nationalist and Republican causes?

I hope that you are not suggesting that I spent such a long time putting such a ridiculously lengthy post together because I feel COMFORTABLE about this.

jackjoe said...

Jeff, Jeff, your attitude did not shocked me but the beatifications stunned me!!!! I do not keep up with all the vatican news and did not know such foolishness was being planned. And it was clear to me that you lean to the Republican cause. NO YOU did not shocked me but B16 stunned me beyond belief. B16 is doing nothing but endorsing Franco, which I see as a few short steps from praising Fascism, in the name of preserving "the glories of Western civilization". Your post was great, but what it describes is disgusting!!! Jack. By the way, the picture of the clergy giving the Nazi salute was truly frightening!!

I have more to say on church trends, but will wait. For what you have done for me I could never repay.

Mike McG... said...


I first wish to stipulate that I consider the Vatican decision to focus attention on the Spanish Civil War to be unwise and regrettable. That said, I wonder if I might weigh in with a few impressions:

I too have wandered about the web for several years now. I find that virtually nothing shocks. Outrageous comments abound. I suppose at one level one might manage to cheer; opinionated folks of every conceivable stripe are able to let their hair down and hold forth without restraint. Yet I can manage only a weak cheer at best. As one wag wrote about what so often passes for conversation online: "I have this naive notion that despair at the spectacle of absolute ludicrous quantities of mutual contempt on all sides breeds tolerance and mutual respect due to laughter at the absurdity of it or wariness at the endlessness of it." One can only hope!

What is more difficult to locate in blogdom is reasoned, respectful discourse. What I find at AunEstamosVivos (and too few other blogs) is the willingness to subject one's own preconceptions to the same scrutiny one extends to others. "Maybe the way I'm accustomed to framing this issue should be reconsidered" is a radical proposition indeed, as is making the effort to really understand others' positions from their point of view.

One may take strong issue with B16's decision to honor Catholics who lost their lives in the Spain of the 1930s without resorting to said it...and polarizing epithets. Isn't it possible that the Spanish Civil War is messy and complex, not given to reflexive monster characterization? Or does saying so make me a fascist?

True understanding will never happen if the conversation is dominated by those who see the issue as black and white, when attempts at sympathetic understanding of the Republicans earns the facile label 'communist' while attempts at sympathetic understanding of the Nationists are prima facie evidence of fascism. Not everything reduces to Stalin vs. Franco.

With apoligies to Jeff et al (Ive shared this here before) here is a Solzhenitsyn quote I love:

"If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it wre necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being."

Liam said...


This is a very well reasoned and written post. I'm not sure I would completely agree with you on the reasons the Republic lost the war. I don't think the aid that they got from the Soviet Union was comparable to what Franco got from Nazi Germany, and it was much more conditional. Also, the infighting on the Republican side was horrendous. At one point there was even a street battle between communists and anarchists in the streets of Barcelona.

I used to have very romantic feelings about the Spanish Civil War that have diminished great with age and knowledge of the specific situation. In the end, the blame has to be placed on the Francist side for rising against a democratically-elected government, and the refusal of western democracies to support that government was not only shameful, but pushed the Republic more into the hands of the Soviet Union, whose material aid came with ideological purges that were both morally reprehensible and fatally damaging to the war effort.

Still, the barbarity on both sides was extreme. You made a good point about how the worst repression tended to come from chaos on the Republican side whereas it was central policy with the nationalists. Still, in the end it is hard to look at the Civil War as anything more than a bloodbath.

Part of the bloodbath was the murdering of so many clergy and religious (along with the burning of many beautiful churches). In theory, I would have no problem with the beatifications IF there were similar gestures towards Romero and other victims of right-wing dictatorships and especially IF the Vatican would recognize how much the hierarchical church was responsible for brutal repression of the poor in 19th and 20th-century Spain. Like that's going to happen.

The currency of canonization has cheapened greatly in the past thirty years. Gone is the avocatus diaboli, and now we have new saints by the boatload. I'm sure most if not all of these people were good and holy people, but this is one case in which I wish the church would be more conservative. Plus, it is very easy for some dubious people to become saints now (Josemaria Escriva, anyone?) while people like Oscar Romero and Dorthy Day wait out in the cold. I find it hard to even pay attention to who they're canonizing anymore.

jackjoe said...

Mike, you seem to be trying to be reasonable and I believe if you checked my comments you would find me the same. But just a few further observations. In a quest for understanding let me pose a question or two.

Did I not label part of my comment crude? Does not your quote about "absolute ludicrous quantities of mutual contempt..." border on the very evil you are hoping to stamp out?

Labels are necessary to write or talk, so what political moniker would you apply to Franco?

As I have argued endless times on the blogs there are very few 'absolutes' . But because virtually nothing is 'black and white' does not mean that judgments cannot be made. So, in toto, how eould you characterize Franco? And because nothing is 'black and white'should we welcome revisionism on the holacost?

I am not playing the age card but having lived through WW2 is it not true that your neutral attitude toward Franco shows a reluctance to speak out on tyrannies of any type?; and is it not true that the Fascists used the shibboleth of protecting western culture from barbaric,decadent, atheistic, communism as a justification for unthinkable atrocities?

Do you believe, as many catholics did prior to Vatican2 that "error has no right to exist"?

Speaking of 'black and white' with no middle ground does not the doctrine of church infallibility perfectly fit exclusion of all middle ground?

Could you please comment on, we'll use only one, a German soldier in WW2 who died with the deepest belief that he was protecting the 'truth' of God through the church?

I believe Jeff and others who have read my comments would speak of me as a man of moderation. {I do not ask them to respond].

Do you see anything in B16 comments and attitudes that reflect a nostalgia for a simpler "we against them world?"

Do you know anything about B16's attitude toward toward the government of Germany as a youth? I don't, and I expect you don't either.Just an idle inquiry shared by most catholics I know.

Finally I find your rather bland acquiesence Toward the Franco regime a bit "shocking". See your own quotes.

But I guess we're even. You refer to me as providing some humour for you. You did the same for me.

But seriously, if you would check with Jeff or B or Anna or Joe you would realize I wish you no harm. I will not treat your 'writing' as Johnson, I believe, treated his letter from Lord Chesterfield. Just a little joke Mike. Best wishes. Jack

Mike McG... said...

Jack, I have no doubt you are a reasonable man. My comments were specific responses to your admittedly unguarded comments. I'll be happy to answer your questions:

"Did I not label part of my comment crude?" Yes you did.

"Does not your quote about 'absolute ludicrous quantities of mutual contempt...' border on the very evil you are hoping to stamp out?" I don't think so. The quote doesn't attack any individual but simply observes the often disinhibited and incivil quality of conversations that take place on blogs. I think you'd agree that very few people would speak as harshly were the conversation face to face.

"Labels are necessary to write or talk, so what political moniker would you apply to Franco?...So, in toto, how eould you characterize Franco?" I would not hestite to call him a fascist.

"And because nothing is 'black and white' should we welcome revisionism on the holacost?" Sigh. Because I question the utility of binary thinking I advocate holocaust revisionism? I join you in unreservedly condemning the holocaust, Jack.

" it not true that your neutral attitude toward Franco shows a reluctance to speak out on tyrannies of any type?" What possibly did I say that suggests that I have a neutral attitude toward Franco? I assure you that I carry no brief for the man.

" it not true that the Fascists used the shibboleth of protecting western culture from barbaric,decadent, atheistic, communism as a justification for unthinkable atrocities?" Yes. And? Were theirs the only atrocities we wouldn't be having this exchange. In fact, it is important to note that extraordinary atrocities were visited upon the tribe that B16 and I belong to. To remark upon this neither justifies the Nationalist atrocities nor does it imply moral equivalence. It is simply a statement of fact that is presumably implicated in B16's thinking on this matter.

"Do you believe, as many catholics did prior to Vatican2 that 'error has no right to exist'?" No. Do I understand how and why people pre-Vatican II held such beliefs? Yes, I think I do. Does the fact that they held such beliefs invalidate the thrust of their lives and merit my scorn? No. Will history prove unforgiving of many beliefs and behaviors we accept uncritically? I suspect so.

"Speaking of 'black and white' with no middle ground does not the doctrine of church infallibility perfectly fit exclusion of all middle ground?" I don't understand the question or the relevance to this conversation.

"Could you please comment on, we'll use only one, a German soldier in WW2 who died with the deepest belief that he was protecting the 'truth' of God through the church?" I'm not sure what you're after here. Are you fishing for me to say that he was a monster? That he went to hell? That is family, until the 100th generation, should be villified? I'll settle for deeply mistaken and pray for him. I'll seek to understand him through the lense of Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front and Carion's Joyeux Noel.

"Do you see anything in B16 comments and attitudes that reflect a nostalgia for a simpler 'we against them world?'" Yes, I believe I commented on his apparent urge to express solidarity with Catholic sensibilities he regards as under seige.

"Do you know anything about B16's attitude toward toward the government of Germany as a youth? I don't, and I expect you don't either. Just an idle inquiry shared by most catholics I know." You're right, Jack. I don't. But I confess to suspicion of the impulse to label B16 and other conservatives as fascists. I think it is both ungenerous and unfair absent compelling evidence. I regret that we've learned so little from our 1950s rush to label liberals as communists.

"Finally I find your rather bland acquiesence Toward the Franco regime a bit "shocking". See your own quotes." I fail to see how questioning the dominant discourse about the Spanish Civil War qualifies as bland acquiesence toward Franco...except in a world in which 'if your not with us you're agin' us.'

Finally, Jack, let me ask myself a question: "Have I adopted the sort of generous tone in this conversation that I advocate?" No, I have surely fallen short.

Peace, Mike McG...

jackjoe said...

Mike, I certainly respect your gentlemanly reply. There are obviously some difference in our views and possibly both of us were not as 'precise' as we should be But I believe both have made our points clear, so why go on with endless parsing.

Only two points. My point about the German soldier was whether or not B16 would consider him a martyr for defending the faith.

If you had said what you have written to my face rather than on a blog you would not offend me in the least. Most of my life has been spent in much more 'sharp' debate than we have.

I do not hesitate to be personal about myself. I have tried for some time to become a RC, but my somewhat left of center views on some issues does not allow this.

But even more damaging is that my wife a lifelong catholic with enough clergy in her family to staff the curia is being driven from the church by catholics "fundamentalists" who thrive on nothing but the church's wierd attitude on sex among other things. Fortunately my beloved grandchildren have not yet faced this monster.

I said I would not go on, but B16 'forays' against "relativism" is one of the oldest philosophical cannards, having been around since all types of fundamentalism. What he means is: I'm absolutely right and you're absolutely wrong. Come on b16 at least don't use such hackneyed terminology.

But back to you, best wishes and I wish we could meet face to face to discuss matters. Jack

Jeff said...


Thanks for the comments. I was hoping that you or William would weigh in. Regarding the help that the Nationalists received from the Nazis and the help that the Republic received from the Soviets, you may very well be right. In fact, you're probably right. You are certainly right about the lack of help the Republic received from the West.

All I can say is that in reading some of the more well-known and popular accounts of the conflict from writers like Gabriel Jackson and Paul Preston, I get the sense that they attribute too much of the outcome to external factors and not enough to internal factors. The "Civil War within a Civil War" that you described was certainly a factor, and I think the well-known authors cited didn't put enough emphasis on the inherent conservatism of the middle class and the small landholding peasantry of the areas around Burgos, Pamplona, and Salamanca, which caused many of them to throw in their lot with the Nationalists. Spain had not been involved in the First World War and the political and cultural tumult that followed. In many respects, many of them still had a 19th century view of the world in 1936. From the few Spaniards I know and from what I hear, plus reading between the lines, I get the sense that religion and tradition were a bigger factor than some of those authors wanted to admit.

I'm in 100% agreement with you regarding the beatifications. I wouldn't be as concerned if the martyrs of Latin America, with their solidarity with the poor and their advocacy of non-violence, were given the same respect and consideration.

When I read Gil Robles going on about "judaizing Freemasons", it reminds me of too many blogs I can't stand.

Which is why I won't shut up.

Jack and Mike,

I really don't understand what the argument is about between you two. I'm not reading anything that Mike wrote that indicates he was neutral between the Nationalists and the Republicans. Let's please try to remain civil. You're both good guys. I think you'd get along if you knew ach other better. Jack, Mike is not a squishy middle-of-the-road compromiser. He just has a very keen sense that we are all subject to the same weaknesses, no matter what our point of view may be, and that neither of the extreme halves of a polarized debate should lay claim to holding to 100% virtue.

Not to be a pedant here, nobody likes a pedant, but just a couple of technical points...

Error has no rights. That is still the teaching of the Church. While error has no rights, however, all human beings DO have them. This is the point that John Courtney Murray SJ made over the objections of Holy Office Prefect Alfedo Ottaviani at the Council, which is why Dignitatis Humanae won the day.

Was Francisco Franco a fascist? Complicated question, actually... In his behavior, yes. In his ideology, that's not as clear. I'm more inclined to say he was a reactionary. The Falange, the fascist party, only won 0.7 % of the vote in the 1936 election. Franco and his officers used the trappings and the veneer of fascism to try to put a fig leaf over their reactionary ways (don't forget that in the 1930s, pre WWII and pre-Holocaust, the term fascism did not have as negative a connotation outside of leftist circles as it does today. In this, the leftists were quite prescient, but on the other hand, not many knew the extent of Stalin's purges and crimes at the time either). Franco was a military strongman, a "law-and-order" type, who was more interested in establishing the status quo of the existing class structure than in the radical ideas of fascism. He co-opted the Falange, the monarchists and the Carlists for his own purposes. rather than being an idealogue, what Francisco Franco believed in was Francisco Franco. In terms of his behavior, however, his brutality, his unforgiving vindictiveness, and his unrelenting repression, he may as well have been a fascist, because in those respects, he certainly acted like one.

Liam said...


I certainly think you're right about the conservatism of many of the regions that went over to Franco, especially given that once the war started, many on the farther left side of the spectrum in Republican-controlled areas took advantage of the occasion to create violent and revolutionary reforms that must have put off a lot of people. The burning of churches, for example, must have been a powerful and frightening symbol for progressive Catholics both in and outside Spain.

You're also right about Franco. He wasn't really a Fascist, he was a franquista -- a "Franco-ist." Much of the rhetoric was reminiscent of what was coming out of fascist Italy and Nazi Germany as long as they were allies, but that was just expediency.

Of course, the word "fascist," which took its meaning from Mussolini's appropriating of the ancient Roman symbol of authority, the fascis, has been over-used. It's been employed for everyone from Nixon to Osama bin Laden. Really, it should just apply to Mussolini's ideas which had much, but not all, in common with nazism. The Spanish Falangistas had similar ideas -- the idea of a revolutionary nationalistic totalitarianism that was an answer to international revolutionary movements on the left. Even so, there were different approaches to that idea. I think there are at least three different falangista parties in Spain right now. Franco used them, but, like you say, ultimately betrayed them.

Really, he was more like a South American dictator, Pinochet style -- a brutal loathsome murderer and tyrant who wanted to preserve at all costs a repressive class structure.

jackjoe said...

WARNING: This is going to be a very angry comment.

Jeff, I have no particular problem with Mike's comment but am very angry at your commeent. As Liam once rudely informed me the 'owner' of the post is in control and the rest are just commenters. So here is my comment.

If Mike's second paragraph and other comments do not have the patina of the "clean hands" doctrine them we may be reading different comments. Mike , to his credit, later states that Republican atrocities may not have matched that of the nationalists, but it seems clear to me that this is a weak play for some sort of justification for the years of the Franco dictatorship.

But leave these aside. Mike sees things a little differently than I do which is natural. What really burned me up, Jeff, was your taking me to the 'woodshed' and painting Mike as a golden god{dess} of truth , civility and good manners. while clearly including me in the group of the uncivil.

Now I admitted some of my remarks lacked precision and were visceral responses to a degree. But for Mike to claim, and for you apparently to agree that his comment beginning with "I too have wandered about the web..." were not directed at me, because he did not mention my name makes one ask why the statement is there. The fact he did not mention my name is like saying to a muslin all Muslims are liars but that's not an insult because I did not mention your name. Reminds me of the story of the third grade teacher telling the kids to "clean their plates, because their are millions of chinese who would work all day for the scraps and the class wag said:Name one. My remarkds were identified as 'going to far' yet Mike's more scurilous words were apparently clearly seen as wisdom.

I am not mad at Mike, but your one-sided judgment was probably what Jersey Joe Walcott felt after his first match with Joe Louis.

No, I am not finished, if you will allow me a few more lines. Could it be possible that you fellover in praiseof Mike and called the dog catcher for me possibly be motivated by his being Catholic and I not. Mike used the phrase something like 'tribal' loyalty and could this be a case of the clan making a circle?

You know Jeff I came to 'liberal catholic blogs' because as I have said before the exchanges were fair and respected. You have chided me before for thinking RCIA is crawling to the church. Of course the people who teach it are nice: after all the attendee is admitting his ignorance, his heritage is fraudulent, and his willingness to be brought face to face with the "real" truth; and then be 'placed' on probation to live up to the impeccable standards of those already in the church, many of whom'hate' immigrants and oppose every social program no matter how helpful. So I'm on probation having devoted my life to teaching and organizing public workers, while the robber barons are in the church "Hall of Fame"?

We had a fund raiser at my wife's church and if you gave 10,000 you got the title "Papal Legate", 7,500 Archbishop and so on down with 2,000 I believe the lowest recognizable position. The big givers names were posted and they were promise a lavish dinner I believe. I ask a church member to ask the priests if they had ever heard of the "widows mite" and never got an answer.

Jeff, you know most of my story. Clerical indifference, RCIA director avoiding me, trying now to work with new priest but apparently he has been put on short chain.

I go with my wife to church discussion group and have to be careful not to say anything that could POSSIBLY be critical of church teachings.

I came to 'liberal catholic blogs' hoping to learn; and I have. But I also detect supercilious contempt for those who dare question. Some things you can discuss; other things have been decided forever by God On Earth. No Im not necessarily attacking infallibility. But it does seem strange to me that we view the Bible in terms of times and conditions, as it should be, but a Papal saying, if he so desires, must never include any type of condition---this is the truth so shut up.

Jeff, you know the respect with which I hold you, because what I have entrusted to you.But my son loved a book called Stranger in a Strange Land. I have not read it.But in 'liberal catholic blogs'I am that stranger, and I need to go home.

I must continue to trust you. Jack


Anonymous said...

Wow. This is a topic that invokes strong emotions even now.

I must confess that I new only what I had read in Wikipedia until now. First I had read Hemingway's bit, which had me in sympathy with the Republicans. And being a democratic republican myself, and a bit of an anti-monarchist the form of government they at least payed lip service to was certainly the one I would choose.

After reading the wikipedia article and seeing some of the silly leftist propaganda that continues to this day in films like Pan's Labyrinthe I really gave the matter a second thought and my sympathies began to move towards the Nationalists. Lining up and killing Priests and Religious is just plain evil. What the soviets did across Europe dwarfs the atrocities of evin the Nazi's. There is no doubt in my mind that Soviet Communism was brutal evil just as bad as the Nazis. And if you line up 7000 priests and religious and kill them, then you are a brutal soviet-style communist. And therefore I can see why the peace loving middle class, as small as it might have been went with the Nationalists instead of the mob. And after the war, it seems to me that the attrocities died down and there was a transition to a constitutional monarchy that today allows the leftists to express their power in a democratic fashion.

But i think some of the quotes you produce really underscore the reality. Regardless of which brutal regime one might temporarily be convinced was less-evil than the other one, they were both evil and filled and dominated by evil extremists for one side or the other.

In the end, sympathizing with either side is an immature response to a complex problem.

Had the republicans won, however, Spain would have entered the cold war as a Soviet-style communist republic. As such, I believe the people of Spain were better off under the Nationalists.

jackjoe said...

B, I assume the poles, the germans,the Russians and most of Europe would have been better off had Hitler prevailed. Whip that up into some revisionist history and your on your way to fame!! Good luck. Jack

Michael J. Bayly said...

Fascinating post and equally insightful comments.

I wrote on this topic when discussing Guillermo del Toro’s film, Pan’s Labyrinth earlier this year. Without doubt, it’s a complex and divisive issue.

Thanks for all you share, Jeff. It's always consistently interesting, thought provoking, and well-written.



Jeff said...


I don't know if you and B. are aware of it or not, but the Liam who posts here is not the same Liam that posts on Joe Cecil's blog. They're different people. To my knowldege, the Liam who posts here has never made a rude reference to the owners of posts and who controls them.

I categorically reject your accusation that I took you to the woodshed, portayed Mike as a golden goddess, and put you in the group of the uncivil. I offer no apology for what I said. What I said was:

Jack and Mike,

I really don't understand what the argument is about between you two. I'm not reading anything that Mike wrote that indicates he was neutral between the Nationalists and the Republicans. Let's please try to remain civil. You're both good guys. I think you'd get along if you knew ach (sic) other better. Jack, Mike is not a squishy middle-of-the-road compromiser. He just has a very keen sense that we are all subject to the same weaknesses, no matter what our point of view may be, and that neither of the extreme halves of a polarized debate should lay claim to holding to 100% virtue.

I saw nothing in his comments that indicated he was neutral between the Nationalists and the Republicans, and I saw nothing in his quote, directed at blogdom in general, to indicate that he was speaking about you specifically or that he found humor in your response. He told you so himself, and I see no reason why you shouldn't take him at his word. Being on friendly terms with both of you (assuming that I know him better than you do, although that might no be true), I was just trying to reassure you that he was no fascist sympathizer and that he meant no offense.

As to this question:

Could it be possible that you fell over in praise of Mike and called the dog catcher for me possibly be motivated by his being Catholic and I not. Mike used the phrase something like 'tribal' loyalty and could this be a case of the clan making a circle?

Oh, come on, Jack! Absolutely not, and I'm offended by even the suggestion of it. I've been supercilious to you in no way, shape, or form, even going so far as to referring to myself as pedantic.

You've confided certain things to me and I have responded, I assure you, in all possible warmth and sincerity. I'm willing to be your friend as long as you wish it to be so. You ask if you can trust me. You can without reservation, as far as I'm concerned. This, however, needs to be a decision for you to make. In full disclosure, though, I have to bring something to your attention...

You say that you came to 'liberal catholic blogs', hoping to learn. Am I listed somewhere under anything called 'liberal Catholic blogs'? If I am, I'm not sure that's accurate, because I've never really labelled myself as such. As my profile indicates, my concern is about polarization, not liberalism. Under my reading list, the very first 3 links I have on my blog are articles called:

- Conservatism is a good place to start from
- Three things for liberals to ponder
- Three things for conservatives to ponder

I tend to come down much harder on the right here than the left, because right now the right is the force that is driving most of the polarization in the Church, and they are doing it purposely. Most of my correspondents here are progressives. By and large, I find them more reasonable, more open to diverse ideas, and less likely to cut someone off forever. I've had my disagreements from time to time with Crystal, Liam, and William, but we've managed to remain good friends regardless.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jack,

Stalin and Hitler were best buddies who invaded Poland together.

If you want to pretend that Franco was a Hitler go ahead. But I think you are over-simplifying the situation.

And as someone mentioned, the Republicans only became Stalin-like after the civil war started, perhaps, but they did attack the church.

Listen, in the 90s if the Clintons had decided to burn down all the churches and arrest the bishops would you have supported a resistance movement? I probably would have. If Bush had shut down the media and installed marshal law, and closed congress? Ditto. So it sounds like both those things happened at once and it was a big mess, and both sides got extreme.

But, since the Republicans were at least elected at one point they have most of our sympathies.

Jeff said...

Hi Michael,

Welcome, and thank you for visiting. A lot of people have mentioned this movie 'Pan's Labryinth' to me before. I haven't seen it yet, I have to make it a point to do so. I'm looking forward to reading your detailed post on this topic. I see it's quite lengthy and has quite a few comments. I'll give it a thorough read.


My goodness, the last thing I want to do with this post is to turn an anti-Franco position into a pro-Franco position. I guess I can see part of the reason why emotions are running high here.

I was hoping my point would be taken more along the lines of who deserves to be a declared a martyr (clerical or otherwise), and who does not, and what Benedict's decision means in terms of a message if martyrdom is not extended to those who've died for the faith in Latin America as well as for those who died in Spain. In my opinion, the Benedict papacy is turning into a PR train-wreck.

The very best that can be said for Franco was that he managed to keep Spain out of World War II despite enormous pressure from Hitler and Mussolini to join them. Looking out for Number 1 as usual, Franco only offered one division to go and fight on the Russian front. If a Popular Front government still existed in Spain in 1940, there is probably little doubt that Germany would have invaded Spain immediately after taking France. Hard to speculate on what this would have meant for the history of World War II in general, the destruction of Spain, and what would have happened in the post-war period. I can say in solid confidence however, that the Franco years were drab, dull, repressive, stunted years for the people of Spain, with political prisoners being hunted and punished right up until the end of his reign.

Franco deserves no congratulations. Military men who overthrow elected governments are not to be congratulated. If any man deserves congratulations from Franco's circle, it was King Juan Carlos, who was groomed by Franco, yet sided with democracy and stood up against the officers when the miltary in Spain tried another run at asserting Francoism with an attempted coup in 1981. Spain has been able to make a peaceful transition to democracy only because of that courageous action.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff,

I think I am admittedly under-read about this. But I think that these groups are both equally evil from the sounds of it. I did not say both groups are good, I said both were equally evil. If you watch Pan's Labrynthe you'll see how the left has glorified the Republicans.

A whole portion of the population withdrew from the government when it committed unconscionable acts.

We all know that there are certain acts that our government could do that would push us over that line, that there are certain inalienable rights that cannot be abridged, or the government is no longer just, regardless if it came to be democratically.

If the USA rounded up all the catholic bishops and imprisoned, tortured, or killed them, then the USA would cease to be a legitimate government in the eyes of 100s of millions of her citizens, who would almost certainly form a movement to overthrow that government.

You outlined all the forces at work. You pointed out that the extremism grew out of the need to raly around polemics.

Seems to me that the Nationalists just happened to win. If the Republicans had won, there'd have been gulags and repression too from the sounds of it. And possibly short range soviet missiles aimed at southern europe.

But back to Pan's Labyrnthe for a second. The Nationalists sport the wet look in class A uniforms the whole movie and are abusive to women and little girls. The socialsts come and rescue everone looking glamorous as hell with a sunset at their back and bring the evil hitlerian captain to justice by firing squad.

It is propaganda in the first degree. Devout catholics and conservatives in Spain have to be reacting strongly to this. The church is still reacting from Communism in poland and the cold war.

So I am just calling it like I see it. Equally evil. The priest killing losers don't get to be good just because they were once elected and didn't have 40 years of oppressive post war history to show their true colors.

jackjoe said...

jeff, this is alice. i'm doing what i promised not to do---look at jack's blogging without telling him. i am outspoken as you have guessed and when jack indicated he might become a catholic he made it clear in his gentle way[which you probably don't believe he has] that he needed to work this out without comments from the stands. i have followed this. but now we have an acception where i feel i must break my vow. this afternoon i found jack on the floor in the 'computer' room conscious but unable to get up. some of the medicines he is taken are quite powerful and may be making him weak. as you would suspect jack would not let me call 911. he has seen the doctor since then and is under rather heavy sedation. i did break my pledge and saw what was on the screen. the spanish civil war was the topic. i did read jack's mike's and your comments and as much as jack admires you the comments that mike made,and you seemed to approve, clearly, at least to me, reflected an attack on jack even though his name was not mentioned , and i am glad they later cleared this up. as far as finding you under liberal catholic blog, let me try to clear that up. when jack started blogging he went to joe? then to a b who was listed on your site. he still does that, if he wants to send you a message he goes to his blog finds a comment by you, presses your picture and gets to your blog. i think that is why he associates several of you with liberal catholic blog although you are not officially listed there .I know almost nothing of blogging and neither does jack know the mechanics. "mimi" kids jack that he is the only person on a computer that knows less than she does.sorry that he confused you, but it was innocent.
while i'm here let me say that jack is one of the most gentle people i have ever met. of course wife's prejudice. he is especially kind to waiters, service people, yard men etc. in other words those many think of at the bottom. he is very popular with all our friends and our daughter's friends. he goes with me to catholic functions so i will not have to go alone. i have Never seen him be rude to a person of another faith.
jack has made it clear to me that he has discussed religious matters with you which he will not even discuss with me. that's fine as religious discourse is not my field. on ocassion i have commented for him because of his condition. he has the greatest faith in you. the only thing we have understood this afternoon because of his medication is "Jeff is my friend." this after i asked him if i should put anything on the blog.
i need to close but i must say i have been heartbroken over the way he is treated by the clergy. i do not know why, maybe he has told you. the priest who said there should be no problem has not contacted him in days i suspect because of pressure. i suspect our bishop loves spectacle and like an opera singer[one of jack's loves] wants to be center stage at the easter vigil activities surrounded by a chorus of peasants to humbly stand in the back ground and accompany "my lord's" performance, thus any leniency to other christians diminishes the spectacle. see i can be a bit over the top myself. he doesn't know jack but wants all "converts"-the bishop's don't like that word for batized christians- at his disposal.
so let me say jack has a special trust in you. jack has a special trust in you as i do based on what he has said about you. is there a better compliment that "He is my friend" alice.jack will not be able to get to the computer for several days so you can leave this on. jack will understand it is for you and mike.

Jeff said...


The Second Republic, when it came to power in 1931, passed anti-clerical legislation that stripped the Church of certain rights it had enjoyed exclusively up to that point, especially in the area of education. In the battle of outrage and rhetoric that followed, it expelled the Primate of Spain, and dissolved the Jesuit order. Exteme elements on the left, not necessarily connected with the government, burned convents and some churches, and performed some particularly disgusting actst such as the exhumation of those nuns. The Republican government foolishly failed to intervene with sufficient force to quell such abuses. In a country that was 90% Roman Catholic, even if just in name only, this was an extremely foolish thing for them to do. Even in a country where people might have only gone to mass a few times in their lives, all of a sudden lots of people started hanging religious banners outside their windows. But let's be clear on this. The murders of the clerics were mostly taken out in a an outburst of popular anger in the first 2 months of the war. It was not sanctioned or undertaken at the orders and behest of the Republican authorities. In fact, once the Republican government got back its footing after the initial shock of the uprising, it put a stop to it. This is a significant difference from the Nationalist side, which continued to perfom executions under authority and as a matter of policy throughout the war.

Jeff said...


Thank you so much for writing. I know that Jack felt like he was being criticized here, but I felt that there was something more going on too, and I'm glad that you told me. I'm sorry to hear that Jack isn't well. Please tell him that I was asking after him. Tell him I said that he is my friend too.

I'm hearing you, and I'm hearing Jack's frustration. Please give the priest a few more days before passing judgement. A lot of them really are in fact overworked. If there is anything I can do to help, please shoot me a note. In the meantime, please tell Jack I was asking after him, and that I'm hoping he feels better.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jeff,

That is indeed informative. I don't care however, if the authories in Darfur claim that they have not authorized the militias that are committing attrocities. IF it happens on that government't watch, that government is accountable, just as on some level, 9/11 happened on Bush's watch, et cetera.

It sounds like the Republican government allowed its partisans to desecrate and persecute the church. That spark ignited an age-old class conflict that was at a boiling point anyway.

People seem to be overl-sympatheric towards the Republicans. Will they be that sympathetic towards the governmetns in Rwanda or Darfur if it turns out that officials didn' 'approve' of the acts of partisan militias? I don't think they should be lenient based on that. Or how about Sadre's (sp?) militias in Iraq? Would he admit to 'ordering' attrocities?

A leader sits astride a dynamic and has limited minute control. A political movement is a dynamic in action. The Republican and Nationalist dynamics look equally evil to me, based upon suspicion and mutual hatred., and fueld by outside interests.

Anonymous said...

Hi Alice,

My impression was that Jack enjoys these sorts of debates and I hope he doesn't feel persecuted here.

Regards, B

Jeff said...


While there was destruction of property in the first years of the Republic, clerics were not being killed before the war. They were being killed in the months after the military uprising, when both sides turned on each other in a fury. The Republican government, and even the anarchist movement within it, who believed that government governs best that governs least, brought that repression under control within months. You cannot compare a government that was late in correcting abuses to one that used terror and repression as a constant tactic and instrument. You can hold the former responsible for their failings, but you cannot equate the two morally.

I hope as well that Jack doesn't feel persecuted here, but I honestly believe that he hasn't been.

Michael Bayly,

That was an excellent essay and discussion on your blog. Thanks for calling my attention to it.

Liam said...

B. -- I think Jeff explained the situation well, as far as actual policies of the Republic and the Nationalists. The Sudanese comparison doesn't really make sense.

Jeff -- A lot of people, usually supporters, have claimed that Franco kept Spain out of the war. I have also heard that when Hitler met with Franco at Hendaya in 1941, Franco was eager to enter the war, but his demands (something like "I want Morocco, I want this, I want that..." were excessive and Hitler apparently though that a ally that was impoverished and exhausted from a brutal civil war was more of a liability than a asset.

jackjoe said...

b, hope you get this, but you know jack and me vs. the computer. jack loves a hot debate, but felt that the judgement that he had been "ludicrous" and 'absurd' crossed the line even though the words were in a quote. but i think you know jack well enough to know this has been resolved by other issues in the debate. so jack stands on his johnson quote and apparently mike on his. i'm sorry jack is missing the rest of the civil war debate. you would know where he stands but he loves your blunt and sometimes brilliant comments but cringes at some of your conclusions. have a great day. alice

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff,

OK. Maybe I will trust you and Liam who have read more about this in your opinion that the Republicans were "less evil" than the Nationalists, with some reservations. There's no way I'll ever classify any movement that exhumes corpses and murders priests as 'not evil'.

7000 is a lot of priests. That's not an oops on the part of the government.

Liam - What is the difference between the Janjaweed miliitias (sp?) commiting atrocities and the government disclaiming responsibilities and the marxist militias doing the same thing? Doesn't it take some time to round up 7000 priests and religious and murder them? Did the Republicans ever prosecute those responsible?

Sorry, I can buy the notion that the marxists were less-evil than the nationalists, perhaps, but if you want to glorify or romanticize them I'm not sure I would agree with that.

Jeff said...


What does Jack mean by saying "sometimes" brilliant comments? Doesn't he realize that my comments are brilliant all the time? ;-D

Mike McG,

If you are still reading, please clarify so that we can get this cleared up... Did you mean to characterize Jack's remarks as "ludicrous" and "absurd"?

jackjoe said...

jeff, when jack comes around in a few days, i may get killed!!reading his comments!!
the "sometimes" refered to B. Yours are, of course, always brilliant, but have only read two due to their lengt...excuse me, depth. alice.

Mike McG... said...

"Mike McG, If you are still reading, please clarify so that we can get this cleared up... Did you mean to characterize Jack's remarks as 'ludicrous' and 'absurd'?"


Thanks for providing an opportunity for me to clarify my words.


Please allow me to begin by saying that I am disconsolate that my words have so wounded you. That was certainly not my intent. Please allow me to place my comments in context.

I am, indeed, a regular reader and occasional combox participant at Aun Estamos Vivos. I find this blog...and also the blogs sponsored by some of Jeff's other be unique in their assumption of good will and respect for divergent points of view. Sort of a sane island in the insanely polarized sea of blogdom. Refreshing, really. And rare.

I can honestly say, however, that I am only dimly aware of having read past "jackjoe" postings. I can assure you that I had formed no impressions of any sort of the person beneath that moniker.

Your first post under this thread ("I have been playing around on the blogs for 3 or 4 years now and nothing has shocked me as much as this posting!!!") spoke to an issue near and dear to my heart, shockingly incivil online discourse. It simply served as a prompt for me to speak to that topic. Your comment about being shocked simpled reminded me that little I read online shocks me anymore and triggered my recollection of the "absolutely ludicrous" quote. The quote simply refects my personal experience of being a 'purple' (neither red nor blue) person trying to find a voice in blogdom and finding little room for restraint and nuance in these polarized waters.

Please understand that it had absolutely nothing to do with you, Jack. Inasmuch as my words were careless and gave offense, however, I am deeply sorry.

One final comment: I'm a Chicagoan. When saintly Joseph Bernardin came to Chicago years ago he address the entire community by television. He acknowledged that many people have been deeply wounded by the Catholic Church and, on behalf of all of us, begged their pardon. Shades of Chesterton's response when he was asked what was wrong with the Church. His response: "I am."

It appears to me that you and Alice have been deeply wounded by Catholics, individually and collectively. I beg your pardon for the hurts we have inflicted.

Jeff said...

Thanks Mike.

jackjoe said...

mike, this is alice, jack''s wife. i need to respond and will in a couple of hours. but as you may have surmised jack is not conscious at this time. but after 47 years or marriage i feel confident i can respond for him. we are in a tight spot right now but i promise to return this evening. best wishes and no hard feelings. alice

Jeff said...


We appreciate the traffic and the interaction, but please just know that we are praying for Jack and that no one has any ill will towards him.

Don't worry about touching base here, this blog is pretty small potatoes in the scheme of things. Be there for Jack.

jackjoe said...

jeff, mike, i am back home and talking with you will be a help. my comments about b16 were not prudent, but i definitely worry about where the church is going.
medical news first. jack is in an 'induced coma' that is a coma used to relieve pressure on parts of the body. hopefully it will work.
mike, jack has been all over the blogs the last couple of years, but until feb. just signed his name. when he got a blog of his own in feb. he had to have an idendification word and he chose jack/joe after his two grandsons. then because of various foulups on his part his earlier 3 blogs got erased.
what is so amazing is that jack , as he has said several times, was looking for a calm , reasomable but lively blog-just like you were. he found one at joe's, then to b, then to jeff, then to anna, then to an episcopal lady, caitilin, and a few others. because of some health problems he stays in most of the time and blogging is his favorite thing.
you may miss him on the technical discussions on papal pronouncements, he calls those discussion parsing the pope,and though he has considerable academic training and personal interest in religion but more from a philosophy of religion point he tries to stay clear if possible when the blog gets to the meaning of paragraph 3 of section 9 of line 33 of pope melrose's toto al factotum. bad joke.
as you may know my entire family and ancestry is catholic. my father was raised in a rectory and my great, great, uncle was a very important early paulist and head of catholic chaplains in WW1. jack's background is anglican, although he has been to many churches sine his parents were church musicians on a part time basis.
you would guess that jack's favorite is newman and he has given many talks on this great man.his two favorite popular quotes are newman[the definition of an educated man, i believe] who said in debate never attack your opponents motives; and from educated man-an easy chair and a gentleman have this in common--their purpose is to make one at ease.
jack taught for years but spent most of his career as an organizer of public workers, teachers mainly.
he considers joe, b anna, caitilin and a few others friends. from temperamentn and approach he is closest to jeff.i know jack better than anyone, of course, but jeff knows jack evenn better than i do as far as his religious thought go . it is interesting to me that the only thing he has said in two days was "jeff is my friend."
i'm sure if he wins the 50-50 battle he will soon say "Mike is my Friend."
this is kind of getting to me so if you were interested at all in our relationship to the church Jeff could tell you. listen, talking to you has been good for me. alice. if you will do keep in touch.

Jeff said...


Thanks for filling us in on what's going on, and for the background. "Parsing the Pope..." That's very good, and from the short time I've known him, I'd say that it's very much "Jack". :-) Yes, I know of his fondness and expertise on Newman.

I hope and pray that he comes out of this. I'd hate to think that the controversy here contribued towards putting him into the state he's in. I'm honored that he said "Jeff is my friend", but you please whisper in his ear for me that his friend tells him it sure has heck better not be the last thing he says!

God Bless you Alice. I hope that you can get some rest, and please keep me informed on Jack.

God Bless you both, and your grandchildren too.

Anonymous said...

Hi Alice,

I feel pretty attached to you and Jack at this point and will be hoping and praying with you that Jack comes around soon to give me a good talking to about those nationalists.

I was watching a documentary about Stax records on PBS last night. Maybe all men looked about the same back then with the short hair and all, but that picture you posted of Jack is the spittin' image of a man that flashes briegly across the screen of a Martin Luther King march in that documentary.

All the Best, B


Jeff said...


I saw part of that STAX documentary this week. It was pretty cool. The American Masters series on PBS is great. Did you see the one they did on Les Paul?

jackjoe said...

b, thanks for your concern, and jack has been in a few marches. i kid him about using a younger picture of himself[well i did it]and an 'old' alice picture. i can't remember but he calls you a __________philosopher and joe a __________philosopher. he loves your comments and posts and i get to hear many of them by jack at dinner. Thanks again for your concern and the prayer circle. keep in touch. alice

jackjoe said...

jeff, the 'controversies, have nothing to do with jack's condition. just the opposite. he is at his best when the subject if 'hot.' thanks again for your help and for listening to his religious thoughts. alice

Jeff said...


Yes, I'm pretty sure it was here.

Anonymous said...

jeff, thanks for the response and all the other things you have done for my husband.

Anonymous said...

just one more thing and i'll get out of the way. you may already know this but my husband has never told me. but years ago his sister told me a story that no body in the family had ever heard. my husband's father had cancer when my husband was in 9th grade. due to circumstances i will not relate p{my spouse} had the main job of carrying for him. those days years ago, cancer treatment was not like it is today. you simply went home to die.
from a picture i have seen of p in those days this almost killed him psychology and physical. i cannot bear to look at the picture.
the point is he told his sister years ago that the only bad dreams he ever had were being in the room with his cancer ridden father who was in great pain and not knowing what to do. since his sister is the only one who knows this story, i thought it might be wise to tell you.
maybe you think p is unstable but that is not correct. everyone raves about his calm, take charge temperament, but since he is depending on you i felt you should know this story, especially since he has never told anyone but his sister, now deceased. thank you so much for indulging me. the first time i saw p i knew i wanted to be his wife. i did win out and the competition was tough, why i don't know because he certainly doesn't have movie star looks.
these are tough days for me and i wish there were some way i could repay you; but all i can do is say thanks. p is not real initial.

Jeff said...


You're most welcome, but to tell you the truth I think much of the credit for the kindness that has been extended to P over the web belongs to "B" and to Anna. "B" in particular, because he made a prayer circle for P and called my attention to P's challenge, and without that, I wouldn't have gotten to know him.

I can relate a bit to what P went through with his father. My father died suddenly when I was 18, and all of a sudden much of my plan for life changed, as you can imagine. My mother died after a long battle with cancer years later, when I was 32. That one year turned much of my hair gray, and I also lost a great deal of weight in the process, so I can imagine what a stress that was to P when he was still an adolescent. He must have been quite a young man, in that everyone else saw enough strength and empathy in him to figure that he was up to handling the task. I think there are other indications (such as being a teacher's union spokesman), that other people have always seen P as a rock that they can rely on. It's good that he has someone like you to rely on now. It's good that you've had each other, as I know the two of you have endured the toughest loss there is to bear...

i did win out and the competition was tough, why i don't know because he certainly doesn't have movie star looks.

Haha. I'd certainly like to tell P that you said that. That may be one area where his self image doesn't quite jibe up with yours. ;-)

I hope he is doing better. Will you be posting updates on your blog? I'd like to hear if there has been any progress.

In our thoughts and prayers,


Anonymous said...

jeff, clogging your website again. i will post updates on our site. as you can tell i think so much of p. but i am so thankful he has a friend who will listen to his feelings. somehow he has a reluctance to always do that with me. so please stay with him for a while. b was so thoughtful to care for a stranger in blogdom and we are most grateful. the same goes for anna. i am not exaggerating when i say neither of us are going to make this without you guys.
by the way, before our last little incident he was musing over some tough questions that he wants yo hear you all on. you'll recognize them. p at a rough administrative hearing. so stay with us.the computer 'scene' i relayed to you still is with me as a fond memory, not a sad one. thanks again to all.

cowboyangel said...


Looks like you've had your hands full. Sorry I couldn't participate earlier, but I've had a lot going on.

Once again, you written a very thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

I really don't have much to add. Civil wars are always the most tragic wars. The Spanish Civil War was no different. There were a lot of atrocities on both sides, as always happens. But I can't even begin to imagine supporting the Nationalists, whatever problems I may have had with parts of the Republican coalition.

There actually was a catolico-republicano movement, of which the poet Jose Bergmain belonged.

I think you're right that the anti-clericalism did work against the Republicans in the end, just as it worked against the Left in other countries.

I don't know if it's possible for us in the U.S. to really comprehend Spanish Catholicism or the kind of social and economic conditions that eventually erupted in anti-clericalism. Spanish Catholicism felt very different to me than Catholicism here. It's part paganism, part Medievalism, part Monarchism, etc. A lot of historical elements that the American Catholic Church has never experienced. It's beautiful and dark and mystical and quite horrific at times.

As Liam, said, though, I think the decision of the U.S., England and France to refuse to aid a fellow democracy and to even embargo arms sales probably had the most effect. And it definitely aided the Communists. Really, in terms of foreign policy, I think it was one of the worst disasters of the 20th century. Instead of confronting both the Nazis and the Communists, it strengthened both and weakened democracy.

As far as who is a martyr and who should be a saint, I imagine the Creator will sort it all out. The earthly institution of the Church will always have political agendas affecting the decisions.

Anonymous said...

Cowboy, Jeff, Jack, et al.,

Yes I think my perspective as expressed earlier treating the Nationalists as equally evil does come in part from a lack of understanding of the era. I thought when I wrote it, and still think, that the 'socialists' were unfairly glamorized by progressives, then and now. So I'd still contend that the Republicans were evil too, even if corrupted by the russians due to lack of Anglo-American intervention.

Jeff said...


Thanks for the thoughtful comments.

I don't know if it's possible for us in the U.S. to really comprehend Spanish Catholicism or the kind of social and economic conditions that eventually erupted in anti-clericalism. Spanish Catholicism felt very different to me than Catholicism here. It's part paganism, part Medievalism, part Monarchism, etc. A lot of historical elements that the American Catholic Church has never experienced. It's beautiful and dark and mystical and quite horrific at times.

I think that's true, and at the very least, it should serve as a lesson for those in the "Everything was GREAT before that Vatican II disaster, let's go back to the Latin Mass" crowd, that the Church in Europe already had enormous troubles in the way it had alienated and lost so many of the laity, long before the council that they like to heap so much blame upon.

I think you also make a good point about the lack of support from the western democracies driving the Spanish left into the hands of the Communists. Perhaps the biggest tragedy in the lead-up to that Civil War was that both sides had given up on the efficacy of democratic institutions. Roosevelt may have erred in leaving the Spanish Republic to it's own devices, but at least he didn't err here at around the same time, in that he refused to succumb to the tempation towards assuming dictatorial powers, and thereby restored the country's confidence in democracy.

There actually was a catolico-republicano movement, of which the poet Jose Bergmain belonged.

That's very interesting, I'd like to learn more about that. After a cursory lookup, it appears that Bergamin was a friend and protege of the Spanish intellectual and Rector at the University of Salamanca Miguel de Unamuno In Ronald Fraser's book Blood of Spain, there is a poignant scene of Unamuno trying to deliver speech at Salamanca condemning summary executions, only to be threatened and harangued on stage by General Millan Astray and his retinue. Unamuno was removed from his post and died not too long afterwards.

Jeff said...


Please don’t worry about it. All views are welcome here (as long as I don’t deem them to be hateful). Nobody here is trying to beat anybody down or show anyone up. Your views are welcome. I’d like to consider this a place where friends can come and have interesting and spirited discussions. I don’t consider it a debating society. I’m no genius, I know I can be wrong about a lot of things. If I was really driven to debate people and win arguments, I’d still be doing apologetics.

I can think of a blog or two that we both know where there is a good-cop/bad-cop dichotomy and people will argue endlessly on every post just for the sake of getting in the last word, long after a discussion is logically over. At times it reminds me of Baghdad Bob.