Spanish fascism and the Catholic Church


NPR ran a story last week about Pope Benedict's impending mass beatification of a group of Spanish clergy who were killed during the Spanish Civil War.

It is true that many in the Catholic Church were killed during the Civil War. But it is also true that the Catholic Church in Spain was a staunch ally of the fascists in Spain. Under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, the Catholic Church played an important role. Or, as an article in the London Telegraph puts it, after Franco came to power,

The Spanish Church was a powerful ally of Franco. Every house and classroom had a crucifix, and priests often wielded more influence than judges or police officers.
The Catholic Church in Spain, in other words, was a key ally of fascist repression in that country--which is to say, it was an enemy of social justice. This is in contrast to those liberation theologians in the Catholic Church who actually supported social justice--but who Benedict (as Cardinal Ratzinger) suppressed back in the 1980s. I am also reminded of the contrast between the pro-fascist Catholics in Spain under Franco, and the faith of Catholics like Oscar Romero in Latin America.

Franco was not only friendly with the Catholic Church. He was also a friendly with Hitler, as this photograph of the two of them together, taken from Wikipedia, illustrates:

Time magazine published this short article in July, 1944, a short time after D-Day:

An Allied observer visited the State Department, graphically illustrated current political trends in Spain with a story about pictures. The pictures were on General Francisco Franco's handsome desk.

A year ago, when the observer visited Franco, there were three of them—a large, autographed photograph of Pope Pius XII, flanked by large, autographed photographs of Hitler and Mussolini. When he called again eight months later the pictures were still there.

But when he went to see Franco less than a month ago, two of Franco's heroes had disappeared. Gone were Hitler and Mussolini. Only the Holy Father remained on Franco's table.

In other words, after D-Day, Franco knew which way the wind was blowing. It wasn't a good idea for him to associate with a loser anymore, even if the loser in question was an old friend with a similar ideology.

Francisco Franco, as an old running gag on Saturday Night Live pointed out, is still dead. But the legacy of his fascist regime is apparently not dead. If Benedict is going to honor those Catholics who died in the Spanish Civil War, will he also apologize for the role that his Church played in supporting the dictatorship?


Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

And to add to that, reading in David Gibson's bio of Benedict, I learned that JP II and Ratzinger have refused to do anything like this for Oscar Romero, whom they saw as beholden to Liberation Theology!