Some of the greatest and most important champions of social justice have come from the Roman Catholic Church. This almost goes without saying, and yet I feel I must mention this, because what I am about to discuss involves historical events from 70 years ago that are have made their way back into the news, and which do not reflect positively on the Catholic Church. I am referring to Spanish Civil War and the subsequent repressive government of Francisco Franco.
One way to describe the Spanish dictatorship of Francisco Franco would be to say that it was a unique, homegrown version of European fascism--a brutal and unholy alliance between right wing Roman Catholicism and violently repressive rule. Last summer, when I first wrote about this subject, I referenced a Time magazine article from 1944, which reported that, until D-Day, Franco kept on his desk photographs of his three favorite people: Mussolini, Hitler, and the pope.
The Spanish government is trying to do something to remember the victims of Franco's dictatorship. Called the "Law of Historical Memory", it "could make finding the remains of victims of Franco easier, and eventually lead to their names being legally cleared."
As an AP article reported,
While atrocities were committed on all sides during a war that took an estimated 500,000 lives — and the Law of Historical Memory makes reference to all of those killed — it is mostly Franco's victims, estimated at tens of thousands, who still lie in unmarked graves.This is important background information when one considers that Pope Benedict has now beatified 498 people associated with Franco's side in the Spanish civil war. Benedict made a point of appearing at the ceremony himself. The Los Angeles Times reported that one large banner at the event read, "For a Catholic Spain, they died." Oh really? Well, here is a picture of Catholic Spain for you:
That would be Hitler marching next to his friend Franco, wouldn't it?
According to the same article,
protesters displayed a banner that, repeating graffiti that has popped up in Spain, said: "Those who have killed, tortured, and exploited cannot be beatified."Alas, it seems that those who have killed, tortured, and exploited can be beatified.
They displayed the banner with a replica of Picasso's famous Spanish War painting "Guernica." The churchgoers tore up the banner that portrays the horrors of war as the two groups brawled, Italian television reported.