The Church and Anti-Clericalism in 20th Century Revolutionary Processes in Spain by Julio Reyero

Retzinger
Pope Benedict XVI (C) blesses faithful flanked by Vatican secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone (L) and Santiago’s archbishop Julian Barrio at the Santiago de Compostela cathedral, on November 6, 2010 during his two-day visit in Spain.

During Joseph Ratzinger’s 2010 visit to Compostela and Barcelona we were regaled with his protest against heightened opposition to religion and how he was able to compare today’s situation with the 1930s. In the same vein, the Asociación Estatal de Abogados Cristianos/State Association of Christian Lawyers (AEAC) has notified the United Nations (no less)  of 150 alleged instances of religious persecution in Spain over recent months. Victim-ism has been and remains a constant in proselytisation, Vatican-style. Conducting themselves continually as hangmen does not stop them from propaganda heavily laden with words like peace and tolerance. Hypocrisy has always been their strong suit and the case in hand is no different.

Just like today, in the years preceding and during the conflict that gave rise to the social revolution of 1936, the Catholic Church kept its left hand raised high with calls for peace and respect whilst its right was used to deliver deadly blows to the working class.

The main charges formulated related to the attacks upon and killing of its ministers, thereby implying lack of religious freedom, sacrilege and the destruction of art (and not merely religious art). At the same time and with the same resolve they never wearied of reiterating that they quested after peace. Let us see how much truth there is in these protestations and the situation that unleashed the conflict.

RELIGIOUS AND IDEOLOGICAL PERSECUTION

burning_heretics1232828487Ever since the Roman emperor Constantine decreed tolerance for the Christian religion and ever since Theodosius made it the official religion in the 6th century, Christians have not ceased persecuting and eliminating all dissent, labelling it heresy. Arians, Donatists, Iconoclasts, Eutiquianists, Dulcinists, Monophysites, Nestorians, Priscillianists, Waldensians and Cathars, Lutherans, Calvinists, etc., sampled purification by fire or sword under cover of the “sweet name of Mary”. To be fair, some of these ‘heretics’ behaved not much better towards Catholics whom they too deemed heretics. In short, it does not look like the Church is best qualified to speak on the subject of religious freedom.

Ferdinand_VII_ofSpainby_Goya
Ferdinand VII (1784 – 1833), twice King of Spain: 1808 and 1813 to 1833 (painting by Goya)

Furthermore, when, outside of the ambit of religion (of course) ideas began to be entertained that broke with the tradition that absolute power emanated from God and was devolved to men, the priests started crying out to the heavens again. As illustrated by the ferocious opposition they put up against any idea emanating from the Enlightenment following the bourgeois-style American and French revolutions. The Church’s defence of monarchy is well known and evidenced by the cry of “Long live chains!” which greeted Ferdinand VII’s fateful return to Spain and the ensuing repression. Its intransigence is encapsulated to perfection by the insistence during sittings of the Cádiz Cortes that the Constitution known popularly as “la Pepa” should not include freedom of religion.

Should anyone have any lingering doubts on this score he should go straight to the encyclical Quanta Cura (which does not, as might at first glance have appeared, deal with priestly numbers) released on 8 December 1864 by Pius IX. In it one finds statements like these making the position plain:

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Pope Pius IX, King of Rome (1846 – 1878)

False and perverse views, all the more to be despised because they tend to thwart and indeed suppress the wholesome authority which the Catholic Church should be free to exercise until the end of days, whether over individual men or over nations, peoples and supreme governors: errors that also seek to destroy the unity and mutual concord between Priesthood and Imperium that has always been so beneficial to Church and State alike.”

[…] they have no hesitation in enshrining this wrong-headed opinion, extremely harmful to the Catholic Church and the well-being of souls, dubbed by Gregory XVI […] madness, that is, that ‘freedom of conscience and of worship is an inherent right of every man that every well established state should proclaim and guarantee as a fundamental law, and that every citizen is entitled to complete freedom in manifesting his ideas with the utmost publicity – be it, by word of mouth, in writing or any other way –  , with no civil or church authority empowered to repress this in any way.’ In supporting this very rash argument, they neither think nor consider that in so doing they are preaching freedom of perdition and that if men are afforded a free hand in disputation, there will always be someone who dares stand up against the Truth, smug in the loquaciousness of human learning, but Our Lord Jesus Christ himself teaches how faith and Christian prudence should steer clear of such harmful vanity.”

The same encyclical also contains the Syllabus of Errors, a list of 80 of the main errors of modernity, summed up under the following four points.

  1. Propositions 1 to 18: condemn errors relating to belief: pantheism, naturalism, rationalism (be it absolute or temperate), indifference-ism, incompatibility between faith and reason, etc. Also included here is Proposition 22 which condemns failure by the intelligentsia to defer to the magisterium of the Church.
  2. Propositions 19 to 55: relating to the nature of the Church, the State and relations between them. Stress is laid on the Church’s freedom, the subordination of the state to morality and the existence of natural rights predating the State and independent of it. And separation of Church and State is condemned.
  3. Propositions 56 to 74: relating to ethics. Special attention is paid to marriage as well as to secular morality, utilitarianism (Proposition 58) and the distinction between sacrament and contract.
  4. Propositions 75 to 80: argue that the Catholic faith should be the state religion and condemn freedom of worship, freedom of thought, freedom of the press and freedom of conscience. Outstanding is the proposition that contends that the Roman pontiff cannot be reconciled with progress, liberalism and modern culture.

Bear in mind throughout that the author of these words actually regarded himself as infallible and since then they have been part of dogma.

Plainly they were worried about the situation at the time, especially given the progress made by socialist ideas and the attempts at revolution occurring across Europe. Fearful of this, Pope Leo XIII in 1891 issued another encyclical Rerum Novarum {Of New Things) where, after a token reference to “the position of workers” he mounted an all-out defence of private property and thus of the status quo. Disgracefully this, the so-called “first social encyclical” contained statements like these:

With their aim that the belongings of individuals should pass to the community, the socialists are aggravating the workers’ conditions for, by stripping them of the right to freely dispose of their wages, they are denying them the right to be able to better themselves economically and to win improvements”.

“[…] man being the only animal endowed with intellect, he must of necessity be accorded the opportunity not only to use things available, as the rest of the animals do, but also to possess them with a form and lasting grip.”

The foundation and rationale for the division of goods and for private property are found in natural law itself.”

DEFENDING THE MONOPOLY ON EDUCATION

Escuela ModernaFreedom of education was resisted even more virulently perhaps. The right to teach being deemed a monopoly, in the early years of the 20th century and in light of the experience of secular schools that were beginning to emerge, the clergy spoke in these terms:

No matter how much knowledge they might acquire in secular schools, the children would emerge from them as monsters, because the real monster is the man removed from God, neither knowing nor loving, nor obeying nor serving him. From such a man we must fear anything: down to the most abominable actions and most horrendous crimes. Secular schooling is championed by all who wish to shrug off the yoke of the Ten Commandments so as to surrender to the blandishments of their passions.” (Statement by Urquinaona, bishop of Barcelona, early 20th century)

Hardly surprising that some years later they railed from their pulpits, clamouring for the execution of Francisco Ferrer, the creator of the Modern School, falsely accused of having been the instigation of the uprising known afterwards as Tragic Week.

Ferrer1

WAS TRAGIC WEEK PERSECUTION OF RELIGION?

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Barcelona, 27 July 1909: the burning of the religious buildings

Those events were to really stir up the civilian and church authorities alike. They sought to pass it off as a tidal wave of senseless  sacrilege, church- and monastery burnings but it makes no sense without the explanation that the revolt triggered by opposition to the forcible  drafting of reservists to crack down on a revolt during the murderous colonial wars being fought in North Africa (in what is today Morocco) and in which the hundreds of thousands who perished as armed protectors of the profits of the capitalists were almost exclusively young men drawn from the working class (as in any war). In keeping with its line down through the ages, the Church championed a status quo wherein 40% of the population was illiterate (up to 60% in working class districts), where the Church received 20 million pesetas a years from the state and controlled nearly a third of all the capital in Spain (according to the Catalan Employers’ Federation in 1912), as well as owning many banks, industries and businesses, directly or indirectly. In Barcelona alone there were 348 monasteries or convents. The church had a monopoly on education and health and paid its workers even worse than the secular employers.

church burning1Something that is usually not mentioned is the fact that all of the anti-clerical fervour that prompted the burning of religious buildings (80 of them, in addition to another 32 civil establishments, town halls, registries, banks, etc.) also made it is business to protect the priests, monks and nuns, looking upon them as kidnap victims. Which explains why during the 4-day tidal wave of “chaos” only 3 religious lost their lives and one of those was as the result of a heart attack.

By contrast, upwards of 70 lives were lost to the gunfire of the police, army and sharpshooters. Upwards of 500 were wounded. Some 2,500 people were arrested and a further 5 were executed later, one of them a mentally disturbed man whose horrific offence was to have danced with the remains of a long dead and buried nun who had not died as the result of any violence. However, the events back in 1835 when there was an out and out massacre of religious and arson attacks on religious buildings such as the San José monastery are rarely invoked: those incidents were a lot more widespread and took place against the backdrop of the squabble between liberals and Carlists.  But of course the powers that be insist that liberals need to take a look in the mirror.

Quema de iglesias Mayo 1931
May 1931, Madrid: the burning of the churches
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The Garotte (Helios Gómez)

As early as 1931 a pro-monarchist pastoral letter from Bishop (later Cardinal) Gomá triggered the people’s fury and a series of church burnings in Madrid, Andalusia and Valencia. In Malaga, the CNT issued a statement calling for calm. In the wake of the Asturias uprising in 1934, there were similar incidents. The Cathedral’s Camara santa was dynamited and several establishments in Langreo, Gijón, Oviedo and elsewhere were torched. In all, the number of religious buildings destroyed amounted to 58, according to most sources and some 34 religious were murdered. Anybody who cares to visit Wikipedia will find a rather tendentious article including these figures, with the events that occurred compared to the persecution by the Roman Empire, no less. Other sources contend that it provided more than ample justification for the Francoist uprising.

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The Church Militant: Pamplona bullring

We need not reiterate that the Church backed the landowners, industrialists and nobles of the day and actively participated in the crackdown on any attempt to secure anything resembling social justice. What grabs the attention is that there are folk writing articles about the “very serious attack on the monasteries and their 34 martyrs” in the context of a conflict in which somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 people lost their lives. (In addition to the 34 religious, some 320 Civil Guards, Assault Guards and army personnel perished). On 20 and 21 October 1934 alone, 24 people were arrested (among them a 16 year old boy arrested because he was the son of a revolutionary); they were loaded on to a lorry and murdered three days later in the middle of the night with bayonets and finished off by coups de grace from Civil Guard firearms, and dumped in a common grave. Other instances of torture have been authenticated with the discovery of corpses in other common graves with the obvious signs. A corpse was even found with the skull smashed in by a piece of rail track found in the same location as the grave. Nearly 3,000 people were wounded and there is no telling how many were tortured and done to death in the cells. Between 15,000 and 30,000 people were dragged before the courts across Spain. We cannot be any more precise with the figures because of the tight censorship the government enforced on the issue. It is known that in many cases the prisons and holding centres were in many instances religious buildings too, as in the case of the Adoration Sisters’ convent in Oviedo and others in Sama and Ciano. Including the convent school in La Oscura. In short, the scale of the tragedy highlights the hypocrisy of those who zero in exclusively on the deaths of a particular 34 people merely because they belonged to a religious confession.

20090515-franco2ANTI-CLERICAL SOCIETY OR ANTI-SOCIAL CLERGY?

We have already referred to hostility towards the Church as an institution on the basis of its accumulation of material assets. Because of bourgeois revolutionary processes under way in France and Italy in the late 18th and throughout the 19th century, Spain was a haven for banished religious orders whose numbers were spectacularly boosted.

The predominant force in Catholicism back then was the Jesuits who were meant to mix with the powerful classes and thus with money. Their investments in Spain not only brought them massive dividends but political influence as well. Despite the disentailment programmes of Mendizábal and Madoz (from 1820 to 1841 and again in 1851) by 1912, Joaquín Aguilera, secretary of the Catalan Employers’ Federation, the Fomento del Trabajo, was insistent that the Jesuits controlled ..” without exaggeration, a third of the capitalised wealth of Spain.” The Church owned railways, mines, factories, banks, shipping lines, orange plantations as well as slave-owning cocoa plantations in Guinea (cf. Gustau Nerin, Una guardia civil en la selva). Gerald Brenan, from whom I have borrowed some figures (The Spanish Labyrinth) queries that it was such a big landowner but states that it had close ties to the big landowners and with the big industrialists from whom it obtained alms for its colleges and missions and to whom it was bound by bonds of gratitude. The Church also held a monopoly in education and, to all intents, in the health sector with its 10,000 monks and 40,000 nuns (a record figure, twice that in St Teresa of Avila’s day). The republic’s decrees reducing the number of religious orders, expelling the Jesuits yet again and banning them from teaching, the legalising of divorce and introduction of civil marriages and burials so irked the clergy that they immediately began to speak up for the monarchy and the old privileged order, laying the groundwork for the armed uprising that triggered the civil war. In the spring of 1936, the archbishop of Valladolid, Remigio Ganasegui, sent General Andrés Saliquet (a member of the Junta and one of the chief plotters) a cheque for 5,000 pesetas. Once the war was under way, in October 1936 Gomá handed Franco £32,000 sterling, raised in Ireland from a collection taken up “for the restoration of destroyed churches”.

We need scarcely guess the use to which that money was put.

Monks
The Church Militant – 2: In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost (Helios Gómez)

Many a time we focus unwittingly on local matters but at the time the labour press and comrades elsewhere in Europe realised what was afoot, especially in Italy and Germany. The rise of fascism there was facilitated by the Church when it pulled its Christian Democrat parties out of the election contests in order to throw the voting weight of Catholics behinds fascism. Whatever differences they had with those regimes in relation to education or state funding for the Church, we cannot forget this ploy of nobbling the political competition in order to ease the rise of Hitler and Mussolini, the fervour with which they spiritually and materially (with money and guns) backed the murderous Abyssinian (Ethiopian) campaign, the reoccupation of the Rhineland or the Anschluss (the annexation of Austria to the Nazi Reich) – both actions expressly banned by the Versailles Treaty.

All of which clearly positioned the Catholic Church on the side of the barricades facing the libertarian movement and other socialists who were removing he blindfolds from their eyes. Its stance on earlier struggles, its diehard defence of a class-based society and private property, its condemnation of any hint of freedom or its backing for international fascism were unlikely to inspire any feelings of neutrality in the workers. And did not.

WAR AND REVOLUTION

Wherever the situation was brought under control after 19 July and where Franco’s troops were seen off, religious displays were banished from the life of society. Obviously, anarchists had been theorising for decades about doing away with religion as something redundant and it took no great effort to convince the populace on that score. Quite the opposite. A majority had a handle on atheism and the time formerly spent on prayer could be used for more productive pursuits. Far from being systematically destroyed as commonly alleged, religious buildings were pressed into service as warehouses, hospitals, schools, auditoriums, understandably so given their acoustics and the cool refuge they offered during the long hot summer. This was something that even the bishops conceded in their “Collective Letter”, of which more anon.

Widespread adaptation to the new situation involved nothing traumatic. Disenchantment with religion had been on the increase virtually since the “Glorious Revolution” that had ushered in the First Republic. In Valladolid the Holy Week processions had all but petered out and it required some serious application by Gandásegui (a plaque being installed in a local church for this very purpose) to breathe new life into the tradition. In many places children were not being baptised and ideological groups (many of them anarchist) questioning morality through publications and talks simply grew and grew and increased their influence. Against this backdrop it is hardly surprising that from day one (not to mention the groundwork laid long before then) the Church hitched its star to the generals’ mutiny, knowing that this was a social war and that its very moral code was at stake. The cardinal-primate of Toledo, Plá y Deniel, referred to the civil war as a “Crusade against the children of Cain”. But if there is anything that set the seal on their embracing of the fascist criminals it was the “Collective Letter from the Spanish Bishops to the Bishops of the Entire World Regarding the War in Spain”. Signed by all of the prelates, except those from Menorca, Tarragona and Vitoria who declined to sign, this 15-page document was designed to counter the bad press that the Francoist side and thus the Spanish Church had been receiving even from Catholic media abroad. Care was taken to talk about peace but they could not avert certain weaknesses:

[…] “such is the human condition and such the order of Providence […] that, war being one of the most terrific scourges of mankind, it is sometimes the sole heroic remedy whereby things can be restored to an even keel and brought back to the reams of peace. Which is why the Church, although the daughter of the Prince of Peace, blesses the emblems of war, founded the Military Orders and has organised Crusades against the enemies of the faith”.

“And so there arose within the soul a religious-type backlash against the nihilistic, destructive action of the godless. And Spain was split into two great warring camps […]

So the war is akin to an armed plebiscite.”

They set out clearly the justification for the war and for ideological postures, albeit in a Manichaean form. Anarchism is constantly cited when they invoke some practical example (which gives some indication of its strength), but generally they talk about communism and connect everything to the USSR:

This hatred of religion and patriotic traditions […] came from Russia exported by Orientals with twisted minds. For the sake of so many victims bamboozled by ‘devilish teachings’, let us state that, going to a death sanctioned by the law, our communists have – the vast majority of them – been reconciled with the God of their fathers.”

In addition to unconditionally backing fascism, the key to the propaganda is plain: on the one hand, the protection of religion against destruction and, on the other, nationalist sentiment. The evil always comes from outside.

There is no point in our expounding at length upon this document which should raise the hackles of anyone with even the slightest knowledge of what occurred. All that can be said of it is that it is one of the greatest displays of hypocrisy and cynicism the clergy have ever left us. That is, after justifying the repression, the word ‘peace’ is used three times in the final five lines as they deny the mass murder, the common graves and the concentration camps.

THE MARTYR FACTORY

Priests2The prelates of the day blatantly inflated the figures for martyrs by including all those dead who subscribed to the Catholic faith, that is, virtually all who fought in the Nationalist Camp. These days, conservative sources talk broadly of some 6,600 murdered religious. And even though that figure is high (about 10% of the total), bear in mind that in the dioceses of Avila and Burgos they must have attracted attention on account of their “disproportionate readiness to sacrifice” (to quote Julián Casanova’s La Iglesia de Franco). The bishops did not care that there were warrior-priests on the battlefronts but they did not take kindly to “political” labels being hung on them. The parish priest of Hormaza (Burgos) had “offered his services” to the Falange Española right from day one of the uprising “and in his dual capacity as soldier and minister of the Lord, then travelled wherever his duty took him”, that is, to the battlefront. This war-mongering priest had, according to the Diario de Burgos of 18 August 1936 joined the “countless phalanx of martyrs of the crusade”.

Mayo 1944 Franco con el nuncio Cicognani y el obispo de Madrid-Alcala, Eijo Garay en consagración monumento Sagrado Corazón
Franco kissing the ring of the Papal Nuncio Cicognani and the bishop of Madrid-Alcala, Eijo Garay during the consecration of the Sacred Heart monument

There was a veritable legion of chaplains enrolled with the Carlists and Falangists. And many others are very dubiously described as martyrs when, say, they had opened fire on the crowd from the Escuelas Pias in Madrid’s Lavapiés district. By action or omission (hiding guns or collaborating with the fifth column) these things were repeated throughout the republican zone.

These days it is rather too casually suggested that the violence came from the anarchists and that the republican government’s forces were simply unable to contain it. In actual fact, appeals went out from every political and trade union organisation that no one should take the law into his own hands.  Such appeals were even backed up by death threats, and the CNT was no exception there. But any attempt to draw analogies between organisations back then and those today or between their membership and consciousnesses is laughable. To take but one example, the town hall in Barruelo de Santullán (Palencia) was destroyed, along with its records, in the revolutionary upheaval of 1934 and that was at the hands of the Socialist Youth.

THE DESTRUCTION OF SACRED AND ARTISTIC ITEMS

Likewise, many people drawn from a very wide range of circumstances destroyed items of worship that they looked upon as pointless; fun was poked at the solemnity of Christian myths and secret burials (sometimes even of foetuses) inside churches, convents and monasteries was denounced. Bear in mind that the damage done by sacrilege exists only in the head of the believer, because there is little harm that can be done to the remains of a dead person. Playing football with the skull of Bishop Torras might rank as disrespectful, but it is wholly disproportionate to punish it with the death penalty as the bishops were demanding in their Letter. Also cited as an unforgivable crime was the symbolic sniping at a statue of little artistic value and which these days even the laxest of urban planning laws would ban: this was the fate reserved for the Cerro de los Ángeles Christ statue in Madrid, which was promptly restored and, to make matters worse, turned into a site of religious pilgrimage.

The Collective Letter also ranks as equally as horrific as the death of priests in an incident in which a militiaman opened fire on a monstrance filled with hosts, saying: “I swore I’d have my revenge on you.” In fact, it is odd that the description of murders takes up barely 20 lines, whereas an entire page is devoted to the destruction of objets d’art and items of worship. Which gives some indication of the intent to blacken the picture and to lie brazenly at every opportunity. By saying, for instance, that the collections of the Prado Museum were looted when we now know that they were protected from Francoist air raids. Likewise they speak of the blowing up of the Roman arch in Bara in Tarragona, in which claim there was not a word of truth, since not only is that arch still blithely standing but all the reports about its condition make no reference to any destruction and subsequent restoration. All that there is is references to restorations. The most recent being in 1936 and designed to help preserve it better by directing traffic away from it. There are also references to the Liria Palace being “sordidly stripped” when it should have been made clear that it was destroyed almost entirely (only its outer walls were left standing) by Francoist aircraft dropping a number of bombs triggering an uncontrollable conflagration. Luckily, the militians rescued many priceless works of art from destruction, something that the bishops also omit to mention.

The burning down of Lérida cathedral was also credited to the Durruti Column and there are still those who invoke this mischievously in the press (Segre and La Mañana in Lérida) even today. But the Durruti Column was not in Lérida on 25 August 1936, having passed that was on 24 July, according to Jesús Arnal Peña (the priest who made a name for himself as ‘Durruti’s secretary’ when, according to himself he was merely scribe to the Column) and was in Bujaraloz by that time. Arnal Peña himself recounts how the perpetrators were later summoned by Durruti and punished “with the utmost rigour” (see Hans Magnus Enzensberger’s El Corto Verano de la Anarquía). On occasions, the arson is credited to certain members of the García Oliver Column or to the Aguiluchos seconded to it, but again the dates do not fit. What a number of sources do record is the opposition of the Lérida CNT to the destruction of the city’s religious inheritance.

In short, propaganda aside, detailed scrutiny of the sensationalist picture of such “iconoclastic revolutionary fury” displayed by anarchism in the revolution shows that anarchists generally conducted themselves in a much more commonsensical way than those with the power ever did.

THE NATIONALIST CAMP

But what do the bishops in their Letter have to say about the attitude of the Nationalist camp? Nothing.  Or rather, they hold it up as exemplary in its administration of justice, with peace reigning in the areas under its control. We have no way of knowing if such rectitude is what Queipo de Llano was displaying in one of his addresses over the airwaves from Radio Unión in Seville when he declared:

Rape
Queipo de Llano’s legionaires and Regulares teaching the cowardly reds and their womenfolk what it means to be a man . . .

Our valiant legionnaires and Regulares have taught the cowardly reds what it means to be a man. And their womenfolk too, by the way. After all, these communist and anarchist types deserve it. Haven’t they been dabbling in free love? Now at any rate they will know what makes real men and not queer militians. They are not going to escape, no matter how much they may wrestle and kick out.”

Odd that even as their saviour generals were talking in those terms, the bishops in their Letter were complaining that “[…] No respect has been shown women’s modesty, not even those women who have vowed to commit themselves to God”, the reference here being entirely to the “red” zone, of course.

Our minds are made up to enforce the law with inexorable firmness: Morón, Utrera, Puente Genil, Castro del Río, get the graves dug! You have my authority to kill like a dog anyone who ventures to lift a hand against you: if you do so, no responsibility shall attach to you! A column made up of Tercio and Regulares personnel was dispatched to El Arahal and they have wrought terrifying havoc there.”

In gratitude for the faithful, dignified actions mentioned in his speeches, Queipo de Llano was buried with full honours in the La Macarena cathedral , dressed in confraternity uniform, albeit that in more recent times an effort has been made to tidy up his image by removing references to his having been a mutinous general. Examples of his feats, which, according to the bishops, did these men credit, was the strafing and bombardment from naval guns directed at the column of civilian refugees streaming out of Malaga, leaving upwards of 3,000 dead, a macabre figure matched, rumour had it, by those who were slaughtered in Seville. In Triana the legionnaires laid out corpses in the form of a gigantic cross as a sign of their devotion and Rigoberto Doménech, the archbishop of Zaragoza where upwards of 7,000 were murdered, made statements acknowledging and excusing these events in August 1936 in the following terms: “Violence may not be done in the service of anarchy, but, lawfully, for the good of Order, Homeland and Religion.”

But the conflict was not ended in 1939 as some would have us believe. Upwards of 50,000 people were murdered over the ensuing decade, many as a result of treachery and informing by priests and nuns.

CONCLUSION

–       The Church has been and remains one of the essential pillars of an unjust, criminal system of power.

–       It did not take a lot of propaganda to show this, since the people was able to see as much and had suffered ever since the Church set foot in Spain and in many guises, with the Inquisition, the repression that followed the so-called War of Independence, the Carlist wars, the civil war and the Francoist dictatorship.

–       In the specific period analysed here it is plain that there was never any systematic plan for the destruction of every trace of religion or extermination of its followers. The abolition of its public practice is another kettle of fish.

–       Whilst offering no blanket excuse for the killing of anybody, those dead who have been labelled ‘martyrs’ are only to be expected in a conflict of this calibre, in which they were involved with blood-stained hands, as the poet used to say, albeit that he was referring to a different ideological camp.

–       We could go on to add a lot more about how the clergy conducted themselves, such as how they ran the prisons and forced labour camps, stole children, how the Auxilio Social (Social Aid) scheme set up by the Falange was handed over to the Church, but the list would be too long and we reckon that this pamphlet has more than met its target, of explaining why revolutionary minds reject religion and why they fought it once war erupted.

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Translated by Paul Sharkey from Iglesia y anticlericalismo en los procesos revolucionarios del siglo XX en España, (Publicaciones El Sembrador, Madrid 2012)