Thursday, February 12, 2009
Eduardo takes a parting shot at me, but one that has significance for America today. Are those who foment hatred of religion responsible in some way for ensuing violence, especially if they later seem to condone and even endorse it?
Here's what Eduardo writes: "Richard has not provided any evidence to support his repeated assertion that the republican government somehow approved of the violence directed at the Church, even the violence that occurred in the months leading up to the military's uprising. It's ludicrous to me to suggest that the republican government somehow bore the blame for violence that resulted from its inability to maintain order when that inability was calculatedly fostered by its enemies, including those on the far right and the far left, who wanted to see it fail...."
Here are the facts, as reported in Hugh Thomas's history of the Spanish Civil War, which Eduardo has accepted as reliable: By the time of the Republic, 1931, "Spanish liberalism had come to look on the church [sic] as a scapegoat for all Spain's ills." [p.73] "Religious education was to end." [id.] By the elections of 1833, in "hundreds of pueblos, the great issue was religion...Acting sometimes in anticipation of the government, local councils had often abolished certain processions." One priest was charged by a socialist magistrate with "public display" of religion, because he had said Mass in a church "whose roof had been destroyed by lightning." "Another priest was fined as a monarchist for alluding to the Kingship of God..."  After the leftist revolutionary uprising of 1834, to the Spanish middle class "it seemed that anything, even a military dictatorship, was preferable to disintegration."  Yet the first act of the new leftist prime minister was to sign an amnesty decree.  By 1936, the socialist leader and former Republican labor minister, Largo Caballero, had become known as the "Spanish Lenin". He "moved about Spain making declamatory prophecies to wildly cheering crowds that the hour of revolution was near."  Since the government "needed the votes of the socialists to remain in power.. they could do nothing aginst the socialist youth... Day after day, the tension was maintained by news of a murder here, an attempted lynching there, a church, nunnery, or newspaper office burned down..."  When on July 13, 1936, Calvo Sotelo, the leader of the parliamentary opposition, was murdered by members of the regular police, after apparent threats by his leftist colleagues, "Republicans of the Right or center ...could not contemplate loyalty... The president of the Catholic student association..., who had previously upheld the line of non-violence, decided that St. Thomas would have accepted a rebellion as just."  (The military uprising began sporadically on July 18; by late 1936, Largo Caballero had become prime minister.)
Eduardo minimizes the martyrdom of the Church, writing that "the limited violence directed against the Church prior to the uprising can in no way explain or justify in any moral sense the utter brutality of the nationalists' tactics." I agree with Eduardo that even extreme anti-religious violence cannot "justify" the later brutality of many on the nationalist side, but i do think it helps "explain" it. Consider not only what Thomas has said above but also this: At about the same time that the military uprising was gradually gaining control in various cities, revolution "was sweeping through the towns where the nationalist uprising had either been defeated or where it had not occurred....Their passions were directed first against the church....Practically nowhere [however] had the church taken part in the uprising."  "At no time in the history of Europe, or perhaps even of the world,has so passionate a hatred of religion and all its works been shown." [261-62, emphasis added] "Rosary beads were forced into monks' ears till their eardrums were perforated....A crucifix was forced down the mouth of a mother of two Jesuits." One parish priest told his captors "'I want to suffer for Christ.' 'Oh do you,' they answered....They stripped him and scourged him mercilessly. Next they fastened a beam of wood on their victim's back, gave him vinegar to drink, and crowned him with thorns... His last request was to die facing his tormentors so that he might die blessing them." [260-61] Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have beatified nearly 1000 such martyrs, but (I believe) many more petitons await action.
Are there any parallels we can see developing today? Unfortunately, yes. Hatred and contempt for religion has become commonplace in the last twenty years or so, with a certain twist: The haters call the hated "haters." The new Administration has threatened to limit or eliminate conscience protections, forcing religious institutions to close Persecution of Mormons and other opponents of gay marriage goes uncondemned by relevant authorities. And no one can suggest that these developments are merely a reaction to some rightist military conspiracy to seize power.