Pope likens modern anticlericalism to 1930s Spain

[BARCELONA] Pope Benedict on the plane to Spain told journalists that there was a very strong clash between faith and modernity in Spain and he called for dialogue, not confrontation. PA here.

He spoke of the anticlericalism which erupted in Spain in the 1930s in the run-up to the Spanish Civil War, and said it was happening again.

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"The clash between faith and modernity is happening again and it is very strong today," he told reporters before landing in Spain's holiest city Santiago de Compostela for a two-day visit.

The Spanish government of Jose Luis Zapatero Rodriguez and the Church has frequently clashed over gay rights, abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and the place of religion in state schools. But the government has turned down the volume in the past year, shelving a bill that threatened to remove crucifixes in public places and Christian vows.

A healdine in the Barcelona daily La Vanguardia says the Government will be receiving the Pope "with a white flag".

On the plane, Benedict XVI called for "an encounter between faith and secularism, not a confrontation."

His words suggest that he sees this brief visit as an opportunity for the Church and its political opponents to seek a new understanding on the place of faith in public life.

The allusion to the Civil War is a dramatic way of warning of the consequences of aggressive secularism.

In the 1930s, anticlerical mobs whipped up by the Popular Front coalition of socialists, communists and anarchists killed priests and torched churches. The outrages gave Fascist forces the justification for the uprising that would lead to the Franco dictatorship.

The Pope also spoke on the plane of the family, the rediscovery of which, he said, was "the great theme of today".

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Vince Killoran
8 years 1 month ago
Your definition of the "the Right" is downright (!) incorrect.  In fact, you are referring to pre-modern political formation, some parts of which survive in mutant political system.
Franco was not a leftist.  How do I know this?  For starters, he never identified with the political left, and they never claimed him as one of their own.

Franco was a facist.  He appealed to traditional organizations of authority, as well as myths and symbols of nationhood (including the Catholic Church in Spain). His relationship with capitalism and private property were confused but he never put capitalists out of business.  The same goes for Hitler. 

 
Thomas Piatak
8 years 1 month ago
Going to Orwell's "Homage to Catolonia" for information on the Spanish Republicans is akin to going to John Reed's "Ten Days That Shook the World" for information on the Bolsheviks.  Both men glorify leftist murderers, though Orwell glorifies a different set of leftist murderers and fell out with the Communists because they murdered his preferred band of leftist murderers.  Orwell also was anti-Catholic, and he had no problem with the anti-Catholic murder and destruction that was part and parcel of Republican Spain.


Vince Killoran
8 years 1 month ago
Please read my comment carefully Tom. I recommended Orwell's book as a good starting point for understanding the diversity within the Republican forces. 

This exchange re-enforces a thread on AMERICA's website a few weeks ago in which some participants discussed the need for people to calm down and respond to what people argue, and not seek to score shallow political points.
8 years 1 month ago
Again we had these arguments before. Just because one group doesn't like another group and does not want to associate with them does not change their stripes.   What a silly definition.  Nearly all the left is atheistic, so of course they will not want to say he (Franco) is one of ours.  Mussolini was a communist  and his brand of politics was just a variant of socialism.  Fascist, anarchists, syndicalists, socialists, communists, progressives, liberals are just different variants of the the left.  They are all common bed fellows.  And by the way, Mussolini was a darling of the ''left'' so they did embrace fascism as one of their approved ways.
 
 
You cannot just define ''right'' as someone who is not you or you do not like for something.  The ''right'' up till the early 20th century was traditional family dynastic forms of government.  Until 1918 there was The Kaiser, The Czar,  and the Hapsburgs in Europe.  That was the ''right.''  After the first World War there were few truly dynastic governments in Europe though they are currently prevalent in many parts of Asia.
 
 
Today there is no ''right'' and if you want to define the ''right'' as the opposite of ''left'' then we are calling the ''right,'' libertarians or proponents of liberty and non egalitarianism.  But in no stretch of any of the definitions can Franco be called ''right.''  No he was a variant of the left, one who embraced religion which is anathema to most of the left.  If you want to define ''right'' as someone who embraces religion, take that to the Jesuits here and see if it flies. Many of the Jesuits like to use the term ''right wing'' as a denigrating term.
 
 
 
And if the Republicans in Spain had not been so horrendous, there would have not been any Franco.  They essentially brought on his violent reaction to their barbarism.  Unfortunately one form of barbarism tends to breed another.  But Franco had predecessors that said that was the way to go.  Does anyone remember Sherman?  And of course Lenin and Stalin who eradicated their opposition by the millions.

Vince Killoran
8 years 1 month ago
You are confusing "conservative" and the Right.  My only argument was that Franco was not part of the Left; rather, he was a fascist. If you are able to offer the title of an academic book or article that provides evidence that Franco was a leftist I would be happy to re-consider.


Your contention about atheism as some dividing line is not useful either-think of Christian socialists and atheistic libertarians.


There's labeling used to score political points and then there's the scholarly way of understanding political identities. I'm not interested in the former; I made my comments as a historian.


 
8 years 1 month ago
''You are confusing ''conservative'' and the Right. ''
 
 
I am not confusing anything.  The term conservative can mean many things and the way the term is used today is different from how it was used 100 years or even 50 years ago. A conservative in Spain in the 1930's would have supported a monarchy or some oligarchic form of government and since many of those were Catholic they joined Franco.  That did not make Franco a conservative even if he was devoutly Catholic.  They had a common enemy, atheistic anti clericalism and virulent form of leftism.  What was Franco trying to conserve?  Catholicism, yes but not a monarchal form of government.  A conservative in the US today would oppose both or anything like either one of of the two forms of Spanish government in the 1930's.  Conservative has different meanings in different societies.  In present day Russia you could argue that the conservatives would want to go back to the Soviet and I have seen that discussion.
 
 
The term had its original meaning is trying to preserve what worked and in its original day in England that meant a monarchical form of government with a parliament.  Over in France it would mean something a little different.  In this country it tends to mean preserving the Constitution and how it has been interpreted over the last 230 years.  And since the intentions of most of the Founding Fathers was in limited government, that is an important aspect of US conservatism.  The only commonality across countries is that each tries to preserve things that worked in the past.  The Founding Fathers were anything but conservative.  They were radicals.  But two hundred years later those who are preserving what they did are called conservatives.  The Founding Fathers were definitely not leftist even if the term had been used then.
 
 
Under any coherent use of the term ''right,'' neither Franco, Mussolini or Hitler fit in anyway meaningful.  One has to use the Stalin approach, that anyone who is against us is on the right and fascist.  Sorry, they were variants of the left despite Stalin nonsensical attempt at characterization.  They would have been more accepted except for the heavy anti semitism of Hitler and the Catholicism of Franco and the fact that each eliminated communism.  Both of these were unacceptable not only to the communist but to most other socialists.  Later there were socialist movements that were led mainly by Catholics in Europe based on some Papal encyclicals but in the 1930's is was pretty much an atheistic strain.  A lot of the socialism in the US was pushed by Catholics as Father Coughlin and Michael Winter's favorite priest, John Ryan, were influential during the New Deal.  Father Coughlin is an interesting case as we see the phenomena of someone who becomes unlikeable and is immediately classified as not us and becomes one of the ''right'' as a result.  This was despite the fact he remained a hard core socialist till the end.
 
 
So play the silly game.  It does not stand up under scrutiny.  Franco and Hitler committed cardinal sins, they both destroyed communist and one was ardently Catholic while the other suppressed Jews and eventually killed them in large numbers but both were anathema not because they had an ideology abhorrent to the left.  And today how do you degrade all who oppose you, you say they are all fascist and right wing (Bush is a Nazi or a Hitler, sound familiar).  So we get the frequent use of these terms by the left against anyone they do not like.  And we have Jesuits and other commentators on this site doing the same thing and we had Michael Winters as the champ of this ad hominem here for a couple years.  They rarely say fascist but ''right wing'' is the polite way of saying the same thing.

Vince Killoran
8 years 1 month ago
 Your mention of George Bush and Sean Michael Winters is baffling.


Conservative, neo-conservative, paleo-conservative, libertarian, moderate conservative, etc. etc.  There are many brands of what we characterize as the Right.  But it does no good insisting that fascist are leftist when they aren't.  As I wrote in an earlier post Hitler & Franco did not identify with the left and they did not aim to dismantle capitalism. They fashioned their fascism out of authoritarian appeals to national and (for Hitler at least) racial myths and symbols.  Franco and the Catholic Church in Spain suited each other.



To return to the original point of the early comments, the Catholic Church in Europe was greatly weakened when it was slow to engage in the Nineteenth Century industrial world and modernization.  In some countries, such as Spain, they cozied up to repressive forces. After 1940 they attempted to correct this but it was late in the day by then.
8 years 1 month ago
''But it does no good insisting that fascist are leftist when they aren't.''
 
I am afraid that they are/were indeed leftist.  Who made the term ''fascist'' a household term?  Who is identified with Fascism the most?  The answer is Mussolini.  Mussolini was born a socialist (his father was a socialist and named him after socialists), was a communist and major player in Italian socialism during his early years and died a communist and in between these two events/time periods he brought fascism into the world and was the darling of the left all over the world.  So I am sorry, fascism was a variant of leftist politics and was only rejected later for the reasons I have mentioned.  To call them right is ludicrous.  There wasn't one ounce of monarchical DNA or freedom in any of it.  So on what basis are they ''right.''  But they were seen the same by many who once were communist and then became fascist.
 
Were Italian and German fascism the same?  No, but they were closely intertwined in the sense they supported each other.  I can show you photos of Mussolini and Hitler in 1941 as close buddies as they posed for photo ops together in Germany.  However, Mussolini had many close friends that were Jewish and protected them till the Germans took over Italy in 1943.  Don't give me the nonsense that Hitler was a capitalist.  He found a large German industry when he was elected and immediately co-opted it for his military objectives.  German industry was not free to invest where they wanted, do what they wanted.  They became an organ of the State and took their orders from the Nazis not their shareholders or the market.  You mistake large industrial organizations with typical capitalism or that capitalism is automatically not leftist.  At one time German industry might have been truly free market capitalist but not after the Nazis took over. Hitler had no plans for traditional capitalism or market economics in Germany's future.
 
I only used George Bush and Michael Winters as example of how easy people throw pejoratives around for those they do not like.  George Bush was the target of a lot of the nonsense and he is anything but a fascist or right wing anything.  Michael Winters was a frequent thrower of ad hominems and liked the term ''right wing.''  I have no ideas if he ever directed his verbiage at George Bush since I started reading him only after Bush had left office but he certainly directed it at Republicans.  People here call all sorts of people ''right.''  On what basis?  They are not like any traditional use of the term and since they are generally people who emphasize liberty, could never be associated with fascists.  Oh but people want to call fascist right wing and Republicans and conservatives right wing so they can be associated with each other.  It makes the ideological wars so much easier if one can say or imply Republicans or conservatives are fascist.  However, there are so many non sequiturs it is hard to keep up with them.  They have nothing in common.  Keeping these pejoratives however, is necessary for one's ideological bogey man framework but it falls apart when closely examined.
Vince Killoran
8 years 1 month ago
Please re-read (or, perhaps, read for the first time?) my posts-I was not equating fascism with conservatism.


As for me, I stopped reading when you claimed a few sentences into your missive that Mussolini was a communist.


Good grief.





Thomas Piatak
8 years 1 month ago
The leftist atrocities preceding and during the Spanish Civil War are not well known.  They are regularly minimized or denied, including, shamefully, by some Catholics.  If Franco had not won that war, the Pope would not be visiting Spain today, because there would be no Catholic Church in Spain. 
David Cruz-Uribe
8 years 1 month ago
@David Smith

As opposed to the American Catholics, who stayed home and cheered on Franco for "defending the Catholic Faith" as opposed to being a would-be military dictator in open revolt against the democratically elected democratic government?  Dorothy Day was very mindful of the dangers of armchair pacifism and made every effort to "walk the walk."    She couldn't be everywhere, but felt, rightly, that she needed to speak out in opposition to the propaganda and wishful thinking on both sides here in the United States. 
Vince Killoran
8 years 1 month ago
Thanks for that reminder David.  I would add that the affinity of the Spanish Catholic hierarchy for the wealthy and autocratic elite pre-dates the 1930s and helps explain the violent reaction during the Civil War.
Jim McCrea
8 years 1 month ago
Anti-clericalism doesn't arise in a vacuum.  It didn't do so in 1939 Spain and is isn't happening by accident in 2010 worldwide Catholicism.

There is no need for the violent reactions that happened in Spain because, in 2010, the Catholic church is politically quite toothless - as it should be.
8 years 1 month ago
"Anti-clericalism doesn't arise in a vacuum."

Right, it arose in a climate hostile to all limitations on human desire that was created by the left in an effort to bring forth state sponsored utopia: a "new man and a new world." 

This climate of leftist ideology and their "new man" killed hundreds of millions across Europe in the last century...the Church was right, the Left (including the utopian, atheist Zapatero) is wrong, then and now...

It is strange what people will defend on here in the name of their cause.  Look at the big picture.
Vince Killoran
8 years 1 month ago
My "cause" was simply to point out what historians conclude when they study Spain and the Church. I'd be interested in knowing any historical research out there that challenges this characterization.
8 years 1 month ago
It blows my mind that anyone here would defend the Republicans of 1936 in Spain.   They were representatives of the greatest killing machine of the 20th century.  They were a atheistic nihilistic movement that showed their barbarity very quickly.  The reaction to the atheistic anticlericalism was Franco, another product of the left but who supported the Church.  He did not exemplify himself either but by trying to point to Franco and his form of socialism as a reason to provide some support to the Republicans is absurd.


And don't use the nonsense that the Republicans were elected as an excuse to support them.  So was Hitler. 
Vince Killoran
8 years 1 month ago
Franco a leftist?  That's a new one.

I've re-read all the post here and can't locate the one that defends the Republicans.  I don't agree with your characterization of them as a singular force.  Rather, they were a coalition of somewhat disparate forces.  George Orwell's HOMMAGE TO CATALONIA is an excellent introduction to the subject.
David Cruz-Uribe
8 years 1 month ago
The atrocities committed by the Left in Spain, both before and after the Civil war started in 1936 are well-known and should not be mitigated or excused.  But I think that the Church would do well to acknowledge its complicity in atrocities committed by the fascists.  We cannot honor the martyrs of 1936-1939 without also admitting that other members of the Church (bishops, priests and seminarians) were involved in acts of great evil.

Dorothy Day, with great insight and courage, opposed both sides of the Spanish civil war, earning her the oppobrium of both the American Left and the American Catholic Church.  But she was right to do so.
8 years 1 month ago
''Franco a leftist?  That's a new one.''

What is the right?  We had these discussion before.  Franco was certainly not part of an hereditary dynasty with a system of oligarchical control of the land and population .  That was the original definition of the right.  He certainly was not a proponent of liberty or free market, the so called modern definition of the right.  No, he represented another form of government control of the means of production and the people.  He was a person of the left, one of the many variants that flowed from the French Revolution.


Stalin called all those governments that were anti communist, fascist or right.  But in reality they were/are all mad dogs fighting over the same bone, government control of the people and the resources.  Modern intellectuals have continued this charade.

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