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File:Flag of the Second Spanish Republic.svg

Flag of the Second Spanish Republic

File:Cathedral palma mallorca spain 2007 08 15.jpg

"La Seu" Cathedral of Palma.

Catholicism in the Second Spanish Republic was an important area of dispute and tensions between the Catholic hierarchy and the Republic were apparent from the beginning - the establishment of the Republic began 'the most dramatic phase in the contemporary history of both Spain and the Church.' [1] The dispute over the role of the Catholic Church and the rights of Catholics were one of the major issues which caused the breakdown of unity of the broad democratic majority which led to the Spanish Civil War.[2] The Church was an active element in the polarising politics of the years preceding the Spanish Civil War[citation needed] The revolution of 1931 that established the Second Spanish Republic and the Spanish Constitution of 1931 brought to power an anticlerical government.[3]

Prime Minister Manuel Azaña believed that the Catholic Church was responsible for Spain's backwardness and advocated the elimination of special privileges for the Church on the grounds that Spain was no longer a Catholic nation but a secular one. Azaña wanted the Second Spanish Republic to emulate the pre-1914 Third French Republic, make secular schooling free and compulsory, and construct a non-religious basis for national culture and citizenship.[4] Following elections in June 1931 the new parliament approved an amended constitutional draft on 9 December 1931. Frances Lannon characterizes the constitution as creating a secular democratic system based on equal rights for all, with provision for regional autonomy, but also calls the constitution "divisive" in that the articles on property and religion had a "disregard for civil rights" and ruined the prospect of conservative Catholics Republicans.[5] Likewise, Stanley Payne agrees that the constitution generally accorded a wide range of civil liberties and representation with the notable exception of the rights of Catholics, a circumstance which prevented the formation of an expansive democratic majority.[2] The constitution introduced female suffrage, civil marriage and divorce.[citation needed] It also established free, obligatory, secular education for all. However, anti-clerical laws nationalized Church properties and required the Church to pay rent for the use of properties which it had previously owned. In addition, the government forbade public manifestations of Catholicism such as processions on religious feast days, dissolved the Jesuits and banned Catholic education by prohibiting the religious communities of nuns, priests and brothers from teaching even in private schools.

Despite the anticlerical aspects of the constitution, the Republican coalition's electoral policy stated: "Catholics: the maximum program of the coalition is freedom of religion... The Republic... will not persecute any religion." [6] According to historian Stanley Payne , 'although the statement was an intentional deception, the propaganda was accepted by many of the faithful.'[6] Although at the outset tensions were apparent between the Church hierarchy and the republic, the hierarchy likewise formally accepted the statement, hoping for a continuation of the existing Concordat.[6] Official or organized opposition did not exist at the beginning.[6] The first formal dissent was in May 1931 when the archconservative Cardinal of the Archdiocese of Toledo, Pedro Segura, published a writing in defense of the former king.[6]

According to Victor M Perez-Diaz : " The church reacted to all this by mobilizing the mass of peasants and the middle classes and channeling them into professional and political right wing organisations prepared for by decades of careful organisation. The extreme right took upon itself the task of conspiring to overthrow the regime. The moderate right refused to state its unambiguous loyalty to the new institutions and openly flirted with authoritarianism." [7]

The conservative Catholic Republicans Alcalá-Zamora and Miguel Maura resigned from the government [8] when the controversial articles 26 and 27 of the constitution, which strictly controlled Church property and prohibited religious orders from engaging in education were passed.[9] Not only advocates of establishment of religion but also certain advocates of church/state separation saw the constitution as hostile; one such advocate of separation, Jose Ortega y Gasset, stated "the article in which the Constitution legislates the actions of the Church seems highly improper to me." [10]

In May 1931, after monarchist provocations, an outburst of mob violence against the Republic's perceived enemies had led to the burning of churches, convents and religious schools in Madrid and other cities.[11] Anticlerical sentiment and anticlerical legislation, particularly that of 1931, meant that moderate Catholicism quickly became embattled and it was ultimately displaced. In the election of November 1933, the right-wing CEDAemerged as the largest single party in the new Cortes. President Alcalá-Zamora however 'wary of Gil Robles demagoguery and the CEDA's ambivalent attitude to democracy' approached the Radical leader Alejandro Lerroux to become Spain's Prime MInister.

A general strike and armed rising of workers in October 1934, which reached its greatest intensity in Asturias and Catalonia, was forcefully put down by the government. This in turn energized political movements across the spectrum in Spain, including a revived anarchist movement and new reactionary and fascist groups, including the Falange and a revived Carlist movement. In particular the JAP (CEDA's youth wing) demonstrated its increasing strength.

The defeat of theCEDA-Traditionalist alliance in the elections of February 1936 saw this process accelerate with the 'haemorrhaging of CEDA members towards theFalange'.[12]

On the outbreak of Spanish Civil War in 1936, thirteen bishops and some 7,000 clergy, monks and nuns were killed by Republican forces, and thousands of churches were destroyed.[13] After that,[clarification needed] Catholics largely supported Francisco Franco's rebel Nationalist forces against the Popular Front government - ecclesiastical rejoicing had similarly greeted the coup of Primo de Rivera in 1923.[14] According to Mary Vincent, "The Church was to become the most important source of legitimation for the rebellious generals, justifying the rising as a crusade against godlessness, anarchy and communism. Although such a close identification with the Nationalist cause was not to be fully elaborated until the Spanish hierarchy's joint pastoral letter of July 1937, there was no doubt that the Church would line up with the rebels against the Republic. Nor , at local level, was there any hesitancy. The only sizeable group of Catholics to remain loyal to the republic were the Basques. "[15]

By the end of the war 20% percent of the nation's clergy had been killed.[16] Individual clergymen and entire religious communities[citation needed] were executed with a death toll of 13 bishops, 4,172 diocesan priests and seminarists, 2,364 monks and friars and 283 nuns, for a total of 6,832 victims, as part of what is referred to as Spain's Red Terror.[17]

According to Mary Vincent, "The tragedy of the Second Spanish Republic was that it abetted its own destruction; the tragedy of the Church was that it became so closely allied with its self-styled defenders that its own sphere of action was severely compromised. The Church, grateful for the championship offered first by José María Gil-Robles y Quiñones and then by Franco, entered into a political alliance which would prevent it carrying out the pastoral task it had itself identified." [18]


Spain entered the twentieth century a predominantly agrarian nation – a nation which, moreover, had lost its colonies. It was marked by uneven social and cultural development between town and country, between regions, within classes. 'Spain was not one country but a number of countries and regions marked by their uneven historical development.' [19] From the turn of the century, however, there had been a significant advance in industrial development. Between 1910 and 1930 the industrial working class more than doubled to over 2,500,000. Those engaged in agriculture fell from 66 per cent to 45 per cent in the same period. The coalition hoped to concentrate its major reforms on three sectors : the 'latifundist aristocracy', the church and the army – though the attempt would come at a moment of world economic crisis. In the south less than 2 per cent of all landowners had over two thirds of the land, while 750,000 labourers eked out a living on near starvation wages. The country was 'prone to centrifugal tendencies', for example there was a tension between Catalan and Basque nationalist sentiment away from an agrarian and centralist ruling class in Madrid.[20]

The Second Republic


File:Bundesarchiv Bild 102-12783, Alcala Zamora.jpg

Niceto Alcalá Zamora in 1931

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Cardinal Segura

The Second Spanish Republic was established on 14 April 1931, after the abdication of King Alfonso XIII.[21] The government, led by President Niceto Alcalá-Zamora, instituted a reformist program, including agrarian reform,[22] right to divorce,[23] vote for women (November 1933),[24] reform of the Army,[25] autonomy for Catalonia[26] and the Basque country (October 1936).[27] The proposed reform was blocked by the right and rejected by the far-left (CNT). One of the most controversial changes however, was the so-called "separation of the church and state".[28] Article 26 of the 1931 republican constitution, and subsequent legislation, halted state funding for the Catholic Church, banned the Jesuits and other religious orders, banned clerics from all teaching in schools, appropriated the properties of the Catholic Church and banned processions, statues and other manifestations of Catholicism.[29] These strictures helped to alienate a large mass of the Catholic population.[30] Republicanism represented a confrontation with all that had gone before and could be combative : " In August 1931 in Málaga, for example, the usual celebrations in honour of Our Lady of Victory under whose patronage the Spanish Crown had driven out the 'Moors' in 1497 were replaced by a beauty pageant to find the city's Miss Republic. It would have been hard to devise a celebration more calculated to offend the Catholic right. To convinced Monarchists, the Republic was not merely distasteful, it was an anathema. The Carlist militias, long confined to their Navarrese heartlands, were training in the mountains as early as 1931. " [31] The rights defeat in 1931 left some prepared to give the new regime a chance, "but many more , particularly those in the circles around Angel Herrera Oria and Gil Robles accepted the rules of the democratic game only as a means to destroy the 1931 Republic." [32] The Republic suffered attacks from the right (the failed coup of Sanjurjo in 1932), and the left (the uprising of Asturias in 1934), also it suffered the impact of the Great Depression.[33]

While the coalition held political power, economic power escaped it. In historian Hugh Thomas's words, 'Like so many others before and since it frightened the middle class without satisfying the workers.' It adopted the measures of separation of church and state, genuine universal suffrage, a cabinet responsible to a single chamber parliament, a secular educational system. The new republican nation was partly to be created through a system of state education, which would be secular, obligatory, free of charge, and available to all. This last measure antagonised the Church. Pius XI's 1929encyclical Divini illius magistri had said that the Church 'directly and perpetually' possessed 'the whole truth' in the moral sphere. Education was, therefore, 'first and super-eminently' the function of the Church. Primo de Rivera's dictatorship had offered the Church the protection it felt was its due. Now however, the Second Republic excluded the Church from education by prohibiting teaching by religious orders, even in private schools), restricted Church property rights and investments, provided for confiscation of and prohibitions on ownership of Church property, and banned the Society of Jesus.[34][35]

Since the far left considered moderation of the anticlericalist aspects of the constitution as totally unacceptable, the historian Stanley Payne ( whose devnunciation of the Spanish left was in the tradition of the Francoist Comín Colomer [36]) argued that "the Republic as a democratic constitutional regime was doomed from the outset".[37] Commentators have posited that the "hostile" approach to the issues of church and state was a substantial cause of the breakdown of democracy and the onset of civil war.[38][39]

Burning of the convents

Following a monarchist provocation on the previous day when the royal march was played to the crowds coming away from their Sunday paseo in Madrid's Retiro Park, mobs led by anarchists and some Radical Socialists sacked monarchist headquarters in Madrid on May 11, 1931 and then proceeded to set fire or otherwise wreck more than a dozen churches in the capital. Similar acts of arson and vandalism were perperated in a score of other cities in southern and eastern Spain. These attacks came to be referred to as the "quema de conventos" (the burning of the convents).

It was alleged that this anticlerical violence was carried, for the most part with the acquiescence and in some cases the active assistance of the official Republican authorities. Despite the protests of Miguel Maura - who as minister of the Interior was ultimately responsible for public order - the government refused to intervene and the fever of anticlerical incendiarism spread rapidly around the country - Murcia, Malaga ( the most extensive damage occurred in this city), Cadiz, Almeria. When criticized by the Catholic Church for not doing more to stop the burning of religious buildings in May 1931 Prime Minister Azaña famously retorted that the burning of "all the convents in Spain was not worth the life of a single Republican".

The burning of the convents set the tone for relations between the Republican left and the Catholic right. The events of 11 May came to be seen as a turning point in the history of the Second Republic. For example, José María Gil Robles claimed to regard the convent burnings as 'decisive'. He claimed that the fires of 11 May destroyed the precarious coexistence which had been established between Church and State. (Indeed Gil Robles persisted in seeing the burnings as the result of planned and co-ordinated action by the republican government. The liberal catholic Ossorio y Gallardo also believed in the likelihood of conspiracy - but as the work of monarchist agents provocateurs.) "From now on", wrote Ossorio, " the right was utterly opposed to Maura as if he, a sincere Catholic, had been responsible for burning churches." The political fate of the moderate Catholic Miguel Maura exemplified the predicament of the centre in periods of intense political polarization - though he demonstrated his defence of Church property in May 1931 he was still dubbed by the Catholic right as one who consented 'to Spain being lit by burning churches'.

Gil Robles was one of the prime beneficiaries of Maura's discomfiture and one of the first to capitalise on it. Following the passage of the 1931 Constitution with its anticlerical clauses Maura (on 14 October 1931) and Alcalá-Zamora resigned - though their resignations did nothing to reconcile them to the agrarian Catholic right. The position of the Catholic republicans was an isolated one.[40]

1931 Constitution

In the fall of 1931, a new constitution was passed that prohibited public religious processions and outlawed much of the work of Catholic orders. In October 1931 José María Gil-Robles the leading spokesman of the parliamentary right declared that the constitution was 'stillborn' - a 'dictatorial Constitution in the name of democracy.' Robles wanted to use mass meetings " to give supporters of the right a sense of their own strength and, ominously, to accustom them 'to fight, when necessary, for the possession of the street.' " [41]

Formation of CEDA

The Spanish Confederation of the Autonomous Right (Confederación Española de Derechas Autónomas or CEDA) was founded in February 1933 and was led from its inception by José María Gil-Robles. Despite dismissing the idea of a party as a 'rigid fiction', the CEDA leaders created a stable party organisation which would lead the Spanish right into the age of mass politics.[42] The campaign against the constitution began in CEDA's Castilian heartlands.[43]

Dilectissima Nobis

On 3 June 1933, in the encyclical Dilectissima Nobis (On Oppression Of The Church Of Spain), Pope Pius XI condemned the Spanish Government's deprivation of the civil liberties on which the Republic was supposedly based, noting in particular the expropriation of Church property and schools and the persecution of religious communities and orders.[44] He demanded restitution of the expropriated properties which were now, by law, property of the Spanish State, to which the Church had to pay rent and taxes in order to continue using these properties. "Thus the Catholic Church is compelled to pay taxes on what was violently taken from her"[45] Religious vestments, liturgical instruments, statues, pictures, vases, gems and similar objects necessary for worship were expropriated as well.[46] The encyclical urged Catholics in Spain to fight with all legal means against these injustices.

1933 election

The announcement of a general election in November 1933 brought about an unprecedented mobilization of the Spanish right. El Debate instructed its readers to make the coming elections into an "obsession", the " sublime culmination of citizenly duties," so that victory in the polls would bring an end to the nightmare of the republican bienio rojo. Great emphasis was placed on the techniques of electoral propaganda. Gil-Robles visited Nazi Germany to study modern methods, including the Nuremburg rally. A national electoral committee was established, comprising CEDA, Alfonsist, Traditionalist, and Agrarian representatives - but excluding Miguel Maura's Conservative Republicans. The CEDA swamped entire localities with electoral publicity. The party produced ten million leaflets, together with some two hundred thousand coloured posters and hundreds of cars were used to distribute this material through the provinces. In all of the major cities propaganda films were shown around the streets on screens mounted on large lorries.[47]

The need for unity was the constant theme of the campaign fought by the CEDA and the election was presented as a confrontaion of ideas, not of personalities. The electors' choice was simple: they voted for redemption or revolution and they voted for Christianity or Communism. The fortunes of Republican Spain, according to one of its posters had been decided by 'immorality and anarchy'. Catholics who continued to proclaim their republicanism were moved into the revolutionary camp and many speeches argued that the Catholic republican option had become totally illegitimate. 'A good Catholic may not vote for the Conservative Republican party' declared a Gaceta Regional editorial and the impression was given that Conservative Republicans, far from being Catholics, were in fact anti-religious. In this all-round attack on the political centre, the mobilization of women also became a major electoral tactic of the Catholic right. The Asociación Feminina de Educación had been formed in October 1931. As the 1933 general election approached women were warned that unless they voted correctly communism would come " which will tear your children from your arms, your parish church will be detroyed, the husband you love will flee from your side authorized by the divorce law, anarchy will come to the countryside, hunger and misery to your home." [48] AFEC orators and organisers urged women to vote 'For God and for Spain!' Mirroring the female qualities emphasized by AFEC the CEDA's self-styled seccíon de defensa brought young male activists to the fore. This new CEDA squad was very much in evidence on election day itself, when its members patrolled the streets and polling stations in the provincial capital, supposedly to prevent the left from tampering with the ballot boxes.[49]

Lerroux government

In the 1933 elections, the CEDA won a plurality of seats; however, these were not enough to form a majority. Despite the CEDA's plurality of seats, President Niceto Alcalá-Zamora declined to invite its leader, José Maria Gil-Robles, to form a government, and instead assigned the task to Alejandro Lerroux of the Radical Republican Party. CEDA supported the Lerroux government and subsequently received three ministerial positions. Hostility between the left and the right increased after the 1933 formation of the Government. Spain experienced general strikes and street conflicts. Noted among the strikes was the miners' revolt in northern Spain and riots in Madrid. Nearly all rebellions were crushed by the Government and political arrests followed.

Radicals became more aggressive, and conservatives turned to paramilitary and vigilante actions. According to official sources, 330 people were assassinated and 1,511 were wounded in political violence; records show 213 failed assassination attempts, 113 general strikes, and the destruction (typically by arson) of 160 religious buildings.[50]

The Lerroux government suspended most of the reforms of the previous Manuel Azaña government, provoking an armed miners' rebellion in Asturias on October 6, and an autonomist rebellion inCatalonia. Both rebellions were suppressed (Asturias rebellion by young General Francisco Franco and colonial troops), being followed by mass political arrests and trials.

Anti-leftist rhetoric

The Asturias revolt was another defeat for the European left - in Germany Hitler had destroyed organized labour, liquidating Europe's strongest communist party, in Austria, the Catholic corporatist Dolfuss, admired by the CEDA, had used paramilitary forces to crush Viennese Marxists of all varieties. To the right, Asturias was evidence of the revolutionary left's plans for Spain. The rebels had killed thirty-four priests and seminarians - the most clerical blood spilt in Spain for over a hundred years.

In Catholic Salamanca, for example, good sons and daughters of the Church were exhorted to mark the victory in Asturias by prayer and penance and make reparation to the majestic and victorious figure of Christ the King. "The figure of Christ clothed in majesty was also used by the Catholic right as a symbol of the triumph of their cause. In Spain, as in Belgium or Mexico, Christ the King had become the symbol of militant Catholicism." [51] For example, the Catholic Gaceta Nacional celebrated the suppression of the rebellions and its editor that the uprisings had been followed not by repression but by justice. The CEDA paper, El Debate spoke of 'the passions of the beast'. Against the dehumanized forces of the international revolution - believed to be manipulated by the shadowy figures of Soviet Communists, freemasons and Jews - the army had stood firm.[52]

As a prelude to the CEDA's 1933 election campaign, GIl Robles had announced the need to purge the fatherland of 'Judaizing Freemasons' and the stock figures of the grasping Jew and Machiavellian Mason accurred again and again in the party's electoral propaganda. The Dominican journal La Ciencia Tomista issued from San Esteban in Salamanca proclaimed the continuing relevance of the Protocols of the Elders of Sion. Jewish Marxists, expelled from ghettos across the world, took refuge in Spain where 'they settle down and sprawl about, as in conquered territories'. " This conspiratorial rhetoric came to the fore during the election campaigns of November 1933 and February 1936, in both cases allowing the Catholic right to present the fight at the ballot box as an apocalyptic battle between good and evil. Extremist rhetoric and anti-semitic theory - prevalent among both supporters and orators of the CEDA - provided immediate common ground between Catholic parliamentarians and the extreme right." [53]

In 1934, a Spanish cleric named Aniceto de Castro Albarrán gained notoriety as the author of El derecho a la rebeldia, a theological defence of armed rebellion that was serialised in theCarlist press, published under the usual ecclesiastical licences.

Juventudes de Acción Popular

The Juventudes de Acción Popular , the youth wing within the CEDA, soon developed its own identity differentiating itself from the main body of the CEDA. The JAP emphasized sporting and political activity. It had its own fortnightly paper, the first issue of which proclaimed : 'We want a new state.' The JAP's distaste for the principles of universal suffrage was such that internal decisions were never voted upon. As the thirteenth point of the JAP put it : 'Anti-parliamentarianism. Anti-dictatorship. The people participating in Government in an organic manner, not by degenerate democracy.' The line between Christian corporatism and fascist statism became very thin indeed.[54] The fascist tendencies of the JAP were vividly demonstrated in the series of rallies held by the CEDA youth movement during the course of 1934. Using the title jefe, the JAP created an intense and often disturbing cult around the figure of Gil-Robles. Gil-Robles himself had returned from the 1933 Nuremberg rally and praised its " youthful enthusiasm, steeped in optimism, so different to the desolate and enervating scepticism of our defeatists and intellectuals."

Shift of the CEDA to the right

Between November 1934 and March 1935, the CEDA minister for agriculture, Manuel Giménez Fernández, introduced into parliament a series of agrarian reform measures designed to better conditions in the Spanish countryside. These moderate proposals met with a hostile response from reactionary elements within the Cortes, including the conservative wing of the CEDA and the proposed reform was defeated. A change of personnel in the ministry also followed. The agrarian reform bill proved to be a catalyst for a series of increasingly bitter divisions within the Catholic right, rifts that indicated that the broad based CEDA alliance was disintegrating. Partly as a result of the impetus of the JAP, the Catholic party had been moving further to the right, forcing the resignation of moderate government figures, including Filiberto Villalobos.[55] Gil Robles was not prepared to return the agriculture portfolio to Gimenez Fernandez. Mary Vincent writes that, despite the CEDA's rhetoric supporting Catholic social teaching, the extreme right ultimately prevailed.[56]

Failure of parliamentary Catholicism

In the 1936 Elections a new coalition of Socialists (Spanish Worker Socialist Party, PSOE), liberals (Republican Left and the Republican Union Party), Communists, and various regional nationalist groups won the extremely tight election. The results gave 34 percent of the popular vote to the Popular Front and 33 percent to the incumbent government of the CEDA. This result, when coupled with the Socialists' refusal to participate in the new government, led to a general fear of revolution. In elections on February 16, 1936, CEDA lost power to the left-wing Popular Front. Support for Gil-Robles and his party evaporated almost overnight as the CEDA haemorrhaged members to the Falange. Mary Vincent writes that, "(the) rapid radicalization of the CEDA youth movement effectively meant that all attempts to save parliamentary Catholicism were doomed to failure.[57]

Catholic support for the rebellion

Many CEDA supporters welcomed the military rebellion in the summer of 1936 which led to the Spanish Civil War, and many of them joined Franco's National Movement. However, General Franco was determined not to have competing right-wing parties in Spain and, in April 1937, CEDA was dissolved.

Historian Frances Lannon has propounded a view which suggests the existence of an 'exiguous Catholic minority which saw in the Church's crusade against the Republic not a defensive holy war that began in 1936 and deserved their support, but a long series of class commitments on political and socio-economic policies which themselves powerfully helped to create the ruthless and desperate anti-clericalism unleashed by the war. " Republican Catholics like José Manuel Gallegos Rocafull, Ángel Ossorio y Gallardo, and José Bergamín, all wrote scathing criticisms of the Church's role in covering with a religious cloak the political, military and class aims of the anti-Republicans. The ex-Jesuit Joan Vilar i Costa refuted the 1937 collective pastoral letter , the Catalan democratic Catholic politician Manuel Carrasco Formiguera was executed on Franco's orders in April 1938 because he also failed to agree with official Catholic views. These men emphasised that the Church's anti-Republican alignment did not originate in, although it was certainly strengthened by, the slaughter of priests by uncontrolled groups on Republican territory, and Lannon concludes: "The crusade had been waged for a long time by the Church for its own institutional interests, for survival. The cost of its survival was the destruction of the Republic." [58]

The Red Terror


"Execution" of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Communist militiamen atCerro de los Ángeles near Madrid, on 7 August 1936, was the most infamous of the widespread desecration of religious property.[59] The photograph in the London Daily Mail had the caption the "Spanish Reds' war on religion."[60]

An estimated 55,000 civilians died in Republican-held territories. The Republican government was anticlerical and supporters attacked and murdered Roman Catholic clergy in reaction to news of the military revolt. In Republican held territories, Roman Catholic churches, convents, monasteries, and cemeteries were desecrated. Through the war, nearly all segments of the Republicans, Basques being a notable exception took part in semi-organized anti-Roman Catholic, anticlerical killing of 6,832 members of the Catholic clergy and religious orders.[61][62]

Although to a much lesser extent, there were also incidents in which Nationalists murdered Catholic clerics. In one particular incident, following the capture of Bilbao, hundreds of people, including 16 priests who had served as chaplains for the Republican forces, were taken to the countryside or to graveyards to be murdered.[63]}

Pope Pius XI referred to Mexico, Spain and Soviet Union as a "Terrible Triangle" and deemed the failure to protest in Europe and the United States as a Conspiracy of Silence.

13 bishops were killed from the dioceses of Sigüenza, Lleida, Cuenca, Barbastro Segorbe, Jaén, Ciudad Real, Almería, Guadix, Barcelona, Teruel and the auxiliary of Tarragona.[64] Aware of the dangers, they all decided to remain in their cities. I cannot go, only here is my responsibility, whatever may happen, said the Bishop of Cuenca[64] In addition 4,172 diocesan priests, 2,364 monks and friars, among them 259  Clarentians, 226 Franciscans, 204 Piarists, 176 Brothers of Mary, 165 Christian Brothers, 155 Augustinians, 132 Dominicans, and 114 Jesuits were killed.[65] In some dioceses, a number of secular priests were killed:

  • In Barbastro 123 of 140 priests were killed.[64] about 88 percent of the secular clergy were murdered, 66 percent
  • In Lleida, 270 of 410 priests were killed.[64] about 62 percent
  • In Tortosa, 44 percent of the secular priests were killed.[66]
  • In Toledo 286 of 600 priests priests were killed.[64]
  • In the dioceses of Málaga, Minorca and Segorbe, about half of the priests were killed"[64][66]
  • In Madrid 4,000 priests priests were murdered.

One source records that 283 nuns were killed, some of whom were badly tortured.[64] There are accounts of Catholic faithful being forced to swallow rosary beads, thrown down mine shafts and priests being forced to dig their own graves before being buried alive.[65] The Catholic Church has canonized several martyrs of the Spanish Civil War and beatified hundreds more.

Foreign involvement

The Catholic Church portrayed the war in Spain as a holy one against "godless communists" and called for Catholics in other countries to support the Nationalists against the Republicans. Approximately 183,000 foreign troops fought for Franco's Nationalists. Not all of them were volunteers and not all who volunteered did so for religious reasons. Hitler sent the Condor Legion - 15,000 German pilots, gunners and tank crews. Mussolini sent 80,000 Italian troops, a move which improved his popularity with Italian Catholics. Portugal's Salazar sent 20,000 troops. Approximately 3000 volunteers from around the world joined the Nationalists from countries such as the United Kingdom, Australiz, France, Ireland, Poland, Argentina, Belgium and Norway.


Within Spain, the Civil War still raises high emotions.


Pope John Paul II beatified a total of about 500 martyrs in the years 1987, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997 and March 11, 2001. Some 233 executed clergy were beatified by Pope John Paul II on the 11th of March 2001.[67] Regarding the selection of Candidates, Archbishop Edward Novack from theCongregation of Saints explained in an interview with L'Osservatore Romano : "Ideologies such as Nazism or Communism serve as a context of martyrdom, but in the foreground the person stands out with his conduct, and, case by case, it is important that the people among whom the person lived should affirm and recognize his fame as a martyr and then pray to him, obtaining graces. It is not so much ideologies that concern us, as the sense of faith of the People of God, who judge the person's behaviour[68]

Benedict XVI beatified 498 more Spanish martyrs in October 2007,[69] in what has become the largest beatification ceremony in the history of the Catholic Church.[70] In a speech to 30,000 pilgrims in St Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI paid tribute to the martyrs of the Civil War and put them on the path to sainthood. “Their forgiveness towards their persecutors should enable us to work towards reconciliation and peaceful coexistence,” he said. The Pope's mass beatification of clergy allied with Franco’s side during the Civil War caused outrage on the Left in Spain. Some have criticized the beatifications as dishonoring non-clergy who were also killed in the war, and as being an attempt to draw attention away from the church's support of Franco (some quarters of the Church called the Nationalist cause a "crusade").[71] Critics have pointed out that only priests aligned with Franco’s troops were honoured. In this group of people, the Vatican has not included all Spanish martyrs, nor any of the 16 priests who were executed by the nationalist side in the first years of the war. This decision has caused numerous criticisms from surviving family members and several political organisations in Spain.[72] “Priests killed in Catalonia or the Basque Country loyal to the republic are not being beatified,” Alejandro Quiroga, Professor of Spanish History at the University of Newcastle,characterized the beatifications as “...a very selective, political reading of the whole thing.”

The act of beatification has also coincided in time with the debate on the Law of Historical Memory (about the treatment of the victims of the war and its aftermath) promoted by the Spanish Government.

Responding to the criticism, the Vatican has described the October 2007 beatifications as relating to personal virtues and holiness, not ideology. They are not about "resentment but... reconciliation". The Vatican said it was not taking sides, but merely wished to honour those who had died for their religious beliefs.The Spanish government has supported the beatifications, sending Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos to attend the ceremony.[73]

The October 2007 beatifications have brought the number of martyred persons beatified by the Church to 977, eleven of whom have already been canonized as Saints.[70] Because of the extent of the persecution, many more cases could be proposed; as many as 10,000 according to Catholic Church sources. The process for beatification has already been initiated for about 2,000 people.[70]


For the most part, the Catholic Church has always highlighted its role as a victim in the 1936-39 war. However, in November 2007, Bishop Ricardo Blázquez, head of Spain’s Episcopal Conference, said that the Church must also seek forgiveness for “concrete acts” during the strife-torn period. “On many occasions we have reasons to thank God for what was done and for the people who acted, [but] probably in other moments. . . we should ask for forgiveness and change direction,”[74]


  1. Payne,Stanley G., Spanish Catholicism: An Historical Overview, p. 149, Univ of Wisconsin Press, 1984
  2. 2.0 2.1 Payne, Stanley G. A History of Spain and Portugal, Vol. 2, Ch. 25, p. 632 (Print Edition: University of Wisconsin Press, 1973) (LIBRARY OF IBERIAN RESOURCES ONLINE Accessed May 30, 2007)
  3. Anticlericalism Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  4. Lannon, The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 , Osprey 2002 p.18 ISBN 978-1-84176-369-9
  5. Frances Lannon, p.20 the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939 ISBN 978-1-84176-369-9
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Payne,Stanley G., Spanish Catholicism: An Historical Overview, p. 152, Univ of Wisconsin Press, 1984
  7. The return of civil society: the emergence of Democratic Spain, Victor M Perez-Diaz, Harvard University Press, p.128 1993
  8. Frances Lannon, p.20 The Spanish Civil War, 2002
  9. Smith, Angel, Historical Dictionary of Spain, p. 195, Rowan & Littlefield 2008
  10. Paz, Jose Antonio Souto Perspectives on religious freedom in Spain Brigham Young University Law Review Jan. 1, 2001
  11. Mary Vincent, Catholicism in the Second Spanish Republic, p.158
  12. Mary Vincent, Catholicism in the Second Spanish Republic, p.239
  13. Franzen 397
  14. Payne, Stanley G (2008). Franco and Hitler: Spain, Germany and World War II.. Yale University Press. p. 13. ISBN 0300122829., and Frances Lannon, The Church's crusade against the Republic', Revolution and War in Spain. p.37
  15. Vincent, Catholicism in the Second Spanish Republic, p.248, Frances Lannon, Privilege, Persecution, and Prophecy, ch 8
  16. Bowen, Wayne H., Spain During World War II, p. 222, University of Missouri Press 2006
  17. Julio de la Cueva, "Religious Persecution, Anticlerical Tradition and Revolution: On Atrocities against the Clergy during the Spanish Civil War" Journal of Contemporary History 33.3 (July 1998): 355.
  18. Vincent, p.258
  19. Ronald Fraser, quoted in Blood of Spain, p.38
  20. The Blood of Spain Ronald Fraser p.35, 37
  21. p.1 Mary Vincent, Catholicism in the Second spanish republicISBN 0-19-820613-5
  22. Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain; The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939. Penguin Books. 2006. London. p.22 and 25
  23. Preston, Paul. The Spanish Civil War. Reaction, revolution & revenge. Harper Perennial. 2006. London. p.54
  24. Graham, Helen. The Spanish Civil War. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. 2005. p.11
  25. Preston, Paul. The Spanish Civil War. Reaction, revolution & revenge. Harper Perennial. 2006. London. p.47
  26. Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain; The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939. Penguin Books. 2006. London. p.22
  27. Beevor, Antony.The Battle for Spain; The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939. Penguin Books. 2006. London. p.223
  28. Graham, Helen. The Spanish Civil War. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. 2005. p.7
  29. Stanley G Payne, Spain's first democracy: the Second Republic, 1931-1936 Univ of Wisconsin Press, 1993, ISBN 0-299-13674-4, pp. 81-84
  30. Graham , Helen, The Spanish Republic at War, Cambridge University Press, 2002, pp. 28-30
  31. Mary vincent, p.120 Spain 1833-2002
  32. Vincent, Spain 1833-2002
  33. Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain; The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939. Penguin Books. 2006. London. p.21
  34. Torres Gutiérrez, Alejandro ,Religious minorities in Spain: A new model of relationships? Center for Study on New Religions 2002
  35. Burleigh, Michael, Sacred Causes: The Clash of Religion and Politics, From the Great War to the War on Terror, pp. 128-129 HarperCollins, 2007. Burleigh says the constitution "went much further than a legal separation of Church and state".
  36. Revolution and War in Spain, p.8 Methuen ISBN 0-416-34970-6
  37. Payne, Stanley G. (1973). "A History of Spain and Portugal (Print Edition)". University of Wisconsin Press (Library of Iberian resources online): 632. Retrieved 30 May 2007.
  38. Stepan, Alfred,Arguing Comparative Politics, p. 221, Oxford University Press
  39. Martinez-Torron, Javier Freedom of religion in the case law of the Spanish Constitutional court Brigham Young University Law Review 2001
  40. Frances Lannon, Privilege, Persecution, and Prophecy, 195-197
  41. Gil-Robles, No fue posible la paz, quoted in Mary Vincent Catholicism in the Second Spanish republic, p.182
  42. Vincent, Catholicism in the Spanish Second Republic, Oxrford,p.202
  43. Mary Vincent, Spain 1833-2002 p.127 ISBN 978-0-19-873159-7
  44. Dilectissima Nobis, 1933
  45. Dilectissima Nobis, 9-10
  46. Dilectissima Nobis, 12
  47. Gil Robles, No fue posible la paz p.100
  48. Gaceta Regional, 5 and 8 November 1933
  49. Vincent p.212.
  50. The statistics on assassinations, destruction of religious buildings, etc. immediately before the start of the war come from The Last Crusade: Spain: 1936 by Warren Carroll (Christendom Press, 1998). He collected the numbers from Historia de la Persecución Religiosa en España (1936–1939) by Antonio Montero Moreno (Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 3rd edition, 1999).
  51. Vincent, p.231
  52. p.134 Mary Vincent, Spain 1833-2002
  53. Mary Vincent p.219-220 Catholicism in the second Spanish Republic
  54. M.Vincent, Catholicism in the Second Spanish Republic
  55. Preston, Coming of the Spanish Civil war, 153-54 (2nd edn , 184)
  56. "For all the social Catholic rhetoric, the extreme right had won the day." Vincent, p.235
  57. Mary Vincent, Catholicism in the Second Spanish Republic ISBN 0-19-820613-5 p.240, andsee Chapters 10 and 11 in general
  58. Frances Lannon, 'The Church's crusade against the Republic' essay in Revolution and War in Spain ISBN 0-416-34970-6
  59. Ealham, Chris and Michael Richards, The Splintering of Spain, p. 80, 168, Cambridge University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-521-82178-9, 9780521821780
  60. "Shots of War: Photojournalism During the Spanish Civil War". Retrieved 24 June 2009.
  61. "Religious Persecution, Anticlerical Tradition and Revolution: On Atrocities against the Clergy during the Spanish Civil War" Journal of Contemporary History 33.3 (July 1998): 355.
  62. Payne, Stanley G., A History of Spain and Portugal, Vol. 2, Ch. 26, (Print Edition: University of Wisconsin Press, 1973) (LIBRARY OF IBERIAN RESOURCES ONLINE p. 649.
  63. An Enduring Legacy: A History of Basques in Idaho.
  64. 64.0 64.1 64.2 64.3 64.4 64.5 64.6 Jedin 617
  65. 65.0 65.1 Beevor, Antony The Battle for Spain (Penguin 2006).
  66. 66.0 66.1 Template:Harvnb
  67. New Evangelization with the Saints, L'Osservatore Romano 28 November 2001, page 3 (Weekly English Edition)
  68. martyr.
  69. Tucson priests one step away from sainthood[dead link] Arizona Star 06.12.2007
  70. 70.0 70.1 70.2 500 Spanish martyrs to be beatified[dead link]Independent Catholic News 10 October 2007
  71. "Vatican's Plan to Beatify Spanish Clergy Divisive" by Jerome Socolovsky. Morning Edition, National Public Radio, 13 July 2007.
  72. "Familiares de los curas vascos fusilados por Franco claman contra el olvido"[1] On-line edition of El País27/10/2007(in Spanish)
  73. Reijers-Martin, Laura Vatican honours Spanish war dead BBC October 28, 2007
  74. Catan, Thomas (2007-11-20). "Bishop offers apology over Church’s role in bloody civil war". The Times (London). Retrieved 2010-09-05.

See also

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