Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Spanish Church and the Second Republic and Civil War, 1931-1939

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Spanish Church and the Second Republic and Civil War, 1931-1939

Article excerpt

In the last five years, the study of the 1930's Spanish Church has been greatly enriched by two significant events: first, the completion of the twenty-year publication project of Cardinal Francesc Vidal i Barraquer's papers, a truly monumental undertaking; and second, the publication of Gonzalo Redondo's detailed history of the Spanish Church during the 1930's. These events provide an opportunity to survey some of the significant documentary literature and important secondary works on the history of the Spanish Church during the most turbulent period in its modern history.

With the great outpouring of studies following the liberalization of Franco's regime in the early 1970's, and then again following his death in 1975, and finally, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil War in the 1980's, there is now a vast bibliography on the subject, and only a few of the more important publications can be mentioned in this short essay. Few, if any, of these works have been reviewed in English-language journals.

The most extensive survey published is Gonzalo Redondo's two-volume work, Historia de la Iglesia en Espana 131-1939(Madrid: Rialp, 1993). This massive oeuvre (both volumes total 1229 pages) takes in all of the latest research and is a mine of bibliographical information. The first volume covers the years of the Republic from 1931 to 1936 and concentrates on the political division among Catholics, especially among the members of the hierarchy, that was so frustrating to the Holy See. Redondo's approach is fairly objective and very thorough (although as a partisan of Opus Dei, he works in some trivial detail on that organization's founder). He is clear in delineating the weaknesses of the clergy in the early twentieth century. He accurately places the Spanish struggle in the context of the crisis of modernization in which the Church became the political football used by both the anticlerical republicans to vent their hatred of the Restoration Monarchy and by the traditionalists who came to use the Church as a focal point for all of their objections to modernization. Redondo also has a good study of the various Catholic and Catholic-inspired political movements, from Catholic Action through Gil Robles' CEDA (Confederacion Espanola de Derechas Autonomas to the liberal Catholics who were trying to change Spanish society through such publications as Cruz y Raya. Throughout there is exceptional intellectual history, including background chapters on the papacy in the modern world and the growth of secularism.

Redondo's second volume deals with the Civil War from 1936 through 1939. The stress in this volume is upon relations with the Vatican, and the various problems--the Basque controversy, the problem of the hierarchy's relations with the Nationalists (including the nomination of bishops), and the continuing division within the Church--are seen in that context. The Vatican's positions are well documented, and Redondo uses the sources effectively. A constant theme throughout is the Vatican's fear of Nazi influence in Spain as a result of German aid to Franco. Redondo has drawn all of the sources together to present a clear view of negotiations between the Vatican and both warring factions. His work is the most significant survey to have been published on the general topic.

Among other general surveys of the wartime years, the Benedictine historian Hilari Raguer's La espada y la cruz (La Iglesia 1936-1939) (Barcelona: Bruguera, 1977) is still useful; it was the first survey to challenge the traditionalist view, and Raguer, an outspoken partisan of the progressive faction of the clergy, did not hesitate to condemn the traditionalists. A more recent survey is the study based on a close reading of diocesan bulletins and the published literature by the Jesuit historian Alfonso Alvarez Bolado.[1] Alvarez Bolado's work is a successful analysis of the mentalidad of the participants --chiefly the episcopate--during the war that led to the formation of Franco's nationalcatholic state. …

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