The sins of the Argentine church

The Catholic Church was complicit in dreadful crimes in Argentina. Now it has a chance to repent

Benedict XVI gave us words of great comfort and encouragement in the message he delivered on Christmas Eve.

"God anticipates us again and again in unexpected ways," the pope said. "He does not cease to search for us, to raise us up as often as we might need. He does not abandon the lost sheep in the wilderness into which it had strayed. God does not allow himself to be confounded by our sin. Again and again he begins afresh with us".

If these words comforted and encouraged me they will surely have done the same for leaders of the church in Argentina, among many others. To the judicious and fair-minded outsider it has been clear for years that the upper reaches of the Argentine church contained many "lost sheep in the wilderness", men who had communed and supported the unspeakably brutal Western-supported military dictatorship which seized power in that country in 1976 and battened on it for years. Not only did the generals slaughter thousands unjustly, often dropping them out of aeroplanes over the River Plate and selling off their orphan children to the highest bidder, they also murdered at least two bishops and many priests. Yet even the execution of other men of the cloth did nothing to shake the support of senior clerics, including representatives of the Holy See, for the criminality of their leader General Jorge Rafael Videla and his minions.

As it happens, in the week before Christmas in the city of Córdoba Videla and some of his military and police cohorts were convicted by their country's courts of the murder of 31 people between April and October 1976, a small fraction of the killings they were responsible for. The convictions brought life sentences for some of the military. These were not to be served, as has often been the case in Argentina and neighbouring Chile, in comfy armed forces retirement homes but in common prisons. Unsurprisingly there was dancing in the city's streets when the judge announced the sentences.

What one did not hear from any senior member of the Argentine hierarchy was any expression of regret for the church's collaboration and in these crimes. The extent of the church's complicity in the dark deeds was excellently set out by Horacio Verbitsky, one of Argentina's most notable journalists, in his book El Silencio (Silence). He recounts how the Argentine navy with the connivance of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now the Jesuit archbishop of Buenos Aires, hid from a visiting delegation of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission the dictatorship's political prisoners. Bergoglio was hiding them in nothing less than his holiday home in an island called El Silencio in the River Plate. The most shaming thing for the church is that in such circumstances Bergoglio's name was allowed to go forward in the ballot to chose the successor of John Paul II. What scandal would not have ensued if the first pope ever to be elected from the continent of America had been revealed as an accessory to murder and false imprisonment

One would have thought that the Argentine bishops would have seized the opportunity to call for pardon for themselves and put on sackcloth and ashes as the sentences were announced in Córdoba but that has not so far happened.

But happily Their Eminences have just been given another chance to express contrition. Next month the convicted murderer Videla will be arraigned for his part in the killing of Enrique Angelelli, bishop of the Andean diocese of La Rioja and a supporter of the cause of poorer Argentines. He was run off the highway by a hit squad of the Videla régime and killed on 4th August 1976 shortly after Videla's putsch.

Cardinal Bergoglio has plenty of time to be measured for a suit of sackcloth – perhaps tailored in a suitable clerical grey - to be worn when the church authorities are called into the witness box by the investigating judge in the Angelelli case. Ashes will be readily available if the records of the Argentine bishops' many disingenuous and outrightly mendacious statements about Videla and Angelelli are burned.


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Comments in chronological order (Total 161 comments)

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  • gringoporteno

    4 January 2011 8:48AM

    My wife and I spent 10 years as a missionary in Argentina and studied the context there. The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) in Argentina is incredibly conservative and powerful. At grassroots level there are some very good priests and monks and nuns.

    For a detailed analysis see Church, Dictatorship and Democracy in Latin America by Jeffrey Klaiber, S.J. When my wife and I were learning Spanish in Cochabamba, Bolivia, Klaiber gave some lectures on the RCC in Latin America. When I asked why he didn't mention the Argentina RCC he said that they felt shame because of its complicity in the dirty war.

    We must not forget all those Christians (Roman Catholic and Evangelico) that gave themselves on behalf of the poor.

    Leonardo Boff's book, Church, Charism and Power is a brilliant but controvertial analysis of the Church and its institutional power.

  • redmullet

    4 January 2011 8:54AM

    Why should the Catholic Church repent? It has never repented over its complicity in the overthrowing of the legitimate democratically elected government of Spain in the 1930s and its collaboration with 40 years of a fascist dictatorship.

  • OldBathrobe

    4 January 2011 9:18AM

    He does not abandon the lost sheep in the wilderness into which it had strayed.....

    ....Not only did the generals slaughter thousands unjustly, often dropping them out of aeroplanes over the River Plate and selling off their orphan children to the highest bidder, they also murdered at least two bishops and many priests.

    Er... how exactly do you define 'abandonment' if throwing torture victims into the sea and selling off their children doesn't qualify? Is there no limit to the crap you're willing to accept on behalf of others? At what point do you have the common human decency to sack your god for incompetence, negligence and gross misconduct? Try sun worship, Hugh- at least he fulfils his contract.

  • bigmafuta

    4 January 2011 9:28AM

    What was the Church's alternatives ?

    It was either support a right wing dictatorship or face a left wing firing squad.

    You think they didn't remember what the communists did in Spain ?

  • OldBathrobe

    4 January 2011 9:35AM

    bigmafuta

    What was the Church's alternatives ?

    It was either support a right wing dictatorship or face a left wing firing squad.

    Once, bishops were martyrs in the arena. Now, they're martyrs to their piles as they help themselves to another slice of cake. Seriously, read the article again- they supported a government that was torturing and mudering people. Do you seriously think that every child they tortured was destined to grow up and join a communist firing squad? A cardinal was hiding victims in his holiday home. Do you think that made the baby Jesus gurgle with delight?

  • aelwyd

    4 January 2011 9:48AM

    What was the Church's alternatives?

    If by that you mean "What else could the hierarchy have done?", I would say that they could have taken their collective cue from the likes of Óscar Romero and shown a little moral fibre by opposing the torture, murder and oppression of their own people.

  • OldBathrobe

    4 January 2011 9:53AM

    The cardinal even had the option of heading for the vatican and speaking out in safety and comfort. Instead, he hid torture victims in his holiday home.

  • bigmafuta

    4 January 2011 10:00AM

    aelwyd


    I would say that they could have taken their collective cue from the likes of Óscar Romero and shown a little moral fibre by opposing the torture, murder and oppression of their own people

    You seem to have missed this part

    they also murdered at least two bishops and many priests

  • aelwyd

    4 January 2011 10:05AM

    @bigmafuta

    All the more reason, wouldn't you have agreed, for the Argentine hierarchy growing some collective huevos and speaking out?

  • bigmafuta

    4 January 2011 10:08AM

    OBR

    Seriously, read the article again- they supported a government that was torturing and mudering people.

    Yes, the right wing government did vile things, no-one is disputing that. You think the communists didn't kill children ?This is not a case of good vs bad. It is simply a choice between the lesser of two evils. Support a right wing dictatorship or face a left wing firing squad like in Spain. Spain would've ended up like Stalinist Russia if it were not for Franco. And you think that's a good thing ?

  • conifer

    4 January 2011 10:08AM

    God anticipates us again and again in unexpected ways," the pope said. "He does not cease to search for us, to raise us up as often as we might need. He does not abandon the lost sheep in the wilderness into which it had strayed. God does not allow himself to be confounded by our sin. Again and again he begins afresh with us".

    Why the need to always portray people in a bad light?

  • bigmafuta

    4 January 2011 10:13AM

    aelwyd

    All the more reason, wouldn't you have agreed, for the Argentine hierarchy growing some collective huevos and speaking out?

    For sure. But you need to remember that many in the Catholic hierarchy remember full well what happened in Spain. How many in the hierarchy had friends, colleagues murdered and raped by the communists ? To them it was either sit on their hands and do nothing and let the murders and rapes continue, as in Spain, or support the right wing government. It was simply a choice between the lesser of two evils. Not good vs bad.

  • aelwyd

    4 January 2011 10:19AM

    To them it was either sit on their hands and do nothing and let the murders and rapes continue, as in Spain, or support the right wing government.

    And so, in a nutshell, what happened was that significant elements of the Argentine hierarchy sat on their hands, did nothing, and let the murders and rapes continue, as in Spain.

  • conifer

    4 January 2011 10:22AM

    bigmafuta

    For sure. But you need to remember that many in the Catholic hierarchy remember full well what happened in Spain. How many in the hierarchy had friends, colleagues murdered and raped by the communists ? To them it was either sit on their hands and do nothing and let the murders and rapes continue, as in Spain, or support the right wing government. It was simply a choice between the lesser of two evils. Not good vs bad.


    You're overlooking a third alternative - speaking out against murdering right wing governments and communist firing squads plus speaking out in favour of liberal democratic government.

  • bigmafuta

    4 January 2011 10:22AM

    As always an incomplete picture is presented by the Guardian. This was a civil war with Catholics participating on both sides. There was no uniform Church position.

    On the other side, many young Catholic priests sympathized with and helped the Montoneros. Radical priests, including father Alberto Carbone, eventually indicted in the murder of Aramburu, preached Marxism and presented the early Church fathers as model revolutionaries in an attempt to legitimize the violence.[161] Catholic youth leader, Juan Ignacio Isla Casares, was the mastermind behind the killings of five policemen in an ambush near the San Isidro Cathedral on 26 October 1975.[162] Mario Firmenich, who later became the leader of the Montoneros, was the ex-president of the Catholic Action Youth Group and a former seminarian[163] The Montoneros also had ties with the Third World Priest Movement and the Jesuit priest Carlos Mugica.[164] The Third World Priest Movement believed that the Church could not remain neutral in the conflict between the Peronist and anti-Peronists and a number of priests participated in the armed struggle.[165]


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirty_War#Alleged_participation_of_the_Catholic_Church

  • BristolBoy

    4 January 2011 10:24AM

    How catholic priests be on both sides if the communists were going to execute them all?

    Do get your story straight.

  • redmullet

    4 January 2011 10:57AM

    Support a right wing dictatorship or face a left wing firing squad like in Spain. Spain would've ended up like Stalinist Russia if it were not for Franco. And you think that's a good thing ?

    This is just Fascist propaganda. There is no evidence to support the contention that the Communists would have come to power under the Republican Government . At the of the military uprising led by General Franco the Communist were an insignificant party with little popular support. As it was the lack of suport for the legitimate Goverment from the major Western democracies force the Socialist and Republican Allies increasingly to relly on the Soviet Union. To quote Hugh Thomas:
    "

    Had they been able to purchase and transport good arms from US, British, and French manufacturers, the socialist and republican members of the Spanish government might have tried to cut themselves loose from Stalin."

    Most of the murders carried out against members of the catholic clergy were carried out by anarchists who were not under the control of the Government which deplored their actions and occurred after the rebellion had already started. The Republican Government never supported nor condoned the murder of priests.

  • conifer

    4 January 2011 10:57AM

    bigmafuta
    4 January 2011 10:13AM
    aelwyd

    All the more reason, wouldn't you have agreed, for the Argentine hierarchy growing some collective huevos and speaking out?

    For sure. But you need to remember that many in the Catholic hierarchy remember full well what happened in Spain. How many in the hierarchy had friends, colleagues murdered and raped by the communists ? To them it was either sit on their hands and do nothing and let the murders and rapes continue, as in Spain, or support the right wing government. It was simply a choice between the lesser of two evils. Not good vs bad.

    According the Anthony Beevor's book on the Spanish civil war Franco's lot killed and raped thousands of more people than the other side, so the Catholic hierarchy didn't choose the lesser of two evils. Just the opposite, it would appear.

  • OldBathrobe

    4 January 2011 11:03AM

    bigmafuta

    It was simply a choice between the lesser of two evils. Not good vs bad.

    And they chose evil. Whoever said they had to join one side or the other? Whoever said they had to take a pre-existing party position? Weren't they supposed to give moral guidance, whatever the political consequences?

    Spain would've ended up like Stalinist Russia if it were not for Franco.

    Rubbish. The Second Republic was a constitutional democracy and provided for universal suffrage. The Fascists simply didn't like seeing their privileges removed and didn't think they could regain them through a vote, despite participating in a coalition government after the 1931 elections. There were right-wing militias in existence as early as 1931, long before democracy broke down.

  • venerablejohn

    4 January 2011 11:06AM

    @conifer

    I've read Beevor's book, I think its a little more complicated then that. It was ever thus, old men with power side with reactionaries, young men with ideals and principles side with revolutionaries. The winners kill the losers. "The Catholic Church", doesn't side with either, members of that Church do.

  • conifer

    4 January 2011 11:11AM

    venerablejohn
    4 January 2011 11:06AM
    @conifer

    I've read Beevor's book, I think its a little more complicated then that. It was ever thus, old men with power side with reactionaries, young men with ideals and principles side with revolutionaries. The winners kill the losers. "The Catholic Church", doesn't side with either, members of that Church do.

    And what is the "Catholic Church" but it's members. It's members who were old men with power sided with reactionaries who murdered and raped far more people.

  • Adamastor

    4 January 2011 11:12AM

    In the Basque country in Spain- the only part of Spain where it ws not a large land-owner with an interest in repressing peasants- the church supported the government, not the fascist rebels.
    As for Argentina, the hierarchy of the church did not have the "choice" of supporting murderous fascists or murderous communists. They could have supported democratic government. Many of the people murdered by the fascist military dictatorship were not "communists", anyway, even by the lax standards of the fascists. Even if murder and torture are somehow acceptable, if done by the right people to the right people, perhaps someone could justify the morality pf rape.

  • AlexJones

    4 January 2011 12:04PM

    There's something almost surreal about this discussion. How interesting that the defenders of an organisation that preaches an absolute morality manage to accommodate such morally relative positions.

    I can't help thinking of all those discussions we've had about the paedophile priests, where various Catholics have turned up to say "The rate of sexual abuse of children among priests is no higher than in the rest of society." I'm just waiting for someone to turn up on this thread and say "Support for evil, murderous dictatorships is no higher among the Catholic hierarchy than anywhere else."

  • OldBathrobe

    4 January 2011 12:30PM

    Alex

    How interesting that the defenders of an organisation that preaches an absolute morality manage to accommodate such morally relative positions.

    Indeed. I'm all agog for bigmafuta to tell us whether Polish priests should have supported Hitler or Stalin. You know, since both invaded them.

  • venerablejohn

    4 January 2011 12:48PM

    conifer
    4 January 2011 11:11AM
    venerablejohn
    4 January 2011 11:06AM
    @conifer

    I've read Beevor's book, I think its a little more complicated then that. It was ever thus, old men with power side with reactionaries, young men with ideals and principles side with revolutionaries. The winners kill the losers. "The Catholic Church", doesn't side with either, members of that Church do.

    And what is the "Catholic Church" but it's members. It's members who were old men with power sided with reactionaries who murdered and raped far more people.

    I'm confused then, when people on here say "I want to see an end to the Catholic Church but I've got nothing against Catholics so I'm not a bigot", how does that work with your assertion above that "what is the "Catholic Church" but it's members"?

  • Keo2008

    4 January 2011 12:48PM

    @Bigmafuta: Attempts again to justify the church's support for brutal Fascist regimes. As others have pointed out, the situation in Spain was not a choice between Fascist dictatorship and Communism, but between Fascist dictatorship and democracy. And whilst it is true that many individual Catholic priests supported the side of the underdogs in both Spain and Argentine, this article is about the attitude of the church's leadership.

    btw, if its not considered off-topic, I wonder if Bigmafuta will get round to answering my query as to how he explains the Catholic Centre Party in Germany in 1933 voting for Hitler to be given dictatorial powers? This was after Hitler was already appointed Chancellor, the Communist party was already banned and its members under guard, so no question of there being a choice between hard right and hard left.

    In Germany in 1933, as in Spain and Argentina, the leadership of the Catholics chose to support an evil regime- and by their support helped ensure the evil men of power would be able to continue to torture and murder for years.

  • conifer

    4 January 2011 12:53PM

    veneralbejohn
    I'm confused then, when people on here say "I want to see an end to the Catholic Church but I've got nothing against Catholics so I'm not a bigot", how does that work with your assertion above that "what is the "Catholic Church" but it's members"?

    You'll have to ask people who say that. I'm very bigotted against anyone who supports murderous dictatorships.

  • DocDave

    4 January 2011 2:55PM

    The senior hierarchy of the RCC in Argentina has always had a reputation of being among the most "conservative" ones in Latin America for its stance on a number of topics of concern. However, it is also just as true to say that many bishops and parish priests have been acutely aware of the "social issues" affecting their flocks, particularly in the working class areas of the big cities, and in rural communities in the interior of the country. On a basis of my own years of experience in Argentina, I was favourably surprised to see the open-mindedness of several priests of French origin towards genuine "social issues", as opposed to the position so often adopted by their counterparts of Spanish origin.

    The writing is obviously very much on the wall for all those members of the hierarchy who may have "collaborated with", or "been involved" in some way, with the excesses of the various military regimes of the past, even for not having spoken out in public against those excesses. Time, and exhaustive investigation, will serve to identify the wolves in sheeps clothing who may be held accountable for their actions or lack of same in such a situation. It is good to see that this matter is now being opened up for public discussion.

  • gabriel100

    4 January 2011 4:06PM

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  • gabriel100

    4 January 2011 4:12PM

    @ Hugh O'Shaughnessy

    Pretty lazy article, ridden with obvious bias and error (not that accuracy matters to the Guardian).

    the upper reaches of the Argentine church contained many "lost sheep in the wilderness", men who had communed and supported the unspeakably brutal Western-supported military dictatorship.

    So you write of the "sins of the Church" - where is your condemnation for the "sins of the west", which you also say supported the Junta? Or do you hold Western Governments to a different moral standard than the Catholic Church?

    Such obvious bias totally undermines you.

    murdered at least two bishops and many priests. Yet even the execution of other men of the cloth did nothing to shake the support of senior clerics

    Uh, Bishops - like the ones you say were murdered - are the senior clerics in any given country. What an idiotic statement.

    I am glad I did not have this article in paper form - what a disgusting waste of a tree that would have been.

  • urnotanatheist

    4 January 2011 4:14PM

    Bristol boy "How catholic priests be on both sides if the communists were going to execute them all?

    Do get your story straight"
    Did you miss this bit "they also murdered at least two bishops and many priests."?

  • gabriel100

    4 January 2011 4:15PM

    @ Conifer

    Hi there

    Why the need to always portray people in a bad light?

    Why the resolute denial of the fact that people - all of us, including you - are not perfect and have the capacity to do wrong?

    Are you a 100% perfect individual conifer? Have you never done wrong, via a decision or action?

  • conifer

    4 January 2011 4:18PM

    gabriel100
    Why the resolute denial of the fact that people - all of us, including you - are not perfect and have the capacity to do wrong?

    Are you a 100% perfect individual conifer? Have you never done wrong, via a decision or action?

    Can you show where I've said that?

  • redmullet

    4 January 2011 4:27PM

    venerablejohn

    I've read Beevor's book, I think its a little more complicated then that. It was ever thus, old men with power side with reactionaries, young men with ideals and principles side with revolutionaries. The winners kill the losers. "The Catholic Church", doesn't side with either, members of that Church do.


    Here is a couple of quotes from " the Battle for Spain" by Antony Beevor:

    During this period (at the very beginning of the rebellion) of uncertainty over the form of the new state, the Catholic Church provided the national alliance with both a common symbol of tradition and a cause to transcend ideological confusion within the ranks. Its authoritarian, centralist nature and its attitude to property were acceptable to all factions, accept the left wing of the Falange (that is left wink of a fascist movement). Its hierarchy rallied to the cause of the right and prominent Churchmen were seen giving the fascist salute. Cardinal Goma stated that "Jews and Masons poisoned the National soul with absurd doctrines". The most striking piece of ecclesiastical support for the nationalist rising came from the pastoral letter "The Two Cities" published by the Bishop of Salamanca, Pla y Daniel, on 30 September. It denounced the left-wing attacks on the Catholic Church and praised the national movement as " the celestial city of the children of God",

    Goma was Cardinal Archbishop of Toledo and Primate of All Spain, Here he is again later on in the war:

    On 1 July 1937 Cardinal Goma issued an open letter to "the Bishops of the whole World" calling for Church support of the nationalist cause, a letter in which he stated, somewhat defensively, that the war was not a crusade , but a political and social warwith repercussions of a religious nature'. Only Cardinal Vial y Barraquer and Bishop Mugica failed to sign it. This was in contrast to the statement of the Archbishop of Valencia a month earlier that " the war has been called by the Sacred Heart of Jesus and this Adorable Heart has given power to the arms of Franco's soldiers". In addition the Bishop of Sergovia had said that the war was a hundred times more important and holy than the Reconquista and the Bishop of Pamplona called it "the loftiest crusade that the centuries have ever seen... a crusade in which devine intervention is evident". Leaflets with photomontages of Christ with Generals Mola and Franco were issued to the nationalist troops.

    The Catholic Church, with a few exception, supported the rebellion from the beginning as they had supported the extreme right long before any priest had been murdered on the Republican side.

  • urnotanatheist

    4 January 2011 4:35PM

    Keo"btw, if its not considered off-topic, I wonder if Bigmafuta will get round to answering my query as to how he explains the Catholic Centre Party in Germany in 1933 voting for Hitler to be given dictatorial powers? This was after Hitler was already appointed Chancellor, the Communist party was already banned and its members under guard,..." Oh see you're still trying to pin Hitler on Catholics. Now tell us Keo, what possible way would people have had in 1933 for forseeing the Holocaust. It would seem a whole lot of other people voted for Hitler in 1933 as well (that's how people win elections "democratically" Keo. They are the most popular candidate.) Still I expect you give these other people a mention every oppotunity too, don't you?

  • tilw

    4 January 2011 4:49PM

    gabriel100
    4 January 2011 4:06PM

    Perhaps you would do well to wonder why the Catholic church had become despised in parts of Spain. The Church had consistently condemned social change and democracy for a very long time. It had enormous power, both nationally and locally, which it generally used to support the landowners and rich at the expense of the common people.

    The Catholic Church became part of the state apparatus under Franco. It was the official religion and the only one allowed to advertise services. The government paid priest's salaries. Contraception and divorce were illegal. Catholic education was compulsory.

    In return, Franco got the right to name Catholic bishops and veto clerical appointments even at village level.

    And there's more. The Catholic Church thoroughly collaborated with Franco.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Roman_Catholicism_in_Spain#Franco_regime

    The democratically elected government you mention embarked on a murder spree within one year of its election.

    The democratically elected government distanced itself from the anti-clerical violence.

    General Franco was a great man, to whom all of Spain owes a great debt.

    Perhaps you consider Francos' White Terror of the same period, involving some 200,000 victims as an outstanding example of the man's "greatness".

    Franco held Spain back politically, economically and socially for decades. He was responsible for decades of oppression. He overthrew an elected government and replaced it with a fascist dictatorship. He did this with the full backing of the Catholic hierarchy and he backed them in return. Each was useful to the other.

    Not the Catholic Church's finest moment in my opinion. Nor yours.

  • gabriel100

    4 January 2011 5:22PM

    @ tilw

    Hiya

    Perhaps you would do well to wonder why the Catholic church had become despised in parts of Spain. The Church had consistently condemned social change and democracy for a very long time.

    So, are you saying that if someone has different opinions to you regarding society, it gives you the right to subject them to the kind of brutal animalistic atrocities as I described above?

    The Spanish reds did things that would have made even Henrich Himmler shudder.

    In return, Franco got the right to name Catholic bishops and veto clerical appointments even at village level.

    Even though referenced, I find this hard to believe. I suspect the reality is more complex than described. Perhaps Franco had some input - eg signalling his agreement - but I cannot see that he would have been allowed to make ecclesiastical appointments off his own back.

    The current rammy between the Vatican and the Chinese Government shows how sensitive the Vatican is to other sources nominating Bishops. They don't like it one bit.

  • gabriel100

    4 January 2011 5:24PM

    @ Conifer

    Hiya,

    Can you show where I've said that?

    I thought that is what you were alluding to, given your objection to B16 mentioning the imperfect nature of humanity in his thought for the day.

    Do you accept humanity is imperfect, or do you not?

  • Keo2008

    4 January 2011 5:27PM

    @urnotanatheist: Sorry but I wasnt talking about people voting Nazi, but the decision of the elected Deputies (M.P's) of the Catholic Centre Party to vote in favour of Hitler being given dictatorial powers in the "Enabling Act" of 1933.

    The Centre Party, supposedly in favour of democracy, voted in favour of Hitler becoming dictator.

    I was merely politely asking how they could have reconciled their principles with voting to make Hitler a dictator. After all, you are one of those who keep reminding me that Catholics did not like the Nazis and didnt vote for him. Yet every single Centre Party Deputy voted for Hitler's dictatorship. They were not threatened or pressurised.

    Shall I save you squirming and tell you the reason? They voted for Hitler's dictatorship because Hitler promised in return not to close Catholic schools and to sign a Concordat with the Pope.

    Do you think those are good enough reasons for a party to vote in favour of a dictatorship?

    Sure they didnt know about the Holocaust. But the vote was after the first wave of violence against Jews, the banning of the Communists, mass arrests of democratic politicians and the establishment of concentration camps.

    So they knew exactly what they were voting for- a brutal and evil dictatorship.

  • urnotanatheist

    4 January 2011 5:32PM

    tilw You should read up on the horrors committed by the Soviet-inspired International Brigade. 135,000 atheists from all Western nations flooded into Spain raping and murdering the nuns and slaughtering the priests.

  • urnotanatheist

    4 January 2011 5:44PM

    "So they knew exactly what they were voting for- a brutal and evil dictatorship" Shall I save you squirming. Hitler was voted in by the German population. That would include the atheists too. Unless you have evidence to the contrary. Neville Chamberlain signed a treaty with Hitler too, didn't he? Was he a Nazi sympathiser too? If you want to tar Catholism with Hitler you'd better make sure atheism is blameless. Otherwise you'll look rather cherry-picking. Which you do.

  • bigmafuta

    4 January 2011 6:12PM

    KEO2008

    I wonder if Bigmafuta will get round to answering my query as to how he explains the Catholic Centre Party in Germany in 1933 voting for Hitler to be given dictatorial powers? This was after Hitler was already appointed Chancellor, the Communist party was already banned and its members under guard, so no question of there being a choice between hard right and hard left.

    I see you make no mention of the attacks on members of the Catholic Church, the Catholic Centre Party during this exact same period. No mention of the disruptions of meeting, schools, the banning of Catholic newspapers, the threats of violence. Still carrying on with your historical revisionism ?

  • tilw

    4 January 2011 6:12PM

    Even though referenced, I find this hard to believe. I suspect the reality is more complex than described. Perhaps Franco had some input - eg signalling his agreement - but I cannot see that he would have been allowed to make ecclesiastical appointments off his own back.

    I made a slight error: the deal was that Franco had the same status of patronage that Spanish monarchs had formerly possessed. No-one got to be a bishop without his say-so. No-one got to be a priest if he said no. In return the Church got assorted priviliges. Signed sealed and delivered in the Concordats of 1941 and 1953.

    Hitler may have been a Catholic in name only, but in Franco we have a fascist dictator who seized power by force, who was a Catholic, who had the support of the Catholic church and who used the church to consolidate his hegemony. The Spanish Church was not an apolitical politically neutral party of harmless do-gooding god-botherers.

    Put simply, by the early 1930s Spain was an economically under-developed basket-case showing little sign of development. The Spanish Civil War broke out because the Spanish people had decided their political bosses were flagrantly incompetent and had tried, via the ballot box, to sack them. The bosses refused to go and fought back. Unfortunately for some Catholic clergy the Catholic Church (maybe, as things worked out, fortunately for the church) had sided with the bosses for a very long time.

    Anti-clerical violence was probably unavoidable in Spain because the Church had become firmly associated with reaction. There were 100,000 priests in Spain, paid by the state. They had control of education - and 45% of the population were illiterate. Priests preached that to vote against a conservative is generally a mortal sin.

    The anti-clerical attacks were, if my memory is right, largely carried out by locals without any instructions from higher authority at all, who saw priest and landlord as two sides of the same exploitative, reactionary anti-democratic coin.

  • bigmafuta

    4 January 2011 6:14PM

    OBR

    I'm all agog for bigmafuta to tell us whether Polish priests should have supported Hitler or Stalin.

    Poland wasn't a civil war. The Catholic Church was attacked by both sides. Both sides wanted to eliminate the catholic Church. So rather ignorant statement to make.

  • tilw

    4 January 2011 7:03PM

    urnotanatheist
    4 January 2011 5:32PM

    tilw You should read up on the horrors committed by the Soviet-inspired International Brigade. 135,000 atheists from all Western nations flooded into Spain raping and murdering the nuns and slaughtering the priests.

    135,000 eh? And murderous atheists every last one of them! You learn something on CiF every day.

    And there I was thinking the International Brigade had a total of about 32,000 volunteers, from a politically mixed (and often squabbling) background of social democrats, communists, anarchists and non-affiliated anti-fascists.

    I was also quite unaware that they were involved in the major outbreaks of priest killing . As for rape, I understand that the Nationalist's 1946 indictment of claimed Republican attrocities appears to have contained no evidence for that particular claim. If you want to back up your assertions with evidence, please do - but preferably not using the kind of web sites that claim the holocaust never happened or that support far-right agendas.

  • tilw

    4 January 2011 7:21PM

    urnotanatheist
    4 January 2011 5:32PM

    PS - you are aware that the rebel Nationalist forces killed the head prelate of the Basque country, and numbers of other priests in the Basque country?

    That the Condor Legion bombed Basque churches and shot up the religious as they ran for cover?

    That the Morrocan troops used by Franco are not exactly free of allegations of rape and murder (including of nuns) themselves?

    And, while I'm at it, that Franco sent 50,000 troops (the Blue Brigade) to fight for Hitler on the Eastern Front?

  • redmullet

    4 January 2011 8:36PM

    gabriel100

    The democratically elected government you mention embarked on a murder spree within one year of its election.

    You shuold read a bit of history. Most of the killings on the Republican side occurred in the first few days of the nationalist rebellion, that is between July and September 1936 during a complete break down in law and order and at no time was condoned by the newly elected government, whose members were horrified by what was taking place ,being ,apart from everything else, quite aware what damaged such events would do to its reputation in the outside world. The murders were almost all the action of mobs action outside the law or unofficial groups taking the law into their own hands, without any central government support or even knowledge. To quote from Antony Beevor again:

    In September Largo Caballero's "government of national unity", made up of socialists, republicans and communists, took firm steps to reestablish law and order. They set up popular tribunals which, although far from perfect, were an improvement, and created municipal councils to replace the patrols whose members were ordered to the front. The cases of looting and murder rapidly diminished.
    Even during the worst of the violence, leaders from all organizations and parties did what they could to save peoples. In Madrid, President Azaña managed to rescure the monks from his old college at the Escorial, Galarza, the minister bof the interior, saved Joaquin Ruiz Jimenez. La Pasionaria intervened on behalf of many victims, including nuns. So did Juan Nagrin and any others....

    The majority of republicans were sickened by what had happened. The anarchist intellectual Fredrica Montseny referred to " a lust for blood for blood inconceivable in honest men before".

    This is in stark comparison to the nationalist side of your hero General Franco how made Spain safe for tourists. To quote from Beevor agian:

    The notion of "limpieza", or "cleansing", had formed an essential part of the rebels strategy and the process began as soon as an area had been secured. General Mola, in his instructions of 30 June for the Moroccan zone, ordered troops " to eliminate left-wing elements, communists, anarchists, union members, Freemasons etc." General Queipo de Llano, who described their movement as " the purging of Spanish people", did not specify political movements. He simply defined their enemies as anybody who sympathized " with advanced social currents or simple movements of democratic and liberal opinion.
    The nationalists in fact felt compelled to carry out a harsh and intense repression,partly to destroy the democratic aspirations encouraged under the Republic and partly because they had to crush a hostile majority in many areas of the country. One of General Franco's press attaches, Captian Gonzalo de Aquilera, even said to the American journalist John Whitiker that they had "to kill, to kill and to kill" all reds, " to exterminate a third of the masculine population and cleanse the country of the proletariat". Between July 1936 and early 1937 the nationalists allowed " discretionary killing under the flag of war, but soon the repression became planned and methodically directed, encouraged by military and civil authorities and blessed by the Catholic Church.


    Why is it that the morality of those who profess a faith in the religion of " love, fairness and justice for all" so often stinks?

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