and welcome once again to our continuing story. This week we will explore the
difficult and ultimately irreconcilable relationship between the government of
the Second Republic and the Spanish Church. Like the reforms we have already discussed,
those instituted at the religious level penetrated into taboo territory where
no Spanish government had dared to tread before. Unlike the other reforms, whose
effects were limited to specific sectors of the population, those made in the
realm of religion touched a raw nerve that ran through the whole of society.
the beginning of the 20th century, public opinion in Spain had become sharply
polarized on the question of religion, by which we mean Roman Catholicism,
the sole avenue of spiritual expression remaining after the ravages of the Inquisition.
Many Spaniards, whether rich or poor, educated or illiterate, held religion to
be the moral staff of life; while many others, in the same variety of conditions,
held it to be the straightjacket of ignorance. The cutting edge of contemporary
thought, as personified by José Ortega y Gasset* (1883-1955), prolific
social commentator and a member of the republican parliament, tended toward the
use of what this great thinker termed vital reason and away from the
ideological constraints of religion.
However, quite apart
from the philosophical implications of faith, the objectives of the Republics
religious reforms were strictly bureaucratic. No attempt was made, as it was in
Communist Russia, to outlaw religion as it was practiced by the common man. The
aim, rather, was to limit the economic and temporal power of the Church - which
was great - and to reduce its overspill into non-religious aspects of society,
due, in large measure, to the Churchs uncontested role as the dispenser
of education in Spain.
As opposed to the Republics
relationship to the Army, which started off on reasonably good footing but later
degenerated, relations between Church and Republic were hostile from the start.
To begin with, the effective separation of Church and State was seen by most ecclesiastic
officials as a threat to the very existence of the Church. The passage of time,
of course, has proven this not to be the case, but apparently the Church felt
that its spiritual domain (which is its true domain) would diminish in proportion
to the loss of its worldly domain - not exactly a faith-inspired approach to its
purported mission: the saving of souls. As Barbara Tuchman eloquently puts it
in her historical opus, A Distant Mirror:
of the Church to spiritual leadership could never be made wholly credible to all
its communicants when it was founded in material wealth. The more riches the Church
amassed, the more visible and disturbing became the flaw; nor could it ever be
resolved and continued to renew doubt and dissent in every century.
the Church was grounded in the things of Caesar was no less true in
20th century Spain than it was in any other time or place. Hence, it comes as
no great shock that the first surreptitious move on the part of Cardinal Segura
(Archbishop of Toledo and maximum prelate in Spain) was to initiate the liquidation
of all of the Churchs assets in order to smuggle its wealth outside national
territory. These transactions, of course, were carried out behind the scenes with
utmost stealth. The Cardinals first visible action was the publication of
a pastoral extolling the virtues of the recently exiled monarchy and decrying
the dangers of anarchy and communism. His impassioned words thundered out in response
to a decree published the previous day (6th May 1931) by the Republics provisional
government, stating that religious education was no longer compulsory in public
forces with the Cardinal, two of Madrids most conservative newspapers, the
monarchical ABC and the Catholic El Debate, spoke out vehemently against the new
ruling, and announced the opening of a monarchical club the following
Sunday, 10th May. On the appointed day, a group of left-wing activists congregated
outside the building where the club was holding its first meeting while listening
to the Royal March on the gramophone. Emotions ran high on either side of the
religious divide, and before long a ruckus broke out between the two factions.
This incident, while not serious in itself, set off a chain reaction of nation-wide
violence; for later that Sunday, another group of protesters tried to assault
the offices of the ABC, which were under protection by the guardia civil. Two
persons were killed in the incident, one of them a 13-year-old youth. On Monday,
six convents in Madrid were burnt down by unidentified renegade groups, and on
Tuesday several more religious buildings met the same fate in other cities.
Wednesday, 13th May, Cardinal Segura embarked on his second openly anti-republican
venture, which was to travel to Rome to report the unchristian goings-on in Spain,
with the result that the Vatican refused to recognize the new Spanish ambassador.
His mission accomplished, Segura did not return to Spain but rather set up a base
of operations in a French town near the Spanish border. His plan was to subject
himself to self-imposed exile while remaining near enough to Spain to be able
to direct the clandestine withdrawal of ecclesiastic funds from the country.
11th June, the Cardinal tried to sneak back into Spain, but was discovered by
the authorities and sent back to France, the rationale being that if he had chosen
exile over active participation in the affairs of his homeland, he must stand
by that decision for better or for worse. The Republic then initiated negotiations
with other members of the ecclesiastic hierarchy in an attempt to smooth out the
difficulties inherent in the so-far inimical relationship between the two entities.
Not long into the negotiations, however, Seguras scheme was discovered.
Now it was the Republics turn to protest to the Vatican about the unethical
behaviour of one as high as the Archbishop of Toledo. The following September,
Segura was forced to renounce his post due to pressures from pontifical sources.
Fly in Parliament
In October, talks began in parliament
to establish the constitutional articles which would define the Republics
stance on religious matters. Article 3, guaranteeing Spaniards the right to practice
any religion or none at all, passed with little difficulty. Article 26, however,
produced heated dissention leading to the resignation of 42 members of parliament
including Alcalá Zamora (president of the Republic and one of the key participants
in the Pact of San Sebastián) and Miguel Maura (Minister of the Home Office).
Because it cut to the core of the Churchs traditional and very privileged
position within the Spanish state, the article was seen as heretical by many who
otherwise supported the Republic.
It stipulated that priests
would no long be considered civil servants, and would therefore no longer be paid
by the State, following a two-year phase-out period. The bill also called for
the dissolution of those religious orders which, like the Jesuits, statutorily
imposes, in addition to the three canonical vows, another special vow of obedience
to an authority distinct from that of the legitimate State. Their assets will
be nationalized and put to charitable and educational ends. All other religious
orders would be allowed to carry on with their activities under the proviso that
they not engage in industry, commerce or education. Finally, religious
orders would no longer enjoy exemption from taxes, but would be obliged to contribute
to the upkeep of State, like any other legal enterprise.
Go into Effect
In January of 1932, the above-mentioned
laws went into effect, and at the same time it also became legal for Spaniards
to celebrate civil marriages, get divorced, and be buried in secular cemeteries.
The Jesuit order was officially disbanded, with its handsome assets - including
large block of real estate and an extensive stock market portfolio - theoretically
remaining at the disposal of the government. The trouble was that most of these
possessions were not registered in the name of The Society of Jesus but in the
names of those who managed the orders financial affairs. Consequently, very
few of the Jesuits great riches passed into the public domain.
Education was one of the great aims and
achievements of the Second Republic. During the Reformist Biennium alone, 6,750
schools were built, equipped and put into operation. To compensate for the diminished
role of the priesthood in education, the government set up docent courses for
student teachers, raised the salaries of those who practiced the profession, and
elaborated a system of primary school inspections, among other measures. The budget
for Public Instruction was one of the largest government expenditures
and rose steadily with each passing year. In 1931, 201 million pesetas was allocated
for education, in 1932, 255 million and in 1933, 295 million.
of the most interesting educational tools devised by the Republic was its famous
Foundation of Pedagogical Missions. In the book, Historia de España, R.
Tamames describes the activities of this innovative group of ad hoc educators:
it was, without a doubt, in the area of its pedagogical missions that the young
Republic showed its best intentions of transforming, as quickly as possible, the
pall of ignorance and obscurantism that, until then, had covered Spain. It began
to operate in the summer of 1933 under the direction of Manuel Bartolomé
Cossío. The missions, which reached the most hidden places in Spain, were
made up of teachers and students armed with film projectors, gramophones, reproductions
of famous paintings, books, etc. They would put on plays, and among the participants
in this department, the most noteworthy were Alejandro Casona and Federico García
Lorca (courtesy of the celebrated travelling theatre group, La Barraca). Many
Spaniards from rural areas saw film and theatre and listened to classical music,
talks and poetry for the first time.
there is much more that could be said, this instalment will finalize our study
of Azañas Reformist Biennium. As a quick checklist, the most important
reforms instituted during these two years were the Agrarian Reform, the reorganization
of Church and Army and the Statute of Catalan Autonomy. Next week we will begin
our passage through the Black Biennium, a dark time, indeed, during which Franco
and a group of other generals began to machinate their conspiracy against the
Republic. Join us then.