Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Reinventing History

Skipping through a few sites to get the morning news, I see Nicholas Hahn has an interesting article on the Cristeros movement in Mexico and the new movie which tells the story of the rebellion.  As noted in the article, it is an element in Mexican history which has been somewhat airbrushed from the official history of the country.

I have just finished reading Warren Carroll's short history of the Spanish Civil War, The Last Crusade, another contentious historical conflict which has itself been airbrushed in order to present one side of the story.  Carroll's book is interesting, it takes the premise that Franco's counter-revolution against the Republicans was a Crusade to save the faith in Spain.  Not everyone would agree with that point, and I think there was more to Franco and his revolt, which, to be fair, Carroll acknowledges. 

Usually it is the victors who write history - the Spanish Civil War is the exception - the accepted history of the Civil War is that of the losers, the Republicans. In that history much has been ignored and written out, particularly the persecution of the Church.  Given that the Republicans and their allies, be it their political descendants or the left-leaning historians who have made the Civil War their area of expertise, the Catholic Church is understood to be an oppressive force responsible, with the monarchy, for the dreadful conditions which existed in pre-Republican Spain.  The priests, religious and lay faithful who died in the conflict were victims of war, and a minuscule number in comparison with the innocent Republicans who perished in Franco's reprisals.  Franco was a fascist, according to the official history, an ally of Hitler, and a dictator who held Spain in an iron grip and undermined the liberties of the Spanish people.

Thus is the official account, but the reality is not so simple.  Republican sympathisers ignore the fact that there was an active persecution of Catholics for their faith: thousands were killed for no other reason than that they were Catholics.  Priests, nuns and brothers who dedicated their lives to caring for the poor - the very people the Republicans claimed they were defending, were murdered.  Indeed the poor themselves were murdered for refusing to renounce their Catholic faith.  The Republicans took a particular interest in the lay members of Catholic Action - a movement in which lay people actively participated in the apostolate of the Church.    They were slaughtered in their hundreds.  Then simple, ordinary Catholics were killed for holding a rosary or wearing a scapular, or being known to be good and holy people.  In Valencia, as the Republicans were looking for the relic of the Holy Grail, they let it be known that whoever was hiding it would be killed with their family.    Not very democratic that!

The relationship between the Republicans and the Soviet Union is also very interesting.  Stalin was in communication with the Communist members of the Republican government, and as the Civil War progressed, the Communists gained more control over the Republicans.   There is little doubt that had the Republicans won the Civil War, the Soviet Union would have had a major role in deciding the future of the country, and we may have seen Spain slip behind the Iron curtain.  It is well known that the Republicans sent Spain's gold reserves to Stalin who held onto them and used himself.    The International Brigades, in which many Irish people served, were sent by the Soviet Union to help achieve a Republican victory: whether the members of those Brigades actively participated in the murder of innocent Catholics is debatable.

Anyway, every aspect of this tragic conflict has been debated, and continues to be debated.  The problem is that only one side gets a decent hearing.  Go into any bookshop and if you find books on the Spanish Civil War, they are all pro-Republican.  Even the biographies of Franco are written from a pro-Republican standpoint.  The victims of the Republicans are forgotten, but we need to know about them.  2,000 of them have been proposed for sainthood, and well over a thousand have already been beatified and a number canonised.  From time to time I will dedicate a post to some of these holy men and women who, unarmed, stared down the barrel of a gun (usually a number of guns) and refused to deny Christ.   As Catholics we must not allow them be airbrushed out of history - their heroism needs to be known and celebrated.

And Irish readers, take note: the persecution of innocent Catholics in Spain was carried out by cradle Catholics who rejected their faith and gave in to a demonic rage which took no cognisance of reason or charity.  You can see a similar rage in many in Ireland today, and a similar disregard for the truth.   I am not saying we could have a persecution here, but the seeds are there.

And here's a good news story: the first Pro-Life March in Rome took place last Sunday with a large crowd taking part.  Beginning at Coliseum - the site of Christian martyrdom and where the ancient Romans were entertained by barbaric amusements, the marchers walked to St Peter's Square.  A large number of young people took part, and that is no surprise.  The up and coming generations tend to be more pro-life much to the chagrin of the pro-abortion movement. 

Why are so many young people flocking to the pro-life cause?  Well it is no surprise: they can see the devastation abortion has cause in modern society.  But there is another, more personal reason: having been born in a time when abortion is considered a norm, they know that they are the lucky ones - they survived.  Someone once said that the children born in the US after Roe v Wade, and in Britain after the Abortion Act, are survivors, and realising that they see the value of human life.  It's a pity the older generations don't see that.  We will pray that one day they will.

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