The Second Vatican Council In Spain: Effects, Answers And Advice

1. The Second Vatican Council As An Event

The French philosopher Alain Badiou defines an event not merely as something important or significant that can occur in any of the different areas of social, political, artistic or scientific life. It is, rather, about a bankruptcy in the field of knowledge or politics, because with the event in question a new situation emerges. In the Catholic world, in general, and in Spain in particular, we can consider the Second Vatican Council as an authentic event. And, as such, as Michel Onfray has maintained, the Second Vatican Council was “the Christian May ’68.”

And, in this event, the new conciliar political theology, as it emerged from the dominant hermeneutic in the Vatican, turned out to be antithetical to the previously dominant one. It signified the triumph of ecumenism; the opening to the left, communism and Marxism included; the final acceptance of liberal democracy as a legitimate political framework for Catholics; the experience of worker-priests; the pacifist option and non-violence; the sweeping aggiornamento; ecumenism; cosmopolitanism; the radical modification of the liturgy; the new scenography of the Eucharistic process, and so and so forth. Commenting on these changes, Onfray, a militant atheist, pointed out that “the Church precipitated the forward movement that heralded its downfall.”

Likewise, at that time, fundamental principles of the Catholic creed were being questioned, such as, the principle of authority, the dogma of the Eucharist, celibacy, divorce, preconjugal sexual relations, orthodoxy itself; and, on a speculative level, the demystification of biblical texts, the appearance of theology without God, the “textual” exegesis of biblical texts, and so on.

However, it does not seem that the agnostic and left-wing intellectuals were very impressed by the new Vaticanist theology. In a profile of the famous Maurrasian traditional Catholic historian, Philippe Ariés, his friend Michel Foucault made reference to “the antics of the Second Vatican Council.”

In few societies like the Spanish one, the repercussions of the new Council were more decisive, especially in conservative and traditionalist sectors, but also for the progressivists and the left opposed to the political regime born of the Civil War. Because traditional Catholicism had been in a country that did not experience the Lutheran Reformation or the separation between Church and State, it was much more than a religion; it was a system of beliefs and morals that had marked the whole of society—its ideas, its mentalities, its politics, its habits of life, etc. For all these reasons, the crisis of traditional Catholicism was a truly national and, above all, a social and political crisis—a fact that also coincided with a decisive change in the economic and social structures of the country.

Under the aegis of the so-called “technocrats,” Spanish society underwent qualitative changes in its social and economic structures. As in the case of the productive structure, there was an incessant and contradictory process of “creative destruction” in the areas of morals, social values and mentalities. The doors were opened to cultural secularization. Tradition was losing its plausibility in the process, in which industrial society was consolidated and stripped of its paradigmatic character for today. As the theologian Olegario González de Cardedal pointed out: “Thus began a process of immanentization of reality with the resultant closure to the transcendent order and eschatological promises.”

“A poor Church, a poor Spain!” Exclaimed the priest, Aniceto de Castro Albarrán, a former contributor to Acción Española, in one of his writings. For the political regime born of the Civil War, the situation was enormously problematic. Its institutions and its civic culture clearly depended on the social doctrine of the Church, a doctrine that came from the era of Pius XI and even from Pius IX, a supporter of the confessional State, of the condemnation of liberalism that starting with the Syllabus and of social and political corporatism. In 1953, the Spanish State had signed a Concordat with the Vatican, which granted multiple privileges to the Catholic Church in educational, moral, social and political matters.

However, the regime tried to convert itself, under the new political and social contexts, into what the liberal philosopher John Rawls has called a “decent hierarchical political system,” which progressively accepted the principles of religious freedom, economics, equality before the law, etc. As the historian Juan Pablo Fusi has pointed out, from the 1960s Spanish society began to enjoy numerous “spaces of freedom,” especially at the level of intellectual debate and the possibility of founding new publishing houses, newspapers and media. In fact, the religious freedom projects promoted by Minister Fernando María Castiella were formulated before the convocation of the Council. In the Organic Law of the State, Spain continued to be confessionally Catholic. The new Spanish legislation was presented to the Pontiff, but its fundamental demands, such as the renunciation of the participation of the government in the appointment of bishops, the privilege of the Fuero, the presence of bishops and priests in official bodies and political institutions, were ignored by Franco.

In any case, for the most conscientious intellectuals and politicians of the regime, the new strategy of the Vatican and of the new pontiff, Giovanni Battista Montini, Paul VI, was clear – for he was a man trained in the doctrines of Jacques Maritain, devoted to the thesis of the “new Christianity,” son of a deputy of the People’s Party of Luigi Sturzo, secretary of the FUCI (Federazione Universitari Cattolici Italiana), supporter of the Christian Democracy, and one of whose teachers had been Father Giulio Bevilacqua, a prominent antifascist priest. Furthermore, the beginning of his pontificate had coincided with the shift to the left of the Christian Democrats, a prelude to the historic compromise. When he was Archbishop of Milan, Montini sent a letter to Franco, on behalf of Jorge Conill, an anarchist sentenced to death for his terrorist activities.

According to some testimonies, Montini had been in favor, after the end of World War II, of the restoration of the Monarchy and the elimination of Franco. Very controversial was the content of the pontifical address of June 24, 1969, in which Montini compared the situation in Spain with that of Vietnam, the Middle East and Nigeria; which caused a harsh reply from Emilio Romero, in the columns of the official Pueblo newspaper. The philosopher Leopoldo-Eulogio Palacios, formerly of Acción Española and author of El mito de la Nueva Cristiandad (The Myth of the New Christianity), a famous criticism of the doctrines of Jacques Maritain, argued that Paul VI was the one who had put into practice the project defended by the French philosopher in his writings. Upon being elected Pontiff, Franco welcomed him like “a bucket of cold water.” However, Franco added with his usual political realism: “He is no longer Cardinal Montini. Now he is Pope Paul VI.”

There could, therefore, not be the slightest doubt that Montini and his acolytes had as their project the end of the Spanish regime, in favor of a Spanish Catholic Church incardinated in the context of European liberal democracies. Actually, there was nothing strange about that attitude. The Vatican is a state with its own political interests, which it tries to impose on the nations of Catholic roots. And, in that sense, the Vatican hierarchy had long considered an authoritarian and confessional system, such as the Spanish one, to be dysfunctional. As Carl Schmitt pointed out, the political activity of the Catholic Church is characterized by “astonishing elasticity;” it is “a complexio oppositorum.” “There does not seem to be any contradiction that she is not able to encompass.” A clear example of this was its strategy throughout the twenties and thirties of the last century.

On the one hand, the condemnation of L’Action française, in 1926, accusing it of exacerbated nationalism, to reach a pact with the Third Republic; on the other, the Lateran Pacts with Mussolini’s fascist Italy. And, as Antonio Gramsci pointed out, “the Vatican is more realistic than Maurras and better conceives the formula of politique d’abord.” It was not, of course, a disruptive strategy at the social level; quite the opposite. To employ again a Gramscian conceptualization, it was a project of “passive revolution,” and the guarantor of a balance between the new social, political and religious forces. Or, what comes to the same thing – a guarantee, in a new political context, of the privileges of the Catholic Church, in social and educational matters, achieved throughout the Franco regime: Change what was considered an accessory, for what the ecclesiastical apparatus considered essential.

Although the Vatican’s project was objectively reformist, it received, as we will see, the help, sometimes direct and at other times indirect, from the emerging sectors of progressive and even revolutionary Spanish Catholicism and against the representatives of conservatism and traditionalism—and ultimately against the regime of General Franco.

Faced with these offensives, there was no unitary or common strategy, tactic or response on the part of the political and intellectual forces affected by the regime, or simply conservatives. And thus it is that considering the Franco regime as a homogeneous whole is wrong. Undoubtedly, there was a reaction that we could call traditionalist, which was the loudest; but it was not, nor could it be, the most effective. Likewise, there was an alternative, from the positions of a new positivist conservatism, consisting of assuming the secularizing process with all its consequences. And another, apart from the Vatican project overseen in Spain by Vicente Enrique y Tarancón, that was assumed from Catholic-conservative positions, namely, the principle of religious freedom.

2. The Progressive Offensive

Years later, the philosopher and theologian Adolfo Muñoz Alonso lamented, anticipating not the decline of the Falange as an effective political force, but that of the regime born of the Civil War: “…the political mistake of the confessional organizations that have shunned the clarity and the distinction of ideas and aspirations in the field of the specific apostolate ‘and’ the politicization of the Second Vatican Council combining heterogeneous factors.”

The progressive hermeneutics of the new papal encyclicals and of the theological-political content of the Second Vatican Council was, at least in certain political and intellectual spheres, decisive. Very significant, in this regard, was the interpretation of the content of the encyclical Pacem in Terris, by John XXIII, which was made by certain liberal, Christian Democrat and socialist sectors. The Taurus publishing house brought out, in 1963, a book entitled, Comentarios a la Pacem in Terris (Comments to the Pacem in Terris), in which Mariano Aguilar Navarro, José María Díez Alegría, Manuel Giménez Fernández, Eduardo García de Enterría, Lorenzo Martín Retortillo and others collaborated.

Giménez Fernández highlighted the eagerness of Juan XXIII for renewal. García de Enterría pointed out that the Catholic Church had abandoned “indifference to the forms of government” to explicitly embrace “the democratic principle” and with the definitive “abandonment of what the ancient doctrine called monarchy,” and of “political paternalism.” For his part, Martín Retortillo pointed out “the happy coincidence that exists in many of its points” between the pontifical doctrine and that of the French politician Pierre Mendès France in his book, A Modern French Republic, which was translated into Spanish by the Aguilar publishing house; and he concluded that in the encyclical the fundamental rights were not limited to the negative ones of a liberal nature, but also to the positive ones, such as, that of social security.

The doctrinal and intellectual offensive of the self-proclaimed progressive or conciliar Catholicism was decisive, especially in the university and intellectual fields and among the youth. Its main champions were theologians, such as, José María Díez Alegría and José María González Ruíz, and intellectuals, such as, José Luis López Aranguren. Its ideas were disseminated by prestigious publishers, such as, Taurus, Edicusa, Alianza, Peninsula and Guadarrama; and it was highlighted in magazines, such as, Cuadernos para el Diálogo (which was edited by Franco’s former minister Joaquín Ruíz Giménez), Triunfo and El Ciervo. There were some popularizers of Catholic progressivism, or of the so-called Liberation Theology, such as, Enrique Miret Magdalena. Significant was the publication by the Taurus publishing house of the complete works of the heterodox Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who had been accused of being a modernist by many Catholic theologians and by official science, but whose ideas were well received by progressive Catholic sectors.

Among Taurus’s first books was the work of José María Díez Alegría, who reinterpreted natural law, in which he showed himself to be a revisionist of Catholic natural law. In this respect, he understood that the norms of natural law were susceptible not only to exceptional variation, but to some historical variability, and thus the norms were limited by circumstantial determinations, and, in any case, subject to the double effect moral principle. Furthermore, natural law evolved historically in the ever more perfect knowledge of this principle and in its progressive application to social life.

The introducer in Spain of certain aspects of what would later be called Liberation Theology was Canon José María González Ruíz, by way of his book, El cristianismo no es un humanismo (Is Not Christianity A Humanism?), in whose pages he defended a “theology of the world.” It was an attempt to reconcile Christianity with worldly, social reality. His objective was dialogue with Marxism, especially for its criticism of religion as a system of alienation or “estrangement.” Faced with this interpretation, González Ruíz argued that Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular, were “essentially materialistic;” that the Christian ethic was “primarily projected toward man rather than toward God;” and that the Catholic Church had to “make concrete and committed decisions in the face of individual and collective human situations.” In that sense, he mentioned “our Marxist brothers.” He interpreted the Second Vatican Council as a “monumental self-review.” And he advocated the encounter with Marxism on a “common ground.”

However, the most charismatic representative of Catholic progressivism was José Luis López Aranguren, who in his book, El marxismo como moral (Marxism as Moral) advocated, like González Ruíz, a dialogue between Christians and Marxists. For López Aranguren, Marxism was not a scientific doctrine, but “moral voluntarism,” which coincided with Christianity in its criticisms of capitalism, propitiating a “reaction to previous religious individualism.”

At the same time, López Aranguren was very critical of the reality of official Catholicism. In his understanding, a point of “total secularization” had been reached; that is, the destruction of the distinction between the sacred and the profane. A phenomenon that had had a powerful impact on the reality of the Catholic Church. Such a crisis had manifested itself in the pontificate of John XXIII and in the Second Vatican Council, and had an impact on theology itself, on the discussions around dogmas, on the very notion of orthodoxy, on biblical hermeneutics and of revelation, and so on. The social and political phenomenon par excellence was the “contest.” The paradox of a “theology without God” had even been reached. López Aranguren rejected the existence of religious orders and considered secular institutes “spiritually poor.” His pessimism about the future of Catholicism was very remarkable, because the Second Vatican Council had unleashed “forces that were very difficult to contain,” so that “humanly speaking, I cannot expect much from Catholicism.”

Along with these charismatic leaders of progressive or oppositional Catholicism, there were a series of epigones among which were the young theologians Enrique Miret Magdalena, Casiano Floristán, Enrique Iniesta, Antonio Aradillas, José María Llanos, Tomás Malagón, and José Luis Martín Vigil (author of a significant novel entitled, Los curas comunistas (The Communist Priests). Synthesizing the approaches of these priests, Miret Magdalena highlighted his animosity towards the idea of religious unity, which, in his view, was of “pagan and non-Christian origin;” the commitment to the working class; the defense of the fundamental values of Christianity, that is, just peace, social love, real freedom and respect for personal conscience. “And whoever does not accept these values, no matter how much he says he believes in all dogmas, he is not a Christian and, therefore, he cannot be a Catholic.”

In the same way, we must highlight the influence of the Instituto Fe y Secularidad, organized by Jesuits, such as, Alfonso Álvarez Bolado and José Gómez Caffarena, whose objective was to raise the dialogue between Christians and Marxists.

The phenomenon of worker priests was generalized in Spain in the 1960s. A pioneer was Father José María Llanos, who in 1955 settled in the neighborhood of El Pozo del Tío Raimundo, and later was a member of the PCE. Perhaps this phenomenon’s most charismatic representative was Francisco García Salve, a militant Jesuit of the Workers’ Commissions and the PCE.

In 1973 the group, Cristianos por el Socialismo (Christians for Socialism) appeared in Spain, founded by Juan N. García Nieto, Alfonso Carlos Comín, Pedro Ribera, Juan Pujades, Father José María Llanos and the historian, María del Carmen García Nieto. The most charismatic militant of this group was, without a doubt, José Carlos Comín, of Carlist descent, who managed to give a supposedly messianic image, with an eloquent and prophetic oratory, not exempt at times from a certain exhibitionism. His own face, that of a contemporary Jesus Christ, sought to give a new image of committed and revolutionary Christianity.

At the same time, new Christian-inspired unions appeared, such as, the Unión Sindical Obrera, which emerged from the Catholic Workers’ Youth. Likewise, emerged the first Workers’ Commissions, whose members came, generally, from Catholic sectors; and many Catholics were part of the Maoist Revolutionary Workers’ Organization. And the deeds of the revolutionary priest, Camilo Torres, those of Che Guevara, the new Christ resurrected, or the Chilean experiment in socialism, promoted by Salvador Allende, with the support of some left-wing Catholics, were glorified as examples. In this context, the homilies that were fined were abundant, the difficulties of the self-proclaimed grassroots Catholic movements were many, and the priestly fitting out of jails in Zamora significant.

Naturally, this process had to generate its own dialectic; and generate it did. Conservative and traditional groups had to seek an answer to the new context; but, as we have already pointed out, it was not a common answer, but a diverse one.

3. The Traditional Reaction

Previous to the Council, the traditional Spanish Catholic sectors had focused their attention on the criticism of figures, such as, Miguel de Unamuno and, above all, José Ortega y Gasset, prototypes of heterodoxy. Good proof of this was the content of magazines such as Arbor, in the 1940s, and then in the mid-1950s Punta Europa, financially supported by the Oriol family and edited by the traditionalist writer, Vicente Marrero Suárez.

Then, in the conciliar context, Verbo magazine came to existence, which gradually became the intellectual organ of Spanish traditionalist Catholicism. The new magazine was considered heir to Acción Española, although its model was La Cité Catholique, edited by the former Maurrasian, Jean Ousset. Among its founders were Eugenio Vegas Latapié, Juan Vallet de Goytisolo and Estanislao Cantero. Its most common contributors were Rafael Gambra, Álvaro D´Ors, Vicente Marrero, Francisco Javier Fernández de la Cigoña, Francisco Elías de Tejada, Blas Piñar López, Gabriel de Armas, Francisco Canals Vidal, Bernardo Monsegú, Julián Gil de Sagredo, Eustaquio Guerrero , Gabriel Alferez Callejón, José Guerra Campos, Jerónimo Cerdá Bañuls, and so forth; as well as French traditionalists, such as, Jean Madiran, Marcel Clement, Marcel de Corte, Michel Creuzet, Jean Ousset, or the Brazilian Plinio Correa de Oliveira.

Significantly, numerous writings of the Archbishop of Dakar, Marcel Lefebvre, known for his criticism of the doctrinal development of the Second Vatican Council, were published in the magazine. However, it never intended to break from the Vatican, so Verbo also published writings of the doubting Montini, in which the continuity between the doctrine of Vatican II and Catholic tradition was defended. Although, in one of its first issues, the Syllabus of Pius IX also appeared.

Verbo was always marked by nostalgia for past times. It was and still is a traditionalist, Thomistic magazine. Its political model was the traditional, Catholic and corporate monarchy of Acción Española. Eugenio Vegas Latapié rejected, following Charles Maurras, the concept of “organic democracy.” And Vallet de Goytisolo published numerous writings subjecting to criticism the doctrinal foundations of the technocracy, which he accused of being an ideology heir to the Enlightenment, secularizing, mechanistic and atheistic. In his works, Vallet de Goytisolo rejected mass society, which he reproached for its lack of its own hierarchical structure, which implied “the disappearance of intermediate bodies, the extension of functions, the progress of the technology of propaganda,” “religious uprooting,” “the destruction of traditions,” “dialectical materialism,” and the “elimination of the transcendent.” As an alternative, Vallet de Goytisolo advocated a return to classical natural law and traditional society; what he called “the natural legal order” and the “pluralism of natural or intermediate societies within which the State must limit itself to complying with the principle of subsidiarity.”

In 1965, Editorial Católica Española (the Spanish Catholic Publishing House) created the Vedruna Prize, endowed with 100,000 pesetas, “to promote the study of Catholic Unity as the political-social foundation of Spain, regardless of the theological order that exceeded that purpose.” The award jury was made up of Juan Iglesias Santos, Blas Piñar López, Raimundo de Miguel, Jesús María Liaño Pacheco and Jaime de Carlos and Gómez Rodulfo. The prize was awarded to the traditionalist philosopher, Rafael Gambra, author of the famous, Historia sencilla de la Filosofía (Simple History of Philosophy), for his book, La unidad religiosa y el derrotismo católico (Religious unity and Catholic Defeatism), published by Editorial Católica Española, with a foreword by Juan Vallet de Goytisolo. In the work, Gambra limited himself to defending the topics of traditionalism, with abundant quotations from Joseph de Maistre, Donoso Cortés and Menéndez Pelayo, whose foundation was the defense of Spanish Catholic unity as a platform for political, social and moral cohesion. For Gambra, a Catholic could not accept the separation of political power from the moral and religious order. The “regime of neutral coexistence” was an inheritor of the Lutheran Reformation and of “rationalism” and “statism,” which “are areligious and agnostic plants in the soil.” Secularism was synonymous with “apostasy.”

Some theologians collaborating with the Punta Europa magazine expressed themselves in identical terms when criticizing the exegesis of liberal or left-wing intellectuals and theologians. In an editorial, the magazine endeavored to demonstrate that the concept of freedom defended in Pacem in Terris was the same as that coined by Leo XIII in Libertas. Luis Vitoria denounced the confusion of some theologians, in particular, Enrique Miret Magdalena, with respect to pontifical innovations, because “only fidelity to the traditional makes true progress possible.”

However, the main issues were those of religious freedom and the confessional state. From his natural law perspective, Father Vitorino Rodríguez argued that under the concept of religious freedom very different meanings could be understood. In this regard, he denied that “false religions were assisted by a natural right to public profession and proselytism, because a religious attitude due to error…is incompatible with the hallmarks of natural law: universal, inviolable, printed in the nature of every man.”

At best, what a Catholic state could do was “tolerate,” for reasons of political prudence, the public presence of other religions. Along the same lines, the Jesuit Eustaquio Guerrero affirmed that there was no reason why, after the Council, Spanish society should abandon the confessional state and the principle of Catholic unity; there was only “the prejudice and passion of progress that seeks to reconcile the Church with the world through the burial of Constantinian Catholicism and the delivery, in the press, of Spain to the liberal and Protestant world.”

The Spanish Church was experiencing profound disagreements within itself. Between 1966 and 1968, the crisis of Acción Católica (Catholic Action) took place, which practically led to its disappearance. Meanwhile, on March 1, 1966, with the presence of the nuncio Riberi and the attendance of seventy bishops, the Spanish Episcopal Conference was established. Its first president was Cardinal Quiroga Palacios, with Morcillo as more or less its vice-president, and José Guerra Campos, its general secretary. All of them were faithful to Franco and traditional orthodoxy. However, the strategy of the Vatican soon became noticeable. From 1969 to 1971, the presidency fell to Casimiro Morcillo. But on his death, Vicente Enrique y Tarancón, Montini’s man in Spain, took office. During the Civil War, the Levantine priest had been a fervent champion of the “Crusade.” Later, he was appointed bishop of Solsona. Franco himself, as Tarancón recognized in his Confesiones (Confessions), wanted him to occupy the headquarters at Oviedo, Toledo and Madrid.

Then Tarancón was appointed secretary of the Conference of Metropolitans, predecessor of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, and rapporteur of the Synod of Bishops in Rome. He participated in the Second Vatican Council, where he met Montini. His pastoral work continued in Oviedo, where he was coadjutor archbishop. He acceded to the archbishopric of Burgos and later that of Toledo as Primate of Spain. Paul VI gave him the cardinal’s hat in 1969. Until then, he had not shown any progressive fickleness. At all times, he was a typical man of the ecclesiastical apparatus. In the context of the time, he managed to embody, at a strategic level, a relative “center” between progressives and traditionalists, to carry out Paul VI’s project of “passive revolution.” In public, he portrayed himself as a pragmatic and worldly man. His opinion of General Franco was always positive; he described him as “a nice man, very talkative… He spoke of Spain with passion and of the Church as if he were party to all her secrets.” He reproached Franco, however, for “not having understood the Council.”

Tarancón’s antagonistic opposite was the ascetic, José Guerra Campos, who soon became known, in traditional circles as, “The Bishop of Spain.” Tarancón was aware of this antagonism when, in an interview, he described Guerra Campos as “a deep man, a great researcher, somewhat extreme.” Guerra Campos showed himself above all be an intellectual, a theologian and a philosopher. He was not a pragmatist like Tarancón. Unlike other members of the clergy, he became familiar with Marxist philosophy, Kantism, and the evolutionism of Teilhard de Chardin. In a conference at the University of Santiago de Compostela, he lectured on Marx. This was positively valued by the Italian communist newspaper, L’Unitá. The Galician priest participated in the famous Gredos Talks. And he was a consultant to the Spanish Episcopate at the Council. Shortly after, he was appointed titular bishop of Mustia and auxiliary of Madrid-Alcalá in June 1964 and 1965. He participated in the sessions of the Council of 1964 and 1965, with a special intervention on Marxist atheism.

Guerra Campos always denied that Vatican II represented a break with traditional Catholic doctrine. His criticism focused on what he called the “noisy manipulation of the Council,” in clerical circles, with a “disregard for the basic texts,” and “with the interpretation of others in the light of some future, imaginary Vatican Councils II.” The very term aggiornamento did not mean revision according to the dominant spirit of the time, but within tradition, a “wise interpretation of the spirit of the Council that we have celebrated, and the final application of its norms.” For this reason, he rejected the obsession to revise or reject all the content of the tradition, concluding that the novelty was positive per se; and that the Church of other times was obtuse “when the Second Vatican Council has not substituted or suppressed a single truth of faith and a single moral principle of the previous catechisms.” Far from any relativism, the Council had defined Catholicism as the only true religion, because “God wanted to manifest himself fully in Christ, who reconciles all things to himself.” The Church was the bearer of “a revelation that constitutes at the same time, the call and the answer of God for those who seek… Christ is the totality of religious life, he is the only way of salvation.”

In contrast, Guerra Campos accused certain theologians of “imposing the dictatorship on matters of opinion, where the appreciations of the believers are free, while on the other hand all daring against dogmas is tolerated.” When criticizing the dissenters, Guerra Campos took advantage of Montini’s famous speech, delivered on June 29, 1972, in which it was stated that “the smoke of Satan has entered the Church,” to denounce the innovations that he considered dangerous such as “the Church’s retreat to the passions of the world… emptying the faith of its revealed contents… to practically confuse it with a current of opinion and desires of this time… reducing the mission of the Church to a temporary action, a revolutionary political action.” One of the mainstays of his speech was the defense of the Catholic confessional state: “The true religion (we call true religion not a human religion, but the one that springs from the manifestation of Christ, the revelation of God in History), has the maximum right, the exclusive right to be recognized as such and to be, as such, favored: not with coercion, but with positive help so that this message, which is a gift of God, really reaches to all men.”

For Guerra Campos, Christianity was the appropriate response to the two humanisms that were vying for hegemony in the modern world: exalted humanism, whose greatest exponent was Marxism; and the humanism of depression, represented above all by atheistic existentialism. Both led to “slavery.” Even less effective was “scientism,” which, according to the expositions of the biologist Jacques Monod, led to “the radical denial of freedom.” Guerra Campos was to be the doctrinal inspiration for some of the traditionalist groups that came to light as a response to the innovations of the moment.

Not by chance, on May 2, 1966, Fuerza Nueva appeared as a publishing company and, above all, as a political pressure group. Its leaning was clearly traditional Catholic. Its great promoter, Blas Piñar López, did not come from the Falange, nor from Carlism; nor was he a supporter of technocracy. Son of a military defender of the Alcázar of Toledo, Piñar came from Catholic Action. His ideology drew from the sources of Sardá and Salvany, Ramiro de Maeztu, Manuel García Morente convert, Juan Vázquez de Mella, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, and the Catholic propagandist, Manuel Siurot. The old Falangist writer, Ernes-to Giménez Caballero defined him as a champion of “a new Traditionalism, heir to what a Mella, an Aparisi and Guijarro defended.” Appointed director of the Institute of Hispanic Culture in 1957, he held the position until January 1962, when he was suddenly dismissed because of a newspaper article, entitled, “Hypocrites,” and published in ABC, in which he bitterly criticized the international policy of the United States, on the eve of negotiations concerning the permanence of North American bases in Spanish territory. However, Franco personally appointed him attorney in Cortes, one of the so-called Cuarenta de Ayete (Forty of Ayete—procuradors).

The first issue of Fuerza Nueva magazine appeared in December 1966, in which it set out its “reason for being,” and brought about by the progressive denaturalization of the regime born of the Civil War: “We understand that the ideological baggage of our Regime cannot be liquidated in a cheap auction, and that its deep roots, which have their life in the Spanish tradition and in the national revolution, demand that the ruling minorities act to further their evolution, their development, their perfection, their purity and their refined loyalty to the principles that were forged as their doctrinal foundation, but never to their mythologization, to their misleading and sometimes contradictory applications, and, ultimately, to their repeal or abandonment.”

And, thus, Piñar and his acolytes represented, at that time, a political project that no longer coincided, in its essential features, with the renewal pursued by the new ruling elites of the regime and their insertion into the international economic and political framework. Like the rest of the traditionalist sectors, Fuerza Nueva always suffered from what Svetlana Boym calls, “restorative nostalgia,” not a “reflexive” one. Piñar’s project was still that of the “Crusade”—traditional, corporate and confessional monarchy. Verbo traditionalists, Carlists, theologians, Thomist philosophers, military men and Falangists collaborated on the pages of the new magazine. Among its militants appeared the odd neo-fascist, as was the case of Ernesto Milá, soon expelled for his religious heterodoxy. According to Milá, in Fuerza Nueva an “almost Taliban fundamentalism” dominated, where “the religious phenomenon cornered every other element in Piñar’s personal equation.” Fuerza Nueva “aspired above all to carry out a pastoral task and to spread the Catholic religion much more than any political thought, even though for them Catholicism was, in itself, a political definition.”

The religious perspective of Piñar and other members of the regime could be seen in the parliamentary discussions on the project of religious freedom advocated by Minister Fernando María Castiella at the beginning of 1967, and which would be approved in June of that same year. According to the conservative journalist, Torcuato Luca de Tena, who at that time worked as a parliamentary chronicler, there were, on the issue of religious freedom, two parties: the fundamentalist and the progressive.

Of course, in the Spanish context, the so-called “progressives” were, in reality, “fundamentalists, but less.” The “fundamentalists” included, Coronel de Palma, Piñar, Sanz Orrio, Fagoaga, Oriol, Valero Bermejo, Gómez Aranda, and others. And the “progressives” were Lamo de Espinosa, Villegas Girón, Chozas Bermúdez, Mateu de Ros, Fernández Miranda, Martínez Esteruelas, and Herrero Tejedor. “The fundamentalists cited Pius XII, John XXIII and Paul VI in numerical and chronological order. The progressives, in reverse chronological order, cited Paul VI more than John XXIII, and the latter more than Pius XII. The fundamentalists were tenacious and audacious, but they were more of the former than of the latter. Progressives were tough and bold, but they were more of the latter than the former. The fundamentalists read works of Saint Augustine and consulted Aranzadi. The progressives read texts of Saint Thomas Aquinas and leafed through the Medina and Marañón. (Someone dared to quote Maritain, but I swear that only happened once).” The attorneys Bárcenas, Manglano, Piñar, Coronel de Palma, Valero Bermejo and Tena Artigas “fought with admirable tenacity to show the minds of those present the risks of a rupture in our Religious Unit.” While other attorneys, such as Alfredo López, affirmed that “it is not only about defending the possible risks of religious freedom, but about defending religious freedom itself.”

In his speeches, Piñar defended the confessional status of the state as a good; something that could not be identified with Catholic unity. The civil right to religious freedom should not promote religious pluralism, because religious pluralism was contrary to Catholic unity, initiating “apostasy;” it was “bad.”

Among the attorneys opposed to the new legislation were Agustín Asís Garrote, Baron de Cárcer, José María Codón, Luis Coronel de Palma, Miguel Fagoaga, Luis Gómez de Aranda, Fermín Izurdiaga, Jesús López Medel, Lucas María de Oriol, Fermín Sanz Orrio and Piñar himself.

Almost at the same time, the Spanish Priestly Brotherhood (Hermandad Sacerdotal de San Antonio María Claret and San Juan de Ávila) emerged, which was formed on November 19, 1968. It had received the approval of Casimiro Morcillo. And its Governing Board was formed by the Franciscan, Miguel Oltra, as president; Francisco Santa Cruz was vice-president; Venancio Marcos, secretary; and Pablo María de la Sierra was treasurer. Its main figure was Miguel Oltra.

The Brotherhood appeared in public on July 9, 1969, in Segovia, before the tomb of San Juan de la Cruz. Two months earlier, on May 12, the San Antonio María Claret Priests and Religious Association, which brought together hundreds of Catalan priests and religious, had met in Vic, and before the tomb of the famous confessor of Isabella II, they deposited their Declaration of Priestly Principles and Criteria. The Segovian act was attended by some five hundred priests, as well as the Cardinal Archbishop of Tarragona and some bishops.

In its Declaration of Principles, the Brotherhood declared its “firm adherence to the Chair of Peter.” Its doctrinal sources were Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium. It criticized progressivism, which was accused of marginalizing “the supernatural order or at least disfiguring it by wanting to replace it with a declericalized sociomorphism, which does not know what to do with the priestly mission in modern society.” The dignity of the priesthood lay in “the priestly function of Christ… intermediate between God and men,” the consequence of which was the resounding affirmation of celibacy. It denounced that in the seminars the great masters of theology had been replaced by “amateurs” and “minstrels,” at the “service of political subversion.” No less serious seemed to them “moral errors” and “general corruption of customs.” And this it was that there was “a great crisis of authority and obedience.” It criticized the insistence on responsibility and maturity: “Prudence has reason to be when it is put at the service of Faith, Hope and Charity.” It advocated “social justice,” but not at the cost of faith in the supernatural: “The supernatural and Revelation mark infinite solutions to temporality… Our pastoral care has to be exercised in connection with the divine. Any other temporalistic attitude degrades and desecrates the sacred mission that the Lord has entrusted to us.” In this sense, the condemnation of communism, liberalism and the so-called “Prophetic Groups” was radical: “It is our duty to denounce them and point the finger at them.” Against ecumenism, patriotism: “We consider Patriotism as a virtue included in the fourth commandment of the Law of God. Our apostolate is not exercised in the abstract but in concrete souls, in those close to us, and these are the Spanish. Our Patriotism becomes Catholic ecumenism if we channel our people to Christ.” The Brotherhood had as an organ of diffusion the magazine, Dios lo quiere (God Wills It).

The traditional front experienced a relative reinforcement with the emergence of another doctrinal organ, the Iglesia-Mundo magazine, whose first issue appeared on April 16, 1971, with the support of Archbishop Morcillo and the bulk of the conservative and traditional sector of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. It also enjoyed some support from the regime, particularly from Admiral Carrero Blanco. One of its inspirers was Guerra Campos. Its director was Jaime Caldevilla García-Villar, a Carlist fighter in the Civil War, a graduate in philosophy and the law, and a journalist. Its main contributors were linked to the Spanish Priestly Brotherhood, Verbo and Fuerza Nueva, namely, Victorino Rodríguez, Bernardo Monsegú, Luis Madrid Corcuera, José Ricart Torrens, Luis Vera, Gonzalo Vidal, Vicente Marrero, Vallet de Goytisolo or Adolfo Muñoz Alonso.

Less important was the magazine, Qué pasa? (What’s Happening?), edited by the extravagant convert Joaquín Pérez Madrigal, a true champion of fundamentalism; and El Alcázar, which has become the organ of the Spanish Confederation of Ex-Combatants.

4. Political And Symbolic Conflicts

At the beginning of the 1960s, conflicts between the regime and a part of the clergy were frequent, particularly in Catalonia and the Basque Country, where sectors of the Church continued to support nationalist demands. In this process, the Montserrat Monastery played an important role in Catalonia, where the famous magazine, Serra D´Or was published, which gradually became an organ of Catalanism and rebellious Catholicism. In the Basque Country, a sector of the clergy supported not the clandestine PNV, but the terrorist organization ETA.

However, the most decisive conflict arose years later, when the so-called Joint Assembly of Bishops and Priests was convened between September 13 and 18, 1971. Based on a series of surveys among priests, its objectives were reduced, in theory, to deal with the problems that affected the Spanish Church; to seek solutions and facilitate ways of dialogue between priests and bishops; and deepen the meaning of the priestly ministry. The surveys apparently reflected a deep malaise in the clergy, who appeared disoriented on issues such as morality, politics, priestly ministry, disillusionment with the results of the Council, problems of faith, punishment, criticism and rejection of the alliance with political power, and so on. In practice, its leitmotif was clearly political, that is, to go a step further in the disassociation of the Catholic Church from the Franco regime. According to Martín Descalzo, this was one of “the greatest hours” of Cardinal Tarancón’s life. Descalzo described the event as an Assembly “without extremists,” that is, without integrationists or progressives.

The traditionalist sectors criticized, from the first moment, the convocation. The canonist Salvador Muñoz Iglesias considered it “unnecessary [and] counterproductive… based on the results of a survey whose approach seems tendentious and whose data does not have the value that it is intended to give them.” Some bishops such as Guerra Campos, García Sierra, Cantero, Delgado Gómez and members of Opus Dei were equally adverse. Especially harsh were the criticisms of the Priestly Brotherhood: “With regard to the celebration of the Assembly, an adequate spiritual preparation is lacking.” The Brotherhood also denounced “the intimate feeling that the last lines of the Assembly were drawn beforehand and not precisely by the Episcopal Conference.

Whatever was said, nothing was going to alter the prefabricated result.” It was a “clerical movement of doubts, questions and problems.” In the same way, the Brotherhood condemned “its exaggerated and tendentious “democratism,” which does not harmonize with the hierarchical character of the Church; and its obsession with ‘extremism,’ which is not convincingly clarified or defined, to know what is and is not an evangelical requirement. Thus, they place themselves in fashionable ambivalences, leaning almost blatantly towards those who sound the loudest and get the most noise in the divided river of the Spanish clergyman.”

As a reply, the Priestly Brotherhood convened an alternative Assembly, which was held at the Residence for Religious of the Sagrada Familia de la Moraleja, with the participation of theologians such as Román Orbe, Francisco Paula Solá, Antonio Peinador Navarra, Jesús González Quevedo and Antonio Meseguer Montoya. Some sixty-two priests participated in the Assembly. In its conclusions, the documents on which the convocation of the Joint Assembly was based were rejected; its postponement and its “reorientation to safer theological and ecclesiastical bases” were demanded. It accused the conveners with defending their “own monologue” and of not playing “fair” in the designation of certain dioceses. Ecclesiastical celibacy and its traditional social function were defended; the philosophical, scriptural and theological training to be given in the seminaries was defined; the defense of the Church as a hierarchical society, evangelization, and so forth was asserted.

The conclusions reached by the Joint Assembly emphasized that the State stop intervening in the appointment of bishops, to have freedom of the press, religion, the right to conscientious objection, fundamental rights, and so on. However, the most controversial proposition was the one calling for forgiveness for the attitude of the Spanish Catholic Church during the Civil War: “We humbly acknowledge and ask forgiveness because we did not always know how to be ministers of reconciliation among the people divided by a war between brothers.” A statement as opportunistic as it is ahistorical, which made the strategy of the new hierarchies of the Church very clear. After the debates, the vote was as follows: 123 votes in favor; 113 against; and 10 null; which meant that it was not approved because it required two thirds majority. “I was in complete agreement with the substance of the proposal,” said Tarancón, “but I think it was not wise to refer so clearly to the war. That gave many weapons to begin their attack and in fact many changed their position and went from satisfaction to criticism. That politicized the assembly more than anything.”

In response, Miguel Oltra sent a letter to Tarancón, protesting the content of the proposal: “We are willing to suffer all the persecutions rather than deny our fidelity to the true Church of Christ, and to the ideals for which thirteen of our bishops were murdered and seven thousand priests.” Guerra Campos accused the Assembly of fomenting division in the clergy. And, regarding the issue of the Civil War, he accused the assembly of being “political and unjust… The accusation, which could be partially true in individual cases, is not fair when viewed globally. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the years preceding the war fostered, despite the persecutory climate of legislation and the streets, a spirit of compliance and collaboration with the constituted powers of the Republic … The movement the defense that took place in Spain, both to contain the dissolution of society and to save a series of spiritual values, sprang spontaneously from thousands and thousands of lay Catholics, who acted under their own responsibility. It is a fact that the hierarchy and the clergy in general did not induce armed action.”

Iglesia-Mundo highlighted the number of priests killed during the Civil War, along with images of the destruction of churches and religious objects. Archbishop Marcelino Olaechea objected that it was intended to bury the Church of the “Crusade” in “the night of oblivion.”

The historian Ricardo de la Cierva, Franco’s official biographer, commenting on the content of the Assembly, pointed out that the Church’s strategy sought, in the face of the conciliar phenomenon and given its reactionary historical trajectory, to recover lost time. As a Catholic historian, to Cierva it seemed “painful, incomprehensible and absurd,” and “a flat, absurd and inconsistent inversion, putting off such recovery sometime in the future.” In that sense, it seemed as if a kind of “anarcho-Christianity” was emerging. In that sense, it seemed as if a kind of “anarcho-Christianity” was emerging.

Faced with such onslaughts, the president of the government, Luis Carrero Blanco, himself a traditional Catholic, had nothing to do with criticizing what he considered a betrayal on the part of the Church. Not without reason, the admiral recalled the material aid given to the Catholic Church since the end of the Civil War by the state, which had spent “some 300,000 million pesetas in the construction of churches, seminaries, charity and teaching centers, maintenance of the faith, and so on.” Soon there was reference in the press to “Carrero the Big Fuss.”

In this context, the appearance of the Tácito group, which emerged in 1973, had special relevance, most of whose members came from Asociación Católica de Propagandistas (the Catholic Association of Propagandists), which, in those years, had downplayed the “National” part of its name, for it said it was “fleeing from national-Catholicism.” Its organ of expression was the newspaper YA, and its members included, José Luis Alvarez, Luis Apostua, Fernando Arias Salgado, Landelino Lavilla, Marcelino Oreja, Juan Manuel Otero Novas, Alfonso Osorio, and others. Its political project was defined as “legal reformism.” The Tacitans advocated a gradual evolution towards liberal democracy from the current legislation, through the incorporation of human rights, into the Spanish legal system, the repeal of laws incompatible with such rights, a legislative chamber elected by universal suffrage, jurisdictional unity, and the recognition of regional diversity. And all this backed by “a new pact between a faithful Prince and a free country.”

The traditionalist forces were losing the game. The Confraternity of Priests, Hermandad de Sacerdotes, had convened an International Priest Day in Zaragoza. However, the bishop of the city of the Ebro, Cantero Cuadrado, from the conservative sector, released a statement in which it was noted that the Episcopal Conference did not authorize the convocation. Significantly, Cantero Cuadrado pointed out that the Brotherhood had been warned that its Conferences would only be allowed if “the development of the themes were strictly spiritual and priestly,” and avoiding “any controversy and any confrontation of a personal nature.” For this reason, it was pointed out that the Conference was not authorized or endorsed.”

Father Miguel Oltra protested against the attitude of the hierarchy that contrasted with its permissiveness towards the left, having allowed a meeting, held in El Escorial, of the association Fe Cristiana y Cambio Social en Hispanoamérica (Christian Faith and Social Change in Latin America), which brought together supporters of the Liberation Theology and Christian-Marxist dialogue. Finally, the Conference was held, but without the support of the Episcopal Conference or the Vatican. Guerra Campos did not attend, although he sent a telegram of support. The Conference began on September 26 at the Basilica del Pilar. In the homily, Oltra criticized the politics of hierarchy, Liberation Theology, and more specifically the heterodox theologian, Hans Küng.

The Episcopal Conference was controlled by Tarancón. And, to a large extent, Guerra Campos was marginalized. On April 13, 1973, his appointment as the new archbishop of Cuenca was made public. The ceremony of entry into the diocese had a small number of attendees from among the hierarchies, highlighting the presence of Marcelo González Martín; which reflected the estrangement from the Episcopal Conference of the new bishop of Cuenca. In a note entitled, “Normas del obispado y acuerdos de la Conferencia Episcopal” (“Norms of the Bishopric and Agreements of the Episcopal Conference”), published in the Bulletin of the diocese, the powers of the Episcopal Conference regarding the actions of bishops were stated. This provoked new criticism from the followers of Tarancón, such as the magazine Vida Nueva.

The assassination of Admiral Carrero Blanco by the terrorist organization ETA on December 20, 1973 once again highlighted the discrepancies between the different sectors of the Church. His burial was the occasion for a noisy, but not excessively large, demonstration organized by members of the Confraternity of Priests, like Venancio Marcos, and Fuerza Nueva, with Blas Piñar at the forefront, where the Civil Guard, the Army were cheered and shouts of “Tarancón to the wall” given. The Levantine cardinal was in charge of officiating the funeral in a very tense atmosphere. One of the ministers, Julio Rodríguez, refused to shake the cardinal’s hand during the ceremony, which was later reproached by Franco himself.

Under the mandate of the new president of the government, Carlos Arias Navarro, the political and symbolic conflict did not cease; quite the opposite. It was not only the house arrest of the bishop of Bilbao, Antonio Añoveros and his projected expulsion from Spanish territory, for a homily in defense of Basque; which further worsened relations between the regime and the Catholic Church. Franco, apparently advised by Marcelo González, had his prime minister rectify matters; he did not want a direct conflict with the Vatican, which he knew he would lose. Added to this were the cultural and symbolic conflicts caused by the new “openness” policy promoted by the new minister, Pío Cabanillas.

The premieres of Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell once again scandalized the traditionalists. They did not take long to demand the prohibition of the two works and the intervention of the Episcopal Conference. In effect, from its perspective, a Jesus Christ was shown, “not as a son of God, but as a fearful social leader.” And the same happened with Godspell, in which Jesus appeared as “a hysterical and screaming rock opera singer. Surrounded by half-naked whores, mediocre apostles and a libidinous Magdalene who caresses Jesus continuously, highlighting her carnal appetites.” For the editors of Iglesia-Mundo, it was a sample of “blasphemous colonialism.” Julián Gil de Sagredo described Godspell as a “sacrilegious and blasphemous play.” The playwright Pablo Villamar, a member of Fuerza Nueva, presented as an alternative a play entitled, Jesucristo Libertador (Jesus Christ, Liberator).

For its part, the Confraternity of Priests convened a conference at the end of September 1974 in Cuenca, under the aegis of Guerra Campos. In the course of the Conference, the sympathetic press highlighted the figure of the priest and theologian, Luis Vera, canon of the Cathedral of Malaga. Vera accused the progressive theologians of being “the paratroopers the devil,” whose claim was “to give birth to new churches from five-star hotels.” At the end of the event, Vera, a short man, was hoisted up by some of his fellow priests, as highlighted in a photo by Pueblo newspaper.

For Vera, the new theologians were neither Spanish nor theologians, because “they do not use the weapons of Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church;” and they were limited to “copying foreigners.” He denounced “Philosophy” and then “Liberal Theology” as “Trojan horses” to subvert the Church from within. “Next to her, the subversion led by existentialism and Marxism.” He criticized González Ruíz and Díez Alegría, both of whom he accused of trying to sell us “a faith without faith, which wants to substitute God for man, charity for philanthropy and faith itself for revolution, violent if necessary.” Vera was especially hard on González Ruíz, who wanted to convince the Marxists that God was not a hindrance and ended up fabricating a God who, of course, “does not hinder anyone.”

Vera asked the Episcopal Conference to maintain religion classes at the University, institutes and schools; find solutions to the issue of Clergy Social Security. He also demanded clarification on the Justice and Peace Commission, chaired by Joaquín Ruíz Jiménez. He deemed it necessary to demand the anti-modernist oath from all who held office in the Church. He asked for the accounts of Cáritas Española, and reports on Christians for Socialism; and the control over emigrant chaplains, among whom “the anti-Spanish and the Marxists” abounded. The government demanded the defense of “the confessional State;” and that Jehovah’s Witnesses were not to be included in the Law of Religious Freedom as a Christian Church; and the monitoring of public morals.

The content of Vera’s lecture was well received by Fuerza Nueva. The canon of Malaga had “materially nailed the Jesuit Díez Alegría and his companion from Malaga, González Ruíz.” And Que pasa presented the Confraternity of Priests as “a dam against modern heresies.”

5. The Secular Conservative Alternative

At that time, and in response to the situation, a secular right-wing project emerged, the work of one of the regime’s thinkers, Gonzalo Fernández de la Mora, who in 1965 had published his controversial book, El crepúsculo se las ideologías (The Twilight of Ideologies), in whose pages not a few saw a legitimation of the technocratic elite that had run the state since the late 1950s. On his part, Fernández de la Mora never abandoned his youthful Catholicism. He was not an anti-religious thinker, although he clashed on more than one occasion with traditionalists and fundamentalists for his positive assessment of Ortega y Gasset and Xavier Zubiri. However, he clearly perceived, although not without displeasure at first, the changes undergone by Catholicism since Vatican II, judged them irreversible and drew his own conclusions. In the new context, the confessional nature of the State was indefensible. And he opposed any form of political theology or recourse to religious enthusiasm.

Mora’s alternative was a new secular conservatism. In El crepúsculo se las ideologías and other writings, Fernández de la Mora accepted modern consciousness, which was as much as saying the functional rationality of calculation and efficiency; the rationality accepted by the Weberian “disenchantment of the world,” and with it the fragmentation of worldviews, the loss of a unity of religious world-vision, and, above all, the experience of relativism. Consequently, his philosophy of history, taken directly from Augusto Comte, was decidedly progressive, “the laboratory of pathos to logos.” Progress was synonymous with the rationalization of the various social, political and cultural spheres. In the field of religions, at least in Europe and developed societies, there was the “internalization of beliefs,” that is, secularization. In that sense, alternatives, such as, Christian democracy were already anachronistic. In the new, scientific-industrial context, religion was increasingly displaced to the private sphere. Furthermore, revealed religiosity could not monopolize the content of ethics, since there was a rational and natural ethic, valid for all: “Revelation is the object of faith; the moral order is the object of rational acceptance.” Religion was not “primarily and fundamentally something communal; it is essentially a relationship with God, from which community consequences are derived;” it was “individuals and not nations that were the subjects of acts of faith.” Consequently, he was averse to the confessional state, which he considered a “historical anecdote:” “Pure religion is a solitude with God.” For this reason, he not only criticized the traditionalists, but the leftist theologians, like González Ruíz, who wanted a new politicization of the faith.

Naturally, such views did not appeal to the traditionalists. The one in charge of criticizing him was the American, Frederick D. Wilhelmsen, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dallas and Extraordinary Professor at the University of Navarra. In his criticism, he accused Fernández de la Mora of having embraced “a clearly positivist policy,” whose main enemy was not liberalism or socialism, but “Catholic traditionalism in all its forms.” In his response, Fernández de la Mora called Wilhelmsen’s article “totally chaotic,” which could only be taken “relatively seriously.” In his plea, he reiterated his secularizing views: “What I think is that religiosity consists, fundamentally, in a relationship between man and God, not in a social pact or rhetoric.”

6. Catholic Neoconservatism And Religious Freedom

In January 1963, the first issue of the Atlántida magazine came out, a response to which fell to the historian, Florentino Pérez Embid. The magazine was edited by Rialp, a company closely linked to Opus Dei. At that time, the Andalusian historian distinguished three currents in the Spanish intelligentsia: traditionalism, Christian progressivism and universalist Catholicism. The description of the first seemed like a tirade against Punta Europa. It was a process faithful to Catholic orthodoxy, but it did not devote due attention to the development of “the answers that today are demanded by the new problems posed by thought and by life.” The second was manifested among Catholics adhering to what Pérez Embid called the “bourgeois left,” that is, La Institución Libre de Enseñanza (The Free Institution of Education), the “98” and Ortega y Gasset. Finally, “universal Catholicism,” the trend with which Embid himself identified, was characterized by “the breadth of horizons and a more energetic deepening in the permanent and living Catholic orthodoxy.” In this position were combined the renewal of the typical doctrines of traditional thought in philosophy and history, and “a careful attention to the orientations of contemporary science and thought, and a positive and open attitude towards the current transformation of social structures and of the forms of life.”

Atlántida positively received the declaration of religious freedom and the content of the Second Vatican Council. For Millán-Puelles, the principle of religious freedom was “a fundamentally positive sign,” “a good in itself.” And thus religious freedom was based on the dignity of the human person, “a person with whom God wants a free dialogue.” For his part, Recasens Siches—disciple of Ortega y Gasset and exiled after the Civil War—considered religious freedom as an essential right of the human person. It was, deep down, the only one of all freedoms that possessed an “absolute character.” In this sense, he considered that in Christian doctrine and the historical development of Christianity there had been a “hurtful contradiction” between religious intolerance, on the one hand, and the doctrine held by the majority of Christian philosophers, on the other. Fortunately, the theological and doctrinal foundations of intolerance had been “suppressed and buried by the Second Vatican Council.”

From the perspective of the Second Vatican Council, Gustave Thils analyzed pre-conciliar theories on religious freedom, concluding that the Catholic doctrine was historically very complex and that its apparent uniformity turned out to be more apparent than real. And it is that this doctrine had to be studied in different historical and social contexts and could not be interpreted or defended sub specie aeternitatis. Hence, it was necessary for the new generations “to invent in a certain way—under the influence of the holy spirit—the new type of relationship and the renewed form of encounter that is concretely imposed.”

7. Privilege, Secularization And Decadence

With the death of Francisco Franco, said the chronicler of the Ricardo de la Cierva regime, “an entire era” ended. Undoubtedly, the process of political change culminated in a kind of “agreed rupture.” However, on the social realm there was a perceptible continuity in many respects. And the Catholic Church was one of the institutions that managed to control, as far as possible, and for its own benefit, the transition. The “passive revolution” advocated by Montini and Tarancón can be said to have triumphed in its general aims. Significantly, while Marcelo González, and not Guerra Campos, officiated the funerals for the soul of Francisco Franco in the Plaza de Oriente, Tarancón, in the Church of Jerónimos Monastery, in a ceremony with a deep medieval aftertaste, lectured, paternally, Juan Carlos I on the characteristics and content that the new political situation should have.

Without the support of an increasingly exhausted regime, the traditionalist sectors were progressively ostracized. Miguel Oltra was “exiled” to Cullera and away from Madrid. Guerra Campos was confined to his headquarters in Cuenca. The Confraternity of Priests continued to exist, but was increasingly marginalized and isolated by the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Fuerza Nueva finally became a political party. After multiple failures, Piñar won a seat in Madrid in the 1979 elections. In March 1978 he presented, at the headquarters of his party, the schismatic bishop Marcel Lefebvre, who had published his book, Yo acuso al Concilio (I Accuse the Council), in Spain; which alienated him from the support of Catholics. These sectors, with great intellectual and political courage, but without any efficacy, opposed the Political Reform Law, the Constitution and secularizing laws, such as, divorce, and later abortion.

Meanwhile, Tarancón and his acolytes continued to apply the Maurrasian maxim of “politique d’abord.” As José Luis López Aranguren pointed out, despite appearances, the Levantine cardinal promoted a “center policy.” Basically, his party was Unión del Centro Democrático (the Union of the Democratic Center, the “Zentrum Católico,” where former Francoists, numerous Acenepistas [members of the National Catholic Association of Propagandists (ACNP); they are also called “propagandists” or “Christian Democrats”], and Tácito militants. Which marginalized not only fundamentalists, traditionalists or the extreme left, but genuine Christian Democrats, such as, Joaquín Ruíz Jiménez and José María Gil Robles.

In the 1978 Constitution, an important mention was made of the Catholic Church and none other (article 16.3). Without being explicitly confessional, it created the conditions for the State to be constitutionally obliged to “cooperate” with the Catholic Church. In addition, freedom of education and the right of children to receive religious and moral training that was in accordance with the convictions and preferences of their parents was guaranteed (27.3). The state was not actually secular, but non-denominational. Later, with the UCD government, came the 1979 agreements, in which religious assistance to the Armed Forces, the military service of clergy and religious, religious education, the financing of the clergy and the Church by the part of the state, and so on. These agreements demonstrated the dependence of the Church on financial aid from the state.

However, what seemed unstoppable was the process of secularization of Spanish society that began in the 1960s. As López Aranguren and Fernández de la Mora, each in their own way, anticipated, and later corroborated by not a few sociologists, religious and moral faith was privatized. However, the necessary secularization of institutions degenerated into what the philosopher Augusto del Noce has called “natural irreligion,” that is, a spiritual attitude characterized by “an absolute relativism, so that all ideas are seen in relation to the psychological and social situation of those who affirm them, and, therefore, valuable only from the utilitarian point of view of the stimulus for life.”

Furthermore, new winds were blowing in the Vatican. Paul VI died on August 6, 1978. And after the ephemeral period of Albino Luciani, John Paul I, an authentic restorative process was launched by the hand of the Polish Karol Wojtyla, John Paul II, a pontiff who had suffered the rigors of communism and so he did not understand, nor did he have to understand, dialogue with the Marxists, nor the ethical, moral and political permissiveness of the previous period. In the new context, Tarancón and his acolytes were upset. According to some sources, the new pontiff, upon receiving the Spanish cardinal who, at the age of seventy-five, presented his previous resignation, accused him of being responsible for the decline of Catholicism in Spain, “while we strive to subdue communism each time weaker.”

However, the advent of Wojtyla did not really mean a reinforcement of Spanish traditionalism. His restoration project had a different character and other intentions. Nevertheless, he promoted the beatification processes of the Catholics killed during the Civil War, something that Paul VI had always rejected. Significantly, when Wojtyla arrived in Spain on his first successful trip, the PSOE had won the 1982 elections by an overwhelming majority, and Miguel Oltra died in Madrid. Shortly after, on the emblematic date of November 20, Fuerza Nueva dissolved itself, after its electoral failure. Isolated and forgotten within the Catholic Church itself, José Guerra Campos, after his dismissal as bishop of Cuenca, settled in Madrid to care for a sick relative. Finally, he died in Barcelona, in an apartment at the María Inmaculada School, belonging to the Spanish Confraternity of Priests, on July 15, 1997.

John Paul II relied on a new generation of conservative bishops, among whom Ángel Suquía and Antonio María Rouco Varela stood out, rectifiers, as far as possible, of the previous situation. However, the secularizing process advanced irreversibly. The seminaries were empty; the number of practicing Catholics plummeted; and political life was established outside the Church. Good proof of this were the abortion and homosexual marriage laws of the government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, approved practically without public debate. In fact, it was something that, in the social imagination, had been taken for granted for a long time. So much so that when the Popular Party governed, under the leadership of Mariano Rajoy, none of those laws was repealed. And it is that in the ideology of the Spanish right, Catholicism or “Christian humanism” no longer appears as the dominant reference, but liberalism.

8. Spain: Land Of Mission

There is no doubt, then, that the situation of Catholicism in Spain is in a profound decline, although it continues to enjoy undoubted socio-economic privileges. Fernando Sebastián, Archbishop Emeritus of Pamplona and Tudela, considers that “in these years of democratic life, the Christian life of the Spanish has weakened… Since the 1970s, Spanish sacramental practice has dropped to less than half. During the last thirty or forty years we have been suffering from a severe vocational crisis that has drastically reduced the number of priests and religious in our churches and institutions, and the dominant trends are inclined towards secularism and moral permissiveness.” He wonders, at the same time, if all this was a consequence of the Second Vatican Council: “We do not know what would have happened with the continuity of the previous situation and without the celebration of the Council. Could Spain have continued for a long time as an island of Tridentine Catholicism in a liberal and secularized Europe? In any case, it is evident that the Catholic Church, “has been reduced to a minority of practicing members, has lost significance and social influence, lives in a rather marginal situation and is sometimes undervalued by opinion and by the public powers.”

Faced with this situation, there has been a tendency to focus on defending the Catholic corporate and institutional interests. However, the struggle between conservatives and progressives within Spanish Catholicism continues. And the conciliar spirit has revived, after the resignation of Josef Ratzinguer. Good proof of this has been the controversy of the exhumation of Francisco Franco’s mortal remains from his tomb in the Basilica of the Valley of the Fallen.

In May 2011, a so-called Committee of Experts for the Future of the Valley of the Fallen was created, chaired by the socialist, Ramón Jáuregui, commissioned by the PSOE for dialogue with progressive Catholic sectors. Among its members, left-wing Catholics, such as, Manuel Reyes Mate, Catalan nationalist priests like the historian Hilari Raguer, and Carlos García de Andoaín, federal coordinator of Christian Socialists. Cardinal Rouco Varela rejected the presence of ecclesiastics on the Commission. On the other hand, the conclusions were as expected: The Valley of the Fallen was the most significant monument of “national-Catholicism.” It had to relocate and resignify itself; and Franco’s corpse had to be taken out of its grave in the Basilica.

The conclusions had no political consequences, as the PSOE lost the 2011 elections. The government of Mariano Rajoy did nothing about it. However, in February 2013 Josef Ratzinguer resigned as Pontiff, and Peter’s chair was occupied by the Argentine Jesuit Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Reyes Mate and other leftist theologians expressed their hope regarding the political significance of the new pontificate. It was “the beginning of a new time.” It has not been the only one. A philosopher like Gianni Vattimo has stated that, with Bergoglio, the Catholic Church today represents the “emancipatory sense of religion,” “the struggle against imperialism and capitalist exploitation,” “a Communist International, today, can only be religious and Christian.”

The arrival to the government of the socialist Pedro Sánchez raised the question again. And, finally, after a series of conversations and pacts between the Spanish government and the Holy See, the mortal remains of Francisco Franco were taken out, on October 24, 2019, from his tomb in the Basilica of the Valley of the Fallen to the cemetery of Mingorrumbio, in El Pardo. Quite a symbolic event. Perhaps this is one of the last episodes of the consequences of the Second Vatican Council in the recent history of Spain.

Like Pontius Pilate, the Catholic Church tried to wash its hands. Of course, he did not succeed. In a display of typically clerical cynicism, Monsignor Luis Argüello, spokesman for the Episcopal Conference, affirmed that “It was one thing not to oppose him and another to say that the Church supports him.” Later, he said it was “time to look forward” and “seal the reconciliation.” Once the exhumation was done, he limited himself to reiterating the Church’s non-involvement in that political decision, although he criticized the content of the homily dedicated to Franco during the ceremony, which he described as hagiographic. This good man surely thinks he is subtle. But he is no more than a Pharisee. Or, what is worse, he underestimates us. He takes us for fools.

Bergoglio’s pontificate is assuming a true intellectual, political and moral regression, that is, a return to the eccentricities of the Second Vatican Council. Good proof of this is the content of the latest encyclical of the current pontiff, Fratelli tutti, whose content is a poorly digested amalgam of progressivism, ecology, political correctness and ecumenism: all seasoned by typical Vatican eclecticism – again, complexio oppositorum. In short, a mediocre, heavy, lumpy text that, except for the brief references to divinity, could have been signed by any member of a Masonic lodge. And it is, to a large extent, that the thought of the current pontiff is inserted in what the theologian Russell Ronald Reno has called “the ideological consensus of the postwar period,” that is to say, “the empire of the weak gods.”

On the other hand, the COVID-19 epidemic has highlighted even more, as the philosopher Giorgio Agamben pointed out, the crisis of Catholicism, by highlighting that European societies no longer believe in anything other than “naked life;” and, furthermore, the absolute hegemony of “the religion of science.” “First of all, the Church, which, becoming the servant of science, already converted into the true religion of our time, has radically abjured its most essential principles. The Church, under a Pope named Francis, has forgotten that Francis embraced lepers. She has forgotten that one of the works of mercy is visiting the sick. She has forgotten that the martyrs teach that one must be willing to sacrifice life before faith, and that renouncing one’s neighbor means renouncing faith.”

With regard to Spain, Bergoglio’s performance has been devastating. He has not bothered to visit our country, not even on the anniversary of Saint Teresa of Jesus. He ruthlessly criticized the discovery and evangelization of America. For years, the Catholic Church has become, especially in Catalonia and the Basque Country, a disruptive force at the service of peripheral nationalisms. Catholic is not synonymous with Spanish, and perhaps it never was, as Gonzalo Fernández de la Mora pointed out, in a specific criticism of Menéndez Pelayo’s thesis. Not long ago, Bergoglio welcomed Pedro Sánchez, a staunch atheist, grave robber, and a radical supporter of euthanasia and abortion. Of course, underneath this reception, there is the entire economic mess of the Spanish Catholic Church: concerted teaching, the IBI, the Cathedral of Córdoba, and so on and so forth. However, negotiating with a pathological liar can be a serious mistake. We will see that with the new education law drawn up by Isabel Celáa. I guess the Church hierarchy will get what it deserves.

Meanwhile, Spanish society, as we have already discussed, is a missional land. And faced with this dramatic situation, the Catholic Church is not capable of offering us more than the blandness of COPE or the mediocrity of TV13, whose main message is western films. Never has Spanish Catholicism been so decadent and socially insignificant. A puppet of a state that maintains it, in exchange for complicity and silence. But only a free Church will be able to exercise her mission in society.


This article was originally published in Razón Española, No. 224, February 2021. This translation appears through the kind courtesy and gracious permission of Gonzalo Fernandez de la Mora and Razón Española.


Pedro Carlos González Cuevas is professor of the history of political ideas and history of Spanish thought at UNED. He has been a fellow at the CSIC and at the Center for Political and Constitutional Studies. He is the author of several works on the history of the right wing and conservatism in Spain.


The featured image shows, “Spain pays homage to Religion and to the Church,” by Corrado Giaquinto, painted ca. 1759.

Christ And The Samaritan Woman At The Well

The relationship of man to woman is not just anything: it is particular. It is a fullness, replete with mystery. And it is something completely different for each man and each woman.

The woman is the haunting of a man: a spiritual dimension that both Dante Alighieri and Don Quixote intuited and recognized as central to their quests for being, as men. What would the immortal Christian pilgrim be without his Beatrice? And what would the famous mad knight be without his Dulcinea? How could even the world-changing phenomenon of Christ have been possible without the participation of a mere girl in the Incarnation? “Woman intervenes in history infinitely more than is generally believed or suspected,” says José Ortega y Gasset. One can see this in noir cinema: the more mysterious the woman, the more compelled the man feels. Perhaps every woman is a potential femme fatale for every man is interested in seeing (really seeing) the reality of the woman as completely different from him, facing him and challenging, him but also intriguing him at the same time. Vive la différence!

But the haunting quality is one way: a man is not a haunting for a woman. Instead, a woman carries the image of the beloved in her heart well before she meets the actual man who may match it in real life. For a woman to feel “aflame with love” after a “casual contact” with a particular man, “a secret and tacit surrender of her being to that model of a man which she has always carried within herself” has to have “preceded” the event of falling in love with him. The man simply fulfils the romantic prophecy somehow instilled in the woman long ago, once she recognizes him. The man is thus always a known quantity that the woman expects and awaits. The mystery for the woman is in the romantic process of discovery of her own feelings, and not so much in the man himself. Hence the mythic scene of mutual recognition in Dostoevsky’s novel The Idiot when Nastasya Filippovna first beholds Prince Myshkin, and he first beholds her: what is revealed is different for each of them. The woman understands something new about herself, while the man dwells on the mystery of the woman.

But something else happens entirely when the man is Christ.

The Samaritan woman meets Christ at the well (John 4: 1-42)–the preordained place for Old Testament betrothals known as “Jacob’s Well” (Isaac with Rebecca, Jacob with Rachel, Moses with Tsiporah). There is thus a romantic expectation surrounding any conversation that takes place here–an understanding that something of life-altering import will occur precisely here, in this place of time-hallowed tradition allowing for sudden matchmaking.

The Samaritan woman is bold, flirtatious, and experienced: there is nothing innocent about her. She has not come to draw water with blushing dreams of a bridegroom, since she has had five husbands, And yet she will meet precisely that: the Bridegroom of all bridegrooms: and He will shake all of her assumptions, challenge all of her brash self-confidence, by meeting her (it would seem) on the only ground she is prepared to understand—the ground of acknowledged sexual maturity, sealed in marriage—a sacrament she has already violated five times.

The Samaritan woman’s arrival at the well where Christ has paused, “wearied with his journey,” must have been provocative. How or why does He say to her, “Give me to drink?” One can imagine a peremptory tone of command—a sexual note of attraction or interest—or an exhausted expression of thirst in the heat of the day, “about the sixth hour” (meaning noon or midday when the sun is at its hottest directly overhead). Perhaps all three at once.

What is fascinating about this dialogue is the length of it, focused as it is for a full twenty verses on just Jesus Christ and an anonymous woman of Samaria. There is no other conversation with a woman as long as this in any of the four Gospels. Dramatically, the exchange is unequalled because it builds on a sexual charge that explicitly includes women in Christ’s ministry to the world. Like the woman taken in adultery (John 8: 1-11), Christ forgives her—for the Samaritan woman too is guilty of adultery (Matthew 19: 9; Mark 10: 2-12; Luke 17: 18)—serial monogamy is still adultery. Of all the sins in specifically female terms of experience, adultery is surely the most common. And even though it takes two to tango, it is the female partner in crime who has always been seen as bearing the full sinful brunt for both. For if Man is fallen, Woman is fallen in a more particular way. The New Testament abounds with references to sinful temptresses who become penitent, from the Magdalene (“healed of seven devils”) to the Mary who anoints Christ’s head and washes His feet with her tears, drying them with her hair (John 12: 1-8). But only the Samaritan woman is given a voice, a personality, in the course of a complete and sustained dialogue.

In fact, the Samaritan woman never gives Christ what He requests: a simple drink of water from the well. This ironic denial is striking. After observing that the stranger accosting her is not following the social conventions, and noticing that he does not have any water jug of his own to fill in the same way as everyone else, she begins to consider the enigma in front of her with a mixture of confusion and curiosity. Who is this strange Jew who ignores that she is from Samaria (when all Jews do not normally consort with Samaritans)? And why does he speak to her in riddles about “living water?”

There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.
(For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat).

This parenthetical proof that Christ is alone by the well confirms the intimacy of the encounter. He is alone with her, a stranger to His own tribe, and He dares to address her. She is not expecting anything like this and yet she appears calm and collected—completely equal to the situation.

Then saith the woman of Samaria unto Him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.

The defensive tone, together with her surprise, suggests that she is ready to cut the conversation short. She does not seem to like His attention.

But if her mysterious interlocutor has succeeded in throwing her off balance just by initiating the conversation, then the woman of Samaria will find herself still more flummoxed by the cryptic way He answers her questions.

Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.

So, He is not thirsty, after all! Now He is turning the tables and saying that He has the best of all water to offer her, but she does not know it. The request for water has only served as a pretext for Him to draw her in—to provoke her as much as she has perhaps felt provoked by Him—to set aside not only the conventions but the situation of the well itself, in order to seduce her into seeing some higher truth. The echo of Moses giving his children manna in the desert and striking a rock to provide water is behind these words: the miraculous God-given water and food from above. The well is still the sign of the seduction scene, but Christ’s emphasis on “the gift of God” elevates them both suddenly from the earthly to the heavenly plane. Listening to Him, the woman of Samaria is increasingly seduced. She lets herself rise up alongside Him, the better to understand the strange words she is hearing. She wants to understand now: what is more, she will address Him three times now as “Sir.”

The woman saith unto Him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?
Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle.

The prompt alacrity of her response shows her to be a woman of quick wit and self-confidence. She is not afraid to confront Him with a reasonable doubt, and she is courteous with Him. Her naming of the well’s creator also attests to her piety, which she seems proud to communicate. Yet the stranger listening to her in turn is steadily unconcerned with tired conventionalities, such as clan loyalties or rote pieties. The way He will steer their conversation next is calculated to deepen the woman’s sense of mystery, and to appeal to the woman’s truer relationship to God. He will keep her hooked on His voice because He knows she is thirsty too, in her own way, for something she has only dimly intimated in the course of her chaotic life.

Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

The Johannine Gospel is especially replete with this water imagery that stands for immortality of the human soul. “He that believeth on me shall never thirst,” Christ tells his disciples—explaining how Moses gave perishable gifts, “but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven,” which He calls “the bread of life” (John 6). And on the last day of the Jews’ feast of tabernacles, Christ again proclaims, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7: 37-38). This “living water” is of the Spirit, or the Holy Ghost, which will be released upon Christ’s crucifixion and glorification after death. This is the Mystery that is in suspension, awaiting fulfilment. “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16: 7). All of this “living water” will come to clarify and heal everything dead and dying from sin in the world, at a certain God-appointed time.

But the woman of Samaria cannot know or understand what Christ’s own disciples will struggle to understand: she can only intuit “the Spirit of Truth,” the Holy Spirit, as a principle of larger and enlivening joy to come. She can only guess that the mysterious stranger means what He says, and that she can perhaps profit from this vague boon that He is promising. The way she carefully extends Him credit, without herself giving anything away, is a prodigy of psychology, so true to human life: intent on salvaging self-respect by clinging to self-interest, she shelters behind a prudence which she hopes is convincing:

The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.

She does not sound convinced: she only sounds polite. But she does not want to foolishly forfeit some benefit that seems to be in the offing, either. She also sounds firm: as if to say, all right—if you really have these goods, let’s see you hand some over—do you have any samples of your wares? She is congratulating herself on her own cleverness: there, she thinks, now I’ve called your bluff. I hadn’t come to buy this here, but I’ll give your water a fair chance, if it even exists.

The response she receives to her attempt to remain cool and self-enclosed is masterful. In one stroke, the stranger touches her one weak spot that betrays all pretense of self-control or self-sufficiency. He mentions a husband as the conventional authority for her to consult in order to condone any such purchasing transaction.

Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.

The woman is thunderstruck by the revelation that so swiftly and simply unmasks her true situation.

The woman answered and said, I have no husband.

She is suddenly aware, overwhelmed with shame, and she wonders how the stranger could have known – for He immediately says to her, with startling clairvoyance and relentless honesty:

Thou hast well said, I have no husband;
For thou hast had five husbands;
And he whom thou now hast is not thy husband; in that saidst thou truly.

Her current adulterous condition, which is not even papered over with any pretense of a sixth marriage, is what cuts her to the quick. How can this stranger have known the secrets of her whole lifetime, right up to the present moment? It is as if she is standing spiritually naked before Him: there is nowhere she can hide, and no lie she can tell anymore, either to Him or to herself. She is devastated. All she can utter is a last weak attempt at saving her self-esteem, through a jesting sort of observation that underlines the uncanniness of everything she is feeling.

The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.

And then, regaining more composure by seeking some refuge in conventionality again:

Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.

By saying this, she is trying to demonstrate that she knows what the religious rules are, and that men are bound by more serious obligations that she, a weak and sinful woman, cannot be expected to observe or count for as much, seriously.

But the stranger still listening to her, watching her, and speaking to her with the utmost seriousness—He is not condemning her. He still wants to win her respect, her trust—ultimately, her love—because the only love that will save her is the love she can begin to genuinely feel for God. So, He continues to talk to her frankly, as freely and frankly as He knows she can stand, with rigor but also with tact. He sees the potential in her to change, to melt for the better, to make something honorable and true yet out of the emotional waste of her life. He resolutely keeps her whole tremulous being in view, leading her step by step to comprehend the majesty that is within her to overcome all the shame and the brokenness that she has been feeling before. But she had to be reduced to this vulnerability, for Him to be able to reach her at all, to guide her in this way; otherwise she might never have heard, never have realized, where this conversation with Him was supposed to be leading her.

Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.

By this He asks her to see that righteousness and redemption and worship are more independent of place and tradition than she might think: for God is a living God, not bound to the dead letter but invoked by tongues of living fire. “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you”—this is the first great step for the woman to take, into the silence and solitude of her soul before the presence of God. Then He chastises her ignorance, gently:

Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.

God made a covenant with His chosen people in the Old Testament, and it is from these roots that the new divine dispensation will be ordered and proceed. Historic time, God’s sense of history, began with the Jews. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—Jacob’s well—all the long line of patriarchs and all their seed, who met and married at this very well—they are all silent witnesses of this very moment of their conversation, a historic and life-changing conversation for the woman listening to Him.

But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.

Now the possibility of salvation is more clearly explained: just as a change is required within this woman, to die to her old ways and to embrace something new and true, so is the path to God to be cleared away and reordered in a radically new way. Nothing can stay the way it was. God is waiting, just as much as this woman is waiting; there is a suspense, a desire, for a mutual unveiling and disclosure. But the humble creature must make the first move towards the Creator, in a way so new that it could never be written down and made into the dead letter of any law. This is a movement of love, of surrender, of vulnerability on top of vulnerability, a humility that dares not raise its eyes in the presence of God, after so many offenses and disappointments and wastage of precious time—how can the soul hope for anything? And yet it must hope against hope—take the leap of love and faith, or die – abandon itself to the Father, “in spirit and in truth,” because there is no other saving place for the suffering soul left to stand.

God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.

This last emphasis on the Spirit—the Holy Spirit—is that last precious space to which the woman of Samaria knows she can retreat. Not even the Father anymore, nor even the Son speaking directly to her now—but the Spirit which is thoroughly in both, and beyond both. The woman accepts what the stranger is telling her because she wants to explain her own understanding of what ultimately matters, in what is perhaps her first and fully honest response to Him:

The woman saith unto Him, I know that the Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when He is come, He will tell us all things.

And then, with a disarming directness that she was not until that very last moment prepared to believe, the stranger reveals Himself:

Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.

“I am he” (ani hu) is a phrase of unique power: a kind of uncloaking of divinity which brings everything dramatically to a stop. One recognizes these same words “I am he” pronounced by Christ as He is being arrested, with the immediate effect of overwhelming those who would seek to arrest Him: “As soon therefore as he said to them: I am he, they went backward and fell to the ground” (John 18. 5-6). One can surmise a similar effect is transpiring now for the woman as the Christ reveals Himself suddenly to her.

There is no gap in the narrative here, but there must surely have passed an interval for the woman of Samaria as she beholds the face of Christ—a wordless interval, a piece of eternity—a confirmation of the impossible telescoping of the infinite into the finite and back again—glimpsed and then transforming the woman forever after that glimpse.

And upon this came His disciples, and marveled that He talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? Or, Why talkest thou with her?

As with other souls touched and changed in Christ’s wake, the disciples watch the woman of Samaria move and speak in the company of their master in an entirely new way.

The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,
Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?
Then they went out of the city, and came unto Him.

“Come and see”—more words of power, the first words Christ speaks to the disciples—a phrase that the woman of Samaria adopts now as her own, marks her as a changed woman imbued with a new confidence and joy. Something she never dreamed as being possible before has now suddenly come to pass, and she must now tell the world all about it.


Maia Stepenberg is a Professor of Humanities at Dawson College in Montreal. She is the author of Against Nihilism: Nietzsche Meets Dostoevsky and numerous research articles on Russian and Ukrainian literature. She is currently working on a comparative study of Don Quixote and La Divina Commedia. She lives with her husband and three children in Canada and Argentina.


The featured image shows, “Christus und die Samariterin am Brunnen” (Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Well”), by Lorenzo Lippi, painted in 1644.

Cathoscope 2021

The craving for foreseeing future events is a temptation as old as humankind and can be regarded as the continuation of the sin of Adam and Eve trying to equal man to God. In modern times, everything is readily available, cheap and easy, and forecasting the future through a horoscope for some people is a daily exercise. However, at the beginning of every year, fortune tellers and astrologists are so pervasive in the media that you can hardly escape charlatans telling you what the new year will look like for health, money and love.

It is some centuries now that the Church has officially condemned astrology, the horoscope and future divination in general as contrary to genuine Catholic teaching. Nevertheless, it is connatural with the gift of prophecy we receive in the Baptism for reading and interpreting the signs of the present age to surely and safely take our way through future events.

By reading recent and present events in the light of our faith, we can outline the Cathoscope for the year 2021, that is, the Catholic horoscope. We are believers and we know that our fate does not belong to the hectic movement of gipsy planets and stars, so it does not make any difference as to the date, month and year in which you were born; the Cathoscope is good for all individuals alike, since our ephemeris (God, Christ, the angels, the Virgin and the saints) are forever fixed and immutable.

Let us see what we can expect in the year 2021.

Health And Wellness

In 2021, the Covid pandemic will still preside over our lives; so, take care of your health. Be cautious; respect confinement and general hygienic prescription – but above all, do not forget to pray for your health and for your dear ones.

During plagues and epidemics in the past centuries, Christianity has always called upon the strong advocacy of Saint Michael, our Lady of Sorrows, Saint Sebastian and Saint Roch. And do not forget to worry about your eternal health, more and more important in time when death is knocking on every other door. It is not by chance that the Latin word for salvation, Salus, means either earthly health and eternal deliverance – taking care of both is the winning choice.

Love And Relationship

This is the very year when you have the possibility to make your own choice in matters of the heart and love. At the outburst of the pandemic last March, Italy was fully packed with handmade many-colored signs hanging from every single window in the country: We will do it: we love our heroes, nurses and doctors. Do not be afraid. Everything is going to be all right. Even ads on TV displayed compassionate and loving communications of mutual support and brotherly love. Everybody conceded, from the Pope to the Italian Premier, from artists to my neighbour, that anything will be the same after Covid – and this thing has changed our lives for the better and forever.

One year later the picture is depressing and disheartening at the very best. We got used to the pandemic and to the daily death toll and we went back to our usual quarrelsome lifestyle. All the colours of those signs have faded away, and ads on TV have reverted to showing how to make easy and quick money through stocks. Compassion, support and shared affection cannot be found any longer anywhere.

We do not need Venus entering Scorpio to revive love and compassion – just look up at our older brothers and sisters, who exercised and taught love and mercy their entire lives: Saint Teresa of Calcutta, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Saint Vincent de Paul, and legions of others. Let us start modelling our lives after their teachings under the shelter of our Lady of Mercy.

Career And Money

Unless you are among the lucky 1% possessing 40% of western wealth, the coming year is going to be very tough on the business side. Pandemic pending, the unemployment rate will continue to grow, ushering a vast portion of the middle class into poverty.

When hopefully Covid is defeated, the economy will certainly rally back, providing relief to the exhausted western working class, and at the same time putting billions of billions in the coffers of the new superpowers of third millennium (the lucky 1%, as you know them). When you feel Saturn is particularly unfair opposing your natal point, think of your children and grandchildren, who will pay the whopping price tag of the gigantic subsidiary programs most countries have put in place.

Greed is our nemesis star, not Saturn. Think of Saint Martin of Tours who tore his cloak into two halves to provide a little comfort to himself and to the poor. Remember the words of St. John Paul II after the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of the Cold War: communism was defeated but capitalism is not the response to an equal and just distribution of the wealth in our world. May Saint Joseph the Carpenter and his Holy Assistant inculcate into us the way of honest economy and shared wealth.

Considering the vast interest that escalated after Pope Francis encyclical, Laudato si’, we feel it is necessary to add a new column dedicated to:

The Environment

Mixed expectations in year 2021 on the environment front. Despite rampant Thunbergism, the fight against the pandemic has called and will call for a lot of extra pollution (face mask, disposable personal protection gears, etc.) and even the massive vaccine production and distribution will have an environmental cost.

On the other hand, Covid 19 will continue to reduce human mobility, and this is a great news for the environment, because it is without question that tourism and travel are among the greatest polluting human activities. Bad news for airways and those countries who heavily rely on tourism (Italy included) – but maybe it is the right time to ponder the abused adjective sustainable, which the predominant mainstreamers understand as exclusive.

I can hardly believe that crossing the Atlantic on board a multimillion carbon-fiber, hypertech, solar-powered sailing boat can be regarded as the future of sustainable tourism. Unless we want to go back to the good old days when English aristocracy solely toured across Europe for diversion -and thus invented tourism. As the only remedy against noxious elite environmentalism (the notorious 1%) – we claim the intercession of Saint Francis and urge everyone to spread his message, the whole message, glorifying God, man and nature. In that order.

And as a final footnote to our Year 2021 Cathoscope, we send a special greeting to all the children that will be born in this new year: whatever is the belief or disbelief of your parents, you are heartly welcome into this world – we badly need you. And a prayer for those conceived but not born in the current year, your aid from heaven is even more precious and more needed.

Maurizio Mandelli is a businessman by trade and enthusiastic amateur scholar of local history and the arts. He has published two books (War of the Spanish Succession in Lombardy and The Italian Campaign of Napoleon III). He is a regular contributor to local magazines on religion, ethics, society, history and the arts.

The featured image shows, “Mary Help of Christians,” located in the Basilica of Our Lady Help of Christians, Turin, Italy, painted by Tommaso Andrea Lorenzone, ca. 1867.

Douai And The English Counter-Reformation

In the year of Our Lord 1558, the last Catholic queen of England, Mary Tudor, died. Her successor, Elizabeth I, upon taking the throne, implemented the well-organized and devised scheme of re-establishing English Protestantism. After the death of Edward VI in 1553, Sir William Cecil, at the head of the active Protestant party, organized the future executive committee for the restoration of Protestantism in England.

To all appearances, a pious Catholic and in self-imposed retirement in Wimbledon, Cecil set up the body of “Sustainers,” persons of wealth and influence who acted as a committee of ways and means. Through their work, performed while in exile on the continent, the scheme to train students for the future Protestant clergy of England came about.

When Elizabeth became queen, this same executive committee under Cecil effectively took the reins of power in England. Through the infamous Act of Supremacy – which act declared that “no foreign… prelate… shall exercise any… jurisdiction… spiritual or ecclesiastical within this realm… but the same shall be clearly abolished out of this realm… forever” – thus making Elizabeth the Head of the Church in England – and the Act of Uniformity, which abolished the Catholic Mass and restored the Edwardian Prayer Book of 1552 – the religious revolution in England had again returned.

In this article, we will examine the reaction of the Catholics of England, which included their attempts at effecting a Catholic restoration of their country. More specifically, we will examine these attempts through the work of one man – William Allen – and the realization of his dream to establish an English College on the Continent. This dream materialized in the territory of Spanish Flanders, in a town called Douai (or, rarely, Doway) by English speakers. Douai is located South and East of the city of Lille, which is located at the very northern tip of France.

The Catholic historian, Philip Hughes, writes: “It was through the practical genius of William Allen, that the greatest achievement of early Elizabethan Catholicism came, the founding of the college at Douai. For here, under God, was the principal means of preserving the Catholic Church in England for the next two hundred years. Superlatives come very easily, even to practiced observers of human endeavor as history records it, but it is scarcely possible to exaggerate what the Catholic Church owes to the work of this Lancashire priest. The day of Douai’s foundation should be indelibly marked in the calendar of every English Catholic.”

Some Background

In the years of Elizabeth’s reign there arose a great opposition, on the part of Catholics, to the execution of the new laws regarding the religion of the realm. This was surprising, for during Henry VIII’s time, the whole body of clergy went over to his schism, and during the reign of Edward VI, the new liturgy was generally accepted.

But in 1559, every bishop, save one, stood firm against the royal impositions, and by the end of that year, every one of them had been deprived of their sees and placed in custody. Everywhere, too, the higher clergy stood firm: the cathedral dignitaries, the heads of colleges, and the professors in the universities. The religious orders were no less loyal. Along with the bishops, seven deans of cathedral chapters were deprived, as well as ten archdeacons, seven chancellors, twenty-five heads of colleges (nineteen at Oxford, six at Cambridge) and, at Oxford, thirty-seven fellows of colleges.

However, the parochial clergy were less attached to the Catholic Faith. Conservative estimates say that of the approximately eight thousand priests in England at the time, only a quarter to a third of them resisted the taking of the new oath. This is a sad commentary due to the fact that the penalty for not going over to the new worship was only deprivation, not the death sentence as in Henry’s time.

Also necessary as background to this story is a short discussion of the means by which the Protestant imposition was implemented and by whom it was accomplished. It is fundamental to any understanding of the Catholic reaction to realize that the religious revolution was simply the victory of a seditious minority, or a clique, which by skillful trickery had possessed itself of the confidence of the sovereign and the machinery of government.

Father William Allen would later write the treatise True, Sincere and Modest Defense of English Catholics, wherein he would state: “We set forth the truth of all these actions for the honour of our nation, which otherwise, to her infinite shame and reproach, would be thought wholly generally to have revolted from the Catholic Faith.” However, the truth is that the disorder proceeded only from “the partiality of a few powerful persons abusing Her Majesty’s clemency and credulity…” and “the whole state (excepting the authority of the Prince) may yet be rather counted Catholic than heretical.”

In fact, a shrewd and calculating politician of the time, William Paget, one not to be counted as a biased observer in favor of the Catholic side, noted that only one-twelfth of the nation was in favor of the new religion!

What was the effect of this imposition by a few, then, on the Catholic majority of people in the country? Many historians tell us that this latest “change of service” was no great novelty for them, since the English had become accustomed to these liturgical variations made by the State over the past thirty years, by both illegitimate and legitimate authority. The testimonies of Catholics at this time state that the greater part of them went to these new services.

The penalty in 1559 for staying away from the Protestant services was a fine equal to two days’ wages for a laborer, with the penalty increasing to such an extent that, by 1580, the fine, if paid, would have reduced a wealthy man to poverty. Father Allen suggested that it was all but inevitable that many should have fallen. He said that fidelity was “a most difficult thing to obtain in that country because of the iniquitous laws and the punishment of imprisonment, as well as other penalties, which it entails.” He counseled that their more fortunate brethren should deal leniently with those who fell.

Pope Clement VIII, in later years, would echo Father Allen’s counsel when he reaffirmed the unlawfulness of assisting at Protestant services. Led by the Marian priests (priests formed during the reign of Mary Tudor), the people began to wake up to the fact that it was wrong to attend such services. Then the fight against “Church Going,” came as the first sign of a reaction to the novelties of Anglican worship. In general, Catholics thought that this Queen, who was a frail sort, would soon die, or that she would marry a Catholic, since no Protestant prince existed as her peer.

Due to the highly organized and well-financed minority that now controlled the machinery of government, the great body of Catholics, whatever the degree of their loyalty to the old Faith, was wholly at the mercy of the enemy. The Catholic leaders were removed, and the majority of English Catholics, as a body, was destroyed as an organization. And while English Catholics hoped that some foreign prince like Philip of Spain would come to their rescue, they did not know at the time that Philip himself had counseled a patient toleration of the English persecution! Not only had he counseled it, but also he imposed his policy on the pope and Philip stood between any appeals for violent action the Catholics made to the pope and any favorable hearing of those appeals.

However, while the thought existed that English Catholics simply hoped and did not act, this simply was not the case, for the English Catholic was far from being an idle spectator of his own tragic fate. In every diocese, even in London, there was the activity of priests who remained true to the Faith.

There was also a large literary venture launched from abroad, on the part of English Catholics who had fled overseas to Antwerp and Louvain. For example, in the years between 1564 and 1567, there were no fewer than eighteen Catholic writers who published books of devotion, religious instruction, and religious controversy. Over twenty thousand copies of these scholarly works were smuggled into England and sold there despite the government’s police measures. Nicholas Sander, one of the great Catholic resistance leaders of the time, commented: “A new zeal for Catholic truth made the Catholics dare everything in order to learn about their Faith and to defend it.”

Along with these genuinely religious refugees that ended up in Spanish Flanders and France, a very high proportion were priests. They made their way abroad with difficulty, at their own expense, and most of them lived in utter destitution once they arrived.

It is to the story of the endeavors of one of these exiled priests that we will now turn.

William Allen And His Dream

Lancashire was a very Catholic county in England, and it remained the most Catholic of all the counties through the several-hundred-year persecution of the Church in England. In fact, a speaker in the House of Commons in 1641 made the statement that in Lancashire and Yorkshire there were more Papists than in all the other counties put together!

William Allen was from Lancashire. He was born there in 1532 and, at the age of 15 he went to Catholic Oxford to receive his secondary education. In 1550 he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and was made a fellow of Oriel College. Four years later, he received his Master of Arts and was chosen as Principal of St. Mary’s Hall. When Elizabeth became queen, Allen, being the staunch Catholic that he was, resigned all of his positions, left the country, and took up residence at the University of Louvain.

A year later we find him back in England evangelizing his native countrymen, though he was not yet a priest. He recalled later how his arguments and instructions on the authority of the Church and the Apostolic See brought about, in a very short time, a vast number abstaining altogether from communion, churches, sermons, books, and all spiritual communication of any sort with the heretics. These next three years of his life had a profound effect on his future course. He found everywhere he went that the people were not Protestant by choice but by force of circumstances; the majority were only too ready to return to Catholicity.

As such, he was convinced that the Protestant wave over the country could only be temporary, and that the whole future of English Catholicism depended on a supply of trained clergy and controversialists ready to come into the country whenever Catholicity should be restored. He later spoke to a friend of the needs of England as regards the Faith.

That friend we will get to soon enough. For now, we paraphrase Allen’s thoughts in that letter as follows: In the course of time death would carry off the existing clergy, and what would be the plight of the Faith if, when the expected restoration came, there were no English priests? Even though Elizabeth died and a Catholic succeeded, heresy would triumph if there were not Catholic preachers, writers, and priests to seize the opportunity. It would be an excellent thing to have always-ready men of learning outside the realm, to restore religion when the proper moment should have arrived.

A college would serve to gather all that Catholic talent which, homeless and without means of living now for eight years and more, was slowly decaying in half a dozen cities of the Low Countries. The students could finish their education; the priests could perfect their studies. Priests could be formed; books could be written. The English Church would possess once more an essential instrument of her continuance: a shelter for her intelligence, a hearth whence her Faith might continue to be fed.

In 1567, William Allen made a pilgrimage to Rome, and on his return trip he met, on the way, one John Vendeville, a professor of Civil Law at the new University of Douai. (Vendeville was the friend to whom the above-mentioned letter was sent.) The meeting was no accident in God’s Providence, for it put together the two ingredients needed for such a project to be realized – the will for it to happen and the means.

John Vendeville, eventually named Bishop of Tournai, was at this time a very successful young lawyer who had influence with King Philip II himself. Vendeville was one of the most celebrated teachers of law his generation knew. At the young age of twenty-nine, he was already professor of civil law at Louvain, and had been recommended for a seat on the ruling Council of the Low Countries for Charles V.

John Vendeville was instrumental in the beginnings of the University of Douai, which university was founded by Pope Paul IV in 1562 under the patronage of King Philip of Spain. In 1558 Vendeville had urged upon the ruling Council of the Low Countries that colleges and seminaries were the best weapons with which to fight heresy, and it was from this standpoint that he had pressed upon the King the foundation of a university which could be for the French-speaking provinces what Louvain was for the Flemings and the Dutch. Thus, a new university was established at Douai in 1562, and Vendeville took the chair of Civil Law.

The Birth Of The English College At The University Of Douai

The newly founded University of Douai became the home of the crème de la crème of the faculty of Catholic Oxford and Cambridge. Five of the early University’s professors were from Oxford. There was great desolation, an almost total academic destruction at the Catholic universities of Oxford and Cambridge, which followed upon the Elizabethan legislation of 1559.

I will mention some of them briefly. Richard Smyth was given the highest chair, that of Theology. It was he who advocated that the first generation of professors of this new undertaking should be men of mark. After all, wasn’t it precisely and principally the idea to produce good theological thinking upon which this new university was founded?

Owen Lewis was given the chair of canon law. To William Allen, in 1567, were given the practical posts of the chair of catechetics and of controverted doctrine. Thomas Stapleton, the most celebrated doctor of them all, would follow Allen in these positions.

In essence then, the University of Douai, while founded upon the model of the University of Louvain, from which the majority of its first professors came, became the continuation of Catholic Oxford with the addition of these learned Catholics. As such, the University began to attract the English exiles living in the Low Countries.

Now, the next step in the realization of Father Allen’s plans began to take shape: that plan, of course, being the establishment of an English college which would be attached to the University of Douai, and which would be used to supply the English Church with good Catholic priests.

John Vendeville set about finding patrons, in the material sense, for this new project. They would be needed to provide the money to buy a house and keep the community in food for the first few years. While providing much from his own holdings, Vendeville was able to enlist the sympathy of three Benedictine prelates, the Abbots of St. Vaast in Arras, of Anchin, and of Marchiennes – all local abbeys.

The three contributed generously. Allen was able to afford the purchase of two large houses and the gardens attached to them. And so, on Michaelmas Day, September 29, 1568, the English College opened with four English students – Richard Bristowe (who would become Allen’s right-hand man), John Marshall, Edward Risden, and John White, all from Oxford.

Four years later, in 1572, the first priests would be ordained. In 1574 there were six, ten in 1575, eleven in 1576, and by the end of 1578, after ten years of work, the college had produced seventy-seven new priests who were returning to England to work there against the express wishes of Elizabeth and the ruling clique of that country. As Father Allen had first planned to generate priests for the English and have them in waiting for the Catholic Restoration of England, the situation changed in 1574 when it was decided to send them to England to help with the good work of the underground priests then living there. This “new venture” was to become the main purpose of the college. By 1580, there were a hundred Douai priests at work in England. By 1603, 450 priests had been sent from the English College.

As the English College was part of the bustling university world at Douai, and the college leaders were important personages there, many of the students were also pupils of the University.

Douai became the chief center of English Catholic life, and its secondary activities were little less important than the main purpose of training priests. Among these secondary activities was the education of laymen who came to Douai to study the humanities and philosophy, and to take their degrees in arts. They desired to receive a Catholic education, but despaired of receiving such from Oxford and Cambridge, where “no art, holy or profane, was thoroughly studied and some not touched at all.” Protestants doubting their new faith came as well, as did Catholics who had apostatized. Such were duly catechized and reconciled to the Church. Over five hundred of these conversions occurred in the first ten years.

Visitors came out of curiosity, interested to see what became of those who had left England years before. Also, the college served a very practical purpose in providing temporary homes for the priests who, without leaders, without help or encouragement of any kind – from any source save their personal friends – had fought the good fight in England since their deprivation. These came to Douai to find the peace of normal Catholic life which they thought they had lost forever, and they also found there a means to replenish and refurbish their theological armament.

The Spirit And Formation Of The Douai Priests

Douai College flourished, and its rule was the will of its president, Father Allen. The secret and history of its first years is discovered in the character of William Allen and the love and veneration he inspired in all. Details of the system whereby the English College trained the missionary priests are found in the letters and thought of Father Allen.

But first let it be mentioned that the new missionary seminary had a strong adherence to university ideals and that there was a real reverence for learning with much etiquette practiced in its attainment. Within the first ten years of the college, there were twenty-two students who proceeded to degrees in theology at the University, and it was only for the lack of money that other promotions were hindered.

For the spirit of the formation of these future missionaries, Allen strove to supply a competent working clergy. He wrote: “Our students, intended for the English harvest, are not required to excel or be great proficients in theological science… but they must abound in zeal for God’s house, charity and thirst for souls.” However, they were not to shirk those things of theological science. He described what kind of knowledge his priests must possess. Deep knowledge is not any hindrance to a priest’s usefulness: “…the more knowledge they possess concerning the Scriptures and controversial divinity, and the greater the prudence and discretion they couple with this knowledge, so much the more abundant will be their success.” If only the missionaries “have burning zeal, even though deep science be wanting, provided always that they know the necessary heads of religious doctrine and the power and nature of the sacraments, such men, among the more skilled laborers whom we have in nearly all the provinces of the kingdom, also do good work in hearing confessions and offering sacrifice.”

To hear confessions and to say Mass – it was to these points that the training was especially directed, and the first and most fundamental part of the training. “Our first and foremost study” was to brace the aspirant “to a zealous and just indignation against the heretics” by placing all his college life in the setting of the liturgical offices of the Church, carried out in the best manner possible, as the best of all means to awaken their minds to the ruin and desolation of their native land. And while encouraged to this hatred of the forces which had wrought such destruction, the student was reminded that the source of all ills is man’s sin, and that all men are sinners, and he was bidden to dedicate himself to the work before him in a spirit of contrition and reparation for all his own sins. To make amends for the routine confessions of past years, “there is now a special devotion to the sacrament of Penance and, a most important detail of the spiritual formation of the missionaries, they make “the spiritual exercises under the fathers of the Society [of Jesus]. The student must never lose sight of the land he has left, of the evils there wrought, of the sufferings of his kinsfolk and friends at the hands of “the impious persecutors.” This will brace him to sacrifice himself utterly for his calling: “they are happy to whom it is given to suffer something for their country, kinsfolk, religion, and Christ… There is nothing, then, which we ought not too readily to suffer rather than see the evils of our nation.”

As to the course of studies, Father Allen first speaks of Sacred Scripture. It was of the utmost importance that the missionary priest should be thoroughly familiar with the whole of it and “have at his fingers’ ends” the passages in dispute between Catholics and the Reformers. Hence there was a daily lecture in the New Testament; a running explanation daily of a chapter of the Old Testament in the refectory after dinner and of the New Testament after supper; and a dictation of all the controverted passages with notes of the arguments for the Catholic interpretation and answers to the Protestant case.

Every week there was a disputation, students being trained not only to put the Catholic case but to understand the Protestant side by themselves defending it, as well as by putting the Protestant objections; and twice a week a student made a kind of scriptural sermon on one or other of the controverted points. “The holy bible is always read at dinner and supper, while all listen attentively… four or at least three chapters at a time,” and every one read over daily, in his room, the passages read in the refectory and those expounded. “Those who are able to do so read them in the original. In this way the old Testament is gone through twelve times every three years or thereabouts… the new Testament is read through sixteen times in the same period; and this is a great help towards acquiring a more than common familiarity with the text.”

The rest of the students [those not able to read the Scriptures in the original], “are not required to excel or to be great proficients,” but are “successively taught Greek and Hebrew, so far as is required to read and understand the Scriptures of both Testaments in the original, and to save them from being entangled in the sophisms which heretics extract from the properties and meanings of words.”

The Douay Bible

From this devotion on the part of the Douai priests to the Holy Scriptures, we can see the greatness of the achievement on the part of the English college in the translation of the whole Bible into English. This project began in 1578, the same year as the removal of the college to Rheims. In those years in France and the Low Countries, continual religious wars were raging between the Catholics and the Calvinists.

William Cecil was financing much of the anti-Catholic side with the express purpose of destroying anything and everything Catholic in that part of Europe. Certainly, he thirsted for, and sought, the destruction of the English College and there is much information available that testifies to his many efforts at accomplishing just such an end. Rheims, in 1578, was under the control of the Catholic League of France and was a safe haven for the English during the next twenty years or so. Rheims lies 130 miles directly south of Douai. One man, Father Gregory Martin, accomplished the translation during the next four years. In fact, he gave the last four years of his life to this work!

This priest, Gregory Martin, was another Oxford man. While at Oxford University, one of Gregory Martin’s closest friends was Saint Edmund Campion. It was through the efforts of Gregory Martin that Edmund Campion came back to the Faith – which he did at Douai – and ultimately became a priest. Saint Edmund stayed at Douai for his theological course and its lesser degree, later entering the Jesuits. Martin was a brilliant scholar and linguist; proficient in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.

According to the famous Douai Diaries, Father Martin, under the supervision of Father Allen, began the translation in October 1578, and completed it in March 1582. He adhered very closely to the Latin Vulgate with some careful comparison with the Greek. In this project, Father Martin “transliterated” rather than translated many technical words, words that are now very familiar to us: “evacuated,” “gratis,” “holocaust,” “victims,” and “evangelize.” This was due to the fact that no literal translation into English was available from the Latin and Greek.

After Father Martin finished with some portion of the text, then to Fathers Allen, Richard Bristowe, Thomas Worthington, and John Reynolds would go the task of revising the text and preparing suitable notes to the passages most used by the Protestants.

The reason given by Father Allen for the project of vernacularizing the Bible was that of alleviating the handicap to Catholics, where the priest did not “commonly have at hand a quote from Scripture save in the Latin,” when dealing with the heretics. “Unless there is some English version of the words,” and he remembers it, the preacher must, there and then, translate “on the spur of the moment,” and this, unfortunately, “they often [did] inaccurately and with unpleasant hesitation.” “This evil might be remedied if we too had some Catholic version of the bible, for all the English versions are most corrupt.” And he states very momentously, “we, on our part, if his Holiness shall think proper, will undertake to produce a faithful, pure, and genuine version of the bible, in accordance with the edition approved by the Church… Perhaps indeed it would have been more desirable that the Scriptures had never been translated into barbarous tongues; nevertheless at the present day… it is better that there should be a faithful and Catholic translation than that men should use a corrupt version to their peril and destruction.”

Douai Priestly Training

The students at Douai were taught to preach by weekly exercises on the Sunday epistles and gospels, and they were taught to preach them in English. “We preach in English in order to acquire greater power and grace in the use of the vulgar tongue, a thing on which the heretics [pride] themselves exceedingly, and by which they do great injury to the simple folk. In this respect, the heretics, however ignorant they may be in other points, have the advantage over many of the more learned Catholics.” Father Allen was well aware of the weaknesses in the Catholic action of his time, and he was willing enough to learn where the enemy’s superiority could teach him.

There were two lectures daily on the Summa of Saint Thomas Aquinas. “For we teach scholastic theology (without which no one can be solidly learned or an acute disputant) chiefly from Saint Thomas, though sometimes also from the Master of the Sentences [Peter Lombard]. Once a week there is a disputation on five specially chosen articles of the Summa.”

There were two classes weekly in moral theology with the Manual of Azpilcueta, serving as a text. Cases of conscience had a place of their own in the timetable, and those cases sent in from England and those of more frequent occurrence were written up in a book and the student kept a copy for future guidance. As a kind of preparation to these studies, the students “were most carefully instructed in the whole catechism.” Particularly stressed were those sections on ecclesiastical censures and the “marvelous power and authority of the Sovereign Pontiff.” It was “the exceeding neglect and contempt with which this was treated by pastors and people alike, that God has punished [England] with the present miserable desolation.”

A list of books was recommended for private reading by the students as well. This included, the dogmatic decrees of the recent Council of Trent; the decrees of the English provincial synods (William Lyndwood’s Provinciale ); “the whole of church history, especially that of Venerable Bede, in order that they may be able to show our countrymen from it that our nation did not receive in the beginning any other than the Catholic Faith which we profess, and was converted to no other form of Christianity except that we preach to them, and that their forefathers bore the name of Christians and were such only as members of this Catholic Christendom;” St. Augustine against the heretics of his time, especially on the unity of the Church, such as his letters to certain Donatists (the De utilitate credendi , and the De cathechizandis rudibus); St. Cyprian’s De unitate ecclesiae; Vincent of Lerins; St. Jerome’s Against Vigilantius and Against Jovinian; Thomas of Walden for his refutation of Wyclif, “the father of all modern heretics.”

For their spiritual life, all said the Divine Office and everyone used “the Blessed Virgin’s rosary with the meditations attached.” Mass was heard together each morning at five, and, before Mass the Litany of the Saints was said for the Church and for the conversion of England. Every Sunday and on the greater feasts they received Holy Communion.

In those times, the reception of Holy Communion was a rare event, even though the ancient practice of daily Communion was endorsed by the Catechism of the Council of Trent. Those who were priests said Mass every day. The feasts of Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Augustine the apostle of England, and Saint Thomas of Canterbury were kept with special solemnity. Days of solemn intercession were kept for the conversion of “our country,” and for this same intention the college fasted twice each week.

Fruits Of The Labors At Douai

As mentioned earlier, by the end of the 1500s, the English College at Douai had produced over 450 priests for the harvest in England. Of that number, about a hundred would suffer martyrdom at the hands of the heretics in England, and another hundred priests would be banished from that country. By the end of the persecution of English Catholics, Douai had given to the Church more than one hundred and sixty martyrs.

Father Allen became William Cardinal Allen, and, after he died in 1594, the English College underwent much turmoil. This was only natural since the will of Allen had been the rule of the college. But English College survived and it continued to supply the Catholics of England with the priests necessary to keep the Faith under tremendous difficulties.

In fact, the English College continued on for the next two hundred years, up to the time of the French Revolution, during which event the revolutionaries expelled the collegians from France and forced them to move into England, where the Penal Laws had recently been repealed. There the “Douains” founded two colleges to continue the work of Douai: Crook Hall, afterwards Ushaw in the north of England, and St. Edmund’s Old Hall in the south.

Before Father Allen’s death, he was able to write of the glorious martyrdoms suffered by his students at the hands of the impious English heretics. They were for him a very special fruit of his labors at Douai.

In preparing his book on the martyrdoms of the Douai priests, Father Allen stated in a letter to a fellow priest: “About our brothers and yours, who have lately been murdered, I have already written to you; and deeply grieved though I am, I am now constrained to compose the history of their deaths and of the others. It must be written in English first, for our people desire this very much and send me information for it. Afterwards we shall perhaps also publish it in Latin. You will see in it a constancy quite equal to that of the ancient martyrs. Their fortitude has marvelously moved and changed all hearts. Men of good will and moderation are repentant, the wicked and the enemies are amazed. Loud, indeed, is the cry of sacred blood so copiously shed. Ten thousand sermons would not have published our apostolic Faith and religion so winningly as the fragrance of these victims, most sweet both to God and to men. The other prisoners have become more courageous, our men are more ready, and the harvest increases. With labor and constancy, and God as our leader, we shall conquer. The enemy rages more than ever, for they are desperate.”

Some Glorious Sons Of Douai

This article will end with some of the final words of the glorious martyrs of Douai, words spoken just before they were martyred in a most cruel manner by the enemies of our holy Faith.

In Father Allen’s histories, he describes how the murder scene typically unfolded. Upon arrival at the place of execution, a proclamation for keeping the peace was read. The martyrs were not immediately let free from the hurdle (a frame or sled used to drag the prisoner to the place of execution), but while the first was hanging, the second was brought up and made to turn backward and look at the first, while he was being quartered. Occasionally, they were allowed to kneel and pray.

Standing in the cart, and having the rope round their necks, they generally began their last prayers with the Sign of the Cross and the Pater, Ave, and Credo in Latin. Sooner or later, they would be called upon to pray in English or with the Protestants. The latter was uniformly refused. At this point they were subjected to what was known as the “bloody question,” namely, what did they think of the excommunication of the Queen by Pope Pius V? An opinion on this matter was not why the martyrs were there in the first place, but the answers inevitably given by the accused would only serve to excite the fanatics in attendance who came to gloat over the slaughter of the priests. Thus the execution could take place without much attention being given to the palpable injustice of the charges actually alleged against them.

The last words of some of these martyrs follow:

Asked by the Sheriff what he thought of the queen’s title of Head of the Church in England, Father John Shert replied: “I will give to Caesar that which is his and to God that that belongeth to God. She is not, nor cannot be; nor any other, but only the supreme pastor.”

Sheriff: “What, do you mean that whore of Babylon the Pope?”

Father Shert: “Take heed, M. Sheriff, for the day will come when that shall be a sore word for your soul, and then it shall repent you that ever you called Christ’s vicar-general on earth, “whore.” When you and I shall stand at the bar, before that indifferent judge, who judgeth all things aright; then, I say, will you repent your saying. Then must I give testimony against you.”

Then just before the hangman readied the rope, Father Shert ended his earthly life with these words, “Whosoever dieth out of the Catholic Church he dieth in the state of damnation” (May 28, 1582).

After climbing into the hanging cart with the help of the executioner, Father John Roberts turned to the criminals in the gallows and said: “Here we are all going to die, nor have we any hope of escape, but if you die in that religion now professed and established in this country, without any doubt you will be condemned to the eternal fire of Hell. For the love then of our Blessed Savior, I earnestly pray you to return from the evil path, so that we may all die in one and the same true Faith…”

And then a little while later, he turned to the people who had gathered there and spoke to them: “Memorare novissima tua – Let man remember his end. “Quia nos omnes manifestari oportet ante tribunal Christi – We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ there to render an account of our Faith and of our deeds. Those who have done well will have eternal life, and those who have done evil will suffer eternal torments.”

Having said this, he exclaimed loudly for all to hear: “Extra ecclesiam nulla est salus – Outside the true Church of Christ there is no salvation.”

After Father Thomas Somers was prepared for hanging, he was allowed to speak. He now said, in a loud and cheerful voice: “Benedicat nos omnipotens Deus, Pater et Filius et Spiritus Sanctus,” and added, “Father Roberts has told you the reason why we are to suffer death, and so it is not necessary that I should repeat more than one thing. I did not refuse to take the oath because I refused any sort of allegiance that his Majesty the King could justly demand of me. I refused on account of the matters of Faith included in that oath, and that is why it has been forbidden by His Holiness the Pope, whom all of us who are sheep of Christ are bound to obey in matters of Faith. I pray you all therefore and exhort you to be obedient to the chief Shepherd of the Church of God.” And then Father Somers concluded with these words: “Out of the Church there is no salvation” (December 10, 1610).

Fathers Shert, Roberts, and Somers, Pray for us!

Martyrdom In Tudor England

Professor Michael Questier of the University of London presents this lecture on the Catholic martyrdom in Tudor England.

The image shows a tryptich of the Martyrs of England and Wales under the Tyburn Tree, in St James’ church, Spanish Place in London.

Violence In The French Wars Of Religion

For no less than thirty-six years, from 1562 to 1598, the kingdom of France was the scene of eight wars of religion – in reality, conflicts that were just as political as religious. These wars comprised those who opposed the “Huguenots,” those who supported the Reformation, and those who defended the traditional Catholic faith. The Reformed message, in its predominantly Calvinist but also Lutheran version, spread rapidly, from 1555, first in the towns and then among the nobility, and especially in the southern part of France, but also in Normandy.

Once peace returned in 1598, the demographic, political and economic toll was heavy: the monarchy was in enormous debt and the country was considerably impoverished. It is estimated that the population of the kingdom had fallen from 17 to 16 million inhabitants. But in this deficit, it is not known what was the share of actions of violence and war, famines, plague and harsh climatic conditions.

After the decades of the “beautiful 16th century” corresponding to the reigns of Francis I and Henry II, the kingdom of Valois fell for nearly forty years into the throes of what historians of the 19th century came to designate as the time of “Wars of Religion” – an era of iron and blood which saw France torn between supporters of the Calvinist Reformation and defenders of the traditional Catholic faith. They would clash in eight civil wars interspersed with fragile truces that were regularly called into question.

These were wars with complex origins that mixed religious and political issues, nobiliary rivalries and popular violence, all in an international context which remained dominated by the antagonism between the monarchy of the Valois and the Empire of the Habsburgs, at a time when European Christianity had also to contend with the Ottoman threat.

These civil wars saw the outburst of extreme violence that collective memory has come to identify with one event known as the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre (1572), which cannot, however, account on its own for the magnitude of this outburst. Violence generally attributed to Catholics seeking to maintain religious unity of the kingdom and therefore hostile to freedom of conscience; the weakness of the last Valois rulers; the intrigues of the queen mother and regent, Catherine de Medici; the ambitions of the Guises; and the “fanaticism” of the Catholic League – all have long imposed the idea that the Protestants were the victims of “intolerance,” which then generated the violence.

Rather than looking for those responsible for this violence within royal power which, it appears, frequently sought conciliation, or within the rival ambitions of the great nobiliary families and their respective clients – instead, the historians of today, familiar with the study of mentalities, insist more, as historian Jean-Marie Constant explains to us, on “religious sensibilities, on Catholic and Protestant violence because of systems of representation, and these imaginary phantoms carrying such irrational intransigence that they precipitated the populations one against the other.” This is how, in his Guerriers de Dieu, Denis Crouzet deciphered the nature of the imaginary phantoms, which then commanded violence, thus profoundly renewing the approach that we had until then of the great politico-religious divide that France experienced, from 1562 to 1598, from the brawl of Wassy to the promulgation of the Edict of Nantes.

It should first of all be remembered, unlike an overly Manichean reading of the period, that violence was widely shared and that massacres and cruelties were carried out by both sides, with the strictly religious factor hardly being the sole cause or reason. In addition to the impossible peaceful coexistence of the two rival confessions of faith, it should in fact be emphasized that the conspiracy of Amboise of 1560 (a failed Protestant attempt to seize the person of King Francis II), the repeated attacks of the Huguenots, the surprise of Meaux in 1567 (Protestants’ attempt to kidnap King Charles IX), or the devastating campaigns led by Coligny (leader of the Huguenots) in the South were all perceived as challenges to royal authority. As for the cruelties that punctuated the confrontation between the two sides, they were widely shared, as shown by Ronsard – a man of a third party which hoped for reconciliation – in his Discours des misères de ce temps (Discourse on the Miseries of these Times), he strongly condemns

These new Christians who have pillaged, plundered France,
Stolen, murdered, despoiling all by virulence,
Beat down the body by blows a hundred thousand
As if it were a virtue to be a brigand,
Living sans chastity, and to hear them declaim,
It's God who leads them, when simply they laugh at Him.
And then what? Burn houses, plunder and brigandage -
This is what all of you now call the Reformed Church?

The explosion of violence which occurred after the 1560s, echoes the continuous progress of the Reformation and the failure of the attempts to eradicate it implemented by Henry II, who accidentally disappeared in 1559. The concessions made by the regent Catherine de Medici were not enough to calm the impatience of the Protestants, who were perceived as dangerous heretics by the Catholic masses worried about their salvation, in a time of eschatological expectation which generated extreme anxiety.

The will of the Protestant minority to assert itself openly, and the growing visibility of a faith perceived as rival and dangerous, exasperated the Catholic people, who were infuriated by the arrogance and contempt the new faith inspired among the adherents of the cause of Geneva. But we must also take into consideration the recent availability of the warrior-class, deprived – since the conclusion in 1559 of the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis which put an end to the Italian mirage of the Valois – of the glories that the campaigns carried out for half a century beyond the Alps, once assured them. The entirety of the Nobles of the Sword was now available for the violence that was to unfold within the realm. Murders, massacres and vendettas, therefore, under these new conditions, continued for nearly four decades, until the peacemaking and restorative reign of Henry of Navarre, who became Henry IV.

Violence took on new forms during this period. In addition to the pitched battles between opposing armies, in the traditional manner – in Dreux, Jarnac, Moncontour, Coutras or Ivry – it now becomes necessary to speak of the common practice of the sacking of towns controlled by the enemy, general massacres targeting the places or the regions supposed to be won over to the opposing side, popular “emotions” which threw the supporters of one confession against their neighbors attached to the opposite faith.

Violence no longer concerned soldiers alone; it affected all strata of society and even broke free from the chivalrous rules which until then governed the conduct of war. Non-combatant populations were no longer spared, especially women and children, and, churchmen, Protestant pastors or Catholic clerics, were even specially targeted. The code of honor, which once ritualized the exercise of violence, and was imposed in particular to spare the wounded, appeared largely to be forgotten.

The new characteristics which the fighting then took on were revealed in the first “wars of religion”. On March 1, 1562 in Vassy, in Champagne, the men of the Duke of Guise confronted Protestants celebrating their worship inside the village, which was not permitted by the January edict which only authorized it outside the city walls.

The initial quarrel degenerated into a generalized brawl and the Catholic soldiers of François de Guise massacred their opponents, leaving about twenty to fifty dead on the ground, including five women and a child, and one hundred and fifty wounded. The event aroused immense emotion among Reformers and Catholics alike and, according to Protestants, started the civil war, the first act of which was identified by Catholics with the attack launched by Condé on Orleans a month later.

The conflict immediately reached unprecedented levels of violence and signified the abandonment of the chivalrous ideal still embodied by Bayard (1475-1524) under the reign of Francis I, a model by which the nobility of the time had long been recognized. A Huguenot gentleman, François de la Noue, author of Discours politiques et militaires, published in 1587, lamented the loss of the principles which every good captain should obey.

Certainly, several great leaders whom he worked with, in particular the Duke of Guise, were able to show both magnanimity and bravery, which earned the author – after the defeat suffered by the Protestants at Moncontour – to be spared by the Duke of Anjou, the future Henry III. François de la Noue insisted on the fact that “such beautiful acts should not be buried in forgetfulness, so that those who make profession of arms shy away from imitating them and move away from cruelties and unworthy things, where so many let themselves go in these civil wars, so as not to know or want to curb their hatreds.” A wish that says a lot about the reality of the times and the primacy given to “the spirit of revenge;” the desire for revenge most often overriding the demands of honor and virtue so dear to the nobility as a whole.

Thus it was that prisoners were routinely killed, for they are too numerous to be kept and maintained by the victors, and the low social status of the greatest number denied any hope of ransom. It should also be considered, in these times of religious mobilization, that this also ensured these same prisoners would not again be fighting the present winner in the future. For Blaise de Monluc, one of the most famous Catholic captains, “There was no mention of prisoners at that time” because “we had to come to austerity and cruelty.” In this case, the concern to obtain legitimate revenge for the losses suffered by his own side was added to the conviction that to get rid of the adversary was part of a process of militant piety in the service of true faith threatened by heretics.

Merciless for the foot-soldiers, the war also did not spare the most prestigious leaders, who were no longer protected from ignominious death. Several of them were coldly murdered on the battlefield. In Dreux, in December 1562, the Marshal of France, Jacques d’Albon de Saint-André, taken prisoner, was killed, shot in the head by the Protestant Jean Perdiel de Bobigny, a former servant of the Marshal, who had condemned de Bobigny a few years earlier.

In February 1563, outside Orléans, Duke Francis of Guise – the defender of Metz, the victor of Calais, one of the best warriors of his time – was treacherously shot down by the Protestant Poltrot de Méré, a relative of whose had been one of the victims of the repression that occurred in 1560, during the conspiracy of Amboise.

In 1569, Louis of Condé, the leader of the Protestant side, was killed by a Gascon captain by the name of Montesquiou when, wounded, Louis had surrendered, after a fall from his horse, in exchange for two officers of the Catholic army. His body was then carried on the back of a donkey to the nearby town where, leaning against a church pillar, it was desecrated by the Catholic crowd. By getting rid of enemy leaders in this way, some people thought they were finishing off the other side, according to La Noue “by way of the body they sought to cut off the head.”

Often, private vendettas came to mingle with confessional antagonisms, exacerbating, according to the historian Olivia Carpi, “The strong propensity of the nobles to seek justice through bloodshed, for offenses they or members of their family had suffered… This, within a nobility that the sovereign could no longer control, as in the past, because of his inexperience and financial difficulties that led to the reduction of his liberality; the civil conflict subverted all the rules, to the point that some no no longer distinguished between a legitimate act of war and the expression of private violence, between vendetta and the service of a public cause.”

The authors of the time, La Noue or Agrippa d’Aubigné – who left us Histoire universelle, giving an account of the wars, in which he had been a participant – stressed the barbarism shown by the soldiery towards defenseless populations, the main victims of the troubled times. Providing for the needs of armies on the march was a most severe test from the start, with the looting, destruction and rape that this implied. These crimes were tolerated by leaders who saw them as a reward for their troops and a sure way to terrorize populations believed to be unlikely to come to terms with the enemy if the fortunes of arms turned.

The practice of “spoiling,” or scorched earth, was thus established as a legitimate means of deterring any attempt at resistance with terror. To keep Guyenne for the king, the lord of Monluc did not hesitate to hang all Protestants suspected of defying monarchical authority. This encouraged, because of the terror inspired by such measures, subsequent surrenders.

The sacking of conquered towns and villages also allowed the leaders to retain troops who might otherwise be tempted, during long and exhausting campaigns, to desert or mutiny. Baron des Adrets (a loyal supporter of Protestant troops who later joined the Catholics in 1564) thus believed that “if we do not want to see the troops slip away from behind in good measure, we must take away from them the hope of any forgiveness so that they seek no refuge nut in the shadow of the flags, no life except in victory.” The same war-leader also affirmed that “the only way to put an end to the barbarities of the enemies is to pay them back with revenge… because no one practices cruelty by returning it.”

We then see to what degree of unprecedented violence such a vision of war could lead. Thus, although life had been promised to them during their surrender, the Protestant defenders of Orange (commune of Vaucluse) were all killed after their surrender when the city was recaptured by the Catholics, which also brought many atrocities inflicted on “civilians,” who were burned alive, impaled, cut into pieces, while women and girls were raped and young children smashed against the walls. Applying the law of retaliation, which he had made his code of conduct, Baron des Adrets encouraged his Protestant troops to behave in the same way when they seized Pierrelatte, Pont Saint Esprit and Bollène.

We know that the apex of violence was reached during the night of August 24, 1572, during the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. Historians have distinguished the operation aimed at neutralizing the Protestant nobility – gathered in Paris for the marriage of Henry of Navarre and Marguerite de Valois and mobilized by the failed attack against Coligny – from the anti-protestant pogrom which was under-taken, beyond all control, by the Parisian Catholic mob – and all in the context of eschatological expectation, finely analyzed by Denis Crouzet.

The Parisian event had aftershocks in the provinces; and this dramatic episode largely contributed to the victimization of the Reformed minority. But it should be remembered here that the Michelade of Nîmes in 1567, which saw dozens of notable Catholics thrown into wells, was five years prior to the Paris massacre.

Huguenot violence was also expressed, during these terrible years, in the form of large-scale iconoclasm, heralding the “vandalism” denounced by Father Gregory during the Revolution. The destruction of images, the sacking of shrines, the looting of church treasures, or the desecration of relics could only arouse legitimate anger on the Catholic side, bringing about a fierce desire for revenge.

It was the same with the massacre of clerics ordered by Protestant leaders. From July 1562, ten years before the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, the parish priest of Saint Paterne d´Orléans was executed in front of all the Huguenot leaders. The same year, during the capture of Pithiviers, the Catholic fighters were spared against an oath not to fight the Reformers any more, but all the clerics were killed. I

n the South and in Normandy, similar decisions cost the lives of many priests and monks. The most terrifying case is that of a Franciscan monk from Mâcon who was taken, rope around his neck, around the city in a sinister route, punctuated by mutilating stations. His ears, fingers and nose were cut off one-at-a-time, his feet were burnt, and he was not finished off until he was castrated. Even during truces, priests were forced, in many regions, to go underground to escape death because the Huguenots intended to deliver the world from “shavelings and superstition,” who all collected tithes for their own benefit.

These outbursts of extreme violence naturally provided the material for interpretive disputes that remain far from being appeased. The uncertainty about the prospects for salvation, the eschatological concerns specific to the time, the militant millennialism of the end of the period all contributed to a crisis of conscience which would not subside until the first part of the 17th century. This resulted in “panic” reactions to the challenge posed by the Protestant heresy, to the point of generating behavior of unheard-of violence among the population, which remained overwhelmingly Catholic.

Protestant violence seems at first to be more psychological and provocative, and iconoclasm was part of this initial violence. Affirming the rejection of the Catholic faith in the name of the fight against “superstition” could also only elicit an extreme reaction. Once wars started, Huguenot violence became physical but appeared to be more thought out and more planned than Catholic violence, the latter most often expressed in the form of an instinctive reaction of self-defense in the face of people who called into question that which the faithful held most sacred.

In the Dauphiné and in Provence, the Baron des Adrets intended to multiply – with massacres and prisoners thrown into chasm – the examples which would dissuade the Catholics from continuing the struggle. The purpose of the extermination of the priests was to tear the populations, which followed them, from their deadly influence and the hate speech which accompanied this “purification” has very contemporary overtones since it is a question of “expelling the vermin of the shavelings, do away with this malicious breed of the devil, clean up the foxes and cockroaches.”

At least as fanatical as the Catholic, Huguenot violence is reminiscent of that which revolutionary France would experience two centuries later. It is a question here of imposing the new conception, based only on the Scriptures, of the kingdom of God. This was all based on a total contempt for those who remained attached to “superstitions,” affirming a religion forged over the centuries, of the presence of God in the world – while their opponents, attached to the single letter of Scripture, always identified themselves on the side of Truth and Good.

Historian Philippe Conrad was seminary director at the École supérieure de guerre and director of the Nouvelle Revue d’Histoire. He is the author of several books devoted to the First World War, the conflicts in the Middle East and the Spanish Civil War.

The image a colored print showing the Battle of Jarnac in 1569.

Translated from the French by N. Dass.

Why Is The Sacré-Coeur Basilica Hated?

The Sacré-Coeur, that is, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, is one of the most emblematic places in Paris and in all of France. It is the second most visited monument each year in the French capital with more than 10 million visitors. But this historical monument was never officially regarded as a historical monument, despite the fact that it was erected more than a century ago.

On October 13, the Ministry of Culture and the regional commission for heritage and architecture of Ile- de-France, the region that includes Paris, finally decided to register this church as a historical monument. It was begun in 1875, completed in 1923 and dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Sacré Coeur Paris, interior.

The reactions to this administrative decision have not been long in coming. And the furious criticisms of this decision to protect this well-known church, in fact, hide an important anti-Catholic component, especially from the Masonic and Communist sectors.

A Church Of Atonement

The deep animosity that this basilica arouses among these sectors is because of what it represents: An expiatory church in the face of the defeat by Prussia. Months later, the Paris Commune arose in 1871, which caused thousands of deaths and was responsible for the murder of dozens of people, including many clergymen and Catholics. With these painful events, the expiation of so many crimes also had its place among those who wished to build this church.

[The Paris “Commune” and its proposed method of government, namely, the dictatorship of the proletariat, gave rise to the terms, “communism” and “communist”].

Thereafter, and for decades, the Sacré-Coeur has been a target; and as recently as 2017 a popular initiative registered a petition in the Paris City Council with the aim of demolishing this church that “insults the memory of the Paris Commune.” Obviously, the petition went nowhere, but it did show the hatred that the Left and Freemasonry both have towards a church that crowns Paris on Montmartre and where the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament has not been interrupted for a second in 135 years, neither in times of war nor of epidemics.

According to the Ministry of Culture, it is because of “a misreading of history” that the Church of the Sacred Heart had not yet been declared a historical monument. And according to its critics there is a reason why that had not been done.

Attacks By Freemasons, Communists and Socialists

Philippe Foussier, former Grand Master of the Grand Orient de France, protested on Twitter against the classification of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre as a historical monument, calling for a “discrediting.” In his opinion, this decision is “an insult to the 30,000 dead of the commune.”

This violent revolutionary process is an icon and a reference point for Communists, as it already was for Marx himself. And to this day it remains a symbol for the French and international Left.

Ian Brossat, leader of the Paris Communists, has sworn, on several occasions, to dismantle the Sacré Coeur and replace it with a “space of solidarity.”

Further, the socialist Lionel Jospin, former prime minister of France and former presidential candidate, when asked in 2017, which monument would he destroy if it had the power to do so, answered without hesitation – the Sacred Heart of Paris, as he said it is a symbol of “obscurantism, bad taste and the reactionary.”

Father Jacques Benoist, one of the leading experts on the Montmartre basilica, explains that the accusation of “reactionary” that is thrown at the Basilica comes from the Communist Party. And this is confirmed by the Communist senator Pierre Ouzoulias, who affirms that the Sacre Coeur “is not a monument like any other,” but created to “expiate the crimes of the Commune.”

The Reasons For This Hatred

For the religious, the official text of the consecration, engraved on a marble plaque placed in the corridor of the Sacred Heart around 1914, bears witness to these crimes. Here one cam read phrases, such as, “amend our sins,” “obtain the infinite mercy of the Lord,” “forgive our faults,” or “put an end to the misfortunes of France.” The Communards are not mentioned, although this event was certainly in the minds of the builders of the church – however, its construction had been decided upon six months before the Communard revolts.

The crimes themselves are indisputable. In fact, the church was erected in the same place where on May 26, 1871, 49 hostages were massacred, including 10 clergymen, by an angry mob. And this act was not isolated. Then came the government repression at the hands of Adolphe Thiers, which ended the commune. “The communists have not forgotten this, who, under the influence of Marx and then Lenin, integrated this event, turned it into a myth, in their collective memory”, explains Father Jacques Benoist. Thus, speaking of expiation for the crimes of the Commune is something that quickly inflames the French Communists.

As for the accusation that the Sacred Heart of Paris is a symbol of “obscurantism,” Father Benoist is surprised by the declarations of the Masonic leader because “those who were in charge of France, from the beginning of the 1870s, were really your [Masonic] spiritual ancestors. There were two types of Republicans: the Blues and the Reds. The Blues, Thiers and Gambetta. Where the Masonic influence was powerful was the bourgeois republic, which feared the Reds, the extreme Left. In 1871, the first massacred the second.”

The Real Origin Of The Basilica

It must be borne in mind that according to the history of Montmartre, the hill where the Sacré Coeur was built, was always a religious place. It was first a druidic place; later, the Romans erected a temple dedicated to Mars and Mercury; and, later, numerous Christian buildings were built there. Moreover, the very name of Montmartre derives from “Mount of Martyrdoms.”

In 1559, a fire destroyed a Benedictine abbey located on top of this Parisian hill, but the religious presence remained. And in 1794, the last abbess, Mother Marie-Louise Montmorency-Laval, bravely climbed the steps of the guillotine. The link, therefore, between Atonement, National Vow, and Mount of Martyrdom was clear.

And so, in order to offer a public penance, to atone for the historical sins of France and to counteract the impending apostasy, the great desire of Alexandre Legentil and Hubert Rohault de Fleury was the construction of a church on the hill, to illuminate Paris and act as a point of reference for the distracted and indifferent citizens of the 19th century metropolis.

Translated from the original Spanish version by N. Dass.

The image shows the Sacré Coeur Basilica.

The Birth Of The Catholic Reason Of State

I. France, The Anti-Empire

Any attempt to build a metaphysics of nations is doomed to failure. There remains, however, the possibility of affirming a definition of the intimate affinity of nations with certain political forms based on their historical biography. In the case of France, however, this biography arises historically from a truly disconcerting paradox. France, the only nation that retains the name of the Germanic tribe that restored the Empire in Europe, has been the nation that has fought the most. According to Erwin von Lohausen: “Among the various powers that, one by one, were facing the Habsburg Empire, France became, more and more after Louis XI, the soul of the rebellion. While French royalty had the same origins as the German Empire, France was, by nature, the anti-Empire.”

Austrian General Erwin von Lohausen, one of the great experts in geopolitics of the twentieth-century, a veteran of World War II under Rommel, insisted in his analyzes that the meaning, and the relationship with space, of the necessities and the passions of people are engines of world history that no religion or ideology can counteract.

These considerations may seem shocking when applied to the definition of the historical personality of the French nation. Has it not been the country that has poured forth with genuine conviction (at least in its declarations) at the service of a universalist mission, be it religious (the Crusades) or secular (the Rights of Man)? And has not this nation also been one to never hesitate to use these “sacred causes” (to take up the expression of Michael Burleigh) to “profess a fierce national egoism” and a “prejudice for the Fatherland?” It is not easy to find any other European people better able to bear the heavy burden of an impossible symbiosis between sacred universalism and chauvinistic nationalism. Hence the German geopolitical analysis of authors like von Lohausen is so valuable.

It was scholars like these who pointed out the striking freedom of France in choosing its own historical causes in comparison with other nations, conditioned by a geography that limited its scope for action in contrast to the comfortable French geopolitical position: “For German geopolitical scientists, France, because of its geographic situation, enjoys a freedom of action that neither Spain, nor Italy, nor Germany ever had. Historically, these three countries had to directly confront the Saracens, the Slavs and the Magyars. They could only act in relation to their needs. France, however, had the freedom to really choose its policy, to proclaim the Crusades and the Rights of Man.”

Indeed, far from seeing in it an insurmountable opposition, perhaps it is its privileged geostrategic position that explains to a large extent France’s historical fondness for leading the great sacred causes of each era and serving them, by attending first to the interests marked by the politics of national individualism. In France, the universal missions are always framed within the friend-foe political duality.

The peculiar historical configuration of the French identity is one of the most relevant keys to understanding the success with which it confronted empires politically, without ceasing to defend, on paper, the sacred causes with which the latter justified the legitimacy of their hegemony. The first-born daughter of the Church was the Catholic nation that most effectively fought the Holy Roman Empire. Thanks to the testimony of France, we better understand the ineradicable political dimension of the so-called “wars of religion.” Not even in that historical context, of mystical fervor in defense of the faith, could the friend-foe dialectic be translated without historical falsification into any other kind of completely crystalline moral or religious duality. There was France and the policy of its kings to deny it.

Once again, France “chose” its policy with full freedom; and did so against the empire and in the name of the same religious cause. The empire never had a fiercer enemy, because not only did France frustrate its expectations of supremacy with the strength of its armies, but France did so with the authority of its bishops and cardinals, as well as the countless Popes affected by the efforts of her first-born daughter. Although separated very soon from the imperial destiny of Charlemagne, France nevertheless preserved the genetic and foundational mark of a divine mission in “mimetic” competition with the empire. It is perhaps one of the most defining features of France’s identity.

Who is to blame for the French superiority complex, the self-assumed grandeur de la fille aînée de l’Église (“greatness of the first daughter of the Church”)? Psychologists speak of the “child emperor” syndrome to refer to children who end up dominating their parents. It is a curious formula since, in the case of France, the syndrome paradoxically afflicted the nation called to fight the empire pushed by the primogeniture privilege of its affiliation with the Church.

And just as psychologists point to the responsibility of parental education to understand the character formation of these imperial children, so in our case we must also point to the parents of France (the Empire of Charlemagne and the Catholic Church) as mainly responsible for an education conducive to the affirmation of a national pride based on the supreme legitimacy of a divine mission. “The bishops made France as bees make the hive,” wrote Joseph de Maistre. This observation is not without value but even it seems too restrictive. It was the entire Church that fed the religious vanity of the French nation. It was the Church that shaped it, that nurtured it, while continuing to excite and glorify with its education the achievements and conquests of its favorite daughter.

II. A State Against The Empire: Richelieu, Founder Of Modern Europe

A large part of the tensions of the history and identity of France are attuned to the aporia of the political form with which it has wanted to serve its universal mission. The State has been a particularist tool that has determined a good part of the historical dynamics that explain the French opposition to the empire. The victory of France in the seventeenth-century against the Spanish hegemony was also the victory of the state political form over the imperial political form.

Where are the historical roots of this crossroads to be located? The Colombian, Nicolás Gómez Dávila, wrote: “The modern State is the transformation of the apparatus that society has developed for its defense into an autonomous organism that exploits it.” France developed an apparatus for its defense. And the architect of that apparatus was Cardinal Richelieu.

The key to understanding the genesis of this apparatus is found, in full harmony with the Hobbesian thesis, in the civil war that bled a France increasingly divided into religious, political and social factions. As Philippe Erlanger, Richelieu’s biographer, recounts: ”No one was a greater creator than Armand du Plessis. When he took the nation in hand, France was not just a nation adrift; total anarchy devoured it. Its weakness in the face of other powers made it a kind of vacant good, an almost virtual entity. Nothing seemed impossible: Its disaggregation, a Protestant republic of the Midi, provinces that proclaimed their independence, others that fell into the hands of the Habsburgs, a fractionation, a satellization, a decadence similar to that of Italy.”

It is at this juncture that Richelieu’s founding idea and policy appear. The political exceptionality of France destroyed by the wars of religion opened the historical horizon to the affirmation of new possibilities of political definition. As Dalmacio Negro writes: “In the founding moments of a political unit – an important classical locus of political philosophy practically abandoned – the situation is in itself exceptional; the decision then being essential. For the political exception is never about something objectively existing and determinable, but has the character of innovation according to a guiding idea. It is a historical decision, about the future; to make a historical possibility viable. In it, other possible options are discarded, in favor of what is chosen and imposed.”

Erlanger exposes it in his own way by raising the historical dimension of the figure of Cardinal Richelieu to the condition of founder of a new political nation after the construction of the first modern State worthy of the name: Louis XIII wanted to restore greatness and cohesion to this lost kingdom. Relying on this royal wish, Richelieu did much more – he remodeled France, transforming it by a revolution quite similar to those of the twentieth-century, and forced it out of its chrysalis to become a modern nation.”

France was undoubtedly the most advantageous candidate in Europe for the definitive construction of the new political form. Educated by the Church, she also imitated the empire that was reborn with the Frankish dynasty. The new French model took many elements from both one (the Church) and the other (the Empire); and no one better than a French Catholic cardinal, devoted to the service of the Capetian monarchy, to lay the foundations of the new political order that would establish the fortress of the newly inaugurated State, despite many internal enemies and imperial external threats.

In practice, the action and work of ecclesiastics such as Cisneros, Wolsey, Richelieu or Mazarin were decisive for the consolidation and configuration of statehood. […] All of them under the imprint of the still dominant ecclesiastical way of thinking, which determined general attitudes. The result was that the State, (…), imitated and took from it (the Church) much more than power. For example, the secularized idea of the political body derived from the theological concept of the mystical body in which the ontological individual becomes a social individual; or, the idea of hierarchy and a large-scale bureaucratic administration; and, in the background of all this, as the driving force and justification of its activity, the aforementioned dynamic idea of mission, now applied to temporary security.”

In his biography of the Cardinal, Hilaire Belloc christens Richelieu nothing less than the “founder” of modern Europe: “The consequence of this, finally, and above all, was the creation, in the center of Europe, of a new modern nation, highly organized and subjected to a strong monarchical centralism, which, quickly reaching the heights of creative genius both in literature, as in the arts, as in military science, was to constitute a model that would serve as an example to the new nationalist ideal. This new organized nation was France; and the man who carried out all this was Richelieu. He was the one who, subordinating everything to the monarchy he served (and, therefore, to the nation), had to place everything under the authority of the crown… He was the one who, by work and grace of his own will, managed to consolidate the seventeenth-century, and with it, although involuntarily, the Europe of yesterday. His work is modern Europe.”

It is necessary to interpret the work of the new cardinal-minister (or the minister-cardinal, to be more precise as per his historical performance) in the light of the theoretical battle between the rights of religion and those of politics. This far-reaching battle was fought against the backdrop of the wars of religion that shook the old continent, and only reached a solution after the political success of Richelieu’s work at the head of the State apparatus built by him to serve the people – the French monarchy.

According to Marcel Gauchet, the history of the relations between the political and the religious begins with millennia of religious colonization of politics, that is, millennia of religious “occupation” of a political terrain used to living in a protected minority, by an archaic mentality of a mythical-sacred character. It should not be forgotten that “the political came from the bosom of the sacred,” as Dalmacio Negro reminds us.

With the advent of Christianity, “the religion of the departure from religion,” a new framework of relationships was established, in which the political began to gain its independence. In triumphant modernity, the tables were reversed and we witness, on the contrary, the political colonization of religion (political or secular religions represent perhaps the most advanced stage of this process). Today we perhaps arrive at the philosophical-universalist colonization of the political by the humanitarian ideology of religious democracy and human rights, a new form of secular and antipolitical gospel that claims its privileges with messianic fervor.

Octavio Paz pointed out that politics limits one side with war and the other with philosophy. Philosophy represents, in effect, the limit-form of a universalism that was always the focus of the imperial political form (pagan or Christian). Faced with it, the state-form, with a particularist matrix, is defined by the limit and the frontier of enmity, formulated from political criteria, and tending to progressively eliminate moral or religious residues.

What does Richelieu’s work represent in Gauchet’s transhistoric scheme? In the tension of the double condition present in the figure of Richelieu, minister of a Catholic monarchy who ended up blurring a prince of the Church, the modern transition from the religious pole to the political pole is embodied as an epitome. The significance of this epitome may not be (apparently) distinguished from other cardinals with similar political responsibilities, such as Cisneros or Wolsey – but its decisive relevance in the construction of the ratio-status, which the new hegemonic power of Europe was going to impose, necessarily endows it with a superior role.

Richelieu’s work should be interpreted as a declared exercise of affirmation of the primacy of (State) politics and its friend-foe logic over the demands of the religious script that a pastor of the Church was supposed to attend to. What is striking in this case is that this statement does not occur within the framework of the new relationships generated by the Lutheran thinking with which the predominance of the new State hegemony is frequently associated, but in the context of catholic monarchy, the oldest in Europe.

Richelieu’s new State at the service of Louis XIII asserts itself inwardly against the remains of the feudal aristocracy, against the Levantine high nobility, and above all, against the “State within the State,” represented by the Huguenot minority yet infiltrating the political and social body of the nation. In its determined will to fight abroad against the Austro-Spanish Empire, Richelieu’s State also deploys its energies against the internal enemy, the devout “collaborationist” party that, for essentially religious reasons, presented itself as a French ally of the monarchy of the Habsburgs.

The failed coup against Richelieu, on the famous “Day of the Dupes,” ruined the last hopes of the devout pro-Spanish party. As Etienne Thuau summarized in his study on the reason of State in Richelieu’s time, “in relation to organized society, this authoritarianism translates the will to destroy infra-national solidarity in the same way that it destroys the supranational solidarity of the res publica christiana.”

The strengthening of the new State apparatus required the complete submission to the new order of the old estates, as well as of the dissident Huguenot elite, in significant contrast to the tolerant pastoral care that Richelieu had sustained in his time as Bishop of Luçon. But now the cardinal did not act as a man of the Church, but as the inflexible executor of the policy that would ensure the new greatness of the French monarchy. The success of the minister of Louis XIII is inseparable from the new European order that will follow his death and which can hardly be separated from his work. The Ius Publicum Europaeum enshrined in the Treaty of Westphalia was, at heart, a Ius Publicum Richelaeum.

We noted earlier that the logic of the minister-cardinal’s work was defined by his novel hierarchy of principles in directing the affairs of the kingdom, both internally and externally. Whether against the Huguenots, against the nobility, against the devout party or against the Empire, the line of action of the former bishop was based on the spirit of the primacy of politics, and more specifically, in that maxim of consistent political intelligence, according to Raymond Aron, in turning yesterday’s enemy into today’s ally. The Catholic monarchy of Louis XIII did not hesitate to make a pact with foreign Protestant forces while fighting the Huguenot cancer of La Rochelle. All this in the name of the new reason of State. The Cardinal, according to the portrait drawn by his enemies, carried the breviary in one hand and Machiavelli in the other.

It is worthwhile analyzing the result of this new logic of political purity in international and domestic relations. The new scenario was translated intellectually into an intensification of the secularization of political thought and power. For the political legitimation of a Catholic power as emblematic as the French monarchy, Richelieu’s endeavor required, especially in the context of the wars of religion, an argument from authority that went beyond the strictly theological dimension with which they used to hide many of the conflicts that were presented on the geopolitical arena.

In this sense, Armand du Plessis’s gamble contributed to the purification of a political thought hitherto accustomed to disguising itself in the name of moral and religious causes, counteracting with all the theoretical energy (and with essentially theological ammunition) the growing impact that Machiavelli’s unmasked proposition was beginning to have. At the level of the concert of nations, the politics of France began to find its own moral argument; but it was an argument of political morality that attended to the danger represented by a unipolar Empire which threatened the geopolitical balance of Christendom. Thus, in a line very similar to that which the theorist of Action française, Charles Maurras, later defend in his work, Kiel et Tanger (and which General De Gaulle came to apply strictly in the Fifth Republic), France was rising for the first time as a defender of multipolarity in the international arena. Its place and its mission consisted in being the arbiter or mediator of Christianity to preserve its constitutive balance.

Faced with Spanish ambition, the most powerful state in the West now had the duty to free Christianity from the threats that weighed against it. Furthermore, the expression of the will of French power did not exclude the desire to restore an international order. Thus, by affirming itself, the national State recognizes other States. For this reason, in the numerous writings that specify or exalt the role of France in Europe, an idea stubbornly persists: That of European balance which will ensure the freedom of the different States.

“However, in the second quarter of the seventeenth-century, a European balance no longer existed. It had been broken by the inordinate ambition of Spain, and it was up to France to assume the mission of putting things back in their state. Statist writers currently claim for the French the glorious titles of “liberators” and “arbiters of Christianity.” This way of speaking was one of the most official. Richelieu himself defined the objectives of French policy in these terms: “…To help restore freedom to its former allies, reestablish peace in Germany and put things back in a just balance because, in the present state, the House of Austria, in no more than six years, when it has nothing more to conquer in Germany, will try to occupy France at our expense.

“In the name of the cause of European emancipation, Richelieu justified his intervention in the affairs of Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. In every military or diplomatic action, it was about liberating a people or a prince from the “oppression of the Spanish,” from the “tyranny of the House of Austria,” from the terror caused by the “insatiable greed” of this House, enemy of the rest of Christianity, and to stop its “usurpations,” to save Italy from its “unjust oppression,” to seek its salvation.”

Although it is paradoxical, this provocative propaganda against the House of Austria did not sublimate the awareness of careful observation of France’s main political enemy, an observation that reached the rank of self-taught education by the method of strategic rivalry. Luis Díez del Corral recalled that “Richelieu admired the organization of the Spanish Monarchy;” although such admiration did not become the pure and simple emulation of its political-administrative structures: “The image of Spain is present in every act, on every page of the Cardinal. Many were the teachings that he received, but not so much to imitate as to replicate, becoming the configurator of a new type of political organization that contrasts with the Austrian Monarchy, and serves to illuminate its historical nature and destiny. The Spanish theme appears especially in the Cardinal’s Political Testament, a work that Carl J. Burkhardt considers Richelieu’s chef d’oeuvre, ‘a compendium of political art, a profoundly French method that will always preserve the value of a model.’”

Indeed, this meticulous observation of the movements of the imperial enemy did not translate into a “mimetic replica” of the structural configuration of the Spanish imperial model, but rather into a replica of an antagonistic State model. This “profoundly French method that will always preserve the value of a model” was, in effect, the result of the war led with an iron hand by Richelieu, who must be considered the founder, not only of Modern Europe (as Belloc pointed out), but also of the state-centered political organization that accompanies it to this day.

As Dalmacio Negro pointed out: “The war was a struggle between the Spanish people and the most perfected State of the time, which has always been the paradigm or prototype of statehood since Richelieu. The Revolution and Napoleon made it the formidable Nation-State to which it owed its superiority.”

The awareness of the superiority of the French model for the war that was being fought also reached those who stood as opposition to it; but the survival of the imperial forma mentis prevented a mimicry in the opposite direction towards the centralization and concentration of power that it implemented. The French crown was marching at a forced pace. The bringing of the Bourbon dynasty into Spain was necessary to initiate, and not without resistance, the slow implementation of the neighboring state- model.

It is well known that Philip IV rejected the suggestion in this sense of the Count-Duke Olivares, having realized that what Richelieu was doing in France – making it the first great state power, with full awareness of what modern sovereignty means in order to centralize political power. According to Jouvenel, Olivares thought like the Cardinal that the good of the nation and of the State justifies violating any law and privilege, that is, crossing the limits that distinguish the power of the potestas.”

The notion of the French theorist, Bertrand de Jouvenel, on the law of political competition in the narration of “natural history” and of the “growth of power,” offers a very adapted historical-theoretical mold to understand the direct relationship between a war fought by the two Catholic monarchies and the formation, at Richelieu’s initiative, of the new French model of a centralized State.

These natural jealousies between the powers engendered, on the one hand, a well-known principle, the momentary forgetting of which demands a heavy payment from States – that any territorial increase by one of them, by expanding the base from which it draws its resources, forces the others to seek an analogous increase to restore balance. But there is another way for the State to reinforce itself, which is more fearful for the neighbors than territorial acquisition – the progress of power to exploit the resources that its own territory offers it.”

Jouvenel himself points out Burke’s cutting observation in understanding this same phenomenon as an experience to remember after the French Revolution when, in 1795, he wrote: “The State [in France] is supreme. Everything is subordinate to the production of force. The State is military in its principles, in its maxims, in its spirit, in all its movements … If France had more than half of its current forces, it would still be too strong for most of the States of Europe, as they are constituted today and proceeding as they do.”

Jouvenel draws a general lesson from this dialectic between war and the growth of power: “Any progress of power with respect to society, whether obtained in view of war or for any other purpose, gives it an advantage in war.” Such an equation can alter the order of the factors involved, without diminishing its degree of historical validity; and it is in this second sense that the tendency towards the concentration of power, which this mimetic bid between antagonistic powers has pushed, must be understood.

Thus, if, on the one hand, every advance of power serves war, then war, on the other hand, serves the advance of power. This dynamic acts as a sheepdog that urges reticent powers to reach the most advancement in this totalitarian process. This intimate link between war and power appears throughout the history of Europe. Every State that has successively exercised political hegemony has sought the means to do so through a more intense pressure on the people than that exerted by the other powers on their respective peoples. And to confront these precursors it grew necessary that the powers of the continent be placed on the same level.”

The author of On Power understood that this process is closely linked to the French resistance to the Spanish Empire, as happened in England: “The development of absolute monarchy, both in England and in France, is linked to the efforts of both dynasties to resist the Spanish threat. James I will owe his great powers to the army. If Richelieu and Mazarin were able to elevate the rights of the State so much, it was because they could continually invoke external danger.”

The testimony of Fontenay-Mareuil (1594-1665), who was a diplomat and military man in Richelieu’s time, is especially relevant, in Jouvenel’s opinion, to give us “an idea of how military urgency contributed to liquidating the old forms of government and cleared the way to absolute monarchy.” In the words of the French ambassador: “It was really necessary to save the kingdom…that the king had sufficiently absolute authority to do everything that pleased him, since he had to deal with the king of Spain, who has so many countries to obtain everything he needs. It is clear that if he had had to gather the Estates General, as is done in other places, or depend on the good will of parliament to obtain everything that he needed, he would never have been able to do anything.”

The increase in number of the French military under Richelieu’s command is quite a telling indicator of the transformation carried out in France as a result of the political and armed confrontation with the Habsburg Empire: Richelieu, who found that all the forces in France had been reduced by Marie de Medici to 10,000 men, raised them to 60,000. Then, after having fought the war in Germany for a long time, and ‘reaching for the purse rather than the sword,’ he raised an army of 135,000 infantry and 25,000 cavalry – forces that France had not seen in eight centuries.”

There is nothing better than the testimony of Richelieu himself to understand this exorbitant growth of the resources made available to the new State machinery. The cardinal justified it all by the “incessant purpose of stopping the advance of Spain.” The war, midwife to absolute monarchy, not only buried the old aristocracies in this way (confirming Vilfredo Pareto’s assertion about the circulation of the elites) but also prepared for the funeral of the Spanish imperial form, without whose threat there would be no emergence of the gigantic apparatus that, brought about by force of circumstances for the defense of the French nation, was already creating the path to that autonomous body eager to exploit it, as suggested by the scholio of Gómez Dávila.

III. Machiavelli, The Afrancesado

In France, the success of this new national model in competition with the Empire could not fail to be understood outside of the historical demands of an adaptation of the discourse to the particular relationships that, within the framework of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, were imposed between the religion and politics. In this doctrinal and theoretical corset, political knowledge struggled to reach the full margin of autonomy possible, in order to meet the demands of a confrontation between opposing Catholic powers.

In this cultural context, it was evident that France had everything to lose against an imperial power as universalist in its aspirations as the Church itself, and for the same reason, more theoretically legitimized to impose its rights to political hegemony before the doctrinal court which protected the ideas and mentalities of a time in need of theological justification. In this sense, Richelieu’s commitment to the propaganda of the ideas of the so-called “State Catholics” should also be considered as one of the successes of his work of directing the political affairs of the French crown.

An intellectual battle was raging, paralleling the political and military battle; and the critical reception in the Catholic world of Machiavelli’s work was central to the controversy. In France, given the nation’s needs for its defensive geopolitical position in the face of the supremacy of the imperial order, there was an urgent need for a split between Christian ethics and morals and the demands derived from the exercise of political power that had now begun to be assumed.

Meanwhile in Spain, there was no room for assimilating a Machiavellian discourse which was directly opposed to the national legitimizing talismans since the Reconquista (however, Tacitism has been judged as a form of “crypto-Machiavellianism,” very widespread in Catholic countries): “The work of Machiavelli, with its political and historical critique of Christian morality and the papacy, could not compete in a Spain in which the State made Catholicism more and more its basilar foundation and which placed the mythical principle in the refuge of Covadonga of its state-construction and imperial expansion.”

Undoubtedly, this frustrated assimilation by the Spanish elites of the new political discourse of propaganda deserves attention which, at the service of the French monarchy, increasingly vindicated the legitimate autonomy of the reason of State within the framework of Catholic thought, all the while denouncing as spurious the theological arguments with which the Spaniards tried to disguise, according to this interpretation, a political and military hegemony that exclusively served their own interests.

Already in 1623, la France mourante showed what danger the policy of the King of Spain posed for France: ‘…If we allow his conquests to be strengthened, it is very certain that he will become master of all Italy, and dominator of the Germanies, and by this means he will encircle this crown everywhere by powers so great that it will be impossible for to resist it…’ The Discours sur plusieurs points importants (1626) denounces ‘…those who have always aspired to the Empire of the Universe.’ La Lettre déchiffrée (1627) attacks Spanish politics that wants to ‘…raise the affairs of heaven to the level of those of Madrid,’ and for whom ‘everything that is done by the Vatican is criminal if it is not ratified in the Escorial.’ In 1626, the preface of Pierre de touche politique specifies the inspiration for the book: ‘…it uncovers the purpose that the Spanish have to oppress all their neighbors under the pretext of Religion and Charity, and to establish by that means their Universal Monarchy, and shows that this nation has always had the interest of God and the Church on its lips, and it has never had it in its heart.’ After the accusation of imperialism, the reproach most frequently leveled at the Spanish is that of using the spiritual for temporal purposes.”

This new anti-imperialist argumentative arsenal was not manufactured in a completely spontaneous way. It was driven by the theoretical ammunition of Cardinal Richelieu himself, who did not hesitate to point out the political servitudes of the “Spanish theology” of the time.

“Richelieu, in his Memoirs, denounces the Spanish pretexts. Foreign policy pamphlets did not stop attacking the ‘new theology’ manufactured by Spain to cover its ambitions… It is therefore well established in the political creed of the ‘good French:’ When the Spanish defend Christianity, we can be sure that it is Christianity that defends the Spanish.”

In the combat between the Empire and the new state-form of the French model, a struggle was also taking place in the field of political thought. In particular, this theoretical controversy took place within the religious framework of Catholic legitimacy, in which France seemed to count, by her birthright as eldest daughter of the Church, with credentials that could compete with those of the Holy Empire.

Despite the undoubted superiority of the state-form to respond to the demands and challenges of the confrontation that was drawn on the geopolitical board, Spain could not assume those new usages that clashed, head-on, both with its own legal and political traditions and with its political history of national reconstruction (the Reconquista), and so attached to a legitimizing religious discourse that there was no room in it for the slightest split for the reason of State independent of the guardianship of the faith.

On the other hand, this national character and this historical-political-religious personality seemed to fit much better with the imperial narrative, especially at a time marked by a Protestant Reformation that reinforced the rights of justification of religious orthodoxy to impose the universal order of the sword of Rome. These roots explain, to a large extent, the costly assimilation of the state-model in Hispanic lands.

As for Spanish political thought, it was forced, in Abellán’s words, to have to live ‘in fact’ under a political form, ‘the State,’ in which, however, ‘it did not theoretically believe.’ And perhaps it is true that the Spanish authors did not believe much in the ‘modern State;’ not so much because religion prevented it, but rather because they believed in something that was not exactly the modern State: A Catholic Empire.”

Unlike Spain, France had all the reasons in the world to believe in the political form of the State; and if reasons were lacking, there was no hesitation in inventing them as much as necessary. The autonomy of the demands of politics from the imperatives of religion was undoubtedly the central philosophy of the new propaganda of the French monarchy and the core from which all these reasons emerged. And it was Richelieu himself who fully advanced it, by asserting, in a famous phrase and with all the religious authority of which a prince of the Church was capable, that the interests of the State are different from the interests of the salvation of the souls.

“Placed between its Protestant allies and Catholic Spain, Richelieu’s France faced a difficult choice. State or religion. Such was the dilemma that arose in the conscience of many French people and the writings of the time attest to their discomfort… In another respect, Richelieu did not say otherwise and, in the instructions to Schomberg often cited, we read: ‘”Different are the interests of the State, which bind the princes, and different the interests of the salvation of our souls”.’”

The link between this new secularization of political thought and the state- political form is of interest in this regard. In addition to the interest that this commitment to a political realism freed from religious ties supposed for theoretical propaganda in the service of the Cardinal, there is an undoubted favorable propensity of the state-scheme towards the intellectual figures of the most secular political thought. These figures found it difficult to break through the legitimacy structure of the imperial form, too impregnated by the weight of the sacred (the “Holy” Empire) and by the will to impose a cosmocracy of universalist ambitions that, in the manner of Campanella, it necessarily contaminated or dissolved the political dualities of the conflict in its purest sense (friend-foe).

IV. Political Creation Outside The Polis

Sheldon Wolin has analyzed the creative facet inherent in political thought and its recurrent disruptive contribution, between the lines of continuity of the inherited Western tradition, as well as the relationship of these creative leaps with the historical transformations of political forms. For Wolin, originally, political thought was related to the characteristic problems of the polis, that is, to its size, problems and intensity, features that offered a general framework marked by a very defining effervescence of a way of living and living together in public space.

This simple intuition immediately translated into another question. If political thought is a thought related to the problems of the polis, can that same model of thought survive in the contexts related to other political forms? In other words, how does an alien spatial configuration affect the spatial limits, concerns, and conflict intensity of the polis in political thought?

The contrast between the “nervous intensity” of Greek political thought, attached to the dimensions and effervescence of the polis, and other human sensibilities, characteristic of a different spatial conception, was raised for the first time in relation to the “the mood of later Stoicism which leisurely, and without the sense of compelling urgency, contemplated political life as it was acted out amidst a setting as spacious as the universe itself.” This first contrast already heralded the decisive influence that this new universalist spatial sensibility, defining the imperial form, was to imprint on the configuration of political thought, impoverishing and blurring its essential categories.

“…Yet the central fact from the death of Alexander (323) to the final absorption of the Mediterranean world into the Roman Empire was that political conditions no longer corresponded to the traditional categories of political thought. The Greek vocabulary might subsume the tiny polis and the sprawling leagues of cities under the single word koinon, yet there could be no blinking the fact that the city denoted an intensely political association while the leagues, monarchies, and empires that followed upon the decline of the polis were essentially apolitical organizations. Hence if the historical task of Greek political theory had been to discover and to define the nature of political life, it devolved upon Hellenistic and later Roman thought to rediscover what meaning the political dimension of existence might have in an age of empire.”

The way to overcome the difficulties associated with the new social representation of space (the enormous distances that were now imposed in the face of the customary relationship of citizen proximity that defined the Greek political atmosphere) consisted in a recovery of the sacred symbolism, which was then thereafter to merge with the discourse of legitimacy of the imperial forms.

Where loyalty had earlier come from a sense of common involvement, it was now to be centered in a common reverence for power personified. The person of the ruler served as the terminus of loyalties, the common center linking the scattered parts of the empire. This was accomplished by transforming monarchy into a cult and surrounding it with an elaborate system of signs, symbols, and worship. These developments suggest an existing need to bring authority and subject closer by suffusing the relationship with a religious warmth. In this connection, the use of symbolism was particularly important, because it showed how valuable symbols can be in bridging vast distances. They serve to evoke the presence of authority despite the physical reality being far removed.”

The impact of this new configuration of the dimensions of the relationship of the men subjected to the new imperial power not only ruined the classical categories of citizenship of Greek thought but also altered the moral and concrete structure (that so characteristic symbiosis of ethics and practical sense) of a perception of the political, marked by a closeness to the real problems of public space and a direct experience of its associated conflicts.

Faced with this hyperesthesia of Greek political realism, an increasingly abstract conception of political life was now rising, which required, to the same extent, the help of a theoretical and symbolic apparatus, twinned with the morphology of a community, without defined contours, and that overflowed the limits and borders of vivid representations, in order to enter the infinite space opened by universal concepts and categories.

With the development of imperial organization, the locus of power and decision had grown far removed from the lives of the vast majority. There seemed to be little connection between the milieu surrounding political decisions and the tiny circle of the individual’s experience. Politics, in other words, was being conducted in a way incomprehensible to the categories of ordinary thought and experience. The ‘visual politics’ of an earlier age, when men could see and feel the forms of public action and make meaningful comparisons with their own experience, was giving way to “abstract politics,” politics from a distance, where men were informed about public actions which bore little or no resemblance to the economy of the household or the affairs of the market-place. In these circumstances, political symbols were essential reminders of the existence of authority.”

The new cosmic sensitivity, initiated by Stoic cosmopolitanism and which adapted so well to the ethos of imperial power (personifying itself even in egregious figures such as Marcus Aurelius), was called to be united, if not to merge, with soteriological ambitions of a religious nature, especially when, in time, the Empire form was to proclaim Christianity as the official religion: Another and far stronger impulse, but one that was equally apolitical, was to suffuse power with religious symbols and imagery…This was a certain sign that men had come to look towards the political regime for something over and above their material and intellectual needs, something akin to salvation.”

From then on, and despite the theological reservations of a Saint Augustine in relation to Varro’s political theology, the historical-political moment was in the best position to correlate religious and political categories to the point of fostering a politics legitimized by theology and a theology endorsed by existing political forms: “This belief in a political savior, as well as the persistent attempts to assimilate the ruler to a deity and to describe the government of human society as analogous to God’s rule over the cosmos, were themes reflective of the degree to which political and religious elements had become deeply intermixed in men’s minds. In a variety of ways, in the conception of the ruler, subject, and society, the “political” quality was becoming indiscernible. At the same time, from the fourth century B.C. until well into the Christian era, men repeatedly thought of the Deity in largely political terms. Thus the paradoxical situation developed wherein the nature of God’s rule was interpreted through political categories and the human ruler through religious ones; monarchy became a justification for monotheism and monotheism for monarchy.”

It is not necessary to appeal excessively to the imagination to understand that this new mentality contributed unexpectedly but decisively to progressively blur the purity of political concepts that had grown in the heat of the conflictive intensity of Greek city life. The political categories that had populated the minds of the leading Greek philosophers were not born out of abstract speculation but out of civic life that, significantly, many of them had experienced in their own lives.

In this way, the advent of the imperial era washed away, if not the ruin of the political categories inherited from Greek philosophy, then at least the experience inherent in the Greek logos mode of political thought, thus generating a collective temperament far removed from it and increasingly apolitical ways of thinking: “In looking back on the kinds of political speculation that had followed the death of Aristotle, it is evident that the apolitical character of life had been faithfully portrayed, but no truly political philosophy had appeared. What had passed for political thought had often been radically apolitical; the meaning of political existence had been sought out only in order that men might more easily escape from it.”

Inevitably, from that very moment, through the infection of sacred symbolism in imperial forms, a path was already opening for the penetration of moral Manichaeisms that were to progressively overlap with the defining dualities of the essence of what political, as studied, for example, by Julien Freund, especially the friend-foe duality for foreign relations and the command-obedience duality for internal ones.

The political world, for this new moralism, was from now on divided into “good” and “bad” (that is, faithful and unfaithful, orthodox and heretics), thus breaking the spatial and theoretical delimitation between the political and the ethical, built by the realism of authors like Thucydides.

From now on, there was no longer a “political” morality (that is, a morality adapted to the demands of political reality), but rather the political (everything political, with its theoretical and practical arsenal) was subjected to “the” moral, a unique and universalist morality called to be colonized, over time, by a faith (the Christian one) that, unlike the other two monotheisms (the Jewish that preceded it, and the Muslim that succeeded it), paradoxically, never harbored any political ambition: “Instead of redefining the new societies in political terms, political philosophy turned into a species of moral philosophy, addressing itself not to this or that city, but to all mankind… Seneca’s suicide was the dramatic symbol of the bankruptcy of a tradition of political philosophy that had exchanged its political element for a vapid moralism.”

From this new scenario, which ultimately prevailed, we can gather striking precedents that, as symbolic advancements, were presented in the unprecedented Alexandrian imperial experiment. Eratosthenes incarnates, avant la lettre, before history the figure of an anti-Schmittian advisor, who conquers for morality the territory hitherto untouched by politics: “When Eratosthenes advised Alexander to ignore Aristotle’s distinction between Greeks and barbarians and to govern instead by dividing men into ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ this marked not only a step towards a conception of racial equality, but a stage in the decline of political philosophy… Eratosthenes’ advice indicated that political thought, like the polis itself, had been superseded by something broader, vaguer, and less political. The ‘moral’ had overridden the ‘political,’ because the moral and the “good” had come to be defined in relation to what transcended a determinate society existing in time and space.”

In conclusion, the historical decline of the polis, understood as a spatial relationship adapted from the human to the political, dragged political thought, originated by the polis, towards an intellectual, religious and moral habitat less adapted for its intellectual survival.

In this environment, which was that of Empire first and feudalism later, political philosophy languished. Although it preserved its theoretical validity in a mausoleum, in which the echo of a vocabulary born from a claustrophobic microcosm of internal rivalries was frozen over the centuries, it awaited its resurrection, by awaiting an ideal environment for palingenesis:The decline of the polis as the nuclear center of human existence had apparently deprived political thought of its basic unit of analysis, one that it was unable to replace. Without the polis, political philosophy had been reduced to the status of a subject-matter in search of a relevant context.”

The relevant context for the regeneration of political thought appeared in a universe that was partly reminiscent of that of the ancient Greek polis. The turbulent air that was breathed into the Italian republics of the Renaissance oxygenated minds capable of restoring a fuller understanding of new (and old) political realities, presenting themselves again under a new day. Machiavelli was the theoretical epitome of the modern political firmament, but the atmosphere explains the phenomenon. “Almost a century before The Prince was written, a viable tradition of “realism” had developed in Italian political thought,” states Wolin.

However, this new sensitivity to political issues would take time to break through and achieve definitive recognition, for the inertia of the old world continued to weigh on it with the tradition of political-religious symbiosis. It is not surprising that the political butterfly did not finally emerge from the chrysalis until these new categories were assumed precisely in the religious habitat that conditioned it.

The nascent national monarchies offered an incomparable setting for the testing of this new offer of understanding of the political fact. In monarchies headed by statesmen who were at the same time princes of the Church, as in Richelieu’s France, the obstacle of theological legitimation could be overcome with greater ease. In the geopolitical context of religious wars, whose moral demands could hardly be reconciled with the incipient reason of State, the fusion of the political with the religious, far from being an obstacle to the autonomy of the former, was presented as its only (and best) platform for its launching.

The following reflection by Wolin, much broader in scope and intent, nevertheless, allows an interpretation in a French way that offers a powerful framework of analysis to understand the progressive secularization of political thought in France ruled with an iron fist by the “man in red.”

“The growing merger of political and religious categories of thought was an intellectual footnote to the spread of political control over national churches. When these tendencies were joined to the growing strength of the national monarchies and to an emerging national consciousness, the combined effect was to pose a possibility which had not been seriously entertained in the West for almost a thousand years: an autonomous political order which acknowledged no superior and, while accepting the universal validity of Christian norms, was adamant in insisting that their interpretation was a national matter. But while Reformation Europe could accept the practice of an autonomous political order and disagree primarily over who should control it, there was greater reluctance to explore the notion of an autonomous political theory. As long as political theory contained a stubbornly moral element and as long as men identified the ultimate categorical imperatives with the Christian teaching, political thought would resist being divested of religious imagery and religious values.”

There is no doubt that the new political and religious scene had little to do with that of the Greek polis in which men such as Plato, Aristotle or Thucydides had been born and lived. Almost two millennia had passed and the men of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-centuries lived immersed in the dogmas of a faith unknown to the ancient Greeks.

However, far from what might seem at first glance to be the spirit of secularism that genuinely characterized the letter (and spirit) of the believers in Jesus Christ, there yet awaited a favorable context for the definitive conquest of a political autonomy that did not contradict, said its postulates, as seriously as in the case of those who followed the law of Moses or Muhammad.

Furthermore, as Jerónimo Molina notes, the anthropological pessimism of the political conception of a Machiavelli was an unwitting debtor of Christian theology; and, although the echoes of the creator of The Prince seem to resonate in the history of the Peloponnesian war, the profundity of the intellectual equipment on the condition of man, which distinguished the Florentine, as a result of more than 1500 years of Christian tradition, was not within the reach of a military man like Thucydides.

This pessimistic strain, which grew out of the realization that the new knowledge must be conversant with evil and that its major concern was to avoid hell, confirms that it was a post-Christian science rather than one inspired directly by classical models. The assertion that ‘all men are wicked and that they will always give vent to the malignity that is in their minds when opportunity offers’ was one which Greek political science never entertained and Christian doctrine never doubted.”

V. Laicization And The “Catholic” Reason Of State

In this context of French opposition to an imperial power that based its political legitimacy on an authority that appealed to arguments of a religious nature, the autonomy of the political did not appear as the result of an independent intellectual construction, but rather from the demands of a propaganda at the service of military and political action determined by an atmosphere of religious hegemony in the field of argumentation about temporary realities.

Discovered or rediscovered by the statists of Richelieu’s time, the idea of the autonomy of politics does not come from pure speculation, but from a whole series of concrete conflicts: The dispute over Gallicanism, the problem of relations with the Protestants, and above all the Franco-Spanish conflict. The principle of the independence of politics was the anti-Spanish weapon par excellence.”

All of this explains why the course of the debate led to probably unforeseen conclusions. This is proved by the fact that the cardinalist propaganda accepted the challenge of the religious foundation of the theoretical reasons to present in the face of Spanish demands. Spain had chosen a bad enemy to uphold the sacred superiority of her cause. The first-born daughter of the Church would not hesitate to connect with the foundations of a divine mission so frequently highlighted by the Petrine See: The religion of the monarchy could not but confirm the French in the idea that their country had a mission and that it continued the tradition of the Gesta Dei per Francos so well expressed by the words of Joan of Arc: ‘Those who make war on the Holy Kingdom of France, wage war on King Jesus.’”

Nevertheless, the religious dialectic used in the conflict did not cease to be, for the political interests of the French monarchy, a defensive weapon designed specifically to counter the offensive of the Habsburgs, no matter how few actually used it with full conviction. Little by little, strictly political arguments came to the fore, while religious rhetoric was progressively located in the space of stage decoration. After all, the confrontation of the two greatest Catholic powers of the time was not the most appropriate terrain for a resolution of the conflict on a religious basis. As it is a markedly political struggle, it was inevitable that the political arguments would gradually come to occupy the space with the greatest protagonism.

The Catholic State was not just a name of one of those government pamphlets serving Richelieu’s policy. The name chosen for that publication indicates the general inspiration for its content. Undoubtedly, this periodical, which appeared at the beginning of Richelieu’s ministry in 1624, was distinguished by its doctrinal vigor, in its defense of the cardinal’s new policy. The exact title was Le Catholique d’État ou discours politique des alliances du roi très chrétien contre les calomnies de son État. As the scholars of the press of the time pointed out, this pamphlet constituted the hardcore of propaganda in the service of the minister of Louis XIII.

The cardinalist pamphleteer revolted against the intellectual and moral contempt that at the time was directed at the association of the figure of the “Catholic” and the idea of “State policy.” In this way, it placed with pride in its very title the spirit of this association, elevating it to the rank of national and religious communion and apologizing to those who, like the sovereigns of France, knew how to combine the interests of the State and the Catholic Church. However, in the end (and beyond the immediate intentions of its promoters), the thrust of its doctrinal argumentation contributed to progressively dissociate the foundation of the political order from any religious horizon, reworking the foundations of a matched political realism to the interested analysis of the French position in the conflict against the Spanish Empire.

The paradox of the Catholique d’État resides in the fact that after having founded absolutism on an authoritarian conception of religion, it came to separate politics from religion. It does not approximate the power of God except to better ensure its independence… Rejecting the religious arguments of Spanish propaganda and underlining the separation of politics and morals, the Catholique d’État placed the conflict between France and Spain in its true light – that of the confrontation of two national interests.”

As a consequence of this growing translation – from the space of religious definition to the field of political definition – the terminology of the cardinalist writing progressively colors the friend-foe duality of the political opposition with national and non-religious characters, thus affirming a delimitation of intellectual conflict in terms ever closer to the real meaning of political confrontation: While foreign pamphlets separated men into Christian and ungodly, the Catholique d’État took a different view… Thus, in the cardinalist writing, the friend-foe distinction, capital in political thought, was based from now, not on religion, but on nationality and patriotism.”

Thus, from the study of propaganda publications, such as, the Catholique d’État, it is possible to analyze the general meaning of a process of gradual doctrinal decantation. Although the opposition against the Catholic Empire forced a response in the theological field (or more exactly, in the theological-political field), the prolongation of the conflict imposed, in addition to the refutation of the foe’s religious “pretexts” with the same Catholic ammunition that it used, a necessary transfer of the epicenter of the intellectual confrontation towards a political territory, not sown by the theological-moral seed. Without this historical circumstance (fundamentally political and military, as well as religious) that surrounded the cardinalist publication, the “para-doxa” of the Catholique d’État cannot be understood.

Not without its literary qualities, the Catholique d’État contains, in abbreviated form, the theory of the authoritarian State of the reign of Louis XIII, and defines the ideal of a ‘political Catholic,’ of the ‘good patriot.’ Its paradox consists of starting from a religious conception of power in order to separate politics from religion; or, more exactly, from a religion understood in the Spanish way… By developing a new conception of politics, there is a sense of that laicization of power that became the dominant feature of Richelieu’s time.”

The new climate brought about by the Franco-imperial conflict was to propitiate a state of mind tending to consider with suspicion the religious pretexts adduced by a Spanish-Austrian foe maliciously inclined, in the eyes of cardinalist propaganda, to locate the theoretical epicenter of the confrontation in the doctrinal space most adapted to its own benefit. This suspicion unconsciously contributed to disavowing the religious legitimation of political causes, presenting it as a veil, self-interestedly used by a hand determined to hide the true face of its owner.

The similar arrangement of the pieces on the board between the two contenders (Catholic powers competing in moral authority in an atmosphere of religious hyper-legitimacy) originated the unexpected transformation of the rules of the game, until then in force, and with it the consequent secularization of the political thought. It can be said that the Spanish imperial hegemony gave rise to a reason (Catholic and French) of State.

The consequence of this process to Spain and its supporters was, without a doubt, to make religious justifications in politics suspect. Here is a curious detail of the history of political thought in the seventeenth-century: The idea that religion is a deception of the rulers and a secret of domination has been spread by publicists of the very Christian king writing against the pamphleteers of the very Catholic king. The conception that makes religion an imposture of the powerful has been, if not produced, at least reinforced by the confrontation of great nation states. Thus making religion suspect, what could remain as the law of international relations but the interest of each State and natural law? And indeed, if one looks for the basis that the statist writers give to Richelieu’s policy, it is found that they increasingly invoke the national interest and the reason of State. They certainly do not make the kingdom of France a secular state, but they are led to separate more clearly than their predecessors and their opponents the interests of the State from those of religion. The fact that Spain and its supporters insisted on the union of faith and politics undoubtedly contributed much to this secularization… If they still mixed religious arguments and rational arguments, the predominance of the latter is noticeable.”

Thus,” Etienne Thuau writes, “reason of State prepared to become the main argument of Richelieu’s policy.” This “politics of sleeplessness,” a peculiar form of French-style Machiavellianism in a national-Catholic guise, must be understood as the necessary reaction to a given context. The uncomfortable truth of a political realism, purged of moral mystifications and theological disguises, could not break through without attending to that context.

It seems that in Richelieu’s time pro-Spanish publicists and French pamphleteers opted for a veiled politics to that of wakefulness… Thus, in the eyes of many seventeenth-century Frenchmen, Gallic ‘naivety’ was opposed to Spanish hypocrisy. This naivety consisted, at the outset, in revealing to a limited public the levers of power and in taking the layman behind the scenes of government. More profoundly, it tended to desecrate power and detach it from the moral and religious justifications with which it was often illegitimately cloaked. It is not always pleasant to speak the truth, and it is to his lucidity that Richelieu owes, as with Machiavelli, his bad reputation.”

The reference to Machiavelli is not without meaning and perhaps helps to place the doctrinal debate, limited by the circumstances of Richelieu’s time, in a broader context. The “French” reason of State does not arise from the intellectual import of the “letter” of the Florentine’s thought, but rather from the adaptation of its “spirit” to the concrete historical plane of a conflict marked by very precise connotations. And, fundamentally, because of the remarkable personality and ambition of a figure of the stature of Richelieu.

The enigmatic Richelieu in fact embodied for his contemporaries the type of politician marked by Machiavellianism… Faithful, if not to the letter, at least to the spirit of Machiavelli’s doctrine, they made political thought progress since, thanks to them, under the Richelieu regime, the Machiavellian current came to merge with that of the Reason of State.”

The peculiar religious circumstances of the conflict between the French monarchy and the Habsburg Empire help to understand the emergence of this “Catholic” Machiavellianism in Gallic lands and the scope of the contradictions that it carried within it. Another factor that should not be forgotten, when interpreting the period and the historical precipitate (essentially involuntary) that happened to it, is the existential personification of these contradictions. By this we mean that the undoubted political motivations of its main architects were not combined with their religious responsibilities at the cost of a tribute to cynicism or hypocrisy, as a certain distorted and caricatured exhibition tried to underline later, especially in field of literature (The main responsibility, in this regard, is that of Alexander Dumas and his three musketeers).

The genuine religious spirit of men like Richelieu and Father José, the most intimate collaborator of the cardinal’s politics, but also a Capuchin steeped in a fervent missionary ideal, should not be underestimated with chronocentric criteria, if one does not want to blur the real significance of the events of the time (The most representative work on the historical significance of the figure of Father José and his contribution to Richelieu’s political career remains that of Aldous Huxley, Gray Eminence). The sincerity with which these ministers and religious lived their own internal conflicts genuinely fed the sense of politics and the thinking of the main protagonists of the moment, leaving a legacy that would decisively influence the future of a new Europe.

Richelieu may not have had his breviary and Machiavelli at his table, but his Machiavellianism was as indisputable as his faith. Father José dreamt of the Crusade at the same time that he worked for the ruin of the very Catholic Monarchy… The thought of the statists, like that of the men of the seventeenth-century, united the contradictions. They glorified the prince, vice-king of God, responsible before his Creator and, at the same time, invoked the irresponsibility of the reason of State… In good logic, the opposing ways of thinking in life are summoned and completed. Inconsistencies also have their logic… What seems to us incoherence is, to a certain extent, the very mark of life. Those seemingly incompatible principles that coexist are actually the past and the present facing each other.”

Although the sense of criticism of figures like Richelieu usually insists on the amoral character of their political endeavors and on the religious instrumentalization of their power interests, the truth is that many of the men who collaborated with those endeavors were also moved by a sincere desire for religious purification. The delimitation of the respective fields of politics and religion should not only serve to liberate politics from religious servitude but also, and for the same reason, to emancipate religion from bastard political ties.

Closer to reality, the statism of Richelieu’s time, assuming violence to overcome it, tried to agree on force and reason. Attempting to reconcile violence and reason, flirting with Machiavellianism to overcome it, statism propagated a new conception of the relationship of men with each other and of man with God. By secularizing political thought, Richelieu developed natural law and a new theology. Statists reject in the first place any religion that mixes God too much with human affairs and that is preached by people ‘more political and carnal than spiritual.’ as Theveneau put it. They judge very suspiciously political-religious endeavors in the Spanish fashion, such as the League, the Evangelization of the Indies, the holy war against the heretics or the infidel. They aspire to a purer, more interior religion, oblivious of material interests and the narrowness of dogma.”

The characteristic realism of this “Catholic Machiavellianism” could thus enlist the support of sincerely religious men, without whom the contemporaneity of its emergence could hardly be assimilated with the appearance of eminently spiritual figures such as Pascal (1623-1662), and his decisive and parallel contribution to both scientific and religious thought.

“Reason, for the seventeenth-century, is therefore, to a certain extent, daughter of the State of Richelieu,” as Etienne Thuau pointed out, and continued: “The brutality of the time of Louis XIII made political apriorisms impossible… But this oppressive thought is also an instrument of liberation. In its positive aspect, the statist works of our period contribute to secularize the State and the League of Nations, and the most remarkable fact of this influence is that the progress of rationalism is parallel to that of the State.” The environmental secularization of the spirit of the time undoubtedly purified the political analysis but also engendered a new moral and religious sensibility, announcing, on the other hand, the new ideological and cultural winds of the great revolutionary rupture of the late eighteenth-century.

This Christian statism placed ample confidence in the human will to build civil society. It is based on ancient and modern rationalisms and gave great autonomy to the State… It is the same with the political polemics of Spain, as with Pascal’s polemics with the Jesuits: They did a lot to secularize thought and expand the morals and politics of honest men. Equally distant from Spanishized theology and from Machiavelli’s atheism, the politics of honest men – or, more precisely, that of the bourgeoisie, men of law and civil servants – tends to be based on natural law, a Christian rationalism and, very often, deism.”

To relate the links of this great (and indeed foundational) “French Machiavellian moment” with the revolutionary hecatomb, which will take place a century and a half after the death of Richelieu, constitutes the task of a work that goes beyond the limits of this one. Instead, we will content ourselves with pointing out, by way of a conclusive synthesis, that the Catholic reason of State that stands as the main novelty of French political thought at the time of Louis XIII, which in his reign allowed the great Cardinal to fulfill his incomparable foundational and restorative dictatorship,” is a paradigmatic example of that creative factor that accompanies the history of Western thought – in that permanent tension between continuity and innovation, analyzed by Sheldon Wolin, as we have highlighted throughout this brief study as hermeneutical support of our interpretation. This creative factor is undoubtedly linked to that imaginative dimension inherent in political thought, as highlighted by the American author, but also to the socio-historical circumstances that incardinate the imaginative leaps of the philosopher.

The varied conceptions of space indicate that each theorist has viewed the problem from a different perspective, a particular angle of vision. This suggests that political philosophy constitutes a form of ‘seeing’ political phenomena and that the way in which the phenomena will be visualized depends in large measure on where the viewer ‘stands.’”

In other words:

The concepts and categories of a political philosophy may be likened to a net that is cast out to capture political phenomena, which are then drawn in and sorted in a way that seems meaningful and relevant to the particular thinker. But in the whole procedure, he has selected a particular net and he has cast it in a chosen place.”

Although Richelieu’s time did not have the support of a political philosophy similar to that of an observer of the English Civil War such as Thomas Hobbes, it nevertheless developed an analogous propaganda apparatus for self-defense, mutatis mutandis, which we have met in the twentieth-century. The interests of the cardinalist press constituted that socio-historical context to which Wolin refers, and which no longer represented so much the perspective adopted by the “observer” (who is associated with an impartial and almost scientific agent), but the approach taken by whoever he observed and at the same time influenced events, in a position similar to that which defined the trajectory of the diplomatic Machiavelli. “The political philosophy of the Richelieu regime is therefore less the fruit of disinterested reflection than of the mask of the will of the State and an instrument of domination. The impression of incompleteness that his works offer comes from his practical aspirations,” Thuau also pointed out.

It is no coincidence that this scholar of reason of State during Richelieu’s time emphasized that “thanks to creative distortions and respectful falsifications, jurists, theologians and men of letters worked for ‘statist crystallization.’” The reference to the creative factor and the fundamentally proactive position of its new interpreters (observers and actors at the same time) clearly delimits the peculiar socio-historical dimension of the imaginative character that we can attribute to the political thought that germinated to the beat of the cardinal’s work. The fusion of the jurist, theologian and man of letters came to be represented, with a similar political role, by the twentieth-century intellectual.

The echoes of this desacralization sponsored by the propaganda demands of the French throne defended by Richelieu were felt, over time, beyond the space-time coordinates of the Spanish-French conflict that saw it born, attacking the descendants of Louis XIII with arguments similar to those used by cardinalist advertising. Only two centuries later, the argument for the desacralization of politics that favored the geopolitical interests of the kingdom of France ended up ruining its own internal foundations.

However, the antecedents that culminated in the French Revolution had, in the meantime, become contaminated with the infection of a new secular matrix moralism, an enlightened humanitarianism that undoubtedly inherited the transcendent desacralization of power that was initiated involuntarily at the initiative of the propagandized, in the service of the Cardinal, but which reoriented the religious potential of the French tradition towards intramundane purposes. Hence, we must ask ourselves about the weak intellectual offspring of the crude political realism that emerged as a result of the claims of affirmation of the French monarchy of Louis XIII.

One feature of the cardinalist propaganda deserves to be noted: Its tendency to offer a brutal vision of reality… The cardinalist press therefore tended to present political life as a confrontation of forces, a harsh view that seemed to “free spirits” a sign of truth. This feature of Richelieu’s time is striking when his accomplishments are compared with those of a later time.”

Perhaps the French theory of reason of State that emerged in Richelieu’s time died as a consequence of its success. French absolutism was to dominate European geopolitics from the treaty of Westphalia. The requirements of his policy, from then on, were to be different from those under the command of the man in red. If Richeulian Machiavellianism is to be fairly considered as one of the golden ages of political realism, its profound nature is better understood if it is seen, in the pre-Westphalian European context, as a brief parenthesis between theological moralism that it preceded and the immanentist secular moralism that buried it.

We can indeed wonder if the time of Richelieu, who made Machiavellianism flourish, was not the moment of truth of the century. Indeed, the seventeenth-century, a century of violence, seems to have been a “Belle époque” for political realism… The Middle Ages lived in a world that was made bearable by the presence of God. The Age of Enlightenment, without ignoring the miseries of the human condition, nurtured a humanitarian ideal. Our gloomy period only looks at the gross facts without any ray of light coming to illuminate them.”

This is the paradox that perhaps summarizes the history of the vision of the political, which is also the history of its visionaries: That all light outside their domain is not a light that illuminates but a light that blinds.

Domingo González Hernández holds a PhD in political philosophy from the Complutense University of Madrid. He is a professor at the University of Murcia. His recent book is René Girard, maestro cristiano de la sospecha (René Girard, Christian Teacher of Suspicion) He is also the Director of the podcast “La Caverna de Platón” for the newspaper La Razón. He has explored the political possibilities of Girardian mimetic theory in more than twenty studies and academic papers. His latest publication is “La monarquía sagrada y el origen de lo político: una hipótesis farmacológica” (“Sacred monarchy and the origin of politics: a pharmacological hypothesis”), Xiphias Gladius, 2020.

The image shows a portrait of Armand Jean du Plessis, Cardinal Richelieu by Philippe de Champaigne, painted ca. 1633-1640.e, painted in 1648.

Translated from the Spanish by N. Dass.

Temporal Power Of The Holy See, A Short History

Origins

When on February 27th, 380 AD, the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, and the two “Augusti,” Gratian and Valentinian II, issued the so called Edict of Thessalonica, “Cunctos populos” to all their subjects, stating the Christian religion was to become the religion of all the peoples of the Roman Empire, the first step toward the birth of the Holy See’s temporal power was made.

At that time the emperor was still the “Pontifex Maximus” (which, by the way means “the Supreme bridge-builder,” which links back to Rome’s Etruscan heritage, when technology and religion were one and the same, and the supreme religious chief was also the best civil engineer) – and who had total authority over all religious aspects of civic life. Thus, the Bishop of Rome was an official of an emperor and nothing more.

Damasus, who was then Bishop of Rome, was given added authority when, backed by the Emperor, he asserted the primacy of Rome over all other bishops and patriarchs in Christendom, since the Bishop of Rome alone was the successor of Peter, the first of the Apostles, who had been crucified in Rome, on the Vatican Hill and buried there, and whose grave still lies in the Vatican caves, under the Basilica that bears his name.

The collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century created a political vacuum. Since the bishops and above all the Pope were the only existing officials of the empire who yet remained, it was in a certain sense normal that they should look after local organizational, administrative and thus political welfare. Likely, they started this kind of ruling activity just in that century; as far as we know, from the time of Leo I’s pontificate, but we can’t be sure, because of the lack of sources from that confused period. But we do know for sure that by the end of 6th century, that is to say since the time of Pope Gregory I, who was elected in 590. the Church was already deeply engaged in such activities.

At that time the clash between Byzantium and the Lombards was on-going, and the war especially ravaged Central Italy, where the Roman Eastern Empire wanted to keep at least Ravenna – capital of the Byzantine Exarchate – and the so-called “Byzantine Corridor,” a strip of land from Ravenna, on the Adriatic Sea, to the other side of the Italian peninsula; that is to say to Rome and the Tyrrhenian Sea.

In 712, the Lombard king, Liutprand, decided to affirm his rule over the two southern and semi-independent Lombard duchies of Spoleto and Benevento, on the southern side of the Byzantine Corridor. Thus, profiting from the riots occurring in Italy against the Byzantines, whose emperor, Leo III Isaurian, supported the Iconoclasts, Liutprand attacked.

Pope Gregory II, elected in 715, realized that Liutprand’s likely intention was to seize Rome. Thus, when the Lombards conquered the nearby city of Narni (Narnia in Latin – by the way, the original Narnia whose name was later used for the “Chronicles,” although no speaking lions or other peculiar animals lived there!) – Gregory II said that Liutprand must return the conquered territories to Byzantium.

Liutprand had already accepted the submission of both the dukes of Spoleto and Benevento, and thus he was not so worried about the stability of the Lombard compact. But giving back territories to the enemy was not such a good idea. On the other hand, it was the Pope himself who was asking. So, what to do?

Liutprand found a smart solution. He presented the Pope with the city of Sutri – a strong-point which barred the route from the upper Byzantine Corridor to Rome – because the Pope was still an Imperial, that is to say a Byzantine, official. It is useless here to list all the towns and small castles the Lombards later gave the Holy See. What is important is to stress that such a process was not unusual and normal. It is commonly regarded that Popes Zachary (741-752) and his successor Stephen II (752-757) established temporal power, and this somehow triggered the fake Donation of Constantine.

As things now stand, given the state of philology and history, we still do not know where and when the Donation may have been created. What is certain is that it is fake.

Father Döllinger, in the 19th century, suggested that was created in Rome between 752 and 777. Some scholars think it was aimed to support the Papal claim over Constantinople, with Roman supremacy over all other Patriarchal Sees. Other scholars suppose it to have been made in France. Regardless, when was it made? And who made it?

The Donation exists as a copy in the Decretals by Pseudo-Isidore, and in some 12th century manuscripts of Gratian’s Decretum; and the real author of the Decretals is not known, even though in the past both Isidore Mercator and Pseudo-Isidore were regarded as such. Scholarship tells us that the Decretals were not written by a single person, but by a team, under the direction of one coordinator. And if it is true that the documents used to create the fake Donation came from the library of the French abbey of Corbie, it is possible that the coordinator was Abbot Paschasius Radbertus – later Saint Paschasius – a theologian who served as the abbot of Corbie from 842 to 847. Thus, in 847, the ensemble of forged documents – a couple of hundred – aimed at supporting the Church’s hierarchy and state power, may be considered nearly finished and ready to put to use.

Some scholars think the Donation may have been made earlier, perhaps a century earlier, to support Pope Stephen II when, in 754, he went to France, to negotiate with Pepin the Short. Stephen granted his support to Pepin who supplanted the Merovingian dynasty, in exchange for official recognition of Papal ownership of Italian lands that the Lombards had seized from the Byzantines.

Now, it is important to note that at the time, fakes were normal and widely used, and almost everybody relied on forged documents to support their claims. As the Italian scholar, Federico Chabod, remarked in 1969, almost half of the decrees issued by the Merovingian kings were forged. For example, there is the Privilegium maius of the Dukes of Austria, which makes Austria an archduchy, giving it the same rank as the Princes Elector of the Holy Empire. The Privilegium was forged quoting documents by Julius Caesar(!) and Nero which supposedly granted Noricum, that is to say Austria, special status.

Thus, it comes as no surprise when Emperor Otto III, living in a world of fake documents, in 1001 issued a decree rejecting the Donation of Constantine because it showed none of the seals and signs it must bear if it were original.

But this mattered little to the Church. For example, in 1440, Lorenzo Valla (a priest and a scholar) analyzed the Donation and realized that it was written in a Latin other than that used in Constantine’s time; and in this way revealed it was fake. But things did not go too smoothly for Valla. His work, De falso credita et ementita Constantini donatione declamatio, appeared only in 1517, and was later condemned and inserted into the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. Why? Because the Donation of Constantine laid the ground supporting a further donation – that by Charlemagne.

This second Donation stems from the Promissio Carisiaca, or the Quierzy Promise (named after the town, Quierzy-sur-Oise, from which it was decreed), was not given by Charlemagne, but by his father, Pepin the Short to Pope Stephen II. As already mentioned, Stephen had granted papal support to Pepin’s claims to the Frankish crown, and in return had asked Pepin to help the Church by giving to her the Italian lands now owned by the Lombards, instead of to the Byzantines.

Pepin agreed. But nothing happened until 774, when Charlemagne, in Rome, formally accomplished his father’s promise.

Since the original documents of both the Promissio Charisiaca and of the Donation of Charlemagne were lost, what remained was only a detailed account in the biography of Pope Adrian I.

According to the Church the Donation meant that the Church had been presented by Charlemagne with absolute ownership of all territories north of the Tiber up to the Po valley. According to Napoleon, it meant simply that the Pope had been invested as a feudal lord by the Emperor, and thus was a subject of the Emperor, and thus a subject to the Emperor of France, that is to say to Napoleon.

Pius VII did not accept this conclusion. The harsh clash between he and Napoleon over the state of Catholic faith in France and in the empire was made harsher by the Donation. But Leipzig first, and then Waterloo solved the question. The Pope returned to Rome in 1814 and found a new problem: the Italians wanted to unite the peninsula, with Rome as the capital and possibly having no Pope at all in the city.

Dogma, Or Not Dogma, That Is The Problem

After the 1814 Restoration, the Pope and the Cardinals did not intend to abandon a sole inch of the Church’s right and territories. The Church had just lost Avignon in France, and now wanted to lose her one-millennium-year-held Italian lands.

As long as there were only the relatively uncoordinated and weak groups of Carbonari, there was not that much to worry about. But when, after 1848, it became clear that Italian unity was a threat likely to happen, the Church wondered how to react.

The weak point was that there was no mention about temporal power in the Gospels, nor in any of the Apostolic letters or in the Acts of the Apostles. Thus, there was only the legal basis to turn to. But once the Donation of Constantine was deprived of its value because it was fake – as a consequence, the Donation of Charlemagne, though used by Napoleon, held no legal value and was not recognized by the Congress of Vienna. Therefore, by which legal or religious bases could the temporal power of the Church be asserted? Could perhaps a dogma be issued?

This was a very difficult problem and there was not that much room to solve it. The dogmatic validity of temporal power by itself never existed. No Gospel speaks of it. Moreover, Jesus said just the contrary when, as recorded in Matthew 22:21 and confirmed by Luke in 20:25, and Mark 12:17, Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” That is to say the separation of Church and State, each in its own jurisdiction.

Gregory XVI stressed this separation and readily refused to embroil the Church in secular controversies when on August 5, 1831, he issued the Sollicitudo Ecclesiarum; but this dealt with what to do in states and countries other than the Papal ones. The problem the Church faced was quite different. Theologians and lawyers tried to gather as much material as they could, but the result was not that convincing.

Regardless, they began with Saint Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians, where, in chapter 9:11, he said: “Si nos vobis spiritualia seminavimus, magnum est, si nos carnalia vestra metamus? Si alii potestatis vestrae participes sunt, quare non potius nos? (If we have been planting the things of the Spirit for you, does it seem a great thing for you to give us a part in your things of this world?).”

The next step was “enhanced” by the Donation of Constantine, whose forgery was silently and conveniently not mentioned or forgotten. Then, further support was provided by way of Pope Nicholas III’s constitution, Fundamenta militantis Ecclesiae, issued on July 18, 1278.

Unfortunately, as the Italian legal experts remarked, it had a vice in its substance, for it relied on the Donation of Constantine and used that as a legal basis to assert once more the Church’s authority on the city of Rome and on Roman government.

Oh well. But there was Saint Thomas Aquinas. The supporters of the Church’s temporal power used his authority, because in his Scriptum super Sententiis, [liber II, Distinctio XLIV, quaestio 2 (o articulus 2) “Utrum Christiani teneantur obedire potestatibus saecularibus, et maxime tyrannis”, ad 4 in fine], where Aquinas says, “Ad quartum dicendum, quod potestas spiritualis et saecularis, utraque deducitur a potestate divina; et ideo intantum saecularis potestas est sub spirituali, inquantum est ei a Deo supposita, scilicet in his quae ad salutem animae pertinent; et ideo in his magis est obediendum potestati spirituali quam saeculari. In his autem quae ad bonum civile pertinent, est magis obediendum potestati saeculari quam spirituali, secundum illud Matth. 22: 21: reddite quae sunt Caesaris Caesari. Nisi forte potestati spirituali etiam saecularis potestas conjungatur, sicut in Papa, qui utriusque potestatis apicem tenet, scilicet spiritualis et saecularis, hoc illo disponente qui est sacerdos et rex in aeternum, secundum ordinem Melchisedech, rex regum, et dominus dominantium, cujus potestas non auferetur et regnum non corrumpetur in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

(In the fourth point it must be said [that] since the spiritual and secular power, both come from divine power, therefore the temporal power is under spiritual power, insofar as it is subjected to it by God, that is to say, in those things that belong to the salvation of the soul; and therefore in those [things] it is necessary to obey more to the spiritual power than to the secular. In those [things], too, which pertain to the civil good, one must obey the secular power more than the spiritual one, according to what Matthew 22: 21: Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. If not in the case that secular power is combined with the spiritual, as in the Pope, who holds the top of both, that is, the spiritual and the secular [powers]; this, because they are disposed by him, who is a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek, king of kings and ruler of rulers, whose power will not be removed and the kingdom will not be corrupted forever and ever, Amen).

The fourth, and last, although quite weak, pillar was Saint Robert Bellarmine, who in his Tractatus de potestate Summi Pontificis in rebus temporalibus, adversus Gulielmum Barclay, published in 1610, wrote “Etsi absolute forte praestaret Pontifices tractare solum spiritualia et reges termporalia, tamen propter malitiam temporum experientia clamat: non solum utiliter, sed etiam necessarie, et ex singulari Dei providential donatos fuisse Pontifici aliisque episcopis temporales aliquos principatus.”

But this piece of evidence only makes the claim for temporal power, after “propter malitiam temporum”: “Experience shows that not only usefully but also necessarily and by a singular providence of God certain temporal principalities were given the Pontiff and other bishops.” This meant that temporal power had only been given the Church because of the difficult times she lived in, and that such power had been useful, not that it was an article of Faith.

The whole “legal” structure was quite weak, if not non-existent, as is obvious. Then the Pope added his own argument. On March 25, 1862, speaking to the clergy of the Santa Maria sopra Minerva Church and College, Pius IX said that temporal power was not to be an article of Faith, but that it was necessary to the independence of the Apostolic See. This was a knock out, what to do? Someone, we don’t know who – came up with an idea.

The End Of Temporal Power

The idea, whose author is not known, was complicated: to hold a Council dealing with several issues, and, within it, once the main problems were solved, as a second step, to render temporal power as dogma.

Making temporal power legally or ideally stronger was not easy, especially after that Pius IX’s recent statement. On June 9, 1862, that is to say only two and a half months after his speech to the clergy of the Minerva, the Pope received an address by 390 bishops from all over the world, who convened in Rome for the canonization of the Japanese martyrs. They told Pius IX that temporal power was to be necessary.

In 1863, the most convinced Legitimists strongly supported the idea of making temporal power a dogma. Then, when celebrating in Trent the 3rd centennial of the end of the Council of Trent, with huge participation of the German and Austro-Hungarian clergy, the first idea of holding a council openly appeared.

The Vatican did not say, “Yes,” or “No,” and the proposal was left aside. Then, in the years following, the French left Rome, because of an agreement signed with Italy, in September 1864. Was it by chance that the Pope announced the forthcoming council to the cardinals living in Rome a few months later in December 1864?

Then the opening date of the council was decided, June 1867, but was soon delayed.

Of course, before that date many things had happened: a Protestant power like Prussia deprived a Catholic one, Austria, of German leadership; Queen Isabella of Spain, a loyal Catholic, lost the throne; the Mexicans shot Maximilian of Habsburg; and in Rome the Jesuits’ journal, La Civiltà Cattolica suggested, or seemed to suggest, that a Council after all could be opportune to address and solve some issues that the new order of things was presenting.

The Council had, above all, to discuss papal infallibility, and then, although this was not stated, if everybody agreed, the dogma of temporal power could be discussed and even approved. The papal allocution Pericunda announced the Council, to be opened on December 8, 1869.

But was it necessary? Did the infallibility really need a dogmatic definition?

No one doubted the infallibility of the Pope; and, by the way, Saint Augustine had already clearly indicated the primacy of the Bishop of Rome and the obligation to defer to what he stated. But many theologians doubted that it was possible, and conveniently failed to define infallibility in a clear and authoritative way.

There was, however, one aspect that ultimately made that dogma appropriate to the life of the Church. In the first half of the 19th century, the independence of South and Central America had created as many counterparts to the Holy See as there were new independent states. Even in Europe there had been changes of major importance. Britain in 1829 ended three centuries of marginalization of Catholics from public life, allowing them access to civil and military administration, while maintaining restrictions in some areas. Then came the Oxford Movement; and, thanks above all to John Henry Newman and Archbishop Wiseman, in a few years, between 1845 and 1850, there was an impressive return of the British to Rome. The Catholic hierarchy in Great Britain was re-established, and a primate was appointed – Wiseman, now a cardinal – in Westminster. This had also opened up the British Empire to Catholic missions, which, shortly thereafter and until the end of World War II, would include a third of the lands in the world.

At the same time, in the 1840s, the famous Irish potato famine increased Irish emigration, pushing hundreds of thousands of Catholic Irish to the United States, which at that time was still almost completely Protestant and anti-Catholic. The Church therefore faced a world changed profoundly in a generation. Meanwhile, the problems of Latin America, which previously could only be solved in Madrid and Lisbon, had now to be dealt with in eighteen different overseas capitals. Then there was the legal denial by the British of any direct or indirect political authority of the Pope, an authority that in the United States continued to be feared and suspected until the Second World War, and even beyond.

All these were new elements presented the problem of a new form of obedience – and which also meant that a Catholic could no longer view politics and Faith as two sides of the same coin, or as the same thing, because now even in Catholic countries the altar could no longer be the companion of the throne.

The Enlightenment had traced the first furrow between the two. Eighteenth-century jurisdictionalism had deepened it but, no matter how jealous of his prerogatives, no 18th century Catholic ruler would have ever acted against the Faith, and very few against the Church.

The French Revolution, however, had broken that binomial of altar and throne, pushing declared atheists to power. The 1814 Restoration tried to recompose the union between throne and altar, but now the expansion of Catholics into Protestant lands made that union dangerous. If Catholics wanted to exist in certain areas of the world, Rome must not try to impose her political vision there, but must limit herself to protect religious liberty. And thirty years earlier, Gregory XVI had already understood and said that.

The presence of Catholics was no longer vertical. It was becoming horizontal, that is to say, it was evolving from being institutionally parallel and similar, and interlaced with the structure of the State in which Catholics lived in – to a now scattered presence, not necessarily connected to the institutions of the country in which Catholics lived, as it had been in the Roman Empire after Constantine and before Theodosius I.

Deprived of the support of secular power, Rome now had to take care of spiritual obedience much more than in the past; and, to do so, it had to explicitly and dogmatically stress some points that in the past were assumed as givens, starting primarily with the Pope’s infallibility.

It is hard to say to what extent Pius IX realized the transition that the Church was experiencing, in a world whose speed of change was proportional to the speed of the news, and therefore increasing day by day. Of course, like everyone in the Curia, in the Papal court, had the Pope been able to keep things as in the good old days, he would have been happy. But, since he knew something about the world beyond the Papal States (he was the first Pope who in his youth had been in the Americas, namely, Chile), and since he had to ensure the continuity of the Church and the transmission of Tradition and of the Gospel in their integrity, he fell relied on more spiritual positions when he called the Council, in which bishops were informed of all the transformations taking place in the world, and thanks to which the Truth would continue to live and spread. He had no doubt that they would approve such spiritual positions of the Church.

I do not think it was a coincidence that the Council was announced to the Curia cardinals in December 1864, the year of the September Convention. To anyone making the slightest, impartial assessment – and the Pope had made much assessment, no matter how impulsive he could be – it was clear that external protection of the Church, whether French, Austrian or whatever else, would sooner or later end, and thus the Church could lose its State. If the opening of the Council, originally scheduled for June 29, 1867, was delayed until December 8, 1869, it is likely that it was because of what was happening in Europe and in Italy.

The discussions in Rome were carefully followed by all the nation-states. Discordant voices raised among the Council fathers, precisely regarding infallibility. But the European powers were hardly concerned about what, at the moment, was a purely doctrinal question, and they held back any intervention to when and if the Council would touch the temporal sphere.

Britain could only be an obstacle; and from Britain came some perplexity. But London was kept calm by the skill and social relations of Archbishop Manning, the next primate of England.

On July 18, 1870, the Council approved papal Infallibility. The next step could be temporal power. But on the following day, July 19, 1870, France declared war on Prussia. The telegraph immediately reported the news in Rome, and in the blink of an eye the city emptied, and whatever examination and proclamation of the dogma of temporal power that might have been forthcoming vanished with the French, Belgian, Austrian and German prelates running back to their seats.

Then, two months later, on September 20, 1870, the Italians seized Rome. The Pope retreated into the Vatican, and the Council was officially declared “suspended” on October 20, 1870, and was formally closed by John XXIII in 1960 before the opening of Vatican Council II.

Thus, it was that the story of temporal power, before collapsing in front of the oncoming Italian army, became the instrument by which in fact Papal infallibility was approved and became dogma. No matter what men do, nobody can stop the Spirit.

Ciro Paoletti, a prominent Italian historian of military history, is the Secretary General of the Italian Commission of Military History. He is the author of 25 books, and more than 400 other smaller works\, published in Italy and abroad, and mostly dealing with modern and contemporary Italian military history and policy.

The image shows, “Jacopo Pesaro Being Presented by Pope Alexander VI to Saint Peter,” by Titian, painted ca. 1508–1511.

The Myth Of The Spanish Inquisition

In our continual efforts to bring quality material to our readers, this month we are very honored to showcase this detailed lecture from Father Joe Shea, who is the pastor of St. Rose of Lima, Simi Valley, California.

Here, Father Joe dispels the many, many myths and lies told about the “Spanish Inquisition” by those who still (often unwittingly) repeat the propaganda of John Foxe.


The image shows, “Scene from the Spanish Inquisition,” by Henri Regnault, painted ca. 1868 to 1870.