I wish to comment on Joseph Santamaria QC’s article, “Santamaria: the making of a political warrior” (News Weekly, January 21, 2006).
He referred to the role his father, B.A. (“Bob”) Santamaria, played in the controversy at Melbourne University in 1937 when he and other members of Catholic Action did what they could to support the righteousness of the July 1936 rising against the Spanish State.
The author refers to the establishment of the Spanish Republic in 1931 and the proclamation of a new constitution, which, he claims, “was not hostile to the Church”.
That is untrue. The Constitution decreed the abolition of all religious schools and also made the existence of religious orders difficult.
It also expelled any religious order that obeyed any foreign power, such as the Roman Pontiff. That was plainly aimed at the Jesuits.
It also decreed that the Catholic clergy would cease to receive their salaries, which was part of the financial compensation that had been given the Church since 1837 for the then seizure by the anti-clerical government of Mendizabal of many Church-owned lands and monasteries.
So it is wrong to say that the Constitution was not hostile to the Church.
However, that was not an important factor in the series of disorders that occurred in Spain during the 1930s.
Joseph Santamaria says in his article that, “during the 1930s, thousands of priests and nuns were murdered”. But it should be made clear that that did not occur until July 1936.
That is to say, it was as a result of the military rising. It could not be alleged as a justification or cause for the military or citizens to rebel against the authority of the Republic, as could be construed from the juxtaposition of the sentence following the above in Santamaria’s article.
In fact, wherever the Rising did not prosper, which was more than half of Spanish territory, anarchist gangs devoted themselves to the killing of any whom they considered as enemies of the Spanish Government.
The breakdown in order over most of the country allowed them to act thus, but it was not Government policy.
According to the work by Antonio Montero Moreno, The History of the Religious Persecution in Spain, 1936-1939 (published in 1956 by Editorial Católica), nearly 7,000 clergy and religious were assassinated at that time.
Peter F. Renehan,