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History of Catholic Persecution in Spain

On the chapel wall of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary novitiate in Tucson, Arizona, are the photographs of three deceased Sisters from their order. These Sisters were also biological sisters: Blessed Carmen, Blessed Rosa, and Blessed Magdalena Fradera. Who were these Sisters? And why are they honored as “Blessed”?

In Spain, in July of 1936, the convent of these Sisters was seized by the government, and all the Sisters were ordered to don secular clothes and return to their families. The three Sisters did this, and lived by their rule in their parents’ home. On September 25, a leftist militia arrived at their parents’ home demanding a “tax.” On September 27, the militia returned, to take the Sisters in for “questioning.” The Sisters were not deceived and told their distressed parents: “…we are willing to die for Christ. We go contentedly to give our blood for our God.” The Sisters were then taken to a forest and murdered. For this, they were declared “Blessed” by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.

To put this event into context, the persecution of Catholics in Spain actually began in 1931, when the Republicans took control of the government. N.B. “Republicans” for Americans is a misleading term, because in Spain the “Republicans,” or “Loyalists,” or “Popular Front” were anti-religious alliances of communist, socialist and anarchist parties. Soon after, events such as the following occurred:

  • In 1931, one hundred Catholic churches were burned while firefighters held back. It was made illegal for religious orders to educate. A government official said the goal of this law was “crippling Catholic education” and “making instruction a monopoly of the state.”

  • In 1932, the Jesuits were expelled from Spain and their property confiscated.

  • In 1933, virtually all Church property was “nationalized.”

  • In October 1934, 37 priests, brothers and seminarians were murdered in Asturias, and 58 churches destroyed.

  • In July 1936, the Nationalists rebelled against the depredations of the Republicans; the Spanish Civil War, and the Red Terror, began: Fifty-seven of fifty-eight churches in Barcelona, with the exception of the cathedral, were set ablaze. Thirty-five St. John of God Hospitaller Brothers, who were staffing a psychiatric care facility, were murdered. In August, 2077 clergymen were murdered, including 10 bishops. The paper of the Marxist Workers’ Party editorialized: “It is not a matter of setting fire to churches or putting to death ecclesiastics, but of destroying the Church as an institution.” In September, the Republicans sent 72% of the Bank of Spain’s gold supply to Stalin’s USSR to pay for armaments.

  • In February 1937, the minister of education wrote: “…it is our duty to make Spain a land of militant atheists… Every school in Spain will be made a communist school.”

  • By 1939, 20,000 churches had been partially or completely destroyed. In one diocese, 120 of 143 priests had been killed. Uncounted thousands of lay Catholics had been murdered just because they were Catholic. In April, the Nationalists, under General Franco, defeated the Republican army, ending the Republican persecution of Catholics.

What’s remarkable about this is that this history is not widely known. Similarly, compared to the crimes of the Nazis (National Socialists) we hear little about the crimes of other Marxist inspired regimes, such as the religious persecution that occurred in the USSR, China, North Korea, Cuba, Cambodia, or Mexico. In fact, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary came to Tucson in 1917, fleeing the religious persecution of the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920.

In 1878, Pope Leo XIII, in his encyclical On Socialism, addressed his priests: “…labor hard that the children of the Catholic Church neither join nor in any way favor this abominable sect…” So too, Bishop Sheen, in his book Communism and the Conscience of the West (available through Refuge of Sinners Publishing) adjures us to choose our leaders on moral grounds, and allow our “belief in God and morality to seep down into our action in the polling booths.” (p. 126)

Your station, now and in coming months, will feature programs that tell of past socialist failures, and warn of the threat of increasing secular intolerance, so that our country might avoid the nightmare, the death grip, of Socialism.

Viva Christo Rey!

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