by Avro Manhattan







It is impossible to deny that the polity of the Church of Rome is the very masterpiece of human wisdom.  In truth, nothing but such a polity could, against such assaults, have borne up such doctrines.  The experience of twelve hundred eventful years, the ingenuity and patient care of forty generations of statesmen have improved that polity to such perfection that among the contrivances which have been devised for controlling mankind, it occupies the highest place.”








by Avro Manhattan,

Copyright 1949 by Gaer Associations, Inc.

New York

First published in England by

C. A. Watts & Co., Limited, London






Digital Edition restored by

Central Highlands Congregation of God

1st October, 2021


Published by

Central Highlands Christian Publications

PO Box 236 Creswick Vic 3363  Australia




Avro Manhattan (1914-1990)

About the Author

Avro Manhattan was the world’s foremost authority on Roman Catholicism in politics.  During WW II he operated a radio station called “Radio Freedom” from London, broadcasting to occupied Europe.  He was the author of over 20 books, including The Vatican in World Politics, which was twice Book-of-the-Month and went through 57 editions.  It was translated into most major languages including Chinese and Russian.  He risked his life daily to expose some of the darkest secrets of the Papacy.




Table of Contents























Editor’s Update





The importance of this book cannot be exaggerated.  Properly understood, it offers both a clue and a key to the painfully confused political situation that shrouds the world.  No political event or circumstance can be evaluated without the knowledge of the Vatican’s part in it.  And no significant world political situation exists in which the Vatican does not play an important explicit or implicit part.

As Glenn L. Archer, Executive Director of Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State, puts it, “this book comes to grips with the most vital social and political problems of our day.  The author presents with singular clarity and without bias the conflicts between the Roman Church and the freedoms of democracy.”

This book is valuable also in that it brings to light historical facts hitherto kept secret, many of them published here for the first time.  The author coped with great difficulties when he attempted to compress into the confines of a single volume the great mass of material available.  For that reason he had to leave out many valuable discussions.  And some were omitted because the cases dealt with remained still unresolved.  That is the reason no mention is to be found of the case of Archbishop Stepinac of Yugoslavia, and there is only a brief mention of the case of Cardinal Mindszenty of Hungary—cases which at the time this book was published were on the schedule of the United Nations for investigation.  But sufficient evidence is presented in other cases to enable the reader to evaluate current events and similar situations.



June 1949



Within the last few decades, amid the rumblings and the ruins of two World Wars, the United States of America has emerged paramount and dynamic on the stage of global politics.

From across the great land mass of Eurasia, Russia—the bastion of Communism, equally dynamic in its struggle to build up a new political structure—is challengingly waiting for the tumbling of the old pattern of society, confident that time is on her side.

At the same time, the Catholic Church, seemingly preoccupied only with its religious tasks, is feverishly engaged in a race for the ultimate spiritual conquest of the world.

But whereas the exertions of the U.S.A. and of the U.S.S.R. are followed with growing apprehension, those of the Vatican are seldom scrutinized.  Yet not a single event of importance that has contributed to the present chaotic state of affairs has occurred without the Vatican taking an active part in it.

The Catholic population of the world—400 millions—is more numerous than that of the United States and Soviet Russia put together.  When it is remembered that the concerted activities of this gigantic spiritual mass depend on the lips of a single man, the apathy of the non-Catholic American should swiftly turn to keenest attention.  His interest, furthermore, should increase when he is made aware that the United States is intimately involved in the attainment of both the immediate and the ultimate goals of the Vatican.


These goals are:

1.  The annihilation of Communism and of Soviet Russia.

2.  The spiritual conquest of the U.S.A.

3.  The ultimate Catholicization of the world.


Do these goals seem fantastic?

Unfortunately they are neither speculation nor wild and idle dreams.  They are as indisputable and as inextricably a part of contemporary history as the rise of Hitler, the defeat of Japan, the splitting of the atom, the existence of Communism.  Indeed the inescapable alternative by which mankind today is confronted is not whether this will be the American or the Russian Century, but whether this might not after all become the Catholic Century.

Surely, then, the nature, aims and workings of the Catholic Church deserve some scrutiny.  The American citizen, perturbed by the past, bewildered by the present and made increasingly anxious about the future, would do well to ponder the exertions of the Vatican in contemporary American and world politics.  His destiny as well as the destiny of the United States, and indeed of mankind, has been and will continue to be profoundly affected by the activities of an institution which, although a church, is nonetheless as mighty a political power as the mightiest nation on the planet.



London, 1949






To write about the influence exercised by religion in general, and by Christianity in particular, in the affairs of a century preoccupied with gigantic ethical, social, economic, and political problems, might seem at first a waste of time.  For religion, although still deeply rooted in the modern world, is no longer a factor that can seriously compete with the more cogent forces of an economic and social nature by which our contemporary civilization is convulsed.

Religion has lost, and continues to lose, ground everywhere.  The individual, as well as society, is far more concerned with weekly wages, the exploitation of raw materials, the financial budget, unemployment, the race towards perfecting the best tools of destruction and untrapping cosmic forces, and thousands of other problems of a practical nature.

Yet to assume, as is generally the case, that religion is today relegated into the background whence it cannot to any serious extent influence the course of political events either in the domestic or international spheres, would be to maintain an illusion that does not correspond to actuality.

Especially is this so in the case of one particular brand of Christianity—namely “Catholicism”.  For Catholicism, notwithstanding its enormous loss in numbers and influence, is more alive and aggressive than ever, and exercised a greater influence on the national and international events which culminated in the First and Second World Wars than at first seems possible.

This is sustained, not by mere theoretical assertions, but by crude reality.  Other religions or religious denominations continue to exercise a more or less great influence on modern society, but their ability to shape the course of events cannot in any way be compared with that of the Catholic Church.

This is due to several factors peculiar to the Catholic Church of which the most characteristic are the following:—


1.  (a) Catholicism’s numerical strength, its nominal members, a few years after World War II, approximately 400,000,000.

(b) The fact that the bulk of Catholics live in the leading continents—e.g., Europe and the Americas.

(c) The fact that the Catholic Church has Catholics in every corner of the world.

2.  The spirit that moves the Catholic Church and which makes it act with the firm conviction that its fundamental mission is to convert the whole of mankind, not to Christianity, but to Catholicism.

3.  The fact that the Catholic Church, unlike Protestantism or any other religion, has a formidable religious organization spreading over the whole planet.  At the head of this organization stands the Pope, whose task is to maintain and proclaim the immutability of certain spiritual principles on which Catholicism stands.  His efforts are directed to the furtherance of the interests of the Catholic Church in the world.


The cumulative effort of these factors is the creation of a compact religious-spiritual bloc, which is the most efficient and militant power of its kind in the modern world.

The Catholic Church, more than any other religious denomination, cannot confine itself to a merely religious sphere.  For the fact that it believes its mission to be that of maintaining and furthering the spiritual dominion of Catholicism brings it immediately into contact—and very often conflict—with fields adjoining religion.  Religious principles consist not only of theological and spiritual formula, but invariably of moral and ethical, and often of social elements.  As they cannot be neatly dissected, and as it is impossible to label each one separately according to its religious, moral, ethical, or social nature, it is extremely difficult to separate them.  Whenever religious dogmas are favorably or adversely affected, moral, ethical, and social principles are automatically involved.

As religious principles affect ethical and social principles, the step from these to the economic, and finally political, sphere is very short.  In many cases this sequence is unavoidable, and even when it is thought advisable to keep religious problems within the purely religious field, this is in reality an impossibility, owing to this multiple nature of spiritual principles.  The practical consequence of this is that, whenever a given Church proclaims, condemns, or favors a certain spiritual principle, its condemnation or support reverberates in semi-religious and even non-religious fields; consequently the Church, whether willingly or not, influences problems which are not its direct concern.

In the particular case of the Catholic Church, this is brought to an extreme, for the simple reason that Catholicism is more rigid than any other religion as regards the spiritual field.  To this is added the fact that a good Catholic owes blind obedience to his Church and must put his Church’s interest before any social or political matter.  Since this body comprising millions of such Catholics, living all over the world, hangs on the words of the Pope, it is easy to see the long-range power that the Catholic Church can exercise in non-religious spheres.

To given an illustration: the Catholic Church, in its quality of a religious institution, asserts that when a man and a woman are united by the sacrament of matrimony, no power on earth can loose the bonds between them.  Modern society, on the other hand, admitting that a marriage might be a failure, has created a set of ethical and legal tenets according to which those bonds may be cut.  As the Catholic Church considers this to be wrong, it endeavors to fight such principles by all means in its power.  It not only condemns them in the religious-moral field, but orders all Catholics to reject and fight the principles and practice of divorce.  Thus, when a Catholic becomes a member of the legislative body of a given country where a Bill legalizing divorce comes up for discussion, he must put his religious duty first and fight and vote against such a Bill.  In this way the religious issue of divorce becomes not only a question of moral and ethical principles, but also a social problem of great importance.

Another typical example is that, whereas modern society and modern ethics have accepted the theory and use of contraceptives, these are condemned by the Catholic Church, which asserts that the only function of the union of the sexes is procreation.  This it asserts regardless of social or economic factors, such as whether the children thus born will have sufficient food to eat, whether they will get adequate education, and so on.  The cumulative result of this religious injunction is that millions of married couples, to obey the law of their Church, procreate regardless of their own or their country’s social and economic condition, thus producing or aggravating serious problems of a demographic, economic, or political nature.

The Church asserts that it has the right to teach moral principles as well as religious ones.  It declares, for instance, that the right of private ownership is inviolable, which is against the principles of a great movement of social, economic, and political character known under the general term of “Socialism.”  As Socialism, in its various shapes and forms, is a purely social and political movement, trying to enforce its principles on the economic, social, and political life of society, it follows that it is bound to incur the hostility of the Catholic Church.  Such hostility automatically leads the Church into social and political arenas.  Catholics, because they must blindly obey their Church, must fight the theory and practice of Socialism; and this they do in their capacity as citizens, Members of Parliament, or as individuals in the ranks of some powerful political party.

There are innumerable cases of this kind, from which it is evident that the Catholic Church cannot avoid interfering in social and political issues.  The practical result of this interference of religious and moral tenets in non-religious fields is that the Catholic Church is continually intervening, in one way or another, in the social and political life of society in general and of certain countries and individuals in particular.  This interference may be of a mild or violent nature, depending on the reaction of the non-religious spheres to the voice of the Church.

Thus it happens that Catholic countries, where the legislation of the State has been drawn up according to the principles of the Catholic Church, find themselves in harmony with the Catholic Church’s condemnation or support of any issue.  For instance, a Catholic Government will introduce laws forbidding divorce, penalizing the use of contraceptives, and banishing all activities propagating the idea that private ownership is evil and should be abolished.  The result will be that in such a country Parliament will pass these laws against divorce, will close shops selling contraceptives, and imprison any individual and ban any movement actively hostile to the idea of private ownership.

But when, instead of an obedient Catholic Government, the Catholic Church is confronted by an indifferent, or even hostile, Parliament, then conflict is inevitable.  The State and Church declare war on each other.  The conflict may end in stalemate, or a compromise may be reached, or the struggle may take the form of relentless and open hostility.  The State will pass such legislation as it deems necessary, regardless of the Church.  It may allow divorce, and it may recognize the right of a given political party to wage war on private ownership.  The Church then replies by ordering its clergy to preach against such laws and advising all Catholics to oppose them and the Government that passed them.  All papers owned by Catholics take a stand against the Government, and individual Catholic members of the Government vote against any legislation that conflicts with the principles of the Church; while religious, social, and political organizations formed by Catholics boycott such laws.  A political party, possibly a Catholic party, is created, whose task is to bring about a Government in harmony with the Church and to fight those parties which preach doctrines contrary to those of Catholicism.  A bitter political struggle is initiated.

At this point it should be remembered that the Catholics opposing either their Government or other political parties are guided (a) by the rigid and dogmatic tenets of Catholicism, and (b) by the Supreme Leader of the Catholic Churchnamely, the Pope.

It is asserted by Catholics that the Pope never interferes in politics.  We shall show later that he does interfere sometimes directly; but even if this were not so, it is obvious that he interferes in politics indirectly each time that he orders Catholics to fight certain legislation or a social doctrine, or political party which, in his opinion, conflicts with Catholicism.  To quote a classical example: when Leo XIII wrote his Rerum Novarum, although he did not directly interfere with the politics of his time, he charged full tilt into the political arena by explicitly condemning the social and political doctrines of Socialism and by advising Catholics to organize themselves under Catholic trade unions and create Catholic political parties.

This power of the Catholic Church to interfere in social and political spheres is rendered infinitely more dangerous by the fact that it is not limited to any given country: it reaches all countries in which there are Catholics.  Thus there is no continent where the Pope cannot influence, to a greater or less degree, the social and political life of the community.

It is evident from this that the Catholic Church can exercise an indirect as well as a direct influence, not only in the internal problems of a country, but also in the international sphere.  By creating or supporting certain political parties and by combating others, the Church can become a political power of the first magnitude in any given country.  This attribute is enhanced by the fact that the Catholic Church can act as a political power also in international problems.  It may, for instance, influence certain Catholic countries and Catholic Governments either to support or to fight issues of an international character, or it may indicate its wishes to international gatherings, such as the League of Nations.  Thus, between the two world wars, it made obvious a desire that Soviet Russia should not be admitted to the League, and during the Abyssinian War it claimed that sanctions against Fascist Italy should be lifted.

What proportion of the Catholic population follows the lead of the Catholic Church in social and political matters?   This question arises in view of the enormous inroads of scepticism amongst the masses, and the increasing hostility shown by a great section of modern society to the direct and indirect interference of the Church in political problems.

In nominally Catholic countries (France, Italy, Spain, Poland), notwithstanding the widespread indifference of the population, the Catholic Church still exerts a very deep influence, rendered effective by the efforts of a zealous minority.  It has been estimated that a nominally Catholic country is divided into the following proportions: one-fifth actively anti-clerical, one-fifth zealous Catholics, and the remaining three-fifths neither actively hostile to nor supporting the Catholic Church, but on certain occasions throwing their weight in favor of the first or the second group.  Even on the basis of these proportions, the Pope would have a formidable army of active Catholics fighting his battle in the social and political spheres; and this in every nominally Catholic country in Europe and the Americas.  In Protestant countries, where Catholics are in a minority, the proportion of the Catholic population who are active Catholics is usually far higher than in Catholic countries.  When these active millions move together to achieve the same aimnamely, to further the power of the Catholic Church in societybeing directed under a single leadership, being made to act according to a well-defined plan, and entering the political arena in the internal and external spheres, it does not require any great imagination to grasp the extent of the influence they can exert.

The master-mind directing the moves of these various Catholic organizations and parties in the fields of regional, national, and international social and political struggle naturally resides in the centre of Catholicismnamely, the Vatican.  The better to exert its double activity (religious and political), the Catholic Church has two facets: first, the religious institution, the Catholic Church itself; secondly, the political power, the Vatican.  Although they deal separately, whenever convenient, with problems affecting religion and politics, the two are in reality one.  At the head of both stands the Pope, who is the supreme religious leader of the Catholic Church as a purely spiritual power, as well as the supreme head of the Vatican in its quality of a world-wide diplomatic-political centre and an independent sovereign State.

According to circumstances, the Pope, to further the power of the Catholic Church, approaches a problem either as a purely religious leader or as the head of a diplomatic-political centre, or both.  The rôle of the Catholic Church as a political power becomes prominent when the Pope has to deal with social and political movements or with States with whom he wants to bargain or to strike an alliance in order to fight a common enemy.

It sometimes becomes necessary for the Catholic Church to ally itself with forces which not only are non-religious or non-Catholic, but are even hostile to religion.  This occurs when the Catholic Church, being confronted by enemies which it cannot overcome alone, sees itself compelled to find allies who also desire the destruction of such enemies.  Thus, for instance, after the First World War, when it seemed as if Bolshevism would conquer Europe, political movements sprang up in various countries with the intention of checking it.  These found an immediate and ready ally in the Catholic Church, whose fulminations against the Socialist doctrines were becoming more and more virulent with the increase of the danger.  Some of these movements were known by the names of Fascism, Nazism, Falangism, and so on.  The Pope made these alliances effective by employing the influence of the Catholic Church as a religious institution, and of the Vatican as a diplomatic-political centre.  In the first case the faithful were told that it was their duty to support such-and-such a politician, or party, who, although not Catholic, yet was bent on the destruction of the mortal enemies of the Catholic Church.  In the second case bargains were effected through its nuncios, cardinals, and local hierarchies.  Above all, orders were given to the leaders of Catholic social-political organizations or Catholic parties to support the Vatican’s chosen ally.  In certain instances they were even bidden to dissolve themselves in order to give way to a non-Catholic party which had better chances of bringing about the destruction of a given political movement hostile to the Catholic Church.  We shall have occasion to examine striking examples of this later on in the book.

To carry out these activities in the religious and non-religious fields the Pope has at his disposal an immense machinery by which he can rule the Catholic Church throughout the world.  The main function of this machinery is not only to serve the purpose of the Church as a religious institution, but also as a diplomatic-political centre.  For social and political matters the Catholic Church has a second vast organization which, although separate from the first, is nevertheless correlated with it.  Although each set of machinery has a specific sphere in which to act, both are made to move in order to achieve the same aim: the maintenance and furtherance of the dominion of the Catholic Church in the world.  As the one is dependent upon the other, and as both are very often employed at the same time, it would be useful to examine, not only the specific task of each, but also the goals they have to reach, their methods of working, and, above all, the spirit in which they are made to function.

Before proceeding further, let us glance at the official seat of the Catholic Church—namely, the Vatican State.





Of all the religious and political institutions that exist today, the Vatican is by far the most ancient.  It is the seat of a sovereign, independent, and free State; of the Government of the Catholic Church; and of the most astute diplomatic-political power in the world; and each of these three aspects is an integral part of the Catholic Church.  Although in its quality of a diplomatic centre it is one of the most important in the world, as an independent State it is one of the newest and, as far as the extent of its territory is concerned, the smallest sovereign State in existence, having under its absolute rule only one hundred-odd acres and about 600 regular inhabitants.  Yet, it directs and governs one of the greatest, if not the greatest, and most united mass of human beings in the world—400,000,000 Catholics, covering the territories of practically all existing nations.  Such extraordinary and contradictory attributes certainly would alone make the Vatican an object of curiosity, if not of study, to the least-interested reader.

What is meant by the word “Vatican”?  “Vatican,” explains the Catholic Encyclopedia, is “the official residence of the Pope at Rome, so named from being built on the lower slopes of the Vatican Hill; figuratively, the name is used to signify the Papal power and influence and, by extension, the whole Church.”

For the Christian, the Vatican began to assume importance when St. Peter was crucified there in A.D. 67.  After the death of St. Peter, the Christians erected a sepulchre facing the circus where he had been executed.  Later on, the body of St. Peter’s successor, St. Linus, was buried there.  Then the latter’s successor, St. Anacletus, Bishop of Rome, built the first chapel on the tomb.  With the passing of the centuries it grew in importance as a sacred place, a place of worship, and a place where the mortal remains of many Popes were buried.

In its long history the Palace of the Vatican, the building of which so many Popes contributed to, and the Papal State have passed through many vicissitudes, as have the prerogatives of the Popes themselves.  The details need not detain us here.  For our purpose it is sufficient to know that the Vatican State as it exists today came into being in February, 1929 with the signing of the Lateran Treaty.  By this treaty Italy recognized the territory of the Vatican as an independent and sovereign State and was bound to pay 750,000,000 lire and consign Italian 5 percent bonds to the nominal value of 1,000,000,000 lire.

As it is recognized today, the Vatican State consists of the City of the Vatican; this is the area of Rome recognized by the treaty of the Lateran as constituting the territorial extent of the temporal sovereignty of the Holy See.  It includes the Vatican palaces, its gardens and annexes, the Basilica and Piazza of St. Peter, and adjacent buildings.  In all it covers an area of just under one square mile.  At the outbreak of the Second World War the population of the Vatican City was about 600 persons.  All male adults are in the immediate service of the Catholic Church or in its ministry, such employment being the ordinary qualification for residence and citizenship.

The Pope has the plenitude of legislative, executive, and judicial power, which, during a vacancy, belongs to the College of Cardinals.  For the government of the State, the Pope names a Governor, a layman, and there is a consultative council.  The Governor is responsible for public order, safety, protection of property, etc.  The Code of Law is the Canon Law, in addition to which there are special regulations for the City and such laws of the Italian State as it may be convenient to adopt.

The Vatican has no private army, but a small number of picturesque guards, who are chiefly employed in religious or diplomatic ceremonies.  The famous Swiss guard was first formed by the enrolment of 150 men from the Canton of Zürich in September 1505.  In 1816 Pius VII created the Pontifical Gendarmerie or Carabinieri.  In addition to these men there exists the Noble Guard, for personal attendance on the Pope.  The Corps is composed entirely of members of the patricians and nobility of Rome.

The Vatican has its own stamps, coins, radio, and railway, and in the purely technical machinery of Government the tiny Vatican City is not unlike a miniature modern State.  It has its own newspaper, the Osservatore Romano, which first appeared in 1860.  In 1890 Pope Leo XIII bought the paper and made it the official organ of the Vatican.  It carries great weight and expresses the official views of the Vatican on important political and social world events.

Like any other State, the Vatican must have money to provide for the maintenance and salaries of its employees, nuncios, churches, seminaries, and numerous other institutions which are necessary for the existence of the Catholic Church.  The officials of the administrative machinery of the Vatican State must be paid.  There are also the missions of the Catholic Church, which require a good deal of money.

Before 1870 the Vatican’s main revenue came from the temporal State.  But since then other means have been found to fill the coffers.  It is almost impossible to gauge the expenses of the Vatican, as there is no trace of budgets, and receipts are not made public.  However, at the opening of this century it was estimated that the Vatican needed at least £800,000 per annum.

Today the Vatican income is derived from two main sourcesordinary and extraordinary.  Amongst the ordinary the most important is the Peter’s Pence, a voluntary tax introduced in Catholic countries since 1870 to replace the income supplied by the Papal States until they were taken over by the Italians.

Curiously enough, the most generous contributor to the finances of the Catholic Church and the Vatican is the Protestant United States of America.  The sum of money collected there in modern times is the largest drawn through Peter’s Pence in any country.  It is followed by Canada, the Republics of South America, and, in Europe, by Spain, France, and Belgium.  Since the loss of the Papal States the United States of America has become not only the most generous contributor to the Vatican, but also its banker.  In 1870 the Vatican floated a loan of 200,000 scudi from Rothschild.  In 1919 a Papal delegate was sent to the United States of America with a view to securing a loan of 1,000,000 dollars.  In the same year the Pilgrimage of the Knights of Columbus gave the Vatican a gift of more than 250,000 dollars.  In 1928, thanks to Cardinal Mundelein, the Vatican was loaned £300,000 in 5 percent sinking fund twenty-year bonds, backed by Church property in Chicago.

The more regular income is derived from taxation and fees for all sorts of functions, such as from chancellery, datary offices, marriages, titles of nobility, orders of knighthood, etc.

As for the extraordinary income of the Vatican, it is almost impossible to assess its extent.  It includes gifts and legacies which sometimes reach millions.  Whenever there is a pilgrimage, each pilgrim donates a certain sum.  An American pilgrim, for instance, is expected to give at least a dollar; a Frenchman ten francs.  Of course, pilgrimages are very frequent, and are often composed of thousands of people.

From 1929 until the outbreak of the Second World War the Vatican got over £750,000,000 from the Fascist Government as compensation for the loss of the Papal States.

George Seldes, in his book The Vatican: YesterdayTodayTomorrow, estimates that between the two world wars the Vatican revenue was more than 180,000,000 lire a year.  Since then it has greatly increased.

But the main function of the Vatican is to be the officially recognized diplomatic-political centre of the Catholic Church; as an independent sovereign State it sends its own representatives to the various Governments of the world, while big and small nations send their ambassadors to the Vatican.  The Vatican’s representatives accredited to those Governments with which the Pope has diplomatic relations are usually called Nuncios, Papal Nuncios, etc.  They have the full rank of ambassadors, with all the accompanying privileges, being on equal footing with the ambassadors of any lay Powers.

The main purposes of the Vatican’s diplomatic representatives accredited to a Government are those defined by Canon Law (267):—


(a) To cultivate good relations between the Apostolic See and the Government to which they are accredited.

(b) To watch over the interests of the Church in the territories assigned to them and to give the Roman Pontiff information concerning conditions in these areas.

(c) In addition to these ordinary powers, to exercise such extraordinary ones as may be delegated to them.


The ideal to be achieved is the conclusion of a treaty between the Vatican and the Government concerned; and although negotiations for such treaties are usually carried out directly between the parties concerned, the rôle of the Papal diplomatic representatives is of the utmost importance.

Such treaties are called Concordats.  A Concordat is an agreement by which the State grants special privileges to the Catholic Church and recognizes its standing and rights within the State, while the Church pledges its support of the Government and, usually, non-interference in political matters.  Such a treaty becomes especially desirable when “matters which from one point of view are civil and from another religious might create friction.”  In such a case, as Leo XIII said, “a concordat . . . greatly strengthens the State’s authority,” and the Papacy is always ready to “offer the Church as a much-needed protection to the rulers of Europe.”

When it is not possible to conclude a Concordat, then the nuncio should strive to reach a compromise which, instead of a formal treaty, becomes a modus vivendi.  If that, too, is impossible, then the Vatican can occasionally send to a given Government special Papal representatives on particular occasions.  Usually the Vatican charges a local primate with the care of the Church’s interests.

Although the outward machinery of Vatican diplomacy does not differ very much from that of any secular Power, fundamentally obey differ because of two main characteristics—namely, the aims and the means at the disposal of Papal representatives.

The Papal representative must strive to further not only the diplomatic and political interests of the Vatican, but, above all, the spiritual interests of the Catholic Church as a religious institution, and his mission therefore assumes a dual character.  Owing to this, the Papal representative has at his disposal, not only the diplomatic machinery that any ordinary diplomatic representative of a lay State would have, but also the vast religious machinery of the Catholic Church inside the country to which he is accredited, as well as outside it.  In other words, the Papal diplomatic representative will have at his disposal the entire hierarchy of a given country—from cardinals, archbishops, and bishops down to the most humble village priest.  Moreover, the Catholic organizations of a social, cultural, or political character, headed by the Catholic parties, would obey his instructions.  The result is that a nuncio can exercise formidable pressure upon a Governmentpressure of a religious-political nature that is denied to any lay diplomatist.

Because every priest is de facto an agent of the Vatican and can collect reliable information about the local conditions of his parishor, if he is a bishop, of his dioceseor, if he is a primate, of his nationthe Vatican, to which all these data are sent, is one of the best centres of information of an economic, social, and political character in the world.

When to this is added the influence that the Vatican can exercise on the various Catholic parties and Catholic Governments, and on national and international assemblies, it becomes evident that the power of this great diplomatic-political centre is felt throughout the world.  This is recognized by most nations, including non-Catholic countries, such as Protestant United States of America and Great Britain, and non-Christian countries like Japan.

The importance of the Vatican as a diplomatic centre is enhanced in war-time.  For during hostilities, when diplomatic contact between belligerent countries is cut off, the warring nations can get in touch with each other through the Vatican.  The services rendered and the knowledge thus gathered from both sides give the Vatican enormous prestige in the eyes of lay Powers.  For these and other reasons, during the First World War countries hastened to send their representatives to the Vatican: Germany, Switzerland, Greece, Protestant Great Britain, France, and even Russia.  By the end of the war thirty-four nations had permanent diplomatic representatives accredited to the Pope.

During the Second World War that figure was almost doubled, and great countries such as non-Christian Japan and Protestant United States of America sought means by which they could be represented at the Vatican—the United States of America by resorting to the diplomatic device of sending a “personal Ambassador of the President”; the Japanese Empire by accrediting an envoy with the full rank of Ambassador to the Holy See.  From the very beginning of the Second World War until its end in 1945, the Vatican, with fifty-two ambassadors, ministers, and personal envoys sent to it by almost all the nations of the world, was a diplomatic-political centre equal in importance to the great capitals where the destinies of war and peace were conceived and discussed: Washington, Moscow, Berlin, London, Tokyo.  We shall see later why the Vatican, although it owned not a single war aeroplane, tank, or warship, was in a position to deal as an equal with the greatest military Powers on earth before, but above all throughout, the Second World War.





But the diplomatic machinery of the Vatican would be of little value if the Pope had to rely upon it alone.  What gives the Vatican its tremendous power is not its diplomacy as such, but the fact that behind its diplomacy stands the Church, with all its manifold world-embracing activities.

The Vatican as a diplomatic centre is but one aspect of the Catholic Church.  Vatican diplomacy is so influential and can exert such great power in the diplomatic-political field because it has at its disposal the tremendous machinery of a spiritual organization with ramifications in every country of the planet.  In other words, the Vatican, as a political power, employs the Catholic Church as a religious institution to assist the attainment of its goals.  These goals in turn, are sought mainly to further the spiritual interests of the Catholic Church.

The double rôle of the members of the Catholic Hierarchy automatically reacts upon those innumerable religious, cultural, social, and finally political, organizations connected with the Catholic Church, which, although tied to the Church primarily on religious grounds, can at given moments be made either directly or indirectly to serve political ends.  Because of the great importance of the religious machinery of the Catholic Church to the political structure, it is essential that we should examine its hierarchial-administrative-religious form, how it is made to function, who are its rulers, what various organizations it comprises, in what fields they exert their influence, and last, but not least, with what spirit it is imbued and how it deals with important issues affecting our contemporary society.

The Catholic Church is a tremendous organization with world-wide ramifications, and so it needs some form of central machinery, independent of its nature or immediate and final purpose, to enable it to centralize and co-ordinate its multifarious activities.  This central machinery is housed almost entirely in the precincts of the Vatican, and its various components form the Government of the Catholic Church.

The executive of the Catholic Church is, roughly speaking, divided into three: the Secretary of State, the College of Cardinals, and the Congregations.  But all are unconditionally subordinated to and dependent upon the absolute will of the pivot on which the whole Catholic Church, whether as a religious institution or as a political power, revolves—the Pope.  He is the absolute Head in religious, moral, ethical, administrative, diplomatic, and political matters; he is the only source of power; his decisions must be carried out, for in the Catholic Church and the Vatican his will is law; he is the last absolute monarch in the world, the power of no political dictator being comparable to the unlimited power of the Pope in all matters.  He need account to no human being for his actions, his only judge being God.

Second to the Pope is the Secretary of State, who has jurisdiction in the administration of the Catholic Church.  The Secretary of State of the Vatican would correspond in the modern civil Government to a combination of the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.  His department is the most important and powerful in all the Vatican administration, and all other departments, even if purely religious, must submit to the decisions of the Secretary of State.  He can exert a personal influence possessed by no other member of the Church.  He is responsible in the Curia to no one but the Pope.

The Secretary of State is the political Head of the Vatican.  It is through him that the Pope carries out his political activities throughout the world.  Because of his important rôle he is in the closest contact with the Pope, whom he sees at least every morning and very often several times a day, to discuss and decide on all questions connected with the activities of the Vatican as a political power.

Every week the Cardinal Secretary of State receives all the representatives accredited to the Holy See and interviews everyone who comes to the Vatican to give information.  He is responsible for every letter sent out, for the appointment of every nuncio.  Officials of the Curia are appointed on his recommendation.  The Pope is very dependent on his Secretary of State, and no one is so closely identified with his absolute power.

In the diplomatic and administrative Government of the Vatican the Secretary of State has three main departments.

The first is the Congregation of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, by which all important political and diplomatic matters are settled.  It is a committee of cardinals, and its status can be compared with that of a Cabinet in a modern Government.

The second is the Secretary of Ordinary Affairs, or “Il Sostituto,” as he is sometimes called.  He deals, as an Under-Secretary of State, with matters relating to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican, current political events, the dispatch of Vatican agents.  Like many other nations, the Vatican has a code department, and a special section of this second department is engaged in the preparation and examination of dossiers, the examination of claims for decorations, medals, titles, etc.  At the outbreak of the Second World War this work required the full-time attention of no less than six editors, ten stenographers, and seven archivists.

The third is the Chancellery of Briefs, the old Secretariat of Briefs which was absorbed into the Department of State in 1908, the Secretariat of Briefs to Princes, and the Secretariat of Latin Letters.  A Brief is commonly used to confer an honor or to announce special tax.  “Briefs to Princes” today are Briefs to kings, presidents, premiers, and even bishops and persons of minor importance.  When not dealing with religious, but with diplomatic or political matters, a Brief is but a sheet of paper carried by the nuncio or by an envoy.  It carries the signature of the Pope.  The task of the Secretariat of Latin Letters is to correct the Pope’s missives—i.e. encyclicals.

The office of the Secretary of State dates from the Renaissance.  In an illuminating document, written in 1602 by Pope Sixtus V, the qualities necessary for a Secretary of State are enumerated:


The Prime Minister of the Vatican must know everything.  He must have read everything, understood everything, but he must say nothing.  He must know even the pieces played in the theatre, because of the documentation they contain of distant lands.  [sic]


The origin of the Secretariat is to be traced to the “Camera secreta” of the Popes of the Middle Ages, who already often had most delicate diplomatic relations with the various Powers.  Their special correspondence was written as well as expedited by notaries equivalent to the members of a Cabinet in a modern European Government.  Such correspondence was not given the publicity of “Bills,” but was known only to the “Camera secreta.”

In the fifteenth century this “Camera secreta” became an indispensable instrument of the Pope.  The Briefs became a model of diplomacy.  A new functionary, the “Secretarius Domesticus,” was responsible for them.

Leo X divided the work between the “Secretarius Domesticus,” whose task became the framing of official communications, and “il Segretario del Papa,” the Pope’s private secretary, whose work was essentially political and who was charged with instructions to the Pope’s political agents throughout Europe, the nuncios.  Originally, this secretary had little influence, but with the passing of years he became all-powerful.  According to the Constitution of Pius IX, in 1847, before the disappearance of the Papal State, the Secretary was “a real premier.”  With the creation of the New Vatican State the importance of the rôle of the Secretary of State increased enormously, and, as already said, his influence throughout the Curia, and indeed throughout the whole Catholic world, became second only to that of the Pope himself.

The Sacred College of Cardinals comes next in importance to the Secretariat of State in the diplomatic-political sphere, but before it in the purely religious field.  That does not mean, of course, that the cardinals, the main pillars of the Catholic Church as a religious institution, are unimportant in the direction of diplomatic and political matters.  Far from it—they are responsible instruments of the first magnitude in the shaping and execution of the general policy of the Vatican.

The primary function of the members of the Sacred College of Cardinals is to act as a type of Privy Council to the Pope.  The cardinalate comes down directly from the ecclesiastical organization of ancient Rome; the Holy See gave the title of cardinals to the canons of its churches (the word is derived from cardo, meaning pivot or hinge).  To this day the cardinals are, in fact, what their name implies.

During the Middle Ages, Papal nominations were subjected to the approval of the Sacred College.  But this procedure brought serious embarrassment to the Church, and in 1517 Julius II abolished it.  Since that date all promotions, nominations, etc.  depend on the absolute will of the Pope.

The cardinals have their titulary Church in Rome.  They are “Princes of the Church” and, today, still deal with the few kings that remain on a footing of equality as their “dear cousins.”  Even republics like the French reserve for cardinals a place above that of ambassadors, and in international etiquette they still retain their position of princes of the blood.

The cardinals have played very important political roles in the past, and continue to do so.  In modern times they have produced significant reactions from various Catholic and non-Catholic nations which regard with great interest their “representation” in the Sacred College, knowing the power and influence the cardinals exert on the attitude of the Church towards religious, diplomatic, and political problems in all countries of the world.

Members of the Sacred College of Cardinals cannot exceed seventy in number.  They are divided into two: those cardinals who direct Catholic affairs in their local metropolitan areas, and those who are settled in Rome and whose task is that of advising the Pope.  As we have already seen, the most important cardinal is the Secretary of State.

Up to the outbreak of the Second World War there were two main difficulties which a nation had to overcome before one of its nationals could receive the “red cap.”  One was the tradition that the number of cardinals must not exceed 70; the other was the tradition that the majority should be Italians.  The second custom, however, is being gradually discarded.  In 1846, for instance, there were only 8 non-Italian cardinals, but Pius IX, in his 32-years reign, created 183 cardinals, of whom 51 were foreigners, and in 1878 there were 25 living non-Italian cardinals.  In 1903 the number remained unchanged, with 1 American and 29 Italians.  In 1914 there were 32 Italians and 25 foreigners, 3 of whom were American.  In 1915 there were 29 Italians and 31 foreigners.  In January 1930 they were distributed thus:



































In 1939 there were 32 Italian and 32 foreign cardinals, of whom four came from the United States of America.

With the dawn of peace (1945) Pope Pius XII continued along the course his predecessors had undertaken, and in February 1946 he took the unprecedented step of creating 32 new cardinals at a single ceremony, the largest nomination of this kind that Rome had seen for well over three hundred years.  Of these, significantly enough, only 4 were Italians.  Of the remainder, 3 were German, 3 French, 3 Spanish, 1 Armenian, 1 English, 1 Cuban, 1 Hungarian, 1 Dutch, 1 Polish, 1 Chinese, 1 Australian, 1 Canadian, 4 North American, and the remaining 6 Latin-American.  It was the first time that the Church had invested a Chinese with the robes of a cardinal (Bishop Tien, Vicar Apostolic of Tsing Tao), and the first time it had conferred such an honor on an Australian (Archbishop Gilroy, of Sydney).  But in addition to the breaking of the unwritten rule (a preponderant number of Italians), and to the bringing into the Curia of the first Australian and the first Chinese, Pius XII made another ominous move: the creation of a number of cardinals whose main purpose was obviously to strengthen the influence of the Church in the Anglo-Saxon countries (4 in the United States of America, 1 in Britain, 1 in Canada, and 1 in Australia), while the appointment of 4 cardinals in the United States of America and 6 in South America showed unmistakably that the Church was more determined than ever to spread its hold over the American continent.

In addition to acting as the electors of new Popes, and as Councillors to the Holy See, the cardinals are in theory and in practice the absolute rulers of the Churches in their charge in the various countries of the world, having only one authority above them whom they must blindly obey in furthering the welfare of the universal Catholic Church—the Pope.  They owe him blind obedience, not only in religious, but, when necessary, in social and political matters as well, and although in theory they may pursue a quasi-independent line in political issues, in reality they must obey the Pope through his Secretary of State, who is himself a cardinal.

And so the cardinals, as well as forming the foundations on which the Catholic Hierarchy is erected, are also the pillars of the Catholic Church as a political institution.  Whether posted in the various countries of the world (as a rule as primates) or resident at the Vatican, where they usually are heads or members of the various Ministries, they are the religious, administrative, and political pillars of the Catholic Church.

The activities of the Catholic Church are many and invade numerous spheres.  It has been necessary, therefore, as with any other great administration, to separate them into individual yet co-ordinated departments, which the Vatican calls Congregations.  Hence the word “Congregation,” in this sense, must not be confused with its ordinary meaning of the members of a church.  In this case the Congregations are the equivalent of the Ministries of an ordinary civil Government.

The Roman Congregations came into being about the sixteenth century, after the Reformation, when the Catholic Church, to resist its enemies, had to reorganize itself on more up-to-date lines.  Ever since, the Roman Congregations have worked for the Pope in all his delicate activities.  They are the central and administrative power of the Catholic Church, and in certain respects do not differ a great deal from the machinery of a modern State, with its various administrative branches of government.  In the same way as any Ministry in a civil Government is headed by a Minister, each Roman Congregation has at its head a prefect.  This prefect is a cardinal appointed by the Pope, or in some cases the Pope himself acts as prefect.  In addition to the Cardinal Prefect, the Pope often appoints other cardinals to direct the officials and employees, who are usually ecclesiastics, but in some cases laymen of distinction.

It would be useful to examine briefly the history and purpose of the Ministerial Departments of the Catholic Church, for each has a set task to perform and deals with specific matters which, very often, affect millions of Catholics all over the world.  It is often through the work of these Ministries that the Catholic Church exerts influence and pressure on its members.  Most of the Congregations are of an essentially religious character, but for that very reason they are powerful factors which the Catholic Church does not hesitate to employ in order to bring religious and moral pressure on the individual Catholic and on collective sections of the Catholic populations of the world.

The Central Government of the Catholic Church is divided into three main groups, each closely related to the others, and under one direction.  They are: the Sacred Congregations, the Tribunals, and the Offices.  We shall glance at each one, contenting ourselves with barely mentioning some of them, but studying in more detail those which are closely related to that aspect of the Catholic Church which is being studied in this book.  We shall start with the less important.



1.  Congregation for the Affairs of the Religious

This congregation, founded in 1586, looked after the Religious Orders (not to be confounded with the body dealing with the fabric of St. Peter).

2.  Ceremonial Congregation

Deals with the etiquette of the Pontifical Court.  The prefect is the Dean of the Sacred College.

3.  Congregation of the Sacred Rites

Created by Sixtus V, it is in charge of beatifications and canonizations.

4.  Congregation on the Discipline of the Sacraments

Dates from 1908.  It deals with matters connected with sacramentary discipline, with particular regard to marriage.  The Regulations of this Congregation deal with the annulment of marriage and similar matters affecting Catholic laymen.

5.  Congregation of Seminaries, Universities, and Studies

Created in 1588 as the Sacred Congregation of Studies, and given its present title in 1915.  Its original task was to supervise teaching in the Papal States; then its supervision extended to the Catholic universities, including those in Austria, France, Italy, etc.  As it stands now, it controls all the superior teaching institutions whose Heads are Catholic.

6.  Congregation of Eastern Church

The various Churches in the Near and Far East involve a great deal of work; hence this Department was created in 1917.  Until then it was part of the Propaganda Fide.  It is headed by the Pope himself.  Certain Churches in the Near East pursue a ritual different from but allied to the ritual of the Roman Catholic Church.  These are the Greek, Russian, Romanian, and Armenian Churches.  It may be of interest to note, for instance, that while the Greco-Romanian Church has more than 1,000,000 members, the Greek-Ruthenian Church has only about a fourth of that number.  There are about 300,000 Syro-Maronites, whose rites and prayers are a mixture of Syrian and Arabic.  The Greek Melachites, whose rites are in Arabic and ceremonies in Greek, number more than 100,000.

Over 100,000 Armenians are scattered between Hungary and Persia, whereas in Persia, Kurdistan, and Iraq (Mesopotamia) there are 40,000 Syro-Chaldeans.  In Egypt there are over 10,000 followers of the Coptic rites, and in Abyssinia the Ethiopians number about 30,000.  Even in Hindustan there are about 200,000 Catholics following the Syrian rites of Malabar.  Furthermore, there are the pure Syrian, the pure Greeks, and the Greco-Bulgarian, etc.

7.  Congregation of the Council

Originally consisted of eight cardinals, charged with the direction of the Council of Trent.  Today the Council no longer exists, but the Congregation deals chiefly with the discipline of the clergy throughout the world and the revision of Councils.  It may be compared to a large Ministry of the Interior.

8.  The Consistorial Congregation

This Congregation has many affinities with the Holy Office in its modern version.  It has the same Head, namely the Pope, and the same duty of complete secrecy for the cardinals and others employed in it.  It was founded in 1588 and reorganized at the beginning of this century.

Besides preparing the consistories, its main task is the nomination of bishops all over the world, and the creation and maintenance of dioceses (e.g. provinces or counties of the Catholic Church).  It is a kind of Personnel Department.  From it emanate all the disciplinary measures that the Catholic Church deems necessary to control its clergy in all countries.  For instance, the punishment of priests for transgressing their duties or for associating themselves with institutions or persons hostile to the Catholic Church, or political parties of which the Catholic Church disapproves.  In dealing with the policy of the Vatican in the various countries we shall come across many such examples.  At this stage suffice it to quote the case of the Vatican prohibition (non expedire) passed in 1929 against all those American priests who wanted to join or had joined the Rotary Club, the reason being that the Club was under the predominant influence of Freemasons and politicians.

This Congregation might be likened to an Ecclesiastical “Scotland Yard.”

9.  Congregation of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs

As we already have had occasion to see, when dealing with the Secretary of State, this Congregation is one of the most important in the Vatican.  Certainly it is the most important in the Vatican as a political centre.  It is the department by which the policy of the Vatican is conceived, examined, and carried out, and was created by Pius IV in 1793, with the primary purpose of regulating ecclesiastical affairs in France.  Later, in 1814, Pius VII assigned to it the right to examine and judge all affairs submitted to the Holy See.  This Congregation deals with all the Vatican’s problems of an ecclesiastical and, above all, political nature.  It examines the diplomatic relations of the Vatican with other States, political parties, etc, and negotiates those very important religious and political treaties peculiar to Vatican diplomacy—the Concordats.  Its prefect is the Cardinal Secretary of State.

10.  Congregation of the Holy Office (once more popularly known as the Inquisition)

The Inquisition is an ecclesiastical tribunal charged with the “discovery, punishment, and prevention of heresy.”  It was first instituted in Southern France by Pope Gregory IX, in 1229, and was based on the principle that “truth has rights whose demands must be upheld and promoted in the interests of secular no less than ecclesiastical justice.  Error has no right and must be abandoned or uprooted” (Catholic Encyclopedia).

The Inquisition was created originally with the purpose of working the complete annihilation of the Albigensians, and was the beginning of a series of similar massacres of heretics throughout the Middle Ages.  It was rightly feared throughout Christendom for its ferocity against all suspected of heresy—namely, all who doubted the dogmas of the Catholic Church, those who dared to question its authority or truth, or those who dared to rebel against the authority of the Pope.

The institution reached perfection with the Spanish Inquisition set up by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1478, with the authority of Pope Sixtus IV.  Its object was to proceed against lapsed converts from Judaism (Maranos), crypto-Jews, and other apostates.  It was extended to the Christian Moors (Moriscos) who were in danger of apostasy.  It established itself in Spanish America, and from about 1550 until the seventeenth century it kept Spain clear of Protestantism.

The Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office was erected in 1542 as a continuation and supersession of the Universal Roman Inquisition, and since 1917 it has taken over the work of the suppressed Congregation of the Index.  Its business is the protection of faith and morals, the judging of heresy, dogmatic teaching (e.g. against indulgences or to stress impediments to marriage of Catholics and non-Catholics), the examination and prohibition of books dangerous to the faith or otherwise pernicious.  The prefect of this Congregation is the Pope himself, who presides in person when decisions of importance are announced.

The Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, according to the canonist, was the highest authority in the Roman Curia, and had the unique privilege of making doctrinal decisions on matters related to dogma and morals.  Very often the Pope took judicial responsibility for its decisions, imposing his own authority on the actions of the Congregation.1

Has the Catholic Church discarded the theory and practice of the Holy Office?  We wish we could answer in the affirmative, but that is not the case.  It still holds the theory that “truth has rights, whose demands must be upheld and promoted in the interests of secular no less than ecclesiastical justice,” and by truth the Catholic Church means its own truth, for “outside the Catholic Church there is not and cannot be any truth.”

In theory the Catholic Church maintains the same spirit as the Holy Office of former times.  In practice it cannot do what it used to, not so much because it has changed, but because the world and society have changed and will not allow her to act as in the past.

That the Catholic Church has not discarded its claims as embodied in the Holy Office is proved by the fact that even in thisour twentieth centuryit still attempts to make such claims felt wherever it can.  Of course, that is possible only where the modern State has submitted entirely to the Catholic Church.  But there the Catholic Church has come into the open with the spirit of the Inquisition, even if in a mild form.  That spirit has, in fact, shown itself in the two model Catholic States: Salazar’s Portugal and, above all, Franco’s Spain, where people were sent to jail for the criminal offense of refusing to attend Mass on Sundays, and where Protestantism was systematically persecuted, in many cases Protestant pastors being sent to prison and even shot (see the Catholic paper, The Universe, of January 1945).

Another typical instance of the spirit by which the Holy Office is still moved occurred after the First World War, when it published (in 1920) a letter addressed to all Italian bishops, asking them “to watch an organization which . . . instills indifference and apostasy to the Catholic Religion.”

This referred to the Young Men’s Christian Association, which, during and after the war, had tried to help the morale of the Italian people by numerous philanthropic activities throughout the country.  The Vatican, after having on many occasions discouraged it, stated that the organization was but a centre for Italian and American Protestantism, and a menace to Catholicism, whilst in reality all that the Y.M.C.A. did was to sell cigarettes and chocolate and arrange theatricals, lectures, etc. for soldiers.

Many people, especially in America, could not believe that the Vatican was against this organization until, in February 1921, the Secretary of State (who was also Head of the Holy Office) made public a letter forbidding any Catholic to be in touch with the Y.M.C.A.  The letter began: “The most Eminent and Reverend Cardinals, who are, like the writer whose name is subjoined, inquisitors-general in matters of faith and morals, desire that the Ordinaries should pay vigilant attention to the manner in which certain new non-Catholic associations, by the aid of their members of every nationality, have been accustomed now and for some time to lay snares for the Faithful, especially the young folk.

“They provide in abundance facilities of every kind, but in point of fact corrupt the integrity of the Catholic Faith and snatch away children from the Church their Mother.

“On the pretence of bringing light to young folk, they turn them away from the teaching of the Church established by God, and incite them to seek severance from their own conscience and within the narrow circuit of human reason the light which should guide them . . .

“Among these societies . . . it will suffice to mention that which disposes of most considerable means: we mean the society called the Young Men’s Christian Association.

“All of you have received from Heaven the special mandate to govern the flock of the Master are implored by this Congregation to employ all your zeal in preserving your young folk from the contagion of every society of this kind. . .

“Put the imprudent on their guard and strengthen the souls of those whose Faith is vacillating . ..  The Sacred Congregation asks that in each region an official act of the Hierarchy declare duly forbidden all the daily organs, periodicals, and other publications of these societies of which the pernicious character is manifest, with a view of sowing in the souls of Catholics the errors of rationalism and religious indifferentism. . .” (November 5, 1920, R. Cardinal Merry Del Val, Secretary).

This prohibition was still being enforced on all good Catholics during the Second World War, and the Vatican has done its best to discourage Catholic soldiers and civilians from having anything to do with that particular society or any other of its kind.  Such typical action of this Congregation, in the twentieth century, needs no comment.  It only proves the accuracy of our contention that the Catholic Church has not changed the spirit which made it set up the Inquisition in the Middle Ages, and that only our times prevent it from using more drastic measures to enforce its will on modern society.

The Holy Office, no longer having much scope for exerting its spirit in the modern world, was recently amalgamated with the Congregation of the Index, with which we shall deal presently.



1.  The Sacred Roman Rota

The Roman Rota is the tribunal by which all cases relating to the Catholic Hierarchy and requiring judicial procedure with trial, civil as well as criminal, are attended to in the Roman Curia.  The Roman Rota is also known to millions as the Tribunal of the Catholic Church which occasionally annuls marriages.  It has dealt with famous historical names, and its decisions have had far-reaching religious, social, and political consequences.  Suffice it to mention such names as those of Henry VIII, the Borgias, and Napoleon.

A Catholic must be married before a priest or his delegate and two more witnesses, otherwise the marriage is clandestine and null.  In other words, according to the Catholic Church it has never taken place, even if it has brought forth several children.

The procedure that must be followed by a Catholic seeking to annul his marriage is as follows: The case is heard at the diocesan court.  An official, the “defensor vinculi,” sustains the validity of the marriage.  The bishop can declare the nullity, according to Canon Law, if there is proof that one of the parties to the marriage was not baptized or was in holy orders, or was bound by the vows of chastity, or had another husband (or spouse) living, or that the couple were so closely related that marriage was prohibited.  If the “defensor,” or the parties seeking annulment of their marriage, are dissatisfied, they can appeal to the Roman Rota.

The cases brought before the Rota, however, are very few, and those that are successful still fewer.  During the decade 1920-30 the 350,000,000 Catholics took to the Rota only 442 cases, of which 95 were appeals against previous decisions of the same body. Of the 347 new cases, 175 were successful and 172 unsuccessful.  In 1945, of the 80 applications for decrees of nullity of marriage considered, 35 were granted.

2.  The Apostolic Segnatura

This is the Supreme Court of the Catholic Church.  The Tribunal dates from the fifteenth century and derives its name from the fact that the prelates charged with examining all sorts of petitions had to submit their replies for Pontifical signature.  After the abolition of the temporal Power of the Catholic Church it was closed.  But Pius X reinstated it, and, in its modern form, its special task is to deal with matrimonial affairs.  This Supreme Court is composed of six cardinals.

3.  The Sacred Penitentiara (and the granting of Indulgences)

The necessity for creating an authority which would deal with the demands coming from all parts of the world for absolution from certain crimes became more and more pressing, and so the Sacred Penitentiary was formed.  It dates from 1130, when Pope Innocent II reserved for himself “absolution for crimes of percussion against clergy, wherever they are committed.”  Today this Tribunal is headed by a cardinal who has a life appointment, and one of whose tasks is that of giving absolution to the Pope on his death-bed.

One of the Tribunal’s most curious functions is that dealing with confessions and the granting of indulgences.

It is practiced in three churches—namely St. Peter, St. John Lateran, and Santa Maria Maggiore.  Each of these three churches has a confessional, provided with a very long rod.

“The priests who occupy these confessionals are part of the Tribunal of the Penitentiary.  They are, in fact, the “penitentiaries” properly called, who visit the three basilicas and who, on finding the kneeling pilgrim in a state of grace, reach out the long rod from the confessional as a sign of clemency, touch the kneeler’s head, raise him, and grant him an indulgence” (see The Vatican, Seldes).

What is an indulgence?  “The remission before God of the punishment due to those sins of which the guilt has been forgiven, either in the sacrament of Penance or because of an act of perfect contrition, granted by the competent ecclesiastical authority, out of the Treasury of the Catholic Church, to the living by way of absolution, to the dead by way of suffrage” (Catholic Encyclopedia).

Indulgences are either plenary or partial.  Partial indulgence remits a part of the punishment due for sin, at any given moment; the proportion being expressed in terms of time (e.g. thirty days, seven years, etc.) Indulgences attached to prayers are lost by any addition, omission, or alteration.  It is absolutely essential to the gaining of an indulgence, however small, that the sinner should be in a state of grace.

It is easy to imagine the hold that the Catholic Church is thus able to exercise on the individual Catholic by this system of granting a kind of spiritual insurance policy for the next life.  We, here, have not the right to discuss the system of indulgences from a religious or theological point of view, but draw attention to their existence to show what a very powerful weapon they are in enabling the Catholic Church to exercise authority over its members.  This spiritual pressure is even stronger when one considers that, in addition to the various indulgences acquired merely through prayer and other acts of devotion, the Hierarchy of the Catholic Church can also grant indulgences according to their judgment.  Thus bishops, cardinals, and Popes can grant them to the Faithful.

Of course, the Pope is the Supreme giver.  To the Pope alone, “by divine Authority, is committed the dispensation of the whole treasury of the Catholic Church.”  Inferior authorities in the Catholic Church can grant only those indulgences specified in Canon Law; cardinals may grant 200 days, archbishops 100 days, bishops 50 days.  No one may apply indulgences to other living persons, but all Papal indulgences may be applied to the souls in Purgatory, unless otherwise stated.

Apostolic indulgences can be plenary or partial when blessed by the Pope personally or by his delegates.  The indulgence can be gained only by the first person to whom the blessed object is given, and depends upon the saying of certain prayers.

Through this spiritual instrument, not only does the Catholic Church, as such, gain great authority over the Faithful, but it is able, by claiming to relieve punishment in the next world, to exert great pressure upon the religious and moral standards of its members, while at the same time enhancing the spiritual authority of the Pope.





When dealing with the Congregation of the Holy Office we said that the Catholic Church has not changed in spirit its claim to “uphold only the truth,” which created the Inquisition.  Times have changed, and with them the methods of the Catholic Church.  Yet the spirit with which it is today impregnated has remained unchanged throughout the centuries, and although it has been rendered powerless by modern society, it is still what it was in the past.  The Index, which is still made to function in our present age is the best proof of this.2

The task of Propaganda Fide is to spread the Catholic faith from the viewpoint that, as the Catholic religion is the only true religion, all other religions are wrong and should disappear.  And that the greater portion of mankind, consisting of Protestants, Moslems, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and pagans, cannot be saved except by embracing Catholicism.  Hence it ensues that the field of Propaganda Fide in literally the whole world, its rôle being to convert all mankind to Catholicism.

The totalitarian State reasons in exactly the same way.  Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and Soviet Russia each set up an all-embracing Ministry of Propaganda whose task in the political field, and in dealing with national, racial, or merely ideological matters, was precisely that aimed at in the religious field by the Catholic Church.

Both the Catholic Church and the totalitarian States assumed the right to prevent, according to their judgment, the acceptance of ideas by their people.  They also assumed the right forcibly to convert as many people as possible to their own particular brand religion or ideology.

This close resemblance between the dictatorships of the twentieth century and the Catholic Church is not mere coincidence.  Both are animated by the same spirit, moved by the same aims, and each in its own sphere aspires to the same goals.  It was natural, therefore, that the spiritual Totalitarianism of the Catholic Church should ally itself with the political Totalitarianism of Fascism and Nazism, even if at times, owing to their very nature and aims, they were bound to clash.

Through the Index and Propaganda Fide the Catholic Church can exert tremendous influence in the religious field throughout the world, and thus affect ethical, cultural, social, and often political issues.  Let us, therefore, examine these departments, even if briefly.

What is the Index?

It is a list of books which Catholics must not read.  That sounds very simple.  But can the enormous consequences of such words escape any thinking person?

The Irish priest, Dr. Timothy Hurley, says: “All books adverse to the Catholic Church are forbidden to be read by Roman Catholics, under pain of mortal sin or even excommunication.”

Pope Pius IV declared it a mortal sin to read a condemned book.

The Laws of the Index are binding for all Catholics, with the sole exception of cardinals, bishops, and other dignitaries whose rank is not below that of bishop.

The Canon Laws leave no doubt in the minds of Catholics as to what kind of books they should not read.  There are eleven categories:

1.  All books which propound or defend heresy or schism, or which of set purpose attack religion or morality, or endeavor to destroy the foundation of religion or morality.

2.  Books which impugn or ridicule Catholic dogma or Catholic worship, the Hierarchy, the clerical or religious state, or which tend to undermine ecclesiastical discipline, or which defend errors rejected by the Apostolic See.

3.  Books which declare dueling, suicide, and divorce lawful, or which represent Freemasonry and similar organizations as useful and not dangerous to the Church and to civil society.

4.  Books which teach or recommend superstition, fortune-telling, sorcery, spiritism, or other like practices (e.g. Christian Science).

5.  Books which professedly treat of, narrate, or teach lewdness and obscenity.

6.  Editions of the liturgical books of the Church which do not agree in all details with the authentic editions.

7.  Books and booklets which publish new apparitions, revelations, visions, prophecies, miracles, etc, concerning which the canonical regulations have not been observed.

8.  All editions of the Bible or parts of it, as well as all Biblical commentaries in any language, which do not show the approbation of the bishop or some higher ecclesiastical authority.

9.  Translations which retain the objectional character of the forbidden original.

10.  Pictures of Our Lord, the Blessed Virgin, the angels and saints and other servants of God, which deviate from the customs and the direction of the Church.

11.  The term “books” includes also newspapers and periodicals which come under the foregoing classes; not, indeed, if they publish one or the other article contrary to faith and morals, but if their chief tendency and purpose is to impugn Catholic doctrine or defend un-Catholic teachings and practices.


It is easily seen from this list that the Vatican does not leave the Catholics a very great field in which he can read a book with safety.

The procedure of indexing books is simple.  It is often begun by some bishop who wishes a particular book to be banished from his diocese.  Sometimes the complaint goes direct to the Supreme Sacred Congregation; sometimes the Congregation itself takes the initiative.  The Congregation charges one of its readers with the task of reading the work carefully and noting the “wrong” passages.  The book is then sent to other readers, who give their views on it.  The votes of the consultors (as the readers are called) are made known to the cardinals, who in turn discuss the book and finally pronounce the sentence.  The cardinals usually number from seven to ten, whereas consultors number about thirty.

There are four possible verdicts:

Damnetur (condemned);

Dimittatur (dismissed);

Donec Corrigatur (prohibited until corrected);

Res Dilata (case postponed).

Authors or publishers are not informed before publication, with the exception of Catholic authors, who are given a chance either to withdraw the book from circulation or to make public submission to the sentence of the Holy Office.  An author is not permitted to defend his book.

Once a book has been condemned, its name is published in the official part of the Osservatore Romano, the Vatican paper, then in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, and finally reprinted by religious organs throughout the world.

What books come under examination is never known, as the secrets of the Holy Office are rigidly guarded.  Employees, consultors, and even cardinals or members of the Supreme Sacred Congregations, must never disclose the subjects discussed at the meetings.

Once a book has been prohibited, no Catholic, under penalty of mortal sinnamely of risking eternal damnationcan read or touch the book.  For instance, if a prohibited publication is bound with others, the whole volume is automatically forbidden.  Even Bibles published by Bible Societies are forbidden.  Witness the Rev. Dr. Timothy Hurley: “All translations made in vernacular languages by non-Catholics, and especially those made by Bible Societies, are strictly forbidden.”

To make sure that all Catholics comply with the strict laws of the Index, the Catholic Church never tires of impressing upon the Faithful, through its Press and the clergy, that they must obey the rules of the Church, and it appoints a Church dignitary (who is usually a Jesuit) in almost all Catholic countries and countries where there are large Catholic minorities to direct the reading of the Faithful.  It appoints an Executive of the Index in various Catholic countries, such as the Abbé Bethleem in France.

Through these Executives, and through the Hierarchy and the Catholic Press, the Catholic Church prevents the publication of some books, tries to suppress others, and, above all, organizes Catholics to boycott the books and ruin their sales.  And this applies not only to books, but also to papers.  Catholic clubs, organizations, and individuals become agents in this campaign of boycotting with a zealous perniciousness that would not be believed if it did not happen so often.

This goes on wherever there are Catholics.  And, in the eyes of any good Catholic, it is not only right, but the duty of the Catholic Church.  Why?  We quote the French Executive of the Index, the Abbé Bethleem:


“The Catholic Church, in virtue of the powers which it has from its divine founder, has the right and the duty to condemn error and wickedness wherever it finds them; it has also by natural consequence the right to condemn books opposed to the Faith or to Christian morals or which without being wicked are dangerous from this double point of view.  There are first of all those books prohibited under penalty of excommunication reserved to the Pope. . .”


After explaining why the Church has condemned the works of Renan, Zola, etc, the Abbé asserts (an assertion fully endorsed by the Catholic Church itself) that “the Congregation of the Index can only condemn a nominal number of condemnable books; for the others, it condemns them by virtue of a general law.”

The Index is divided into three parts.  The first section consists of heresiarchs, all of whose books—past, present, and future—are condemned; the second section is composed of writers tending to heresy, magic, immorality, etc.; the third, writers whose doctrines are unwholesome.  A few of the names in the first category are: Luther, Melanchthon, Rabelais, Eramus.  In the second: Merlin’s Book of Obscure Visions, the Fables of Tolgier the Dane and Arthur of Britain, the Legend of King Arthur, etc.

The 1930 edition of the Index contains between 7,000 and 8,000 names.  To give some idea of the seriousness of this prohibition, we mention only a few of the names listed, so that the reader may draw his own conclusions of how harmful or how beneficial the Index has been throughout the ages to the enlightenment of mankind.  An anonymous author once wrote: “Satire pretends that all the best books may be found by consulting the Roman Index.”


Dante’s De Monarchia  (permitted only last century by Leo XIII).

All the works of Leibnitz.

Grotius’ De Jure Belli ac Pacis.

The Book of Common Prayer.

Religio Medici, by Thomas Browne.

An American Tragedy, Jurgen, and Mlle de Maupin.

All the works of Gabriel D’Annunzio.


Sterne’s Sentimental Journey.

Milton’s Paradise Lost.


Auguste Comte, his Cours De Philosphie Positive.

All the works of Dumas, Pater and Filius.

Gustave Flaubert and Anatole France.

Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Heine and Kant.

La Fontaine, by Lamartine.

Andrew Lang, his Myth, Ritual, and Religion.

John Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding And the Reasonableness of Christianity as Delivered in the Scriptures.

John Stuart Mill’s Principles of Political Economy and On Liberty.

All the works of Maurice Maeterlinck.


Thirty-eight of Voltaire’s works.

Paine’s The Rights of Man.

Rousseau’s Social Contract, Lettres Ecrites de la Montagne, Julie, ou la Nouvelle Heloise, etc.

Renan, including his Vie de Jesus.

George Sand, Henry Stendahl, Eugene Sue, Thomas White, Emile Zola, Spinoza, Swedenborg, Bernard de Mandeville, Taine, Malebranche, Bergson, Lord Acton, Bossuet, Bacon, Hobbes, Samuel Richardson, Doellinger, Addison, Goldsmith, Victor Hugo, etc.


At one time there was a movement to put the Encyclopedia Britannica on the Index.  It is noteworthy for English and American readers that up to the present there are more than 5,000 books in English which are either entirely condemned or forbidden until corrected.

The German Index authority, Hilgers, defending the Index states:


“With the misuse of the printing press for the distribution of pernicious writing, the regulations of the Catholic Church for the protection of the Faithful enters of necessity upon a new period.  It is certainly the case that the evil influence of a badly conducted printing press constitutes today the greatest danger to society.  The new flood is drawn from three main sources.  Theism and unbelief arise from the regions of natural science, of philosophy, and of Protestant theology.  Theism is the assured result of what is called “scientific liberty.”  Anarchism and nihilism, religious as well as political, may be described as the second source from which pours out a countless stream of Socialistic writings.  In substance this is nothing other than a popularized philosophy of liberalism.”


Hilgers goes on to say that the third source is “unwholesome romances,” and ends significantly:


“If the community is to be protected from demoralization, the political authorities must unite with the ecclesiastical in securing for such utterances some wise and safe control.”


Did not the Nazis repeat almost the same argument when they began to burn books all over Germany after the accession to power of Hitler?  And in Franco’s Spain, were not such precepts for many years carried out to the letter?

Surely one can say that the Vatican today cannot pretend to uphold its claim to the right of banishing books?  But the Vatican has not repudiated its peculiar claims.  On the contrary, the following words were spoken in 1930 by a famous Secretary of State, Cardinal Merry del Val:


“The evil press is more perilous than the sword.  St. Paul set the example for censorship: he caused evil books to be burned (Acts xix, 19).  St. Peter’s successors (e.g. the Popes) have always followed the example; nor could they have done otherwise, for their Church, infallible mistress and sure guide of the Faithful, is bound in conscience to keep the press pure. . . .”


And here are even more significant words:


“Those who wish to feed the Holy Scriptures to people without any safeguards are also upholders of free thinking, than which there is nothing more absurd or harmful. . ..  Only those infected by that moral pestilence known as liberalism can see in a check placed on unlawful power and profligacy a wound inflicted on freedom.”


The Catholic Church’s contention in defending the Index is that it makes a weapon with which to defend truth.  But truth might have more than one meaning.  Not so to Catholics:


Truth is one and absolute; the Catholic Church and she only has all the truth of religion.  All religions whatsoever have varying amounts of truth in them, but the Catholic Church alone has all (Catholic Encyclopedia).


That such a claim should sound absurd to any fair-minded individual is evident.  It would be unacceptable even if it were restricted to the religious sphere.  But it is not; for the Catholic Church, indirectly and often directly, tries to impose its assertions on fields other than the religious.  We give one famous and typical instance, the case of Galileo.  For years the scientific theory that the earth moved upon its axis and around the sun had stirred the world.  The most powerful and bitter opponent to this discovery was the Catholic Church.  It intimated that there was no truth whatsoever in such an assertion, and finally, in March 1616, the Congregation of the Index, under direct and personal instruction of the Pope himself, decreed the doctrine of the double motion of the earth upon its axis and about the sun false and contrary to the Scriptures.3

Notwithstanding this condemnation, Galileo published his Dialogo in 1632.  The following year it was Indexed with a condemnation.

Galileo had to recant his doctrine on his knees, saying that the doctrine of the motion of the earth was false.  The Catholic Church, however, was not content with this.  It promulgated a solemn formula of condemnation of all books—already written and yet to be written in the centuries to come—that propagated similar scientific doctrines.  These are the actual words:


Libri omnes docentes mobilitatem terrae et immobilitatem solis (All books forbidden which maintain that the earth moves and the sun does not).


Thus, literally for centuries, all the scientific works dealing with this subject and all books on astronomy by such scientific giants as Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo—to mention only a few—were entirely forbidden, under pain of damnation for all eternity in the next world and of fines and imprisonment in this.  It was only as late as 1822 that the Catholic Church permitted Catholics to read books on astronomy, the motion of the earth, etc.

We have dealt at some length on the spirit which inspired the Index and have taken Galileo’s case as an instance, not in order to disparage the Catholic Church, but to show its particular claims, interpretations, and interventions in religious and other fields which so closely affect mankind in its striving towards spiritual and physical progress.  The Catholic Church has not yet discarded that spirit and its extraordinary claims.  On the contrary, it upholds them more than ever.  Its persistent condemnation of divorce, contraceptives, co-education, and the social systems with which man is experimenting—first Secularism, then Liberalism and Modernism and now Democracy, Socialism, Communism—shows that it does not intend to adapt itself to the times.  As it is continuously intervening in fields other than the religious, it should not blame those who do not share its views for criticizing and trying to fight its claims.  Modern society has the right to assert its own claims, regardless of the religious authority of the Catholic Church or of any other Church.

Will the Catholic Church one day regret the reactionary spirit it has shown towards the moral, social, political, and economic ideas and systems with which mankind tries to build a happier world?  Will future generations, looking back to our times and seeing the Catholic Church’s fanatical hostility to modern society and Socialism, accuse it as we now, looking back to the times of Galileo, are able to accuse it?  Only the Catholic Church could tell.

In contrast to the reactionary and—one may rightly use the word—tyrannical spirit which moves the Index and the Holy Office, another characteristic aspect of Catholicism deserves attention.  We refer to the indefatigable activities which keep the Catholic Church in order, which erect walls against any spirit other than its own, which spread far and wide in its own aim of converting to its faith the whole human race.

This work is carried out by another Congregation which has its headquarters in the Vatican.  It is the oldest, most powerful and most colossal Ministry of Information or Propaganda Bureau in existence, in comparison with which all other propaganda organizations—including those of the various totalitarian countries—seem child’s play.  This Congregation is called Propaganda Fide (for the propagation of the Faith), and besides being one of the most important Congregations of the Catholic Church, it is also an important department of the Vatican State, which uses it to keep in touch with the most remote parts of the world.

The Congregation is ruled by a cardinal, whose power is so great that he is popularly called “the Red Pope.”  It was established in 1622 by Gregory XV, with the set and open purpose of converting the whole world to Catholicism.  Its activities are not confined to countries professing non-Christian religions, but are spread to Protestant, heretic, and schismatic lands—for example, the Balkan States.

It has divided the whole world into numerous “spiritual provinces,” in which it directs its activities.  It has jurisdiction over hundreds of them organized into districts, prefectures, and vicariates.  The Congregation controls hundreds of colleges, seminaries, and similar organizations throughout the world.  In Rome alone there are several, the chief being the Urban College for training missionaries of all races, which is attached to the Propaganda Fide.  Until not long ago (1908) Great Britain, the Netherlands, Canada, the United States of America, and other Protestant countries came under its jurisdiction.  Now, however, such countries have their own national hierarchies, which depend directly on the Pope.

Attached to this Congregation is the Association for the Propagation of the Faith, which is a world-wide society of the Faithful to further the evangelization of the world by united prayer and the collection of alms for distribution to the missions.  Its headquarters are in Rome, and it is under the direction of the Congregation De Propaganda Fide.  The motto of the Propaganda Fide and of the whole Catholic Church is that “no land is fully Christian.  Catholics must dream and plan and act in terms of the entire globe.”  To carry out this plan it has a vast organization of colleges of all nationalities in Christian lands, be they Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox, and in pagan countries where it builds up a formidable machinery of institutions of all kinds to convert non-Christians to Catholicism.

The Vatican has never been more determined to reach its world-wide goal than it is today.  It began the work to that end long ago, it is true, but in modern times it has renewed its efforts and reorganized its machinery to spread Catholicism in the Western as well as the other parts of the world.  In Rome alone the following principal national colleges are under the direct control of the Vatican, which will give some idea of the vastness of its activities:





Beda (English)
















German and Hungarian




Yugoslav, 14th cent and










South-American (Pro-Latino)




Besides others created in recent years for training Chinese, Arabs, Indians, Negroes, and so on.


In 1917 the Eastern Churches were removed from its jurisdiction.

The Vatican devotes its particular attention to the various orthodox or schismatic countries, hoping to be able to unite them  en bloc in Rome.  For this purpose it created, in 1917, a special department at the Vatican, as we have already seen, detached from Propaganda Fide.  It has now become two departmental units, but their aim is the same.

It is the Catholic Church’s policy to foster national and racial rites, and it has therefore created many institutions for that purpose.  In Rome alone there are the following seminaries, whose task is to prepare Roman Catholic clergy in the various Oriental rites:









1854 & 1891








In addition to these there are the special colleges of numerous religious Orders.

But while striving to maintain and further Catholicism in Catholic and non-Christian lands, its great task is to bring pagan lands under its authority.  For centuries it has established missions all over the world.  Its missionaries were at first nearly all Europeans, but later included Americans, and its policy now is to train native clergy.  In this direction it has made impressive strides, especially during the last twenty years, and has already created a native hierarchy in several non-Christian countries.  In 1925 its first colored bishop, namely Monsignor Roche of India, was consecrated in a solemn religious ceremony in Rome, followed, in 1927, by the first seven Chinese bishops and subsequently by Japanese and other races.

In more than one country it has become powerful very quickly.  In Madagascar, for instance, it has enrolled over 650,000 members, which means that already it has authority over one-sixth of the native population.  In China, in the one year of 1930, it converted to Catholicism more than 50,000 Chinese.

The total figure of Catholic converts all over the world is more than 500,000 a year.

About 1930, the Propaganda Fide directed over 11,000 preachers in missions, 3,000 of whom were native-born; 15,000 friars, 600 of whom were native-born; and 30,000 nuns, of whom 11,000 were native-born.  At this period these missionary enterprises were backed by more than 30,000,000 dollars.  Since then this figure has been greatly increased.  (In the same period the Protestant missionaries were backed by over 60,000,000 dollars.) The Americas, headed by the United States of America, give the largest sum of money.  In comparison with their European colleagues the American missionaries are more popular with the native populations and thus make more converts.  They have specialized in the Far East, especially China.  There has therefore been a tendency lately for the Catholic Church to favor American missionary enterprises instead of the Belgian, French, and German.

Catholic missionary activities have been steadily on the increase, and by 1945 they covered 400 seminaries (with a total of 16,000 native students preparing for the priesthood), 22,000 priests, 9,000 brothers, 53,000 sisters, 98,000 native catechists, 33,000 native baptizers, 76,000 schools (with a total of 5,000,000 pupils), 150,000 children in 2,000 missionary orphanages, 77,000 churches and chapels, 1,000 hospitals (with 75,000 beds), 3,000 dispensaries annually attending to 30,000,000 people, and hundreds of leprosaria and institutes for the aged.

Despite the war, the Sacred Congregation, through the establishment of new areas, had raised the number of ecclesiastical jurisdictions dependent upon it to 560.  Seventeen jurisdictions of the Latin Rite are dependent upon the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Church.

In missionary lands alone the Catholic Church in 1945 had more than 25,000,000 native Catholics under the authority of Rome.  To link these scattered millions and, above all, to keep them in close touch with the Vatican, the Propaganda Fide controls literally thousands of small and large newspapers, magazines, leaflets, etc. in hundreds of languages.  To supply them with news a special News Agency has been created, whose task is to gather and diffuse news of missionary work throughout the world.  It is called the “Fides” Agency.

In 1925 the Pope organized the greatest Missionary Exhibition ever held in Rome.  It became a permanent feature of the Vatican and was given tremendous publicity.

In February 1926 Pope Pius XI, in the Encyclical Rerum Ecclesiae, traced the lines that must be followed, set out the vast world still to be conquered—for the Catholic Church, as we have already said, wants nothing less than the whole planet.  It is a scheme which it is determined to realize and for which it accepts no compromise, having no regard either for other religions or for other Christian denominations.  To illustrate this attitude with a slight but typical example it is sufficient to mention the occasion when the British Government asked the various denominations doing missionary work in Africa to confine their activities to certain separate areas, in order to avoid friction.  While all the Protestant denominations agreed, only the Catholic Church refused, saying it could not accept no part of Africa, however large, her purpose being to convert the whole Continent to Catholicism.

Such is the spirit which even in the twentieth century moves the Catholic missions throughout the world.  The Catholic Church is out to conquer, not only countries or even continents, but the whole planet.





In addition to the vast machinery of religious administration in Christian and non-Christian countries, there is another great machinery which, although not so well known, is nevertheless of the greatest importance in furthering the spiritual and political powers of the Catholic Church.  It is formed by the various religious and semi-religious Orders which are dependent upon the Holy See and whose task is primarily that of consolidating and penetrating every stratum of society in all parts of the world, the dominion of the Catholic Church.

There are some religious Orders devoted exclusively to religious contemplation; there are others whose purpose is to educate youth, to specialize in learning, to deal with charity or hospitals, to influence social issues, and so on.  They have monasteries, convents, schools, missions, papers, and property in practically every Christian country, in addition to being spread, like the missions, all over the globe.  Many of them, in fact, work for the missions.

There are numerous religious Orders, for men as well as for women.  They form a silent but very busy and efficient army of the Catholic Church.  This is not the place for a detailed examination of their particular activities, and we shall only point out some of the main characteristics of the Jesuits, who, undoubtedly, come first among many famous Orders, like the Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, etc.  We take the example of the Jesuits because they are closely connected with the strengthening of Papal authority in the world.  Indeed, the primary cause for the creation of the Order was the need for special soldiers and defenders of the absolute theocracy of the Papacy.  Ignatius Loyola, an ex-soldier of fortune, imparted his military spirit to the new Order.  He made of it a fighting company and called it the Company of Jesus, just as a company of soldiers sometimes takes the name of its General.

Of the various vows, that of obedience was considered the most important: complete, absolute, unquestionable, blind, non-critical obedience to the orders of the society, a complete surrender of individual thought and judgment, an absolute abandonment of freedom.  In a letter to his followers at Coimbra, Loyola declared that the General of the Order stands in the place of God, without reference to his personal wisdom, piety, or discretion; that any obedience which falls short of making the superior’s will one’s own, in inward affection as well as in outward effect, is lax and imperfect; that going beyond the letter of command, even in things abstractly good and praiseworthy, is disobedience, and that the “sacrifice of the intellect” is the third and greatest grade of obedience, well pleasing to God, when the inferior not only wills what the superior wills, but thinks what he thinks, submitting to his judgment, so far as it is possible for the will to influence and lead.  (H. G. Wells, Crux Ansata.)

The formula of the final Jesuit vow is:


I promise to Almighty God, before His Virgin Mother and the whole heavenly host, and to all standing by; and to thee, Reverend Father General of the Society of Jesus, holding the place of God, and to thy successors, Perpetual Poverty, Chastity and Obedience; and according to it a peculiar care in the education of boys according to the form contained in the Apostolic Letters of the Society of Jesus and in its Constitution.”


This is the significant petition presented to the Pope by a small group of the first Jesuits, for the election of the General of the Order.  The General—it said:—


should dispense offices and grades at his own pleasure, should form the rules of the constitution, with the advice and aid of the members, but should alone have the power of commanding in every instance, and should be honoured by all as though Christ himself were present in his person.

Thus in the order of the Jesuits, obedience takes the place of every motive or affection; obedience, absolute and unconditional, without one thought or question as to its object or consequences.”  (Ranke’s History of the Popes.)


The Jesuit:—


with the most unlimited abjuration of all right of judgment, in total and blind subjection to the will of his superiors, must be resigned himself to be led, like a thing without life—as the staff, for example, that the superior holds in his hand, to be turned to any purpose seeming good to him.”  (Ranke’s History of the Popes.)


In this way the General became an absolute dictator, comparable only with the most intransigent dictators of the twentieth century, for the power vested in him for life is the faculty of wielding this unquestioning obedience of thousands; nor was nor is there one to whom he is responsible for the use made of it.


All power is committed to him of acting as may be most conducive to the good of the society.  He has assistants in the different provinces, but these confine themselves strictly to such matters as he shall confide to them.  All presidents of provinces, colleges, and houses he names at his pleasure; he receives or dismisses, dispenses or furnishes, and may be said to exercise a sort of papal authority on a small scale.”  (Ranke’s History of the Popes.)


Thus the Company of Jesus became, and still is, a theocracy within a theocracy.  Its rigid machinery was created to assist in the achievement of the Company’s goal—the strengthening of the Church’s authority through educating youth, preaching, and missionary work.  It began by founding colleges in many countries, and when its founder died it had ten colleges in Castile, five each in Aragon and Andalusia, and many houses in Portugal.  Over the Portuguese colonies the Jesuits exercised almost complete mastery, and they had members in Brazil, East India, and the lands between Goa and Japan, and a provincial was sent to Ethiopia.  Colleges and houses existed in Italy, France, Germany, and other European countries.

Ever since, throughout the centuries and in all countries, the Jesuits have gone on with their work of consolidating the religious and political power of the Catholic Church.  They have reached an extraordinary perfection and skill in training young people for high offices either in the Catholic Church itself or in civil Governments.  As a Jesuit historian wrote:


Many are now shining in the purple of the Hierarchy, whom we had but lately on the benches of our schools; other are engaged in the government of States and cities.  (Orlandini).


This training of the spiritual and temporal ruling classes has made the Jesuits inclined to meddle in religious and political events.  Their activities in the political spheres of all countries have been innumerable, and that is the main cause of their having been continually persecuted, expelled, or banished by kings, emperors, and Governments of all kinds, including the most devout Catholic kings and countries.  Indeed, owing to their continuous interference and intrigues in the politics of many countries of Europe, as well as in that of the Catholic Church, the Pope himself was forced to suppress the Order altogether.

That was in 1773, and the Pope concerned was Clement XIV, who for many years had received complaints from the sovereigns and Governments of Europe regarding the interference in public matters by the Jesuits, who were accused of being “disturbers of public peace.”

However, in 1814, the Order was universally restored.  Since that date the Jesuits have continued to spread, and in many countries they still retain the quasi-monopoly of education, with excellent colleges and universities.  They are to be found behind the high educational institutions, the Press, radio, political parties, and Governments, as we shall have occasion to see in the following chapters.

Have the primary spirit and the motives with which Ignatius Loyola created the Order weakened?  Has their tremendous discipline lessened?  Today they are exactly the same as the first members of the Order; they are as powerful, as skilful, as tenacious and inflexible in their one goal of strengthening the Catholic Church in the world as they have ever been.  Their great qualities and their great organization all over the world work more indefatigably than ever to that very end.  Like the Catholic Church itself, and like many other religious Orders, they have divided the world into provinces, in order more easily to spread their influence.  These provinces are governed by provincials, under the Superior-General, who resides in Rome and who is in constant touch with the Pope himself.  That their Superior-General should be in constant and direct contact with the Pope is understandable when one remembers that the Company of Jesus came into being to defend and further the power, religious and political, of the Papacy.  The Papacy is supported by an immense army, composed of the whole Hierarchy, the religious Orders, and the Faithful; but the Jesuits are its most fanatical and skilful soldiers—they are, in fact, the shock troops of the Pope.

Each Jesuit takes a most important vow—in addition to the vow of obedience and the other two already mentioned—and it is as follows:


. . . to perform whatsoever the reigning Pontiff should command, to go forth into all lands, among Turks, heathens or heretics, wherever he may please to send him, without hesitation or delay, as without question, condition, or reward.


Today the Company of Jesus is the most powerful Order of its kind, having members, working to further the Pope’s primacy in the most delicate and influential places, in religious, educational, social, and often political fields.  It is the most dynamic machinery at the disposal of the Pope; a powerful theocracy working incessantly and with fanaticism to further the great theocracy of the Catholic Church in the world.

In addition to the Jesuits and numerous other purely religious Orders, the Catholic Church has tried to adapt itself to modern society by creating new organizations which, owing to their religious, social, and political nature, are perhaps more apt to influence their environment than the old religious Companies.  These organizations have been created during the last century and the present century, and they are very numerous.  Their activities are especially dedicated to education and social work.  We shall mention only two.

The first is the Salesian—a company of what may be called “lay priests.”  It was founded last century, and its main work is to run colleges and take care of the spiritual and physical welfare of students and workers.  They are to be found in many countries of Europe, and especially in South America.

Another typical organization of this kind is the Company of St. Paul.  It is even more “lay” than the Salesian, for its members have discarded all outward signs of their status.  Like its older counterpart, the Jesuits, this Company has an important political character.  Its main object is to counteract and fight the influences of Socialism and Communism, especially as exercised through social and educational institutions.  It was founded as late as 1920, by the Archbishop of Milan.

Priests and laymen and women are equally eligible for membership; they reside in separate houses, but meet for work.  Priests must hold a degree in canon law, theology, or other science; others must have a university degree or pass an entrance test.  All must be under thirty at entrance.  Simple vows are taken and renewed annually.  No religious habit is worn, and the members are encouraged to have ties of study, friendship, and work outside the Company, so that they may live in close contact with the world.

Among the works of the Company are hospices, printing presses with several publications, including a daily paper, missions, schools, and technical training centres.  Outside Italy the Company is established in Jerusalem, Buenos Aires, and other centres.  Like several others of its kind, this Company specializes in working districts, training young workers at its centres in order to implant early in their minds the social teaching of the Catholic Church, and thus counteract Socialist teaching.  For this purpose it is continually opening technical training centres, rest centres, libraries, sports clubs, etc.

In addition to these religious or semi-religious Orders, the Vatican controls other kinds of organizations, sometimes of an apparently religious nature, sometimes purely social.  It is not uncommon for such organizations to court their adherents in millions.

To cite one example, the Apostleship of Prayer, the League of the Sacred Heart.  Pope after Pope blessed it, and Pope Benedict XV said that all Catholics should be members of it.  Its main purpose is to unite as many Catholics as possible in private and communal prayer, with the purpose of entreating the protection of God for the Catholic Church, the Pope, the spreading of Catholicism in the world, and a Universal Peace (which, of course, means a Catholic Peace).  Today the League has a membership of over 30,000,000, and its paper, Messengers, is published in forty languages.

In Great Britain there is the organization The Sword of the Spirit, which is under the direct control of the Cardinal Archbishop.  Its aim is to spread Catholicism through the Press, pamphlets, books, cultural and social activities, etc.

Then there exist many purely lay associations, which superficially have nothing to do with the Vatican.  Nevertheless, in social, cultural, and political matters they depend on instructions from either the local hierarchy or Rome.  In England, for instance, there are: the National Council of Catholic Women, Catholic Women’s League, the National Catholic Youth Council, Catholic Federation Association, etc.  A cultural movement formed during the Second World War is the New Man Association.  In all European and American countries innumerable organizations of this kind exist.  In the United States of America the most influential and wealthy is the Knights of Columbus Association.

But the most important of these new organizations, created by a Pope himself and depending directly on the Vatican, which the Catholic Church uses in order to move forward with modern times, is the Catholic Action, or Catholic League.  Its main task is to maintain and spread Catholic ideas and principles in modern society, through social, cultural, and political activities.

Catholic Action was created in order to provide the Catholic Church with an organization less comprised than the Catholic Parties in the various countries, but nevertheless able permanently to influence social and political trends with Catholic ideas.  Such an organization could penetrate the social and political strata more unobtrusively, and thus achieve the same aims as the old Catholic Parties without incurring their risks and responsibilities.

During the period between the two worlds wars, Pope Pius XI sacrificed many Catholic Parties with this idea in view.  He created this new movement, unitarian in character, which closely joined the laymen to the Hierarchy and equipped it for public action above all parties, in defending religious interests, the family, Catholic education, Catholic principles, etc.  Catholic Action, the Pope declared, was the apple of his eye.  So much so, that not only did he make its existence known to many Governments, but he insisted that one of the main clauses of any Concordat he made with a country was that it included the diplomatic recognition of Catholic Action.

The activities of Catholic Action embrace all fields, from the intellectual to the manual, from the social to the political.  It is organized in such a way that the main outdoor work is carried out by Catholic laymen, who nevertheless are closely connected with and directed by the Catholic Hierarchy—which, of course, moves to the will of the Pope.  Indeed, close union with the Hierarchy (which means the Vatican) is the main tenet of Catholic Action:


The Hierarchy has the right to command and issue instructions and directions.  Catholic Action places all its powers and all its energies at the disposal of the Hierarchy.  Besides, complete obedience to the directives of the ecclesiastical authority, as even the civil authority comes from God.  Catholic Action members should pay due respect also to civil authority, and loyally and faithfully serve their legitimate prescriptions (Pope Pius XII, September 1940).


What are the aims of Catholic Action?


. . . it aims to develop, in accord with the Church, a holy and charitable social activity, to inspire and to restore where necessary true Catholic living; in a word, to Catholicise or re-Catholicise the world . . .


In the words of Rev. R. A. MacGowan, another Catholic clergyman, the Assistant Director of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Catholic Action deals with “questions in the field of legislation and economics, but only in their distinctly religious and moral aspects, and not as do political parties.”

The authoritative Catholic paper Commonweal, in a more outspoken statement, defines the goal of Catholic Action as “to produce change and adjust all religious, moral and social and economic thought and procedure of modern life to Catholic standards of thought and action, in order to spread the kingdom of Christ.”

It is very evident (and, indeed, admitted by the statements of the Church itself) that Catholic Action is the most powerful and up-to-date weapon used by the Catholic Church in trying to shape society according to its principles.  This is a rational and bold attempt to outwit the open games of politics, and employ religious belief and religious organization to gain political goals which, in their turn, serve to further religious ideas.

Thus the Catholic Church, rightly or wrongly, interferes in politics, in this case indirectly through old and new semi-religious or semi-lay organizations; it cannot in honesty deny that it interferes with the temporal problems of peoples.  The demarcation between the spiritual and physical, the temporal and the divine, always has been very difficult.  Today it has become impossible.  If this were not the case, things would be much easier for the Catholic Church as well as for society.  Unfortunately, most problems are “mixed matters,” and all who deny that the Catholic Church is bound to interfere in political problems should be reminded of the remark made by Queen Catherine, who said that the demarcation between temporal and spiritual is at times impossible.  The Catholic citizen is bound to deal with politics, for, as Pope Pius XI, the founder of Catholic Action, put it: “The same man, according to the nature of his task, acts now as a Catholic, now as a citizen.”  His daily activities cannot be neatly divided into water-tight compartments.  As George Seldes aptly put it:


The religious spirit is a living force which one cannot bottle as categories and species with well-pasted labels.


“Finally,” and we quote the same writer, “it is plain that the framework of the Catholic Action provides the most formidable machine for universal centralization that one can imagine in our time.”  And if the reader at the same time remembers all the other purely religious, semi-religious, and lay companies, or associations that exist, he will realize what formidable machinery the Catholic Church has at its disposal for reaching all strata of society, to further its principles and thus assert its authority on the modern world.

It is obvious that although, on the technical and administrative sides, this machinery closely resembles that of a modern Government, such resemblance is only superficial.  For the various Congregations or Ministries have been created through a complicated and immense web of spiritual and material interests.  Their fields have no boundaries of any kind, their activities are felt in all continents, and they are at the disposal of a single will—that of the Pope.

Although each Congregation has a well-planned routine to follow and has its own particular problems to cope with (the Congregations have their regular daily, weekly, and monthly meetings), it can curtail or enlarge its activities according to the plans of the Pope.

As we have already mentioned, the Supreme Pontiff, unlike any prime minister, president, king, or dictator, may exercise upon any section of the Vatican unlimited personal pressure.  No ancient or modern dictator has ever held a power comparable with that of the Pope.  He has no control of any kind over him; he need not account for his actions to anyone, not even to the College of Cardinals.  All the complicated machinery of the government of the Catholic Church, whose arms stretch out to all the corners of the earth, is at the complete and uncontrollable disposal of one man—or, perhaps, two men: the Pope and his Secretary of State.

Now, having seen how the government of the Catholic Church and the Vatican works, and having acquired some knowledge about the immense influence that both can exercise in many strata of society wherever there are Catholics, let us glance at what the Popes who rule the Catholic Church of our day think about the great issues which have stirred the world during the last fifty years.  Through knowing by what principles the Pope is guided, it will be easier to gauge the future attitude and consequent policy of the Vatican with regard to the burning problems of Secularism, Liberalism, and Authoritarianism, the social and political ideologies inspiring Democracy, Socialism, or Fascism.  For it was the support or hostility of the Popes toward these forms of government which caused the Vatican to fight or to befriend certain modern ideologies, political systems, and nations instead of others, and thus determined the policy of the Vatican in our century.





The Vatican has theories of its own by which it tries to explain why the world is where it stands today; why society has been, and continues to be, shaken by social and political convulsions; and why mankind in general is going through a crisis never before experienced.  Unfortunately, owing to lack of space, we must merely glance at the general views of only three modern Popes; but we hope thereby to make their ideas clear, for this will help to show the fundamental attitude of the Catholic Church towards the problems of our perturbing age.

From the time of Leo XIII the Vatican has issued specific statements and general declarations, never contradictory, and showing a systematic attitude towards what it considers to be contrary to its doctrines.  The policy of the Catholic Church has been based on these general ideas, and its attitude towards any specific subject has been shaped by them.  Here, we shall examine very briefly the essence of some of these declarations, and we shall take the inaugural encyclicals of three Popes who, having ruled the Catholic Church during critical periods, were able more than others to impregnate the Church, and consequently the Vatican, with the spirit emanating from their declarations.  In their inaugural encyclicals, each of these three Popes attempted to expound the general principles which would characterize the program he had set himself as Head of the Church, while at the same time suggesting remedies which he considered would cure the ills of modern society.

The first of the modern Popes to deal directly with social and political issues characteristic of modern society was Leo XIII.  He, although in many ways very liberal-minded, spent his life in a relentless battle against what the Vatican considered to be the characteristic scourge of the last century—namely, Secularism.  The main goal of Secularism was the complete divorce of Church and State and the segregation of religion from issues which were not of a purely religious character.  The declarations of Leo XIII, even when confined to general principles, are very important, for the Popes who succeeded him not only maintained them, but enlarged upon them according to the requirements of the times, and they consequently affected the policy of the Vatican in the twentieth century.

Pope Leo XIII made known his ideas regarding the Catholic Church and society in his first encyclical published April 21, 1878 (Inscrutabili).  In this encyclical he drew a careful picture of world conditions in his time and the practical consequences brought about by the principles of the Secular State.  Great evils had affected not only society, but also the State and the individual, said Leo XII.  The new principles (Secularism and Liberalism) had caused the subversion of those fundamental truths which were the foundation of society.  They had implanted a general obstinacy in the heart of the individual, who had thus become very impatient of all authority.  Disagreements of all kinds over political and social problems, which were bound to create revolutions, were increasing daily.

The new theories, which were especially directed against Christianity and the Catholic Church, had in the practical field been the cause of acts directed against the authority of the Catholic Church.  Among these actions, which were the consequences of the new doctrines, were the passing in more than one country of laws which shook the very foundation of the Catholic Church; the freedom given to individuals to propagate principles which were “mischievous” restrictions on the Church’s right to educate youth; the seizure of the temporal power of the Popes; and the systematic rejection of the authority of the Pope and of the Catholic Church, “the source of progress.”

“Who,” said Leo XIII, “will deny the service of the Church in bringing truth to the peoples sunk in ignorance and superstition? . ..  If we compare the ages when the Church was universally revered as a mother with our age, is it not beyond all question that our age is rushing wildly along the straight road to destruction?”  The Papacy, declared Leo, was the protector and the guardian of civilization.  “It is in very truth the glory of the Supreme Pontiffs that they steadfastly set themselves as a wall and bulwark to save human society from falling back into its former superstition and barbarism.”  If the Papacy’s “healing authority” had not been put aside, the world would have been spared innumerable revolutions and wars, and the civil power “would not have lost that venerable and sacred glory, the lustrous gift of religion, which alone renders the state of subjection noble and worthy of Man.”

Leo XIII then told Catholics what they should do to counteract the hostility of the enemies of the Church:


(1) Every Catholic had a duty of submission to the teaching of the Holy See.

(2) Education should be Catholic.

(3) Every member of the Church should follow the principles of Catholicism with regard to the family and marriage.


The teaching of the Catholic Church, affirmed Leo, should be imparted to children as early as possible, and the Church should see not only that there is “a suitable and solid method of education . . . but above all . . . this education should be wholly in harmony with the Catholic Faith.”

But, first and most important, education should start in the family, which, in order to be equal to such a duty, should be Catholic.  Parents must be Catholic, and must be united by the sacraments of the Church.  Youth must receive “family Christian training”; and such training becomes impossible when the laws of the Catholic Church are ignored (as under the laws of the secularized State).

Subsequently this Pope advised Catholics not only to obey the Catholic Church in religious matters, but also to follow its advice in social and political problems.  Throughout the last quarter of the nineteenth century he published many encyclicals, in which he repeatedly condemned the Secular State, the heresy of Liberalism, and finally of Socialism.  He advised Catholics to fight these ideologies, which were hostile to the Church, on their own ground—namely, in social and political fields, by uniting in Catholic trade unions and by creating Catholic Parties.  His teaching characterized the general policy of the Vatican up to the beginning of the twentieth century, by which time the type of State condemned by the Catholic Church over and over again had established itself practically all over Europe.

Thirty-six years after Leo XIII’s inaugural letters the First World War broke out, and the new Pope, Benedict XV, denounced what, according to him, were the real causes of hostilities and of the deterioration of the Western world.

What caused the First World War? he asked (Ad Beatissimi, November 1, 1914), and in answer asserted that it was due not only to the fact that “the precepts and practice of Christian wisdom have ceased to be observed in the ruling of States,” but also to the general weakening of authority.  “There is no longer any respect for the authority of the rulers,” he declared, and “the bonds of duty which should tie the subject to whatever authority is above him have become so weak that they have almost disappeared.”  That is due to modern teaching about the origin of authority.  What is the essence of such teaching?  The essence is the false idea that the source of authority’s power is the free will of men, and not God.  It is from this illusion that man is the source of authority that the unrestrained striving for independence of the masses has arisen.  Such a spirit of independence has penetrated into the very home and family life.  Even in clerical circles such vice is apparent.  It follows that there is widespread contempt for laws and authority, rebellion on the part of those who should remain subject, criticism of orders and crime against property on the part of those who claim that no law binds them.

The peoples, therefore, should return to the old doctrine, and the Pope, “to whom is divinely committed the teachings of the truth,” must remind the peoples of the world that “there is no power but from God; and the powers that be are ordained by God.”  As all authority comes from God, it follows that all Catholics must obey their authorities.  Their authorities, whether religious or civil, must be obeyed religiously; that is to say, as a matter of conscience.  The only exception to this duty is when the authority is used against the laws of God and of His Church; otherwise all Catholics, concludes the Pope, must obey blindly, for “he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God, and they that resist purchase to themselves damnation.”

Benedict XV then draws practical conclusions and hints to the rulers of nations that if they want discipline, obedience, and order, they must support the teaching of the Catholic Church.  It is foolish, he states, for a country to rule without the teaching of the Church, or to educate its youth in other doctrines that are not of the Church.  “Sad experience proves that human authority fails when religion is set aside.”  So the ruler of the State should not despise God’s authority and His Church; otherwise the peoples will despise their authority.  Human society, the Pope continues, is kept together by two factors—mutual love and dutiful acknowledgment of authority over all.  These sources have been weakened, with the result that, within each nation, the population, is “divided, as it were, into two hostile armies, bitterly and ceaselessly at strife, the owners on the one hand, and the proletariat and the workers on the other.”

The proletariat should not be filled with hatred, and should not envy the wealthy, says the Pope, for such a proletariat would become an easy prey for agitators.  For “it does not follow that, because men are equal by their nature, they must all occupy an equal place in the community.”  The poor should not look upon the rich and rise against them, as if the rich were thieves; for when the poor do this, they are unjust and uncharitable, besides acting unreasonably.  The consequences of class hatred are disastrous, and strikes are to be deplored, for they disorganize national life.  The errors of Socialism have been exposed by Leo XIII, and bishops should see that the Catholics never forget Leo’s condemnation of it.  They should preach brotherly love, which will never abolish “the difference of conditions and therefore of classes, but will bring it to pass that those who occupy higher positions will in some way bring themselves down to those in lower position, and treat them not only justly . . . but kindly and in a friendly and patient spirit.  The poor, on their side, will rejoice in their prosperity (the prosperity of the rich) and rely confidently on their help.”

Men have lost the belief in a future life, and they therefore consider this earthly life as the whole reason for their existence.  A wicked Press, godless schools, and other influences have caused this “most pernicious error.”  Those who uphold these doctrines desire wealth; but as wealth is not equally divided, and as the State sets limits to the taking of the wealth of the rich, the poor hate the State.  “Thus the struggle of one class of citizen against another bursts forth, the one trying by every means to obtain and to take what they want to have, the other endeavoring to hold and to increase what they already possess.”

Why did the Catholic Church at this stage insist so much on authority and on the issue of the struggle between classes?  Because the rumbling of social upheaval closely to follow the First World War was already being heard by the Vatican, which, fearing the worst, was already taking the first precautionary steps.

The advice given by the Pope to individual Catholics and to nations should be remembered, for during the following decade that emphasis on the necessity for strengthening authority, on the blind obedience owed by subjects, and on the duty of everyone not to allow difference of wealth and social ideology (i.e. Socialism) to incite class struggle, was to become the slogan of Fascist Totalitarianism.

The First World War came and went, leaving behind it immense ruin, especially in the social and political fields.  Society at large, as Benedict XV had feared, was torn asunder by conflicting social doctrines and struggling political systems, most of which were trying to shape society according to the very principles which the Catholic Church had always condemned.  To add to the confusion and to the strength of those forces of disorder, Russia had turned Bolshevist and had become a beacon to all the European peoples in revolutionary mood.

One of the characteristics of the Socialist, Communist, and Anarchist individuals and movements was that, besides aiming at changing the economic and social system, they had declared a ruthless war on religion in general and on the Catholic Church in particular.  The danger of Socialism, previously theoretic, had become real and pressing.  Once more the Catholic Church spoke to the Faithful, repeating the statements of Pope Benedict XV and adding further accusations against what it considered to be the cause of the terrible world unrest.

Pius XI was elected Pope in 1922, and in the same year published his inaugural encyclical, in which he not only emphasized the attitude of the Catholic Church toward social and political problems, but also indicted democracy, thus preceding the Fascist and Nazi dictatorships (Ubi Arcano Dei, English trans., On the Troubles Left by the European War, 1914-18; Their Cause and Remedies).

This encyclical discussed the effects of the war and stated that nowhere was there peace among States, families, or individuals.  World unrest was attributed to the fact that God had been banished from public affairs, marriage, and education.  It declared that war would recur unless men shared the “peace of Christ,” and that the Catholic Church was indispensable to peace.  Pope Pius XI next raised the social and political issue, saying that everywhere there was “class warfare,” factious opposition of parties not seeking public good, plots, assaults on rulers, strikes, lock-outs, and riots.  Modern doctrines had weakened family ties; they had caused restlessness of mind consequent upon the war; they had sapped authority to such a degree that obedience was felt to be submission to an awful yoke.  While men wanted to work as little as possible, servants and masters were enemies.  The multitude of the needy was growing in number and becoming the reserve from which future revolutions would recruit new armies.

The Pope then hastened to say that, although the Church did not discriminate between forms of government as such, yet no one could deny that the structure of a democracy suffers more easily than that of any other State from the treacherous interplay of acts.  Democracy, asserted Pius XI, was the main cause of all the chaos, which had come about because of the very nature of democratic Governments, where the will of the people is sovereign and where there is too much freedom; and the more democratic a country, the more chaotic her national life.

This condemnation of democracy was very significant, for it came at a time when the Fascist doctrines were making great strides in Italy and the rest of Europe.  We shall see later how this indictment of democracy was not to be confined to the purely theoretical field, but was to enter into the sphere of politics—and thus contribute to the tragic consequences of which we are all aware.

In his encyclical, Pius XI also gave several other causes which he alleged were responsible for the world unrest:


(1) God had been removed from the conduct of public affairs.

(2) Marriage had become purely a civil contract.

(3) God had been banished from schools.


After these accusations, the Pope finally suggested the remedies with which the society of the twentieth century could be cured.  Every individual, he said, should respect the divine arrangement of human obedience and should respect the divine arrangement of human society and, above all, of the Catholic Church, a teacher “incapable of error.”  Only the Catholic Church, he went on, could bring peace and order, for the Church alone teaches with a divine commission, and by divine command, that individuals and States must obey God’s laws, and the Catholic Church is “the only one and the only divinely constituted guardian and interpreter of these revealed truths.”

That being so, continued Pius XI, society could find a solution to its troubles only by following the teaching of the Catholic Church.  As for nations trying to settle their differences, it was useless for them to create an International Institution (League of Nations) regardless of the Church.  If they wished such an organization to succeed, then they must build it on the model of that International Institution which worked so well during the Middle Ages—namely, the Catholic Church.  For the Catholic Church alone is able to safeguard the sacredness of International Law, for while it belongs to all nations, yet it is above all nations.

Individuals must look to the Catholic Church for guidance, not only in spiritual, but also in social matters; and they should never forget that they are forbidden to support certain social doctrines of which the Church does not approve (i.e. Liberalism, Modernism, Socialism, etc.).  Unfortunately, remarked the Pope, there are too many, even amongst Catholics, who are inclined to look upon social matters with too liberal a mind.  “In their words, writings, and in the whole tenor of their lives, they behave as though the teaching and commands set out by Popes . . . were becoming completely obsolete. . ..  In this there can be recognized a certain kind of modernism in morals in matters touching authority and the social order, which, along with modernism, we specifically condemn.”

Pope Pius XI was a man of action.  His reign (1922-39), which occurred during one of the most fateful periods of modern history, was marked by his strong will and the fact that the Catholic Church was increasingly dependent upon the personal decisions of the ruling Pontiff.  He not only strove to see that what his predecessors [preached was carried out, but had extremely strong beliefs of his] own on questions regarding the attitude that the Catholic Church should adopt towards social and political problems.

Pius XI was a man “contemptuous of democratic institutions,” as his first encyclical clearly showed.  He endeavored with great success to impregnate the spirit of the Catholic Church and, above all, the policy of the Vatican with hostility towards certain great modern social and political currents.  The result was that the Vatican adopted a strong and well-defined policy towards contemporary social and political movements.  This policy was based on the principles of tightening the authority of the State and the right of the Catholic Church to play a bigger part in modern society.  Its duty was to see that youth should receive religious education, to preserve the sacredness of the family, and to assure that Secularism should be anathematized, Socialism destroyed, divorce abolished and democracy condemned.

His endeavors, directed towards applying such principles to reality, soon brought the Catholic Church very close to certain movements which, although entirely alien to religion, yet shared with the Vatican a hatred of certain social and political trends then bestirring society.  Having found common ground, and sharing many aims, the Vatican and these political movements began to battle together against what they considered their common enemies.  Who was mainly responsible for such an alliance, and how was it that the Vatican decided to embark upon such a policy?





The various social and political ideologies and systems which the Vatican fought throughout the last and at the beginning of the twentieth century began to seem almost mild when the Church found itself confronted by the most dangerous of all its modern enemies—Socialism.

The nineteenth century had been dominated by Liberalism and had advocated Secularism and the freedom of society and the State from entanglement with the Church.  The twentieth became the century in which Liberalism was quickly supplanted by an ideology which in the past, although existent, had never been a real threat to those religious, social, and economic institutions on which society rested.  This ideology, propagating a social, economic, and political revolution, had been again and again condemned by the Church from its very beginning; but these condemnations had rarely gone farther than the theoretical, religious, and social fields.  For Socialism in its various forms, although it had begun to crystallize into several economic, social, and even political movements, especially during the last decades of the nineteenth century, had yet remained a weak and merely theoretical enemy.  Its potential danger did not seriously threaten the solid and stable structure of society.

During the closing quarter of the last century the Catholic Church, besides condemning a priori any claim or theory of Socialism, dictated that anything to do with it was anathema to any good Catholic.  Purely theoretical condemnation passed to practical rejection as soon as the Socialists began to organize workers’ movements whose aims were an open challenge to the established form of economic and social order.

The Church, as already hinted, through Pope Leo XIII, having come into the open with an utter rejection of the basic doctrines of Socialism, tried to counter-offer workers’ movements of its own.  This attitude, however, changed radically with the advent and the end of the First World War.  Although these efforts in the practical field at that time were considered sufficient to counterbalance the progress of Socialism, it soon became evident that they were not enough to be a serious check to similar Socialist movements.  Yet the Vatican was confident enough not to be seriously concerned about it.  For it relied, not so much on Catholic organizations dealing with the problems of Labor as such, but on religious and political movements which were fighting its battle at the very source of power—namely, inside the Governments.

In addition to various powerful Catholic Parties, the Church had an influential Catholic Press and great allies, represented by those stratas of society whose interests required that the social-economic status quo should be maintained as intact as possible.  These conservative elements, old and new, included the landlords and the new promoters of vast industrial concerns.  They regarded the Catholic Church as their natural ally, while the Church, in turn, regarded them as the best defense against any serious menace from the new Socialist ideology.

With the outbreak of the First World War, however, this state of affairs was profoundly modified.  Millions of men were suddenly uprooted from their comparatively peaceful surroundings in which they had lived and were put into trenches or into factories.  Life, as they knew it, became more and more disrupted by the ravages of a war which, even before it ended, had begun to alter values of a religious, social, and political nature.  The Socialist ideology, which, until then, had affected but a comparatively narrow stratum of the most discontented manual workers and bands of intellectuals, began to be absorbed by vast numbers of dissatisfied men and women.

In 1917 Russia, having brought about a Socialist revolution, installed a Bolshevist Government.  In the next year the First World War ended, followed by dislocation, mass unemployment, bewilderment, and disillusionment.  Thereupon the Socialist doctrines spread far and wide and were looked upon by many as the programme upon which a better social and economic order could be built in the post-war world.  Strikes paralyzed industries, whole towns, and entire nations; factories were occupied and committees of workers were elected to run them; lands were seized; officers were insulted and patriotism was derided; authorities in local councils or governments were overridden.  The theoretical plans for the setting up of a Socialist society, as envisaged by Socialism, were put into operation, and the Red wave swept over practically the whole of Europe, becoming more or less violent according to local conditions and resistance.

Where did the Catholic Church stand?  The Catholic Church had become one of the main targets of the Reds.  This for two reasons: first, because of its past and current attacks on the Socialist ideology as such and on all Socialists; secondly, because of its intimate association with the natural enemies of a Socialist society—the landed classes, the great industrialists, and all those other strata advocating Conservatism.

In view of this, the Socialists proclaimed that they would expropriate the Church and forbid it to teach in schools, that the clergy would no longer be paid by the State, and that anti-religious propaganda would render the new Socialist society, if not atheist, at least non-religious.  Pointing at Soviet Russia as their model, they followed their words with acts of violence.  Soon it became apparent-even to the blindest cardinals at the Vatican—that what in the past had been considered the greatest danger—namely, secularization sponsored by Liberalism—was in reality but a mild opponent when compared to the secularization contemplated by the Socialists.

Meanwhile, all other elements which felt themselves threatened had organized themselves and had begun to counter-attack through social, political, and patriotic movements of all kinds.  Militarist groups were set up, violence was quickly replied to by violence, and the opposite camps in various European countries began to resort to murder and to be the burning of hostile newspapers and buildings.  [Soon, owing to their better organization and to the confusion in the] camps of their opponents, and the fact that large sections of the population had become tired of the interminable strikes and struggles, the anti-Socialist movements began to check, and in various cases completely to stop, the Socialist advance.

At the Vatican any such anti-Socialist movement was welcomed, looked upon with great sympathy, and, whenever possible, supported.  But struggle over the kind of policy that should be adopted towards the Red menace divided the Government of the Church and became increasingly sharp.

This internal conflict in the Vatican revolved on the problem of whether actively to back the violent measures of the new anti-Socialist movements.  These measures promised not only to destroy the Socialists, but to restore order and to check any individual or movement that might endanger society.  The alternative was to fight the Red menace as the Church fought Liberalism, and Secularism before the war—namely, by legal means and, in the social-political arena, by creating workers’ and peasants’ organizations and political parties.

The former group contended that the only means by which the enemies of the Church—namely, the Socialists—could be fought effectively was by the employment of drastic measures.  Anathemas, or religious or social organizations, even powerful Catholic political parties, were no longer sufficient when confronted by the violent propaganda and methods of the Red opponents.  The Catholic Church could not enter into the field inciting to plunder and violence.  When it had done so, through some Catholic Party whose members had on several occasions sabotaged strikes organized by Socialists, the only result had been to render even more bitter the Church’s enemy.  There remained only one way open to the Catholic Church: a new policy of all-out support of and close alliance with any successful political movement that could guarantee the destruction of Socialism, the maintenance of the status quo, and above all, respect and a privileged position for the Church.

This was more than ever urgent, maintained the sponsors of such a theory, owing to the colossal losses which the Church was incurring daily.  These losses were no longer a question of individuals leaving the Catholic Church, but had become apostasy in mass.  And although some of these losses could be traced to the poisoned principles of Liberalism and Secular Education, the most responsible force was Socialism.  Wherever there was concentrated industrialization coupled with urbanism, the Church invariably lost its members while its Red adversary gained them.  These losses were of a double nature, for an individual did not confine himself to rejecting the Catholic Church only on religious grounds, but also on social and political grounds.  Catholics who no longer paid heed to the Catholic Church almost always joined political movements hostile to the Catholic Church.  After the war, the movements which benefited most were Socialism and Communism.  It soon became evident, therefore, that those who voted Socialist were almost certainly dead losses to the Church, and Pope Pius XI later summoned up the position when he declared that “No Catholic can be a Socialist” (Quadragesimo Anno, 1931).

In Italy, a Catholic country, immediately after the war (1919), from a total of 3,500,000 votes the Socialists polled 1,840,593; and in 1926 the Liberals and Socialists polled 2,494,685.  In Austria, in 1927, the Socialists got 820,000 votes, while in Vienna alone they increased their gains over the previous election by 120,000.  In Czechoslovakia, up to 1930, the Catholic Church lost 1,900,000 members, while in Germany the Socialists and Communists in 1932 polled 13,232,292 votes.  These losses caused the Vatican to support any State proclaiming its intention to de-industrialize a country and to convert it into an agricultural Power—hence the support of Pétain—for agricultural communities had proved to be intensely Conservative and faithful to the Church.

During the first few restless and menacing years following the First World War, the Vatican could not make up its mind which policy to adopt.  It encouraged both, without giving really full support to either.  In Italy, for instance, it gave permission to Italian Catholics to form a strong Catholic Party with a progressive social outlook, which on many occasions responded with violence to the methods of its opponents.  The decision remained with Benedict XV, a man with Liberal leanings.

When Benedict XV died and a new Pope sat on the throne, the policy of the Vatican was drastically changed.  The Vatican adopted, although at first with due precautions, the policy of alliance with strong anti-Bolshevist political movements.

Pius XI, a man of autocratic disposition and an uncompromising nature, who had no love for democracy, was elected Pope in 1922.  This was a fateful year, not only in the history of the Catholic Church, but also in the history of Europe, and, indeed, the whole world, for during it the first Right-wing Totalitarians took control of a modern nation (that is, the Italian Fascists—October 28, 1922).  From that year onwards the policy of the Vatican became more and more clearly defined.  Its alliance with the Powers of reaction became more and more open.  Through Europe, from Spain to Austria, from Italy to Poland, dictatorships seized power by legal or semi-legal means, very often openly supported by the Vatican.  Discarding the old methods, the Vatican went so far as to order the dissolution of one great Catholic party after another in order to assist first Fascism and then Nazism to strengthen their stranglehold on their respective States.

The Pope, not content with that, proclaimed on more than one occasion that the first Fascist dictator (Mussolini) was “a man sent by Divine Providence.”  Having warned the faithful throughout the world that “no good Catholic can be a Socialist,” he wrote an encyclical by which he recommended to Catholic countries the adoption of the Fascist Corporate State (Quadragesimo Anno, 1931).


When the Fascist States began their external aggressions the Vatican helped them—indirectly and, in more than one case, even directly.  Catholics in the countries concerned were required to support them, or diplomatic means were employed, as in the case of the Abyssinian War (1935-6), or in the cases of the rape of Austria (1938) and Czechoslovakia (1939).

What did the Vatican get in return for its help?  It got what had induced it to make an alliance with these ruthless political movements—namely, the total annihilation of all those enemies it had so often condemned during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—not only Socialism and Communism, but also Liberalism, Democracy and Secularism.

Trade unions and social, cultural, and political organizations sponsored by Communist, Socialist, Democratic, or Liberal parties were stamped out; and political parties were vetoed.  The Press, films, theatre, and all other cultural institutions were controlled by the one party.  The people were deprived of free election—a caricature of elections being maintained in which electors had to say “yes” or “no” to a whole list of candidates selected by the party.

The whole spirit and machinery of the dictatorships ran parallel with the spirit and machinery of the Catholic Church.  There was only one party, for all others were pernicious; there was only one leader, who could do no wrong and who had to give account to no one but himself.  His people owed him blind obedience, without discussing his orders; they had to think what he told them to think; they had to listen to radio programmes, read papers and books which he selected for them.  Fines and imprisonment were the penalties for transgression, and no one was allowed even to whisper against the sagacity of either the régime or its leader.  A State police was always on the alert to arrest and send offenders to concentration camps.

The Catholic Church was given a great margin of security and often of privilege; the Catholic religion was proclaimed the religion of the State; religious education was introduced in schools; religious marriage ceremonies were rendered compulsory, and divorce forbidden; all books against religion were suppressed; the sacredness of the family was upheld; a campaign to induce couples to rear as many children as possible was initiated; the clergy was paid by the State; authorities appeared at public religious ceremonies; and religious newspapers were protected and sometimes even subsidised.  The Church, at one stroke, had not only destroyed all its old and new enemies, but had recovered a privileged position in society which it could hardly have expected to obtain under the former state of affairs.

Not everything went well, however, between the Catholic Church and its political partners.  Often bitter controversies arose, especially with Nazism, and there were even forms of mild persecution about which the Pope had to write encyclicals (Non Abbiamo Bisogno, 1931, against Italian Fascism; and Mit Brennender Sorge, 1937, against Nazism).  It is noteworthy, however, that such quarrels were due almost invariably to the fact that both Church and State claimed to have the sole right to deal with some specific problem; for instance, the control and education of youth—or breaches of the Concordat.  In the case of Nazism, complaint arose when religion as such was deliberately and brazenly attacked.

Apart from these recurrent troubles the Vatican never once dared to condemn Fascism, Nazism, or similar movements as it had once condemned, for instance, Liberalism in the nineteenth century, or Socialism in the twentieth century.  Why should it?  That not everything was perfect in the new alliance was human, and, although often the Church did not get as much as it wanted, yet it obtained far more than it could ever have dreamed of had the previous state of affairs been allowed to continue.

It was thus that, once the Vatican had started to pursue its new policy, it never deviated from it.  On the contrary, it followed it with a steadfastness which in the long span of over twenty years contributed to the consolidation of Fascist Totalitarianism over the whole Continent.

The encouragement which the various dictatorships received from the Catholic Church was not confined to the domestic field, but worked also in the field of international politics.  For the Catholic Church, having to fight the same enemies, had to adopt the same policy in almost all European countries, to safeguard its interests.  Therefore alliance was made with those forces which had been so helpful to it in the States where a Fascist dictatorship had been set up.

Naturally, although the Church tried to reach the two main goals—destruction of its enemies and safeguard of its interests—the circumstances, events, times, and men being not all alike, different tactics had to be adopted in each country.  In one country the Catholic Party was allowed to co-operate with the Socialist (as in Germany); in another an open Catholic dictatorship machine-gunned them (as in Austria); in a third the Catholic Party, moved by racial and religious motives, was employed to weaken the central Government and thus hasten its destruction (as in Czechoslovakia); in a fourth devout Catholics became agents of an external Fascist aggressor (as with Seyss-Inquart in Austria, and Mgr. Tiso in Czechoslovakia); and in a fifth an open revolt by a Catholic general, backed by the Church and the Vatican, was the policy adopted (as with General Franco in Spain).

In addition to wanting to make a whole continent safe for religion in general and for the Catholic Church in particular, through this alliance with Fascism, the Vatican had another very important goal in view: the checking and eventual destruction of that beacon of world Atheism and Bolshevism—namely, Soviet Russia.

From the very beginning of the Russian Revolution (1917), which paradoxically enough the Vatican had welcomed, the Vatican’s policy in the international sphere had one main goal: to consolidate all forces and countries into a solid block inimical to the U.S.S.R.  One of the principle reasons for the Vatican’s support of Hitler, besides the destruction of Bolshevism in Germany, was to create a strong and hostile Power which would act like a Chinese wall to keep Russian Bolshevism from infecting the West.  This power one day might even destroy Soviet Russia altogether.  This policy the Vatican pursued relentlessly until the very end of the Second World War, not only as far as Fascist Powers were concerned, but also in dealing with Great Britain and the United States of America, as we shall have occasion to see later.

It is obvious that the Vatican, notwithstanding its great influence on many countries, would have been unable to affect as it has done the course of events in the years between the two world wars had it not been favored by circumstances.  Above all, the dynamic forces of an ethical, racial, social, economic, and political character bestirring the world, in a gloomy post-war era, have favoured Catholic designs.

Had the Vatican not existed, or had it remained entirely neutral, or had it been hostile to the rise and progress of Fascism, perhaps the great cataclysm whose climax was the outbreak of the Second World War would have come just the same.  On the other hand, there is no doubt that the help, direct and indirect, which the Vatican was able to give at certain critical moments to the Fascist States greatly helped to hasten the process which led to the crystallization of Europe into a Fascist Continent, and to the outbreak of the Second World War.  It is true that it was not the policy which the Vatican, when confronted with the growth of a redoubtable and hostile ideology (Socialism), decided to be the most apt for conditions in the twentieth century, that led the world where it went.  Colossal forces completely alien to religion in general and to Catholicism in particular were mainly responsible.  Nevertheless, the alliance which the Vatican struck with those non-religious forces, and the help it gave them under critical circumstances, helped to a very great extent to tip the balance and thus drive mankind along the path of disaster.

However, it is not our task to indict or to acquit the Vatican for its share of responsibility in the world tragedy.  Facts will speak more strongly than anything else.  Once the part that the Vatican has played in the domestic and international fields before and between the two world wars has been examined, it will be up to the reader to draw his own conclusions.  From now on, therefore, our task will be to draw a picture of the rôle which the Catholic Church and the Vatican played in the social and political life of each major country, and thus give a panoramic view of the Vatican’s activities all over the world during the first half of this, our twentieth century.





Nowhere more than in Spain has the Catholic Church striven throughout the centuries to control all aspects of the nation’s life.  Whether that is due to the Spanish temperament, which is inclined to extremism and falls in with the dogmatics of Catholicism, or whether it is due to other factors, the Catholic Church, from the early Middle Ages up to the present, has been a paramount power, shaping the cultural, social, economic, and political vicissitudes of that country.

In spite of the Church’s stranglehold on Spain, the Church and people have had turbulent relations since the very beginning.  Although it was a Spaniard, the Emperor Theodosius, who in the year 380, under Pope Damasus (son of a Spaniard), first introduced the scheme of a partnership of Church and State, the Spanish people have always evinced resistance to Rome.

Rome and the ultra-Catholics in Spain, mortal enemies of even the slightest trend towards Liberalism, won the day in 1851.  A Concordat was concluded, by which the State pledged that the Roman Catholic Religion was the only religion in Spain; other religious services were strictly forbidden; the Church could keep the closest supervision over both private schools and universities through its bishops, whose task was to make sure that all education was in absolute harmony with Catholicism.  According to clauses in the Concordat the State promised to aid the bishops in suppressing any attempt to pervert believers and in preventing the circulation or publication of harmful papers or books.  Every activity in Spain was controlled by the whims of the Church.

But the Democratic Constitution of 1869, while still pledging the State to pay the expenses of Church and clergy, infuriated the Catholic Church, for it at the same time granted religious freedom, freedom of teaching, and freedom of the Press.  When the Civil War which followed, and in which the Catholic Church played a leading part, ended in victory for the moderate reactionary elements (1875), the Church once again tried to put the clock back, and in another of its attempts to stamp out the flames of Liberalism and religious and political freedom, it exerted all its power to force upon the unwilling Spanish people the Concordat of 1851.

The Church got almost, but not quite, all that it wanted.  The new Constitution of 1876 had clauses by which the Catholic religion was declared to be the only religion of the State, the Catholic clergy and Church’s services were paid by the Government, and no other manifestations except those of the Catholic Church were permitted.  Yet the Conservative Leader, Canovas, ignoring all the Pope’s protests and the Catholics’ threats, inserted also clauses by which no one could be prosecuted in Spanish territory for his religious opinions or his religious worship.  Even such limited tolerance was fought by the Catholic Church during the closing decades of the last and the opening decades of the twentieth century.  Henceforward it remained obstinately at the forefront, claiming more and more restriction of the religious and political liberties of the Spanish people, and forcing its rule upon them in all walks of life.

The successful rivals of the Catholic Church were the execrated Liberals, who, in spite of enormous opposition from the Church and Conservative elements, made persistent efforts to rid Spain of the religious encroachment of Catholicism.  In virtue of the Constitution, they disputed the right of bishops to inspect private schools or to compel students of State schools to attend religious instruction.  They demanded that in universities there should be no religious teaching, and that there should be freedom of the Press and other such liberties compatible with the Liberal and Democratic principles of the modern State.

The Vatican’s relentless battle against Liberalism during the second half of the nineteenth century, although in many European countries a lost battle, was more successful in Spain.  Here the people still remained at the mercy of the Catholic Church, and laws of a civil, social, and even economic and political nature were directly and indirectly made to fit within the framework of the ethical and social principles sponsored by the Church.  The Catholic Church reigned everywhere, in schools, in the Press, in the courts, in the Government, in the Army; sustained by a militant and obdurate Hierarchy, wealthy religious Orders, the great landlords, and the Monarchy.  It penetrated everywhere, but above all to places of power, and was able to imbue with its spirit of reaction the whole nation, and obstruct the efforts of all those (mainly Liberals) who tried to bring in the fresh wind of a new age.

The Catholic Church preached against democratic principles, asserting that as the masses could not wield the power which derives only from God, it was wrong of them to claim self-government.  Thus it nipped in the bud any leaning towards self-government and collective responsibility, hampered the freedom of the Press, combated Modernism and the like and any ideas of emancipation of the lower classes or of women, and any wish for religious toleration or the introduction of divorce.

To show to what extent the Catholic Church in Spain was against any progressive ideas, it should be sufficient to point out that the Church’s hatred of Liberalism was brought even into primary and secondary schools.  The Catholic Church controlled, through the Catholic municipalities, almost all the State schools, in addition to its own, and it taught pupils that if they associated with Liberals, they went to hell.  This frame of mind still existed in the third decade of the twentieth century, when a complete Church Catechism was republished and distributed in the schools (1927).

The book declares that the State must be subject to the Church as the body to the soul, as the temporal to the eternal.  It enumerates the errors of Liberalism—namely, liberty of conscience, of education, of propaganda, of meetings, of speech, of the Press, stating categorically that it is heretical to believe in such principles.  We quote some typical extracts:


What does Liberalism teach?

That the State is independent of the Church.

What kind of sin is Liberalism?

It is a most grievous sin against Faith.


Because it consists of a collection of heresies

condemned by the Church.

Is it a sin for a Catholic to read a Liberal newspaper?

He may read the Stock Exchange News.

What sin is committed by him who votes for a Liberal candidate?

Generally a mortal sin.


This incredible Catholic antagonism reached all strata of Spanish society, from the lowest to the highest, including the King himself.  In 1910 the young King’s tutor and confessor, Father Montana, stated in El Siglo Futuro, that Liberalism was a sin and that Spaniards who ate with Protestants were excommunicated (H. B. Clarke).

It is easy to imagine the state of education and of preparation in social and political spheres of the Spanish people when this policy was enforced for decades.  In 1870 more than 60 percent of the population of Spain was illiterate.  In 1900 the budget for education, including the State subvention to monastic schools, was 17,000,000 pesetas.  In 1930, although increased to 166,000,000, it was still inadequate, of which the best proof is that in Madrid alone more than 80,000 children did not attend school.  And those children who were fortunate enough to attend school.  And those children who were fortunate enough to attend schools (generally supervised by the parish priests) were taught so little that “parents used to complain that in State schools the children passed half their class hours in saying the Rosary and in absorbing sacred history, and never learned to read” (see The Spanish Labyrinth, Brenan).

While exerting a virtual dictatorship on the mind, the Catholic Church also controlled an immense portion of the country’s wealth; and although it had lost millions of members during the last sixty years, yet from about 1874 until the fall of the Monarchy (1931) it steadily gained in riches and influence.  On the death of Alfonso XII, the Queen Regent, in return for Leo’s protection, gave vast sums to the Catholic Church and to Catholic schools and colleges, which were populated by French clergy who had left France owing to the Secularization laws.  The Vatican, the Spanish Hierarchy, the Queen and French Catholics worked hand in hand in a supreme effort to stamp out “Liberal Atheism.”  A wave of clericalism swept Spain, which was crowded with more convents, colleges, and religious foundations than it had ever been before.

The leaders of this movement were the Jesuits (see Chapter 5), who had employed their riches to acquire political power (and vice versa) for centuries.  Their wealth became so great that by 1912 they controlled “without exaggeration one-third of the capital wealth of Spain” (La Revue, J. Aguilera, Secretary of the Fomento, 1912).  They owned railways, mines, factories, banks, shipping companies, and orange plantations, their working capital amounting to something like £60,000,000 sterling.

Their control of this wealth was certainly not a healthy thing for a nation like Spain, whose middle and lower classes lived in the most appalling economic misery.  And when one considers that in order to keep and invest this money the Catholic Church had to preserve the status quo and keep in intimate alliance with the rich who gave them bequests, very often in return for the Church’s protection of the upper classes, it is easy to see that the fate of the Church was bound up with that of the most reactionary elements, in league against any cultural, economic, social, or political innovations.  The result was that Spain was controlled by ruling castes, trying to maintain a past long since dead all over the rest of Europe.

To a great extent because of this the Catholic Church continued to lose adherents on a more and more alarming scale.  By 1910 more than two-thirds of the population were no longer Catholic, and civil marriages and funerals had become common.  On the fall of the Monarchy, skepticism and hostility towards the Catholic Church reached dangerous heights.  According to Father Peiro, only 5 percent of the villagers of Central Spain attended Mass; in Andalusia 1 percent, and in many villages the priest said Mass alone.  In a Madrid parish, from a population of 80,000 only 3 1/2 percent attended Mass, 25 percent of the children born were not baptized, and more than 40 percent died without sacraments.

The reason for this, besides that of the age, was the obscurantism of the Catholic Church, its wealth, and the militant attitude of the Hierarchy in the political life of the nation.

The Catholic Church had tried to organize the working classes in order to rule them the better; in reality the workers’ interests were completely neglected.  It is clear that all these movements were in nature a trap to tame the restless Catholic workers and thus prevent them from joining those who had already rejected the Catholic Church.  The most anti-clerical were the urban working classes, where Anarcho-Syndicalism spread like wildfire.  For there the Church was identified with the big landlords and exploiters, and the attitude of the Church towards the workers could be summed up by the words of Bravo Murillo, who is reputed to have declared: “You want me to authorize a school at which 600 working men are to attend?  Not in my time.  Here we don’t want men who think but oxen who work.”  No wonder that, in face of this state of affairs, the Spanish people developed a dangerous streak of economic-social extremism, and that the working classes, instead of thinking of bringing about changes in the form of Socialism, thought of changes in the shape of Anarchism and Syndicalism.

When confronted with activities of this kind the Church, the Monarchy, and the ruling classes united to bring out the most ruthless methods of repression.  In their endeavor to keep the status quo they persisted for more than half a century in persecuting all those elements aspiring to bring about change—not only the extremists, but also the moderates and anyone suspected of having revolutionary sympathy.  From 1890 until the outbreak of the First World War, Spain was transformed into a gigantic prison; there were wholesale arrests, thousands were imprisoned, hundreds were shot, and methods of torture used in former times against heretics were employed against political prisoners.

In spite of this, and owing chiefly to the earthquake of war, the wave of unrest which swept the Continent, and the ideas of modern Spanish writers such as Galdos and Ibanez, the Spanish people began to move menacingly.  The Catholic Church (which continued to lose the masses), the King (fearing the exposure of gross scandal), the Army, and the landlords—all conspired and set up one of the first post-war dictators, the aristocrat General de Rivera, in 1923.  (The previous year, 1922, Mussolini had taken power in Italy.)  The few liberties hitherto enjoyed by the Spanish people disappeared; the economic and social misery deepened; and, under the superficial screen of order maintained by the police, the dictator and his allies, and by the Hierarchy of the Catholic Church, the condition of the Spanish people grew worse than ever.  The status quo was maintained, or rather movement backward ensued.  The grant for education fell from 37,000,000 to 33,000,000 pesetas; while the appropriation for the clergy rose from 62,000,000 to 68,000,000 thus adding more wealth to the already colossal riches of the Catholic Church.

The dictatorship at one time was supported by many moderate Spaniards, tired of the old régime, who hoped that it would end with the summoning of the Constituent Cortes.  It now became but a régime in which only the word of the dictator counted, whose pillars were espionage, repression, and censorship.  Even the Army withdrew its support; and the new totalitarian régime, which reached its highest peak in 1926, had by 1928 come to be hated even by many of its supporters—with the exception of the Catholic Church and the most rabid Conservatives—and by January 1930 it had come to an end.

All the suppressed forces of the Spanish people emerged to the open light and boldly asked for the expulsion of the Catholic Monarchy and the disestablishment of the Catholic Church.

In 1931, at the municipal elections, the vote for the Republican-Socialist alliance was in many towns three to one.  When, on the following day, the results were made known, the King hurriedly left the country, making France his headquarters.  The general elections took place two months later; the Republicans (Liberals) won 145 seats, the Socialists 114, the Radical-Socialists 56, while all other Catholic and Conservative parties together obtained 121 seats.

As Azaña declared at the Cortes, Spain had “ceased to be a Catholic country.”  The Monarchy was abolished; a Republic was declared; and during the following three years Spain began to open her gates to those reforms which the Catholic Church, the Monarchy, and their allies had so persistently prevented.  The Cortes passed laws disestablishing and disendowing the immense wealth of the Catholic Church; expelling the Jesuits, who for so many years had been the minds behind the Catholic dictatorships; forbidding monks and nuns to tamper with trade and, above all, education, in which the Catholic Church had had a monopoly.  Marriage was secularized, divorce introduced, and freedom of speech, of the Press, and religious tolerance were proclaimed everywhere.

The Catholic Church, through its Hierarchy and through the Vatican, fought by all means in its power, appealing to the religious conscience of the people not to let the “Red Anti-Christs” rule Spain, but to “get rid of the enemies of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ” (Cardinal Segura).  The Catholic Church in Spain, led by its Primate, published a pastoral letter of the Spanish bishops; while at the same time the Pope wrote an encyclical (June 3, 1933).  Both invited the faithful to join “a holy crusade for the integral restoration of the Church’s right.”  Cardinals and bishops continued to write and to preach to the people, inciting them against the Government and asking for open revolt.

Unlike the Catholic régimes of the past, the new Government, true to the principle of freedom, did not want reprisals, and anti-clerical parties, after their electoral triumphs, refrained from any victimization.  It was only after almost a month had passed (twenty-seven days after the elections) that workers, enraged by the fanatical anathemas of the Catholic Church and by Cardinal Segura’s incitement to revolt, began to fire churches and monasteries.  These acts of violence led to more, and the anti-Catholic parties, which had shown remarkable tolerance, had to resort to force in face of the continuous provocation and threats of the Catholic Church and its backers.  The Church and its adherents constituted the reactionary forces of the former régimes, together with the most backward stratum of the peasantry, which, thanks to the Catholic Church, was still 80 percent illiterate in the third decade of the twentieth century.

The Catholic Church organized itself to fight its opponent on their own ground—namely, through a political party.  The Jesuits were once again the instruments of the new tactics.  They tried to imitate the Centre Party in Germany, maintaining that the party must be composed not only of landlords, and Army officers, but also of the masses.  Such a party was founded in 1931, and was known as Accion Popular, being the political branch of Catholic Action (see Chapter 5), Accion Catolica.

The policy of the party was to tolerate the Republic, but to fight it and to destroy its anti-Catholic laws by penetrating into the anti-Catholic Government through political channels.  Thus, after having brought disruption into the enemy’s field, the party would try to seize political power.  It was the tactic of the Trojan horse.

The Vatican, having reached the conclusion that new methods had to be employed, gave orders to the Spanish Hierarchy to abandon their intransigence and follow the new lead.  The chief controller of this new Catholic movement was the director of a paper controlled by the Jesuits (Debate—Angel Herrera) who put forward a Catholic leader, Gil Robles, a pupil of the Silesian Fathers.  Gil Robles visited Hitler, Dollfuss, and others, became an enthusiastic admirer of the Nazis, and began to talk of creating a Catholic Corporate State in Spain, as Dollfuss had done in Austria (see Chapter on Austria).

A blatant, nation-wide campaign of propaganda after the German style was initiated, the Catholic Hierarchy supporting it from churches and Catholic papers.  It succeeded so well that Gil Robles, having contacted the Radicals, found common ground on which to co-operate—owing chiefly to economic problems—with the result that the Liberal leader, Lerroux, against the will of the Government, admitted Catholics into the Cabinet.

Meanwhile, those workers who were looking forward to a radical economic and social change became convinced that co-operation of the Liberals and Catholics and the procrastination of the Socialists would not bring about such changes, and organized a revolt which ended in utter failure (1933).  The suppression of the revolt was so ruthless, the atrocities committed against the workers taken prisoner so appalling, that when a full inquiry was made the indignation of the whole of Spain was so great that Lerroux had to resign.

Two noteworthy facts emerge from this incident: the ferocity against the insurgents caused by the police, composed of Catholics determined to “exterminate these Godless enemies of the Church,” and by the Moors.  The Moors were brought from Africa to Spain by General Francisco Franco, who, shortly before the attempted rebellion, had a long interview with the War Minister.  The latter had received instructions from Gil Robles to ask Franco to employ the Moors against the Reds.  Gil Robles and the Catholic Church were already in close touch, and had agreed to support each other when necessary.

By this time the Catholic Party had grown in influence, owing chiefly to disruption of the hostile camp and to the second step taken by the Catholics in their quest for power.  By 1935 the Catholics had discarded almost all pretence of respect for legality, and became so emboldened that they organized their rank and file on the model of the Fascists and the Nazis, threatening and beating their opponents.  Gil Robles had already prepared schemes for the abolition of divorce, for compulsory religious teaching, for the creation of a Spanish Corporate State, and so on.

But, not being as yet sure that they would secure authority so easily and so quickly, the Catholics were also preparing to fight the Republic with armies.  They amalgamated political and military means in their bid for power.  Gil Robles demanded and obtained the Ministry of War.  Once installed, with General Franco as his right-hand man, he began to reorganize the Army, eliminating all officers suspected of Left tendencies.  He built concrete trenches overlooking Madrid (at Sierra Guadarrama), and took over the command of the Civil Guards.  In short, under the very nose of the Republic the Catholics took all the necessary steps to resort to open revolt if they were not able to attain power by political means.  Riots broke out everywhere and there were many political murders throughout the year 1935 and early in 1936.

Meanwhile, the Left tried to unite, and Radical-Socialists, Socialists, Syndicalists, and Communists at last formed the Popular Front.

The fury of the Catholics knew no bounds, and, as well as the Catholic parties, the Church itself came to their aid.  The Spanish Hierarchy, which had been working hand in hand with Gil Robles, directly and indirectly assisting his campaign, at this stage went farther.  About a month before the general elections of 1936 Cardinal Goma y Tomas wrote a pastoral (January 24, 1936) in which he publicly aligned himself and the Catholic Church with the Accion Popular and with the others making up the C.E.D.A., and hurled anathemas against the Popular Front, urging the Faithful to vote against the Reds.

President Alcalá Zamora, seeing the impossibility of maintaining a majority in the Cortes, signed an order for its dissolution.  Polling day was fixed for February 16, 1936.  The Popular Front gained an overwhelming majority, with 267 seats against 132 obtained by the Right, and 62 by the Centre.

The victory of the Popular Front fired the working classes with enthusiasm and gave the Catholics one of their biggest shocks, as they had been confident of success.  Panic followed the announcement of the results.  The Catholics and the Right feared that the Socialists would rise in arms and create a Red Socialist Republic; while, on the other hand, the Socialists feared that the Right, seeing their hope of power smashed, would stage a coup d’ état.  This fear was well founded, for the Catholics had been preparing for just such an emergency.  Their first and second steps having failed, a third would have to be tried: that of open rebellion.

And so the Vatican, with the Leaders of the Spanish Hierarchy and those who would lead such a rebellion, from that time onwards applied their thoughts to the question of how best to crush their victorious enemies.

Having seen that its first policy of acquiring power through political means had failed, as it had failed before in other countries, and that its second and bolder policy of seizing power by a semi-legal coup d’ état had also failed, the Vatican was determined that force must be used.  It was the only way left open to the Church, which had to count on the support of a minority in order to rule a hostile majority, and impose a Catholic Government upon the Spanish people.  The move had been made all the more urgent by the result of the last election, when it had become clear that the Catholic Church had the support of less than one-third of the entire Spanish electorate, including the millions of women who were given the right to vote by the Republic and then voted solidly for the Church, when even sick nuns were brought on stretchers to the polls.

Elements of the Right, led by Catholics, began, after the February defeat, openly to organize a campaign of violence.  The Falange Española—founded in 1932 by the son of Primo de Rivera—although it had in 1934 merged with a Fascist group of Dr. Alvinana, and until the 1936 elections had remained insignificant, now came quickly to the foreground.  The followers of Gil Robles, burning with desire to smash the Republic with violence, swelled the ranks of the Falange.  The whole Catholic Youth Organization—under its Secretary, Serrano Suñer, brother-in-law of General Franco—joined the Falange in April, while others flocked into the ranks of the Monarchists, whose leader, Calvo Sotelo, openly favored a military rising.

The Falangists began to beat up and murder their opponents, including tepid Catholics; they combed the streets of Madrid with machine-guns, killing judges, journalists, and especially Socialists, in an exact imitation of the Italian Fascists and the Nazi Storm Troops.  Battles between the Falangists and the Republicans became a daily occurrence all over Spain.

In addition to the Falange, there was another movement, formed by Army officers belonging to the Union Militar Española, who, with a view to a military rising, had been in touch with the Italian Government as far back as 1933.  Their chief had conducted secret negotiations with Mussolini in March of that year; and by March 1934 they had already planned for a coup d’ état, with the co-operation of the Catholic Church and the Army.  Previous to this they had visited Italy in order to secure “not only the support of the Italian Government, but also of the Fascist Party, in the event of the outbreak of civil war in Spain” (from a speech by Goicoechea at San Sebastian, on November 22, 1937—reported in the Manchester Guardian, December 4, 1937).

The co-ordination of plans for civil war of the Monarchists and the Catholics, backed by the Vatican and Mussolini, was so far advanced that, immediately after the victory of the Popular Front, the Catholic leaders, Gil Robles and General Franco, had the effrontery to propose to the Republican Prime Minister himself a military coup d’ état before the new Cortes could meet (Declaration of Portela Valladares, ex Prime-Minister, at a meeting of the Cortes in Valencia, in 1937).

The spring and early summer of 1936 passed in an atmosphere of growing tension: strikes, battles, and murders followed one another in quick succession.  By June, responsible people knew that a military rising was imminent.  The Republicans asked the Government for arms, but were refused.  On June 13, in reprisal for the murder of Socialists by Falangists a few days before, Calvo Sotelo was assassinated by Socialists.

The vast organization of the Catholics, the Monarchists, and their allies stood ready; and, at last, on July 16, 1936, the Army in the Spanish zone of Morocco rose and occupied Ceuta and Melilla.  Officers rose in almost every Spanish town.  The Catholic Hierarchy, which had followed the plot from the very beginning, asked for the blessing of the Almighty on the new Crusade; while the Catholic General Franco hastened to tell the Pope, before the news reached any other capital, that the revolt had begun.  The Spanish Civil War had broken out.

The Catholic rebels expected to take the whole of Spain within a few days.  They had made very careful preparations, and had at their disposal the greater part of the armed forces of the country, the Civil Guard, the Foreign Legion, a division of Moorish troops, four-fifths of the infantry and artillery officers, reliable régiments recruited in the north, Carlist levies which had been training secretly, and the promise of Italian and German tanks and war planes.

The Government, on the other hand, had only the Republican Assault Guards and a small Air Force.  Yet the enthusiasm of the Spanish people disrupted Franco’s coup and he had to rely more and more on help from Mussolini and Hitler, who, knowing beforehand of the plot, sent arms and men from the very beginning.  Russia intervened only in September.  Soon the Spanish conflict became an international one.  Its real nature was evident.  It was an anticipatory struggle, in Spanish territory, of what was to tear the whole world asunder a few years later; an ideological conflict in which social systems and political doctrines, represented by various nations, took part: Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and Franco (and later on the democracies—France, Great Britain) on one side, and the Republican Spain and Soviet Russia on the other side.

Even the Protestant United States of America intervened in the struggle and helped Franco, thanks to the American Catholic clergy, who mobilized to influence public opinion in favor of the rebels.  The result was that the Republic was denied facilities to buy arms practically everywhere in Europe and also in the only open market left to her, namely the United States of America.  This was done, not only by unleashing the most unscrupulous propaganda in the Catholic Press and the pulpit and using the Catholic Church’s influence in American politics, but, above all, by appealing directly to the State Department, where the Vatican found more ready help than it had dared to expect.

Thus not only the Governments of practically all European countries—Catholic, Fascist, or Democratic—but also the powerful Protestant United States were against the Republic.  Of the democratic nations, Great Britain, having undertaken a policy of appeasement towards Fascism, besides allowing the farce of non-intervention (thanks to which Mussolini was able to send about 100,000 troops to help Franco, while the Republic was denied arms), brought continual pressure to bear upon France to close her frontier.  Russia saw that Franco, thanks to the Vatican, Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, Great Britain, and France, had by the spring of 1939 won the Civil War.

This is not the place in which to relate the incredible intrigues of the Spanish Civil War, our interest being the direct and indirect help given to Franco by the Vatican.  We have already seen the part played by the Vatican in preparing for the Civil War.  The Spanish Hierarchy, besides fighting the Republicans and organizing Catholic rebels, had been one of the plotters and messengers between Gil Robles, Franco, and others with Pope Pius XI and his Secretary of State, who months before knew what was going to happen.  Once the revolt started, both the Hierarchy and the Vatican came out brazenly on the side of Franco, the Spanish bishops inciting Catholic Spaniards to fight the Reds, the Pope appealing to the whole Catholic world to help Catholic Spain, and the Vatican diplomacy working hand in hand with Mussolini and Hitler to send armaments to the rebels.  The Vatican not only contacted Mussolini on behalf of Franco, but also got in touch with Hilter and came to an agreement with him by which, in exchange for Germany’s help to the Catholic rebels, the Vatican would start an all-out campaign against Bolshevism throughout the Catholic world.  We shall have occasion later to see why Hitler asked for the co-operation of the Church.

The Vatican, starting from the Pope himself, as soon as it became clear that Franco could not immediately win, launched a furious anti-Bolshevik campaign, thus enormously strengthening Hitler’s political plans within and outside Germany, Hitler’s policy revolving round the Bolshevik bogey.  The Pope himself initiated this international Catholic campaign against the Spanish Republic on September 14, 1936, when he (Pius XI), addressing 500 Spanish Fascist refugees, called upon the civilized world to rise against Bolshevism, which “had already given proof of its will to subvert all orders, from Russia to China, from Mexico to South America.”  It had, he continued, “now started the fire of hatred and persecutions in Spain,” which, unless quick measures to fight it were taken, would spread against “all divine and humane institutions.”  Men and nations must unite and take measures against it.  The Pope ended his speech with a blessing “to all those who have taken the difficult and dangerous task to defend and reinstate the honor of God and of Religion.”

This began an anti-Bolshevik, anti-(Spanish)Republican campaign throughout the Catholic world, which for its slogans used the same words and phrases as the Fascist and Nazi propaganda machines blared forth until a few months before the outbreak of the Second World War.

In Germany, under the direct orders of the Secretary of State, Pacelli, the German bishops published a pastoral letter, dated September 30, 1936.  They repeated what the Pope had said in his speech, and gave a frightening picture of what would happen to Europe if the Bolsheviks were allowed to conquer Spain, adding: “It is therefore clear what the duty of our people and of our fatherland should be.”  The pastoral ended by expressing the hope that “the Chancellor (Hitler) could succeed with the help of God to solve this terrible issue with firmness and with the most faithful co-operation of all citizens.”

Three months later the Pope gave the campaign new impetus with another speech (December 25, 1936), in which he declared that the Spanish Civil War was “a warning so serious and menacing for the whole world.”  From it “one could get revelations and disclosures of a terrifying nature, with the certainty of what was being prepared for Europe and the world unless the nations took appropriate measures against it.”

The bishops again followed the lead of the Pope, by a collective pastoral (against Bolshevism, January 3, 1937), in which they declared:


The Leader and Chancellor of the Reich, Adolph Hitler, has foreseen in time the advance of Bolshevism, and he has concentrated his thoughts and strength in the defense of the German people and of all the Western World against this frightful danger.

The German Bishops think it their duty to support the Reichs Chancellor in this war of defense, with all the means that the Church puts at their disposal.

Bolshevism being the sworn enemy of the State and at the same time of religion . . . as the events in Spain are now clearly demonstrating, it is outside any doubt that the cooperation to the defense against such satanic power has become a religious as well as an ecclesiastical duty.  We Bishops . . . do not want to mix religion with politics . . . we only want to exhort the faithful’s conscience to fight against such frightful dangers with the weapons of the Church. . . .

We Catholics, in spite of the mistrust fostered against us, are ready to give the State all that it has a right to, and to support the Fuehrer in the fight against Bolshevism and in all other just tasks he has undertaken.”


What were the “just tasks” that Hitler had undertaken at that time?  The “just tasks” of sending bombers and tanks to fight against the legal Spanish Government, to massacre innocent Republican civilians, to wipe out whole villages (e.g. Guernica), and do his best to secure the victory of Catholic Franco.

The Catholic Church in other countries was no less zealous than in Germany.  Catholic organizations and the hierarchies began a great campaign to recruit Catholic Legionnaires, and soon brigades of Catholic volunteers joined Franco’s Catholic armies.  In addition to help of other kinds, money was collected in churches in response to the world-wide campaign, in the Catholic Press, of hatred towards the Republic.  Small wonder that the first foreign flag to be unfurled at Franco’s headquarters at Burgos was the Papal flag, and that Franco’s banner was raised over the Vatican!

Naturally, the Spanish Hierarchy and clergy (with a few exceptions) incited the Spaniards to fight the Republic; and to show the extent to which the Catholic Church in Spain was tied up with the revolt, we quote an illuminating statement by Cardinal Goma:


We are in complete agreement with the Nationalist Government, which, on the other hand, never takes a step without consulting me and obeying me.


And when finally the Republic was crushed (spring, 1939), Pope Pius XII, after having stated that God should be thanked, for “once more the hand of Divine Providence has manifested itself over Spain” (broadcast, April 17, 1939), sent the following message to the victors:


“With great joy we address you, dearest sons of Catholic Spain, to express our paternal congratulations for the gift of peace and victory, with which God has chosen to crown the Christian heroism of your faith and charity, proved in so much and so generous suffering . . . the healthy Spanish people, with the characteristics of its most noble spirit, with generosity and frankness, rose and decided to defend the ideals of faith and Christian civilization, deeply rooted in the rich soil of Spain.  As a pledge of the bountiful grace which you will receive from the Immaculate Virgin and the apostle James, patron of Spain, and which you will merit from the great Spanish saints, we give to you, our dear sons of Catholic Spain, to the Head of the State and his illustrious Government, to the zealous Episcopate and its self-denying clergy, to the heroic combatants and to all the faithful, our apostolic benediction.”


Franco, on the other hand, paid tribute to the Catholic Church in Spain, which “collaborated in the victorious crusade and spiritualized the glory of Nationalist arms.”

On the very eve of the outbreak of the Second World War a new totalitarian State had joined the constellation of great European dictatorships—those of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

On what foundation was the new Spain built?  On the religious, moral, social, economic, and finally political, principles dear to the Catholic Church.  As authority, according to the Catholic Church, does not derive from the people (see Chapter 3), authority, absolute and uncontrolled, was invested in one man, who became the corner-stone of a State built as an exact model of the Catholic Church.

As in the Catholic Church, so also in the new Spain, there was a ruler who was responsible to no one but to his conscience; in all spheres of activity of the nation his powers were unlimited; his orders had to be obeyed and not discussed; and under him were miniature dictators at the head of the various ministries, who, in turn, had to be blindly obeyed.

As only one party could be right, all other parties were wrong and were destroyed.  Trade unions were suppressed; freedom of speech, of the Press, and of political opinion was withdrawn; newspapers, films, broadcasts, and books were censored, purged, or suppressed, if they did not conform to the political system.  On the other hand, everybody had to read books, see films, and hear broadcasts proclaiming the greatness of Franco’s new Spain, of his ideas and system; this not only in Spain, but also, whenever possible, outside the country in all Spanish-speaking nations of South and Central America, which had to imitate the mother-country.  A powerful Ministry of Propaganda (equivalent to the Catholic Church’s Propaganda Fide) controlled all the cultural and literary life of the nation.

All enemies of Franco’s Spain were arrested and imprisoned, and mass executions took place.  It was reckoned that, three years after the end of Civil War (1942), Spain’s jails contained over a million and a half political prisoners, thousands upon thousands of whom were made to face the firing squads.  Anyone suspected of Socialism, Communism, or of Democratic ideas, was watched by a secret police which penetrated all walks of life (a near counterpart of the Inquisition).

Catholicism was proclaimed the religion of the State and the only true religion allowed.  Protestants and other denominations were persecuted, and their ministers were arrested and even executed.  A Corporate system, based on the Papal Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, was made to function; religious education was made compulsory; textbooks were supervised by the Catholic Church and teachers who did not attend Mass were dismissed; the enormous wealth of the Catholic Church was returned, and privileges and grants to the clergy and bishops were restored.

During the following months Spanish defenders of the Catholic Church went on pilgrimages to the Vatican as an act of gratitude for what the Pope had done for them.  In June 1939, 3,000 of Franco’s soldiers, having come to Italy to celebrate the victory with Italian Fascists, were received by Pius XII, who, after telling them that they had fought “for the triumph of Christian ideals” and that they had “brought him immense consolation as defenders of the Faith,” imparted to them his paternal blessing.

In the following years prominent Spanish Fascists visited the Pope or the Vatican on political and international missions, most prominent of whom was Franco’s brother-in-law, Serrano Suñer, a great friend of Mussolini and Hitler.  On June 20, 1942, he was decorated by the Pope himself with the Grand Cross of the Order of Pius IX, together with a blessing for Spain and General Franco, “benemerito de la causa de Dios y de la Iglesia” (Bulletin of Spanish Studies).

But in Spain, as elsewhere, the Church and State, just because the essence of both was Totalitarianism, soon began to quarrel over the same problems which, as we shall find, they quarreled over in Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and other European countries.  Both wanted the upper hand on issues intimately affecting the new Spain, each in turn asserting that the education of youth was its concern alone, that the nomination of persons for key positions (such as bishops) was its sole right, and so on.  Indeed at one time Franco went so far as to suppress Pius XI’s encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge, which was a Papal rebuke to that kind of Totalitarianism which sponsors State idolatry to the exclusion of the Catholic Church.  Such differences, however, were of minor importance, and did not prevent either partner from continuing the more and more intimate alliance in the years ahead.

In the foreign field Spain followed in the trail of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, aligning herself with them whenever their policy was directed against either Soviet Russia or the Western Powers.  When the Second World War broke out (September 3, 1939), Spain, although too weak to enter the conflict, gave all the help she could, in military, economic, and diplomatic fields, to the Fascist countries.  Franco made speeches informing the world that only Hitler’s victory could save Europe, and at the same time proclaiming that “Spain will never ally herself with any country not guided by the principles of Catholicism” (1944).

In July 1940, when Nazi victory seemed assured, in his annual speech (July 17) he glorified “the German arms that are leading the battle for which Europe and Christianity [meaning Catholicism, as Rome only pretends to be Christian] have so long waited,” at the same time attacking Britain’s “inhuman blockade of the Continent,” declaring that “the freedom of the seas is a very grandiose farce,” warning the United States off Europe, repudiating Anglo-American economic aid, and pontifically stating that the Allies had completely and finally lost the war (Sir Samuel Hoare, Britain’s Special Ambassador in Madrid during the Second World War, in My Mission to Spain).

In the following month (August 8, 1940), the German Ambassador Stohrer, in a “strictly secret” report to Berlin, said he had every assurance of Spain’s entry into the war.

Following words by deeds, Franco began to lay plans with Hitler for the capture of Gibraltar; these were discussed at a meeting of the Spanish Minister of the Interior (Suñer) with Hitler in Berlin in September 1940.  Suñer assured Hitler that Spain was ready to enter the war as soon as her supplies of foodstuffs and raw materials were secure.  After which the Spanish Minister (Franco’s brother-in-law) delivered a message from Franco, in which the Caudillo expressed his “gratitude, sympathy, and high esteem,” and emphasized his “loyalty of yesterday, of today, and for always.”

In a letter dated September 22, 1940, Franco proclaimed his “unchangeable and sincere adherence to Hitler personally.”  Here are his actual words:


I would like to thank you, Der Feuhrer, once again for the offer of solidarity.  I reply with the assurance of my unchangeable and sincere adherence to you personally, to the German people, and to the cause for which you fight.

I hope, in defense of this cause, to be able to renew the old bonds of comradeship between our armies (see Fifteen Documents Dealing With The Spanish-Axis Collaboration, released by the United States State Department).”


Towards the end of the year, when Britain was standing completely alone and a relentless war was initiated by the German U-boats to starve her by sinking her merchant fleet, Franco put at Hitler’s disposal facilities for the refueling and repair of Nazi submarines.  This went on almost throughout the war.

Not only did Franco give all the help compatible with the “official” neutrality of his country, but he never ceased to declare his support of Hitler and the Nazi New Order.  Suffice it to quote a few sentences from another letter, dated February 26, 1941, which he addressed to Hitler:


I consider, as you yourself do, that the destiny of history has united you with myself and with the Duce in the an indissoluble way.  I have never needed to be convinced of this, and, as I have told you more than once, our civil war since its very inception and during its entire course is more than proof.  I also share your opinion that the fact that Spain is situated on both shores of the Strait forces her to the utmost enmity towards England, who aspires to maintain control of it. (Documents on Spanish-Axis Collaboration)


Yet, despite all Franco’s willingness to help Hitler and share in the new Fascist Europe, Spain, although very near to declaring war, never actually entered into the fray.

The reasons which restrained Catholic Spain from participating in the conflict were given by Franco himself in a letter addressed to Hitler (February 26, 1941).  Here are his words:


We stand today where we have always stood, in a resolute manner and with the firmest conviction.  You must have no doubt about my absolute loyalty to this political concept and to the realization of the union of our national destinies with those of Germany and Italy.  With this same loyalty, I have made clear to you since the beginning of these negotiations the conditions of our economic situation, the only reasons why it has not been possible up to now to determine the date of Spain’s participation. . ..  (Documents on Spanish-Axis Collaboration).


In the same letter Franco, as if he had not already made himself clear on this point, once more declared his support of Hitler in the following words: “I shall always be a loyal follower of your cause.”

Speaking in the Alcazar, in Seville, on February 14 to a large meeting of Army officers, Franco declared that:


“For twenty years Germany has been the defender of European civilization. . . . If the road to Berlin were opened, then not merely would one division of Spaniards participate in the struggle, but one million Spaniards would be offered to help. (Documents on Spanish-Axis Collaboration)


To support this statement Franco initiated a campaign for the recruitment of a Division to fight the Russians on the side of the Nazis.  However, as volunteers were rather scarce, they were recruited through Army orders “under which whole batches of serving troops were transferred to the Division (the Blue Division) without the men concerned having any effective choice in the matter” (Sir Samuel Hoare).  The combined result was an army unit of about 17,000 and an air detachment of two or three flights, all these men being encouraged and fired with enthusiasm by priests and bishops, who bestowed blessings and sacred medals on the heroic Catholic crusaders against the Reds.

In addition to this, Franco and Hitler reached an agreement by which U-boats were built and U-boat crews trained in the Iberian Peninsula.  (Disclosed by Mr. Sidney Alderman, United States of America Deputy Prosecutor, at the Nuremberg Trial of Nazi war criminals, November 27, 1945.)  And not losing sight of what was going on in the Far East, Franco continued to congratulate the Japanese, and followed his first message of congratulation on the blow at Pearl Harbor by another message (October 1943) to Jose Laurel, head of the puppet Government installed by the Japanese in the Philippines (see Wartime Mission to Spain, by United States of America ex-Ambassador Carlton Hayes).

While this was going on, Franco continued to make speeches declaring again and again that a Nazi victory was the best bulwark against the disintegration of civilization.  This active co-operation with Hitler lasted practically until the collapse of Nazi Germany; so much so that, when Hitler’s suicide was made known, Franco’s Catholic Spain (although in a rather less provocative way than De Valera’s Catholic Eire) officially and unofficially expressed condolence on the death of Fuehrer and the downfall of the Nazi régime.

The Spanish Hierarchy continued, year after year, through pastoral letters, speeches, and sermons, to support Franco and incite the Spaniards to rally to the new régime.  And even after Hitler and Mussolini had disappeared from the political stage of a battered Europe at the end of the Second World War (1945), the rumbling of unrest was heard, menacing, underground in Catholic Spain.  While the democracies indicted with words and diplomatic war the last great Fascist dictatorship still standing on the Continent, the Hierarchy went on blessing and supporting Franco.  Suffice it to quote Archbishop Gonzales’ declaration:


We turn our eyes to Mother Iberia and thank God that He has showered His blessings on her. . . . It is thanks to God’s Providence that Spain has regained her youthful strength. . . . It is a blessing to see how true and healthy is Spain’s revival in the social, economic, intellectual, and above all spiritual spheres—like the Rock of the Catholic Church, on which it is based. . . . The nation is a defender of truth, and deserves the support of God (Broadcast by Archbishop Gonzales, Coadjutor of Bogota, quoted by Vatican Radio, 1945).


That the new Spain deserved the support of God was again and again emphasized by Franco himself.  As when, for instance, he was speaking to a gathering of priests and members of women’s Falangist organizations, and declared: “I think that the battle has been to our advantage, since they are against God and we are His soldiers” (September 12, 1945).

How the Catholic Church and General Franco could reconcile this with the fact that “God’s soldiers” had to be steadily increased in order to keep down a rebellious people (90 percent of whom were hostile to the régime) is hard to understand.  But perhaps, to a skeptical observer, the following figures may throw some light on the matter.

By the end of the Second World War the only Fascist country to survive in Europe—namely, Franco’s Spain—had the strongest Fascist army in the world and the strongest police force, which it had to strengthen as time went by in order to preserve the Spaniards within the fold of Catholicism and the social-political framework of Fascism.

In 1940 the Falange received a subsidy of 10,000,000 pesetas; in 1941, 14,000,000; in 1942, 142,000,000; in 1943, 154,000,000; in 1944, 164,000,000; and at the end of the Second World War, over 192,000,000.  In addition, the State police received, in 1940, 950,000,000 pesetas; in 1941, 1,001,000,000; in 1942, 1,325,000,000; in 1943, 1,089,000,000; in 1944, 1,341,000,000; and in 1945, 1,475,000,000.

These figures should be compared with the total Budget of the Spanish Republic, which, in 1936, was less than the figures allocated by Franco to his Army, Navy, and Air Force, while in the same period he was spending as much on his police as on his Army of one million men.  With the dawn of peace, this enormous internal strength was deemed insufficient, and Franco, with the warmest support of the Church, re-created the “Somatens,” consisting of groups of armed civilians under State control.

The model Catholic Fascist Spain had to rely on more solid support than that of God to enable her to continue to be a “defender of truth.”  But did that really matter?  The important thing was that the aims set by the Catholic Church should be reached.  And the Vatican, thanks to its alliance with reaction, and by checking and finally arresting the reforming wind of the twentieth century, which had begun to rejuvenate anachronistic and decrepit Spain, achieved its twofold goal; the annihilation of its sworn enemies and the forcible installation of a Catholic State, built on Catholic authoritarian principles, where the Catholic Church reigned unchallenged and supreme.





In 1922, during the election of Pope Pius XI, an Atheist Italian agitator, standing in St. Peter’s Square, is said to have remarked:


Look at this multitude of every country!  How is it that the politicians who govern the nations do not realize the immense value of this international force, of this universal spiritual Power? (Teeling, The Pope In Politics.)


In that same year that same man assumed office and then built the first Fascist dictatorship, on the pattern of which, in the following decade, so many European nations were to be established.  It was the alliance of these two men, Pius XI and Mussolini, that influenced so greatly the social and political pattern, not only of Italy, but also of the rest of Europe in the years between the two world wars.

The fact that Fascism was born and first established in a Catholic country, and that it began its official career in the very seat of Roman Catholicism, is neither mere coincidence nor a freak of history.  It was due to various important factors of a religious, social, economic, and political nature, not the least of which was the presence and cooperation of the Vatican in this first experiment of modern Totalitarianism.

Before proceeding farther, however, it would be of great help to glance briefly at the background against which Fascism was born, and particularly the part played by the Vatican in the social and political life of pre-Fascist Italy.

The history of the relationship between pre-Fascist Italy and the Vatican, as in the case of Spain and the Vatican, was one of bitter hostility between State and Church; the former trying to rid itself and the nation from the encroachment of the Catholic Church upon national life, and the latter attempting by all means to maintain or recapture those privileges to which it considered itself entitled.  It was the same struggle that we have encountered in Spain and will encounter in many other countries, between the Catholic Church and the secular State conceived and sponsored by Liberalism and the democratic principles of the nineteenth century.  The only difference was that in Italy the struggle was rendered even more bitter by the fact that, in order to achieve her unification, Italy had to despoil the Catholic Church of the Papal States, which included Rome itself.

The Italian people—with particular regard to South and Central Italy—had been used to complete submission to the Catholic Church, which controlled practically every aspect of their lives.  In the Papal States, the illiteracy, ignorance, and misery of the people were amongst the worst in Europe.

When Italy was first unified the Italian Government proceeded to set its house in order, and began to do so guided by the principles of Liberalism.  It secularized education and the Press; it proclaimed freedom of speech, religion, and so on.  The Catholic Church fought every measure with the utmost ferocity, proclaiming to the Faithful that Liberalism was a sin and that whoever voted for the secular State would automatically purchase for himself eternal damnation.

This attitude was maintained not only because of the secular character of the new Italy, but because the Papacy claimed that its States, with Rome, belonged to the Pope.  Therefore, until the State returned Central Italy and Rome to the Pope (thus preventing the unification of Italy), the State and all Italians supporting it were enemies of the Catholic Church, and the Catholic Church would have nothing to do with them.  This in spite of the repeated efforts of the Italian Government, which on many occasions tried to open negotiations with the Vatican for an amicable settlement of the dispute.

Considering the times, circumstances, and the war that the Vatican continued to wage against the Italian State, the terms offered to the Vatican were more than generous, and should not have prevented the Church and State from reaching a satisfactory agreement.  But the real motive behind the intractability of the Vatican was that it wanted to harass, and eventually destroy, the newly born Liberal Italy, and substitute for it the Clerical Catholic Italy of the past.  By keeping open the Roman question, as it was then called, it kept millions of Italians hostile to the Government and all its laws.  By preventing the authorities from speaking with an overwhelming popular mandate it prevented them from making more drastic reforms in the programme of secularization.

This enmity of the Vatican to the Liberal Italy of the closing decades of the nineteenth century not only created a state of war, as it did in other countries in similar circumstances, but also forbade all Italians to participate in the democratic life of the nation and exercise their newly acquired right to vote.  Pius IX issued a “Non expedit,” which forbade Catholics, under pain of excommunication, to vote at the elections.  But as millions of Catholics were leaving the Church and therefore did not obey, Leo XIII, in 1886, had to issue new instructions to the effect that this “Non expedit” did not permit any of the faithful to use their vote.

This extraordinary interference in the political life of a nation on the pretext of the Roman question was in reality the desperate effort of the Vatican to weaken the secularization of Italy and the Liberal forces, as well as all those other anti-clerical and revolutionary elements which were daily increasing throughout the country.

The Vatican’s claim of the right to forbid Italians to vote was upheld well into the first decades of the twentieth century, and although it was slightly modified in 1905, and Catholic candidates participated in the elections of 1904, 1909, and 1913, the ban on Catholics taking part in the political life of the nation was not lifted until some time after the First World War.  When the Vatican did grant Catholics the right to vote, it did not do so because it had been converted to democratic ideals, but because it had been forced by the changed times and the mood of the people.  They not only continued to leave the Church en masse, but their anti-clericalist tendencies had increased a hundredfold since the first “Non expedit.”  This was due to the spreading of Anarchism and Socialism, which at the turn of the century began to take hold of the masses throughout the Peninsula, and which, by the time of the outbreak of the First World War, had already gained considerable political influence.

The principles of Socialism were fought with even greater ferocity than were those of Liberalism, with the result that those who embraced Socialism became even more anticlerical than the Liberals.  Italian Socialism, in fact, reached a point when it “made its very system and law out of opposition to the Church and religion” (Murri).

With Italy’s entry into the First World War and the uprooting of millions of Italians who were sent to trenches and factories, Socialism took a greater hold of the country than ever before.  When, immediately after the war had left its trail of economic, social, and political confusion and unrest, Socialism spread like wildfire, the Catholic Church became so alarmed that it searched desperately for some practical means by which to stop the surging Red tide.

The various anathemas of the Popes, the sermons of bishops and priests, and the devotion of the most backward stratum of society were no longer enough.  Something more up-to-date had to be found.  So the Vatican at last reluctantly decided to allow Catholics to take part in the political life of the nation and organize themselves into a political party.  The Party was created and led by a Sicilian priest, Don Sturzo, and it was called the Partito Popolare.  The new Catholic Party soon spread all over Italy, becoming a powerful political factor to counter-oppose the Socialists.

Although a political means seemed to have been found by which the Red advance might be checked, the Vatican was far from having made up its mind on the best policy to pursue.  For, as we have already said, there were two strong currents: one advocating battle against Socialism in the social and political field, the other advocating the adoption of more drastic measures.

The supporters of the second trend had become prominent since a new revolutionary Party appeared on the scene.  It was led by an ex-Socialist Republican and Atheist, and was virulently anti-Socialist, anti-Bolshevist, anti-Liberal, and anti-Democratic.  It preached and practiced violence on a large scale, beating up and murdering all Socialists it came across and burning their property.  Its name was Partito Fascista, and its leader was Mussolini.  Its supporters consisted mainly of desperados organized into bands which undertook punitive expeditions against the Reds.

Soon all elements which had no reason to fear a social revolution—from super-nationalists to industrialists and, above all, the middle classes—began to support the new movement.  In the Vatican a cardinal watched it with great interest, not so much because of its programme (for the movement was composed of numerous anti-clericals), but because it showed itself to be an instrument capable of fighting the Church’s enemies with a weapon which the Church itself could not directly employ—namely, force.  His name was Cardinal Ratti.

In 1922, just when the political forces of Socialism and of the Catholic Party were stabilizing themselves, having become the two great national parties, Benedict XV died.  Cardinal Ratti, who was following Fascism with such keen interest, was elected Pope Pius XI.

With the coronation of Pius XI—who had a deep horror of Socialism and Bolshevism after having witnessed some of its aspects in Warsaw during the war, and who had no love for Democracy—the Vatican’s policy entered a new era.  Pope Pius XI steered the political helm unhesitantly towards the new Party, making overtures by rendering it a great service even before its organized March on Rome.

The tragic plight of the Italian Parliament had a chance of being redressed by the formation of a coalition of all progressive (but not Radical) parties.  Such a coalition would have been composed mainly of the Socialist Reformists and the Catholic Party.  These could have formed a Government capable of checking all extremists, for the Catholic Party had social and political plans similar to those of other moderate movements.

The coalition would have had a reasonable chance of succeeding, and thus, by stabilizing the Government, would have prevented the Fascists from staging their march and seizing power.  But Pius XI had decided otherwise.  He determined to dissolve all Catholic political parties, not only in Italy, but all over Europe.  He saw that Catholic parties, however strong, could not crush the Socialists, owing to the very fact that in a democratic State there exists freedom for political movements.  Moreover, the progress of the Reds in Italy and other countries was becoming more and more alarming.  New and drastic methods had to be employed.  So when the coalition seemed on the point of giving concrete results and thus thwarting the march to power of the Fascists, the Vatican issued a circular letter to the Italian Hierarchy (October 2, 1922) bidding the clergy not to identify themselves with the Catholic Party, but to remain neutral.  Such an order at such a moment could have only one meaning—repudiation of the Catholic Party and of its projected alliance.

This was the first direct move to come from the new Pope, directed towards paving the way for Fascism, which, after having organized a farcical march on Rome, assumed power on October 28, 1922, on the invitation of King Victor.

A few months later (January 20, 1923), Cardinal Gasparri, the Vatican Secretary of State, had the first of numerous secret interviews with Mussolini.  During this meeting, the bargain between the Vatican and Fascism—as yet weak—was struck.  The Vatican pledged itself to support the new régime indirectly by paralyzing the Catholic Party, which had become as serious an obstacle to Fascism as were the Socialists.  This, providing the new Government continued its policy of destroying Socialism, protected the rights of the Catholic Church and rendered other services to Catholicism.  Mussolini, aware of the Pope’s goodwill towards his movement, tried to make of him an ally, and gave his promise.  The Roman question was also discussed.

As first-fruit of the new alliance, Mussolini rendered a good service to the Vatican.  The Bank of Rome, which was controlled by Catholics, and to which the Vatican’s High Prelates and the Holy See itself had entrusted their funds, was on the brink of bankruptcy.  Mussolini saved it—at the cost, it is believed, of approximately 1,500,000,000 lire, which the Italian State had to pay.  Shortly afterwards, the first voices of the Italian Hierarchy in praise of the leader of Fascism could be heard.  On February 21, 1923, Cardinal Vannutelli, Head of the Sacred College of Cardinals, paid public homage to Mussolini “for his energetic devotion to his country,” adding that the Duce “had been chosen (by God) to save the nation and to restore her fortune.”

Yet, while the Vatican was secretly bargaining with the Fascist Leader, and High Prelates were beginning to laud his movement, the Fascist squads were beating up and often murdering Catholic members of the Catholic Party who, throughout the country, went on opposing the undemocratic methods of Fascism, not stopping at murdering even priests (e.g., in August 1923 they murdered parish priest, Don Minzoni).  Had the Socialists committed such an act, the Pope would have invoked the fulminations of God; but, as it was, he remained silent and uttered not a single word of protest against such outrages, continuing unperturbed along his new path of collaboration.

In the spring of 1923 Mussolini, planning to paralyze Parliament, wanted to compel the Chamber of Deputies to approve an electoral reform by which the Fascist Party would have been assured of at least two-thirds of the total votes in the future elections.  Success in this would have been the first important step to open dictatorship.  All democratic forces headed by the founder of the Catholic Party, the Popolari, Don Sturzo, followed by his 107 Catholic Deputies, refused to accept, and fought the proposal to their utmost.  Catholic resistance in the Chamber seriously imperiled Mussolini’s plan; indeed, it became one of the major obstacles barring his path to dictatorship.  However, that was not all, for it gravely endangered the new policy on which the Vatican had embarked—namely, to help the new Fascist Party and to co-operate with it in clearing the way from any possible impediment to the creation of an Authoritarian State.

The Pope therefore wasted no time, and not many weeks had gone by since the Catholic Party’s open opposition to Mussolini in the Chamber, when Don Sturzo received a peremptory order from the Vatican to resign and eventually to disband the Party (June 9, 1923).  Don Sturzo, although deeply shocked and for a time inclined to resist, finally bowed to the Pope’s bidding, for besides being a member of the Church, he was also a priest.  Although the Catholic Party was not dissolved immediately, the loss of its founder and leader was a blow which gravely weakened it.  With the disappearance of Don Sturzo and the sapping of his Party’s strength, the first serious obstacle to Fascism’s bid for blatant dictatorship was removed.

Immediately the most responsible members of the Catholic Hierarchy (particularly those who knew of the Pope’s scheme) began a campaign of enthusiastic praise of Mussolini.  This campaign reached its climax when Cardinal Mistrangelo, Archbishop of Florence, one of the supporters within the Vatican of the Pope’s new policy, after a speech at a public reception in which he bestowed all the blessings of the Almighty on the Fascist leader and showered all the Catholic Church’s thanks on him who had destroyed its enemies, in a moment of unbounded gratitude solemnly embraced the ex-Atheist Mussolini and kissed him on both cheeks.

The following year, under the direct personal instructions of the Duce, the Socialist leader, Matteotti, who was the bitterest opponent to Mussolini’s bid for absolutism, was murdered by the Fascists.  The indignation of the country was so great that the régime had never been so near to falling as it was during that crisis.  In protest the Popular Party and the Socialists, after having withdrawn from the Lower House, asked the King for Mussolini’s dismissal.

But once again, the Vatican came to the rescue of the Fascist leader.  At this juncture, when Socialists and Catholics were negotiating to bring into being a solid coalition and thus supplant the Fascist Government, Pope Pius XI came forward with a solemn warning to all Italian Catholics that any alliance with the Socialists, including the moderate brand, was strictly forbidden by the moral law, according to which co-operation with evil is a sin.  The Pope said this, conveniently forgetting that such co-operation had taken and was taking place in Belgium and Germany.

Then, to complete the work of disruption, the Vatican ordered all priests to resign from the Catholic Party and from the political and administrative positions they held in it.  This meant the complete disintegration of the Popolari, whose strength lay chiefly in rural districts held by priests.

In addition to this, the new Pope conceived what was to be known as Catholic Action, which was placed under the direction of bishops and which was strictly forbidden to take part in politics.  In other words, it was forbidden to fight the main actor in the political scene—namely, Fascism.  Pope Pius XI asked all Catholics to join the new organization, thus inducing hundreds of thousands to withdraw their membership of the Popolari, which, besides being thus weakened by the Vatican, was mercilessly hammered by the triumphant Fascists.

These tactics of the Vatican lasted from 1923 until towards the end of 1926, when the Catholic Party, having lost its leader and having been continually rebuked by the Church and persecuted by the Fascists, was rendered illegal by Mussolini, and dissolved.  From that moment the Fascist Government became what it had wanted to be—the first Fascist totalitarian dictatorship.

It was then (October 1926), and not by coincidence, that Pope Pius XI and Mussolini started on those negotiations which were concluded with the signing of the Lateran Treaty.

The Vatican and the new dictatorship, in spite of periodical misunderstandings, chiefly owing to the fact that the Fascists continued to beat up Catholics, irrespective of whether they were members of the old Catholic Party or of Catholic Action, praised one another openly and frequently.  The following two quotations sum up the attitude of the Catholic Church towards Fascism at this period.  On October 31, 1926, Cardinal Merry del Val, in his quality of Pontifical Legate, publicly declared:


My thanks also go to him (Mussolini) who holds in his hands the reins of the Government in Italy, who with clear insight into reality has wished and wishes Religion to be respected, honored, practiced.  Visibly protected by God, he has wisely improved the fortunes of the nation, increasing its prestige throughout the world.


And to complete the picture, the Pope himself, on December 20, 1926, declared to all nations that “Mussolini is the man sent by Providence.”

Such open praise and blessing by the Pope (who, incidentally, was one of the first to congratulate Mussolini on the failure of an attempt to assassinate him), the persistent help given to Fascism by the Vatican, and the liquidation of the Catholic Party at a moment when it might have prevented Mussolini from establishing himself in power had all cleared the way for a complete and unbridled dictatorship—the type of dictatorship, in fact, which Pope Pius XI wanted to see consolidated.

The Liberals with their secular laws, and the Socialists with their hatred for the Church—who, at the last election, in 1926, had been able, in spite of everything, to poll 2,494,685 votes or more than half of the total polling—had been entirely liquidated, their parties forbidden, their papers suppressed, their leaders imprisoned or exiled.  The menace of the Red wave had been averted and the Church had been rendered safe, thanks to its new policy of alliance with a strong authoritarian régime.

Now, with all internal common enemies annihilated, the Church and Fascism undertook in earnest the task of improving their already excellent relationship.  For, in spite of their de facto alliance, not everything was well between them.  Clashes between Fascists and Catholics, often members of Catholic Action, and anti-clerical demonstrations continued to obscure the horizon.  An official Pact between the Vatican and Fascism would have stabilized their respective spheres.  A Concordat was therefore desirable.  But the most important aim of the Pope at this juncture was that the Church should negotiate for settlement of the Papal States.  Mussolini, who had already proclaimed that religion was entitled to respect, would agree to both a Pact and a Concordat.

The Duce, however, in spite of his success, was not yet very firmly established.  Many ex-Popolari members and Catholics of the general public mistrusted him, and, in spite of the clear hint given to them by the Vatican, they hesitated to support him fully.  Something that would appeal to the imagination of Catholic Italy was needed.  And what better opportunity than to give freedom to the Pope to make a solemn alliance between Church and State, something that had been made impossible for half a century by the democratic Governments that had ruled the country?  A Treaty and a Concordat would strengthen the régime in such a way that nothing short of social upheaval could then destroy it.  In addition to internal consolidation, the prestige that it would gain abroad would raise the political status of Fascism throughout the Catholic world.

The negotiations which, significantly enough, were started with the dissolution of the Catholic Party in 1926 were concluded in 1929 with the signing of what has since been known as the Lateran Agreement.

We have already referred to the Lateran Treaty (Chapter 2), by which the Vatican was recognized as an independent sovereign State, and the Fascist Government undertook to pay a vast sum of money as compensation [for the loss of the Papal States].  The Agreement was acclaimed by the Catholic Church and Catholics throughout the world, and the prestige of Fascism grew by leaps and bounds everywhere.

But, in addition to acquiring its independence, which it had always refused under Liberal Governments, the Vatican had achieved another and no less important goal; it had restored the Catholic Church in Italy in accordance with Catholic principles that Church and State must not be separate, but, like body and soul, must co-operate together.  A Concordat was signed by which the Catholic Church recovered all the former prominence which had been denied it by the secular State.  Catholicism was at last proclaimed the only religion of the State; religious education was made compulsory in schools; teachers had to be approved by the Church, and only those textbooks “approved by the ecclesiastical Authority” could be used; religious marriage was made obligatory, “the civil effect of the Sacrament of matrimony being regulated by Canon Law”; divorce was forbidden; the clergy and religious Orders were subventioned by the State; books, Press and films against the Church were forbidden; and criticism or insult against Catholicism was made a penal offence.  In short, the Catholic Church was reinstated as the dominant and absolute spiritual power over the whole nation.

The Vatican went farther.  It again forbade all the clergy (a good minority of whom, headed by the ex-leader of the Catholic Party, remained hostile to Fascism) to belong to or to support any political party whatsoever.  Thus it was impossible for any clergy to join an anti-Fascist movement, and as all clergy were under the direct orders of the Vatican, the ally of Fascism, it is easy to imagine the meaning of the clause.

On the other hand, Fascism recognized Catholic Action, which “had to carry out its activity outside any political party and under the immediate dependence of the Hierarchy of the Catholic Church, for the diffusion and exercise of Catholic principles.”

The meaning of these clauses forbidding the clergy and Catholic Action to take part in any political activity is made crystal clear by Article 20 of the Concordat; the Vatican undertook to prevent its clergy from being hostile to Fascism, and to see that its bishops should become watch-dogs for the safety of the régime itself.

Thus the Church became the religious weapon of the Fascist State, while the Fascist State became the secular arm of the Church.  The Vatican had at last gathered the fruit of its new policyannihilation of its great enemies (Secularism, Liberalism, Freemasonry, Socialism, Communism, Democracy); and restoration of the Catholic Church as the predominant [ONLY] spiritual power in the land.

As a proof of this after the Concordat was signed, Mussolini declared:


We recognize the pre-eminent place the Catholic Church holds in the religious life of the Italian people—which is perfectly natural in a Catholic country such as ours, and under a régime such as is the Fascist.


The Pope did not lag behind the Duce in the generosity of his praises.  On February 13, 1929, Pius XI proclaimed to the world that Mussolini was “that man whom Divine Providence” had allowed him to meet, adding that the Lateran Treaty and the Concordat would have been impossible “if on the other side there had not been a man like the Prime Minister.”  On February 17, 1929, at a reception at the Vatican, the Papal Aristocracy and Hierarchy applauded Mussolini when he appeared in a film; and the following month all the cardinals in Rome declared in an address to the Pope that “that eminent statesman (Mussolini)” ruled Italy “by a decree of the Divine Providence.”  And, as a finishing touch, the Vatican Authorities ordered all priests to pray at the end of their daily Mass for the salvation of “the King and the Duce” (“Pro Rege et Duce”).

Could there be a closer alliance between Church and State than that between the Vatican and the Fascist régime?

But soon clouds appeared once more on the horizon.  Church and State, although fundamentally supporting each other, began to have serious quarrels.  This was inevitable, for, each being totalitarian, they each wanted absolute and sole control over certain sections of Society—in this case youth.  Pius XI claimed that, according to the Concordat, it was understood that the Church would have a bigger share in education, and that Catholic Action had to depend solely on the ecclesiastical authorities.  Mussolini, on the other hand, wanted complete control over education and also wanted to control Catholic Action, as he did other organizations in the country.

The quarrel became so serious that Pius XI had to smuggle outside Italy an encyclical, Non Abbiamo Bisogno.  In it the Pope did not, as was later asserted, condemn Fascism.  Far from it.  He simply denounced Fascist violence against Catholic Action and Fascist doctrines about the education of youth, which tended to place the supremacy of the State above everything, including the Catholic Church.  The Pope then hastened to thank the Fascist régime for what it had done for the Catholic Church:


“We preserve and shall preserve both memory and perennial gratitude for what had been done in Italy, for the benefit of religion, even though no less and perhaps greater was the benefit derived by the Party and the régime.”


Then he admitted that he had favored Fascism to such an extent that “others” had been surprised, thinking the Vatican had gone too far in reaching a compromise with the régime:


We have not only refrained ourselves from formal and explicit condemnation [he declared] but on the contrary we have gone so far as to believe possible and to favor compromises which others would have deemed inadmissible.  We have not intended to condemn the Party and the régime as such. . . . We have intended to condemn only those things in the programme and in the activities of the Party which have been found to be contrary to Catholic doctrine and practice (Pius XI, Encyclical, Non Abbiamo Bisogno, 1931).


He admitted that the Fascist oath, being contrary to the fundamental doctrines of the Catholic Church, was to be condemned.  But he soothed the conscience of any Catholic in doubt by saying that although the Church condemned the oath, Catholics should nevertheless swear allegiance to the Duce.  They could do so, said the Pope, by taking the oath and, as they did so, mentally reserving the right not to do anything against “the Laws of God and His Church.”  The authorities who received the oath knew nothing about such mental reservations.  Thus, hundreds of thousands of Catholics, assured by their supreme religious leader that they could swear to obey and defend the Fascist régime, gave their allegiance to Fascism without further ado.

Could the determination of the Vatican to support the Fascist régime, in spite of disagreements, go farther than that?  We shall have occasion to see that the Vatican gave similar advice to German Catholics, easing their consciences with regard to their support of Hitler.  No wonder that, in spite of everything, the Church and State gradually drew closer together and later co-operated even more openly than they had done before.

The first overtures came from Mussolini himself, when, in June 1931, he declared:


I wish to see religion everywhere in the country.  Let us teach the children their catechism . . . however young they may be. . . .


Mussolini could well afford to speak thus.  The Catholic Church, after all, was more than co-operating with Fascism in schools, in camps, and in the Fascist Youth Institutions, where children had to say grace before each meal.  The following is a typical sample, written, approved, and encouraged by the Church:


“Duce, I thank you for what you give me to make me grow healthy and strong.  O Lord God, protect the Duce so that he may be long preserved for Fascist Italy (New York Times, January 20, 1938.  See Towards the New Italy, T. L. Gardini).


The highest pillars of the Church began again to exalt the Duce and Fascism in the most blatant terms.  Cardinal Gasparri, Italian Papal Legate, said in September 1932:


The Fascist Government of Italy is the only exception to the political anarchy of governments, parliaments, and schools the world over. . . . Mussolini is the man who saw first clearly in the present world chaos.  He is now endeavoring to place the heavy Government machinery on its right track, namely to have it work in accordance with the moral laws of God.


At last the time for an official reconciliation was ripe.  On February 11, 1932, Mussolini solemnly entered St. Peter’s, and, after having been blessed with holy water, devoutly knelt and prayed.  From then onwards the destiny of the Church and Fascism became more and more inseparable.  The alliance was consolidated by the financial arrangements of the Lateran Treaty.  About half the sum paid by Fascist Italy was in Government Bonds, which the Pope had promised not to sell for many years, and the Vatican’s financial welfare therefore depended to a great extent on the preservation of Fascism.

Fascism and the Church worked hand in hand during the following two years, when all branches of life, especially youth, were subjected to a double bombardment by religious and Fascist teaching.  In illustration, suffice it to say that textbooks in elementary schools had one-third of their space devoted entirely to religious subjects—catechism, prayers, etc.—while the remaining two-thirds consisted of praise for Fascism and war.  Priests and Fascists leaders worked in with each other; the Pope and the Duce continued their mutual praise and became indeed two good companions bent on furthering the happiness of their peoples.

But Mussolini, who never gave anything for nothing, had not genuflected in St. Peter’s because he had suddenly seen the Light.  He had a plan for the success of which the help of the Catholic Church was needed.  And in 1935 the first of a series of successive Fascist aggressions which finally led to the outbreak of the Second World War was ruthlessly carried out: Fascist Italy attacked and occupied Abyssinia.

It is not for us to discuss whether overcrowded Italy had or had not to seek for a “place in the sun.”  Undoubtedly her surplus population and other factors played a great rôle in the adventure, but what we are concerned with here is the part played by the Vatican, which once again became the great ally of Fascism.  The reason by which Fascism tried to justify its aggression was the necessity for expansion.  This had been the main thesis of Fascist propaganda for years, and was intensified during the summer of 1935, when Mussolini’s intention to attack Abyssinia was already clear.  As the Fascist version that Italy was within her rights to wage war seemed to be received by the Italian people with visible skepticism, and as their enthusiasm could not be greatly roused, the Vatican came to the help of the régime.

Once again Pius XI let his authority as a spiritual leader be used for a political purpose: that of tranquilizing those Italian Catholics who entertained doubts about whether the Duce’s planned aggression should be supported.  And so on August 27, 1935, when the campaign of preparation and propaganda was at its height, Pope Pius XI strengthened the specious Fascist excuse, stating that whilst it was true that the idea of war horrified him, a defensive war which had become necessary for the expansion of an increasing population could be just and right.

That was one of the first of a series of steps taken by the Vatican to support Fascist aggression, not only within Italy, but also abroad, and above all at the League of Nations, in whose hands lay the power to take appropriate measures to impede the attack.  On September 5, 1935, the very day on which the League of Nations had to begin the debate on the Abyssinian problem, a nation-wide Eucharistic Congress was held in Teramo, attended by the Papal Legate, 19 archbishops, 57 bishops, and hundreds of other dignitaries of the Catholic Church.

Whether the date was mere coincidence is open to discussion.  It was not coincidence, however, that these pillars of the Italian Catholic Church chose that day also to send a message to Mussolini (who at that time was being attacked by the League as well as by practically the whole world Press), in which they said: “Catholic Italy prays for the growing greatness of the beloved fatherland, rendered more united by your Government.”

Not content with this, only two days later, while the discussions on the Italo-Ethiopian problem was at its most critical stage, the Pope himself put his weight on the side of Fascism.  His timely intervention had two main objects in view: to help Fascism to arouse in the unwilling Italians a national enthusiasm for the approaching war, and, above all, to influence the proceedings of the League of Nations itself by indirectly making the Catholic representatives of the many Catholics countries who were members of the League understand that they should not vote against Fascist Italy.  For, declared the Pope, although he was praying for peace, he wished that “the hopes, the rights, and the needs of the Italian people should be satisfied, recognized, and guaranteed with justice and peace.”

On the following day, with the Pope’s words still echoing in the ears of Catholic individuals and Catholic nations, the Duce himself declared to the world that Fascist Italy, while wanting peace, wanted a peace accompanied by justice.  From then onwards Fascist propaganda quickened its drumming to a crescendo, seconded by the Vatican, until finally, on October 3, 1935, Abyssinia was invaded.

A cry of horror arose from all over the world, but not from the Vatican.  The Pope kept his silence.  As a Catholic writer stated afterwards, “practically without exception the whole world condemned Mussolini, all except the Pope” (Teeling, The Pope in Politics).

The Italian people received the news with very little enthusiasm, but Fascist propaganda tried to show that all nations were against Italy, not because of aggression, but because they wanted to keep the Italians in economic slavery.  Urged by these arguments and the Vatican, they little by little began to support the adventure.

Fascist leaders harangued in public squares and Catholic priests and bishops in their churches, both busy asking the people to support the Duce.  When Mussolini asked the Italian women to give up their gold and silver rings to the State, Catholic priests preached that they should give as much as they could.  Many bishops and priests led the offering by giving to the Fascists the jewels and gold belonging to their churches, even offering the church bells so that they might be made into guns.

To quote only a few typical examples:


The Bishop of San Minato one day declared that “in order to contribute to the Victory of Fascist Italy” the clergy was “ready to melt the gold belonging to the churches, and the bells”; while the Bishop of Siena saluted and blessed “Italy, our great Duce, our soldiers who are achieving victory for the truth and for justice.”

The Bishop of Nocera Umbra wrote a pastoral, which he ordered to be read in all his churches, in which he declared: “As an Italian citizen I consider this war just and holy.”

The Bishop of Civita Castellana, speaking in the presence of Mussolini, thanked the Almighty “for having allowed me to see these epic and glorious days, sealing our union and our faith.”

The Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Schuster, went farther and did all he could to bestow upon the Abyssinian War the nature of a holy crusade.  “The Italian (Fascist) flag,” he said, “is at the moment bringing in triumph the Cross of Christ in Ethiopia, to free the road for the emancipation of the slaves, opening it at the same time to our missionary propaganda.”  (T. L. Gardini, Towards the New Italy).

The Archbishop of Naples employed even the image of the Madonna, which was brought from Pompeii to Naples in a great procession.  Ex-soldiers, war widows, war orphans, and Fascists all marched behind it, while Fascist war planes overhead showered down pamphlets in which the Virgin, Fascism, and the Abyssinian War were all glorified at the same time.  After this the Cardinal Archbishop himself jumped on a tank and solemnly blessed the excited crowd.


This was going on all over Italy.  It has been reckoned by Professor Salvemini, of Harvard University, that at least 7 Italian cardinals, 29 archbishops, and 61 bishops gave immediate support to the aggression.  And this, it should be remembered, when, according to the Concordat of 1929, bishops were strictly forbidden to take part in any political manifestation.

The Vatican’s support of the first Fascist aggression did not stop there, for it organized support abroad as well.  Almost all the Catholic Press the world over came out to support Fascist Italy, even in such countries as Great Britain and the United States of America.

To quote a typical passage:


The cause of civilization itself is involved, for the present at any rate, in the stability of the Fascist régime in Italy. . . . The Fascist régime has done much for Italy. . . . In spite of anti-clericalism . . . it has fostered the Catholic religion (Catholic Herald).


And the Head of the Catholic Church in England went so far as to state:


To speak plainly, the existing Fascist rule, in many respects unjust . . . prevents worse injustice, and if Fascism, which in principle I do not approve, goes under, nothing can save the country from chaos.  God’s cause goes under with it (Catholic Times, October 18, 1935).


And finally, after the Abyssinians had been utterly subjugated, the Pope, to crown his continuous support of the war, after some sibylline remarks about a just and an unjust war, stated that he was partaking in “the triumphant joy of an entire, great and good people over a peace which, it is hoped and intended, will be an effective contribution and prelude to the true peace in Europe and the world” (Pope’s speech, May 12, 1936).

With the conquest of Abyssinia a new country had been opened to both Fascism and the Church.  Fascist armies were immediately followed by priests, missionaries, nuns, and the Catholic organizations, who began their work for the extinction of the religious creeds of the Abyssinians and their substitution by Catholicism.  For, as the Cardinal of Milan had said, the Italian flag had opened “the road . . . to our missionary propaganda.”  Or, as the Archbishop of Taranto declared, after having celebrated Mass on a submarine: “The war against Ethiopia should be considered as a holy war, a crusade,” because the Italian victory would “open Ethiopia, a country of infidels and schismatics, to the expansion of the Catholic Faith.”

The Abyssinian War gave the first mortal blow to the League of Nations and accelerated the process of a great venture which Fascism—Italian, German, and of other nations—in close alliance with the Vatican, initiated in a quest for Continental and World dominion.

Not many months had gone by since the complete subjugation of the first Fascist victim (late spring, 1936), when a second battle flared up, this time in Europe.  In the summer of 1936 the Spanish Civil War was let loose on the Iberian Peninsula (July 16, 1936).

We have already examined the part which Mussolini played in preparation for the Civil War, and the help he gave Franco.  The Vatican mobilized the Spanish Hierarchy and the Italian as well—the first to help Franco, the second to increase support of Mussolini, who was helping in the war against the Reds.  We shall limit ourselves to quoting only a typical example of the enthusiasm of the Catholic Church for Mussolini at this period.

At the beginning of 1938, 60 archbishops and bishops and 2,000 priests, after having assisted at a ceremony connected with agriculture, asked to be received by Mussolini.  Preceded by flags carried by priests, they went not only before the cenotaph of the unknown soldier, but also to render homage to the monument erected to those killed in the Fascist Revolution.  Before being received by the Duce the bishops and archbishops led a procession, and when at last they were before him, they burst in to frantic acclamation.  The Archbishop of Udine read an address in which, amongst other things, he declared: “. . . Duce, may God protect you! We will all pray to Him, so that He will help you to win all the battles which you so wisely and energetically are directing for the prosperity, the greatness, and the glory of Christian Rome, Centre of Christianity—of this Rome which is the Capital of Imperial Rome.”

After this a priest read an Order of the Day, approved beforehand by the whole assembly, repeating the will of the archbishops, bishops, and priests to co-operate with the Fascist régime, “for the wheat campaign as well as for the conquest of the Empire . . . so that Italy should be spiritually, economically, and militarily prepared to defend its peace against the enemies of her Imperial greatness.”  The motion ended: “May the blessing of heaven come upon you. The clergy of Italy are invoking on your person, on your work as a creator of the Empire, and of the Fascist régime, the blessing of the Lord.  Duce, the priests of Christ give honor to you and swear their allegiance to you.”

The archbishops, bishops, and priests then began to repeat “Duce, Duce, Duce.”  When at last Mussolini was allowed to speak, he asserted that the collaboration between the Catholic Church and Fascism had borne great fruits for all.  He reminded them, with the deepest gratitude, of “the efficient co-operation given by all the clergy during the war against the Abyssinians . . . remembering with particular sympathy the example of patriotism shown by the Italian bishops, who brought their gold to the local offices of the Fascist Party, while the parish priests were preaching to the Italians to resist and fight.”  When Mussolini ended, the archbishops and bishops, after having repeatedly invoked the blessing of Divine Providence upon Mussolini, began enthusiastically to acclaim him and again chant “Duce, Duce, Duce” (Corriere della Sera, January 10, 1938).

In the spring of the following year Pius XI died. Cardinal Pacelli was elected Pope, and assumed the name of Pius XII (March 12, 1939).

The change of the Catholic Church’s supreme ruler did not affect in the least the policy of the Vatican towards Fascism.  This for the very reason that the new Pope had been directing the Vatican’s foreign policy for the preceding ten years and was mainly responsible for helping Hitler to assume power, as we shall see presently. He had always been in agreement with Pius XI, the only difference between the two being that Pius XII was more diplomatically-minded than his predecessor.

The commencement of the new Pope’s reign coincided with Mussolini’s decree for the expulsion of Jews (about 69,000) from Italy.  The new Pope kept his silence, and when, a few weeks later, Fascist Italy invaded Albania, the Pope protested, not because a country had been wantonly attacked, but because the aggression had been carried out on a Good Friday.

A fortnight after Easter, 1939, the Pope received a letter so secret that only his Secretary of State was allowed to see its contents (according to his biographer, Rankin).  There followed “feverish activity” with the representatives of various Powers, especially Poland, France, and Germany.  Not many days later Hitler gave the first mortal blow which was to disintegrate Czechoslovakia.  The storm of war was approaching rapidly, and finally, on September 1, 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland, and two days later France and Great Britain declared war.

The Pope made various proposals for peace, without success; and when, after Poland was crushed and shared between Germany and Russia, an uneasy lull descended upon Europe, and Pius XII went on courting Fascist Italy.  He ended that fateful year by taking the unprecedented step of receiving the King and Queen of Italy at an official reception at the Vatican, and shortly afterwards himself driving to the Quirnal.

There were several reasons why the Pope wanted to keep Fascist Italy out the war: so that hostilities would not be extended; in order not to complicate the situation with the Western Powers while there existed a chance of peace; so that Italy might help later on, when the war was brought against Soviet Russia; and, last but not least, because if Fascism had collapsed, through either military defeat or internal revolution, the Catholic Church would have found itself in an unenviable plight.

Immediately Germany attached Poland, the Vatican notified the Italian Government of its gratification that Italy was neutral.  Count Ciano told Fr. Tachi Venturia Jesuit go-between for the Vatican and Mussolinithat it was Italy’s intention to remain outside the war; and on February 29 he told the Papal Nuncio to Italy: “I have the impression that a great offensive is about to break out. . . . Germany will make the maximum effort to bring us into the war.” (The Holy See’s Work for Peace in Italy, issued by the Vatican, June, 1945).

On April 24 the Pope, in an autograph letter to Mussolini, asked that Italy might be spared war.

Meanwhile, Hitler was preparing to attack in the West, and sent Ribbentrop to appease the Vatican about the Nazi-Soviet Pact.  And when Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium, the Pope for the first time sent a mild protest in the form of letters to the Belgian King and Dutch Queen, deprecating the fact that their countries had been invaded “against their will.”

Upon this Hitler commanded Mussolini to keep Pius XII silent.  The Duce, threatening reprisals and invoking Article 24 of the Lateran Treaty, imposed silence on the Vatican, which could not bear the thought of the alliance between Germany and Russia.  The Osservatore Romano ceased to publish political views.

The first notification that Italy had decided to enter the war was made on May 22 to Archbishop Borgongini-Duca by the Fascist Under-Secretary of State, and repeated by Ciano on May 28.  A few weeks later, when France lay prostrate, Mussolini brought Italy into the war (June 10, 1940).

Once the country had joined the conflict, the Catholic Church again aligned itself on the side of Fascism.  Only nine days after the declaration of war the Pope, after having received a few hundred newly wed Italian couples, told them that it was their “duty to pray for their country, which, rendered fertile by the sweat and blood of their forefathers, waited that her sons should serve her faithfully.”

On September 4, 1940, the Pope addressed 5,000 members of Catholic Action, and exhorted them to be ready to give their own lives for their country.

When Mussolini attacked Greece, the Pope not only failed to condemn the invasion, but did not even mention it.  Two days later, however, he granted audience to 200 Italian officers in uniform “who represented the Italian Army,” and declared that it was most gratifying for him to bless men “who serve the beloved Fatherland with fealty and love.”  The following February the Pope received 50 German pilots and 200 Italian soldiers, all in uniform, and stated that he was “happy to receive and bless them.”

In May 1941 he received the Duke of Spoleto, the day before the latter was to be proclaimed King of Croatia; and the day after the ceremony he received a Croat delegation led by Ante Pavelić, the Fascist Dictator of Croatia, who had been condemned to death in France for having taken part in the assassination of the King of Yugoslavia.

On August 13, 1941, Pius XII received 3,000 Catholics and 600 Italian soldiers, to whom he said: “Today there is great heroism in the battlefields, in the air, and on the sea.  Although the war is horrible, yet one cannot deny that it shows the greatness of many heroic souls who sacrifice their lives to follow the duties imposed upon them by the Christian conscience.” (see Il Vatican e il Fascismo, by G. Salvemini).

The Pope had to be cautious in his encouragement of Fascist soldiers, knowing he was watched by millions of Catholics in the Allied countries. But what the Pope himself could not say, the Catholic Church did.  Its support and enthusiasm for the war surpassed even that shown during the Abyssinian campaign.  The Church was one with Fascism, inciting the Italians to support the new adventure.  Parish priests, bishops, archbishops, and even cardinals, preached and wrote exalting the glory of fighting and dying for Fascist Italy, emphasizing the duty of every citizen and Catholic to obey the Government.  As before, the Cardinal of Milan, followed by bishops from all over Italy, made a tour of various military camps, blessing departing soldiers, machine guns, warplanes, and submarines; pinning holy medals on the chests of the faithful; distributing holy images in which the Fascist legions were represented marching towards certain victory, guided by angels, or the image of the Archangel Gabriel killing the dragon, Gabriel representing Fascist power and the dragon its enemies.  Prayers and Mass were said everywhere.  The Catholic Church, in fact, did not stint its support of Fascist Italy, and its enthusiasm went so far that the Vatican itself had on numerous occasions to restrain the Italian Hierarchy.

The Pope went on receiving and blessing Italian and German soldiers up to May 1942, when the audiences were reduced, until, finally, they were stopped altogether.  The picture had changed greatly since 1940.

Soviet Russia, which Hitler had promised to crush before the end of 1941, was far from being defeated, and in fact was hitting back.  The battle of Stalingrad told the world and the Vatican that Germany was on the defensive.  A Nazi victory, which in 1940-1 seemed almost certain, began to grow more and more doubtful.  With the weakening of Germany’s military impetus, the defeat in Africa, the almost complete obliteration of the Fascist armies, and finally the invasion of the Italian Peninsula itself, the situation had completely changed.  The Vatican, therefore, prepared to take appropriate measures to ensure that, if Fascism should fall, Bolshevism would not engulf Italy.

Months before the invasion of their country the Italian people had become increasingly restless and organized menacing strikes.  Socialist propaganda appeared in the industrial North.  The great peril of Socialism, which had begun to sweep over the country, made the Vatican move.

A plan to cope with the new situation was devised after the Vatican had contacted the Allies (Great Britain and the United States of America) and certain Fascist and military elements in Italy, headed by the Italian Monarchy.  The plan consisted simply of forestalling the fall of Mussolini, rendered inevitable by the internal state of the country, the inability of the régime to defend Italian soil, and, above all, by the war aims of the victorious Allies, which included the destruction of Mussolini’s régime.

Both the Vatican and the Western Allies, however, had the same fear that the revolutionary forces in Italy might get the upper hand.  Accordingly they came to an agreement by which, although Mussolini would be brought down, the general structure of the régime, with due modifications, would remain intact.  Thus would be prevented the vacuum which would have been left by its disappearance and which would have given a golden opportunity to the enemies of social order and religion to take advantage of the situation.  The plan was worked out in the early spring of 1943, the main agents being:


Mgr. Spellman, Archbishop of New York, who was chosen as the intermediary between the Pope, President Roosevelt, and the Italian plotters.

The Fascist ex-Ambassador to London, Count Grandi (see chapter on Germany).

And the Fascist Minister Federzoni.


During his stay in Rome, in the early spring of 1943, Mgr. Spellman’s activities consisted mainly of contacting the chief Fascist conspirators, Count Grandi, Federzoni, and the King of Italy (on February 22 and 23), and minutely reporting the progress of his talks to both the Pope and President Roosevelt.

After their plans had been laid down, Mgr. Spellman travelled in Europe and outside Europe, dividing his time between blessing bombers before they left to drop their deadly loads on German towns (e.g. April 6, 1943), and seeing people who were carrying out the new policy in which the Vatican, Great Britain, and the United States of America were so closely concerned.  He visited especially the American Ambassador in Istanbul and the two Papal representatives then in that town (Mgr. Pappalardo of the Oriental Church, and Mgr. Clarizio of the State Secretariat of the Vatican).

The Vatican began to take the first cautious steps in Italy itself. On the outbreak of strikes organized by Socialists and Communists in North Italy, who demanded the fall of the régime and the abolition of the Monarchy, to be followed by social revolution, High Prelates began to warn Italians to be faithful to the Monarchy.  For instance, as early as March 30, 1943, the Archbishop of Milan told Italians that they should “remember that the pledge of national unity is the Monarchy of the House of Savoy.”

News of the secret negotiations, however, leaked out, and the first public hint of them was given on May 12, 1943, by the French journalist Pertinax, who was in extremely intimate relations with the Vatican Delegation in Washington.  Pertinax stated that “the Vatican is deeply concerned with the social upheavals that in the peninsula are likely to be the outcome of military defeat beyond the sea and of unlimited destruction by air-raids at home.”

A few days later (May 18, 1943), the New York Times broke the news from Berne that


the Vatican had informed the British and American Governments that an Italian collapse now would have disastrous results unless Italy was neutralized at once or immediately occupied by Allied armies.


The Times correspondent, Mr. Brigham, on May 19, 1943, stated that he had learned from a “well-informed Vatican source” that a “plan” had been “elaborated in a special message from Pope Pius to Archbishop Francis J. Spellman of New York, at present in the Middle East.”  The plan aimed to make possible Italian “voluntary collaboration in the ousting of the Fascist régime” and “an armistice at once.”  The Fascist Party as such would be immediately disbanded.  No provision was made in this first plan, Mr. Brigham continued, “for the arrest or handing over to the Allies of any Fascist leaders.”

The double campaign of the Vatican to help forestall a popular revolt against the régime, and at the same time to prevent a social revolution, grew in intensity, and the Pope himself spoke with all his authority to a gathering of Italian workers, advising them to shrink from revolution (June 13, 1943).

The result of all these plans was soon apparent.  On the night of July 25-26, 1943, Grandi led a revolt against Mussolini inside the Fascist Great Council.  The Grandi resolution proposed that the King should take over supreme control of all armed forces.  It was approved by seventeen and opposed by eight members.  Mussolini went to see the King, and was told that he was no longer Prime Minister.  Then Mussolini was arrested.  The fall of the régime was as simple as that.

One of the plotters, Marshal Badoglio, who took over, declared: “The war goes on.”  But behind the scenes, negotiations were taking place for the military surrender of Italy and the preservation of the Fascist régime in disguise.

There were minor changes in the Government; Fascists were kept in their former positions; while the revolutionary underground forces came into the open, only to be restrained again immediately by the new Government.  Communist papers had two days of freedom, and were then suppressed.  Badoglio called on the Italians to be “loyal to the King and all other stable and ancient institutions.”  The Church and its bishops spoke against the revolutionary and Bolshevist elements, and forbade opposition to the new Government.

There were great activities at the Vatican, the Pope and his Secretary of State holding meetings with the Portuguese, Spanish, German, and British Ambassadors.  As the negotiations went on and the weight of Allied air-raids on Italy increased, the Pope grew impatient, being afraid that “the Italian people might become prey to Bolshevism.”  The Vatican pestered Great Britain and the United States of America for generous terms, “for in the fair land of Italy, the menace of Communism, instead of diminishing, is increasing.”  “The prolongation of the war,” the Pope repeated, “creates danger that the young generation can be driven into the arms of Communism. . . . Moscow is awaiting the moment when Italy will merge with the European State Union under Communist supervision.”

While the Pope continued to impress upon Roosevelt that “bombing breeds Bolshevism,” Badoglio began a persecution of the Reds, enthusiastically supported by the Catholic Hierarchy and the Vatican.

At last, on September 3, 1943, Italy surrendered unconditionally.  Mussolini had disappeared; the most outstanding features of the régime had been suppressed; the Western democracies had been satisfied that the Dictator would rule no more; in his stead there remained the fundamental structure of an authoritarian régime, ruled by a General and a King.

With King and General in the domestic field, and Britain and America in the foreign, Italy had been saved from an internal Bolshevik revolution and external Bolshevik political pressure from Russia.  The first great political counter-move by the Vatican and its lay allies had succeeded.

Soon afterwards Italy became a vast battlefield where Allied armies had painfully to fight their way northwards against the retreating Nazis, bringing untold destruction and social, economic, and political chaos with them.

While the armies battled, the Vatican and the Western Allies lost no time in carrying out the second part of their plan in the freed territory of the peninsula—namely, that of impeding revolutionary forces from gaining the upper hand.

The Allies carried out this policy through the organization they set up in free Italy (A.M.G.O.T.), which forbade political gatherings, political freedom, or the organization of anti-Fascist parties, at the same time prohibiting the purge of Fascists from public positions.  The main administrative pillars of the former Fascist régime (the prefects) were kept in their former positions, while high civil and military officers were protected by an Allied Commission, which not only impeded any attempt to purge the country of them, but which admitted into the American-British fold Fascists who had been “active” up to the moment of defeat.

The Vatican’s policy of directly and indirectly encouraging and supporting all those Conservative forces, with special regard to the military elements, which desired the preservation of the Monarchy, contrary to the will of the Italian people, came suddenly to light in May 1944.  “Special investigators” of the American Army then intercepted messengers near the lines in Southern Italy, and opened a Vatican mail pouch.  In it was found documentary evidence that the Vatican was engaged in active and highly secret machinations to preserve the House of Savoy.

The preservation of the Monarchy had become the main object of the Vatican and had the warm support of the Conservative British Prime Minister, Churchill, who, in order to put his plans into effect, personally visited Rome and was received in private audience four or five times by Pius XII (August 1944), and in the following year when, although no longer Prime Minister, he had long interviews with the Papal Nuncio to the new Italian Government (September 1945).

With the end of the Italian Fascist régime, the certain defeat of Nazi Germany, and the breakdown of Fascism all over Europe, the failure of the policy which the Vatican had pursued for over twenty-five years became more than obvious.  A new policy, new methods, and new tactics proper to the changed conditions had to be adopted in order to save as much as was possible from disaster.

The Powers who had defeated Fascist Totalitarianism professed to be based on Democratic principles, and, what was more, proclaimed their desire to see such principles adopted in liberated Europe.  The enemies that the Vatican had fought during and after the First World War not only had survived, but had become stronger and bolder than ever.  Soviet Russia, contrary to what had been the case after the First World War, emerged from the Second World War as one of the victors, with strengthened prestige, as a world Power whose political influence extended all over Eastern and Southern Europe into the very borders of Italy, where Bolshevism had grown by leaps and bounds.

To counteract these great changes the Vatican had to adopt two definite and interdependent lines, which together formed the new grand strategy of the Catholic Church in the post-Second-World- War period.  The long-range international policy was to fight Soviet Russia by all means available, and to this end the Vatican, as in the past, had to ally itself with the Western democracies, who were no less eager than the Catholic Church to see that Soviet Russia’s influence should be checked and, if possible, stopped.

The short-range policy, dealing with the domestic life of the nations, was to organize all the anti-Red elements into a solid block, led by Catholics, guided by the Vatican, and united into fighting political parties.  These forces had to deal with economic issues and had to fight Socialism, not only on political, but also on social grounds.  It was at this point that the Vatican again gave permission to Catholics to organize themselves into a political movement.

Thanks to the new policy adopted by the Vatican, one of the first new Catholic parties to appear in post-Fascist Europe came to light in Italy and adopted the name Christian Democratic Party.  Leaders who were devoted to the Church were carefully chosen and soon began to shape the policy of the new Italy, hampering the efforts not only of the reborn Socialist and Communist Parties, but  also of a restless section of Catholics who began to show alarming signs of revolutionary spirit.

Thus in the years immediately after the cessation of hostilities a distressed Italy watched an over-eager Vatican plunge directly into the political life of the country, openly organizing powerful Catholic parties, indicting any political movement which it considered was not in harmony with the Catholic doctrine, condemning Socialism, and branding Communism, with a zeal that had lost nothing of its old fire but which, on the contrary, had become even fiercer, since, with the disappearance of Mussolini, the Red danger had surged more threateningly than ever.

The Pope and his cardinals, bishops and village priests all preached from the churches, the Press, and the radio, not only on religious, but on social and political issues, attempting to lead the bewildered Italian masses along a path traced for them by the Church.  The Vatican openly supported institutions and men who had been responsible for the rise of Fascism.  It ordered Italians to be loyal to King Victor, the man who had put Mussolini into power; and although the Italians, through a plebiscite, had voted overwhelmingly for a Republic, it went against the will of the people by making repeated attempts to preserve the House of Savoy.

In addition to its efforts to preserve the Monarchy, the Vatican, following its old policy, indirectly supported movements which had everything in common with the former Fascist Party except in name.  A typical example was the Right-wing Uomo Qualunque (Common Man) Party, which in the general election of 1946 polled more than l,000,000 votes.  Its leader, until a short while before an Atheist, seeing the sympathy with which the Vatican looked upon his movement, made haste at this period, with all solemnity, to enter the Catholic Church.  Vatican Radio gave the news (June 10, 1946) that Signor Gianini was baptized, had had his first Communion, received confirmation, and was married in the Church of the Sacred Heart in Rome, while the Pope had sent him his good wishes and blessing.

This, significantly enough, when several Catholics, including priests, were admonished, or even excommunicated, by the Holy Office for sponsoring social doctrines not in conformity with those of the Church—that is, Socialist doctrines (e.g. Fr. Fernando Tartaglia, a Florentine priest, excommunicated by decree of the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office; Vatican Radio, June 12, 1946).

At the same time, those Catholics and priests who were helping the Fascist underground movement were never publicly reprimanded by the higher ecclesiastical authorities.  Witness the occasion when the body of Mussolini, which had secretly been buried in a Milan cemetery, was stolen by Fascists and several months later found to have been hidden by the monks in the Pavia Monastery (night of August 12-13, 1946), having previously been kept by the monks of another monastery (St. Angelo).  Several fanatical Fascists and several monks were arrested as accomplices in the theft of the body.

But these two instances, however significant, pale before two other moves, inspired directly by the Vatican, which more than anything else since the end of the war gave unmistakable signs of the policy on which the Church had definitely embarked.

These moves were connected with the creation of two new political parties which, although formed by Catholics, were poles apart, notwithstanding the fact that, besides having in common the same religion, they were both of an extremist nature.

The first was a Catholic party with a marked tendency to the Left, and which, although a supporter of the Church, asked for radical social and economic reforms similar to those advocated by Socialism.  It was called originally the Catholic Communist Party and subsequently the Italian Christian Left Party.  After a few weeks the movement was denounced to the Cardinal Secretary of State, who commanded the Catholic members to dissolve it.  On its dissolution Vatican Radio made the following comments:—


Another party . . . has disappeared.  This had the monstrous name of “Christian Left” and pretended to bring the new world to God through class war—that is to say, to bring Christian workers to the side of Socialism and heresy.  Of course this was not achieved.  Through this policy the Christian Left committed suicide.  This is the tragedy of a small but dynamic party composed of enthusiastic youths who called themselves Apostles of Christ but spoke and acted like followers of Marx (January 1946).


But not many months had passed before another Catholic party with extremist tendencies appeared on the scene (August- September 1946), supported by the Vatican.  It was called the National Christian Party, and openly proclaimed that it belonged to the Centre, or more precisely to the Right Centre, following Christian Democracy’s shift to the Left.  This because “the referendum proved the necessity of separation from Christian Democracy, which was tactically and ideologically compromised with the Marxist Parties (Italian Socialist and Communist Parties).” (Dr. Padoan, quoted by Radio Rome, August 24, 1946.)

Not withstanding all the Vatican’s efforts, however, in the first years after the Second World War the Socialists and Communists had swollen their ranks in a most alarming way; Italy was flooded from one end to the other by a gigantic Red wave.  It was the first great wave of the released popular forces which were soon to turn Red, not only in Italy, but also in France and Belgium.  In l948 the Italian Communist Party, with the exception of the Russian, was the largest Communist Party in the world.

After the First World War the first Fascist movement had been born in Italy, where for the first time a Catholic Party was destroyed by the Vatican in pursuance of a new policy.  After the Second World War the first Catholic Party to be reborn and to be hurled against the adversaries of the Catholic Church in the social and political arena of a restless age appeared significantly enough in the Italian peninsula.  It was no mere coincidence.  Deeming the time opportune for a change of tactics, the Vatican had turned over a new leaf of its policy, a leaf which, from the very beginning, gave unmistakable signs that it was but the old policy under a different name, pursued in a different manner owing to changed times and circumstances, but aimed more relentlessly than ever at the same old goal: the furtherance of the Church’s supremacy in the life of the Italian people.





The history of contemporary political Catholicism in German began, roughly speaking, during the formation and consolidation of the First German Empire.  A glance at the behavior of the Vatican at that critical period demonstrates the consistency of the fundamental policy of the Catholic Church in general and illuminates what appears to be its political somersaults.  They were part of her method for reaching her goal and for the formation of the Catholic Party, the Centre Party, which played such an important rôle in German life.

That a Protestant State like Prussia should dominate the political life of the numerous German Catholic States roused the greatest hostility in the Catholic Church, and caused Bismark, while establishing the German Empire, to recognize that the power centered in the Vatican was a most subtle enemy to his plans.  Statesmen before and after Bismark had faced this same problem, but Bismarck put it with truly Bismarckian brutality. . . . “Is this great body, namely the German Roman Catholic, one-third of the entire German population, to obey, in civil matters, laws made by the German Parliament or mandates issued by a knot of Italian priests?”

There was no doubt about the Vatican answer.  It extended from Rome to the German bishops, and from the bishops to their lower clergy and laity.  The whole machinery which the Catholic Church possesses was set in motion.  From the pulpit denunciations were thundered which were more apt for political platforms; and in the Parliament there appeared the Catholic Party, devoted to the interests of the Vatican.  It was headed by the formidable statesman Windthorst.  Before the incorporation of Hanover into Prussia, this statesman had a commanding place in the Hanoverian Cabinet.  He was known for his ambition, his great powers as a parliamentary leader, and for his hatred of the new order of things.

The two men became symbols of the two opposing forces.  Since the power of the Vatican had been enhanced by the formula of infallibility, the supposition was that it would try to carry to its logical conclusion the claim of the Catholic Church on the life of a State and on the shape of society.  The result was a long struggle into which were drawn almost all of the German Hierarchy.  The most notorious were the Bishops of Ermeland and Paderborn, and the Archbishops of Cologne and Posen.  The appearance of the Jesuits soon followed.  They had been very active against Germany during her Austrian and French wars, and had not only stirred up religious differences, but also political and racial hatreds, especially in Poland and Alsace-Lorraine.  As time went on, their activities increased and the struggle became still more bitter; not only owing to the interference of the Jesuits, but through the efforts of the Hierarchy.  Every means was employed to drive out of the pulpits and professional chairs all who had not accepted the infallibility dogma; and, as the men thus ostracized were paid by the State, the civil authorities resisted.  This led to such violence in preaching that it caused the enactment of the “Pulpit Laws.”

Bismarck nominated a strong man as Minister of Worship—by name, Falk; and at the same time it was proposed by Bismarck that a German Ambassador should be sent to the Vatican.  This proposal was rejected.

In 1872 the whole body of Jesuits were expelled from Germany.  This was very significant, as the Jesuits, even when they had been expelled from all the nations of Europe, and even from Rome by the Pope himself, had been left undisturbed in the Prussian dominions.  The Vatican ordered the Catholics in Germany to denounce Bismarck and the State; and this the archbishops and bishops did in the most violent language.  The Pope himself threatened Bismarck with the vengeance of God, which, he said, would overtake him.

Reprisals followed quickly.  The German diplomatic representative, who in the meantime had been sent to the Vatican, was withdrawn, and what came to be known as the “Falk Laws” or “May Laws” were passed.

The struggle at its worst phase lasted more than five years.

The Vatican replied by ordering the German clergy to launch anathemas against the civil authorities and against all those who refused to recognize the Pope as the only infallible bearer of truth.  The religious authority, it was declared, must be above all civil ones.  From the churches it was preached that the education of the clergy was a matter for the Vatican and not for the State; and that no Catholic had the right to—or could—separate himself from the Catholic Church: once a Catholic, always a Catholic.

According to Canon Law, marriage was a Sacrament and only the Church could officiate at a marriage ceremony.  This, they claimed, was not within the right of the State.  They not only stirred up religious and racial hatred in Poland and Alsace-Lorraine, but, by using provincial jealousies in Catholic States like Bavaria and the Rhine Provinces, they increased these jealousies, and, led by the clergy, the Catholics became rebellious.  Through religious questions and moral issues they created a social, civil, and political disorder and unrest, all of which was directed from Rome.

The Government replied by the expulsion of priests from their pulpits, and of professors and bishops, with fines and imprisonment scattered widely.  Numerous religious Orders were driven from the Kingdom.  As the conflict grew more bitter, bishops and archbishops were thrown into prison, the Archbishop of Posen for more than two years.

The struggle did not confine itself to Germany.  It spread throughout various European countries.  Fervent Catholics began to plot and plan in order to harm the State and its representatives.  A Catholic youth who had been educated in a clerical school tried to assassinate Bismarck by firing upon him on the promenade at Kissingen, and he almost succeeded.  The bullet grazed Bismarck’s hand as he lifted it to his forehead in the act of returning a salute.

The Government replied with even more severe measures.  Numerous Catholic Members of Parliament were arrested and civil marriage was extended over the Empire.

The conflict did not end here.  The Pope himself again entered the fray.  Another encyclical was issued by Pius IX.  It declared the detested laws void and their makers Godless, thus renewing the incitement to civil disobedience and civil war, and the struggle entered an even more acrid phase.  The Catholic Hierarchy, the Catholic laity, and the Catholic politicians were bent on fostering this.  The Catholic Church left nothing undone to secure her ends.  The political instrument of the Vatican in Germany, the Centre Party, were given instructions, if instructions were needed, to show no mercy to the Government.  Throughout the whole of this period, led by Windthorst, the Centre Party, numbering one-fourth of the Parliament, fought all Bismarck’s measures indiscriminately, no matter how far removed they were from religious interests.

But in 1878 Pius IX died.  The new Pope was Leo XIII.  Both he and Bismarck tried to reach some kind of compromise.  Bismarck began to confer with Windthorst and with the Papal representative Jacobini, and the basis for an understanding was laid down.  A new Minister, Schlozer, was transferred to the Vatican, and the Government used great discretion in administrating the Falk Laws.  This rapprochement continued with such success that the Pope asked for Bismarck’s portrait; after which, Bismarck asked the Pope to act as mediator between Germany and Spain regarding the claims of the two nations to the Caroline Islands.  Further measures lessening the severe orders on both sides continued until Bismarck found himself relying on the German Catholic Party’s support for the main measures of his new financial and economic policy.

The worst of the struggle was over and a modus vivendi was established.  It was in no way extraordinary that the State should abate its claims on the Church and decide to respect and even support some of the Church’s claims; or that the Vatican should develop a close friendship with the authoritarian Chancellor, as both hated and feared Democratic and Liberal principles.  Once the religious questions had been settled, they became intimate partners and fought, indiscriminately, the principles and ideas which they believed to be dangerous to religious absolutism in the Church and political absolutism in the State.

It is very significant that the Vatican, through the Centre Party, in more than one instance, first was hostile to some form of government, or statesman, and then became its ally.  These changes, which may appear inconsistent, are quite the contrary; for however inconsistent the Vatican may be in its methods, it never loses sight of its ultimate goal which to further the interests of the Catholic Church; and this same procedure was followed several times in Germany as well as throughout Europe in subsequent years.

In the case of Bismarck’s Germany, when the Vatican at first was hostile to the idea that a Protestant Prussia should rule Catholic States and Catholic subjects, it was hostile because Bismarck, paradoxically, wanted to bring about Liberal reforms.  Although, to our modern conception, these reforms were not sensational, they were then—and, in their present form, are still—anathema to the Catholic Church.

Bismarck was no lover of democracy, even when he sponsored Liberal reforms; he was no lover of democracy when he fought the Vatican; nor was he when it became his friend—quite the contrary.  And the Vatican realized this; which explains why it ultimately became his close friend.  Once the Church had been reassured that her interests would be respected and her cause maintained in resisting the dangerous ideals of Secularism, Liberalism, and, above all, Socialism, her course was clear.  She knew that, besides gaining important advantages through the strong, authoritarian will of Bismarck, in him she had a bulwark on which she could rely.

The Vatican always has had, and still has, a predilection for strong men.  When it felt that it could rely on Bismarck, the Kaiser, and finally Hitler, it gave them its support.  In the Centre Party and the German Hierarchy it had two strong instruments to achieve its political ends; and it is enlightening to go through the vicissitudes of the German Catholic Party.

From the beginning its membership was very mixed.  It included workers and employers, rich landowners and peasants, aristocrats and scholars, officials and artisans.  Unlike the Austrian Catholic Party, progressive and reactionary elements were represented in the ranks of the German Party, and its fundamental characteristic was that its basis was not political but religious.  Owing to its peculiar nature, the Centre Party did not confine itself to domestic problems, and after its creation it gave a typical instance of this.

In 1870 the troops of the United Italy occupied Rome and abolished the Papal States.  Immediately the Catholic Centre demanded that Bismarck should intervene in favor of the Pope.  Bismarck answered that “the days of interference in the lives of other peoples are at an end.”  The Centre Party went farther, and asked for German military intervention in Italy.  It spoke of a “Crusade across the Alps.”  Bismarck lodged a protest with the Vatican, knowing well from where the Party drew its inspiration.  The reply given was the Vatican was unable to cast any reproach upon the Centre Party.

During the ten years of struggle against Bismarck the Party greatly increased its membership, and when, finally, an understanding between the Vatican and the Government was reached, in the beginning of the nineties, the Catholic Centre Party capitulated to the Hohenzollern’s Reich and accepted its protective domination.  That was the beginning of a path which, had it not been followed by the Catholic Party, would perhaps have changed the history of Germany.  In view of the historical composition and prevailing conditions in Germany then, a Catholic Party might “have become a reservoir of real and important opposition . . . the opposition of West and South Germany to the military State under Prussian hegemony,” as a famous German author rightly says.

How did the capitulation come about?  Was it a mere error, or was it a calculated policy?

Although the main supporters of the Catholic Party were the masses of peasants and Catholic workers, up to the middle of the First World War its autocratic leadership was in complete control of Conservative aristocrats and the upper grades of the Catholic Hierarchy.  It was this leadership which, having common interests and fearing the same enemies as those which were feared by the non-Catholic Conservatives and aristocrats of Germany, brought the Party into an alliance with the Imperial Reich.  It was the joint hostility of Prussian militarism and of Catholicism toward certain social, political, and economic formulas which ultimately made close allies of these two deadly enemies.  These formulas were embodied in the doctrines and principles of Liberalism, in the economic, social, and political spheres.  The Catholic Party began a most violent campaign against what it described as “The anti-Christian, Jewish, Liberal Capitalism,” thriving on continuous invectives, like those which have become so familiar during the Nazi régime . . . the “Godless Manchester School!” the “Jewish Usury Capital!” the “Liberal Money Moloch!” etc.

If the anathemas launched against the Liberal principles and the Liberal State by the various Popes are recalled, it is not difficult to understand the hostility of Catholicism to Liberalism and its resultant alliance with reactionary Prussian militarism.  It was a natural consequence of the condemnation of the Vatican against Liberalism in any form—a consequence which, from religious and moral grounds, had been translated into social-political issues.  Less clear, perhaps, might seem the reason which induced Catholicism to be so markedly anti-Semitic.  This peculiar anti-Semitism was almost the only common characteristic of both the German and Austrian political Catholicism.  This anti-Semitic spirit and phraseology was carefully nurtured by both German and Austrian Catholicism in order to counter-blast the principal political enemy—namely, the Socialist movements.

The Socialist movements were preaching economic, social, and political democracy.  They were inviting men into their ranks, irrespective of their religion, race, or color.  The Popes, and the whole spirit which animates the Catholic Church, were fundamentally hostile to democratic ideas, Socialism, and equality, whether educational, economic, or social; in fact, they were against any reforms backed by new political ideas or methods.  They fostered in the minds of the Catholic Church members a contempt and hatred for the democratic spirit, and a desire for, and attachment to, Authoritarianism; this attitude their members carried with them into the Catholic Party.  With the passing years their teaching penetrated deeply, and thus imperceptibly prepared the masses, ideologically, to accept the idea of dictatorship.  That is what happened with the German Centre Party.

There was also another cause for the political behavior of the Centre Party, one which influenced them greatly and helped to develop their increased activity.  This arose from the rivalry and consequent hostility shown by the Catholic Church against the Orthodox Church, especially the Russian (see Chapter 17, Russia and the Vatican)—another automatic result.  As this religious hostility was instilled into all Catholics, including the Germans, when it was translated into political issues it developed into active political hostility against Orthodoxy, which, to Germans, was represented by Russia; and the attitude thus created was in complete harmony with the expansionist policy of the Kaiser—an additional bond between Catholicism and German imperialism.  This was carried to such an extent that, during the Russo-Turkish War, the most Catholic Windthorst declared, among other things of a like nature, that in the last resort it was a question of “whether the Slav or German element should dominate the world.”  The hostility against the Slav and Orthodox Russia shown by the Catholic Party reached such a degree that it brought a rebuke from Bishop von Ketteler “for its excessive Germanic self-confidence.”  This was the ideology which prompted the Party to call its official organ Germania—a paper which, later, was bought by a chamberlain of the Pope, von Papen.

When Communism, an even greater and more determined enemy of the Catholic Church, and of the economic and social systems she supported, came into power in Russia, the Church’s hostility grew a hundredfold in the ideological as well as in the active political field.  The Centre Party seldom took any important step without first consulting the Papal Nuncio, for many years Cardinal Pacelli, who supported any policy or any man who would oppose and fight Soviet Russia.  In view of this it is in no way astonishing that the Catholic Party accepted with such alacrity and satisfaction the “Crusade against Bolshevism” preached in Rome by the Pope, and in Berlin by Hitler.

During the quarter of a century which led to the outbreak of the First World War the Catholic Party, with the exception of a short period of conflict with Prince Buelow, was the strongest group in the German Reichstag; and was the most important single ally of all the German Reich Chancellors from Hohenlohe to Bethmann-Hollweg, and also one of the chief supporters of German imperialism.  That support was well expressed by the first leader of the Party, Windthorst, when dealing with that great question of German politics regarding the attitude to be adopted toward the German Army.  He declared in the Reichstag: “I recognize that the Army is the most important institution in our country, and that without it the pillars of society would collapse.”

Windthorst was succeeded by Ernst Lieber, who followed in the steps of his predecessor.  He was an enthusiastic supporter of German colonial aspirations and a great advocate of the Kaiser’s Big Navy Policy; so much so that von Tirpitz thanked him in his Memoirs.  Lieber was a constant influential sponsor of the catastrophic policy pursued by the Kaiser, and advocated a bigger Army, a bigger Navy, expansionist policy abroad and dear bread at home.  This policy would not have been possible without the wholehearted co-operation of the Centre Party which he led.  During the First World War they stood firm in a united front of all German political parties who were in favor of war.  According to B. Menne, the Centre Party was one of the most vociferous supporters of a “Greater Germany,” and they staunchly advocated the rather unChristian demand for a “ruthless prosecution of the war.”  They were also an important prop of the dictatorship established by the generals.

The Centre Party supported the most unreasonable demands of the German imperialism, such as annexations in the East as well as in the West.  Its leader, at this period Peter Spahn, defined the views of the Party on what would be the “New Order in Europe” after the Kaiser victory.  Addressing the Reichstag in the spring of 1916, he said: “Peace aims must be power aims.  We must change Germany’s frontiers according to our own judgment. . . . Belgium must remain in German hands politically, militarily, and economically.”  The Party went even farther and were in the forefront of the most fanatical German imperialists.  The Catholic paper, Hochland, demanded the annexation of Belfort . . . “with old frontiers of Lorraine and Burgundy,” and finally the Channel coasts.

This was not all.  When, in 1915, von Tirpitz demanded that all merchant vessels entering the war zones should be sunk without warning by German submarines, the Catholic Party supported this most enthusiastically and declared themselves for unrestricted submarine warfare, which was sponsored by generals, industrialists, Pan-Germans, etc.  Hertling, the Bavarian Prime Minister and one of the leaders of the Catholic Party, was an intimate friend of von Tirpitz.  Still more noteworthy, the campaign was sponsored by the Catholic Hierarchy itself.  Proof of this is to be found in the actions of the Cardinal of Munich, Bettinger, who mobilized the rural clergy in favor of unrestricted submarine warfare.  This went so far that the Cardinal himself went to the villages agitating among the Catholic Bavarian peasantry.  In reply to many protests the Cardinal made the statement that “it would be an irresponsible crime on Germany’s part if she failed to wage unrestricted submarine warfare.”  The German Catholic episcopate echoed these words and followed the campaign, speaking for the leading Catholic dignitaries on the question of unrestricted submarine warfare and the violation of Belgian neutrality.  Sufficient to quote Michael Faulhaber, later Cardinal Archbishop of Munich, and then a prominent Army chaplain.  He made the characteristic remark: “In my opinion this campaign will go down in the history of military ethics as the perfect example of a just war.”

Finally, the Reichstag group of the Centre Party took a really sensational step (October 16, 1916).  In a carefully drafted document it told the Reich Chancellor that, although he was formally responsible for Germany’s war policy, he must obey the orders of the Supreme Command; and that whatever the decree issued by them, the Reichstag was prepared to support it.  The significance of this declaration “extended far beyond the immediate dispute concerning unrestricted submarine warfare; it was, in fact, the first formal recognition of the dictatorship of the German Army leaders, not only in the military, but also in political affairs, and the subordination of the Reich’s Government and the Reichstag to that dictatorship.” (B. Menne, The Case of Dr. Bruening.)

The date of the declaration is also significant.  There was no longer a weak-willed man like von Moltke the younger at the head of the Supreme Command, but, from August 1916 onwards, General Ludendorff.


“He was the first of the modern dictators, and in the name of the Grand General Staff he was determined to rule supreme in Germany, and it was not long before he succeeded.

The charge that the party of Political Catholicism was the first in Germany to pronounce the solemn capitulation of Germany to the dictatorship of General Ludendorff may sound improbable, and even malicious, but it is nevertheless, as we have just seen, an historical fact.” (B. Menne, The Case of Dr. Bruening.)


In the third year of the war the Catholic Party was led by a trinity of groups characteristic of all Catholic parties, and formed of Catholic aristocrats, high State officials, and leading Church dignitaries.  They were mostly nationalist and reactionary, and created discontent among the Catholic peasants and workers.  This was caused especially by the way they administered the so-called “civil truce,” and the refusal to introduce a general and equal franchise in Prussia.

An opposition was formed gradually by the Catholic trade unions of the Rhineland, whose mouthpiece was Erzberger.  Before and during the First World War he had played a doubtful political part as one of the directors of the Catholic industrialist Thyssen; at the Reichstag; and when he called for the annexation of the French iron deposit of Briey.  He was on very good terms with von Tirpitz, and, as leader of German propaganda, helped General Ludendorff to power.

In 1917 Erzberger cut himself away from all this.  He received certain information which convinced him that Germany had no chance of winning the war.  General Hoffman, the Commander of the German armies in the East, and Count Czernin, Austrian Foreign Minister, told him that Germany was in a hopeless situation.

But the main impulse came from the Vatican itself.  Pope Benedict XV saw, with anxiety, that the position of the Central Powers was rapidly deteriorating.  There is no reason to believe that he desired their victory; but at least it is clear that he was anxious to prevent their defeat.  Austria was the one great Catholic Power left in the world, and the position of the Catholics in Germany was one of which great hopes were justified.  In the circumstances it is understandable that the Pope sought a solution not unfavorable to the two countries, and to this end he set himself to spin the first thread of mediation between London and Berlin.  The preliminary requirement was a declaration from Germany concerning her aims in the West.  This was where Erzberger’s task began.

The Pope sent one of his young diplomatic priests, a very capable young man named Eugenio Pacelli (afterwards Papal Nuncio and Pope Pius XII), to Munich to establish relations with the coming man in German political Catholic circles, Erzberger.  Shocked at the revelation made to him of Germany’s unfavorable position, Erzberger gladly supported the action of the Pope.  A speech delivered by him on July 6, 1917, made a deep impression on the Reichstag and had a very sobering effect generally.  That was only the beginning, and Erzberger worked tirelessly to provide the Pope with the declaration he needed as a preliminary to his intervention.  It was, in fact, largely thanks to Erzberger that on July 19, 1917, a majority of the Reichstag, consisting of Catholics, Socialists, and Liberals, adopted a resolution in favor of “peace without annexations and indemnities.”  Even the Kaiser was satisfied with the adoption of such a useful formula, although he did make one little reservation: the renunciation of a decision by force of arms was not to apply to Germany.

The situation was quickly reversed when Russia collapsed in September 1917.  Germany forgot the Peace Resolution, the Socialist and Catholic guarantee formula against a complete defeat, and German generals dictated the peace treaties of Brest-Litovsk and Bucharest.

But when, in November 1918, Germany collapsed, Erzberger, the initiator of the famous Peace Resolution, was chosen as the man to negotiate the Armistice.  Field-Marshal von Hindenburg asked Erzberger to accept the heavy task.  “With tears in his eyes, and clasping Erzberger’s hands between his own, Hindenburg besought him to undertake the terrible task for the sacred cause of his country.”

This scene was repeated exactly ten years later, when the Field-Marshal, once again “deeply moved and in tears,” held the hands of another leader of the German Catholic Party.

Erzberger, as Chairman of the German Armistice Commission, signed the Armistice.

Apart from having become a convinced democrat, after the war Erzberger became convinced that the militarists were the chief enemies of a peaceful, progressive Germany.  However, that did not mean that the Catholic Party had changed.  With the exception of Erzberger and his followers, the Party, as a whole, was still wholeheartedly on the side of the past Empire.  Only two days after the collapse of Germany the Catholic Party in Cologne passed a resolution in favor of the retention of the Monarchy.  Later, the leader of the Party protested publicly against the overthrow of the Kaiser, and in this he was supported especially by the young generation of Catholic officers in the Army.

The Catholic Church, besides its nationalism, was the chief instigator of this feeling and fostered the demands for the return of the Kaiser.  Within the Catholic Party, and among the Catholics throughout Germany, the whole question was put very clearly by one of her principal German hierarchical pillars, Cardinal Faulhaber.  Addressing the Munich Catholic Congress, he declared: “The revolution was perjury and high treason, and will go down in history branded forever with the mark of Cain.”

“The mark of Cain” was but a Biblical expression for what in more direct words the Nationalists called “the stab in the back.”  At the same time, and at the same place, Munich, Hitler was preaching the same thing!

Although the Catholic Party damned the Revolution and hated the Reds, nevertheless, it took its part in the Republican Government.  As a Catholic, put it, “taking its stand on the basis of the given facts.”  That did not mean there was a change of heart in the Party.  It merely meant that it had to adapt itself to a new situation in order to attain the same ends.  When dealing with Catholic parties, one must remember that they are but the instruments with which the Catholic Church aims at reaching certain religious ‘moral’ goals; thus political Catholicism, even if not changing an iota of its programme, can adapt itself to new situations by very easily making tactical moves which would be very difficult to other parties whose principles are only political or social, and which, to them, would be a matter of deeper principle.

Under the Kaiser, the Centre Party was a staunch monarchic and imperialistic party.  Under the Weimar Republic it appeared as though it had become republican and democratic.  What had actually happened was that it had adapted itself to the new circumstances in order the better to pursue its way toward its goals; and it remained what it had always been—namely, a Catholic Party.

This is not a question of mere opinion; the facts speak for themselves.  The Centre Party changed its tactics, even made alliances, though always provisional, with the hated Reds and Left-wing parties, but it never changed its determined course.  If we compare the various moves of the Centre Party during the first ten years of the Republic, from 1919 to 1929, it will be seen that a move to the Right was followed by a move to the Left, which in turn was followed again by a move to the Right.  One step forward, two steps back, was in fact their policy throughout the existence of the Republic.  At one time the development of a Left wing had seemed possible, chiefly owing to the effects of defeat in the last war; but the propagating of the democratic ideas among Catholic workers, even among middle-class citizens, including journalists, professors, etc., proved to be but a temporary outburst.  This was confirmed when the leader of the Catholic democratic wing of the Centre Party, Erzberger, was assassinated in the autumn of 1921 by two members of the secret military organization who were harbored by Catholic Bavaria.  After Erzberger’s assassination, the tendency to follow his policy grew weaker, until finally it disappeared.

When Erzberger was assassinated, Dr. Marx, a Conservative Prussian Judge and President of the Legal Senate, was the official leader of the Centre Party.  His policy was to maintain the equilibrium between Right and Left.  It is well to note that from 1924, the Centre Party suddenly rejected the “Weimar Coalition,” which was a coalition of Catholics, Left-wing Liberals, and Social Democrats.  This the Catholic Party did in order to enter into a coalition with the German National Party.  A Government under such a combination was formed, the Chancellorship being assigned to the Catholic Dr. Marx.  This meant that the Catholic Party, in spite of its great support from the Catholic working class, went over completely to the heavy industrialists, the Junkers, the super-nationalists, and the militant elements which guided Germany into the Second World War.

Once again this sudden change must be attributed to the spirit and the moral doctrines of the Catholic Church as a religious authority.

The chief cause of Dr. Marx’s change of policy and altered tactics was due to what were called the School Laws.  The Weimar Constitution had not made clear what type of school should predominate in the Republic.  The dispute was centered on the issue whether the Church, be it Protestant or Catholic, should have the main say in educational matters, or whether the State, disregarding the Church, should give a Secular-Liberal education.

In pursuance of their aims, the German Catholics, beginning with the German Hierarchy, advocated that the schools should be supervised by the clergy, and that the “confessional school” should be adopted; this, to the detriment of the secular schools.  The German episcopate in particular was very militant in its demands—a militancy which was increased by the encouragement given it by Cardinal Pacelli, the Papal Nuncio, who had been in Berlin since 1920.

The desire of the Catholic Church to have Catholic schools, in order to educate [mold] German Catholics, was natural, and it would not have become a great national political issue if it had confined itself to the religious sphere.  But it did not do this.  The religious issues were transformed into political issues, and vice versa.  The Vatican, seeing that it could not obtain its aims by mobilizing its hierarchical machinery, put pressure on its political instrument, the Catholic Party.  The Party took up the cause of the Catholic Church and approached the German National party, who were very accommodating on the school problem.  Meanwhile, the heavy hand of the Vatican pressed on the social internal policy of the Centre Party.  The result of this was that the Party leadership began to stifle the political social opposition of the Left wing of the Party itself.  They attempted to weaken it and to rally the Left wing elements to the support of the reactionary policy of the Centre by appealing to their religious principles and to the fundamental principles of the Church on this educational problem.

In this way the alliance between the Catholic Party and the potential totalitarian German National Party was concluded.  This coalition between Catholic and Nationalist was a pact of mutual guarantees.  The Nationalists promised school laws which would have introduced confessional schools under the supervision of the churches; and the Catholics promised to support industrial subsidies, post-war import duties, and to vote, significantly enough, in favor of cutting down social expenditure.  Twice an agreement on these lines was concluded, but in both cases the agreement broke down.  The first School Bill of 1925 did not come before the Reichstag at all, and that of 1927 caused a most violent dispute within the coalition itself.  The Party of Stresemann, in the end, caused it to be rejected.  Both disputants wanted to have complete control of the education and formation of youth.  It was the same dispute which later broke out between Hitler and the Catholic Church.

The School Bill was the cause of the breakdown of the coalition, which finally occurred in the spring of 1928.  In May there were elections which resulted in a sensational swing to the Left—actually the biggest since 1918.  The result was that in the Reichstag the Social Democratic Party had the strongest parliamentary groups in the House.

Besides this swing-over of the German masses to the Social Democrats, another shock to the Catholic Church was that the Catholic Party was among those who lost adherents.  But a greater shock was to come.  Other parties, especially the Social Democrats, had broken into the Catholic electorate, taking with them numerous votes.  This was a thing which the Catholic Church and the Centre Party had thought would never happen; previously, it never had happened.  The discovery greatly alarmed the Vatican authorities as well as the leader of the German Catholic Party.  In the Vatican the decision about the Centre Party, which had been hesitatingly postponed, began to take shape; and the Centre Party, hoping to regain its lost ground, left the Nationalists and returned penitently to the coalition with the Social Democrats.  The Social Democrat, Hermann Mueller, became Reich Chancellor.

That was in 1928.  Anyone would have prophesied that Germany was going to have a Socialist rule at last, and so embark on cooperation with the other European nations.  But the promise of this was not borne out.  In 1929, in spite of all appearances, three men were in the key commands of the strategic position of the German Republic.  The combination, Hindenburg-Groener-Schleicher, was working behind the scenes with the intention of liquidating the Republic.  It is interesting to remember that they were the last Army Command of the Kaiser at the time of the Armistice negotiated in 1918.  They began to intrigue in the military and, above all, in the political field, meaning to do away with the “irksome intermediate Reich,” as they looked upon the German Republic, and this was only a preliminary to other important moves.

In 1929 Hindenburg, pressed by his friends, began a more active reactionary policy in the Reich.  As soon as the negotiations which were then being conducted were concluded, his first move was to dismiss the Social Democratic Chancellor, Mueller, and his Foreign Minister Stresemann.  The General was already planning to abolish the principle that the Reich Chancellor must have the support of Parliament.  A man should be put in his place who would have the “confidence of the Army.”  It was agreed that such a man should rule through Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, which gave dictatorial powers; and if Parliament protested it, it would be dissolved.

The conspirators discussed which party offered possibilities for their support toward the final liquidation of the Republic; and which man would be suitable for the preliminary steps to the creation of a dictatorship that would eventually prepare the path for the real one.  The Centre Party was the choice; and one of its leaders, the devout Catholic Dr. Bruening, was the candidate who should rule, not with the consent of the Parliament, but by grace of the Reichwehr.  The Chancellorship was offered to Dr. Bruening under the condition that, if he accepted with those aims in view, he should rule by means of Article 48, and on the instructions of the Reichswehr.

There was a man in Germany who, although not a German, knew how to shape the German political scene better than many German leaders; that man was Eugenio Pacelli, the Papal Representative.

Pacelli had been in Germany since 1920, first in Munich and then in Berlin.  On behalf of the Pope, in 1917, he had taken part in the negotiations for a compromised peace between Germany and the Allies—an attempt which ended in failure.  He had been constantly in Germany ever since and followed German politics closely, especially the politics of the Catholic parties: the Bavarian People’s Party and the Centre Party.  No Catholic leader of either party took a single step of importance without first consulting the Vatican through Cardinal Pacelli.  And as Cardinal Pacelli was the right arm of the Pope, many important decisions rested with him.

When Pacelli first arrived in Germany as Papal Nuncio, he created a mild sensation when, contrary to expectation, he began to cooperate with Erzberger.  There were different opinions about this, as the views of the Cardinal were fairly well known.  Some held that he was in sympathy with the Left wing of Catholicism; others, that he tried to curb and restrain as much as possible the Socialist tendency of the Catholic leader.  The latter view seemed to have been confirmed when, after the assassination of Erzberger, he treated his successor, Dr. Wirth, with great coolness.  But when Dr. Marx took the leadership of the Party, Pacelli sided openly with the Right-wing Catholic group.

The Cardinal and the new leader of the Centre Party became intimate, and Dr. Marx never made a move without consulting Pacelli, who, in fact, practically directed the policy of the Catholic Party for several years during that period.  It was he who first conceived, and then inspired and promoted, the coalition of the Centre Party with the German National Party, which move was so full of most serious consequences for the whole of Germany.

What were the reasons which caused the Cardinal to steer a powerful political party in one certain direction instead of another; and what induced him to make an alliance with the most nationalist, authoritarian, anti-democratic, and would-be creator of a German dictatorship, the German National Party?

The answer lies in what has prompted all Catholic politicians: the interests of the Catholic Church as a religious institution.  Setting aside the dislike of the Vatican for Socialism, etc., there was an immediate goal which the Vatican aimed at: it wanted to introduce the formal establishment of the confessional school into the German educational system.  That they wanted above all; and it would have been possible if Germany and the Vatican had reached a mutual agreement for a favorable Concordat.

But the Concordat was never signed; nor was the School Bill ever to come into effect.  Nevertheless, Cardinal Pacelli did well for the Catholic Church, as the Republic opened her coffers to the Church, and the subsidies of the German State to the Catholic Church increased from 148,000,000 marks in 1925 to 163,000,000 marks in 1928.

Cardinal Pacelli’s opinion on how to deal with the great set-back at the election of 1928 grew in weight at the Vatican, where he was known to be as keen as the Pope in his plan to sacrifice the old-fashioned political Catholicism.  The Vatican had already started on that road, although after the war there had been much hesitation over the fate of the German Catholic parties, as they had proved an invaluable weapon even during the years immediately following the First World War, and it seemed as if they might still be of great service to the Church.  But actually this was not borne out.  The Catholic Party was no longer able to exert the great influence it had exerted in the past without allying itself with some other party—at times, even with its enemies.  This was largely due to the framework of the Republic.  It allowed too much liberty to the political groups, which increased the economic deterioration of Germany as the masses were radically inclined on social matters.  Also, the loss of thousands of Catholic members of the Centre Party, who had left political Catholicism for other movements and in the main had joined the ranks of the Social Democrats, caused the Vatican great concern.

All this had been considered for several years, but the shock came when the loss suffered by political Catholicism in the spring of 1928 was known.  Almost half a million voters had turned their backs on political Catholicism.  It was the worst electoral defeat ever suffered in the history of the Centre Party.  Although the loss was proportionally enormous, the seriousness of the matter was even more alarming to the Vatican, as that loss was the culmination of a persistent decline in the strength of political Catholicism in Germany.  Had this continued to decline at such a pace it would have been a matter of but a few years before the Party would have become a nonentity in the political life of the nation, and the “red, secular enemies of the Church would have prevailed.”

The Vatican had kept a close watch on this decline, and after the defeat of 1928 the statistician of the Centre Party was asked to draw up a table showing the losses of the Party since its foundation.  The report was sent to Rome by Pacelli.  Its publication was forbidden, and only the high officials of the Party, and the Vatican, had knowledge of it.  According to this report the percentage of all male Catholic voters who cast their vote for the Catholic Centre Party was the following:—















This tendency of a persistent decline was the more serious as there was a prospect of the losses continuing to increase disproportionately, and with increasing speed, as the Catholic workers were more and more accepting Socialist doctrines, especially after the alliance of the Centre Party with the reactionary German National Party; whereas the Catholic Youth and the Catholic intelligentsia were going over to the German Nationalists.

The Party which had served German Catholicism for more than two generations was ceasing to become an effective political instrument.  Something more drastic and effective had to replace it.   A new path had to be followed; new policy adopted; new methods encouraged; new men had to be helped to power.

After the defeat of 1928 the most reactionary elements of the Catholic Party became all-powerful.  The Left wing ceased to count so far as the direction of the Party was concerned; and that was explained by the fact that the Party became an instrument of the Nuncio Pacelli.  The clerical elements were supreme.  The mouthpiece of the Right wing of the Centre Party was Dr. Ludwig Kaas, Professor of Ecclesiastical Law at the University of Bonn, and Papal Prelate.  He had specialized in foreign politics; he was the speaker of the Centre Party groups in the Reichstag on foreign affairs and went with the German delegation to Geneva.

Dr. Kaas’s chief demands were for “a more active foreign policy.”  He was highly critical of Stresemann’s foreign policy, and was against the attempts to carry out German aims by patient negotiations.  This is noteworthy, for at the time he was advocating this more active policy, two other men, the leaders of two parties, were advocating exactly the same thing: Hindenburg, the leader of the German National Party, and Hitler, the leader of the Nazi Party, were in agreement with Prelate Kaas.

It is of interest to note, further, that Dr. Kaas, after the First World War, was a fervent leader of a separatist movement, which was largely sponsored by Catholics in the Rhineland.  On March 10, 1919, he was so certain he would succeed in creating a Catholic State that he telegraphed to Cologne: “Greetings to the Rhenish Republic.”  It should not be forgotten that he was a close friend of Dr. Sepel, the man who was planning the creation of a Catholic Empire in Central Europe.

Dr. Kaas’s influence in the Party was much strengthened by the fact that he was an intimate friend of the Papal Nuncio in Berlin, Cardinal Pacelli.  Pacelli and Dr. Kaas, on several occasions, spent holidays together in Switzerland; and the opinions of Dr. Kaas were regarded as the reflection of the views of the Papal Nuncio.  The friendship with Dr. Kaas was one of the great incentives for the steady strides to the Right of the Centre Party, as Pacelli greatly encouraged Catholicism in Germany to adopt national activism wholeheartedly.  This is the more noteworthy, as upon the various occasions immediately after the First World War, the Vatican had refused to grant its support for similar demands from the Centre Party.  The Vatican began to give its support to the Nationalist Party from the year 1924 to 1928, and from 1928, all its support until 1933.

This should not be overlooked, as during that period the Vatican was shaping and giving concrete form to its new policy in the world.  Its various activities were all aimed at curbing Democracy and Socialism in the various countries; and these activities took shape and were carried out by the different instruments of political Catholicism in Europe.  It is worth noting a few of these forms, which, although varying in character, were all aiming at the same goal.  In Bavaria and Hungary, political Catholicism was legitimist; in Belgium and Austria, reactionary; in Portugal, Spain, and Poland, militarist and Fascist.  But all had one international framework, which was anti-Communism as sponsored by the Vatican.

In Germany, political Catholicism had to play no mean part in this international framework;  but it was necessary to wait and create favorable circumstances in which to bring about the necessary alterations in German policy.  The Vatican steered the Centre Party to the Right between the years 1924 and 1928; and steered it to dictatorship between 1928 and 1933.

The German Catholics came more and more under the influence of the clergy, often in conflict with the Centre Party, and that was done through the creation of Catholic Action.  At the same time the Catholic intelligentsia, which was already very antagonistic to Soviet Russia, was made more so by the direct encouragement of the Vatican.  At the Vatican, and amidst the German Catholics, it became clear that, besides their common enmity against Communist Russia, there was another great goal before them, and that was the restoration of the Russian Church into the bosom of the Catholic Church (see chapter on Russia and the Vatican).

This odium and this aggressive attitude toward Soviet Russia met and mingled with all those other elements in Germany which entertained the same hostility toward that country: Prussian Junkers, Pan-Germans, Nazis, and the like.  On this particular subject these groups were on common ground with the various leaders of political Catholicism, like Dr. Kaas, Chancellor Bruening, von Papen, etc.

But not all Catholic elements were in favor of this crusade.  There were several which, for purely political reasons, were against it.  After the defeat of the Centre Party there was violent controversy inside the Party itself concerning the future line to be adopted in social matters and in foreign policy; but, with Dr. Kaas and the Papal Nuncio in continual close touch, the clerical element won, and in December 1928 Dr. Kaas became the leader of the Centre Party.

That was the turning-point.  The Centre Party from now on was completely in the hands of the Vatican.  The rank and file continued in the belief that things were as before except that the Party was pursuing a more reactionary and nationalist policy; but in reality the Centre Party was being used for one purpose, and that was to destroy German Democracy, German Socialism, and to create a dictatorship which should fight Communism and guarantee the interest of the Church in that country.

Events began to take concrete form; the Vatican plan began to work in the realm of German politics.  Exactly a year had passed after Dr. Kaas’s election when Dr. Bruening, the fervent Catholic Deputy, was elected chairman of the parliamentary group of the Centre Party, and the plot spun by the Nationalist and Centre Parties began to unfold itself.

At the New Year’s reception in the palace of the Reich President, in 1930, Hindenburg was to see, for the first time, the man who had been recommended to him by the plotters—the most devout Dr. Bruening. They said that he would be the man who would rid them of democracy, who would render Parliament obsolete, and who would rule as a dictator with Article 48.

Hindenburg and Dr. Bruening discussed plans, Bruening raising several objections to getting rid of democracy too hastily.  In the end he accepted.  Hindenburg repeated another of his acts—a replica of that enacted with Erzberger several years previously.  “Suddenly Hindenburg began to weep those facile tears of old age; and with that historic gesture which began and ended so many of his relationships, he clasped Bruening’s hand in both his own.  ‘So many have forsaken me; give me your word that now, at the end of my life, you will not desert me’” (Wheeler-Bennet).

Bruening accepted.  On March 27, 1930, the Social Democrat Mueller resigned from the Reich Chancellorship.  The following day Bruening was charged with the formation of the new Cabinet.  On March 31 Hindenburg appointed Bruening Reich Chancellor, by the grace of the old General and backed by the German Army.

April 1, 1930, was an historical date for Germany.  The new Chancellor made his first appearance in the Reichstag.  The parliamentary régime in Germany had ended and the authoritarian régime had begun.  “My Cabinet has been formed with a view to concluding in the shortest possible time the tasks generally considered necessary in the interest of the Reich.  It will be the final attempt to carry them on with the assistance of the Reichstag,” said Bruening.  This meant that the new Chancellor did not appeal for support, but threatened Parliament with dissolution if that support was not forthcoming.  The Reichstag had not heard such words since the days of Bismarck.  The new Cabinet presented itself as “The Government of front-line soldiers,” and from then it was very important, in the political field in Germany, whether a man had served in the front-line trench or not; and when, where, and for how long.

The Hindenburg-Groener-Schleicher plan was at last actively at work.  Bruening had begun to carry on its mission.  He presented the Reichstag with a finance programme which was to be an excuse for him to deal with Parliament summarily.  Knowledge of this in detail is unimportant; but it provided for increased military expenditure, notwithstanding the fact that the State was in a bad financial condition, and it advocated a poll tax which became known as the “Nigger Tax.”

The Reichstag, after having attempted to come to some agreement with Bruening, rejected several points of the programme.  This is what Bruening and his companions had counted on.  That same evening Bruening decided to put the rejected points into force by an “Emergency Decree” issued by the Reich President.  The Emergency Decree was made possible by Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution.  This Article permitted the Reich President, “in the event of considerable disturbance to public order and security, or danger to public order or security,” to invest himself with certain dictatorial powers, including the right to issue laws by the so-called “Emergency Decree.”  The text of Article 48 made it very clear that the Emergency Decree was to be used only in case of grave internal unrest and tumult on a dangerous scale, factors which at that time, with Bruening, did not exist.

Two days after Bruening had issued his first “Emergency Decree,” Parliament asked for its withdrawal.  Bruening’s answer was to dissolve the Reichstag.  New elections were held during the following autumn.  And in the elections of September 1930 the shadow of Hitler appeared menacingly on the New Reichstag.  One hundred and seven Nazi Deputies entered the House.

Men and events played into the hands of the parliamentary dictator.  The Social Democrats, who had 142 seats in Parliament and who were now the strongest group in the Reichstag, began a policy of “toleration” toward Bruening, “lest worse befall.”  They were afraid of Hitler.  It was a suicidal policy.  The economic crisis did the rest.  Bruening’s economic policy, in the opinion of many, was disastrous.  Wages were reduced between 25 and 30 percent, whereas the reduction in cost of living, which had been promised, was only 10 percent; and while all servants of the State had their wages cut, it is significant that one section, the officers of the Reichswehr, was not touched.

When Bruening was made Chancellor there were 2,000,000 unemployed in Germany; when he left, there were 6,000,000, and the financial collapse was made worse by a self-imposed economic blockade!  Had it not been for this political and economic chaos there were many Germans who would not have been influenced by Hitler, who was one of those who welcomed these conditions joyfully.  As the debacle gathered impetus the rank and file of his Party increased, and there is no doubt but that Hitler’s promise of recovery, and the prospects he held out of a brighter future, brought him many unsuspecting adherents.

Bruening had several plans of an economic and political nature, by which he hoped to avoid paying reparations and at the same time arm the German Army.

In the spring of 1932 Bruening declared that, as Germany had completely disarmed, “she had the legal and moral right” to demand the disarmament of all other countries.  While he was speaking to the world in this way the Catholic Bruening went on with the secret arming of Germany.  During his Chancellorship there were several incidents bearing on this, one of the most outstanding being that connected with Carl von Ossietzky, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, who was tried and convicted for revealing the military activities behind the façade of civil aviation in Germany.  He was sentenced to a number of years’ imprisonment, charged with “the betrayal of military secrets.”

Bruening and his Defence Minister worked hand in hand on Germany’s secret armaments, which, under Bruening, began to develop at full speed.  He and his military friends gave particular attention to the air arm.  Germany’s illegal fighter and bomber formations were amplified and strengthened, and substantial subsidies were paid to aeroplane manufacturing firms, such as Junkers and Heinkels.  Already there were in existence no fewer than forty-four illegal training schools for military flying.  Plans, studied to the minutest details, were ready for the bombardment of the Maginot Line, as well as for Paris and London.  The leader of the “Air Department,” under Bruening, was Captain Brandeburgthe man who later led the Luftwaffe when London was bombed.

Meanwhile, Bruening, “the Hunger Chancellor,” as the German masses called him, was busy in the political field in connection with the rising Nazi Leader.  He did not see in Hitler an enemy; on the contrary, he saw in him an ally who, in his lust for power and as a rival dictator, would help to get rid of democracy, to arm Germany, and to fight Bolshevism.

Almost immediately after the election of 1930 Goering had long and secret negotiations with Minister Treviranus; and, at the same time, Roehm, the chief of Hitler’s S.A., was received by General von Schleicher.  They discussed the Army, regular and irregular, and agreed, as was later disclosed, to alter certain features of the Nazi civil Army.

After these preliminaries the two leaders met again in October 1930.  What was discussed has never been known in its entirety, but information leaked out which gave rise to the report that Bruening and Hitler had reached an agreement to share the government, and that Bruening would take Nazi Ministers into his Cabinet.  However, the agreement broke down over the number of such Ministers to be given office.

Both Hitler and Bruening denied that they had ever made such arrangements; but upon one occasion, when Bruening was holding a meeting of Catholics, he was interrupted by a gang of Nazis.  He threatened to make disagreeable revelations about what Hitler had confided to him of his plans if they continued to interfere with the Catholic meetings.  The Nazis replied that they, too, could make sensational disclosures about what Bruening had told Hitler.  Both, knowing themselves to be compromised, saw to it that there was no more friction to cause disclosures about the famous first meeting.

A year passed before the two leaders restarted their negotiations, in September 1931.  This time Bruening publicly thanked Hitler and his supporters for “the courtesy with which, despite all criticism, they treated my person.”

Hindenburg’s term of office was expiring, and Bruening needed assistance for Hindenburg’s re-election as Reich President, which he wished to secure through the Reichstag, and not through public election—a plan that was wholly unconstitutional.  This plan gave Hitler a key position, as, without his Party, such a plan could not be carried out, Hitler having 105 seats in the Reichstag.  Bruening knew what Hitler’s programme would be if he came to power.  Also he knew his secret plans: apart from which there came to light the notorious Boxheim document, which contained details for a policy of terror once the Nazis were in power.

That the Bruening Cabinet was behind Hitler was evident at the end of 1931, when a high Prussian official, a Democrat, saw the Minister of Interior, Groener, and asked for support in a revolt led by a Berlin leader of the Nazi S.A. against Hitler.  The opinion of Hitler held by the Government was shown plainly in Groener’s answer: “Hitler is a man in favor of legality, who has promised to respect the Constitution.  We must support him against others, who are all firebrands.”  Then to the astonishment of the interviewer, the Minister added: “Hitler will certainly keep his word.”  In order to lend additional weight, he said that this was not only his personal opinion, but the opinion of Bruening, the Chancellor, who entirely shared his view on the subject.

But before trying to come to an agreement with Hitler, Bruening made several preliminary moves.  He not only held Hitler in favor, but he spoke well of him and refused to take any steps against him, and in every way tried to smooth the path for him.  He arranged that Hitler should at last meet Hindenburg, as others had arranged for his own first meeting the old Field-Marshal; and, in addition, he asked the great Catholic industrialist Thyssen, one of the most generous financial friends of Hitler, to urge him to make a good impression on the President; for, should Hindenburg take a personal dislike to him, Hitler’s chances of office would be lessened.  He asked Thyssen to tell Hitler to be very moderate in speaking of his plans with the Reich President.

The meeting with the Field-Marshal took place, and Bruening and Hitler at last reached an agreement.  Bruening offered to resign within the space of twelve months in order to give way to a Cabinet where the key positions would be in the hands of the Nazis, and in return Hitler was to support the election of Hindenburg as Reich President, and open negotiations with the Vatican for a Concordat.

Bruening’s reason or postponing his resignation for a year satisfied Hitler, who accepted the offer.  Bruening’s argument was that if the Nazis were in the Government, the Powers at Geneva would not make concessions to Germany; and Bruening hoped at least to obtain from them complete abolition of reparation payments.  With this he persuaded Hitler to be patient.

After the meeting, Hitler declared that he had been “deeply impressed” by Bruening.  But, in addition to having been impressed by Bruening’s plan to deceive the Allies, there were the military plans put forward and the enormous armament programme as conceived by Catholic Bruening.  This was testified to later by the Nazi General von Epp, who declared that it was the “Reich Chancellor’s rearmament plans which had really decided Hitler.”

Bruening kept Dr. Kaas minutely informed of all his moves with Hitler, Dr. Kaas’s task being that of faithfully reporting to the Pope the progress of the transactions.  The Vatican asked Bruening to make sure that if Hitler was to be part of the new Government, the Nazis would not be hostile to true religion.”  But, for the second time, nothing came of all these negotiations.  At the most important interview with Hitler, in January 1932, and to which Bruening took with him von Groener and von Schleicher, Hitler appeared, accompanied by his S.A. chief Roehm, who was the leader of the most intransigent Nazis.  Bruening’s offer, to his consternation, was rejected; and also by the National German Party.

Seeing that collaboration with the Right-wing party of the extreme Right had failed, Bruening turned to the parties of the Left without any hesitation.  He succeeded in convincing the Social Democrats, who elected Hindenburg by forming a Republican block against the parties of the Right.  He put forward a slogan which would appeal to the Left: “Elect Hindenburg and defeat Hitler!”  The Social Democrats once more gave their millions of votes for the election of Hindenburg and defeated the plan of the National Party and of Hitler.

But the election that took place during the same year gave such a shock to the Vatican that the Pope and Cardinal Pacelli definitely decided to support the new political force which alone could prevent Germany from going Left.  The Old Catholic Party had definitely had its day.  Only drastic measures could stem the Red tide; that is, only Nazism.  The poll caused Pacelli and the Pope to decide to put in their weight with Hitler.  Out of a total vote of 35,148,470, the Nazi Party polled 11,737,391, the Catholic Party 5,326,583, and the Socialists and Communists 13,232,292.

The arch-enemies of the Catholic Church were making tremendous progress in Germany.  If they were allowed to go on unchecked, and unless an iron hand assumed power and stopped them, it would be too late.  And who could do that better than Hitler? From that moment, and behind the scenes, the Vatican worked with one main goal of influencing the issue so that Hitler would go into power.  Ungrateful for support of the Left, Hindenburg was no sooner elected than he turned sharply against it and pursued the most reactionary policy of an extreme Right-wing character, until, in the end, he offered Hitler power.

Meanwhile, Bruening was trying to destroy the Republic and restore the German Monarchy.  He was always in complete accord with the Church’s hostility to any form of popular government or republican régime, and with it in support of monarchies and authoritarian government.  This spirit, with which he was so thoroughly imbued, was heightened by his nationalistic outlook.  While Reich Chancellor of a Republic, he was working for its overthrow.  He had taken the Constitutional oath, and the Republican Constitution began solemnly: “The German Reich is a Republic.  Political power proceeds from the people.”  Bruening had sworn that he would uphold and defend such principles.  But Bruening did not think himself bound to the Republic.  He was influenced by three great motives: his conscience as a Catholic, which bade him restore the authority of the Monarchy, for “authority does not derive from the people,” as the Catholic Church has expressed repeatedly (see Chapter 6); and to this was added his strong nationalistic feelings and fear of the Reds, whose power he wanted to check.

Bruening had long conversations with Hindenburg, with the leaders of the National and Nazi Parties, and with the Crown Prince.  Hindenburg was to be elected Reich Regent for life by a two-thirds majority of the Reichstag, which would have been obtained within a coalition of the Right-wing parties; and after his death, the second son of the former Crown Prince was to be proclaimed Kaiser.

The Vatican was kept well informed, even before Bruening had taken active steps to put this plan into execution.  Cardinal Pacelli had left Germany—in 1930 he had been appointed Secretary of State by Pope Pius XI—but he was still the main authority on German political affairs.  He had given the plan his blessing, and the Vatican was in favor of it.  The one condition that the Vatican imposed upon Bruening and his companions was that it should not be compromised or involved openly in the plot in view of the international complications to which it would give rise.  Once the Monarchy was restored, the Catholic Church would give all her support through its clergy, Catholics, and Centre Party.  Bruening and the other conspirators agreed.  Outwardly, the procedure for the execution of the plan was not to come either from Bruening or the Catholic Party, or from anybody connected with the Vatican.

Once more the whole scheme was abortive.  This time owing to the opposition of Hindenburg himself, who could not harmonize his still existing loyalty to his old Kaiser with the plan.  But one result was achieved by Bruening while in power.  Under his deliberate guidance, generals, big industrialists, Junkers, and extreme Nationalists were put into key positions.  The military machine had reconquered Germany and become dominant—chiefly due to the moves of the Centre Party and, above all, to those of Bruening.

It has often been said that Bruening envisaged the restoration of the Monarchy in order to prevent Hitler from coming into power, but the facts do not bear out this contention.  Bruening’s original plan to which Hitler and Hugenberg, the leader of the Nationalist Party, subscribed, and were ready to give their support, was: first, to destroy the Republic; secondly, to restore the Monarchy; and thirdly, to form a Government entirely composed of Fascist and semi-Fascist parties, which were the Nationalist, the Nazis, and the Centre Party.  In order to achieve this last part of their programme Bruening promised Hindenburg, as well as Hitler and Hugenberg, that once the first two goals were reached, he, Bruening, would resign and make way for Hugenberg and Hitler.

The Pope and Cardinal Pacelli were not only kept informed, but, for the ultimate plan which was to follow the restoration of the Monarchy, they wanted an assurance that a really strong Government which “would not leave room for the Social Democrats” should rule the new Germany, always under the conditions that enough guarantees should be given for the safeguarding of the Church’s interests.  These pourparlers were carried out at this stage, chiefly through Dr. Kaas and the Papal Chamberlain, von Papen.

Here are the textual words of Bruening regarding his plans, spoken to Hindenburg:—


I give my word that as soon as it has reached the point when the transition from the Republic to the Monarchy is assured, I will resign, and then you can form a Cabinet entirely from the parties of the Right [Nationalist, Nazis, etc.].


In addition to this, Bruening had another project in mind.  This was to turn the Social Democrats out of office in Prussia.  Such a project had already taken shape before he asked their Party to support his plan to re-elect Hindenburg, who was nominated on April 10, 1932, and elected chiefly by the votes of the Social Democrats.

For several weeks the detailed plans were in the desk of Hindenburg.  After the overthrow of Social Democracy in Prussia, the attempt was made to form a strong Government of Catholics and Nazis.  Mgr. Kaas was in continual touch with the Catholic leader, Gregor Strasser, trying to come to a final agreement with Hitler.  But Hitler changed his mind at the last moment and the plan miscarried.  He did not co-operate with Bruening because he knew that the Catholic Chancellor was politically dead.  In fact, on May 30, 1932, Bruening fell.

Hindenburg dismissed Bruening on the advice of the generals and other forces which were working behind the scenes.  They were plotting for the destruction of the Democratic German Parliament and for the creation of a dictatorship.  The first phase had been reached.  The time was ripe for the second phase.

The new Cabinet was formed by General von Schleicher, even before Bruening’s dismissal.  But at this point the plotters once more were divided among themselves.  The generals wanted a man who should leave the door open to them at the first opportunity.  That man had been chosen and had accepted.  It was another Catholic, von Papen.  But Mgr. Kaas, and through him the Vatican, wanted Hitler and Hugenberg to come into power.

For a long time the Vatican had been negotiating with the intriguers, and when it was known that the Chancellorship had been offered to von Papen, and that it had been accepted, it instructed Mgr. Kaas, who was the leader of the Centre Party, to ask him to refuse it.  This von Papen promised to do, and actually swore to Kaas that he would reject the offer.  When, however, Hindenburg pressed him once more and von Papen accepted, Mgr. Kaas and the Vatican reproached him for having broken his promise, to which he gave a typical Jesuitical answer.  The first time, he said, the President offered him the Chancellorship as a member of the Catholic Party, and in accordance with his promise he refused; the second time the offer was made to him as a private individual, and he accepted.

Franz von Papen belonged to a Westphalian Catholic family; he was rich, and in spite of the disreputable character for which he was notorious, he had great influence in the inner councils of the Catholic Party and at the Vatican.  He was the owner of the main organ of German Catholicism.

The new Chancellor was heartily supported by the great Catholic industrialists, the aristocracy, and high State officials, all of whom knew that his nomination was but a last step to that at which they had been aiming for so long.  In spite of the set-back suffered by Prelate Kaas and Cardinal Pacelli in Rome, matters would have taken the right turn for them at the right time but for the rank and file of the Catholic Party, which was composed of workers.  They turned against the leading figures of the Party, its policy, and the new Chancellor, with as much strong feeling as the Social Democrats, and for a time the leadership of the Party fell into their hands.  This was allowed, as the fate of the Party was already sealed.

The significance of the rise to power of von Papen was not realized except for the few intriguers in Berlin, and the still fewer in the in the Vatican.  It was the conflict of the two tendencies in the German Catholic Party which gave the coup de grace to Bruening.  Those who had sponsored the second course, headed by von Papen, had persuaded the various generals and their colleagues to “work” on Hindenburg to dismiss Bruening from the Chancellorship.  The two hostile camps within the high ranks of the leading German Catholics were divided on the issue whether definitely to abandon the Centre Party and allow its extinction, as decided by the Pope, or whether to allow it to continue and take its share in an administration headed by Hitler.  In such an administration, the Nazi, the Nationalist German Party, and the Centre Party were to be full partners.  The alternative was to subscribe to the death of the Centre Party and come to an agreement with Hitler about the interests of Catholicism and of the Church in Germany.

The first group was headed by Bruening himself.  He had upon more than one occasion let the Vatican know of his objection to the plan of the Pope to get rid of the Catholic Party which, for two generations, had served Catholicism well, as the oldest, most powerful, and steady Catholic party in Europe.  On several occasions he had promised to resign in order to give way to Hitler, provided the Centre Party should be allowed to play its rôle.  Even after his dismissal, Bruening informed Kaas, and through him the Vatican, that he would be ready to accept a post in the new Cabinet if Hitler were made Chancellor.  Like Hugenberg, the leader of the Nationalists, Bruening was under the illusion that Hitler would work with them as equals.  This policy, which had been condemned ever since the great defeat of 1928, was not accepted.  Kaas and the other Catholics who had accepted the Vatican’s decision were made to understand by Cardinal Pacelli that something had to be done before “unforeseen events could interfere with our plans.”  Kaas and his accomplices set in motion the necessary political machinery behind Hindenburg, and Bruening, who was already in disfavor with the German masses and with the clique which had put him into power, was dismissed.

The Chancellorship of von Papen was responsible for intrigues of all kinds which originated in Berlin, between the groups of generals and the leaders of the various parties: the Right, the Centre Party, Mgr. Kaas, von Papen, the Vatican, and Hitler.  The Vatican, Mgr. Kaas, and von Papen himself worked hand in hand to see that Hitler should get into power without any serious opposition.  They were to prepare the way and ease the path of Hitler to the Chancellorship.

Von Papen was soon replaced by another Catholic, General von Schleicher.  But the General found himself in sympathy with the Socialists and threatened to expose transactions which would have embarrassed high Catholics and the Vatican; and, last but not least, the corruption of certain dealings in which Hindenburg and von Papen themselves were involved.  It was then that von Papen persuaded the old President to make Hitler Chancellor.

Later von Papen, during a lecture to a Catholic audience in Cologne, declared that: “Providence destined me to render an essential service to the birth of the Government of the national regeneration” (November 12).  At the beginning of January 1933 von Papen met Hitler in the house of a Cologne banker and told him that the time had arrived when they should work together; the men and machinery that would put him into power were ready, and the Vatican would support him.  In return it was expected that, once in power, he, Hitler, would destroy the Communist and Socialist Parties as a preliminary and discuss a Concordat with the Catholic Church.  Hitler promised.  The two reached an agreement.  Hitler would become Chancellor, and von Papen Deputy Chancellor.  Von Papen then persuaded Hindenburg to ask Hitler to become Chancellor.  On January 30, 1933, Hitler, a Catholic by birth, was made Chancellor of Germany.






When Hitler was made Reich Chancellor it was the beginning of the end for German Catholicism.  Not many days had gone by before he asked for an “Empowering Enactment” which would give him dictatorial powers within legal lines.  As to obtain this it was necessary for him to have a two-thirds majority in the Reichstag, the success or the failure of his demand depended upon whether or not the Catholic Party voted for him.  In order to ingratiate himself with the Vatican and the highly placed Catholic leaders, Hitler, who had already secured the unconstitutional suppression of the Communist Party’s mandates, began negotiations for the support of the Centre Party.  These negotiations started in the middle of March 1933.  Bruening himself and Prelate Kaas conducted them personally, and informed the Vatican of their progress in every detail.

Among other conditions exacted of Hitler by Bruening was that he should give a written statement to the effect that the Empowering Act should not override the veto of the President.  He advised the Chancellor on what lines he should adopt in his Foreign policy.  Prelate Kaas discussed and obtained the promise for which the Vatican had worked so hard for so many years—that, at last, a Concordat should be concluded.  Hitler promised that the Catholic Church should have a special position of privilege in the New Reich if the Vatican would use its influence to secure him the vote of the Centre Party.  The Vatican agreed, and Hitler made a further promise that in the inaugural declaration of his Government he would make a public declaration that would give effect to the promised privilege.

On March 23, 1933, the Reichstag met at the Kroll Opera House, in Berlin.  In spite of a small Catholic opposition, the Catholic Party, led by Bruening and Kaas, voted for Hitler.  They had voted the death sentence of the German Parliament and for the suicide of their Catholic Party.

On May 17, 1933, Hitler summoned the Reichstag once more and obtained a resolution subscribed, not only by the Nazis, the German Nationalists, and the Catholics, but by the Social Democrats, to the effect that “These representatives of the German people . . . place themselves unitedly behind the Government.”

Meanwhile, von Papen had begun negotiations in Rome for the signing of a Concordat between Hitler and the Holy See.  The time had been well chosen for negotiations—April, May, and June 1933.  Besides von Papen, another leader of the Catholic Party who had accepted the view of the Vatican on political Catholicism in Germany went to Rome, where ways and means were discussed by which to carry out the Vatican sentence with as little shock as possible to the German Catholics.  During his stay in Rome, Prelate Kaas, in a public declaration, described Hitler as “the bearer of high ideals who will do all that is necessary to save the nation from catastrophe.”

Hitler himself, seeing the Vatican on his side, kept his promise about the Concordat, and stated on March 23, 1933: “Just as we see in Christianity the unshaken foundation of the moral life, so it is our duty to cultivate friendly relations with the Holy See and to develop them” (Universe, March 31, 1933).

By this time the Vatican wholeheartedly favored the Nazis.  The Pope sent orders to the German bishops, who were assembled at Fulda, that they were to instruct their clergy to support Hitler.  The impartial Annual Register has already been quoted, in which it stated that “the gigantic swing-over of the Catholic middle class in West and South Germany to the Nazi Party broke the power of the old middle-class Catholic Parties” (1933).  A glance at the electoral statistics will show that the Catholic (plus the Jewish) vote did not decrease; but there were 4,000,000 new voters.  Many Catholics had hesitated, hating the Jews and the Socialists, but not daring to vote for the Nazis.  But the order came from Rome that hostility to the Nazis must cease.  (This, according to the Catholic Revue de Deux Mondes of January 15, 1935: Le Catholicisme et la politique mondiale.)

Meanwhile, Hitler had begun to prepare for the election.  He paralyzed the Communist and Socialist Parties by suppressing their papers and imprisoning their leaders.  Not a single leader of a non-Nazi party was allowed facilities to appeal to the country except Bruening, who urged the German Catholics to vote for Hitler.

On February 27 the Nazis burned the Reichstag in order to rouse the millions of apathetic Germans against the Communists.  On the same day the Communist Party was banned and thousands of its members murdered or put into concentration camps.  On the 5th of March there were new elections.  All Germany rushed to the poll, and, with the help of the many Catholics who voted for them, the Nazis got a larger number of votes and deputies than any other party.

Hitler struck another bargain with the Vatican before signing the Concordat.  The Vatican was not to protest against his internal policy in dealing roughly with the “Communists, Socialists, and Jews, or even with some Catholic organizations” (presumably of the Left).  The Vatican agreed.  Hitler then commenced to deal with his enemies, who, incidentally, were the enemies of the Catholic Church.  The most appalling persecution of Jews, Communists, and Socialists began.  By March 1933 Hitler had suppressed practically the whole of the Opposition Press; all Communist papers were banned, and 175 of the 200 Socialist papers were suspended.  This move was welcomed with undisguised rejoicing by the Vatican, especially as it had been agreed beforehand that the Catholic Party alone would be allowed to exist, at least for the time being.  The pogroms which took place all over Germany shocked the civilized world and brought protests from many countries.

The “authority” which claims to be the moral authority of the world was practically the only one which did not utter a single word in defense of the persecuted, or of reproach to the Nazis.  It would be well to remember that this was the same “authority” which asked the Spanish people to disobey their Government, and began an armed revolt in Mexico calling for a holy crusade against Communism.

During the reign of terror, Hitler began to co-ordinate the Catholic organizations, while at the same time, through the pressure of the clergy, the demand for Catholics to enter the Nazi Party and organizations increased by leaps and bounds.  Despite the fact that the local Nazis continued to treat the Catholics roughly through Germany, the Catholic Party could do nothing, as it had the Catholic Hierarchy against it and they knew what was passing between Hitler and the Vatican.  In desperation they put themselves entirely in the hands of Bruening, knowing of his opposition to the dissolution of German political Catholicism.  Against all probability, Bruening still hoped that he might give a new lease of life to the Party by showing the Vatican that, through the influence of the Centre Party, the Church could bring pressure to bear on Hitler, and in that way make the opportunity for political Catholicism to govern with the Nazis.

Bruening asked to see Hitler on this matter.  At the end of June 1933 a new meeting between them was arranged.  The announcement was made, but eventually Hitler cancelled it.  The news he received from Rome caused him to do this.  The Vatican and von Papen had brought the negotiation of a Concordat to a successful conclusion, and with this the fate of the Centre Party had been settled definitely.

The Catholic Party, which had defeated Bismarck, and in which Hitler saw his greatest enemy, was given orders direct from Rome to dissolve itself and thus clear the way to absolute Nazi dictatorship.  On the evening of July 5, 1933, the Centrum issued a decree for its own dissolution—in fact its own death sentence.  It was worded as follows:


The political upheaval has placed German political life on an entirely new foundation, which leaves no room for Party activities.  The German Centre Party, therefore, immediately dissolves itself, in agreement with Chancellor Hitler.


Many Catholics protested and criticized the conduct of the Vatican, which tried to appease and explain.  In a semi-official statement it replied:


The determination of Chancellor Hitler’s Government to eliminate the Catholic Party coincides with the Vatican’s desire to disinterest itself from political parties and confine the activities of Catholics to the Catholic Action organization outside any political party.


The Secretary of State, Pacelli, made this significant statement:


On account of the exclusion of Catholics as a political party from the public life of Germany, it is all the more necessary that the Catholics, deprived of political representation, should find in the diplomatic pacts between the Holy See and the National Socialist Government guarantees which can assure them, at least, the maintenance of their position in the life of the nation.  This necessity is felt by the Holy See, not only as a duty towards itself, but as a grave responsibility before the German Catholics, so that these cannot reprove the Vatican for having abandoned them in a moment of crisis.


When Mgr. Kaas, the leader of the Catholic Party, went to Rome he was instructed by the Pope to declare his support of Hitler, thus hinting to his followers what they should do.  Whether or not he was personally convinced of the ideas he expressed, it is impossible to say; but the fact remains that, after interviews with the Pope and his Secretary of State, to the great surprise of many he made the following declaration:


Hitler knows well how to guide the ship.  Even before he became Chancellor I met him frequently and was greatly impressed by his clear thinking, by his way of facing realities while upholding his ideals, which are noble.

It is wrong to insist today on what Hitler said as a demagogue, when the one thing that interests us is to know what he does today and tomorrow as a Chancellor. . . . It matters little who rules so long as order is maintained.  The history of the last few years has well proven in Germany that the democratic parliamentary system was incapable.


The German Hierarchy was instructed to support the Vatican’s policy and the new Nazi régime, and the bulk of the Hierarchy obeyed.  The following is a typical declaration by one of the heads of the German Catholic Church, Cardinal Faulhaber:


In the Liberal epoch it was proclaimed that the individual had the right to live his own life as he chose; today the masters of power [Hitler] invite the individuals to subordinate themselves to general interests.  We declare ourselves partisans of the doctrine and we rejoice in the change of mentality.


And the Archbishop of Bamberg, who addressed himself to the Catholic Press of Germany, advocated that all should


second energetically and sincerely the efforts of the National Government to realize the reconstruction of Germany and renew its economic and spiritual life.”


The Concordat between the Vatican and Hitler consisted of thirty-five Articles, and it amalgamated the various clauses and terms in the Concordat signed individually by Prussia, Bavaria, and Baden.  With the new Concordat the Catholic Church was making a pact in which the whole of Germany was included; and one which allowed her to impose her edicts on numerous German states that were unwilling and had refused to have any agreement with the Vatican.

All the main aims of the Catholic Church with regard to a modern State are to be found in the Concordat.  The Church, in accordance with its new policy, agreed to keep priests and religion out of “politics,” whereas the State agreed to permit the Catholic religious associations, clerical and lay, as long as they confined themselves to religious activities.  Education, marriage, the nomination of bishops, were all dealt with.  Several years before, denominational schools had been the goal which the Vatican attempted to reach when it ordered the Centre Party to form a Government with the Right Parties, while boycotting the Social Democrats.  The Vatican’s aims were at last to be fulfilled by Hitler.

In appreciation for having made her full partner with the State, the Catholic Church asked God’s blessing on the Nazi Reich.


On Sundays and Holy days, special prayers, conforming to the Liturgy, will be offered during the principal Mass for the welfare of the German Reich and its people, in all episcopal, parish and conventual churches and chapels of the German Reich (Art. 30).


And finally, the Order was given to all the Catholic Church spiritual generals—namely, the bishops—not only to be loyal to the Nazi régime, but to work to the effect that all the thousands of clergy under each bishop should be as loyal as the bishop himself; and furthermore, that they should see that no priest, or member of the Catholic Hierarchy, was hostile to, or opposed, the Nazi régime.  Here are the actual words:


Before Bishops take possession of their diocese they are to take an oath of fealty to the Reich Representative of the State concerned; or to the President of the Reich, according to the following formula: Before God and on the Holy Gospels, I swear and promise, as becomes a Bishop, loyalty to the German Reich and to the State of . . . . I swear and promise to honor the legally constituted Government, and to use the clergy of my diocese to honor it.  In performance of my spiritual office, and in my solicitude for the welfare and the interests of the German Reich, I will endeavor to avoid all detrimental acts which might endanger it (Art. 16).


Taken as a whole, the Concordat was, to say the least of it, highly favorable to the Vatican.  Germany is not a Catholic country.  The Catholics form but a third of the whole population.  Allowing for the addition of about 7,000,000 from Austria, the total population of Germany in 1938 was 77,000,000, of which the Protestants formed 52 percent and the Roman Catholics only 36 percent.

The Vatican had now reached the principle aims of the Catholic Church in Germany—the disappearance of a Republic, the destruction of a democracy, the creation of absolutism, an intimate partnership of Church and State, in a country where more than half the population was Protestant.  The principles expounded in the various encyclicals by the Popes had worked to bring about these political events.

After the Concordat was signed, the German Hierarchy and highly placed Catholics thanked Hitler, and promised they would co-operate wholeheartedly with the Nazi Government.  The Supreme Head of the German Church, Cardinal Bertram, speaking in the name of all archbishops and bishops of Germany, sent a message assuring Hitler that they were “glad to express as soon as possible their good wishes and their readiness to co-operate to the best of their ability with the new Government.”  Here are the actual words:


The Episcopate of all the German Dioceses, as is shown by its statements to the public, was glad to express as soon as it was made possible after the recent change in the political situation through the declarations of Your Excellency its sincere readiness to co-operate to its best ability with the new Government, which has proclaimed as its goal to promote Christian education, to wage a war against Godlessness and immorality, to strengthen the spirit of sacrifice for the common good and to protect the rights of the Church.  (From a letter of His Eminence Cardinal Bertram to Chancellor Herr Hitler after the conclusion of the Concordat between the Vatican and the German Government.  See Universe, August 18, 1933).


But the spirit of Totalitarianism, which desires to be always supreme, must be above all else.  How was it possible, therefore, that two Totalitarianisms—that of the Vatican and that of the Nazis—should work in harmony?  Sooner or later the conflict would have started.

It broke out almost immediately; and began, as usual, over the control of the youth, of education, etc., of which both Church and Fascism wanted absolute supervision and management.  The Nazis began to attack Catholic associations and Catholic schools, and the next two years were characterized by “peevishness and querulousness on the part of the Church and insolent defiance on the part of the Nazis” (The Vatican and Nazism).

Meanwhile, in the summer of 1934, there was the famous “Blood Purge.”  Thousands of people—Nazis, Nazi-Catholics, and non-Nazis, among whom were the Catholic leaders von Schleicher and Strasser—were murdered.  “I am the law,” Hitler declared upon that occasion, while they were executed in cold blood without even a trial.

Neither the Vatican nor the German Hierarchy said a single word in condemnation.

In 1935 Hitler scored his first national-international victory.  The Saar province had been under the administration of the League of Nations for a number of years, and the time had come to settle the issue of its return by a plebiscite.  It was right that German territory should be returned to the German Reich, and no one would question it.

The Vatican, which exerted a great religious and social influence in the Saar, the whole region being eminently Catholic, did not try to restrain Catholic voters from voting to be under the Hitler Reich.  Had the Vatican been against Hitler, as it claims now, it could easily have prevented the Catholics there from voting for its return to the Reich.  But it did nothing of the kind.  On the contrary, it instructed the Catholic Hierarchy to support the plebiscite, and Catholic Saar voted for Hitler by 477,119 votes against 48,637, mostly Jews.  Patriotism and Catholicism went hand and hand.

In the case of the Saar it was natural for a German Catholic to wish for his province to return to the Fatherland in spite of Hitler.  But the issue became more dubious when the Rhineland’s turn arrived.

On March 7, 1936, Hitler, defying France, as Mussolini had so recently defied the League of Nations, with armed forces occupied the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland.  Great Britain urged France not to oppose Hitler, who was once more successful.  Here also the Catholics enthusiastically supported their incorporation into Nazi Germany, and Catholic churches thanked God.  From the pulpits there poured out a stream of patriotism, and church bells pealed throughout the Rhineland.

It was not until two months later that Hitler, by a plebiscite, asked the country for its approval of what he had already accomplished.  What had been his most outstanding deeds?  He had violated his promise to keep a democratic Constitution; he had violently and bloodily suppressed all other parties; filled the jails and concentration camps with his political opponents; executed thousands of people without the remotest vestige of a trial; initiated incredible pograms against the Jews; secured a hold on all the German youth, including the Catholics; destroyed all Catholic organizations; broken his word over the Concordat with the Vatican; and he was at that very moment in open conflict with the Catholic Church owing to the impossibility of harmonizing his Totalitarianism with that of the Vatican.

Yet the Vatican once more instructed the Catholic Hierarchy to support Hitler.  Had the Pope, at this time, been against Hitler and Nazism, he could have influenced the millions of Catholics throughout Germany, if not to vote openly against Hitler, at least to abstain from voting.  Instead, the German bishops recommended the Catholics to vote for him.  A letter issued by the German bishops was drafted in the Vatican itself, and was characteristic of its “subtlety,” or, to use a more apt word, jesuitism.  In this letter the bishops, having acknowledged that Hitler had been, and still was, persecuting the Church, facts they could not deny, recognized a “painful conflict of conscience.”  They could say no less when it was plain to the entire nation that Hitler was hostile to the Catholic Church.  At this time, had the bishops ordered the German Catholics to vote for Hitler, they would have appeared to approve of “measures antagonistic to the Church” which Hitler had promulgated.  Consequently, while the letter left the Catholics free to vote as they would, those who wished to cast their vote for Hitler were offered the following formula to salve their conscience: “We give our vote to the Fatherland, but that does not signify approval of matters for which we could not conscientiously be held responsible” (Catholic Times, March 27, 1936.)

It should be carefully noted that the Vatican did not advise that Catholics should not vote for Hitler; nor did it advise them to have scruples about the murders, pograms, and injustices committed by him.  It merely offered, to those in doubt as to what they should do, the palliative that they might eventually refrain from voting for “measures antagonistic to the Church.”  This had always been the real and only cause of the conflict between the Vatican and Nazism, from the beginning until its downfall: “For measures antagonistic to the Church.”  This had always been the real and only cause of the conflict between the Vatican and Nazism from the beginning until its downfall: “For measures antagonistic to the Church.”  Throughout the Nazi régime the Catholic Church never spoke against Nazism as a political system.  When it was compelled to protest about certain measures taken by Nazism, it spoke in the most ambiguous terms, and never once used the thunderous fulminations it has used so persistently against Communism and Russia.  Last, but not least, the Church protested against Nazism only when her interests were involved.

The year 1936 brought a new heightened tension between the Vatican and Nazism, and this was because the activities of the Catholic Church were being hampered.  On the occasion of the opening of the International Catholic Press Exhibition, the Pope, after the usual denunciation of Soviet Russia, protested mildly against Nazi Germany.  These were the words he dared to say against Nazism:


The second absentee is Germany (the first being Soviet Russia), since in that country, contrary to all justice and truth, by means of an artificial and intentional confusion between religion and politics, the very existence of the Catholic Press in contested.


When, in the name year (1936), the Pope made a speech about the Spanish Civil Warafter having condemned the Red peril and Soviet Russia in the strongest terms—he once more protested against Nazi Germany because Nazism would not allow the Catholic Press to be an equal partner with the Nazi Press.  He said:


How can the Catholic Church do other than complain, when she sees that at every step she takes in the approach to the Catholic family, to Catholic youth, that is to those very quarters that have most need of her, she meets with difficulties?  How can the Catholic Church act otherwise, when the Catholic Press is fettered, and ever more and more restricted; that Press whose office is . . . to defend those convictions which the Catholic Church, as the exclusive guardian of Christianity genuine and entire, alone possesses and teaches?


That was the essence of the conflict between Nazism and Catholicism; and this was put into words by the same Pope a few years before, when addressing members of the Sturmschar (élite) of the Catholic Young Men’s Association, he said plainly what Catholicism’s task was in Nazi Germany:


The hour has come and has already been long upon us when, in Germany especially, it is not enough to say, “Christian life, Christian doctrine.”  We must say “Christian Catholic life, Christian Catholic doctrine.”  For what remains of Christianity, of real Christianity, without Catholicism, without also the Catholic Church, without Catholic doctrine, without Catholic life?  Nothing, or almost nothing.  Or better, in the end one can and must say, not merely a false Christianity but a true paganism (Easter, 1934).4


Here is the fundamental reason why the Vatican protested against Nazism.  It was only because Hitler would not allow the Catholic Church to sponsor Catholic life as an integral part of the Reich.  In the same year, at Christmas, the Pope once more rebuked Nazism because, although it claimed to be fighting the Red peril, it was not co-operating wholeheartedly with the Church in Germany.

The Pope first raised his voice in warning with reference to the spread of Communism in Spain, and said that Communist atrocities in that country ought to open the eyes of Europe and the whole world to the fate that would be theirs unless they adopted effective counter-measures.  He then continued:


But among those who proclaim themselves the defenders of order [Nazi Germany] against the spread of Godless Communism, and who even pretend to leadership in this matter, it gives us pain to see . . . how, at the same time, they seek to destroy and extinguish faith in God and Divine Revelation in the hearts of men, and especially in the heart of Youth. . . . Rather do they destroy that which is the most effective and most decisive means of protection against the very evil which is feared, and, consciously or otherwise, work hand in hand with the enemy they think, or at least claim, to combat.


After the speech, the Secretary of State for the Vatican declared:


It would be impossible to express more clearly the inability of National Socialism to form a true rampart against Bolshevism.


Cardinal Pacelli, later Pope Pius XII, on more than one occasion protested along the same lines.  In the autumn of 1936,  he, as Secretary of State, in a speech of welcome to the International Congress of the Catholic Press, complained of the suppression of the Catholic papers in Germany, and said:


We cast troubled glances toward Germany.  We feel deep regret that no official representative of the German Catholic Press has appeared at this Congress.  After the last Pastoral of the German bishops it is incomprehensible that the Catholic Press in Germany should be intimidated, strangled, and obstructed in its apostolic struggle against Bolshevism.


Cardinal Pacelli’s complaint was because the Catholic Press was not allowed to plant the seed of hatred in the German people against their great neighbor Soviet Russia, and in this way carry on their fight against Communism and Socialism.

It was not only the Pope and his Secretary of State who dared not attack Nazism as a political social economic system, but only dared to attack it when it affected the Church adversely.  Various cardinals abroad, as well as cardinals and bishops in Germany, adopted the same attitude.

The following, among other utterances, are worth attention: In 1935, when Cardinal Faulhaber, of Munich, delivered a sermon there, he protested mildly against breaches of the Concordat, but uttered no protest against the hundreds of thousands of political prisoners in concentration camps.  His whole protest consisted in the analysis of the fundamental errors that are at the root of National Socialist opposition to the Church; and he insisted upon the recognition of the position of the Church and the Papacy and the part which they must play in teaching the youth, clergy, and laity.  “The Government must protect and co-operate with the Catholic Church,” said the Cardinal, “as the Catholic Church alone is the bearer of redemption and the guardian of the glorious heritage of truth.”

In May 1933 the Bavarian bishops issued to their flocks a call for co-operation with the Nazi Government; but they uttered the following words of admonition to Nazism with a view to their co-operating with the Church, “lest evil should befall”:


History teaches us that, just as harmonious co-operation between Church and State is necessary and beneficial, so disastrous effects follow when the State abuses its power in order to interfere with the life of the Church.  In the instance Church and State are fused together; in the other the Church is degraded to the state of a servant to the State. . . . On no account can we ever agree to universal (nondenominational) elementary schools in any form.


After having spoken about the importance of the Catholic Youth Association, and asked the Nazis to allow the Church to co-operate with Hitler, the Bavarian bishops said: “We are not advocates of a form of criticism which combats and discounts all State authority.”  But the most significant sentence of the whole “call” of the bishops was the last one: “No one may hold back from the great work of reconstruction, and no one should be prevented from participation in it.”

In a decree of July 1933 Bishop Matthias Ehrenfried, of Wurzburg, urged all clergy of Lower Franconia to observe due subordination toward the Nazi Government.  Here are the textual words:


Under present conditions it is possible that subordinate officials might initiate wrongful and interfering measures which might militate against our co-operation with the national movement and disturb our sympathetic attitude toward it.  It is not, however, the duty of the individual priest to judge of such matters or to redress them. . . . In so far as necessity arises, such questions will be dealt with by the higher ecclesiastical authority.


In October 1933 Cardinal Bertram expressed anxiety because Hitler did not allow the Catholic Church the freedom he had promised, and also because Hitler had dealt with Catholic politicians as if they had been Socialists or Communists.  Among others, here are a few significant words:


I refer to the anxiety which is felt on behalf of those leaders whose aim it was, as a matter of religious duty, to combat Marxism and Bolshevism in a manner appropriate to the form of government then existing.


Continuing, the Cardinal asked Hitler not to consider Catholic politicians his enemies, as they were quite the contrary; and those who had been deprived of their liberty should be set free and not treated as Socialists and Communists:


We urgently request authoritative quarters in the Reich and State to make an earnest, benevolent, and early revision of the harsh measures which have been put into operation [in regard to Catholic politicians].


Bishop Wilhelm Berning of Osnabruck, in a sermon on New Year’s Eve (1935), said that the Church wanted to co-operate with Nazism, but could not because Nazism “sought to tear Catholicism out of the hearts of the young.”

In 1935 Bishop Matthias Ehrenfried, of Wurzburg, after having said that the Church would like to co-operate with Nazism, had to protest, as Nazism is “centralizing” Catholic Associations and schools, “even suppressing them as if they had been Communist.”  He ended the pastoral with these words: “Bestir yourself and defend the full rights of your Mother Church.”

Cardinal Schutle, of Cologne, remonstrated with the Government for not allowing the Catholic Church to co-operate with it, and protested because Catholic freedom was being hampered and Catholics treated as if they were enemies of the Government (1935).

The Archbishop of Freiburg offered his protest because Nazis were not allowing full freedom to the Catholic Church in regard to the schools.

The combined pastoral letter of the bishops assembled at Fulda (August 1935) protested to the Government only because “the Holy Scriptures and even the Gospels are no longer to count for anything,” and “in place of the Catholic Church, a so-called ‘Rome-free National Church’ is to be set up.”  They also protested because “the Nazis accuse the Church of ‘political Catholicism.’”  The bishops ended the letter with the words: “Catholics of Germany, in recent years you have often asked, ‘Must we Catholics then approve of everything in our Fatherland?’”  And the bishops answer later: “Catholics are instigating no revolt, nor are they offering violent resistance.  This is so well known that, at all times, those who wish to gain an easy victory, particularly attack Catholics.”

Bishops and cardinals protested because the Nazis permitted that “the right atmosphere is set up for a Kultur-kampf.”

Later, because the Nazis did not honor Article 5 of the Concordat, which afforded protection to the reputation and persons of the clergy, Cardinal Bertram protested because “hundreds of thousands of books and pamphlets against the Catholic Church have been distributed in all districts, not excepting the most isolated village.”

Bishop Galen, of Munster, in a sermon at Buer (March 1936), asked the Fuehrer how Catholics could co-operate with him when religion was not respected: “How can Christian parents allow their children to take part in the labor camps of Hitler Youth meetings, when they know that religious guidance is lacking?”

Bishop Rackl, of Eichstat, protested because the Church is not as free as Hitler promised: “It is indeed laid down in the Concordat that the Catholic Church should enjoy full freedom, but you know that this is, unfortunately, not the case.”

In 1936 the German bishops, assembled at Fulda, protested because, among other things, the Catholic Press was not free, and because of “interdenominational relationship”:


We cannot understand why the Catholic Press is restricted to purely ecclesiastical and religious matters by decrees.  We cannot understand why our growing German Youth is so frequently withdrawn from Christian influence in order to be inoculated with ideas that are destructive of their faith in Christ or, by mixed interdenominational relationship, deprived of the vital force of their Catholic convictions.


In 1936 the Bavarian bishops once more protested because Nazism seemed to consider Catholicism the next enemy after Bolshevism.

On New Year’s Eve, in 1936, Cardinal Faulhaber, in Munich, preached a violent sermon against Bolshevism and Soviet Russia, asking all men of goodwill to fight for the overthrow of Bolshevism.  Then he asked them to protect Catholicism in Germany.  He said that propaganda in Germany should incite against enemies and not be used “to drive as many as possible into leaving the Church.”  Later, the same Cardinal protested because “the correspondence of bishops is confiscated, Church property is seized and processions forbidden.”

In 1938, Cardinal Faulhaber again protested because, “next year the State subsidy for priests will be curtailed or even completely withdrawn.”

Bishop Galen, of Munster, in 1938, protested because: “In the last few months the National Socialist Party speakers have frequently called upon the Church to confine herself to the next life. . . .”

In the Lenten Pastoral of the Bishop of Berlin, Count von Preysing and the bishops protested because the Church was accused of political activities.  “Even the condemnation of Christ by Pontius Pilate was made” for political reasons.

Archbishop Grober, of Freiburg, protested because Hitler, in spite of all his promises, had deceived them: “When it was declared a few years ago that Marxism was dead, this gave rise to the hope that the de-Christianization of the German people would also cease.  We have been deceived.”

Protests continued to be made because the Nazis interfered with the schools and with the Catholic Youth; because Nazis did not show respect for the clergy; because cartoons against the Pope were published; because the Nazis restricted the freedom of the clergy to collect money at funerals; because they seized property; because they dared to bring before tribunals priests and monks accused of sodomy; because Nazis laid down, in paragraph 15 of the Reich Law of Collections that church collections must be confined to those taken during Divine Service, etc.

There have been thousands of protests from the Catholic Church, the Pope, the Vatican, and the German Hierarchy directed against the Nazis, but they were not protests against Nazism as such!  They were not protests against the monstrous conception of Nazism because of its political-social system; because of its concentration camps; because of its persecution of Liberals, Democrats, Socialists, Communists, or Jews.  Nor was it because of the loss of independence of Austria and Czechoslovakia; nor for the attack on Poland, the invasion of Denmark, Belgium, Holland, France, the attack on Russia, and for all that Nazism has done to the world.  The Church only protested when her spiritual or material interests were at stake.  And almost all her protests were worded in a mild form and were accompanied by promises and demands for co-operation with Hitler.  It was certainly not because the Church did not want to help that there existed such hostility between her and Nazism.  Far from it.  These protests and offers of co-operation continued from the rise until the fall of the régime, the Church imploring that she be allowed to fight by Hitler’s side against Soviet Russia and Bolshevism, and help to bring about the attack against that country.

Thus, in following the progress of Nazism in its path of conquest, it should be remembered that the Catholic Church in Germany never spoke against it except when her interests were at stake.

Ever since his rise to power Hitler continued to treat the Catholic Church inside the Reich as he thought fit, regardless of her protestations, but always keeping in mind the fact that it had great influence in other countries and could be made to serve his political aims within, as well as outside, Germany.

Measures within the Reich were bent on centralizing all the spiritual and cultural energies of the nation into one solid Nazi block; and the Catholic Church, like any other institution, had to submit to a greater or lesser extent.  But continual friction was bound to result when the Church, a spiritual Totalitarianism itself, was brought into such close contact with the political Totalitarianism of the Nazis.  Although the Church and Nazism had the same formidable enemies to fight—Bolshevism, Soviet Russia, Democracy, etc.—their hostility to each other in certain definite fields provoked continual clashes.  The most common cause of dissension was the vital issue as to which of the two should educate the German Youth.  Nazism claimed the right and could enforce it.

A typical instance of Hitler’s power to enforce his claim was shown when he ordered all Catholic parents in Munich to send their children to a Nationalist school, whether they wished it or not.  The Catholic Hierarchy protested as usual, but the pupils of the Catholic schools, in virtue of the order, fell from 36,464 to 19,266; while pupils in the Nazi schools rose from 33 to 65 percent.  The same methods were used throughout Germany.

But Hitler’s hostile measures and “persecution” of the Church were prompted, not only by his determination to control all the energies of the German people, but also that he might compel the Church to serve him in his political design, either in Germany itself or elsewhere.  Other instances of similar “persecutions” were the trials of the monks.  Early in the summer of 1936 the Vatican learnt that 276 monks of the Franciscan Order, in Westphalia, were arrested on charges of sodomy.  After about ten trials the Pope suppressed a province of the Franciscan Order “for irregularities.”  In spite of this the trials continued, and numerous other Orders were affected.  The impartial American World Almanac for 1939 affirms that “up to October 1938 more than 8,000 Catholic monks and lay brothers had been arrested.”

The Pope wrote an encyclical, Mit Brennender Sorge (March 1937), in which he insisted on a Christian conception of God, the position of the Church and the Papacy and the part that they must play; and he complained that Hitler was not observing the terms of the Concordat.  Hitler replied by asking the Pope to order Cardinal Mundelein, of Chicago, to discontinue his accusations that the trials of the monks were founded on forgery.  The Pope refused.  Yet, notwithstanding all this, and the protests to Hitler, the Vatican continued to support his régime.

For the real cause of this partnership it is necessary to go back to the earlier policy of the Catholic Church, which was dictated by the fear of Bolshevism.  A real and world-wide campaign against it had begun by this time (1936).  The Church had initiated a holy crusade.  To be successful in this campaign she needed the help of Fascism and Nazism, whose hatred for Communism was equal to her own.

The picture of the world for the Catholic Church by 1936 was not very bright.  Bolshevism was making headway inside and outside Europe.  In France the Popular Front had come into being; in Spain, after the most Catholic Monarchy had been swept away, a “Red Republic” was ruling that “most Catholic country.”  In Latin America Socialist and Bolshevik ideas were daily gaining ground.  Something had to be done lest they spread farther.  Pastoral letters, the Catholic Press, and the Pope’s fulminations against Bolshevism were not sufficient.  The strength of the temporal Powers had to come to the rescue.  And who could better and more willingly give help than the Fascist and Nazi countries?  Fascist Italy, and, above all, Nazi Germany, had to be kept on friendly terms with the Vatican for that purpose, if no other!  Therefore it was necessary to put up with mild persecutions and demands by Nazism and Fascism provided they guaranteed that Bolshevism was kept under in Italy and Germany as well as abroad.

It is an interesting fact that, while persecution of every kind on the widest scale was taking place in Germany, the Vatican was still calling for war against Russia because of “its religious persecutions.”  After having tried all means to restrain the Nazis from persecuting the Church, and using all means for the suppression of the monks’ trials, the Vatican adopted another method.  It approached Hitler with the suggestion that they should combine for a crusade against Bolshevism, first in Europe, and then eventually in Russia.  But first, Europe had to be made safe from the Red Peril.  The crusade must start in Red Spain.

This approach was not the only advance made by the Vatican.  Mussolini had also been contacted with this end in view; and he was asked to act as mediator and induce Hitler to end the hostilities directed against the Catholic Church.  It was pointed out that if Hitler took part in the crusade against Bolshevism it would help him in his design upon the “clerical State,” meaning Austria.  But primarily it was suggested that Hitler, Mussolini, and the Vatican should go to the aid of Franco and “crush the Red” in Spain.  During these pourparlers the Vatican gave “assurances” to Hitler that when the time was ripe he would find a “not unfavorable support” for his claim to the annexation of Austria.  His design to annex Austria had by no means been abandoned because the murder of the Austrian Chancellor Dollfuss had failed.  In the offer of the Vatican, Hitler saw the opportunity to extend his prestige in Europe and to create a close alliance with Mussolini; but, above all, he saw the opportunity to test his newly built Army.  He accepted the offer.

Immediately, the Vatican ordered all the Catholic Hierarchy of Germany to ask that Hitler should make good his acceptance and cease all form of hostility toward the Church.  They were to tell him that the German Catholics and the German Church would be by his side in any campaign that he might undertake against Bolshevism.  The letter signed by the German bishops, and which was published in the Nazionale Zeitung of September 12, 1936, asked Hitler in plain language to allow Catholics to co-operate with him “in the fight against the ever-increasing threat to the world of Bolshevism, which shows its sinister hand in Spain, Russia, and Mexico.”

They went farther.  Besides repeating the words quoted above, and which the Pope himself had spoken only one week earlier when addressing priests and nuns from Spain, the German bishops made their meaning unmistakable by adding that Hitler should understand that they wanted to support his war against Republican Spain as well as against Russia, and that “guns alone were not enough to fight the Bolshevik dragon; a sound lead is necessary to secure victory. . . . .”  With these words addressed to the arch-enemy of Bolshevism, there could be no mistake in the desire of the Vatican to start and support an ideological religious war.

But the trials of the monks and the incorporation of Catholic Youth into the Nazi organizations went on as before.  Once again Mussolini asked Hitler to discontinue his hostility to the Church (The Times, November 4, 1936).  Only a week later Cardinal Faulhaber had an interview with Hitler and repeated in more precise terms that all the German bishops and clergy would support him in any enterprise against Bolshevism, and that the Vatican would use all its influence throughout the world for Nazi Germany, provided Hitler would respect the Catholic Church within the Reich.  The Cardinal asked, in particular, that the Catholic Church should retain control of her schools.  Hitler was persuaded.  But a few days later the Nazi Minister Of Education induced Hitler to change his mind, as the Minister considered that Catholic support of the régime now was negligible (The Times, November 17, 1936).  At the beginning of 1937 all the Catholic schools of Bavaria and other provinces were taken over by the Nazis.

Once more the Church had to submit, although with some protestations; but meanwhile Hitler was keeping his word about Spain and had begun to help Fascist Franco.  Vatican had to decide which was the greater service.  Although occasionally protesting about the internal antagonism of Nazism to the Church, the Vatican and the German Hierarchy, to say the least, co-operated with Hitler and Mussolini in order to destroy its Red enemies and prevent other peoples from accepting Democratic or Socialist rule.

While Hitler was rehearsing his new army in Spain, and Mussolini was sending hundreds of thousands of Fascist soldiers to fight for Franco, with the blessing of Catholic priests, Hitler, with the assistance of the Vatican, was completing his rape of Austria.  This was prepared and committed with collaboration of devout Catholic Austrians, including a cardinal who ordered the bells of Vienna to peal in welcome of Hitler’s occupation, and with the fianl consent of the Vatican, which commanded Slovak Catholics to disrupt and weaken internally the Republic of Czechoslovakia.

Thus, in two years, he occupied two countries: Austria in 1938, and Czechoslovakia in 1939, on the eve of the outbreak of the Second World War.  (See the chapter on Austria and the Vatican, and the chapter on Czechoslovakia and the Vatican.)

The year 1939 dawned—a year of fate for many countries, and for the Vatican.  In that year Albania was invaded by Fascist Italy, the Spanish Republic was finally crushed and Franco began his Catholic dictatorship; Czechoslovakia was strangled, Poland was invaded, and finally, the Second World War was let loose upon the world.

At the Vatican, early in 1939, the authoritarian pope Pius XI died.  There was no doubt as to who would be elected his successor.  During the previous ten years the policy of the Vatican had been directed by Cardinal Pacelli, and that policy had to continue.  It was no mere coincidence that the most ardent supporters of Pacelli, who were asking the other cardinals to vote for him, were headed by Cardinal Faulhaber, Cardinal Innitzer, Cardinal Hlond of Poland (whose main dream was to march against Soviet Russia and dedicate that country to “the Sacred Heart of Jesus”), and Cardinal Schuster of Milan.

Pacelli was elected Pope under the name of Pius XII.  In pursuit of his set policy the new Pope began a great campaign for peace.  The Catholic Press was full of his words about peace, the freedom of nations, and the necessity for settling disputes without war.

But while he spoke thus, he acted in a very different way.  He continued to be in close touch with Mussolini and Hitler, who needed the Church in order to carry out further their plans of conquest.  The Nazi Government especially had been in close and frequent secret consultation with the Vatican about matters of which no one knew the exact purport.  But it was noticed at the time that these pourparlers were very similar to those that had taken place during the betrayal of Austria and Czechoslovakia.  Who was going to be the next victim?  The rumbling of war was being heard continuously all over Europe, and many people feared that another act of aggression was being planned.

In the late spring of 1939, after much consultation with Berlin, a letter was sent from the Pope’s representative there, by special courier, to the Vatican (April 24, 1939).  The letter was of such importance that no one in the Vatican, except the Pope’s Secretary of State, was ever allowed to know the message it contained.  The Pope closed himself in his study for two entire days, brooding over the reply, which finally he wrote with his own hand, so that none should know its nature.

The letter went to Berlin.  Hitler was immediately informed of its contents.  This was followed by feverish activity at the Vatican.  During May and June interminable and highly secret correspondence was exchanged between the Nuncios at Berlin, Warsaw, and Paris, while various ambassadors, notably the German, Italian, French, and Polish, called with unusual frequency on the Pope or his Secretary of State, in either an official or an unofficial capacity.  What was happening?  What decision had the Pope taken?

Today, at a distance of several years, it is possible to give a fair account of what was going on behind the scenes during that fateful period.  [After the Second World War numerous documents came to light concerning the activities of the Vatican at this period, most of them finding their way into the hands of the Judges and Prosecution at the Nuremberg trial (1946), in addition to the many declarations by people who knew—for instance, M. François Charles-Roux, former French Ambassador to the Holy See.]

The Pope had been informed of the war plans of Hitler to invade Poland.  Hitler had told of his grand strategy and his ultimate aims.  He had to risk a European war in order to achieve them, but they were worth it.  The ultimate and main goal was the invasion of Soviet Russia.  To do that, Hitler needed to occupy Poland.  Czechoslovakia, the first bastion, which had half-opened the gates to Russia, was not enough.  Poland, too, had to be put at the disposal of Germany.  The Pope would have to use all his influence in persuading the Poles—who, in the disruption of Czechoslovakia, had so intimately co-operated with Nazi Germany—to settle matters with Hitler, first regarding the question of Danzig (at that time the great issue was Danzig and the Polish Corridor), and then by making secret treaties with Germany for the invasion of Russia.

If the Poles refused, Hitler would invade Poland.  He asked the Pope, first, not to condemn the invasion, and secondly not to ask the Catholics in Poland to oppose it, but to rally them to a crusade against the Soviets.  Hitler made two promises: he would, this time, respect all the privileges of the Church in Poland, and, secondly, the occupation of Poland would be “temporary.”

The Pope was faced by a tremendous dilemma.  Here, at last, was the opportunity for which the Vatican had worked since the First World War, and for which it had been so busy setting up totalitarian reactionary régimes wherever possible: Bolshevism and its symbol, Soviet Russia, might be completely destroyed.  That would mean not only the disappearance of a great country where Atheist Bolshevism ruled, but also the disappearance of a beacon of Communism for all the Communists of the world.  Further, the other great dream of the Vatican—the absorption of the Orthodox Church by the Catholic Church—might also come true.

On the other hand, Poland was a very Catholic country, ruled by a Catholic dictatorship and in intimate contact with the Vatican.  Was it worth while sacrificing it for the ultimate purpose of destroying Soviet Russia?  And would not the invasion of Poland precipitate a world war?  Would France enter such a war?  Would the Papal influence in French Catholic circles, in combination with all the other powerful elements favorable to Nazism and hostile to Soviet Russia, be able to counterbalance the influence of Great Britain?  These were the considerations which the Pope had to study.  Pius XII had to make the greatest decision of his career, and, like his predecessor, who had had to decide on whether or not to sacrifice all the great Catholic political parties in Europe and favor Fascism, the new Pope had to determine whether he should sacrifice a whole Catholic country, and perhaps also France and other countries, as well as take the responsibility of acquiescing to the outbreak of a world war, in order to achieve a goal which was of paramount interest to the future of the Church.

Pius XII accepted.  He did, however, put forward three conditions:—


(1) That he should be allowed to make peace proposals and be given time to start a peace campaign in the diplomatic world; that all possible means should be taken to reach a compromise with Poland and the Western Powers.

(2) That, if the Vatican influence of Poland was of no avail, and the invasion of that country thus became necessary, Germany should inflict on Poland the least possible physical and moral damage, as far as was compatible with necessity; and, above all, that Germany should not persecute the Polish Catholics for their resistance, and that the interests of the Church should be completely safeguarded.

(3) That it should not be made known that the Vatican had discussed with Germany plans for the invasion of Russia.  The Vatican, in its official capacity, would have no responsibility whatsoever for the whole matter, although it would exert pressure, first, to restrain France from fulfilling her pact with Russia, and, secondly, to raise legions of Catholic volunteers in all Catholic countries of the world for a crusade against the Soviets.  That Germany should not ask the Church “in its capacity as the mother of all Christians,” or formally in its official capacity, to launch a “holy war” against Russia.


Once more Hitler promised all that the Vatican asked.

The Vatican began to exert pressure on the Polish Government, through the services of Cardinal Hlond, and in French Catholic circles, so that, if the worst should happen, the French would not enter the war against Germany.  The negotiations failed, not because the Pope did not do his best to avoid war with Poland and the Western Powers, but because of the intransigence of Hitler, who had already determined to crush Poland, whether or not that country accepted his proposals.

And so, on September 1, 1939, Poland was invaded.  Then, on September 3, in spite of all the forces that had worked against it, one of the most important of which was the Catholic Church, France declared war, followed by Britain.  The Second World War had begun.

The Pope became almost ill, and for days it was feared that his health was impaired.  But he kept his promise to Hitler.  As several years before, with Austria and with Czechoslovakia, so now with Poland, instead of protesting to the world against the German attack, he remained completely dumb.  Not a single word of condemnation, not a hint that Nazi Germany should have been, at least morally, condemned by the Seat of Catholic Morality.

Far from it.  While the horror of the bombing of Warsaw was going on, and Catholic people were being massacred by the Luftwaffe, German archbishops and bishops were praying to Almighty God to protect the Third Reich, and to enlighten its leader.  We will quote only one example of such prayers, which thousands of priests were ordered by Bishop von Galen, of Munster, to repeat after Mass.  It begins thus:—


Let us pray for the intention of the Sovereign Pontiff for the repulsion of Atheism and for the restoration to the Church of liberty and peace.  Let us pray also that God may protect and bless our people and our country.


It continues:—


. . . Protect us from every catastrophe, Omnipotent and Eternal God.  Take our country under Thy protection. . . . Enlighten our leaders with the light of Thy wisdom so that they may recognize what is profitable to the nation and with Thy strength may do what is equitable.  Protect all the soldiers of our Army and keep them in Thy grace.  Fortify those who are in combat. . . . Protect our country, O Lord, from the attacks of enemies . . . etc.


The Pope’s silence was in striking contrast to his attitude towards another invasion, which had taken place not long before—the invasion of Finland by Communist Russia.  The official organ of the Papacy, which, like the Pope himself, had not condemned a single Fascist or Nazi invasion, burst into a lofty moral condemnation when Russia entered Finland:—


After twenty years of Bolshevist tyranny, it now appears that Communism, which had already suppressed political liberty, stifled individuality, reduced work to the status of slavery, and erected violence into a system, has added a new pearl to its diadem. . . after hounding men it now hounds nations. . .  (Osservatore Romano).


This was followed by a most violent condemnation of Russia from the Vatican, and from cardinals, bishops, and Catholics all over the world.  Then it happened that Soviet Russia forestalled Hitler and occupied almost half of Poland.  That was a blow which the Vatican took with great dismay.  But worse was to come: Nazi Germany had made a pact with Russia.

The Vatican had been duly informed of the reasons, and the meaning of the pact.  Nevertheless, the Pope protested.  The Papal Nuncio in Berlin had a secret meeting with Ribbentrop, who told him that, as the original plan had miscarried (namely that in which Poland would have been occupied without the interference of France and Britain), it had become necessary to complete a temporary pact with Russia in order to deal first with the West.  Only when the West had been made secure would Germany continue her plan for the invasion of Soviet Russia.  The Vatican should try again to make France break her alliance with Britain and come to an understanding with Germany.

The strain of those months, the torture of having to take moral responsibility for matters of such tremendous importance, the partial failure of his plans, the fall of Poland, and the beginning of another world war, were too much for the Pope, who in November had a serious nervous breakdown.

In spite of all that had happened, Pius XII hoped, once more, to avoid a world war.  The following month (December 1939) he formulated his famous five points, or conditions of peace.  It was a highly idealistic plan, full of the wisdom of beautiful words about peace, compromise, and the freedom of nations.  The plan was hailed by the Catholic Press throughout the world, as well as by the Press of many countries, as the best proposition to come from the peace-loving Vatican.  But how could any thinking person reconcile such beautiful words with the actual facts and with the policy that had been followed by the Vatican for so many years?    The most important of the first five points read: “The right to life and freedom of all nations, big and small, powerful and weak.”  How could anyone reconcile this with the Vatican’s acceptance—and in many cases flagrant support—of aggressions and the destruction of nations, such as committed by Japan in China, by Fascist Italy in Albania, in Spain, and in Mexico by civil wars, by Hitler in Austria, Czechoslovakia, and now in Poland?

Moreover, how could anyone think that the Pope really meant the words on peace, which he repeated every Christmas and Easter, when he allowed the very pillars of the Catholic Church to support and praise those very men who let war loose upon the world?

How could the Pope explain his words about the rights of peoples when Cardinal Faulhaber, Archbishop of Munich, had ordered, and himself conducted, a solemn service of thanksgiving in Munich Cathedral, after the unsuccessful attempt on Hitler’s life, to offer thanks to God that the life of the Fuehrer had been spared for Germany and the world; and when all the Bavarian bishops had sent a joint message of congratulation to Hitler on his escape? (December 1939.  See the Universe).

And why was the Pope silent during the invasion of Poland?  Was not Poland a small country that had been unjustly attacked?  But at that time, the Pope did not condemn the attack on that country and the brutality of the actual conquest.

In January 1940, in the course of a broadcast, the Pope did mention Poland, and protested that he had learned of “infamy of all kinds,” as, well as “horrible and inexcusable excesses,”  But to whom was he referring?  To the Russians.  As far as Nazi atrocities were concerned, he made the mild remark that “outrages” were “not confined to the districts under Russian occupation.”  It is true that the Vatican went on protesting about Germany, but its complaints were, as usual, about breaches of the Concordat, with vague accusations of paganism and the like.

After the conquest of Poland the diplomatic activities of the Vatican switched over to the West, with particular regard to France.  Steps were taken to contact the right people in France to ask for peace with Germany.  But it was found impossible to take positive steps in this direction until the position changed, one way or the other.


[After the war it was disclosed that the Pope at this time was the focus-point of a peace plan which would have favored the Right and would have settled all Eastern European problems in Germany’s favor.  In addition to this, the Pope was exerting himself to bring about a compromise peace between the Allies and Germany, with a view to persuading the German leaders to call off the “blitz” on the West and thus render easier a reconciliation between the belligerents.  To make their peace plan more acceptable to the Western nations, the Vatican and the German leaders also contemplated the possibility of substituting Goebbels for Hitler as Nazi Fuehrer of Germany.  “This in response to important German political and military circles.” These negotiations took place at the end of 1939 and the beginning of 1940, the main objective of the Pope being by uniting the European nations to turn them to the East (See Rude Pravo, Prague, January 24, 1946; also Osservatore Romano, Radio Vatican’s broadcast, February 11, 1946.  Many of these facts came to light during the Nuremberg trial, 1946, but were kept in the background.)]


Meanwhile, the Vatican was continuing to urge Hitler to attack Russia, to which the invariable reply of Nazi Germany was that she first had to be secure in the West.  The Nuncio in Paris had assured the Pope that if Germany should steer the war to the East, France would not move.  He had had assurances of that from the highest authorities, and “certain quarters” had promised him that “actual armed hostilities against Germany might not be carried out at all” once Germany invaded Soviet Russia. (December 1939).  One of the main “authorities” who had been in the closest contact with the Nuncio was General Weygand, a most devout Catholic; also Marshal Pétain and Laval (the latter held a Papal decoration).

Marshal Pétain, also a good Catholic, had tried for years to sponsor Fascist armed movements, the most notorious of which was that of the “Hooded Men” (Les Cagoulards).  While he was Ambassador in Madrid he had plotted with Laval, Weygand, and others in France, first, to prevent France from entering the war, and, secondly, to make France come to an agreement with Hitler.  Pétain negotiated with Hitler, through the Vatican, from the middle of 1939 to the middle of 1940.  The Papal Nuncio in Madrid was one of the main intermediaries.  Franco, too, helped in the plot, lending money and agents to Pétain.  One Spaniard helped Pétain s secret negotiations more than any others.  He was Señor Lequerica, Spanish Ambassador in France, who, during the Vichy régime, was so influential with Pétain that he actually attended the first meetings of his Government.

Thus, for months the secret negotiations between Pétain, Weygand, Laval, the Papal Nuncios in Paris and Madrid, Franco, Lequerica, and Hitler went on with varying success.  Then Hitler made it known to the Vatican and the Catholic plotters that he could wait no longer.  They must do something concrete.  Pétain, when asked by the Papal Nuncio, told the latter to inform His Holiness “that there were good reasons to hope that the bloodshed between France and Germany would be avoided.” (Quoted in a dispatch from the Italian Fascist Ambassador in Madrid, dated March 7 1940.)

The Vatican made this answer known to Hitler (April 30, 1940)  Hitler wanted more details, and a few days later decided to get first-hand information, as he wanted to know “with certainty how far the French could really go in carrying out their intentions as communicated to him by the Vatican.”  He immediately sent to the Pope his Foreign Minister, who had been in very close contact with the Papal representative in Berlin.  As Shirer says, in his Berlin Diary, “the Nuncio had been quietly paying visits to the Wilhelmstrasse for weeks.”

At the Vatican, Ribbentrop’s visit was taken as a sure symptom that the war in the West had been avoided and that Hitler might be persuaded, at last, to take the war to the East.  The official Papal organ, the Osservatore, which is usually so reticent and cool, was for once, very jubilant in announcing the visit of Hitler’s envoy.  Ribbentrop had a meeting with the Pope at which no one else was allowed to be present.  There were many rumors and speculations about the visit, at the Vatican and in Europe.

The following day, March 12, 1940, Hitler sent a telegram to the Pope, congratulating him personally on the first anniversary of his election to the Papacy.

But when Ribbentrop left Rome the Osservatore was very silent about it.  What had happened?

Hitler had not considered the assurances of the Pope sufficient, and had made it known that he would invade the West first.  As the Annual Register, a most impartial authority, says: “We know from Vatican sources that Ribbentrop told the Pope (March 11, 1940) that German soldiers would be in Paris by June and in London by August.” Hitler assured the Pope, however, that if “friendly elements” helped Germany’s victory, he would be “very modest in his demands against the Allies, with special reference to France.”

In the spring of 1940 Hitler had, meanwhile, attacked another weak and small country—Norway.  It was invaded on a transparently false pretext.  The Pope was asked from many quarters to condemn the invasion, especially as only a few months previously he had made known his famous five peace propositions, in which he referred particularly to the rights of the small nations.

Once again the Pope remained dumb.  But, as in the case of Finland, he replied through the official Osservatore.  What was this reply?  That there were only 2,619 Catholics in Norway, and that “the Holy See must keep in mind the 30,000,000 German Catholics in its activities.” (Osservatore—quoted in the New York Times on April 17, 1940).

After the invasion of Poland by Germany and by Russia, and after the invasion of Norway, relations between Nazi Germany and the Vatican became rather strained so far as the German internal situation was concerned.  That was chiefly a reflection of German treatment of Polish Catholics, the shooting of priests, the arrest of bishops—everything which Hitler had promised he would not do.

Not many weeks after the visit of Ribbentrop to the Vatican, Hitler and Mussolini met at the Brenner Pass, in order to plan the invasion of the West and Mussolini’s stab in the back to France.

The Vatican was kept well informed, and, seeing once again that Hitler meant what he said, it began to make friendly exchanges with him, keeping in mind the event “of a German success.”  The contacts with the French Catholic reactionary circles were resumed, and plans for setting up a provisional Government after the defeat of France were drafted.  (For more details about France, see Chapter 16, “France and the Vatican”)  The discussions went well, and Hitler and the Pope once more co-operated in the shaping of the things to come.

While all these activities were going on behind the scenes, Nazi Germany, at the beginning of 1940, decided that Catholic priests, monks, etc. should not be exempt from military service, as had been decided in the Concordat.  Cardinal Faulhaber, of Munich, protested, not about the invasion of Norway, but about the abolition of religious teaching in the professional schools for boys of fourteen to seventeen years of age.  At that time it was reckoned that, since 1933, 20,000 Catholic schools, with over 3,000,000 students, had been closed.

Yet, in spite of such friction between the Catholic Church and Hitler, the relations of the Catholic Church and Nazism began to improve with the succession of German military victories.  As the Manchester Guardian wrote, on May 24, 1940:—


The National Socialist State has, it seems, been able to reach a new understanding with the Catholic leaders. . . . . In spite of the persecution of laymen and priests by the Nazis, in spite of all the attacks upon the Christian religion, new hopes have been raised among the German Catholics as a result of these negotiations.


What was the reason for this sudden change?  Nazi Germany was winning the war.  It appeared to be a matter of weeks.  The Pope ordered all the German Hierarchy to stop criticizing the German Reich, but to support it.  The forecasts of the Vatican, as well as of many other political circles, had proved right: Germany had won in the West, the Western Powers had been completely routed.  Holland, Belgium, and France had capitulated and had been occupied by German troops, while Britain fell back to lick her wounds on her little islands.

This time the Pope took the step of writing letters to the Queen of Holland and the King of Belgium.  Did these letters contain words of condemnation of Hitler’s crime?  By no means.  The Pope simply deprecated, in a mild way, that these sovereigns’ countries had been invaded “against their will.”  Apart from that, the letters were mere messages of condolence.  Against the attack on France by Germany and, later, by Fascist Italy, the Pope again did not utter a single word of condemnation.

Mussolini declared—and many responsible people in various parts of Europe and America thought the same—that the defeat in the West meant that the Second World War had ended with a final German victory.

That was something on which the Vatican had counted.  The new “Greater Reich” had an even greater interest for the Pope than, perhaps, for many other heads of States.  The interests of the Catholic Church were being furthered.  The Pope immediately opened up negotiations with Hitler.  Thanks to Nazism, three more countries had got rid of Socialism and Communism: Belgium, Holland, and above all, France.  That was something for which to be thankful.  The Vatican ordered the German Hierarchy to say prayers of thanksgiving in all German Catholic Churches for the Fuehrer (Universe, August 1940).

While the German Catholic churches were echoing with prayers of thanks and invocations for the preservation of Hitler, three German bishops went quietly to Rome and had long conferences with the Pope and his Secretary of State (Basler Nachrichten, October 5, 1940).  They discussed the best way in which the Church could enter into a really “close partnership with the victorious Third Reich.”  On their return, the great Conference of all Bishops and Archbishops of Germany met at Fulda.  It was stated in Vatican circles, as well as in Berlin, that the Conference had to decide important issues, in view of the fact that the three bishops had brought back with them direct instructions from the Pope himself.

What had been going on meanwhile between the Vatican and Hitler in diplomatic fields? Hitler and the Pope were conducting secret negotiations for a new Concordat.  Hitler had asked the Vatican to exert all its influence over the Catholics of the three conquered countries, to rally them to the support of the new Governments and occupation authorities.  In exchange, Hitler promised to give a special position of privilege to the Church, not only in Germany, but wherever the German armies conquered.

The talks included discussions on the status of the Apostolic Nunciatures at The Hague and in Brussels.  At Fulda, all the German bishops and archbishops were told that they should rally to Hitler (and gave their approval), and should also “endeavor to bring a more close support of the German Catholic body for the victorious Germany and for its Great Fuehrer.”  In addition to this, they had to prepare plans by which all the hierarchies in countries under the protection of the Third Reich would, in future, co-operate with the German Hierarchy and eventually be amalgamated with it into one unique body.

It was also decided that the first step towards this last plan should be taken at the next Congress of the German Hierarchy, and that the meeting of the German bishops and archbishops—which, in the past, had been held year after year in Fulda—should be held in the very centre of the Greater Reich, as a symbol of union with it.  This last point was expressly made known by the Pope himself.

Other minor (but nevertheless important) problems were also discussed and approved.  A typical example was the approval of the Official Organ of German Catholics, Der Newe Wille (The New Will), the editorship of which, significantly enough, was given to the Field Bishop of the Armed Forces.  This was a blatantly pro-Nazi imperialistic paper, which urged German soldiers to fight and conquer for Hitler.  The only reservation made by the bishops was that “it should comply with certain conditions”; that is, it should not bear any “contradictions” to the precepts of the Catholic Church.

The plan for a Concordat was, of course, unanimously approved.  It was pointed out that, while negotiations were going on between the Holy See and the German Reich, the Catholic Hierarchy should “make itself indispensable to the nation for the victorious conclusion of the war.”  After that they decided on an immediate declaration of loyalty to Hitler: “After the completion of the German victory, special ceremonies of gratitude to the German troops and of loyalty to Hitler will be announced.”

But the Vatican, fearing the effect on the Catholics of the various invaded countries, and above all, of Great Britain and the United States of America, ordered the German bishops (contrary to the usual procedure) not to issue any declaration on the proceedings and results of the meeting.  While the German bishops were passing these resolutions in support of Hitler’s war, the Pope himself declared, during an allocution, that he was “passionately interested in peace, but not in that shabby substitute for peace which consists in absence of war” (broadcast to North America in English by the Vatican Radio in August, 1940).

The benefits apportioned to the Catholic Church by the Nazi victory had begun to show concrete results.  In place of the demo-cratic Socialist Governments, Totalitarian, and what is more, Catholic Governments were being set up.  Strong Catholic authoritarian parties came into being and were steering their nations against the arch-enemy, Communism: Rexism in Belgium, the various Fascist parties in France, and, above all, the authoritarian Catholic Corporate State set up the most devout Catholic, Marshal Pétain, who began immediately to restore the privileges of the Church which had been withdrawn by the wicked democratic republicans before the defeat of France.

In January 1941 all the German archbishops and bishops met again; and this time (as had been decided at Fulda) they met in Berlin.  On this occasion all the Austrian bishops were also present in the Nazi capital.  They reached “very important decisions.”  They issued a joint pastoral letter, forecasting final victory for Nazi Germany.  In the letter they said ‘the impending final fight for freedom of the German people will require great sacrifices from everyone, but the victory of German Arms will guarantee peace for many years to come.”  This statement was read in all Catholic churches in Germany.  It also said: “The German bishops further express the hope that the Catholic Church shall be allotted a share in the internal reconstruction of the Greater Reich . . .” for, amongst other reasons given, “. . . the Church is entitled thereto, in view of the 50 percent increase in the number of church-goers in war-time, particularly on the part of the soldiers.”

But, in spite of all this whole-hearted support, Hitler began to play his old game again.  Flushed with his military victory, he wanted no less than to bring into being a National Christian Church, by first crushing the Catholic as well as the Protestant Churches.

Bishops asked the Vatican to intervene, to stop the Goverment’s religious campaign.  But the bishops were careful to add that they would not for a moment “say anything that would turn aside the energies of the people or prejudice their devotion to their country.”  The Pope replied that he would censure Germany only for her treatment of the Church, but that he would not condemn her on other grounds, as he did not want to “create the impression that the Church favors the enemies of Germany.”  The Pope had good reason to say that.

In the late evening of June 20, 1941, Ribbentrop saw the Papal Representative in Berlin at a private meeting, after which the Papal Nuncio, Mgr. Orsenigo, immediately got in touch with the Vatican, where the lights shone throughout the whole night of June 20/21.

At last, on the morning of June 21, 1941, the news which the Pope had received officially the day before and for which the Vatican had worked and made so many sacrifices during many years was announced to the world.  The Nazi armies had invaded Soviet Russia.

Once more me first five peace proposals were remembered, especially the first, dealing with the rights of small and great nations; but this time it would have been too much to expect the Pope to condemn the aggression against Soviet Russia.  As usual, the Pope remained silent: he could not “officially” compromise himself.  Moreover, Hitler had not as yet asked the Pope for help, although the Nuncio in Berlin, Mgr. Orsenigo, had promised Ribbentrop that “the Catholic Church would, in time, provide Germany with all the moral support of which it could dispose.”  For the time being, however, Hitler did not need the support of the Church.  His armies could, he said, conquer Soviet Russia within the space of four months.

But as the Nazi armies cut deep into Russian territory, the Catholic Church began to organize a holy crusade against Soviet Russia, although in an “unofficial” capacity.  It wanted to make it clear that it was on the side of the victor, so that it would be able to bargain with Hitler for the “co-ordination of spiritual matters.”  It was thus that the Vatican sent advice to the various National Catholic hierarchies all over the world to “support the military campaign against Godless Russia, not only passively, but also actively in the moral field.” (Letter by the Secretary of State.)  And so the Catholic World and the Catholic hierarchies, even in Allied countries, organized a campaign against Communism and Russia.

Of course, this was but the recrudescence of a campaign that had been going on for years.

This is not the place to quote in length the statements made by the Pope, by cardinals and bishops all over the world, inciting people and nations against Russia.  We shall merely quote a few declarations, taken at random, by the German Hierarchy which show that the Catholic Church had for years been preparing the German people to fight Bolshevism and Russia.  The incitement of the German Hierarchy had begun even before Hitler came to power, and after that event it was carried out with still greater gusto.

We have already quoted several attacks by the Pope and Cardinal Pacelli against Russia.  On New Year’s Eve, 1936 Cardinal Faulhaber said in Munich that he was oppressed with two great anxieties, the first of which was to “overthrow Bolshevism,” and the second “the protection of the Church inside the Reich.”  Shortly afterwards, in April 1937, he declared:—


All the civilized world, but especially the Catholic nations, must unite into a holy crusade against Atheist Russia, and crush Bolshevism wherever it may be found.


In 1936, the pastoral letter of the Bavarian bishops protested because certain Nazis were stating that Nazism must destroy two enemies: the Catholic Church and Communism.  The bishops declared that they, no less than the Nazis, were enemies of Bolshevism, and that it was therefore very painful to hear such assertions:—


We must request that it no longer be put about among young folk and the people in general that after the overthrow of Bolshevism, Public Enemy No. 1, the next on the list is the Catholic Church, as Public Enemy No. 2.


Also in 1936, the Bishop of Munster, Count von Galen, said:—


It is the duty of every Catholic, and of every civilized nation, to defeat and crush Godless Communism, embodied in Atheist Soviet Russia.


The German bishops at the conference at Fulda issued, on August 20, 1936, a pastoral letter which was read in all German Catholic churches at the end of the same month.  It declared that:—


the danger from Bolshevism in many other countries demands peace, union, and complete support of Hitler and the Nazi régime within Germany [but that such peace was made impossible] by non-Christian propaganda, by interference with ecclesiastical privileges and, above all, by the suppression of the Catholic Press, whose main task is to prepare the German people for a final fight against Bolshevism.


In a New Year Pastoral, at the beginning of 1937, Archbishop Grober, of Freiburg, summarized the grounds for complaint of the German Catholics against Nazism.  Amongst other things, he said:—


. . . Is the Catholic Church . . . to be repeatedly (if sometimes covertly) branded as Public Enemy No. 2, and treated as the sworn associate of Bolshevism? . . . Is the German nation as a whole to be prepared for a possible conflict with the Godless world of Bolshevism, which might, though God forbid it should, be forced upon us from outside, by concealing the essential and irreconcilable contradiction between the basic principles of religion and those of Russian Atheism?  Are we preparing wisely for such an eventuality when the deification of Man and of the Nation and the denial of the immortality of the soul bring us perilously near to a cultural handshake with Communism itself?  Is all this, I ask, to give the lie in an irresponsible fashion to the solemnly pledged word of our Fuehrer?


Later, in 1937, the same Archbishop declared:


Marxism is not dead, as we have been told.  It is more alive than ever.  We as Christians and Catholics and as Germans, must crush it, wherever it is.  Let us prepare for our task against the Godless neighbor [Russia], against whom all the civilized world one day will have to fight (May 1937).


In a pastoral of September 4, 1938, the Bavarian bishops, while protesting against Hitler’s orders forbidding members of religious institutions to give convent education to girls, declared that Nazism should not antagonize the Catholic Church, for, after all, the Church was the greatest enemy of Communism and would help Hitler to fight it.  From its many comments we quote the following:—


Is it not an intolerable contradiction that such schools as these should today be destroyed and rooted out from our homeland, just as has so recently been done in Bolshevist countries . . . and that at a time when the German nation conceives it as its historic task to combat anti-Christian Bolshevism and appeal to the rest of the Christian world to aid it as comrades in the fight? . . . How long will the State continue to reject the co-operation of the Church and of her religious Orders in carrying out the German national task of today: the fight against Communism?


After Russia was attacked, the German bishops, while complaining about the disharmony still existing in the Reich, were emphatic on one point—namely, in inciting the German people against Russia.  “A victory over Bolshevism would be equivalent to the triumph of the teaching of Jesus over that of the infidels,” they solemnly declared (1942).

It would be possible to go on ad infinitum quoting such declarations by the German Hierarchy against Russia and Communism, for they continued their campaign of hatred, not only before, but after Russia was attacked, and even after the Nazi armies had retreated and were finally defeated.  Although the Vatican at this time (end of 1942 to 1944) gave instructions to the German Hierarchy “to be cautious and to speak against Godless Bolshevism only as bishops,” the attacks went on to the very end of the war.

But when the Nazi armies were halted before Leningrad and Moscow, and defeated before Stalingrad, things had already changed.  The Vatican had become more cautious than ever in its official declarations, but, at the same time, had intensified its campaign to help Hitler all over the world.  Preparations had been made in various Catholic Fascist countries to enlist fighting units for the Eastern Front.  These Catholic units began to take shape and to be dispatched to fight against Russia.

By the autumn of 1941 anti-Communist Legions were formed in all the Catholic countries: Portgal, Franco’s Spain, Pétain’s France, Belgium (from the Rexist Catholic Party).  All the volunteers were enlisted to “fight against Godless Soviet Russia, and thus save Catholicism.”  Catholic countries which could not send soldiers sent money and organized meetings and nation-wide propaganda against the Soviet, all these activities being supported and blessed by the Catholic Church in the countries concerned.  While the Vatican, in its official capacity, did not compromise itself, it instructed cardinals and bishops in many nations of the world to speak against Soviet Russia and launch anathemas on Moscow, asking for volunteers to fight the “Bolshevik Dragon.”

From all over the Catholic world, from Italy to Ireland, from North and South America, volunteers and money were dispatched continually, to fight side by side with the Nazi armies which, after the first great onslaught into Russia, had halted before the great cities of Leningrad, Moscow, and Stalingrad.  Despite that, the Vatican thought that Nazi Germany had suffered only a momentary military check, and that “Atheist Russia could be counted as officially destroyed.”  The Soviet military and political might was no longer a factor which should be taken seriously.

From then on, Nazi Germany was going to be the dominating Power of Europe.  The Vatican lost itself in speculations about the future—a future to be shaped by Nazi Germany.  The Vatican radio launched a campaign on the prospects of “Peace within the bounds of the New Order.”


The Pope attaches great importance to moral values.  Rulers who plan for peace should remember that. . . . Only on this basis can the international atmosphere be cleared.  Strength must become the source of rights and not oppression.

Another thing that has to be drastically reorganized in the world is the free right to raw material.  No nation should have the sole right over the goods which God has given them.

The New Order can thus be established in the Christian world.


Those were the words and that was the tone of the Vatican broadcasts at that stage; and it should be remembered that at that time (May 1942) Hitler was shouting about the necessity for a New Order and for Lebensraum and raw materials for Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.  Both could be found in Russia.

Then, in June 1942, the Osservatore Romano published a series of articles expressing the Pope’s ideas for the post-war world.  In them the Pope demanded that “. . . the Church be allowed to fulfill, unhampered, her lofty mission in the world.”  The Catholic Church, the argument runs, has the right to participate in the political and public life of the nations, on the ground that religion is not only the teaching of the life of the people, but also a political and social science whose purpose it is to save souls and help the nations in accordance with a uniform system based on a uniform idea which should guide the individual, the family, and the nation.

But then, as the Nazi armies seemed to have stopped, and as the defeated “Atheist Russia” gave more and more signs of being alive and ready to counter-attack, the Vatican was again assailed by fears and doubts.  While preaching peace, the Pope began a great diplomatic campaign in the various capitals of the belligerent countries.  The goals of the campaign were two:

(1) To prevent the United States of America and Great Britain from giving active help to Bolshevik Russia.

(2) To find a means of preventing Russia from advancing westwards.

The best means of reaching these two fundamental aims was to attempt a negotiated peace between the Allies and the Axis.  The Vatican had been in close touch with Hitler for months on this point, and once it had certain assurances from Berlin, it contacted London and Washington.  The German Ambassador at the Vatican had secret audiences with the Pope and the Secretary of State daily.  The gist of the Vatican’s exertions was that, for the benefit of all concerned (namely Christian [Catholic] Europe), peace should be concluded; the Allies and Germany should unite and fight against Russia; to this end Hitler was ready to come to an agreement with Britain and the United States of America, provided “he could save his face.” A negotiated peace would be the salvation of Europe.  Great Britain and America, however, rejected the proposals (May-June, 1942).

The Vatican made persistent remonstrances, saying that Britain and America should compel Russia to go so far, but no farther, in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, for “far-reaching assurance must be given to the people of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe to save them from the rapacity of Bolshevik Russia.”  As Great Britain and the United States of America failed to give such assurances, the Pope made it understood that in due time “the Catholic body in the United States of America, with the co-operation of the anti-Soviet forces there and elsewhere,” would see to it that “pressure should be brought forth to stir the foreign policy to healthier goals.”

President Roosevelt had to send his representative, Myron Taylor, to the Vatican, promising that Great Britain and the United States of America would ensure that the Bolshevik troops would not overstep the borders drawn up by them.  On his way home, Taylor had an interview with the devout Catholic Salazar, in which he stated that “after an Allied victory in Europe, Allied troops will protect, arms in hand, anti-Communist States against Bolshevik transgressions.  A Soviet domination of Europe is entirely out of the question” (Lisbon, October 6, 1942).  The Vatican, however, would not be assured, and continued to contact various capitals, with a view to detaching Britain and the United States of America from Russia and enabling Hitler to make a compromise peace with the former.

The Soviet armies’ great success the following year made the Vatican even more frantic in its quest and in its accusations against Soviet Russia.  Roosevelt told them that the Allies had decided to crush Nazi Germany, and that it was therefore necessary to put up with the advance of Soviet Russia.  The Vatican should open negotiations with Moscow in order to safeguard the interests of those Catholics who were in the countries “liberated by Russia.”

Roosevelt contacted Stalin personally on at least three occasions, with the view of bringing about a rapprochement between the Vatican and Russia.  But the Pope continually refused.  Early in 1943 Roosevelt therefore dispatched to the Vatican a great and intimate friend of the Pope, Mgr. Spellman, Archbishop of New York, to try to persuade him to follow Roosevelt’s suggestions.

Spellman’s task was “to persuade the Vatican to adopt a more indulgent attitude towards the Soviet Union in general, and in particular towards the future position of Russia in Europe” (Die Tat, Zürich, February 24, 1943).  He began his mission by having a long meeting with Roosevelt.  Then, on reaching Europe, the first thing he did was to meet Franco.  He had several private meetings, both with Franco and with the Primate of Spain.

When in Rome, Spellman was received by the Pope and occupied much of the Pope’s time for days.  Their meetings lasted from 5 p.m. to 8 and sometimes 9 p.m. every day.  They were so private that even the Pope’s Chamberlain was not admitted, nor, very often, notified of them (February 20-23, 1943 ).

When Mgr. Spellman was not seeing the Pope he was in close touch with Bishop Evrainoff, head of the Vatican Information Bureau, or with Mgr. Ottaviani, Assessor to the Congregation of the Holy Office, one of the most influential personages at the Vatican—but, most of all, Mgr. Spellman saw the Spanish and the Nazi Ambassadors at the Vatican, and, at the end of his stay, had a long private meeting with the Nazi Foreign Minister himself (Ribbentrop), on March 3, 1943.  The following day, having flown to Spain, Mgr. Spellman met the British Ambassador, Sir Samuel Hoare, and then returned to the United States of America, where he handed President Roosevelt a personal letter written by the Pope.

What plan did Mgr. Spellman take to the Pope?  What plan did the Pope convey to Roosevelt?  And, above all, what agreement was reached between the Vatican, Washington and London?

The fear entertained by the Pope regarding Soviet Russia’s success, and her advance Westwards, finally reached Washington and London.  All three Powers began to look with dismay at the advance of the Soviet armies, fearing that they would go too far Westwards before the Allied armies could enter the field to stop them.  The three Powers looked ahead of the Soviet military victory; they saw, in the advance of the troops, the advance of an inimical ideology; and as the Pope saw in the soldiers of Bolshevism the arch-enemies of Catholicism, so the United States of America and Great Britain saw in them the enemies of their own social, economic, and political systems.

Some means had to be found to stop the Bolshevik advance.  Once more the Vatican was there to help.  It had been in close touch with Hitler, and had made him understand that if he climbed down on his territorial ambitions, the hope of a negotiated peace was in “the realm of possibility” (January 1943).  Hitler made it known to the Pope that he “desired” peace: a peace which would be of advantage to the Western Powers, to Germany, and to the Catholic Church.  He asked that the Allies should not open a Second Front, but should leave Germany to fight Soviet Russia.  Thus Germany would be able to stabilize her Eastern frontiers and become “an impregnable bulwark to the flood of Bolshevism.”  The Pope wrote to President Roosevelt that “radical changes in the formation of the Nazi Government” would occur if the Allies approved of the proposal.

Roosevelt made the Vatican understand that there was no possibility of a negotiated peace while Hitler was in power; therefore the Vatican had better come to some understanding with Soviet Russia, and thus safeguard the interests of the Catholic Church in the countries invaded by the Soviet armies.  Once more the Vatican refused.  It was then that Roosevelt sent Mgr. Spellman to Rome on the task of persuading the Vatican to change “its attitude towards the Soviet Union.”

But once in Rome, Mgr. Spellman was told what the Vatican thought of the Allies’ demand for unconditional surrender of the Axis.  Further, the Pope informed him that he could not “accept the request of President Roosevelt to call on the Catholic world to fight Nazi Germany . . . because the Vatican is unable to identify itself with the war aims of any group of belligerents” (February 21, 1943).


The declaration of Casablanca, which demanded the unconditional surrender of the Tripartite Powers, is completely incompatible with Christian doctrines.


The Vatican’s view at this juncture was that the Allies, by insisting on their formula of unconditional surrender, were compelling the German and Italian nations to fight to the end, giving them no chance to come to an understanding with the Allies—an understanding which was becoming each day more urgent in view of the advance of the Soviet armies in Western Europe.

We have already seen what the Vatican’s proposals were at this stage (see chapter on Italy and the Vatican), and how the Western Powers agreed that, while overthrowing the Fascist and Nazi régimes, the main foundations on which they were based should be preserved, thus avoiding a most dangerous vacuum in Italy, Germany, and throughout the rest of Europe.  The results of this agreement were soon to be seen with the sudden downfall of Mussolini, the taking over of the Government by King Victor and Marshal Badoglio, and finally with the surrender of Italy and the consequent dispersal of German troops which had to be rushed to the Italian Peninsula at a moment when the Germans should have concentrated all their forces in readiness for the great attack.

After the surrender of Italy, as the defeat of Germany became more and more obvious, the Pope, although continuing his attempts for a negotiated peace, swung over to the Allies.  Immediately after the liberation of Rome he began to receive Allied soldiers and officers by the thousand, making speeches in which he advocated a “moderate peace” and “peace without revenge”—although he continued, as ever, to speak and act against Soviet Russia.

While the Vatican was thus in touch with the Allies, it at the same time was trying to persuade Hitler to disappear, giving him to understand that, as the war was lost, it would be better for Germany if he “retired into obscurity.”  Hitler was stubborn, continually repeating that the Pope should persuade the Western Allies to fight on his side against the Soviets.

At last the Pope told the Nazi Ambassador that all the Vatican’s efforts to persuade the Allies to make a negotiated peace with Germany were useless while Hitler was in power.  It would have been a “great deed” for Hitler to have cleared the way for a German Government whose task would have been to make peace with the Western Allies and thus prevent the Bolshevik armies from occupying Germany.  If Germany had to be occupied, it should be by the Western Powers, not by Bolshevism.

In June 1944 Hitler informed the Pope that he was ready to accept suggestions, as forwarded by the Holy See.  He wanted to know something more concrete, however, about “what the Allies would do with Germany.” The Vatican immediately informed Roosevelt, and Roosevelt sent to Rome Mr. Henry Stimson, United States Secretary of State for War, and Mr. Myron Taylor, the United States special Envoy to theVatican.  Both men had long interviews with the Pope.

Before and after the arrival of these two Americans the Vatican was beginning another of its peace offensives.  The Osservatore Romano came out with articles headed:—


End slaughter—Why go on fighting?

Why are they fighting? [one article exclaimed].  It is not the first time this question has been asked, but it has come up again after five years of horrifying war.

Let us hasten peace.  It is the sole benefit on which we still count . . .


But the discussions on the resignation of Hitler and on a negotiated peace ended abruptly.  Something else, meanwhile, was going on behind the scenes.  The Nazi Ambassador to the Vatican, Baron Von Weizsaecker, had been seeing the Pope and his Secretary of State very frequency, and when Myron Taylor visited the Vatican he saw him as well (June/July 1944).  The Baron was a close co-operator with Ribbentrop, and during attempts by the Pope for a negotiated peace he had always distinguished himself by his genuine desire to co-operate with the Holy Father to agree on some peace proposal.

Cardinal Maglione, Mr. Taylor, the Nazi Ambassador, and the British Ambassador had frequent and very secret meetings (May/June).  What was the cause of all this secret activity?  The decision to repeat the happenings of Italy and “thus pave the way to the cessation of hostilities.”

Such a decision had to be put into action quickly if the new plan was to succeed.  For with the Nazi Armies rolling back before the Russians, the exit of Italy from the war, and the impending Allied invasion of Europe, the defeat of Germany had become a certainty.  It was only a matter of time.

Whereas for the Allies the problem was how best to coordinate their military efforts to give Germany a final knock-out blow, for the Vatican the question became how to ensure that the military/political manoeuvre that had achieved the surrender and yet the partial preservation of Fascist Italy would be repeated in Nazi Germany before the sand had completely run out.

Individuals and groups once more began to work, stirred by political and patriotic feelings but above all by the fear of the Bolshevist chaos that the complete defeat of Germany would bring in its train.  Their objectives: to unseat Hitler, set up a provisional dictatorship, bid for peace with the Western Powers so as to arrest  the complete breakdown of social order throughout the Reich.   Such a change would prevent the Soviet Armies from entering German soil, which would be hermetically sealed off once the new Government had accepted the Allies’ peace terms.

As in the case of Italy, those planning for the changes to come had been plotting with varying degrees of success for some time past, the tempo of their activities having quickened since the final defeat of Germany had become inevitable.


[An attempt on Hitler’s life had been made as far back as 1939, after the Polish campaign.  The first organized plot ( besides that of 1939) took place in March 1943.  (Note the dateDuring the same spring Italian plotters were preparing to get rid of Mussolini.)  The plot was conceived by the same elements which in the following year were to attempt to arrest or kill Hitler and, after the example of the Italians, set up a military dictatorship.  In their still-born attempt of 1943, the plot miscarried, owing chiefly to the non-explosion of a bomb put in the plane in which Hitler was traveling (March 13th, 1943).]


As previous to Mussolini’s downfall, so now also the Vatican, Great Britain and the United States of America were in complete agreement about supporting those elements inside Germany ready to carry out the coup.  Nationalistic and patriotic goals were cunningly mixed with religious ones in such a way that these elements (among whom were individuals whose motives were anything but religious) would outwardly appear as a movement whose task was purely political.  Its immediate aims: the salvage of whatever could be saved from ultimate disaster, and the establishment of a military dictatorship.

After the Italian coup, the Vatican—which although one of the main interested powers behind the scenes in the Italian and German plots, acted to all appearances as an aloof observer—having made further approaches both to Hitler and to the Allies in the renewed hope that some kind of a compromise might be reached.  Seeing its attempts again ending in failure, the Vatican set to work to avert final military catastrophe from overtaking Germany before a new Government was ready to take over.

It was thus that in the spring of 1944 the Vatican became active in that type of discreet but ominous activity which in the previous spring had preceded the downfall of Mussolini.  The Nazi Ambassador paid several official and unofficial visits to the Pope, as did the British Ambassador to the Holy See, while Roosevelt’s special envoy, Mr. Taylor, returned to Rome, where he was no less keen than his German and British colleagues on having long private interviews with Pius XII.

Once more the Vatican served as a kind of liaison between the Allies and the German underground charged with the task of replacing Hitler.

The German resisters had been advised to act before the Allies invaded the Continent.  For had they been successful in setting up a new Government, they would have found it infinitely easier to sue for peace than it was for the Nazis to do so; and thus, by obtaining terms by which the dismemberment of the Reich might be avoided, the gloomy possibility of the Soviets occupying part of Germany would be banished.  It should be remembered that at this time—spring 1944—the Soviet Armies were steadily advancing Westwards, while the Western Allies had not yet set foot on Europe.

In view of the gravity of the situation, the plotters—instead of planning to eliminate Hitler by arresting him as had been done with Mussolini—decided on his assassination.  A plot which had been mapped out during the ten summer weeks of 1943, at the time when the Italian plan was executed, was now completed, “the military details for the coup being largely developed by Count Stauffenberg and Maj. Ulrich von Oertzen, in collaboration with General Treschow.”

Col. Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg was Chief of Staff in the General Army Office, under Infantry General Friedrich Olbritch, the latter being one of the leading plotters.  Count Von Stauffenberg was a most ardent Catholic and belonged to a family which for centuries had been deeply steeped in Catholicism.  The Catholicity of the Stauffenbergs was their chief characteristic; they favored the old order of things, and therefore in politics they abhorred Socialist doctrines and all that they implied; as ardent patriots and as pious Catholics, their main goal was to further the interests of Germany and of their Church, and to fight their enemies by every means possible.

At this stage it should be noted that whereas previous unsuccessful schemes had never been fully approved by Rome, now that the Vatican had given its blessing as a most devout Catholic suddenly came into prominence (many Catholics took part in the earlier plots, but had always remained in the background).  Whether this was due to the unusual organizational experience of Von Stauffenberg or to other causes, it is difficult to say; the significant fact remains, however, that from this time onwards—that is, as the Soviet Armies advanced—zealous Catholics became more active than ever.

Besides the military details of the plan, Count Von Stauffenberg and his friends had prepared a careful scheme in the political field.  Many of his associates belonged to the Christian—read Catholic—Conservative opposition to Hitler, and were to become the leaders of the Christian Democratic Union Party, or Christian Socialist Union, headed by the devout Dr. Mueller.

According to this project, as soon as Hitler was eliminated the plotters would set up a military dictatorship.  This would last long enough to prevent revolutionary disorder and to come to terms with the Allies.  It was estimated that such provisional military dictatorship—to be modelled upon that of General Badoglio in Italy—would exist approximately three months.

[According to Fabian Von Schlabrendorff.  In the military dictatorship, the two leaders would have been Col. Gen. Ludwig Beck, who “was to serve as Chief of State until a final decision was made as to the form of Government” and Dr. Goerdeler, as Chancellor.  Dr. Goerdeler was nominally a representative of the Bosch industrial enterprises (see Collier’s, 27.7.1946).]

Once subversive elements had been safely neutralized, a Civil Government with two houses of Parliament would take the place of the temporary dictatorship.  The interplay of various political forces would be resumed.  Parliament would be controlled by an institution which would stand above it to “guarantee” the stability necessary for an ordered society: that is to say, above the Government there would be a King.  We quote here the words of one who took part in the plot:


There would be a two-house Parliament, along the lines of the English system.  The chief executive would be Chancellor, corresponding to a Prime Minister.  In addition, it was felt that there must be one department that stood above political discussion, for the character and history of the German people are such that leadership cannot be built up exclusively from below.  To meet this need, many of us favored a monarchy.


The reader should note the significant phrase: “leadership can not be built up exclusively from below”—one of the main political doctrines of the Catholic Church, which teaches that Authority derives from God and not from the people.

The plotters persuaded many high German officers to side with them.  Among these were Col. General Otto von Stulpnagel, Commander-in-Chief in France, and General Alexander von Falkenhausen, Commander-in-Chief in Belgium and Northern France.  (One should remember the harmonious relationship between von Falkenhausen and the Primate of Belgium, whom the General thanked “for the solicitude you have been good enough to show for the interest which I represent.”)

It was decided to kill Hitler during one of his usual military conferences.  At first there was great difficulty in finding volunteers for the task, until finally Maj. Gen. Hellmuth Stieff, of the High Command, came forward, and two others, Maj. Kuhn and Lt Albrecht von Hagen, offered to help him.

Owing to lack of favorable circumstances, however, the attempt was postponed from week to week, until at last the plotters gave up hope.  There were other plans also, but they all came to nothing.

(Another plan was to have Hitler repeat his earlier visit to the Central Army Group in Russia, where Trekow and von Schlabrendorff had almost brought about the Fuehrer’s death in March 1943.  However, nothing could prevail on Hitler to journey there again.)

Meanwhile, events quickly succeeded one another, the date of the Allied landing was approaching, and the plotters saw with dismay that they had as yet done nothing to realize their plans.  “We wanted desperately to stage our coup before the expected Western invasion by the Allies took place.  But one unfortunate accident followed another, until on June 6th, 1944 the invasion began.”

At this point some, having abandoned all hope, decided to give up their project.  Not so others, especially those representing the Christian Conservative opposition.  For although the first disaster that led the whole of Germany to the precipice, that is the Allied invasion of Europe, had already overtaken them, the second, the advance of Bolshevist legions on German soil, might yet be averted providing no time was lost.

The Red menace became an even more horrifying nightmare when, shortly afterwards (22nd June 1944), the Russians followed up the Western invasion with their offensive in the East.

At this stage, what neither patriotism nor fear of social revolution, political upheaval or national defeat had had the force to do, religious conviction and the will of men believing it their duty to take any risk, cost them what it may, to defend the interest and perhaps even the very existence of their Church from its arch-enemy, made them spring to action.

As the Red Armies advanced and none of the other plotters acted, the devout Catholic Count Von Stauffenberg stepped forward and offered himself to kill Hitler.  (Von Stauffenberg, by the way, had been destined to be the key man with General Olbricht in the future home Army set-up whose task would have been to crush all subversive elements in post-Hitler Germany.)

In the words of Fabian von Schlabrendorff:


Ten days later (dating from 22nd June) I received a message from Count Stauffenberg.  He had decided it was impossible to wait any longer.  He was going to kill Hitler himself.  We would be prepared for the assassination to take place any day.


This was all the more remarkable as “in the original planning, Stauffenberg had not been considered as a possible assassin, since he had only one hand, from which two fingers were missing.  But he was fearless and able, and one of the few resistance men who were in a position to get at Hitler.”

On July 20th, 1944, Count Von Stauffenberg acted.  That day he took into Hitler’s office a brief case loaded with explosives, timed to go off within a few minutes.  Having deposited the case, he departed unsuspected.  There followed an explosion so terrific that Von Stauffenberg had no doubt that Hitler and those with him had been killed.

Immediately after the attempt wild confusion seized Berlin.  Von Stauffenberg, General Olbritch and others started to put their detailed plans into operation, beginning by holding General Fromm, Commander of the home Army, their prisoner.  (Fromm, who afterwards executed von Stauffenberg, in turn was himself executed by Hitler, who suspected that he had known of the plot.)

But the schemers had their way for only a couple of hours.  Hitler had again escaped, and was still alive.

[It is noteworthy that certain semi-official quarters in Allied countries, with particular regard to the British Broadcasting Corporation, in addition to large portions of the British and American Press, particularly the Catholic, usually very reticent, now stressed time and again that the man who had dared to attempt to rid the world of Hitler was a “Roman Catholic.”  This was all the more remarkable when one remembers that in similar circumstances the Church to which a political assassin belongs is rarely if ever mentioned.  (Broadcasts from the B.B.C. on the 20th and 21st July, 1944.)]

Stauffenberg and Olbritch were immediately executed.  General Beck was allowed to commit suicide, others died before the Fuehrer’s firing squads.

Thus the plan which in the case of Italy had worked out so smoothly and so successfully, in the case of Germany miscarried completely.

Immediately after the attempt was known to have failed, Cardinal Faulhaber, Archbishop of Munich, sent his own and his Bishops’ congratulations to Hitler on his escape from the attack on his life.  This was followed by the singing of the Te Deum in Munich Cathedral.

The Vatican for a time remained mute.  But after a few days, as it powerlessly watched the unfolding of the final catastrophe, it began once more loudly to warn the victorious nations on two main subjects: First, that the Allies had to be generous to Germany; and, secondly, that they had to take measures to prevent the spreading of Communism and to prevent “Godless Russia” from conquering Europe.

As the end of Nazi Germany’s military resistance was approaching and as the Russian armies advanced towards Berlin, Roosevelt continued his efforts to bridge the immense gap that separated the Vatican and the Kremlin.  As late as March 1945, after prolonged negotiations with the Vatican, Roosevelt sent another personal envoy, Mr. E. J. Flynn, to Rome.  Mr. Flynn saw the pope on several occasions, and also the Papal Assistant Secretary.  The purpose of the visit was a well-known “secret”another of Roosevelt’s many attempts for a rapprochement between Moscow and the Vatican.  But once more the President’s efforts failed, owing to the intractability of the Pope.

The “winter” disintegration of Hitler’s armies reached a climax during the spring of 1945, when the Soviet armies rushed towards the Nazi Capital, while the Allies were occupying the great towns of Western Germany.  During April and May the Nazi armies were collapsing, and on May 7 surrendered unconditionally, preceded and followed by the surrender of various armies in different parts of Europe.  Thus ended Nazi Germany and the Second World War in Europe.

A few weeks after the Allied and Russian armies had installed themselves in an utterly ruined and smoking Germany, after Hitler had been reported dead in Berlin, after a horror campaign had been let loose upon the world on the opening of the concentration camps, and after the German people had become the target of world-wide hatred and unheard-of national and individual humiliation and degradation, German voices began to be heard.  They were the same voices that the German people had been hearing for years during Hitler’s régime; the same voices that, a few years before, had prayed for the “Great Fuehrer”; the voices that, when daring to whisper protests against Nazism, complained only when “breaches of the Concordat” were at stake.

German cardinals and German bishops, when showing foreign journalists the ruins of their cathedrals, began to thunder against “wicked Nazism,” “the primary cause of all this havoc in so many sacred buildings.”  They repeatedly assured the British and Americans that they, the cardinals and bishops, as well as the Catholic Church, had always not only condemned Nazism, but fought it from its very beginning.  The amazing statements of these dignitaries would fill whole books, but we shall content ourselves with two typical examples of this sudden conversion: two high prelates whom we have already met in this book, namely Cardinal Faulhaber and Archbishop Groeber.

Only ten days after the German capitulation, Cardinal Faulhaber, after having given a tirade against Nazism to American correspondents, was asked why he was so violently opposed to the former régime.  He unhesitatingly declared: “Because Nazism was against Christianity and Catholicism.”  He then gave four main reasons why Nazism created difficulties for Catholicism:—


1.  The weekly inspection of the Hitler Youth, held always on Sundays, clashed with the Church services.

2.  Abolition of religious instruction in schools for all pupils over twelve years old.

3.  The all-pervading anti-Christian atmosphere engulfing Germany.

4.  The ceaseless propaganda for militarism and the insidious methods of weaning the children away from family influences.


After giving these reasons, the Cardinal declared: “Nazism must not be allowed to rise after the war” (May 12, 1945).


[With the receding of the war into the background, however, several members of the German Hierarchy began to come out in defence of the Nazi régime.  A typical example was Cardinal von Galen, who in February 1946 delivered an address in the Church of Santa Maria dell’Anima in defence of Nazism.  The address was subsequently printed in pamphlet form, under the heading Law and Lawlessness, and distributed first in the British zone and then in other parts of occupied Germany.  (See Kirchlisches Amtsblatt fuer die Diozese Münster, July 1946.)]


Almost at the same time Archbishop Groeber published a pastoral letter in which, at last, he dared to condemn Nazism.  He tried to explain why a “Catholic revolution against Hitler was an impossibility”:—


It was not only because the Hitlerites had usurped power by means of a regular vote and could therefore claim the legality of their régime [he said], but every resistance against them collapsed in the face of a force that was bare of all scruple and ruthless to the core.


He continued: “Never were the German people deceived as much as they were during the past thirteen years.”  Finally, remembering the part he and the Catholic Church played, he significantly exclaimed: “However, in the eyes of God at least, we bear quite a bit of responsibility.”

Then, more than a month after Germany’s complete defeat; above the moans of the millions of bereaved, homeless, wounded, humiliated, and bewildered Germans; above the 9,000-10,000 Catholic Churches out of the total of 12,000 in Germany proper which were completely destroyed or seriously damaged by Allied air-raids or land battles; above the burned-out shells of cathedrals looming grimly against the sky—for the first time since the rise of the régime the Pope dared to breathe the word “Nazism” in condemnation.  During a short allocution Pius XII had the moral courage to declare that it was “a good thing” that “Satanic Nazism” had been destroyed.

That was all.  The Pope had spoken against Nazism at last.


[When the Allies—Great Britain, the United States of America, Soviet Russia, and France—staged in 1946 what Hermann Goering called (September 1946) “the framed-up trial” of Nuremberg (the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal), to which the principal Nazi survivors were brought, Pius XII sent Baron Ernst von Weizasecker, former German Ambassador to the Holy See, after having granted him a long audience (May 1946), to give evidence against the men responsible for having helped Hitler to power.  It should be noticed that not a single word was spoken on the part played by Pope Pius XI, Pope Pius XII, and the various German cardinals and bishops.  On the contrary, the Vatican was publicly thanked by the Chief American Prosecutor at Nuremberg, Justice Jackson of the United States Supreme Court, who expressed his “gratitude to the Vatican for making available to the Nuremberg trials documents touching upon the charges of persecution of religion in Germany and Nazi occupied countries. . . . The part of the Nuremberg trial that was concerned with proving the persecution of the Churches was greatly expedited and aided by documents provided for us by the Vatican.” (Justice Jackson, in a statement to the N.C.W.C. News Service, Washington, August 1946).  While helping the victors and indicting the former Nazi leaders, presenting itself as one of Nazism’s victims, the Vatican was using all its influence to save those Nazis who had helped to place the Catholic Church in a privileged position in the Third Reich and her satellite countries.  This with particular regard to von Papen (see Pravda and Osservatore Romano, third week of March 1946), who was acquitted October 1, 1946; Mgr. Tiso, Prime Minister of Slovakia; Arthur Greiser, former Gauleiter of Western Poland, sentenced to death (July 15, 1946), and in an effort to save whom the Vatican sent a special cable to the President of Poland (see The Observer, London, July 21, 1946).]





Austria has been one of the most Catholic countries in Europe—a country where Catholicism penetrated, very deeply, its social, economic, cultural, and political structure.  This was symbolized by the most intimate co-operation of the Church and the Austrian Dynasty, each supporting the other throughout the centuries.

After the close of the Thirty Years’ War, the main responsibility for which lies on the shoulders of the most Catholic Hapsburg, that dynasty became the champion of Catholicism.  A special measure of privilege, protection, and support was given to the Catholic Church, which in return continued to bestow all her blessing on the absolute, theocratic dynasty.  All her anathemas and moral or religious weapons were employed to fight any potential enemy threatening the Imperial House, such as Secularism and Liberalism during the last century, and Socialism in the first two decades of the twentieth.

Notwithstanding such close collaboration, the Church and the Monarchy did not always walk hand in hand along the road of history.  The Monarchy very often followed an independent path when political aims were at stake; the Hapsburg insisted on the control of the State over the Church.  That was not all.  In the course of time the absolutism and reaction of both the Austrian rulers and the Catholic Church became so close that the Austrian Emperor could openly and officially interfere in the very election of the Popes.  He had, in fact, acquired the right of “veto,” by virtue of which the Austrian ruler could suggest or forbid to the cardinals assembled in Conclave any candidate for the Papacy.

The last example occurred before the First World War.  After the death of Leo XIII, while the cardinals were praying to the Holy Ghost for guidance in the election of the new Pope, Francis Joseph charged a cardinal—Cardinal Puzyna—to tell his colleagues that the potential candidate to be elected, Cardinal Rampolla, must not become Pope.

The Emperor had his way.  The cardinals who were voting in favor of Rampolla did not know that one of them, Cardinal Puzyna, had the Imperial veto in his pocket.  At last, just when Cardinal Rampolla seemed on the brink of obtaining the necessary two-thirds majority vote, Cardinal Puzyna read the veto.  In spite of the consternation the Emperor was obeyed.  Rampolla never became Pope, the good-hearted but reactionary Patriarch of Venice being elected as Pius X.

During the first and second part of the last century Austria was an amalgamation of nationalities, races, and religions grouped together under the Emperor, who ruled as absolutely as a mediaeval monarch.  The Jesuits were all-powerful and were dominant in the educational and, indirectly, in the political field.  Austria at that period might well be described as a solid bloc, impregnable to any idea of progressive social or political changes, thanks to the close alliance and supreme rule of the Hapsburgs and the Catholic Church.  Austria, in fact, was ruled in both higher and lower spheres by the trinity of Aristocracy, Bureaucracy, and the Catholic Church, linked together by ties of rank, of religion, and of tradition.

Nevertheless, the ideals of the French Revolution had not spread in vain over Europe.  Unrest came to life in Austria as well as in other parts of the Continent.  Revolutions broke out which were suppressed with the ferocity characteristic of the pious Hapsburg.  Gradually, however, Liberal principles took hold of Austria and began to permeate the social, educational, and political life.  We cannot relate this interesting process here: it suffices to say that in the 1870’s the Taafe Government, which was to last fourteen years, fought with all its might against the heresy of Liberalism, which daily was making new conquests.  The Catholic Church was the main-spring of this hostility.

This was the natural sequel to the struggle fought by Catholicism, especially after the revolutions of 1848, when it tried to strengthen its own fervor as an antidote against the democratic spirit then beginning to penetrate into Austria.  A Concordat was concluded with the Vatican, and the Catholic Church added new privileges to all those she already possessed.  What the Vatican really sought, however, by signing the Concordat was to counteract and destroy the Democratic and Liberal ideas which threatened to captivate youth.  Thus, in virtue of this Concordat, the whole educational system was handed over to the Catholic Church, which charged the religious Orders and the village priests to carry on the new counter-revolution.

Although Catholicism had been an integral part of Austrian every-day life, especially among the rural population, the Concordat was received by a considerable part of the population with great hostility.  It aroused widespread anti-clerical feeling which had been unknown before Liberalism.  The challenge of the Catholic Church was taken up and its absolutism contested in all spheres, and thus anti-clericalism, to large masses of the populace, became the most attractive thing in Liberalism.

In Vienna anti-clericalism took deep root, became widespread, and remained so until the end of the last century.  For decades priests hardly dared to address public meetings in Vienna, but eventually political Catholicism began to enter on the scene in its modern shape.  The Concordat, however, was denounced at the beginning of the Liberal era.  In spite of all the efforts of the Catholic Church and of the ruling castes of Austria, Liberalism and democratic ideals gained ground.  The Catholic Church decided to enter directly into the political arena and fight her enemies on their own ground.  A Catholic political movement was initiated.

The Austrian Catholic Party, in order to have a popular appeal, began with a most rabid anti-Semitism.  Karl Lueger, the most out-standing man in Austrian political Catholicism, stated that Catholicism, especially in Vienna, could be made into a political movement only through an intermediary stage of mass anti-Semitism.  This might sound surprising to modern ears, used to hearing the Vatican speak in favor of the Jews.  Yet this is not the only instance of this kind we shall encounter.  Lueger’s group for a long time, in fact, called itself simply “anti-Semitic.”  Later on it was rebaptized “The Christian Social Party,” and under this name the Party subsisted until 1934.  Lueger created a cult firmly rooted in deep veneration of the Church and of the Imperial House.

The Socialists meanwhile had begun to increase in number and influence.  At the instigation of the Socialist Party the workers began to organize and develop trade unions.  The result was that the Socialist trade unions drove out the organizations of the Catholics and Nationalists and soon won a practical monopoly of organized labor.

Owing chiefly to the rise of the Socialists, universal suffrage was introduced, which gave the vote to the workers in 1906.  A big group of Socialists appeared in Parliament.  Gradually they began to acquire power in local administration as well as in the State machinery.  The Socialists, owing to their organization and also to the weakness of the tottering Empire, built almost a State within a State.  They succeeded in organizing the workers, not only politically and industrially, but also in all their spare-time activities.  They got hold of the worker from the cradle to the grave, nursing him, caring for him, and trying to supply all his moral, spiritual and material needs.

There existed workers’ organizations for gymnastics, for hiking and climbing, as well as for many other sports.  Artistic and educational pursuits were not forgottenfor instance, choral singing, listening to music, playing chess, and the provision of book clubs and lectures.  Many of these clubs granted to their members substantial financial advantages.  Furthermore, the Socialists, by means of the democratic vote, controlled an increasing number of sick-relief insurance funds and similar institutions and, after the First World War, won control of 47 percent of the municipalities.  The municipalities, when once in the hands of the Socialists, carried out large-scale relief work; the effect of this, when combined with the efforts of the various Socialist clubs, being to keep the workers linked up to the Socialist Party in every aspect of their lives.

The Socialist worker generally wanted to have his children born in a municipality ruled by Socialist administration, because there the poorer families enjoyed some financial help at the time of birth.  A Socialist town council usually launched an extensive scheme of kindergarten, run on Socialist principles of education, after which the pupil, boy or girl, would enter a preparatory school still under the supervision of a Socialist town council.  A boy or girl on leaving school would join a Socialistic youth organization.  Such youth organizations would reject all the teaching and practice of Catholicism and carry out an equivalent initiation rite of their own, in place of confirmation.

The Socialists extended their influence, teaching, and practices in all spheres of life and throughout the worker’s life until his death, when he was buried through the care of a Socialist burial insurance fund, to which he had contributed during his life.  All this was strongly opposed by the Catholic Church, which saw that the Socialists were trespassing with the greatest impudence on those spheres hitherto considered her own.  Socialistic practice was rapidly being substituted for the principles and practice of Catholicism.5

The Catholic Church had fought Socialism from its beginning, and with its continuing increase she deemed it necessary to come out and fight in the open.  She declared the Socialist faith to be sinful, condemned Socialist ideas, boycotted Socialist organizations, and preached against anything the Socialists were doing.  As a result the workers began to regard the Church as their enemy.  The working class became anti-Catholic and Atheistic, while the organization of the Freethinkers became one of their strongest branches.  The fight against Catholicism developed into one of the most powerful assets of Austrian Socialism for winning the masses.

This state of affairs, since long before the First World War, was due to the fact that, as we have hinted already, Catholicism, in Austria more than anywhere else, has been always a strongly political affair.  It had always been closely connected with the Monarchy, and all its care of social problems was consistently subordinated to the interests of the Catholic Church and of the Monarchy.  The Catholic Church was identified with the dynasty and was, in fact, an integral part of the ruling classes.  The Socialists and all their principles were abhorred by the Catholic Church, and in addition they were considered as a non-loyalist element.  In consequence, the fight between the Church and the Socialists in Austria attained such bitterness as it had never reached in Germany.

In their dealings with their adversaries, however, the Austrian Socialists were not totalitarian.  They had always been strong and convinced democrats.  For them a democratic policy was not a matter of tactics, but of deep conviction.

Immediately after the First World War only two forces remained in the field, the Catholic and the Socialist.  Their strength was about equal.  The Catholic Party, in 1919, enjoyed the complete confidence of the peasants, although a good number of agricultural laborers had voted for the Socialists.

The Socialists organized the whole working class, and within the next few years increased their membership to the fantastic figure of 700,000 in a country of only 6,500,000 inhabitants.  The Austrian Socialist Party, during the years after the First World War, was the strongest Socialist Party in the world, both in its political influence at home and in the proportion of the total population absorbed in its ranks.

A reaction to this Socialist power began to take shape.  It was led by the Catholic Church with its Hierarchy, supported by the Catholic peasants, the whole bourgeoisie, Jewish and Aryan, and the old aristocracy.

From the day of the formation of the Republic the Socialists had co-operated with the Catholics in a coalition Government.  This Government, at first, had been strongly under Socialist influence, but, after the fall of the neighboring Hungarian Soviet Republic, had been reconstructed to the advantage of the Catholics.  The masses grew uneasy at the participation of the Socialists in a Government dominated by the Catholics.  In 1920 the Socialists finally left the Government.

But in so doing they did not break with the administration.  Much of the power of the State was vested in the provincial Governments and in the municipalities and here the Socialists were strong.  They completely dominated the provincial Government of Vienna, where they polled more than two-thirds of the vote.

The Socialists made use of the municipal administration for carrying out extensive social reforms.  During their ten years of power a great amount of social work was done, including the creation of an efficient hygiene department, a home for consumptives, and the like.

They municipalized housing.  The Viennese Socialists constructed large municipal buildings which earned the admiration of conservative reformers all over the world.  This great energy in providing healthy and cheap housing for the working class in Vienna was regarded by the Catholics, and all other anti-Socialists, as the best proof of “creeping Bolshevism.”  So much was this so that when, later on, the Catholics again took over the administration of Vienna, their first proceeding was to discontinue this building program, which had not yet been completed.

But the most remarkable feature of the Socialist administration in Austria, and especially in Vienna, was that they did not in any sense persecute the Catholic Church, although considering her to be their political enemy.  Never were they accused of anything in the nature of “Red outrages.”  This was in contrast to the behavior of the Most Catholic Government, which dealt most barbarously with its critics by mass hanging, as we shall see presently.

Meanwhile, the Catholics and all other reactionary elements became active openly and underground.  There were rumors that they might try to break the power of the Socialists by undemocratic means, seeing that, as long as democracy existed, the Socialists were bound to become stronger and stronger.  To forestall this the Socialists had formed the “Republican Defense Corps”—a strong and well-disciplined armed guard, ready to fight in defense of democracy and the Socialist Party.

Further, parallel to the closing of the ranks of the reactionary forces at home, reactionary forces abroad had begun to seize power, building up Fascist and semi-Fascist States in many parts of Europe.  Affairs were already indicating the direction in which Austria, and indeed the whole of Europe, was going.

Soon after the First World War, Prelate Ignaz Seipel, a theologian, had attained the leadership of the Catholic Party.  Minister in the last Imperial Government, and unchallenged head of the clerical party, he set before himself, as his life’s goal, the restoration of political power to the Catholic Church and also to the Hapsburgs.

He was a man of great personal integrity and asceticism, although he possessed a special talent for intrigue designed to further the political interests of the Catholic Church.  He ate, prayed, and slept in two little monastic rooms in the Convent of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Throughout his years as Chancellor, Seipel allowed no political stress to curb his religious duties.  Daily at six o’clock in the morning he said Mass in the Convent Chapel.  He continued to act as the Superior of this Congregation of nuns despite the demands of his office.

Although not a member of the Society of Jesus, Seipel had all the characteristics popularly attributed to the Jesuits.  It was impossible, for instance, to tie him down to a clear “yes” or “no.”  He had an intense hatred of the Socialists or anything connected with their ideas.  Equally repugnant to him were Secularism, Modernism, and Liberalism.  His second objective, besides that of furthering the power of the Catholic Church, was the crushing of the Social Democratic Party, which he hated as “the Red Antichrist.”  The Socialists called him “The Cardinal without Mercy”—“Der Keine Milde Kardinal.”  Twice he was almost killed by the infuriated mob.

Before proceeding farther, let us see what were the ideas and aims of Seipel in the domestic and foreign fields.  These are most important, for they continued extensively to guide the Austrian Governments till the end of Austria, especially in the domestic sphere.  Their importance is further enhanced when it is remembered that they drew their inspiration from the Catholic Church itself, and were not only approved, but fostered, by the Vatican.  It must be borne in mind that Seipel, throughout his life, was in the closest contact with the Pope and his Secretary of State and that he molded his policy according to the dictates of the Vatican.

The outstanding characteristic of his policy was the subordination of political, economic, and social matters to ecclesiastical interests.  To him the interests of the Catholic Church were identified with the existing social order; or, to be more correct, with the social order of pre-war times.  He was bitterly hostile to any widespread movement of social reform.  He hated the Socialist unions.  Once, when arguing with a French Jesuit who had emphasized the necessity for widespread social reforms, he replied: “More capitalistico vivit ecclesia catholica”—“the Catholic Church lives in the form of capitalism.”

He took his cue in economic matters from the bankers and industrialists, whose aims coincided with his.  To him the ideal state of society for which he was striving was closely identified with the resuscitation of the old hierarchical structure of society, and especially of the power of the clergy.  On more than one occasion he openly confessed that he found it impossible to tolerate the limitations imposed upon the power of the Catholic Church within the Republic.  We said, before, that the main asset of the Socialists was their anti-clericalism, which, as soon as they took over the administration of Vienna in 1918, increased greatly.  The party fomented sentiments of anti-clericalism and religious indifference.

According to Seipel, the political power of the Socialists was the chief obstruction to the control of the Church over souls.  Therefore he set out to crush their power—a task which was accomplished after his death.  Seipel formed a close alliance with all the bitterest enemies of Socialism.  He hated the Socialists because they were against the Catholic Church, the industrialists, and all other [wealthy] sections of society, and because of the heavy taxation they imposed upon these sections.  Seipel and the Catholic Party identified themselves wholly and without reserve with the cause of big business.

Seipel’s ideas of how society should be constructed were typically ultra-Catholic, and were mainly inspired by the various dicta of the Popes which we have examined in the previous part of this book.  His antipathy to Socialism, and his conviction that it was essential to offer the masses a Catholic conception of social order dependent on the resurrection of the mediaeval Guilds or Corporations, was highly esteemed at the Vatican.  Accordingly he was asked by the Pope himself to help in drafting that very encyclical which announced officially the Vatican policy sponsoring the creation of the Corporate State in the modern world.  Seipel became, in fact, the Pope’s “adviser,” if it is permissible to use the term, and was largely successful in inserting his ideas into the political doctrines of international Catholicism.

Seipel defended industry, capitalism, the banks and their owners.  Any obstacle opposed to their economic independence was considered an attempt against the natural order of things.  The Seipel Stände, or social grades, were not instruments of social order, but aimed primarily at political domination.  According to Seipel, Stände had to elect the representatives to Parliament.  They had to counteract the domination of sheer numbers in democratic elections.  In short, they were to be created in order to break the strength of the Socialists.  By gradually introducing these ideas into the machinery of the State, Seipel succeeded in crushing Democracy and the Socialists, but in so doing he paved the way to the most blatant Fascism, which, in its turn, crushed political Catholicism.

In harmony with, and closely related to, this social policy Seipel had also a well-defined foreign policy, similarly endorsed by the Vatican.  This foreign policy later on promoted, as we shall see, the disintegration of Czechoslovakia.  Seipel was, in fact, dreaming of the creation of a new Holy Roman Empire.  Simply stated, this political entity would have consisted in a union of those States, and parts of States, professing the Catholic Faith and belonging to the old Austro-Hungarian monarchy.  Vienna was to be the capital and Austria was to form the centre.

From Yugoslavia, Seipel proposed to take the Catholic Croatia, constituting one-third of its territory, this region being antagonized in the religious sphere by the Yugoslav Central Government.  Czechoslovakia was to be divided into two, the Catholic Slovakia being taken away from the Hussite ‘heretics’ and the free-thinking Czechs and united with that part of Hungary placed under Romania.  In Hungary Seipel would have installed a Catholic ruler, possibly a scion of the Hapsburgs, thus preventing Calvinists like the Hungarian Regent and Count Bethlen from ruling a Catholic population.  That was not all.  If circumstances allowed, the plan was to include Bavaria, which France had tried to separate from Berlin, and Alsace-Lorraine.  It must be a Catholic Empire—a Papal Federation—where the Pope might even find a defender and a seat if the worst should happen at the hands of the International Socialists and Red Russia.

Seipel’s project was to work towards the gradual completion of this plan by building a Danubian Confederation, by consolidating a series of friendships and tariff pacts, and by a gradual welding together of a new nation to restore peace in Central Europe under the aegis of the Catholic Church.  He prepared his plans to this end in detail, great and small.  He had even selected the future Most Catholic Emperor.  This was to be the son of the deposed Empress Zita, the young Otto, whose early training had been received at the Benedictine Abbey of St. Maurice in Clervaux, Luxembourg.  He allied himself with the legitimists in Hungary and, at the Vatican, influenced the appointment of Dr. Justinian Seredi as Primate of Hungary.  That is another instance of the Pope’s participation in the plan.

Such were the conceptions of the Catholic Prelate Seipel, who was carrying on his policy in the closest contact with the Vatican.  Now let us consider very briefly how he carried it out.

We have already seen how the reactionary forces, led by the Catholics, had begun to take counter-measures to arrest the power of the “Atheistic Socialist.”  These counter-measures were embodied in the gradual emergence of armed, secret, anti-Socialist groupings, who began the systematic killing of prominent Socialists in the small provincial towns.

Early in 1927 a Vienna jury, consisting mostly of anti-Socialists, acquitted Heimwehr men who, for political reasons, had committed several murders.  Already, in numerous other cases, anti-Socialists had been acquitted in similar circumstances.  The workers thus became convinced that the Law Courts no longer afforded any protection against political murder.  A spontaneous mass-demonstration swept the streets of Vienna on the morning of July 15, 1927.  Clashes with the police occurred.  The infuriated crowds attacked the building of the Supreme Court and burnt it down as a symbol of legal injustice.  The leader of the Socialists sent the “Republican Defense Corps” to disperse the masses and save the building, thereby depriving the Catholics of an excuse for using more force.  But the Government had already prepared to send troops, who arrived suddenly and began to fire upon the masses, who were completely disarmed.  Fighting continued, here and there, for two days.  There were over ninety dead and over one thousand wounded.

The political balance was quickly upset.  Seipel declared publicly: “Do not ask mildness from me at this moment.”  A tremendous wave of political passion took possession of the working-class districts.  Within the next five months, over twenty-one thousand people officially left the Catholic Church as a protest against the priest who had said “No mildness.”

As a consequence of this tragic event the Socialists lost their last influence in the Army and Police, which by now were instruments of the Government.  Furthermore, the Catholic, anti-Socialist, and semi-Fascist movement, which had been preparing itself with varying fortunes, came suddenly into the open.  This movement arose chiefly among the peasants.  The Catholic peasants, influenced by their priests and by their fear of having their lands confiscated by the Reds, had hated “Red Vienna” since 1919.  On July 15 they thought that Vienna had become the victim of a “Bolshevik” rising.

Thus the Heimwehren suddenly reappeared on the political scene.  The Heimwehren, mainly a peasant organization, were led by the upper class of the villages and small towns.  Their appeal was made to Catholics and enlisted numerous priests, who declared the city government of Vienna to be the work of Lenin, the devil, and Anti-Christ.

The Heimwehren had one definite aim only-to smash the Reds.  Seipel, who had helped them, speedily employed them as an instrument to overthrow democracy.  He shaped the ideas of this body and directed it not only against the Reds, but against democracy as such.  His slogans assumed the tune of “Away with Parliament” and “We need an authoritarian State.”  Such slogans, of course, were in opposition to the Catholic Party, of which Seipel was the leader, as well as the Socialist Party.  But there was no contradiction in the now openly declared policy.  The same sequence of events which had occurred in Italy was now occurring in Austrianamely, the liquidation of the Catholic Party as a political instrument and the substitution of a more powerful instrument to further Catholic policy.  This instrument was Fascism, embodied in this case in the Heimwehr.  The policy of the Vatican, to sacrifice a Catholic Party if thereby dictatorship could be attained, had again triumphed.

The Heimwehr, however, remained always under strength.  Its battalions were recruited mainly from the peasants, who are not generally available for political action outside their own region or beyond their immediate interests.  If Italian Fascism, and Nazism, had relied solely on the Catholic peasants and on anti-Socialistic sentiment, they could never have triumphed.  They relied mainly on the middle stratum of the urban population, the lower middle classes.  This stratum in Austria was actively Fascist, but it was very small.  The Fascist Heimwehr could never find compensation for the absence of the middle classes as an aid to Fascism and Nazism.

In the October that followed, Seipel instructed the Heimwehr to organize under his banner, giving an assurance of protection from State action, of immunity from interference by foreign Governments, of enough money for uniforms and weapons and of wages when necessary.  A year later the ex-Chancellor, believing the time to be ripe for his return to power on the crest of the Fascist wave, openly proclaimed himself a Fascist.  (Seldes, The Vatican: Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow.)  Owing to this support and to the support of the Catholics and other reactionary elements, coupled with the encouragement of the Vatican as well as that of Mussolini, the Heimwehren were strong enough to attack the Socialists and Democracy four times in the following autumn.

Subsequent history shows that the following years of the Republic pivoted mainly on these attacks.  The first attempt was planned in imitation of Mussolini’s march on Rome.  In October 1928 the Heimwehren organized a big demonstration, gathering armed troops from all over Austria to meet in an industrial area south of Vienna.  The workers, who also possessed arms, prepared themselves to fight.  Nothing, however, happened.

By now the military aristocratic elements had given more uniformity to the Heimwehren.  With the help of these armed forces, Seipel, who had resigned early in the spring of that year, compelled his successor to resign.  Schober, the Chief of Police, who had ordered the troops to fire on the Socialists in 1927, became Prime Minister.

Seipel was to receive two major blows.  First, Schober expelled Seipel’s right-hand man in the Heimwehr, Major Waldemar Pabst.  Pabst was a professional counter-revolutionist, implicated in political assassinations in Germany and a go-between of Hitler and Prince Stahremberg, the chief of the Heimwehr.  The second blow to Seipel’s political plan was the election of a Labor Government in England.

Ramsay MacDonald and Arthur Henderson were close friends of the Viennese Socialists.  Henderson, when informed of the arming of the Heimwehr, caused an interpellation in the House of Commons.  The charge was that the Peace Treaty had been broken, that a secret army was being organized, and that the secret army was being supplied from Government sources.  The British Government demanded that the Heimwehr should disarm.  The French Government made the same demand.  This intervention from the two Governments saved Austria from imminent civil war between the Heimwehr and the Socialist Republican Army and led to the retirement for the time being of Monsignor Seipel.

The Heimwehr meanwhile, having seen their direct attack fail, tried indirect methods.  With the help of the Catholic Karl Vaugoin, the Vice-Chancellor, an attempt was made to break the Socialist control of the railwaymen.  The Government was split on the issue of selecting the man appointed to break down the Socialist resistance, and resigned.  Vaugoin was appointed Chancellor, and his first act was to dissolve Parliament.  In this he was passionately supported by the Heimwehr, which pronounced for dictatorship.  The Government itself stated that from now on it would govern only by “authoritarian” methods.  Seipel, in the meantime, resigned the chairmanship of the Catholic Party, a move full of meaning so far as the use of the Catholic Political Party to the Catholic Church was concerned.  He next entered Vaugoin’s Government as Foreign Minister.  Of the two Heimwehr leaders, Prince Stahremberg became Home Secretary and Dr. Hueber went to the Board of Trade.  Dr. Hueber was an outspoken Nazi, who later on was to become a member of the four-days’ Nazi Government of 1938, which handed over Austria to Germany.  Prince von Stahremberg openly boasted of his alliance with Hitler, who by that time was marching quickly towards absolutism.

The Socialists, however, made it clear that if the election should be cancelled, or if the New House were to meet, they would fight resolutely.  In the election the Vaugoin-Seipel and Stahremberg group failed to secure a majority.  Meanwhile, England and France clearly stated that they expected Austria to produce a constitutional Government.  The three would-be dictators resigned.

After these resignations the Heimwehr rapidly disintegrated.  In Germany Hitler had now become a political power, through the general election of 1930.  The Austrian election at the same time had not given the Nazis a single seat.  Nazism began to exert a strong attraction for the members of the defeated Heimwehr.  They approached Hitler, who propounded to them three conditions: no restoration of the Hapsburgs, but Anschluss [Union with Germany]; absolute opposition to parliamentarianism; unquestioning acceptance of his personal rule.  What was left of the Heimwehr split on these three conditions.  Stahremberg supported Monarchism, but the Styrian Heimwehren joined the Nazis.  On September 13, 1931, they attempted a military rising, which, however, was quickly suppressed.

Parliament continued to drag on very uneasily, the Catholic Government striving to rule with a minority.  In the end a new Cabinet was formed under Dr. Dollfuss, with a one-vote majority in Parliament.

Dollfuss was the illegitimate son of a peasant.  He had been destined for the ecclesiastical profession, and had been educated in a seminary with the assistance of an ecclesiastical grant.  At the age of nineteen, however, he changed his mind.  After the War he gradually became an important official of the various Catholic organizations, first among the students, and later among the peasants.  He started as an outspoken member of the democratic wing of the Catholic Party, but afterwards he became a member of the “Authoritarian” faction.  He assumed power shortly after Seipel’s death on September 2, 1932, and can be regarded as the executor of the political testament of that prelate.

Relations with the Catholics in power became every day more strained, and also with the Socialists.  Once more Dollfuss sought to strengthen the discredited Heimwehr.  Simultaneously he declared his intention of transforming Austria into a “Corporate Authoritarian State.”  The State, he said, would resemble that of Fascist Italy, but would take its guidance from the instructions issued by the Pope himself to Catholics throughout the world.  These instructions were embodied in the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, issued in 1931, in which Pius XI called upon Catholics to set up a Corporate State wherever they could.  Dollfuss was continuously in intimate contact with the Catholic authorities, the Hierarchy and the Vatican, from whom he often took advice.

On January 30, 1933, Hitler assumed power in Berlin.  A little incident which developed into an international issue meanwhile occurred.  Railway trade unionists discovered that an armament factory at Hinterberg, in Lower Austria, was producing rifles, not, as was believed, for the Austrian Army, but for reactionary Hungary.  Important officials of the Government were helping in the smuggling of such armaments.  Furthermore, it was discovered that the officials involved were mostly Catholics of semi-Fascist or even openly Fascist sympathies.  One such official, knowing that a certain railway man had knowledge of what was going on, with the consent of Dollfuss, offered him a large sum of money as the price of his silence.  The man refused, and this double secret was made known by the newspaper of the Socialist Party.

The scandal made a sensation; but that was not enough.  The issue became wider.  The rifles were not for Hungary, but for Fascist Italy.  They had not been ordered for the Hungarians, but were directed to Hungary only as a temporary store-house.  They were destined for the Catholic Hapsburg monarchists in Croatia, who were plotting a rising in order to detach themselves from Yugoslavia (Seipel’s “planning for a Catholic Federation” is to be remembered).

The Hinterberg plot was part of an international plan, which culminated in the assassination of King Alexander of Yugoslavia and of the French Foreign Minister by a Croatian partisan of the Hapsburgs, in 1934.  At that time Fascist Italy was in bitter enmity with Yugoslavia, and Mussolini was seriously contemplating intervention with force.  The aspiration of the Catholic Monarchists for the detachment of Croatia from Yugoslavia suited him well.  In this project Mussolini, the semi-Fascist Hungarian Government, the leaders of the Heimwehr, and Dollfuss were alike implicated.  More than that, the Vatican had knowledge of the whole affair.  Several years afterwards Count Grandi, Fascist Ambassador in London, stated that Dollfuss as well as Mussolini had approached the Pope regarding the plan.  The Pope, while not encouraging it, expressed the wish that when Croatia had been detached from “schismatic Yugoslavia” the rights of the Catholic Church should be restored.  He promised to ask the Catholic clergy in Croatia to support the movement, and said that he would certainly have the aid of numerous Catholic countries in the League of Nations if the matter were now on a serious footing.

Thus the Socialists, by their discovery of a serious Catholic Monarchist plot involving Croatia, Hungary, and Austria, had obstructed the path of the Catholic Dollfuss, of the Vatican, and of Mussolini.  From that day onwards Catholics in Austria were sworn to destroy the Socialists.  Dollfuss promised Mussolini, who was eager for the immediate crushing of the Socialists, that he would do everything in his power to annihilate them.  “The Socialist watch-dog had to be suppressed.”  Dollfuss turned openly Fascist.  Within ten days he had formed his anti-Socialist Cabinet, comprising members of the Catholic Party, the Farmer Party (Catholic), and of the Heimwehr.  The Social Democrats, constituting the largest and most compact party in the country, were not even consulted.

The first act of Dollfuss was the abolition of Parliament.  Then he proclaimed that Austria had gone over to Fascism on the Italian model.  He concentrated into his own hands the most vital portfolios, namely those of the Army, Police, Gendarmerie, Foreign Affairs, and Agriculture.  He decided that all parties must disappear, including the Catholic Party, whose disappearance, as he well knew, was in accordance with the wishes of the Vatican.  The new dictatorship would rule in accordance with Seipel’s conception of the Corporate State, based on the Stände.  Anti-Semitism received official recognition, the Press was muzzled, opposition suppressed, and concentration camps were opened.  Trade unions were gradually dissolved.  Dollfuss proposed to create Catholic unions, himself nominating their leaders.

During the year 1933, after the suppression of Parliament, Dollfuss issued over three hundred illegal and unconstitutional decrees.  He used his power mainly to diminish the social and economic rights of the workers and to increase the value of property and the security of its owners.  The peasants, his followers, were subsidized at the expense of the Socialist workers in the towns.  He restricted the right of trial by jury, destroyed the freedom of the Press, and abolished the right of assembly.  He ordained that the secrecy hitherto observed by the Postal Service was no longer to be inviolable.  He abolished almost all the cultural and sporting organizations that were not Catholic, dissolved the Republican Defense Corps, and at the same time armed, so far as he could, the Catholic and Fascist Heimwehr.  Then he established “Lightning Courts,” and restored the death penalty, although the only persons to be hanged were invariably Socialists accused of resistance to the Heimwehr.  These steps he initiated, significantly enough, after a visit paid to Mussolini and the Vatican.

All these measures were later, in 1934, to be crowned by a Concordat between the Vatican and the Austrian Government by which Rome made into a reality his slogan “A Catholic Austria.”  The principles of the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno were enforced, wherever possible, with more care than before.  The Concordat established the Catholic Church in a legal, official position, which she began to use to the fullest extent.  The Catholic religion became the religion of the State, education was directly and indirectly subject to her, and all traces of non-Catholic influences were systematically destroyed.  The clergy became a privileged section of society and an enormous volume of Catholic literature, in the form of books and newspapers, extolled the blessings of the Corporate authoritarian State as expounded by the Pope and as adopted by Mussolini and the Austrian State.  The various Evangelical and Protestant Churches began to suffer systematic persecution, and their ministers were boycotted, arrested, and imprisoned.

This persecution was due to a feeling of resentment experienced by the Catholic Church; and this feeling of resentment was aroused by the fact that, notwithstanding the Church’s enormous political power and her hold on the life of the nation, thousands of Austrians began to join Protestant Churches, especially the Evangelical Church.  The converts took this step as a protest against the religious, social, and political tyranny of the Catholic Church.  Within a few months, in fact, over 23,000 Austrian Catholics had sought membership of the Evangelical Church alone.  In addition to that astonishing figure, in Vienna alone another 16,000 persons abandoned Catholicism.  Within a very brief time the number in that city who had repudiated the Catholic Church amounted to over 100,000.  The middle classes, significantly enough, provided the greatest number of converts.  (Churches Under Trial.)

Dollfuss thought that the Nazis would become more friendly with him after he had destroyed “those cursed Social Democrats.”  The Nazis, however, behaved in a manner which did not promise any closer collaboration.  Thus the policy of Dollfuss at this time was the devotion of all efforts towards putting new life into Austrian patriotism.  Although he desired a Fascist State, he wanted totalitarian Austria to be independent.  Many sections of the population supported him.  The leading groups of Catholic politicians had always disliked the idea of the Anschluss.  The clergy were opposed to it.  So much was this the case that there was a time before Dollfuss, and even after, when the bishops proclaimed from their pulpits, and the village priests in sermons and in private conversation strongly impressed upon their flocks, that Nazism aimed at destroying Austrian independence.  Furthermore, they proclaimedand this was most importantthat Nazism was the sworn foe of the Catholic Church.  An important contributory cause to hostility against union with Germany was the hatred of Prussia innate in all Austrians, and a dislike for the North and, above all, for Protestantism.  The Catholic Hierarchy, hoping at this time to establish a totalitarian State in Austria, were opposed to the Anschluss.  If the Anschluss had come into being, they would never have been able to form a “Catholic Austria” under Hitler, remembering the stronghold which Protestantism was obtaining in the life of Austria.  This last consideration was now so powerful that when Catholics acknowledged their attachment to National Socialism in the confessional, the priests condemned it as a sin.

Dollfuss began to organize a Heimwehr State, transforming his storm troops into a Totalitarian Party.  This step was desired by Stahremberg and Mussolini.  Once more the Heimwehr was well provided with funds.  Dollfuss and the Catholic Party were, however, well aware that a full-fledged Heimwehr Fascism would incur the hostility of at least 90 percent of the population, besides the Socialists, the Nazis, and even a section of the Catholics.

Arms were not enough to support a dictatorship.  The Catholic leaders decided not to rely entirely on the guns of the Heimwehr, but to utilize another element which they thought was very strongnamely, the Austrian clergy.  Thus it was decided, after obtaining the consent of the Vatican, to make the Catholic clergy the backbone of the new dictatorship in the political field, as the Heimwehr was in the military field.  The higher ranks of the Austrian clergy had meanwhile received instructions from Rome to support wholeheartedly the Dollfuss régime, and to strengthen it to the best of their ability.  From them instructions went out to the whole Austrian clergy in every village and parish to become pillars of the new Catholic authoritarian State.  In the end, however, the Catholic Church failed, and that decided the fate of Austria.

In Austria, as we have seen, the Catholic Church had identified herself continuously with a political reactionary régime, usually disliked by the masses.  The average Austrian peasant, although a Catholic, disliked the intrusion of the clergy into what he rightly considered secular affairs.  The priest, concerned with the religious needs of his parish, ought not to aim at political leadership.  Dollfuss was striving to make the Catholic Church the ruler of Austria.  Besides this, the Catholic Church and Dollfuss were sponsoring the resuscitation of the Hapsburgs and the traditions of the aristocracy, and although in certain parts of Austria this idea was not unpopular, it was distasteful to the great majority of Austrians.

The revolt of the peasants against the Church, the continually multiplying adherences to Nazism, and the staggering number of conversions to Protestantism, filled the Catholic Church with ever-increasing alarm.  The bishops asked Dollfuss to act, and to forbid these transferences of allegiance.  Dollfuss started to sentence persons spreading Nazi propaganda, which in the case of most of them assumed the form of conversion to Protestantism.  Such measures, of course, strengthened the spirit of rebellion.  While this process was going on in the countryside, Dollfuss continued the destruction of Socialism and the building up of his own dictatorship.  He proceeded gradually by taking away the rights of the Socialists one by one, but under continuous pressure from the Hierarchy, the Heimwehr, and from Mussolini.


When at last, on February 11, 1934, the Dollfuss police occupied the Socialist Party headquarters at Linz, the Socialists began to fight: at Linz, in Vienna, and in other districts.  The fight lasted four days, and in some parts even longer.  Dollfuss allowed to a Heimwehr leader a repetition of “the joyous hangings of war-time.”  He gave orders that every prisoner should be court-martialled and hanged.  Dollfuss said that there were only 137 “rebels” killed.  One severely wounded man was carried on a stretcher to his execution.  After the seventh hanging, Major Fey was compelled to stop, owing to the protest of a Foreign Power and to the indignation of every civilized community, though, significantly enough, not a single word of mercy or of protest came from the Vatican.  Dollfuss had lied.  At a conservative estimate there were between 1,500 and 1,600 Socialists killed and 5,000 wounded; 1,188 were imprisoned, and eleven were hanged.  (Osterreich, 1934.)

The attitude and methods of the Catholic régime towards its adversaries should be compared with the methods of the Socialists, who, during their revolution of 1919 and during their years of power in Vienna, had not “hurt a hair of anybody’s head,” as one historian says.

The Socialist Party was dissolved, the union closed, and a Commissar took over the administration of Vienna.  Many Socialist leaders had to flee abroad.  The official Socialist Party was driven underground and those daring to support it were sent to jail.  By the end of 1934 there were over 19,051 Socialists in the Austrian jails, imprisoned without trial.  They were treated with the utmost brutality.  Some journalists, desiring to investigate their conditions, were not allowed to visit them.  Furthermore, the Catholic clergy compelled Dollfuss to refuse relief funds from abroad in order “to force those in distress to apply to Catholic Organizations” (Annual Register).  We shall see presently how Dollfuss’s successor followed the same line.

The most appalling religious persecution of the Socialists and all enemies of the Catholic Church ensued.  The splendid system of education, being totally absorbed by the Catholic Church, was completely destroyed and the economic position so deteriorated that millions again became semi-starved.  The great building scheme, which had edified Europe, was entirely stopped.  The Vatican was pleased, and so were Dollfuss and Mussolini, but most pleased of all was Hitler, who saw a tremendous increase in the number of his adherents all over Austria, consequent on “the suppression of the Socialist watchdog.”

The Vatican authorities, meanwhile, were playing a double game with Dollfuss and Hitler.  They were watching and waiting.  Pope Pius XI had given Hitler to understand that if he adhered to his word regarding the treatment and privileges granted to the Catholic Church in Germany, then the Church would help him to “achieve his political aims” in Austria.  By doing this the Vatican hoped to compel Hitler to observe the clauses of the Concordat, some of which he was already beginning to forget.  In addition to that, the Vatican wanted to see whether the Catholic victory was likely to last or whether the danger of “revolutions” was still present.  In the latter case it was of paramount importance to the Vatican to ensure that “the Red danger” should be kept underground by an even stronger hand, and that stronger hand would eventually have been that of Hitler.  To achieve its aim the Vatican had to make still further sacrifices.  Besides the sacrifice of the Austrian Catholic Party, the Vatican would have to sacrifice the Austrian Catholic régime and its dreams of “Papal Confederations” envisaged by Seipel.

Meanwhile, Dollfuss candidly believed that his great service to Hitler, in destroying the Socialist Party, would render Hitler more amenable.  Hitler hoped that it would be easier for him to secure his aims now that the Socialists had been removed.  Dollfuss was ready to admit Nazis to his Cabinet, but he desired Austria’s independence.  The Nazis wanted the Anschluss and the rule of Hitler.  Negotiations broke down and the Nazis began a campaign of bomb-throwing.  Dollfuss proclaimed martial law, and finally the death penalty was instituted for the illegal possession of dynamite.  But, significantly enough, not a single death sentence was carried out.

At the same time serious dissensions concerning the demands of Hitler were threatening to disrupt the Dollfuss Government.  Major Fey was accused of actually conspiring with the Nazis.  Anton Rintelen, the second man in the Catholic Party and until a few months before Governor of Styria, was won over to them.  On July 25, 1934, the Nazis attempted to seize power.  A group of Nazis entered the Chancellery, attempting to seize the Government.  Only Dollfuss and Major Fey were captured.  Dollfuss was mortally wounded and died shortly afterwards.  Troops were called out and proved reliable.  Mussolini, seeing that his dream of being overlord of Austria and Hungary was in danger, sent two divisions to the Brenner Pass.  Hitler, who was not yet ready for a fight, left the conspirators to their fate.  Had the plot succeeded, no danger of international war would have arisen.

Then Herr von Papen, the Chamberlain of the Papal Court, was sent to Vienna in order to effect a conciliation.  Dollfuss was followed by Herr von Schuschnigg.  He was a Catholic of the deepest religious feelings.  He had received a thorough education from the Jesuits, and even in bearing he had the air of a studious priest rather than of a politician.  Schuschnigg wanted an “authoritarian” Austria, but on milder lines than those laid down by Dollfuss.  His task was rendered easier by the changed policy of Hitler, who, seeing the alarm he had created in Europe, was compelled to apply the soft pedal to his moves.  All Europe, in fact, seemed to unite against German aggression.  The result was the Conference of Stresa.

At first the new régime varied little from that of Dollfuss.  Gradually, however, Schuschnigg realized that to obtain popular support he must relax the dictatorship which weighed so heavily on the people, and especially on the working class.  Thus he began gradually to grant modest concessions now and then, but promising more in the future.  He slowly rid himself of the most hated and notorious extremists in his GovernmentMajor Fey and Stahremberg, the leaders of the Heimwehr.  Then he incorporated the Heimwehr itself with the military organization of the Government.

The Catholic Church, which at first had retired into the background, again sought to exert strong pressure on the political life of the country.  She continued to fear the “Red danger and the dangerous ideas of Protestantism and of religious indifference.”  The Church wanted to get some degree of control over all the workers, whether they were Socialist, Atheist, or Bolshevik.  The Law and the Army, which had driven them underground, were not enough.  The Catholic Hierarchy wanted to obtain an even tighter hold of them by compelling them to come under its direct control.

Negotiations with the Government continued for some time, until at last agreement was reached.  Schuschnigg passed a law requiring every citizen to be a member of a Church.  The political character of this move was received with the greatest hostility in many quarters, not only among the workers, and what happened under Dollfuss was repeated on a larger scale.  A mass movement from the ranks of the Catholic Church ensued.  Thousands of Roman Catholics, workers and people of the middle classes, began in disgust to enter the Protestant Churches, where their votes were not dictated by the religious body to which they belonged.  During this period the number of Protestants reached the figure, unheard of in Catholic Austria, of 340,000—a happening which overwhelmed the few Protestant pastors still left at liberty.  (Churches Under Trial.)

Matters went on fairly quietly for some time, and the internal situation seemed to be reasonably stable.  Although the Catholic Church was continuing to press the Government for more drastic measures against “the Red peril which was rumbling underground,” there was no internal trouble for Austria.  But then disquiet recurred, and once more it started from abroad.  The Abyssinian War broke out.  Fascist Italy, seeking German friendship, would no longer support Austria and advised Schuschnigg to deal directly with Hitler.  Austria thereupon signed a treaty with Nazi Germany (July 1936).  Austria promised to subordinate her foreign policy to that of Hitler, and further undertook that, should war break out, Austria would side with Germany.

In Austria the prohibition of the Nazi Party continued, but Nazis were allowed to gather unmolested.  A Nazi leader became Home Secretary.  The truce with Nazism lasted about eighteen months.  Meanwhile, Germany had become stronger in the international field, the Axis firmer, and her armament had seriously increased.  Owing to these factors and to the bogey of the Red peril, whose recrudescence seemed imminent, the Austrian Hierarchy, instructed by the Vatican, decided to strike a bargain with Hitler.  Only by his iron hand could the Red be utterly destroyed.  If Hitler had promised to respect the Church’s rights in Germany as well as in Austria, his co-operation with the Catholic Hierarchy would have been possible.  Hitler, aware of this new attitude, began to act by starting a persecution in Germany of the Catholic Church.  There were strong domestic reasons for Hitler to act thus, as we have had occasion to see, but his Austrian aims provided an additional reason of no mean order.  He made it known to the Vatican that the persecution would be discontinued provided that the Vatican instructed the Austrian Hierarchy and leading Catholics to support the Anschluss.  Once that was done, he would respect the rights of the Church, not only in Germany, but also in Austria.

The Vatican consented.  Through the agency of von Papen and Cardinal Innitzer, negotiations were continued with the aim of persuading Schuschnigg to hand over Austria.  Schuschnigg, however, was opposed to the Anschluss, knowing that it would have been the end of Austria.  He stubbornly refused.  Hitler summoned him to Berchtesgaden and ordered him to hand over the Home Office to a most devout Catholic, a fervent Nazi, Dr. von Seyss-Inquart.  Hitler showed Schuschnigg the marching-orders to be given to the German troops should he decline.  Schuschnigg had to obey.  Seyss-Inquart had had many secret interviews with von Papen and the Cardinal before this happened.  Seyss-Inquart, of course, accepted, knowing who was supporting him inside Austria.

Seyss-Inquart was a Viennese barrister who, after the First World War, had opened a modest office in Vienna without attaining any success.  His connection with the Catholic Party was very close.  This was due chiefly to the fact that he was a supporter of many Catholic organizations of all kinds.  He had become an ardent Catholic propagandist and he was frequently heard in Vienna as a lecturer propounding Catholic principles.  He was very pious and, with his family, was assiduous in frequenting the services of the Church.  His zealous and sincere efforts to serve the Catholic cause brought him into personal contact with the Chancellor Dollfuss, and from that moment his advance was rapid.  Even after he had become a political figure, and Hitler had made him Reich Commissar for Austria, he continued to go almost daily to church.

Schuschnigg returned from Berchtesgaden, having learned many things, amongst which were several closely connected with the Vatican.  This led him to a reshaping of his policy towards the Socialists.  He wanted their friendship, counting on their support to preserve the independence of Austria.

At that time the situation still presented a three-cornered contest between Catholics, Nazis, and Socialists.  In the days of Dollfuss the Government had tried to join forces with the Nazis in order to crush the Socialists.  After him the new Government tried simultaneously to subjugate both parties, yet to make friends with them.  But, when the decisive hour came, Schuschnigg saw that he could rely neither on the Nazis nor on the Catholics.  The main support came from the Socialists.  After his interview with Hitler, Schuschnigg reshuffled his Government.  Besides the Nazi Seyss-Inquart, he included a representative of the democratic elements as well as of the Socialists.

He next negotiated with the workers in the factories, and soon he began to grant concessions.  Before the end the workers organized a great meeting unmolested, for the first time in many years, by the police.  At this conference the Socialists pledged themselves to defend Austria’s independence.  In doing so, the Socialists acted not only from hatred of Nazism, but because they thought they were winning back their own independence.  This was the most open confession of the failure and bankruptcy of the policy of Seipel and Dollfuss.  It was clear that at the last and gravest moment of Austria’s independence the Catholic Government could rely only on the Labor Movement, which it had so consistently persecuted.

Having made these many concessions, the Government began to hesitate.  Catholics inside and outside the Government, the influence of the Catholic Church, of the Austrian Hierarchy, and even of the Vatican were strongly opposed to these concessions.  “What, so many fights, so much bloodshed, so many risks, in order to go back again to Democracy and thus let the Reds come out in the open?  Never!”  Thus every measure was delayed.  In spite of continuous promises, Labor received no real concession; the workers were never allowed even to have a single newspaper under their own control.

Throughout this time Cardinal Innitzer continued to press Schuschnigg and the Government to favor complete submission to Hitler.  “The Anschluss is inevitable,” was his advice.  He told Schuschnigg that the Vatican desired the Austrian Government to adopt this policy.  Schuschnigg, after much doubt and hesitation, stood firm, but several Catholics who knew what was going on behind the scenes became bitter.  These continued to oppose fusion with Germany, desiring their country’s independence.  They saw clearly that the Government could not count upon the support of the Church, for whom it had done so much.

In Vienna popular feeling and enthusiasm reached a high pitch.  It was thought that Nazism had been defeated, and the ideal of fighting for Austrian independence had become very popular with the masses owing to the leniency extended to them by the Government.  Hence the workers, formerly eager for the Anschluss so long as it was conceived as a democratic measure implying great regional rights for Austria, were bitterly opposed to it now that the Nazis were in power.  Thus, paradoxically, they supported the Catholic Schuschnigg hoping thereby that they would return to democracy and liberty.  In Vienna, great mass-demonstrations clamored for Austrian liberty, shouting and singing the old Socialist slogans.  Socialists, Communists, Monarchists, and even many Catholics, marched side by side for days.  Austria had risen to its feet ready to fight.  Never had the Nazis seemed so weak as at that moment.  Hitler, as well as Schuschnigg and Cardinal Innitzer, became alarmed, for no one could tell where that mass movement would lead.  It was felt that even if all that enthusiasm did not lead to “Bolshevism,” it might perhaps result in a mass drive against Fascism.  If such a popular and formidable demonstration against Fascism had occurred, it might not have been confined to Austria alone.

The Government meanwhile was preparing.  The plans for action were complete and the troops were ready to march.  The Austrian Government was determined to fight for its independence.  Schuschnigg, hoping to avoid bloodshed, played his last card.  He announced that, if the Austrian people really desired the Anschluss, the Austrian people should show its will by a plebiscite.

This decision went against the plans of the Vatican.  Accordingly, Cardinal Innitzer, who was already in direct touch with Hitler, once more opened up negotiations with him.  The Cardinal well knew that a plebiscite would reject the Anschluss, in which case the Reds might get out of control.  The Church could not allow this to happen.  Before promising the unstinted help of the Catholic Church in Austria and of the Vatican, Cardinal Innitzer required a promise that once Hitler had incorporated Austria he would respect the rights of the Church.  (The Universe, March 1, 1946.)

Hitler was fully aware that if the plebiscite preceded his entry into Austria, the Austrian people would reject the Anschluss.  He therefore proposed this incredible plan to the Cardinalthat not the Austrians, but the German people, should decide whether the Austrians were to become Germans or not.  That a cardinal should even have listened to a proposition so cynical sounds incredible.  Yet the Cardinal not only acquiesced, but promised that he would do everything in his power to secure that the Austrian people should welcome Hitler and give him their votes.

The ninth day of March had been announced as the date of the Austrian plebiscite, which, however, did not take place, as Hitler forbade Schuschnigg to carry it out.  During the afternoon of March 11 almost all the population of Vienna was demonstrating against Nazism and Fascism, hailing political freedom and national independence and singing Socialist songs.  At seven o’clock that very evening the Nazi storm-troopers suddenly appeared in Vienna.  Herr von Schuschnigg had resigned without a blow.  Within an hour the Austrian police were wearing the swastika.  Vienna was flooded with Nazi troops.  Cardinal Innitzer welcomed the Nazis with swastikas in the churches and with the ringing of bells.  He ordered his priests to do likewise.  Not content with this, he ordered all Austrians to submit to the man “whose struggle against Bolshevism and for the power, honor, and unity of Germany corresponds to the voice of Divine Providence.”

Then, a few days later (March 15), he went to see Hitler again, and once more asked for his assurance that he would respect the rights of the Catholic Church.  That was not all.  The Cardinal and his bishops, with the exception of the Bishop of Linz, after having talked about the “voice” of the blood urged all Austrians to vote for Hitler at the plebiscite.  Under his own signature he then wrote the sacred formula “Heil Hitler.”

Thus ended Austria.





Within a few weeks of the absorption of Austria into the greater Reich, Hitler was employing the same tactics towards the Catholics of the little republic of Czechoslovakia.

One would have thought that the Catholics in the various countries bordering on Nazi Germany would have learned their lesson from the fate meted out to Austria and, above all, to the Austrian Church.  That was not the case.  Soon they were co-operating with Hitler whole-heartedly, as if nothing had happened.  The Vatican, of course, was in the background, for, as we shall have occasion to see, the Catholic movement aiding Hitler to disrupt the Republic was led by a most devout Catholic prelate, a miniature of Mgr. Seipel.

Before proceeding farther, let us review concisely the background of the disruption of the Republic.

The Catholic Church has hated Bohemia ever since the days of John Huss, the great “heretic,” who was burnt by the Church owing to his daring ideas.  [CHCoG - He believed the Bible instead of the Catholic Church.]  During the Thirty Years’ War the Catholic armies destroyed and pillaged the country in such manner that, at the end of hostilities, it was reduced to the utmost misery and despair.  Yet this country had formerly been one of the most flourishing in mediaeval Europe.  Its population, once estimated at over 3,000,000, was reduced to 780,000 people.  Its rich villages and towns, once numbering 30,000, were reduced to 6,000 only.  The remainder had been destroyed, burned, or left deserted by the slaughter of the inhabitants.  After this holocaust, plague did the rest.  A hundred thousand people were carried off by it, and many thousands of Bohemians were dispersed as refugees throughout Europe.  The once prosperous Kingdom of Bohemia ceased to exist.  It passed under Catholic Austria and became an appendage of the Hapsburgs.

Thus the birth of the Catholic Reformation and Catholic political control coincided with the disappearance of the politically independent life of the territories of the Czech Crown.  For three centuries preceding the First World War the Czechs were attached to the Austro-Hungarian Empire under the Hapsburg Dynasty.

We have already noted that the Hapsburg House was devoutly Catholic, and the part it played in furthering Catholicism in lands subject to its rule.  Under the Hapsburgs the Catholic Church regained completely the position she had lost in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and even the seventeenth centuries.  In this part of the Empire, as well as in Austria, the Church and the despotic Hapsburg ruler made a pact of mutual assistance and interest, which they strove to maintain and strengthen.  On more than one occasion the Church became the political instrument of the Hapsburgs—and vice versa.

As a result the Nationalists, and allied elements in the Czech nation with a longing for liberty, railed against the community of interest subsisting between the Catholic Church and the detested Hapsburg régime.  They objected to the discrepancy between the interests of the nation and the Church.  These elements were to be found among the rank and file of those who were opposed to the Church.  Their opposition was aroused because in the Church they perceived a bulwark of the Hapsburg despotism, constituting a reactionary brand of social, political, and national administration which the Church did her best to support on all occasions.

Furthermore, under the Austro-Hungarian régime all currents of thought and all ideas or principles not in harmony with the Catholic religion were to a great extent penalized and boycotted.  This censorship assumed, at one and the same time, the double aspect of a religious and a political persecution.  Catholicism was favored, not only because the dynasty was deeply Catholic, but also because Catholicism was, as the rulers saw, an appropriate weapon for keeping the people thoroughly tamed.

Catholicism reigned supreme in the land of the Czechs, and although certain other Churches were granted State recognition, non-Catholics were to a great extent penalized.  Free-thought was tolerated, but the public services, with the teaching and other professions, were open only to Church members.  In consequence only 13,000 persons dared to register themselves as Freethinkers.  It is not surprising, therefore, that the liberation of the Czechs and Slovakians from Austro-Hungarian domination after the First World War was followed by a strong movement “away from Rome” and directed against the Church.  The Church had too closely identified herself with the Hapsburg dynasty and the main instrument of Hapsburg dominationpolitical Catholicism.

Even before the First World War, but chiefly in the year following the establishment of the Czechoslovakian Republic in 1918, reforms were introduced to give the Catholic Church a specifically national character.  The Czechoslovak tongue was to be the liturgical language, and a patriarchate was to be created for the territory of the Republic, enjoying the same independence as the Greek Catholic Church.  That portion of the clergy of Czechoslovakia which had endorsed these endeavors only with much hesitation abandoned the thought of any further development of the scheme as soon as the disapproval of the Vatican became apparent.  Only a very small group of clerics, who also aimed at abolishing the rule of celibacy, insisted on these reforms and finally went so far as to lay the foundations of “the Church of Czechoslovakia.”  This Church, in a very short time, lost any internal connection with the Catholic Church.  The disapproval of the Vatican arose not only from religious, but also from political issues.

Between 1918 and 1930 about 1,900,000 people (mostly Czechs) changed their religion, the majority being deserters from the Roman Catholic Church.  Some 800,000 of these, all of them being Czechs, formed themselves into a new Czechoslovak Church.  Their Church represented a kind of reformed Catholicism, and being independent of Rome, was untainted by memories of the hated Hapsburg connection.  About 150,000 became Protestants of one kind or another, and the remainder, close on 854,000 in number, openly declared themselves Agnostics.  The overwhelming majority of the citizens of the new Republic, however, equivalent to 73.54 percent, remained Catholics, although many of them were Catholics in name only.  Strong anti-Catholic movements nevertheless continued their activities directed to the separation of Church and State and to compulsory civil ratification of marriage.

The State continued neutral in religious matters and its Constitution guaranteed complete liberty of conscience and religious profession.  All religious professions were declared to be on an equal footing in the eyes of the law, and none was recognized as the State Church.  Every Church complying with the Law received official recognition.  Thus the State, giving a guarantee not to interfere in religious matters, was justified in demanding a reciprocal guarantee from the Churchesthey must not interfere in political problems, which were the sphere of the State.

Owing to this understanding in the years following the creation of the Republic, the Holy See accepted the fait accompli and in 1918 recognized the State.  The State therefore had no ground of contention with the Roman Catholic Church except with regard to the provisions of the Land Reform Law.  This law affected, among others, the large estates owned by Roman Catholic dignitaries and religious Orders.  The matter had since been compromised on a basis of quid pro quo.

The Vatican, on the other hand, hoped that Catholicism would easily reap great social and political advantages from the freedom granted to the Church by the democratic spirit of the Republic.  Thus a kind of mutual agreement was reached by the Vatican and the Republic.  The State was to grant certain prerogatives in the religious field claimed by the Church as her right, and the Catholic Church was to exercise her religious freedom.  In exchange the Vatican ordered all Catholic elements working either for the restoration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire or for disruptive reforms to cease their activities.

At that time the Vatican had good reasons for this action.  First, the mass-exodus of Catholic Czechs from the Church, as recorded above, was alarming; secondly, the suspicion and dislike felt for the Catholic Church in the minds of many was on the increase.  Thirdly, there was the hope that with the Church’s newly guaranteed freedom she would be able to reconsolidate her position.  In this way the diplomacy of the Vatican did its utmost to cement the bonds of unity between the Eastern and the Western Slavs, despite religious disputes in sub-Carpathian Ruthenia.

The ratification of this Modus Vivendi was justifiably regarded as a political event of premier importance.  Unsolved problems, promising to cause recurrent difficulties, seemed to have been settled once and for all.  Relations between the Republic and the Vatican were secured.  In 1935 a Eucharistic Congress was held in Prague.  Cardinal Verdier, the French Archbishop of Paris, went to Prague as the Papal Legate.  In November 1935 Archbishop Kaspar of Prague was nominated Cardinal.

This state of apparent cordiality between Church and State began in 1917 under the auspices of Edward Benes.  He realized the importance of Catholicism in Czechoslovakia, in the new Republic, and as an international factor, and therefore he tried to establish relations with the Vatican.  Normal diplomatic relations with the Vatican were reestablished immediately after the First World War.  A Czechoslovak Legation at the Vatican was created without delay and a Papal Nuncio was nominated to Prague.

A short time after this, Dr. Benes, in his capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Republic, opened negotiations dealing with a number of politico-ecclesiastical questions.  The negotiations began in the year 1921 with the Cardinal-Secretary of State, Gaspari, and Cardinal Ceretti, and they were continued in 1923 on the occasion of a later visit by Dr. Benes to Rome.

Any Church or religious denomination other than the Catholic Church would have appreciated such behavior in a secular Republic, like the Czechoslovak Republic, as perfect, and endeavor would have been made to co-operate with the State in the development and furthering of such cordial relationship.  With the Catholic Church it was otherwise.  The Catholic Church demanded one right after another, and in her demands displayed that intransigence which is her peculiar characteristic.  The most typical example occurred in 1925, when the Czech Republic planned a great national ceremony to commemorate the country’s hero, John Huss.  It happened, however, that the Church had condemned John Huss, in his time, as a heretic, a spreader of errors, and an enemy of Catholicism.  The Vatican therefore requested the Czech Government not to celebrate these festivities, lest offence be given to the Church and the Czech Catholics by the glorification of a “heretic” who had dared to disobey the Vatican.

Naturally, the answer of the Czech Government was what it had to be.  The festivities would take place with or without the approval of the Vatican.  The Vatican ordered the Czechs, and particularly the Slovak Catholics, to initiate a campaign of protest against such a commemoration.  This order was duly obeyed.  The Catholic Press and the Hierarchy wrote and preached against the Government and against John Huss until the issue became one of great importance, not only in its religious aspect, but also socially and politically.  The Vatican, perceiving that all its efforts to prevent the celebrations were unavailing, ordered the Papal Nuncio in Prague to protest “against the offence given to the Catholic Church by the honoring of a heretic.”  The Vatican instructed the Papal Nuncio to leave Prague after uttering his protest, and on July 6, 1925, he left the capital.  Diplomatic relations between the Republic and the Vatican were suspended.

The reader should note that, during these events, the Czech Republic was still granting one demand after another to the Vatican; the rôle which the Catholic Church, in alliance with the hated Hapsburgs, had played during three centuries of suppressing Czech national aspirations was forgotten.  After holding the commemoration, the Czech Republic continued the attempt to cultivate the friendship of the Vatican and succeeded in re-establishing relations with Rome.  Thus the young Republic pursued the course of friendship with the Catholic Church, allowing her complete freedom.

True to her principles, the Church produced complaints of another character purely social and political.  Three were outstanding: First, that Slovakia, although pre-eminently Catholic, did not enjoy that freedom which a Catholic population had the right to enjoy; Prague kept the people under a “Hussite” yoke.  Secondly, that the very principles of religious and political freedom enunciated by the Republic were increasing the spread of “Bolshevism.”  Thirdly, that the Republic was on too close and friendly terms with “Atheistic Bolshevik Russia.”

For years the Vatican, acting through diplomatic channels, the local Catholics, and the Hierarchy, tried directly and indirectly to influence the Republic to yield to “the desire of the Church” on these issues.  But the Republic, although acting impartially to the Church, was also impartial in its principles and political interests, and therefore pursued the policy best adapted to its own welfare.  That is to say, the Republic treated the ultra-Catholic Slovak on the same footing as any other citizen.  Political freedom was allowed to the Catholic as well as to the Communist, and friendship with Soviet Russia was cultivated increasingly as a safeguard against the enemies of the Republic, especially Germany.

The main pillar of the Czechoslovak Republic’s foreign policy had been the building up of a close and secure friendship and alliance with Soviet Russia, for obvious reasons.  It is sufficient to glance at the map of Europe, displaying the position of Czechoslovakia vis-à-vis Germany, to understand why the Czechs desired Russia’s friendship.  Owing to this Czecho-Russian alliance, the young Republic stood like a mid-European Gibraltar on Nazi Germany’s path to the Ukraine, which Hitler had repeatedly declared he would annex, especially in his Mein Kampf.  Catholics in Czechoslovakia and elsewhere, as well as the Vatican, never ceased to complain of this alliance.  On more than one occasion the Czech Government was actually accused of being a “Bolshevik Agent” in Europe.  It is remarkable that the most bitter and vociferous critics were Catholics.

The principles of democracy ‘and the friendship with Russia were responsible, according to the Vatican and the Catholics, for the disproportionate increase of the Socialists and communists within the Republic: they were a danger.  At the last election in the Republic the Socialists and communists did, in fact, poll well over 1,700,000 votes.  Finally the Slovaks wanted to be separated from the body of the Republic on the claim that they were all Catholics.  They wanted a Catholic State where the Catholic religion would be supreme, and, as was said before, they disliked the rule of “Hussite Heretics”meaning, of course, the Liberal Czechs.

The Vatican, which claims never to interfere in politics, began to exert political pressure on the Republic in its ever-recurrent manner.  On this occasion, having perceived that all its approaches to the Central Government regarding the abandonment of the Czech friendship with Soviet Russia and the civil liberties allowed to Socialists and Communists had been in vain, it started to exert a kind of political blackmail against the Central Government.  This was done by confronting the Czech Republic with the threat that unless it radically changed its domestic and foreign policy the Church would resort to the kind of pressure to which the Government was most sensitivenamely, support of the Separatist movement of the Catholic Slovaks.  This the Vatican did, and for a period of several years gave its patronage to the Separatist movement in Slovakia with a degree of success varying according to its influence upon the successive Central Governments.  It should be remembered that, although many racial, political, and economic causes were involved in the Separatist agitation, the religious issue was not unimportant; far from it, the movement was in the hands of zealous Catholics, and indeed the leaders themselves were Catholic priests.

This pressure on Prague, exerted over several years, was more or less indirect; but matters were coming to a head.  The climax was reached when the Papal Nuncio interfered so openly in Czechoslovakian affairs that the very tolerant Government was compelled to intervene.  The Papal Nuncio dared to publish a letter in which he encouraged and supported the Catholic Slovak claims, and his expulsion from the territory of the Republic became essential.  The Vatican, of course, protested.  In addition to exerting pressure on the Czech Government through its Catholic adherents within the Republic, it appealed to the French Hierarchy, and even to certain French political authorities.  This happened during 1934 and 1935—dates which should be remembered in connection with the chapter on France.  As we shall see, when dealing with that country, strong Catholic elements in France were already at work aiming at the creation of domestic and international Authoritarianism throughout Europe.  Their two main objectives were anti-Bolshevism and a society built on Catholic principles.

The French Government, backed by zealous Catholics, co-operated with the Vatican and the Catholic Czechs in rebuffing the Central Government by organizing, in 1935, a monster demonstration in Prague.  The Primate of France, Cardinal Verdier, was present as Papal Legate, and Polish and Austrian Catholics took a prominent part.  The Prague demonstration, organized by the Vatican, was an act of open defiance as well as a threat to the Czech Government.

From that time onwards events marched fast.  The Vatican, in co-operation with other European elements—mainly Polish and Austrian Catholics, Hitler, and French reactionaries—began to work for the disintegration of the “Hussite Republic.”

Before proceeding with the events which brought about the disintegration of the Republic, let us glance briefly at some characteristic elements within the body of the State, which contributed in no mean way to its ultimate fate.


In the Czechoslovak Republic there were several political parties at this time.  One of the principal reactionary parties was the Agrarian, which not only encouraged the formation of the Sudeten German Party, but actually helped it in numerous ways.  This Sudeten Party, led by the Catholic Henlein, agitated for the abandonment of the Czech Republic’s defensive pact with the Soviet Union and ardently advocated a policy of compromise with the Third Reich.

Another important party was the Czechoslovak People’s Party, a Catholic party founded under the Austro-Hungarian régime.  This Party remained loyal to Catholic Austria until shortly before the revolution.  It then decided to exert its influence on the side of the Czech National movement, and made its appeal to the Catholic sentiments of the workers with varied success.

In Slovakia there was the Slovak Populist Party, essentially a Catholic party.  Originally it tended to work side by side with its Czech counterpart, but, with the passing of time, it transformed itself into a Slovak Nationalist Party.  This party was led by a Catholic priest, Mgr. Hlinka, and represented the strong opposition to unification which had existed in certain circles since the foundation of the Republic.  It acted as spokesman for Catholicism as well as for Conservatism throughout Slovakia.  Its main complaint was that Slovakia had not obtained full autonomy and similar rights.  Among other things, it was felt by the Catholic priesthood that the improved educational facilities placed by the Republic at the disposal of the Slovak people were “a very serious menace” to the privileged position of the Catholic Church.  We have already hinted that education in Czechoslovakia was secular and non-sectarian, although the Government subventioned the teaching of religions in schools.  This subvention, however, was irrespective of any particular religious denomination—an arrangement which the Catholic Church condemned.

The Czech Republic had made giant steps so far as public education was concerned, and in this field was one of the most progressive countries in Europe.  It would be of interest to glance at a few figures in regard to the Slovaks, who complained of the treatment meted out to them by “the Hussite tyrannical Czechs.”

In 1918, 2,000,000 Slovak people had only 390 Slovak teachers for their children, only 276 Slovak elementary schools, and no other Slovak educational establishment.  The situation in sub-Carpathian Ruthenia was still worse, for there were no schools at all.  By 1930 the Czech Republic had provided Slovakia with 2,652 elementary schools, 39 secondary schools, 13 technical colleges, and a university.  All this within twelve years.  The State and local governments built, on an average, 100 new schools each year, and during the first fourteen years of the Republic’s life they built 1,381 new elementary schools, and a further 2,623 were enlarged and modernized.  During the same period the Republic built two new universities, nine new technical colleges, and 45 new secondary schools.

This is the record of the young Republic in Catholic Slovakia, whose motto “Slovakia for the Slovaks” was based, among other things, on anti-Semitism and on the resolve to arrest and reverse the racial integration of the Czech Republic.  The Party on numerous occasions refused requests to join the Central Government.

In addition to the parties mentioned above there existed the “National Union”a movement of distinctly reactionary tendency, founded in 1935.  It was divided into two groups, based on Fascist principles, the National Front and the National League.

This, then, was the background of the events which we are about, very succinctly, to relate.

In the chapter dealing with Germany we have already related the plans discussed between the Vatican and Hitler before and after the Anschluss, when it became obvious that the next victim had to be Czechoslovakia.  Once more Hitler, with the co-operation of the Vatican, employed Catholic tools to achieve his aims.  Of course, he did not work with the Vatican in order to further religion; nor did the Vatican work with Hitler in order to further the particular type of Totalitarianism of the new Germany.  Each one cooperated with the other in order to achieve its own particular aim.

We have already said that the Vatican, having for years exerted pressure on the Republic, began to work for the ruin of the Czech State after the expulsion of the Papal Nuncio.  It accomplished this end by internal pressure on the Catholic population and by bargaining with Hitler.

The Catholic Slovaks, led by Father Hlinka, continued their agitation during the time when the Republic was confronted with the menacing advance of Nazi Germany.  Hitler had no need of Slovakia for his first steps towards the rape of the Republic; but he did need an excuse to justify his invasion designed to protect the Sudeten Germans.  He had not long to search.  A ready and easy tool was at hand, the very conscientious Catholic, Henlein, who began an agitation bent on furthering Hitler’s aims.

How could any sane person, unless blinded by fanatical political hatred, have failed to learn the lesson of the Catholic Austrians, whose betrayal had occurred a few months before?  Yet many Catholics rallied to the support of Henlein and the plans of Hitler.  It is true that a great number of Catholics objected, but their objection was not based on political grounds, but rather on the apprehension that Hitler would treat the Catholic religion in their country as he had done in Austria.  On this point Hitler gave his solemn word of honor to the Catholic Henlein, who had conveyed to the Fuehrer the objections of the Sudeten Catholics.  Hitler promised that he would respect all the rights and privileges of the Catholic Faith among the Sudeten population.

To convince the Sudeten Catholics, and above all the Western Powers, Mussolini was employed in the plot.  He published an open letter stating that private conversations with Hitler had convinced him that Germany wanted only to shear off the German fringe of Czechoslovakia.  Thus Henlein and his Catholic followers continued their agitation with increased violence, supported directly and indirectly by the Catholic Slovaks, who deemed it untrue that they were seriously embarrassing the Central Government and bringing about the first step in the disintegration of the hated Republic.

Came Munich, with all the international complications it involved and the evil omen it portended for the future.  It is not the task of this book to enter into the controversy of whether it was or was not advisable for the Western democracies to surrender to Nazi Germany.  We wish, however, to emphasize an important fact related to the problem we are studyingnamely, the indirect but decisive influence of the Vatican in this fateful international problem.

First, it is to be noted that the Catholic Church in Slovakia was the primary cause of the disintegration of the Republic, at a time when its unity was most essential.  Secondly, when Hitler made his first cut into the body of the Republic, severing the Sudeten lands from Czechoslovakia, the tool employed was Henlein, a Catholic,  like his supporters and followers, with the exception of some Nazis and fanatical German Nationalists.  Thirdly, that Great Power which had given its pledge to stand by its treaty with the Czech Republic failed to keep that promise, France having left Czechoslovakia to her fate.

This third point leads directly to a very controversial field where we should be involved in international discussions too wide for this book and too foreign to its design.  It need only be remembered that there were already in France strong Fascist elements, very powerful behind the scenes.  These were working for the setting up of primarily a French, and more remotely a European, system of Totalitarianism.  It should further be remarked that these Fascist elements consisted of zealous Catholics, no matter whether their constituents originated from the industrial, financial, land-owning, or official caste.  All had the same dreadful fear of Soviet Russia and Communism as possessed the Vatican.  Indeed, their alliance with the Vatican was designed to take measures to destroy this danger.  (See Chapter 16, “France and the Vatican”)

It is remarkable that France left her friend in the lurch, whereas Soviet Russia declared clearly, precisely, and on numerous occasions, a readiness to fight if France should honor her word.  Czechoslovakia has already been described as a kind of mid-European Gibraltar and fortress on the Communistic highway, and so it appeared to the minds of the Catholic Church and of many reactionary French elements; it was chiefly for this reason that they desired her liquidation.

We shall see in greater detail what forces were at work in France, acting in this case in accord with the policy of the Vatican.  For the present it is sufficient to say that Hitler achieved his ends, notwithstanding the adverse opinion of his own generals.

Hitler, however, did not dare to occupy the whole of the Czech Republic, deeming it more advisable to accomplish his task by degrees, the first and most important stepnamely, the severance of the Sudeten land from the body of Czechoslovakiahaving been made.  His aim being to get possession of the whole of Czechoslovakia without precipitating a European war before he was ready, he had to work for the disruption of the Republic from within, and, once again having thought of the Catholics, he turned his eyes towards Slovakia, where he found the immediate and whole-hearted co-operation of the Catholic Church.

So long as Father Hlinka led the Catholic Party in Slovakia, he restrained his followers, and on several occasions even the Vatican, from going to the extreme.  His policy was to achieve autonomy for Slovakia, but not separation.  When the Papal Nuncio had given him to understand that an independent Catholic Slovak State would be to the advantage of the Church, and that therefore the Slovaks should strive for their separation from the Republic, Father Hlinka was honest enough to answer that he did not think that this, in the long run, would be beneficial to Slovakia.  At the same time he reminded the Nuncio that he had sworn allegiance to the Czech Republic.

Father Hlinka died in 1938, still urging the Catholics to be content with autonomy and not to endanger the Republic by pressing for a complete separation.  But then another priestnamely, Tiso,who had been one of his most zealous followers, came into prominence and power.  While negotiations were proceeding, and Father Hlinka was being subjected to pressure by the Vatican and the most extreme of the Slovak Catholics, Tiso had distinguished himself by his docility to the Papal Nuncio and the suggestions of Rome.  The Vatican speedily recognized his services and Tiso was made a Monsignor.

Immediately he became Premier of Slovakia.  Tiso’s first action was to raise the cry for independence.  This was done in complete accord with the Vatican and Hitler, who knew how the plan would eventually work out.  The President of the Czech Republic—to whom, by the way, Mgr. Tiso had taken the oath of loyaltydeposed him.

What did Tiso do?  He fled immediately to Nazi Germany, the country of his supporter and friend Hitler.  It was a detail of some significance that Hitler’s close and continuous contact with Mgr. Tiso had been maintained through the agency of another Catholic, Seyss-Inquart of Austria.  As go-between in the shaping of the conspiracy between Hitler and Mgr. Tiso, Seyss-Inquart had played his part.  Hitler ordered Seyss-Inquart to proceed with a plane to convey Mgr. Tiso to Berlin.

Having received a more than cordial reception in Berlin, Mgr. Tiso entered into close consultation with Hitler and Ribbentrop, keeping at the same time in even closer touch with the representative of the Vatican.  At this time the Secretary of State to the Vatican, who for so many years had shaped the policy of the Catholic Church, was crowned the new Pope, taking Pius XII as his designation.  He had been so much occupied during the days preceding the fall of the Czech Republic that, as his biographer records, he could take a few days’ rest only.  His pontificate, indeed, had started with two great problems requiring very careful handling.  These were the invasion of Albania by Mussolini and the rape of Czechoslovakia by Hitler.

We posses few details as to the instruction given to Mgr. Tiso by the new Pope, but we do know that Mgr. Tiso and Ribbentrop were consulting with the Vatican, not only through the usual channels, but also through the Fascist Government.  On more than one occasion during this crisis the Fascist Government acted on behalf of both Hitler and Mgr. Tiso in negotiations with the Pope.

A few days after the arrival of Mgr. Tiso in Berlin the Nazi Press began to circulate accounts of the horrors inflicted by Czech rule on Catholic Slovakia.  Tiso telephoned to his Catholic friends in Slovakia that Hitler had given him a promise to support the Catholic Slovak cause if they were to make a declaration of independence.  Meanwhile the Hungarians were also enticed to take a hand in the game.  The Hungarian Catholic Primate, who communicated directly with the Vatican and with whom Tiso had been in touch, now reaped his reward.  The Hungarian Government, which shared the hatred of Hitler and others against the ‘Bolshevik’ Czech Republic, demanded Ruthenia from the Czechoslovak Government.  Catholic Poland also was asking for the liquidation of the Hussite Republic as being the friend of Bolshevik Russia.  Thus Catholic Poland sided openly with Hitler in demanding the dismemberment of the Czech nation.

In such a manner the tragedy was enacted.  Hitler summoned the President of the Republic to Berlin, where he arrived on March 15, at one o’clock in the morning.  He was ordered to sign away his country, with the alternative that if he did not sign, seven hundred Nazi bombers would flatten Prague, the Czech capital, within four hours.

President Hacha signed, and the fate of the Czech Republic was sealed.  The “twilight of liberty in Central Europe,” as the New York Times said, had begun.  Nazi troops occupied Prague and the rest of the country.  Bohemia and Moravia became, in the language of Nazism, “Protectorates,” whereas Catholic Slovakia was promoted to the status of an independent country as a reward for the help given to Hitler.  The Czechoslovak Republic had ceased to exist.

Thus another stepping-stone towards the attainment of the Vatican’s grand plan had been successfully laid down.  A Republic whose internal policy allowed the spread of Bolshevism and did not allow a full Catholic State to take shape, a Republic that was friendly with Atheistic Soviet Russia, had disappeared.  On its grave a new Catholic State was built, entirely conforming to the principles expounded in the Papal Bull Quadragesimo Anno, and soon this State was incorporated in the fabric of the newly emerging Catholic Fascist Europe.

Immediately after the birth of the new Catholic State of Slovakia, Mgr. Tiso, who had naturally become Premier, began to shape it according to the new totalitarian, anti-democratic, anti-secular and anti-Socialist principles preached by Mussolini, Hitler, and the Catholic Church.

A first consideration of Mgr. Tiso was to find a new motto for the new Catholic State.  He decided—“For God and the Fatherland.”  Then he ordained a new coinage bearing the portraits of the great Slavonic saints Cyril and Methodius.  He naturally exchanged official representatives with the Vatican.  He passed laws against Communism, Socialism, Liberalism, Secularism, and the like, suppressing their papers and organizations.  Free opinion, freedom of the Press, and freedom of speech alike disappeared.  The State was reorganized on the Fascist model.  Youth was regimented on the Hitler Youth plan and schools conformed to the principles of the Catholic Church.  Even the storm-troops were copied from the Nazis, and a legion of Catholic volunteers was recruited and sent to fight side by side with the Nazi armies against Russia.

While occupied with all these activities, Mgr. Tiso and almost all the members of his Cabinet, together with many Members of Parliament, made a regular retreat of three full days each Lent.  They frequented the services of the Church with the utmost zeal, and Mgr. Tiso himself never allowed the cares of his new office to interfere with his priestly duties.  Every week, like Mgr. Seipel, he relinquished for a time the care of the State to act as the simple parish priest of the Banovce Parish.

The new social structure of the State, as already hinted, was based on the corporate system, as enunciated by the Popes.  Trade unions were therefore abolished because, as Mgr. Tiso explained, “they came under the all-pervading influence of Liberalism and Individualism; to prevent these elements of decomposition from wreaking destruction we had to unify professional organizations and organize our whole country on a corporate basis, as taught by the Catholic Church” (April 17, 1943).  “Slovak workers may rest assured that they need not dream of a so-called Bolshevik Paradise, or expect a more just order from Eastern foreigners.  The principles of religion will teach them what a just social order means.”

Next in importance to the corporate system came the laws for the protection of the family, as taught by the doctrines of the Catholic Church and of Fascism.  These were a replica of the Fascist laws, and everything was done to see that the family undertook the earliest teaching of religion, obedience, and Totalitarianism for the younger generation.

Then Tiso organized the Catholic Slovak youth on the model of the Nazi youth.  He created the Hlinka Guards and the Hlinka Youth.  In addition to this he organized the Slovak Labor Service copied from the Nazi model, and the Hlinka Slovak People’s Party.  All of these organizations were, of course, 100 percent totalitarian, except that in certain matters there was a blend of Italian Fascism.  In all other respects Nazi Fascism was the model adopted in Slovakia, and both were cemented by the spirit and the slogans of the Catholic Church.

In the programme of his Government Mgr. Tiso preached from Hitler’s texts; he demanded discipline and blind obedience.  He introduced religious instruction in the schools and granted privileges to the Church.  Only those who showed themselves to be zealous Catholics could hope for employment in the State, the schools, and the Civil Service.  All those who were suspected of Socialist or Communist sympathies were boycotted.  Gradually the jails filled with political criminals.

Again in imitation of Hitler, Tiso created special political schools, in which the students were taught the fundamental principles of Catholic Totalitarianism.  He imitiated the Nazis even in their persecution of the Jews.  To certain Catholics who questioned the righteousness of this Mgr. Tiso replied:—


“As regards the Jewish question, people ask if what we do is Christian and humane.  I ask that too; is it Christian if the Slovaks want to rid themselves of their eternal enemies, the Jews?  Love for oneself is God’s command, and His love makes it imperative for me to remove anything harming me (Tiso’s speech, August 28, 1942).


Tiso made himself the head of the Slovak Army.  Addressing young officers, he frequently repeated to them: “The Slovak nation wants to live its own life as a national and Catholic State.”  (May 25, 1944).

Apart from the Democracies, the main hatred of Mgr. Tiso and his Catholic State was, of course, directed against Liberalism, Socialism, and Bolshevism, and hence against Soviet Russia.  He spared no effort to make the Slovak Catholics good Bolshevik haters.  The Catholic clergy were entirely on his side and co-operated with him in raising the Slovak Catholic legions which were sent to the Eastern Front.  Tiso said:


The Bolshevik plans for predominance make it clear that Slovaks must fight, not only for their own survival, but also for the salvation and protection of European culture and Christian (meaning Catholic) civilization against the forces of Bolshevik barbarism and brutality (May 25, 1944).

Apocalyptic Bolshevism unleashed by Capitalists is wreaking death and destruction.  We Slovaks are Catholics and have always striven for the furtherance of the interests of man (Tiso’s Christmas message, 1944).


Not content with words, Tiso sent a legion to fight Bolshevism and more than once personally visited the legionaries on the Eastern Front (November 6, 1941).  He also spoke against the Western Powers as a chief enemy that the Slovak had to fight: “We cannot doubt that Allied victory would mean for our people a most horrible defeat of our national ideals and deliver our people to the tyranny of the Bolsheviks.  Slovakia will hold out on the side of the Tripartite Pact Power until the final victory” (September 27, 1944).

The progress of the war, however, was not in accord with the wishes of Hitler and Mgr. Tiso.  The Soviet armies invaded Germany as well as the territory of the former Czechoslovak Republic.

When in 1944, President Benes went to Moscow and signed a pact with Soviet Russia, Mgr. Tiso and the Catholic Slovaks screamed to Heaven of the monstrous crime of the “Hussite Benes” in selling the Slovaks to the “Godless Bolsheviks.”  Tiso was not alone: the Catholic bishops and clergy of the “Protectorates of Bohemia and Moravia” echoed his words.  They preached against Benes and his Government, then in London.  They actually went so far as to issue a pastoral letter directed against the Czech Government in London.  The letter was never published, as by this time the Vatican was working hand in hand with the Allies, realizing that the defeat of Germany was certain.  The advance of Soviet Russia also stirred the Vatican to a cautious supervision of the utterances of Catholics dwelling on the Russian border.  The bishops received orders not “officially to compromise themselves.”  Thereupon the bishops issued stern warnings “telling people of the danger from the East.”  This was after Benes had signed the pact with Moscow.

Such was the new Catholic corporate State of Slovakia as desired by the Catholic Church.  The structure did not last very long, for it crumbled with the defeat of Nazi military might.  But the failure of the plan does not exonerate those religious and political institutions, or the individual men, who had been responsible for the disappearance of the gallant Czech Republic.  By their ambition to establish a totalitarian Fascist State they hastened the outbreak of the Second World War, the Slovak State having become the supporter and close partner of that Nazism which was to drench mankind in a sea of blood.





The Second World War broke out when Hitler attacked Poland on September 1, 1939, only a few months after Czechoslovakia had disappeared.  Poland fought bravely but hopelessly against the armored divisions of Germany, and after about forty days she lost her independence to two powerful countries: Nazi Germany and Communist Russia.  Throughout the Second World War Polish armies continued to fight Nazi Germany; while in the political field one disaster seemed to follow another in the internal as well as the external policy vis-à-vis several great Powers, especially Soviet Russia.

Poland, the classic martyr-nation of Europe, was following her unenviable past.  But behind all her heroism in defending herself against Nazi Germany, and in her struggle for independence, the situation at the outbreak of the Second World War was not so simple as it appeared.  Long-range political, racial, and religious interests were shaping the policy of Poland, which eventually made her the easy victim of Hitler’s aggression.  Only by glancing at the background against which Poland conducted her internal and external policy is it possible to understand, even superficially, the reasons for the disasters which overtook the nation.

Before proceeding farther we would like to stress the fact that this is not the place to enter into the complex social, racial, territorial, and political causes which moulded Poland, especially in the period between the two world wars.  We can only try to examine the Polish tragedy in that aspect of it which interests us herenamely, the religious.  And, naturally, the Vatican enters the picture, for it must be remembered that Poland is an extremely Catholic country.  In fact, one might even say that in its blind fanaticism and piety, Poland, as a nation, is the most Catholic country in the whole of Europe.

In Northern Europe, for centuries, one country alone remained loyal to the VaticanCatholic Poland.  And from the time when her French King returned to France (1754), “taking with him the crown diamonds and leaving behind him the Jesuits,” as Michelet says so picturesquely, Poland has remained a bulwark of Catholicism.

It has been said with reason that Catholic Poland was in the past the Ireland of Northern Europe.  She resisted the brutal oppression of the Russian Czar and his attempts to eradicate the people’s love for their nation and their religion.  Owing to her loss of national liberty, and to many other factors, Poland, on the eve of the First World War, was still a very backward country in all fields of human endeavor.  All through this period, and in spite of persistent and cruel persecution, the Catholic Church was the dominant factor in the country.  The Polish workers were the poorest paid and the worst-housed workers in the whole of Europe (see Spivak, Europe Under Terror).

Poland’s second characteristic was her piety.  The Poles, in fact, were so intensely religious that their display of piety in the streets of their towns was greater than could be found even in the most backward villages of Chile and Peru (see Revue des deux Mondes, February 1, 1933).  This latter characteristic of the Poles would not have been mentioned here if it stopped at that: we relate it in order to show how great must have been the influence of the Catholic Church over the population.  Such piety was not found in any lesser degree amongst the upper classes, who, since Poland recovered her political independence, have been the most devout followers of the Vatican in social as well as in political matters.

This was because the Polish upper classes consisted of the most reactionary elements (chiefly great landowners) to be found in that part of Europe.  The interests of these reactionary sections were, of course, parallel to those of the Catholic Church.  Their policy hung on one main hinge: intense hatred of Russia as a country and even more intense hatred of Russia as the centre of Bolshevism.  In this the Polish reactionary elements and the Catholic Church were in complete accord.  The Poles, therefore, as Poles and as Catholics shaped their policy on the persistent boycott of Soviet Russia, and although, as an independent nation, she had reason to fear a reawakened Germany, Poland nevertheless concentrated all her hatred on her other neighbor.

To carry out their mutual policy, the Catholic Poles and the Vatican had first to strengthen their position inside the country.  For inside Poland there were problems to settle which, on a small scale, were the same great problems which Catholic Poland and, above all, the Vatican wanted to solve on the stage of European politics.  This internal policy was that of maintaining the status quo of the rich landowners and the aristocracy in the social sphere, of “Polonizing” all foreign elements, and of converting to Catholicism all who did not belong to the true religion.  The practical aims of this policy were to prevent the spread of Socialism and Communism and, if possible, to crush them both, to oppress all minorities, especially the Ukrainians, and make them all “Poles,” at the same time eradicating the Orthodox religion and substituting for it the Catholic.

So far as the internal affairs of Poland were concerned, the Vatican, although having the same aims, had vaster goals, which it planned to achieve with the aid of Catholic Poland, one of its many partners.  It planned to destroy the Atheist country of Soviet Russia, also to wipe out the Orthodox religion and supplant it by Catholicism.  We shall see how the Vatican tried to carry out these plans with Lenin after the Russian Revolutionplans which were further enhanced by the desires of the Polish Nationalists, who were never tired of dreaming of territorial expansion at the expense of Soviet Russia.  This dream had begun immediately after Poland was resurrected by the Treaty of Versailles, and in such a desire Poland had several allies who, like her, intensely hated Bolshevism.

Paderewski was sent to France, and with very little persuasion he induced the French to strengthen the enemy of Bolshevismnamely, the new Polandby detaching two large provinces from Russia and giving them to Poland, and at the same time to weaken Germany by taking from her a slice of Silesia through a fraudulent plebiscite.

It is interesting that the Catholic Poles, who for centuries had been subjected to foreign servitude, once free, adopted the most undemocratic methods to satisfy their nationalistic as well as their religious aspirations.  In the case of Silesia, part of that region was so essentially German that even those responsible for the Treaty of Versailles hesitated to give it to Poland: they decided that a plebiscite should be held.  French and Italian troops were sent to the province to safeguard the liberty of the voters.  But the Poles, and particularly the Catholic Hierarchy, began a most violent and widespread campaign of intimidation comparable only to that used later by Fascism and Nazism in their “free plebiscites.”  (See the French Catholic writer, Rene Martel, in La France et la Pologne.) It is significant that at the head of this campaign of political terror there was a Catholic High Prelate, the Bishop of Posen.  The Poles got what they wanted mostnamely, five-sixths of the mines and several large towns which had voted for Germany.  But that was not all.  After having incorporated two provinces into their territory, they dreamed of something elsethe extension of their boundaries at the expense of Soviet Russia.

Of course, the Poles were not alone in desiring the destruction of Bolshevism.  Far from it.  Powerful forces in the West had decided to annihilate the Reds by force of arms.  The victorious Allies, in fact, went so far as to organize a military expedition in alliance with the White Russians in order to bring about the downfall of the Bolshevik régime.  In this first anti-Red crusade the most enthusiastic who joined the venture were the Poles.  It should be remembered that at that time the representative of the Vatican in Warsaw was Mgr. Ratti, the great enemy of Communism, who was later elected Pope Pius XI.

Pilsudski, in course of time, was swept back to the very gates of Warsaw under the impact of the Red armies, while (what must have seemed very strange to the super-Catholic Poles) the Pope was courting Lenin.  This courting, however, having failed, the Vatican’s hopes of furthering its plans in Soviet Russia went wrong.  By 1925 the Soviet Government had forbidden the Vatican representative to enter the country.  It was from then onwards that the real Catholic campaign against “Soviet Atrocities against Religion” began to flood the whole world.  This campaign was substantiated by the fact that many Catholic priests were imprisoned and shot; but what Catholic propaganda never told was that practically all of them were sentenced, not because of their religious faith, but because they were political agents of the Polish Government, which never ceased to plot against its “Atheistic neighbor.”  From that period the hatred of Soviet Russia, aroused by historical, national, and racial causes, was infinitely magnified by the religious incentive.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Poles, having been hampered in their plan to destroy the Soviet Union, began to exterminate all those elements inside the new Poland which might have the same ideas as the Reds.  Democracy, Liberalism, Socialism, and Communism were all loathed by the Poles and the Church.  Polish Socialists, during the first years of the Republic, were outraged at the tyrannical behavior of the Government, and especially at the crimes against the minorities and at the religious persecution begun by the Catholic reactionaries.  In 1923, after a large crowd had gathered before the Greek Cathedral at Leopol in protest against religious persecution, Polish troops dispersed them with rifles and swords.  The Socialist representatives in Parliament were so indignant about this outrage that they vociferously protested at the Sejm and Senate.

Both Catholic reactionaries and the Catholic Church grew alarmed lest their plans should go wrong because of the Socialist interference.  Means of preventing this were studied by both, and one day Pilsudski, with the warmest support of the Vatican and the Polish Hierarchy, extinguished parliamentary government, imprisoned the Socialists, destroyed any vestige of democracy or freedom, and set himself up as a dictator.  Thus Catholic Poland was one of the first countries in Europe, after the First World War, to become a dictatorship.  From that time the great plans of the nationalist and reactionary Catholic Poles and the Catholic Church advanced rapidly.

We have already said that after the First World War Poland cut off large slices of Russia as well as Germany, to which in all justice she had no right.  In these lands were large populations which were anything but Polish.  There were over 1,000,000 Germans (almost all Protestants), and between 7,000,000 and 8,000,000 White Russians and Ukrainians, of which about half belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church.  There were also about 1,000,000 Catholic Poles, 1,000,000 Jews, 4,000,000 Greek Uniates (who, although practicing Greek rites, acknowledge the Pope), and over 4,000,000 anti-Papal Orthodox Catholics.

Before and after the annexation of these territories (which Russia was later to take back from Poland during the Second World War) the Poles gave solemn pledges to the Great Powers that they would respect the racial, social, political, and religious rights of these minorities.  But from the very beginning the Catholic Poles carried out a ruthless double campaign, sponsored by intense nationalism and religious fanaticism, to “Polonize” the Ukrainians completely and to destroy the Orthodox Church.  They began to take away from the Ukrainians their liberties, one by one, with brutal force; they tried to suppress their national habits and institutions, and even their language.  Parallel with this, they tried to convert them to the “only and true religion of God.”  The Vatican instructed the Polish Hierarchy and the ultra-Catholic Polish Government that the “conversion” should be brought about, not so much by pressing it on the peasants, but by “eliminating” the clergy of the Orthodox Church.  In a comparatively short time more than one thousand Orthodox priests had been arrested; in one jail alone 200 of them were crowded in with 2,000 political prisoners (mostly Democrats and Socialists).

The jailers received special instructions to maltreat the clergy.  There were thousands of executions amongst the Ukrainians.  “Whole villages were depopulated by massacre.” (See Les Atrocitiés Polonaises en Galicie Ukrainienne, by V. Tennytski and J. Bouratch).  The Catholic Church approved.  Indeed, one of its high dignitaries, a bishop, was appointed to the Council set up to accomplish this plan.  In 1930 there were over 200,000 Ukrainians in jail.  The most appalling tortures were employed by the Catholic Poles: tortures which would be not an iota less compared with those that occurred in Nazi concentration camps later on.  When a military expedition was sent to punish the “rebel Ukrainians,” Catholic priests accompanied every regiment of Polish soldiers, who, while being very pious, hearing Mass regularly, going to church frequently, and carrying holy images with them, did not hesitate to commit the hideous crimes of torturing and raping, of burning Orthodox churches and executing thousands upon thousands.  “Most of the Greek churches are plundered by Polish soldiers and used as stables for their horses, and even as latrines.”  (See Atrocities in the Ukraine, edited by Emil Revyuk).

These facts may be new to most readers and may cause them to raise their eyebrows.  But in addition to many impartial documentary books there is also the testimony of well-known newspapers which related these horrors and persecutions, such as the Manchester Guardian, Chicago Daily News, New York Herald Tribune, as well as the impartial book written by a French Catholic, already quoted: La France et la Pologne (1931) by René Martel.

This persecution lasted for over fifteen years, and began to be relaxed only when Nazi Germany showed her aggressive intentions in Europe.

At this point it should be noted that the Polish Government accused the Ukrainians of being “rebels.”  This is important in studying the religious side of the issue, in so far as these minorities were considered “rebels” not only because they refused to surrender their national institutions, but, above all, because they refused to abandon their Orthodox faith.  The Polish Catholic authorities, and behind them the Vatican, were pressing for the surrender of their religion more bitterly than the political and nationalistic forces had ever done.

The Polish bishops were the leaders of this religious persecution, and Polish lay Catholics and Catholic institutions organized campaigns and raised funds in order that it might be carried out as thoroughly as possible.  In addition to this, dozens of official visitors from the Vatican came regularly to Poland to examine the progress made; ecclesiastical inspectors were constantly going to and coming from Rome, carrying full reports and statistics of the campaign.  The Papal Nuncio in Warsaw, who was there from the very beginning, was closely connected with the Polish Hierarchy and worked hand in hand with it, besides being in close touch with certain Catholic French generals, particularly with General Weygand, who fought against Bolshevism for the Poles.  We shall have occasion to mention him again, when dealing with France.

We have pictured the background of Polish political and religious activities in order to emphasize points which bear a close relation to the international events leading to the outbreak of the Second World War, especially with regard to the Vatican, which launched a persistent campaign against Atheist Russia and Communism in general, flooding the world with innumerable stories of cruelty, horrors, and injustices perpetrated against religion, the object being to arouse the deep hatred of countries, especially Catholic countries, the world over against a régime which did not allow religious liberty.  This was done while the Vatican knew what was going on in Poland; indeed, while the Vatican was the main agent behind all the religious persecution in that country.

To every impartial observer of her foreign policy, Poland’s position during the period between the two world wars was a very delicate one; in fact, so delicate that the object of her politicians should have been only to pursue a policy which would be in the interests of their country—a policy uninfluenced by any ideological or religious hatreds.

When Nazism came to power, and when it was made obvious, by a colossal building up of military machinery, what the Nazis’  intentions were, it should have been the concern of Poland to make a close ally of Russia, for, owing to Poland’s geographical position only Russia would have been able to give her immediate help had she been attacked.  Poland instead pursued the entirely opposite policy of continued intense hatred towards Russia and always closer friendship with Nazism.

It is true that in the first years of Nazism, Poland was the first country to ask France to intervene against Hitler on the occupation of the Rhineland.  That was understandable, for Poland was a young nation who feared that Germany might renew claims upon her.  But after that, Poland hitched herself to Hitler’s chariot.  In internal affairs she became more and more Fascist and totalitarian in the strictest sense of the word, whilst in the foreign field she became a faithful ally of Nazi Germany.  Indeed, she even helped Germany to carry out her aggression against Czechoslovakia.  Not only did she support Nazi Germany throughout that crisis, but joined her voice with Hitler’s, and was one of the first nations to ask for a share of the Czechoslovak kill.

Even before Munich, Poland had become a real Nazi Germany in miniature.  Besides following Hitler in his raping, she began to shout and agitate the sabre, in true Hitlerian fashion, repeating the very slogans of the Nazis.  She began to talk of lebensraum for Poles, first in Europe and then in Africa; she wanted colonies, she said, and if colonies were not given to her, she would get them all the same.  Hitler, at that time, was shouting exactly the same words, and when Poland proclaimed that she would get colonies, she meant, of course, that she would get them after they had been conquered by Hitler.  She sneered openly at democracy, and even menaced Soviet Russia on many occasions, hinting that in Russia, too, there was enough lebensraum for the surplus Poles and enough raw material for her industries.

In short, and as the Polish Foreign Minister said later, the Poles had struck a real alliance with Nazi Germany (Colonel Beck, January 1940).  Whence had the inspiration come?  In the internal field, from the causes already shown; in the international sphere, from the Western Powers and from the Vatican, all of whom hoped that Hitler might turn against Russia.

We have already related the events preliminary to the break of the Second World War, with particular regard to the situation of the Vatican, Hitler, and Poland, the agreement reached by Pius XII and Hitler about the temporary character of the German occupation of that country, the grandiose plan which lay behind it all, and the grand strategy of the Vatican, having for its main goal the attack on Soviet Russia, in which Poland was seen as an instrument conducive to this ultimate goal.  As we shall come across the subject when dealing with France and the Vatican, we shall content ourselves here with quoting the words of a man who knew, perhaps, more than any other the extent of the Vatican’s responsibility for the Polish tragedynamely, Poland’s Foreign Secretary, Colonel Beck, at one time a great friend of Goering and Hitler, who led Polish foreign policy in the wake of Nazism in the years before the war.  After Germany and Russia had occupied his country, and Colonel Beck had to flee abroad, disillusioned and ill, he uttered the following significant words, which put in a nutshell the part played by the Catholic Church in steering the policy of that nation:


One of those mainly responsible for the tragedy of my country is the Vatican.  Too late do I realize we have pursued a foreign policy for the Catholic Church’s own ends.  We should have followed a policy of friendship with Soviet Russia, and not one of support of Hitler.  (Excerpt from a letter addressed to Mussolini by the Fascist Ambassador in Bucharest (February 1940), who stated he was one of those to whom Colonel Beck spoke.)


Could there be a more striking indictment of the interference of the Catholic Church in the life of a modern nation?  Yet those individuals and parties who, after Poland’s occupation, formed a Polish Government in London, owing to a sum of racial, social, political, and religious factors, continued to behave exactly as their predecessors had behaved, so far as their relations with the Vatican and Soviet Russia, now Poland’s ally, were concerned.  From 1940 until the very end of the war, in 1945, interminable intrigues with the Vatican and the Allies continued to be spun in London by the exiled Poles, who, while directing their main efforts to expelling the Nazis from Polish territory and raising armies to fight side by side with those of the Western Powers, never lost an opportunity to antagonize Soviet Russia.  This policy culminated in the pitiful and tragic rising of Warsaw in 1944, when thousands of lives were sacrificed uselessly.  The rising had been planned in order to prevent the Soviets, who were approaching the capital, from occupying it.  The Catholic Poles thought that thus they would have the right to reject “any political interference from the Russians.”

At the beginning of 1945 Poland had her “fifth partition,” as it was called, by which a certain portion of the former Poland was handed back to Russia.  It is not for us to pass judgment on whether this partition was right or wrong, or on whether or not a victorious Soviet Russia imitated Hitler in dealing with smaller neighbors.  The fact remains that Poland, after twenty years of relentless hostility, could not expect her Eastern neighborsmainly thanks to whose exertions Poland was freednot to take precautions to ensure that the past would not be repeated.

The disavowal, by Moscow, of the exiled Polish Government in London, and the formation of a new Left-Wing Government in battered Poland in the spring of 1945, were more than moves by Soviet Russia to ensure the future.  Although meant to hamper the efforts of the reactionary elements which had ruled Poland between the two world wars, they were directed mainly against the great rival, the Vatican.  For Moscow, as well as the Vatican, knows very well that in the future, Poland is bound to become once again an instrument in the hands of whoever controls its domestic and foreign policy, to be employed in a wider battle whose prize is the conquest, not of a single country, but of a whole continent.





When, in the spring of 1940, Nazi Germany turned away from the East in order to destroy the military power of the Western Allies, the small countries lying between her and Francenamely, Denmark, Holland, and Belgiumwere overrun and occupied.

We shall not deal with Denmark, whose Catholic population is minute; nor with Holland, which cannot be considered a Catholic country, for, although one-third of her population is Catholic, such a minority at this time did not exert a great influence.  It suffices to state that the Dutch Catholics, although they produced certain pro-Nazi elements, behaved on the whole as did the majority of the Dutch population, the Hierarchy adopting a policy of obedience to Nazi authorities, but expressing neither condemnation nor support of their actions.  Occasional protests were raised only when certain laws, such as that enforcing labor recruitment, endangered the morals and faith of the Catholic workers or violated the principles of the Church; or when the Nazi régime dissolved Catholic associations, reduced the subsidies of Catholic schools, commandeered ecclesiastical buildings, suppressed Catholic newspapers, banned public collections, reduced the salaries of religious teachers, or adopted a system of centralization as regards workers and youth, and so on.

On the other hand, although it is true that the Catholic Hierarchy gave in general neither support nor condemnation to the Nazis, it co-operated whole-heartedly with them in destroying the Socialists and Communists.  As when, for instance, on January 27, 1941, it forbade any Catholic to become or remain a member of the Communist Party, the disobedient being threatened with excommunication.

Lack of space forbids any detailed relation of the part played by the Catholic Church in Holland.  We must pass on to Belgium, for in that country the Catholic Church played an important part in shaping social, political, and even military events up to the time of occupation by the Nazis.  While surveying the part played by the Church there, the reader should remember that Belgium, like other countries, was but a part of the Vatican’s vast plan for establishing Totalitarianism wherever possible.  As we have already seen, the Vatican worked on two planes.  First, it tried to create totalitarian political movements within the selected country, taking advantage of economic, political, social, or racial characteristics of general or local origin.  Secondly, in the case of small countries, they were gradually trained for enticement into the orbit of Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy.

Before proceeding farther, let us glance briefly at the position of the Belgian Catholic Church, for thus will be explained the influence exercised by the Church, not only over matters purely religious, but extending to the social and political field.

Practically the whole population of Belgium is, nominally at least, Catholic.  The Catholic Church as a religious, social, and political institution is, perhaps, the most influential organization in the country.  As evidence of the overwhelming numerical superiority of the Catholics over the adherents of other Churches it is sufficient to quote the following figures illustrating the proportion of clergy serving the various religious denominations in Belgium in the year 1937: The Roman Catholic Church possessed 6, 474 priests; the ministers of Protestant denominations numbered 32; Rabbis of the Jewish faith numbered 17; and the Anglican Church was represented by 9 clergy.  Of all Catholic countries, Belgium had relatively the greatest number of convents, and the number of Belgian nuns approached 7,000.

The Belgian Constitution guaranteed religious freedom, and no subject was compelled to take part in religious observances.  Every creed enjoyed complete liberty.  The State disclaimed any right to intervene in ecclesiastical matters and was not concerned in the appointment of Church dignitaries or of authorities in the universities.

This degree of religious liberty in a country overwhelmingly Catholic resulted from compromise between the Catholics and the Liberals.  The struggle between the Catholic Church and the Liberals had formerly been as fierce as in other countries, but the Church was compelled to compromise.  She well knew that the liberty granted to her by the State would compensate for any loss involved in such compromise.  Through a network of institutionseducational, social, political, and charitablethe Church was able to influence the life of the nation.  These channels of influence widened yearly, thanks to the principles of freedom of association, of education, and of the Press.  This mutual tolerance between Church and State enabled Belgium to maintain close diplomatic relations with the Holy See.

Ever since Belgium became independent, the education of Belgian youth had been a subject of bitter controversy between the Church and the champions of the secular State education system.  La Lutte Scolaire, as it had come to be known, the struggle for the control of youth, was still unresolved in principle in May 1940, although some degree of compromise had been reached in practice.  The Constitution provided that education should be free and that the cost of maintaining schools should be borne by the State.  But the principle of liberty in education permitted the foundation of schools by private organizations and individuals, and the Catholic Church in particular made use of this privilege.  Whether the State should be responsible for the cost of education in schools thus privately established was the next question to arise and for a long time caused bitter dispute.  The Catholic Church claimed that the State should provide a part of the funds necessary to support her schools.

Religious instruction in the schools likewise produced a difficult issue.  In their own schools Catholics could, of course, ensure that their children were educated in accordance with Catholic principles.  In schools controlled by public authorities, the Liberals, and later the Socialists, maintained that education should be placed on a purely secular basis.  They considered that religious instruction should be given outside school hours and only with the parents’ consent.  The Church fought these contentions with the utmost ferocity, claiming that Catholic teaching should be given in all schools and at the State’s expense.  All children should be brought up as Catholics, irrespective of their parents’ wishes.

To demonstrate the intolerant spirit animating the Catholic Church, even in a State where superficially it seemed that an understanding with the Church had been reached, two small but significant illustrations may be given.  The State, being truly Democratic and Liberal, had enacted that Catholic instruction should be imparted in those schools where Catholic scholars formed the majority.  This especially affected communal schools.  But when the State applied a corresponding rule to communal schools where Catholics were in a minority, that religious instruction inapplicable to the majority should not be given, the Church protested vigorously and accused the State of intolerance, and hostility to the Church.

As in many other countries, so also in Belgium, a fierce antagonism persisted between the Church and such progressive parties as the Liberals and the Socialists.  The Church consistently opposed anything tending to secularize the State and the national life.  Without recapitulating the motives which urged the Church to fight against the secular State, and Liberalism, it suffices to say that the Church in Belgium conducted the same campaign as she had done in Italy, Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and elsewhere.  During the first fifty years of independence the fight was directed against the Liberals, and the influence of the Church on education and on the political life of the country was the main cause of strife.  The fervent Catholics, of course, supported the Church, while the Liberals and Progressives advocated a secular State.

From 1884 to 1914, owing to various circumstances and social as well as economical political events, the Catholics governed the country alone.  After the First World War the Catholics and the Socialists, who meantime had grown enormously in number and power, possessed equal strength, but the Liberals gradually lost ground, with the result that the Catholic Party and the Catholic working-class movement entered upon their inevitable struggle with the Socialists.  This struggle was based mainly on social questions.

In 1925 the first two Communists were elected to the Chamber.  In Belgium, as elsewhere, Socialist and Communist movements were increasingly gaining ground, to the dismay of those sections of Belgian society which had reason to fear them.  These sections, of course, found a close ally in the Catholic Church, with whose concurrence a fight against the Socialists was initiated.  This fight assumed various forms and experienced various fortunes, the description of which lies beyond the scope of this book.  It suffices to say that Hitler’s accession to power in 1933 afforded encouragement to the Belgian reactionary forces and stimulated them towards a successful resistance of their enemies.

Only two years after the rise to power of Nazism, a Fascist movement appeared in Belgium.  This Fascistor rather Nazimovement adopted the programme, ideas, and slogans of Hitler and Mussolini, modified to the special requirements of Belgian nationality.  The party and its leader declared themselves allies of Hitler and Mussolini and backed their interference in the internal affairs of Belgium.

From what springs did the New Belgian Fascism flow?  Who were the chief instigators of this anti-democratic force?

Its instigators were fervent adherents of the Catholic Church, and in their special spheres were indeed the outstanding figures of Catholicism.  The leader of this faction was the director of the most important Catholic publishing firm, and the institution on which the movement depended for support was the Catholic Church.  The movement and its leaders boasted the support of the influential Catholic section of Belgium and its close allies, the industrial, financial, and socially reactionary elements throughout the country.

The Belgian Fascist Party, created in 1935, was led by a group of young Catholics, of whom the chieftain was Degrelle, the director of the Catholic publishing firm “Rex” (the abbreviated form of Christus Rex).  Degrelle started his career as a propagandist of the Catholic Party, his chief mission being to flood Belgium with Catholic religious publications.  The soul of the Child in Catholicism and miracles of all kinds, especially the apparition of the Virgin at Beauraing, formed his chief subject-matter.

When the new party was founded, these young Catholics opened a campaign on two fronts.  First, their animosity was directed against the high financial and industrial section of the Catholic Party and the undue influence of high finance within it.  Secondly, they made a formal declaration of war against anything that savored of Democracy or Socialism, and against all elements hostile to the Catholic Church.  These campaigns were mainly directed against the Socialists, the Communists, the secular State, and, significantly enough, against that solid, stable, and influential section of Catholic Belgiumnamely, the leaders of the Catholic Party.

Does not the situation strike the reader as very similar to that which had been created in other countries?  And does not the creation of the Catholic Fascist Party strike one as in perfect accordance with the general policy of the Church at that time?  This policy, it is suggested, involved the supplanting of the old Catholic Party or even its complete destruction; in its place was to be substituted a new party which was vigorous and unscrupulous.  All this happened at a time when the Socialists and especially the Communists in Belgium were increasing in number and power.  As a consequence the middle class, which in other countries formed the backbone of Fascism and Nazism, was becoming restless and demanding strong measures.  In short, the Church chose the right time for launching yet another Fascist party.

The move was most cleverly timed from another point of view.  Serious scandals had occurred among the Catholics exercising the greatest influence, causing the middle and lower middle classes to rebel against this state of affairs.  The Catholic Party had, in fact, been accused by Catholics as well as non-Catholics of gross misdeeds, in that the Church “had embarked upon sordid speculations” so as to “increase its strength and enrich some of its members” (Revue de Deux Mondes, June 15, 1936).

Owing to these considerations, the Catholic Fascist Party had every advantage leading to success, with or without the support of the old Catholic Party.  Thus the Fascist Degrelle, leaving Catholics of the old stamp in the lurch, ensured the advancement of his own faction.  At the election of 1936 the new Fascist Party, now designated Rexism, secured twenty-one seats in the Chamber—a very good start.  The Communists advanced from two seats in 1925, to nine seats.

The new Fascist Party, however, although indirectly supported by the Vatican, became too violent and exceeded the instructions of Rome as regards its relationship with the old Catholic Party.  Degrelle was too enthusiastic and inexperienced.  Rexism was also in collusion with Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, and the popularity of the movement began to wane.  The old Catholic Party in Belgium gave the Vatican to understand that they were too influential in the life of the country to be thus cavalierly treated.  They asked that the Church should repudiate Rexism as it was then constituted.  They assured the Vatican that, exercising due precaution, they would themselves in time ensure the “liquidation” of Socialism and Communism.

An important test case was fought in 1937, when Brussels elected to send Degrelle himself to the polls in opposition to Mr. Van Zealand, an independent Catholic, then Prime Minister.  Degrelle had the support of the Rexists and the Catholic Flemish Nationalists.  The Catholic Church took this occasion to repudiate the doctrine of Rexism as being “incompatible with good Catholicism.”  The result of the election was the polling by Degrelle of 69,000 votes only, against the 275,000 votes for his opponent.

The old Catholic Party had scored a success with the Vatican, but Rexism survived, using all the slogans and methods of Fascism and Nazism with varying fortunes.  Since the Vatican had given it the cold shoulder and, above all, being opposed by the influential rich Catholics, it could not force Degrelle on the Catholic population.  Accordingly, in 1939, Rexism lost almost all its seats in Parliament, registering only four.

Then war broke out, and the same intrigues as had been woven between the reactionary section of France, the Vatican, and Hitler were repeated in Belgium.  That is to say, an influential Catholic section in Belgium, composed mainly of industrialists and financiers, sought to keep Belgium neutral and even to come to terms with Hitler.

The Vatican was at the bottom of all these plans and negotiations.  Of course, the Vatican was not the only interested party; powerful interests, social, economic, and financial, were at work, in close connection with their counterparts in France.  We shall enter into greater detail when dealing with France.  It is sufficient here to record that a French general of Belgian origin and devoutly Catholic was implicated in these various proceedings and was a link between the Belgian and French sections desiring to “come to terms with Hitler.”  His name was General Weygand.

The Papal representative in Belgium was in intimate contact with various influential persons in the King’s entourage.  He was also in contact, significantly enough, with those Flemish Catholic Nationalists who, claiming independence, saw in Hitler’s intervention a God-sent opportunity for creating a new Flemish Catholic State.  These Flemish Catholics desired separation on racial and historic grounds, but it is noteworthy that they were most fervent Catholics and their main objective was the creation of an authoritarian State.  This State was to be founded on Nazism and the Fascist Corporate System.  In the years preceding 1940 the Flemish Nationalists had changed the form of their party.  The Front Party had given way to the Vlaamsch National Verbond, an organization created on an authoritarian basis.

After the invasion of Poland the parlous position of Belgium as vis-à-vis Germany was clear enough.  Nevertheless, the intrigues continued and reached such a stage that King Leopold and his advisers refused to join the French and British experts in devising plans until it was too late.  In acting thus, King Leopold neglected the advice of his military leaders.

This delay was due to the fact that the Belgian Catholics, or rather the few concerned in these intrigues, were aware of the Vatican’s plan regarding Poland, Belgium, and France.  They knew, to speak more accurately, that the Vatican had promised Hitler the support of the Catholic Church in the West in return for his promised attack on the great Bolshevik enemy.  Hitler, in turn, promised to respect the Church wherever his armies “were forced to go.”  He would “crush all the Socialists and Communists,” and when once that was done “he would turn East.”

King Leopold was well known to be under the influence of the clergy and, not possessing great political acumen, he may or may not have known what his actions portended.

Besides the decision of the King, the onus in this matter falls particularly on two men, and these two men were the Papal Delegate in Belgium and the Belgian Primate.  They conducted secret negotiations with several prominent Catholic industrialists and politicians and more than once had private audiences with King Leopold.

King Leopold and his entourage were also under pressure from the Fascist Government in Rome, which had been charged by Hitler to persuade the King to follow a certain line.  This side of the negotiations was conducted through the House of Savoy, in the person of the wife of the Italian Crown Prince, Umberto, who was King Leopold’s sister.  This colossal plan will be considered in greater detail in the next chapter.  It suffices to say here that Belgium was a part of the France-Vatican-Hitlerite plan, with which the small Catholic industrialist clique, the King, and others, consented to work in harmony.

As already suggested, the King, in accordance with this scheme, prevented the Allies from preparing their plans.  Consequently, when Hitler invaded Belgium his armies reached the sea, and King Leopold was advised by his Catholic counselors, including the Papal Delegate and the Belgian Primate, to surrender.  This course was contrary to the opinion and the will of the Government, which refused to surrender; so Catholic Leopold, flouting the Constitution which he had sworn to respect, personally surrendered the Belgian Army to the Nazis.  King Leopold later stated that he had sent due warning to the Allies.  It is certain that they never received this warning and were confronted by the gravest danger.

Immediately after the surrender, and before the country had been informed, Cardinal van Roey had an extremely private interview with the King, lasting for more than an hour and a half.  It should be noted that the King, in spite of pressing military problems, had previously had a private meeting with the Papal Nuncio.  The surrender immediately followed this meeting.

Of what transpired at the meeting of the King and Cardinal van Roey we know nothing, except that the Cardinal discussed what message should be given, and how it should be given, to the Belgian people, most of whom wished to continue the struggle.  The King had surrendered unwillingly, as he wished to be in accord with his Government.  After the surrender he was apprehensive of the judgment of his people, but the Cardinal undertook to defend his action to the Belgians.

It was in these circumstances, and employing Cardinal van Roey as his mouthpiece, that the King announced the capitulation of May 28, 1940, to his people.  He further published the text of his letters addressed to President Roosevelt and—significantly enoughto the Pope.  Belgium had become an occupied country and a satellite of the Nazi New Order.

The outstanding characteristics of occupied Belgium were twofold.  First, Liberalism, Socialism, Communism, and all democratic institutions, being inimical to the Catholic Church and incidentally to Nazism, were destroyed or otherwise thoroughly overhauled.  Secondly, the organizations of the Catholic Church enjoyed unexampled freedom and the Church exercised unsurpassed influence in the country, thanks to the power granted to her by the Nazis themselves.

All political parties were dissolved except two, the ultra-Catholic Fascist Rexists and the ultra-Catholic Flemish Nationalist Party.  The Socialist and Communist papers were suppressed or changed hands.  Only Catholic papers were allowed to be published and, except for military censorship, to circulate freely.

All other activities and organizationeconomic, social, cultural, or politicalwere either suppressed, hampered, or handed over to the Belgian Fascists or the Nazis.  Only Catholic institutions, societies, and activities were left free.  The only authorities to maintain their power and prestige, or rather to acquire more of both, were the Catholic clergy.  And last but not least, the Cardinal became the most powerful political personage in the country.

We have seen that Hitler disliked Catholicism and the Vatican, only bargaining with them when he had something important to gain.  How, then, can anyone explain the fact that his first proceeding in Belgium was to make the Catholic Fascist parties and the Catholic Church all-powerful?

This state of affairs continued for a considerable time after the occupation.  Of all institutions, the Catholic Church longest escaped German oppression and suffered least from the occupation.  Catholic social organizations, unlike those of Socialistic and other non-Catholic origin, continued their work as before.  The Catholic Youth organization, the Catholic Boy Scouts, the Peasants’ Guilds, and the Women’s organizations, not only remained unmolested, but flourished more than ever before, owing to the protection of the Germans and the all-powerful Higher Clergy.  The Catholic Party and the Catholic trade unions were, however, “suspended” in accordance with the instructions of the Vatican and of Hitler.  The Nazi New Order required a new Catholic party and Rexism supplied the need, and the Corporate System, among others, supplanted the Catholic trade unions.

Although the University of Brussels was closed, the University of Louvain, controlled by the Vatican, remained open, and students from all over Belgium were asked to go there.

The great majority of the Belgians were, to say the least, critical of the King’s action, and to a great extent this criticism included the Church.  The Cardinal and his bishops thereupon instituted a campaign to convince the Belgian people of the wisdom of the King’s action, hoping to secure a continuance of their loyalty to the Throne.  Loyalty to the King became a primary consideration with the Belgian bishops, and was repeatedly stressed in their pastoral letters.

The Cardinal and bishops never spoke adversely of Fascism and Nazism, and when they referred to totalitarian régimes their criticism was confined to matters in which “the authoritarian State might endanger the Catholic Church.”  Nevertheless, they urged the Belgians to submit to Nazism.  In unmistakable terms they told them to accept it, and to co-operate with the Nazis: “In the present circumstances they should recognize the de facto authority of the occupying Power and obey it so far as International Law required” (first collective Pastoral Letter of the Belgian Bishops, October 7, 1940).  Then, as the fortune of war went against the Nazis and their victory looked less assured, and still more after the liberation of Belgium, the Belgian Hierarchy began to boast of the protests they had presented to the Nazis.

But what, in truth, had happened?  It is true that the bishops and the Cardinal, after two or three years of occupation, had made protests to the Nazis, but what had been the basis of these protests?  Was the inhumanity of Nazism, and the bath of blood in which Germany was continuing to plunge the world, the subject of their protests?  By no means.  They protested because the Nazis compelled the Belgian miners to work on Sundays.  This was the first of a series of protests, and it is significant.  It occurred on April 9, 1942.  Van Roey and the bishops, writing to Von Falkenhausen on May 1, 1942, denounced this imposition as being contrary to Article 46 of The Hague Convention, which obliges an occupying Power to respect “the religious convictions and practice” of the occupied country.  Von Falkenhausen, the Nazi Commander, concluded his reply with the significant words: “Finally, I tender my most heartfelt thanks to your Eminence for the solicitude you have been good enough to show for the interest which I represent.”

Another main ground of complaint by the Cardinal and bishops consisted in the removal of church bells by the Nazis, the prohibition of the practice of taking a collection on behalf of the Church at funerals, and other like matters.

Meanwhile the various Fascist Catholic groups were organizing an anti-Bolshevik campaign and recruiting anti-Communist legions, destined to fight Russia.  It is noteworthy that almost all such volunteers were fervent Catholics.  The most notorious unit was the Flemish Anti-Bolshevik Legion, which was incorporated in the S.S. Legion in Flanders.  Degrelle himself went to Russia as a private soldier.

The Rexist Party, however, encountered hostility and unpopularity and shrank almost to nothing.  Many Catholics were strongly opposed to it, and this gave occasion to an unpleasant episode within the Catholic ranks.  This little incident is worth relating.  Degrelle, while at Bouillon, assaulted the local dean and locked him up in a cellar, whence he was rescued by German soldiers.  For this offence he was excommunicated by the Bishop of Namur, and in November he was sent back to the Eastern Front.

But the excommunication of the leader of one of the Catholic parties was not approved by the Vatican, and so, by one of those moves so typical of the Catholic Church, Degrelle was granted absolution and was enabled to re-enter the Catholic Church.  This was engineered through a German priest while Degrelle was on the Eastern Front, and the Bishop of Namur, who had issued the ex-communication, was forced to acknowledge its nullification by decree in December 1943, although it was in strict accord with Canon Law, which rules that any Catholic laying violent hands on a priest is ipso facto excommunicated.

But, as always, Catholics of the rank and file were not too slavishly following the Hierarchy, and very often rebelled.  Accordingly, numerous Catholics, and even members of the lower clergy, were active in the underground movement and fought heroically against the Nazis.

After the liberation of Belgium by the Allies, the Cardinal and his bishops declared that they fought against Nazism.  What their protests amounted to we have already related; and although the Cardinal now wanted to persuade the people that he had fought the Nazis as such, he could not conceal the real motives which had called forth his protests.  He declared how glad he was that Nazism had been defeated, and explained his happiness by saying: “If Nazism had triumphed in Belgium, it would have entailed the complete suffocation of the Catholic religion”; glossing over the fact that the Nazis had co-operated most heartily with him and the Church and had given the widest liberty to the Church compatible with the occupation.  This was confirmed by the Cardinal himself when, in a later sentence, he stated: “During the occupation religious feeling has increased and the cultural, philanthropic, and social organizations of the Church have flourished more than ever.”  After which the Cardinal and his bishops declared that they fought the Nazi “each day, for our principles.”

What these principles were was not stated; or rather they were described in such manner as to sound very unlike principles to the impartial listener.  We again quote the words of the Cardinal: “We had to fight and to condemn the Germans, for they, besides looting blessed and sacred objects from the churches, took away more than thirty-two thousand tons of bronze church-bells to use as war material” (Cardinal van Roey to a Reuter’s correspondent, December 1944see Catholic Herald).

It might well be said that this was the only strong and genuine protest made to the Nazis by the Catholic Church in Belgium.  With regard to the relationship between the Vatican and the Belgian nation, no amount of explanation will ever serve to absolve the Catholic Church of its share of responsibility for the fateful events just described.  For the following facts, now well established, bear witness against her.

First, that even before the Nazi invasion of Belgium the Catholic Church was busily paving the way for Nazism through the creation of a Fascist party; secondly, that during the hostilities the Church used her influence to ensure that Belgium should surrender rather than fight; thirdly, that during the occupation the Church never condemned Nazism, but extended to it silent cooperation; and finally, that the Vatican strove hard to fit Belgium within that great framework which had been fabricated in Rome as a secure foundation on which to establish Fascism throughout the world.





The history of the diplomatic, political, and social relationship between France and the Vatican is a remarkable one, and should be borne in mind by every reader concerned with the influence exercised by the Vatican in shaping modern history.  For in few countries has the Catholic Church been so powerful and yet so weak; in few countries has it had to recur to such subtle and unscrupulous means in order to assert, preserve, and even strengthen its authority in a nation in which its influence has waned from year to year.

The climax of the Vatican’s machinations in France was reached in the decade preceding the Second World War and during the four years of Nazi occupation.  This we shall relate concisely later.  But before the examining the important rôle that the Vatican played in the downfall of the Third Republic, and in the installation of a semi-Fascist, semi-Nazi Catholic authoritarian State, it is necessary to study, even if briefly, the historical background to the relations between France and the Vatican, and thus see in their true perspective the events which we shall relate.

As is well known, the Catholic Church has exercised an enormous influence in the political and social life of France for centuries, and until the French Revolution it enjoyed a privileged position in the country.  It had supported the Monarchy since the early Middle Ages.  The Crown, in return, had granted important prerogatives of all kinds to the clergy, who, in fact, constituted the first of the three estates of the realm.  The Church had possessed vast lands and enormous wealth, and had exercised a virtual monopoly of education.  All this ended, however, with the outbreak of the French Revolution, through whose agency the Church suffered a very serious setback.  Church and State were separated, the religious Orders were suppressed, the status of the clergy disappeared, the Church’s lands were declared national property, and the control of education was transferred to the State.

The Catholic Church, of course, was bitterly hostile to the French Revolution and fought its principles with all her might, not in France only, but throughout Europe.  With the rise of Napoleon the relations of Church and State began to improve, and although there were many bitter controversies between the Emperor and the Pope, the Vatican on the whole maintained fairly good relations with the French dictator.  So much so that Napoleon, when pressed by socio-political considerations, concluded a Concordat with the Papacy—as later did two other dictators, Hitler and Mussolini.

Since the Revolution France has never been sincerely Catholic.  Not only did the ideas of the Revolution remain deeply ingrained, but the attitude of the Church after the fall of Napoleon instigated Frenchmen to detach themselves from allegiance to it.  The Holy Alliance placed on the throne of France a dynasty of monarchs whose main concern appeared to be the bludgeoning of the people into submission to the Pope; and the means employed were those known today as the “White Terror.”  When that dynasty fell, France ceased to be wholly Catholic; indeed, the Church has rapidly and consistently lost ground.

With the establishment of the Third Republic in 1870, the cooperation initiated by Napoleon came to an end.  We have already seen the reasons which induced the Catholic Church to support monarchies, dictatorships, and the like, and to wage war against any form of popular government.  These motives came into play then in the social and political fields of European life as they have done since, up to our own day.

It would be interesting to compare the diatribes of the Pope, the French cardinals, and the clergy against the Republic with the invective they have used during the last thirty years against Socialism, Communism, and Soviet Russia.  Then, as now, the Church proclaimed “a holy crusade against the Godless Republic,” and the duty of opposition to “the Atheist Government” seeking to deprive the Church of “her inalienable rights.”

But the most striking feature of that period, closely resembling the happenings of our own times, was the birth of the Commune and the Church’s reaction thereto.  The Paris Commune of the last century was, in miniature, the forerunner of Soviet Russia in the twentieth century.  Both were a bogey to the Catholic Church and to all other reactionary sections of society.

It is, of course, a comparison of small things with great to compare the Commune with the achievement and duration of the Soviet Revolution; nevertheless, the Commune gave to the world a foretaste of how the Catholic Church would behave when similar circumstances were repeated, as they have been.  Naturally, the Catholic Church did everything in her power to “sabotage” the Commune.  The clergy of France, with Catholics in general, were called upon to destroy it.  The Vatican pronounced anathemas against its spirit, its principles, and its leaders both during its existence and ever since.  Above all, the Vatican took this opportunity to launch a moral crusade against the ideas inspiring the Commune by emphasizing to the middle class its inherent dangers to them.  The warning included all other reactionary classes of society and all persons who had reason to fear the “Communards” of 1871.

The Church and reactionary thought have always been close allies.  Their intimate partnership in this fight aimed at setting up reaction once the Communards had been crushed.

A period of reaction duly followed the Commune.  For a few years France again became more Catholic.  In 1875 it was estimated that in a French population of 36,000,000, about 30,000,000 described themselves as Catholics.  This total was chiefly due to the fact that France was then a very poorly industrialized country and the ignorant agricultural classes were much under the sway of the bourgeois politician and, above all, the clergy.  The Church was granted great privileges, and for a time she seemed to have triumphed over the laws passed against her at the beginning of the Third Republic.

But once the scare of the Communards had passed, the artificial fear, fostered by the Church and other interested sections, disappeared; before 1880 France once again almost ceased to be a Catholic country.  The Church in France, directed by the Vatican, now increased her attacks on the Republic.  Accordingly, the Republic retaliated by passing successive laws calculated to hinder the power of the Church over the social and political life of the nation.

At every hostile measure the Church and the Vatican invoked the curse of God and the help of all Catholics to destroy the Republic for daring to give free education to the people, for insisting on civil marriage, and for confining the teaching in State schools to State-classified teachers.  Fulminations came weekly from the Vatican, the cardinals, and the clergy, mobilizing the Faithful against the Government and Republican institutions of all kinds.  Their aim was to compass the complete downfall of the Republic.  The Vatican, in fact, preached incessantly to the French people that the Government they had elected must be destroyed, otherwise their eternal salvation was imperilled.  For over twenty years the Vatican stubbornly refused to recognize the existence of a Republic in France.

Then suddenly the Vatican, which was the true source of all this hatred, changed its policy.  It did so because realization had finally come that the Republic would last and that it was wiser, from the Vatican’s point of view, to make such terms as were possible.

This course the Vatican now determined to follow.  The “New Spirit” bore fruit in the administrative and legislative fields.  But unity in the Catholic ranks was essential to success, and incredible fanaticism, dissensions, and hatred prevented unity.  When a farsighted Catholic, Jacques Piou, organized the Action Liberale in 1902 it was too late.  In July 1904 diplomatic relations between France and the Vatican were finally broken and the Act of Separation, in 1905, brought the conflict to a climax.  The Act guaranteed freedom of conscience and the free exercise of public worship, but religion was not to be recognized by, nor to receive financial support from the State.

The Vatican pronounced anathema on the Republic for daring to deny the supremacy of the Catholic Church and for putting all religious creeds on the same footing.  But that was not all.  The Republic, having denied the control and monopoly of religion in France to the Vatican, had decreed that the edifices of all religious bodies, Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish, should be transferred to associations cultuelles, associations dealing with public worship, and that these were to be self-supporting.  The Vatican, vaunting the peculiar claims of the Catholic Church, forbade Catholics throughout France to obey the Republic and thus again intruded on the domestic life of the nation.  French Catholics were strictly forbidden by the Pope to be parties to any such association, under penalty of grave punishment in the next world.

During and after the First World War, owing to factors of various kinds, relations between Church and State improved.  The devoted war-time services of the clergy and the return of Alsace-Lorraine, with its large practicing Catholic population, constituted two of these factors.  One of the results of the Act of Separation had been the impoverishment of many of the clergy, and the consequent reduction in their standard of living brought them nearer to those among whom they worked.

Before depicting further the background of the relationship between the Vatican and the Republic during the Second World War, let us investigate the strength of the Church in France over a period extending roughly between the two wars.

As said before, notwithstanding the anti-Catholic and anti-clerical spirit prevailing in France during the last hundred years, France remains traditionally a Catholic country.  In 1936 it was estimated that 34,000,000 Frenchmen, equivalent to 80 percent of the population, were nominally Catholic.  Almost three-quarters of these limited their Catholicism to baptism, marriage, and burial by the Church.  Otherwise they took no part, active or passive, in the life of the Church, and a large proportion were even hostile.  The practising Catholics, attending Mass and Confession more or less frequently, were computed by the Catholic authorities themselves to have amounted to between 20 and 23 percent of the total French population—clearly an insignificant minority.

Both class and region have an important bearing on the proportion of practising Catholics.  This should be borne in mind when we come to deal with the events leading to the signing of the Armistice and with the Government which co-operated with the Nazis.  The most fervent Catholics are to be found among the aristocrats, the landed gentry, the military caste, and the wealthy or well-to-do classes.  Among the lower middle class (petite bourgeoisie) probably one-third are practising Catholics.  Most are indifferent to religious issues and a small minority is actively anti-clerical.

As in all nominally Catholic countries, in France the industrial proletariat is the least Catholic element.  In a few districts, and notably in the region of Lille, a small minority only of the workers in heavy industries, such as textiles, and on the railways is actively Catholic.  The ratio is higher, however, among the employees of light industry and small business.  It should be also noted that the Church is more deeply rooted in country districts than in towns.

Notwithstanding the general indifference of the population, the Church has a vast organization throughout France, co-ordinated by a Catholic machinery disproportionate to the real sentiment of the nation.

To begin with the inferior clergy of the Catholic Church.  Before 1940 the ordinary priesthood was estimated at 52,000 individuals, of whom 30,000 were secular priests and the remainder regulars.  Ruling this army of ordinary priests are the bishops, about seventy in number, not including twenty-six bishops without sees.  The bishops, in turn, are subject to the archbishops, each of whom presides over an archdiocese containing four or five dioceses, each in the charge of a bishop.

There are three cardinals; the Archbishops of Paris and Lyons and the Bishop of Lille.  The archbishops and bishops are the immediate assistants of the Pope, who directly supervises some of the French bishoprics endowed with high political importance, such as the Bishoprics of Strasbourg and Metz.  The bishops are in charge of education within their sees, and each diocese has a directeur, who supervises the schools controlled by the Church.

All these dignitaries of the Church are directly responsible to the Pope’s own representative, the Papal Nuncio.  The Church is subject to his authority when there is a nuncio accredited to the French Government.  The primary duties of the nuncio are, of course, diplomatic; he is the centre from which radiate the Vatican’s diplomatic and political negotiations.

There are so many hundreds of religious Orders in France that it is impossible accurately to give a general account of their organization.  Each Order of monks, friars, or nuns has its own administration and maintains its particular relationship with the episcopate.  Some Orders are virtually independent of the bishops and are responsible only to the Holy See.  Others co-operate closely with the bishops, especially teaching Orders.  Orders of Nuns also accept the bishops’ direction.  The Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans, Benedictines, Oratorians, and Cistercians constitute a few of the most important Orders.

For centuries the Jesuits have been the most influential Order in France, despite persecution.  Their great influence, before and during the war, arose from the fact that they are a teaching Order, laying great emphasis on cultural and intellectual standards.  The Jesuits in France, as elsewhere, have specialized in educating, and thereby obtaining a permanent hold over the aristocracy, the Army, and the leading classes generally.  Thus they have trained thousands of officers, subsequently attaining high rank, at the Ecole Sainte Genevieve at Versailles, which is a preparatory school for Saint Cyr, whence the regular Army officer used to be drawn.  The upper and middle bourgeoisie also send their sons to the Jesuit colleges, and the Jesuits, too, train boys for leadership in the Catholic Youth movement and the like.

We have seen the Church in France, in spite of her vast organization, was losing her members—to Secularism and Liberalism in the nineteenth century, and in the twentieth century to Socialism and Communism.  During the last century the Church only lost one-fourth of her adherents, whereas the present century has witnessed a loss of six-sevenths of her flock.

In spite of this the Catholic Church in France has not lost influence in proportion to her loss in numerical strength; indeed, in the period between the two wars, she has proceeded from strength to strength.  How can that be explained?  The explanation lies in the fact that the Church in France, as elsewhere, no longer relied on the conversion of the masses for her influence; she relied, rather, on power acquired and exerted behind the scenes.  This was quite obvious after the First World War, when the Republic, although still based on the former principles and inspired by the liberal spirit, was not only flirting with the Church, but also, on occasion, co-operating with her—an attitude not due to change of heart on the part of the Republic, but to solid social and political considerations, which the Vatican cleverly exploited to its own advantage.  Of course, many other factors were at work in effecting this volte face, but the exertions of the Vatican to obtain control of the country from above, and thereby to check apostasy en masse, constituted the decisive factor.

Thus the Vatican, although fighting a losing battle against Socialism, Communism, and other hostile forces, held its own by cultivating the friendship of the Republic.  This dual campaign became much accentuated during the twenty hears intervening between the two world wars.  The first decade was characterized by the Church’s success in exploiting the Government over political and national issues.  During the second decade the Church sponsored, fostered, and blessed various Fascist parties and organizations, whose goal was to establish a Fascist France, to crush the Socialists, and to give power to the Church.

This is not the place for an over-detailed dissection of France in the period intervening between the two world wars.  It suffices to give some examples of the two methods by which the Church sought to acquire influence in that country; in the first decade by exerting political pressure on the weak side of French nationalism, and in the second decade by encouraging Fascist movements in conjunction with the reactionary section of French society.

After the Conference of Versailles had laid down the law for the post-war world, the Vatican began to gain influence in France.  This was accomplished by playing on French nationalistic susceptibilities.  The immediate occasion of this was the return of Alsace-Lorraine to France.  This reincorporation was becoming a source of anxiety to the Republic, for it seemed that the returned province would not readily settle down under French rule.  The reincorporation of Alsace-Lorraine in France was a matter of prestige, national pride, and sentiment.

But, and here enters the Vatican, Alsace-Lorraine was solidly Catholic.  The Vatican, speaking through the French Hierarchy, pronounced that if “the French Government had shown more understanding towards the situation of the Catholic Church in the Republic,” it would have “tried to exert its not inconsiderable influence upon Catholic Alsace-Lorraine for the establishment of a better understanding between the new Province and the Republic.”  In short, the Vatican here followed its old policy, oft repeated through the centuries, which was once shrewdly characterized by Napoleon in his description of the clergy as “a spiritual gendarmerie.”

This policy can be summed up thus: if a given province whose population is Catholic, when newly annexed, becomes seditious, the Vatican invariably tries to strike a bargain with the annexing Power.  The official biographer of Leo XIII frankly shows how the Church, under his rule, followed this policy—with Great Britain regarding Ireland, with Germany regarding Poland in the nineteenth century, with Austria regarding the Croats, and in other instances.

Thus Alsace-Lorraine provided the Vatican with the desired opportunity.  In 1919, very soon after the First World War, the Provinces began to stir dangerously against France and to confront the Republic with serious trouble.  In addition, the new Provinces sent such a number of Catholic deputies to Parliament as France had not seen since 1880.  The Vatican used this powerful weapon against the Republic without hesitation in furtherance of its political and religious interests.  The two were able to reach an agreement.

In plain words, this was the bargain struck:  The Vatican undertook to keep the Alsatian rebels in check by ordering the local Hierarchy and the Catholic organization to follow a certain course.  In return the French Government was to cease its hostility to the Church, to resume diplomatic relations with the Vatican, and to grant any other privileges that might be possible.  The deal was effected, and France, the least Catholic country in Europe, whose population was indifferent or hostile to the Church, whose statesmen were mainly Agnostic, dropped the anti-clerical ardor of former times.  The laws inimical to the Church were repealed, or, when abrogated, were not enforced, and the religious Orders which had been expelled, especially the Jesuits, returned.

That was not all.  The Vatican insisted that the French Government should appoint to it an ambassador and should receive, in return, a nuncio in Paris.  Thus it came about that the Republic, denounced for more than forty years by the Vatican as “a Government of Atheists, Jews and Freemasons” against which all good Catholics should rebel, appointed an ambassador to the Vatican and welcomed a Papal nuncio in Paris.  It is significant that a French Minister—Cuval—visited the Vatican for the first time within the memory of living Frenchmen.

To complete the bargain the canonization of Joan of Arc was proclaimed.  This was an astute move on the part of the Vatican, anxious to take full advantage of French patriotic sentiment in its pursuit of further religious gains.  The Government, represented by its sceptical statesmen, took part in the religious ceremonies.  The radical elements in France protested bitterly against this casting off of the Republican liberal spirit, and especially against the reception of the Papal nuncio.  They raised a storm in Parliament, and the House was on the brink of accepting radical advice.  But just at this juncture the Vatican instructed the Hierarchy in Alsace-Lorraine to impress upon the Alsatian Catholic deputies that their duty in the House was “to safeguard the paramount interest of the Church.”  In other words, the Alsatian deputies threatened the Government with secession if diplomatic relations with the Vatican were to be interrupted.  The Government was compelled to yield.

The second and most important reason for the Vatican’s disproportionate power in France was, once again, the menace of Bolshevism.  The policy of appeasement in Alsace-Lorraine had already united the bishops with the bankers and industrialists, a combination highly advantageous to both parties.  It should be remembered that Lorraine contains the second largest deposit of iron ore in the world, and Alsace had a great wealth of potash in addition to her agricultural prosperity.

The alliance between the Church and all the reactionary sections of French society became enormously intensified.  On that union depended the issues of life and death for them, for in Bolshevism they perceived a mortal threat to their particular world.  Nothing else could have intensified so profoundly the alliance already existing between Church and reactionionaries, social, economic, and political.  The famous utterance of Henri IV, “Paris is worth a Mass,” became the watchword of an influential section of French anti-clericalism, yoked to the Vatican through fear of Bolshevism.  Many sections of liberal and secular Frenchmen at this juncture, urged by the fear of Communism, rejected Gambetta’s cry, “Clericalism is the enemy.”  The cry which had resounded throughout France for forty hears was replaced by “the Church is now our ally.”

The bankers and big industrialists did not, of course, join hands with the Vatican in order to further Catholicism.  Undoubtedly many of them had two goals in view.  First came their private interest, and secondly the interests of the Church, so long as these were compatible with their own.  The famous “two hundred families,” who possessed the greatest wealth in France, were for the most part devout Catholics.

As years passed, and chiefly through this unholy alliance, an organized campaign against Bolshevism swept through France, waxing and waning periodically.  This campaign was fought on two levels in French life.  In the first place, popular and would-be popular movements appeared, one after another.  In the second place, the higher political, financial, and social planes were involved behind the scenes; here the Vatican garnered its most notable successes.

Some ten years after the First World War—about 1930—these anti-Bolshevik organizations began to appear, growing rapidly bolder and bolder.  At one time it seemed possible that they would start civil war and make a bid for power.  These movements displayed definite characteristics.  All were anti-Bolshevik and resolved to stamp out Socialism and Communism wherever found.  They opposed the influence of Soviet Russia in the concert of nations.  They were modelled on the classical Fascist and Nazi pattern, with similar insignia and slogans.  They were armed formations, preaching violence and practising terrorism.  They clamored for an immediate dictatorship.  Their assumption of power would have been marked by the destruction of democracy and political liberty.  Last, but not least, both the leaders and the members were devout Catholics.  Nationalism and class interest inspired these movements, all of which were cemented by their religion.

Such societies were innumerable.  The majority of them had, in secret, large armaments of all kinds and were supplied with money through “secret” channels.

They began to march through the streets of Paris, breaking up Socialist and Communist meetings.  They organized armed demonstrations and assaulted their opponents.  They acted, in short, exactly as their earlier counterparts in Italy and Germany had done so successfully.

The most notorious and influential reactionary Fascist and semi-Fascist parties in France, before the outbreak of the Second World War, are here enumerated:

The Union République Démocratique.—This party, backed by the wealthiest section of France, was the backbone of French Conservative opinion.  Its main task was to defend the interests of capital and of industrial and agricultural “feudalism.”  Its secondary task was to harass the Left-wing parties as far as possible and to fight the “Bolshevik dragon.”  In 1936 it attempted to consolidate all Right-wing elements into a National Front in opposition to the Front Populaire.

It was pre-eminently the party of Big Business, and most of its members were privately or openly in sympathy with Nazism, much as were the reactionary forces in pre-Hitler Germany.  The Union was essentially Catholic, and its goal, ranking next after the defence of capital, was the furtherance of the interests of the Catholic Church.  It eagerly supported the idea that the Church should control education throughout the nation, and preached, in accordance with Catholic doctrine, the importance of the family and the undesirability of State interference in social matters.  The Union embraced many important industrial, social, financial, political, and religious personalities.

The Action Française.—The Action Française was a violently reactionary party which sought to destroy the Republic and to establish a Monarchy, with the help and blessing of the Catholic Church.  It preached violence and resistance for many years, and its fanaticism and ultra-Catholicism often embarrassed the plans of the Vatican itself.  The Vatican, on many occasions, tried to align the policy of the Action Française with its own policy and failed; hence the Pope was compelled to pronounce a ban on this party.  The ban was pronounced in 1914, but for political reasons had never been published until, in 1926, the Herriot Government was superseded.  The Vatican was chiefly responsible for this supersession, and friendly relations were again established between State and Church.  Accordingly, the ban was made public and the Royalist movement, led by Maurras and Daudet, began to decline.  For years it had been attracting numerous priests and the Fascist element of young Frenchmen.  This ban gave such grave offense to the French Hierarchy, who were supporting this movement, that a cardinal, Louis Billot, returned his red hat to the Pope.  This was the first resignation of a cardinal for one hundred years.

The Action Française had a military organization, which often led to bloody riots, such as the riots of 1934.  Here the Camelots du Roy played the leading rôle.

During the Front Populaire, the Action Française openly demanded the death of the Prime Minister, Blum.  An attempt on the Prime Minister’s life was actually made by a fervent Nationalist Catholic.

It also openly supported Fascist Italy in the Abyssinian War, Franco in the Spanish War, and the Axis Powers during the Munich crisis.

Another movement, closely connected with the Action Française, was the ultra-Catholic League d’Action Française, whose main objective was the destruction of the Republic.  This was the oath of the members: “I pledge myself to fight against all Republican régimes.  The Republican spirit favors religious influences hostile to traditional Catholicism.”

Another movement, modelled entirely on Nazi lines, was entitled the Jeunesse Patriote.  This body enjoyed the support of the capitalists, who provided funds, and its Catholic and nationalist membership endowed it with prestige.  Its members preached open violence to all opponents of themselves and of the Church, especially regarding the Communists as enemies.  Bagarre, or street-fighting, was their chief method of procedure, and their vanguard consisted of fifty men divided into three sections, known as the Groupes Mobiles.

The Soldarité Française was another Catholic party, founded by François Coty, of perfume and newspaper fame.

Le Croix de Feu was a movement recruited from the wealthy classes to oppose Parliament and Democracy.  Its members clamored for an authoritarian State forbidding freedom of political thought, of speech, and of the Press.  From this body originated the violent and terrorist Fascist movement entitled Les Cagoulards.

These various movements and parties strove hard for power—but from various causes, without success.  However, the realization of failure only inspired them to greater activity behind the scenes, and here their influence was great.  As has been seen, these forces were closely allied with the Catholic Church, and from her some of them drew their support.  The Vatican also, perceiving its failure in open political contests, concentrated its attention on the schemes which were in hand behind the façade of the Republic.

While France was torn by conflicting interests, Germany was advancing from one victory to another.  An analysis of French politics at that period cannot here be attempted, but one or two points of capital importance stand out from the background of those years.  It is clear that the same classes sponsored Fascism and Nazism in France as had already done so in Germany and Italy; also that the Catholic Church again played an important part in encouraging such movements.  It is clear, too, that the principle objective was the destruction of Socialism and Communism.  Efforts to this end were not confined within the internal life of the nation, but formed a part of France’s foreign policy.

This hostility to Communism, when translated into political activity, displayed itself as a restless and active sabotaging of the Republic’s efforts to maintain a close alliance with Soviet Russia.

The reactionaries were not concerned only with harassing the policy of the Republic; they also pursued a policy of their own—the installation of Fascism in France.  In the existing state in France they saw no hope of doing so, except by help from abroad.  That help could only come from Nazi Germany.  To this policy national pride and sentiment offered an apparently insurmountable obstacle.  “Anything rather than a Red France” became their watchword.  This determination was reinforced by the belief that if victory rewarded France’s entry into the war, the position of the Reds would be greatly strengthened, to the peril of the capitalists, the would-be Fascists, and the Catholic Church.  The defeat of their country and the sacrifice of their national pride would have worked to their personal advantage through defeat of the Reds.  This was the ultimate issue of their policy, as we shall see presently.

We have examined the reactionary political background in France in the decade preceding the Second World War.  A vast population was indifferent or hostile to the Church.  There was a vast Catholic machinery knitting all France, yet with no hold on the masses, and therefore working, as it were, in a vacuum.  There was a persistent campaign, both above and below ground, against Bolshevism and Soviet Russia, and there were movements in imitation of Fascism and Nazism, largely inspired by the Catholic Church.

In close alliance with these agencies there were small but powerful sections of the country inspired by as deep a hatred for Bolshevism as was the Church.  The nightmare pursued them that their social and financial world would disappear if Socialist and Communist principles were allowed to spread freely.  They planned to put a check on Bolshevism, at home in the first place, and secondly abroad; hence resulting in their organization and financing of parties to establish Fascism in France as a counterblast to Communism.

These two powerful factors in France united to achieve their common aim of setting up a Fascist dictatorship and crushing the Bolshevik enemy; but they failed to accomplish what Mussolini had accomplished in Italy and Hitler in Germany.  With mingled fear and hope they watched the spread of Atheism and Bolshevism and the birth of régimes which successfully, and one by one, crushed the Communist dragons.  Both the Church and the reactionary classes in France, in fact, hailed with enthusiasm the dictatorship of De Rivera in Spain; then that of Mussolini and his alliance with the Vatican; then the dictatorship of Franco, and on many occasions even that of Hitler.

One particular section of those classes which were “obsessed by the fear of Communism” was the class of regular officers.  This class was noted for its reactionary attitude to almost all issues and for its devotion to the Church.  Many officers of high rank had been notorious for their hatred of Bolshevism, contempt of Democracy, and advocacy of “strong forms of government,” Pétain, Weygand, and Giraud among them.  We select only those three, as they were destined to play such important roles in subsequent years.

These officers were devout Catholics and were deeply interested in the Church, not only as a religious institution, but also in the Vatican’s policy toward social and political matters.  Many officers and politicians who followed closely the political moves of the Vatican were deeply impressed by a particular encyclical, the Quadragesimo Anno, published in 1931.  This encyclical, which we have frequently mentioned, advocated the setting up of a Corporate State as an antidote to Communism and Socialism.  We have already seen what that meant.  In plain words, it meant Fascism on the Italian model and that every Catholic was officially forbidden to embrace or to help Socialism.

Could any man doubt where his duty lay?  As devout members of the Church, as loyal scions of a caste, as patriots who could only conceive of a France built on a time-honored pattern, Pétain and others began to move.  Very soon the effect of the encyclical on the political field, in France as in several other Catholic countries became visible.  Of course, it was not the Pope’s words alone that set in motion the vast machinery of reactionary Fascism in France.  Vast interests, which had little or no relation to the Church, were at work, but the cumulative power of the Church at this juncture gave a tremendous impetus to these forces.  By 1934 armed bodies of the blossoming French Fascist Party were not only formed, but were rioting in the streets of Paris.  We have already described the “Fiery Cross,” the “Hooded Men,” and similar societies, with their demand for a Corporate State, for the grant of privileges to the Church, and for Totalitarianism.

It was at this time that Pétain, inspired by the words of the Pope and his own hatred of democracy and Bolshevism, decided to be active and not to “confine himself to mere words.”  Not without ambition, he had been fuming for several years at his comparative obscurity.  The forcible acquisition of power by Mussolini, Hitler, and others had fired him and his associates “with a new hope.”  (Letter of Pétain to a friend, September 30, 1933.)

Pétain “collected about himself a small clique of political friends,” leaders of the reactionary parties.  As a first step in their programme they issued a pamphlet entitled We Want Pétain.  What was their plan?  To abolish the revolutionary spirit which was threatening to destroy France and to set up “an authoritarian regime, which should deal drastically with all the disruptive elements that were threatening to destroy the country, the family, the Church, and all that had rendered France great.”  Pétain thought to repeat the feat of the youthful Bonaparte, who in 1797 had swept the last traces of the Revolution out of Paris with “a whiff of grapeshot.”

Pétain and his friends did not stop at publishing the pamphlet; they made preparations for coming into power.  Pétain, in fact, “was closely involved in preparations for civil war,” and he was intimately connected, very secretly, with the terroristic movements described above.  While concerned with these activities, he “watched closely the progress of Nazism with great sympathy.”  With the passing of time, and the consolidation of Nazism, he began to fraternize with the German Nazis, and especially with Goering in Berlin, as also did Laval.

Several years before the outbreak of the Second World War, Pétain had come to the conclusion that Fascism could not become a power in France by internal means alone.  Here he was in agreement with all the other reactionary leaders, and together they began to look and to work abroad with the intention of introducing Fascism at the first opportune occasion.

Pétain, with his friends, sought openings in this foreign field.  He secured his appointment as Ambassador in Madrid, at a time when the Fascist and Nazi arms, the English and the French non-interventionalists, were busy in putting Fascist Franco in power.

Simultaneously, another influential Catholic politician, Laval, was approached by Pétain.  Together and in secret they began to work for their common goal.  In Madrid Pétain made contact with Hitler and the Vatican, authorities whom he could count on for help in his plans.  He made contact, very secretly, with the Vatican through the intermediation of Franco and, above all, through the Papal representative in Spain.  Contact with Hitler was made through the good offices of the German Ambassador in Madrid, Herr Von Stohrer.

While his plans were developing, Pétain kept in close touch with Laval, who was working in France to the same ends, in alliance with powerful military, financial, and industrial magnates.

What were these plans?  The general ground plan was very simple—“the creation of favorable ground for the establishment of Fascism in France, which would lead to a European bloc of Totalitarians all over the Continent.  The success of this depends entirely on the sabotaging of all efforts to co-operate in, or support in any form, Bolshevism at home and especially abroad.”  (Letter of Fascist Ambassador in Madrid to Mussolini, March 29, 1939.)  In other words, Soviet Russia’s political influence with various European States, particularly Czechoslovakia and France, had to be boycotted.

Hitler, by “supporting” Pétain and all other Fascist groups in France, would have given them the same assistance in “attaining power” as he had already given to Franco in Spain.  He would also have come to their aid in the international field if serious complications had arisen.  In the event of European war, “Pétain and his friends would have done all in their power to prevent France from entering with those who would oppose German aspirations.”  One of their chief tasks during this last period was to disrupt the alliance with the Bolshevik Russia.  In regard to the Czech problem, this had already been successfully done.  If war had broken out (at the time of the Munich crisis), and Pétain and his associates had been unable to prevent the involvement of France, they would have ensured that “the might of armed France should not be employed against the Third Reich.”

Pope Pius XI and his Secretary of State had given their benediction to the entire project.  The fear of another great war was their only objection.  Pacelli made it known to Hitler that the Vatican would prefer “the settling of national and international problems without the risk of loosing another great war on the world.”  He asked Hitler to find means to help “France in establishing a sane and friendly Government which would co-operate with Germany in the rebuilding of a Christian [read Catholic] Europe.”  (Cardinal Seredi, April 6, 1940.)  The main protagonists throughout this scheming were the Papal delegate in Spain, the German Ambassador to Spain, General Franco, Pétain, and in France, Laval.

The activities of Pétain and his friends, and their contacts with the Vatican and with Hitler, leaked through to the ears of the French Government.  Most of the Pétain activities were reported in writing to the French Premier, Daladier.  To the amazement of those reporting these proceedings, Daldier stated that he was aware of what was going on but “he could do nothing.”

The war broke out, and Pétain with his confederates continued their plotting more than ever.  In the chapter dealing with Germany we have related the discussions between the Vatican and Hitler concerning France.  The Vatican was in close touch with Pétain and his friends, and the assurance which the Pope was able to convey to Hitler concerning France was derived from them.  Pétain, on the other hand, relied on information received from Herr von Stohrer, and especially the Papal delegate, that Germany would prove dependable towards him.  He was still uncertain whether “suffering defeat in the military field” was not too big a price to pay for Germany’s support.

The activities of Pétain and another pious general, Weygand, together with the activities of Laval and other confederates, increased a hundredfold at the entry of France into the war.  For years Pétain and others had been contriving the promotion to key positions in the Army, of officers certain to be useful to them at the critical moment.  Almost all these officers were Catholics, inspired by the same hatred for democracy and the Republic as that felt by the veteran Maréchal; unobtrusively their promotion to key positions had continued.

Now that France had entered into the war, Pétain desired to complete the building of his plan on the foundations so long and so successfully in preparation.  In his pursuit of a closer and more frequent contact with those sections which shared his designs, he returned to Paris.  Here he canvassed members of the Government, asking them to obtain a sanction for him to divide his time and activities.  Half his time he proposed to spend in Madrid (where he had international contacts) and half in France (to maintain contact with his agents, charged with the execution of his military and political plans).

This request was flatly refused: the old Marechal had already incurred the suspicion of the Premier and of other politicians.  Pétain became embittered, and in a moment of anger he uttered a phrase which betrayed, more than anything else, what was going on behind the scenes.  He used the pregnant words: “They will need me in the second fortnight in May.”

In the second fortnight of May Germany invaded France.  Pétain, the Papal Secretary of State, and Hitler, had all their plans ready and knew the date on which Nazi German would launch her offensive in the West.  (See Ci-devant 1941, by the French Minister, Anatole De Monzie.)

On May 19, 1940, Pétain was summoned to Office in Paris.  We cannot deal here with the moves which brought him to power.  Was it a mere blunder of Reynaud?  Was it due to the intrigues of those who surrounded him?  Was it the work of Laval, the tireless plotter?  Perhaps all these causes contributed.  The fact remains that Pétain’s prophecy of several months before had proved true.  Reynaud appointed him Vice-Premier.  Pétain used his newly acquired influence to procure the appointment of the ultra-Catholic, plotting, and reactionary General Weygand as Commander-in-Chief.  Two other Catholic leaders, Baudouin and Prouvost, were included in the new Cabinet.

Weygand, the accomplice of Petain, had paid frequent visits to the Papal representative in Paris, in the most private manner and for weeks on end, just before the invasion of France.  “Like Marshal Pétain, Weygand was a bigoted clerical and an enemy of the Republican Constitution,” says the impartial Annual Register.  He was a Belgian of noble origin, notorious for his outspoken hatred of the Republican régime and of “the Godless Socialists and Bolsheviks.”  His first performance was officially to inform the Government that the defence of France was hopeless, and Pétain, of course, supported him.

In the political field Laval echoed the words of his friends.  Hosts of persons interested in the immediate cessation of hostilities supported his clamor that those who wanted to continue the fight, even though Weygand and Pétain had pronounced that German victory was certain, were parties to the murder of innocent Frenchmen.

Laval was a politician of very dubious character.  His various activities do not interest us here.  It suffices to say that he was a Catholic and, like Von Papen, a Knight of the Papal Court.  In a certain sense he was the leading Catholic layman in France, and he was very popular at the Vatican.  He was the first Minister of the Third Republic, indeed the first Minister since 1865, to visit the Vatican.  It was he who introduced high dignitaries of the Church to increasing influence behind the scenes of French political life.

Laval’s great intimacy with the Vatican began in 1935, when he and Mussolini were plotting a scheme to allow the Fascist Italian invasion of Abyssinia without provoking international conflict.  This is how the intimacy started:—


His Holiness expressed his joy that after seventy years a representative of the French Government had come, not merely to convey a personal visit of courtesy, but to restore the homage of the French nation.  M. Laval was wearing the Order of Pius IX conferred on him by Pius XI.  The Pope also gave a rosary of gold and coral to M. Laval’s daughter.  As a return of gifts, M. Laval handed his Holiness three exquisitely bound books. . . (Le Temps, January 11, 1935).


At the supreme crisis of France that we are relating, and during a long period before, Laval, like Weygand, was holding numerous and very secret conferences with the Papal representative in Paris.

While he was still Vice-Premier, Pétain, as well as his associates, went about Paris saying:—


France needs defeat.  Defeat is necessary for her regeneration.  Victory would strengthen the political régime which has brought her to moral ruin.  Anything is preferable to the continuation of a régime so abominable.  Defeat followed by a rapid peace will perhaps cost France a province, a few ports, some colonies.  What are they in comparison with her imperative regeneration? (Elie Bois, in Truth on the Tragedy of France.)


Complications, however, had arisen for Pétain and his associates.  Mussolini, with whom Pétain and Laval had come in contact through Franco, had increased his demands on France.  In addition to his demand for Nice, Savoy, and Tunisia, he wanted to enter into the war and to march into Paris.  He desired that his Fascist Army should conquer and destroy “the French plutocracy, riddled with Freemasons, Jews, and Bolsheviks.”

The intentions of Mussolini to enter into the war had begun to leak out at the beginning of 1940, and were confirmed when Count Ciano told the Papal nuncio to Italy, Archbishop Borgongini-Duca,  that Germany was preparing to attack France:—


I have the impression that a great offensive is about to break out on the French front, and I foresee that, in this case, Germany will make the maximum effort to get us into the war (February 29, 1940).


This was the first warning to Pétain, Weygand, and Laval of Mussolini’s intentions.  They remonstrated to the Pope, asking him to do his best to “restrain Italy from making it even more difficult for France to come out of the impasse.”

The Pope approached Mussolini on various occasions, through the good auspices of Fr. Tacchi-Venturi, who was a go-between for the Vatican and Mussolini.  But Mussolini seemed to become more and more stubborn about his intentions.  The Pope appealed to Hitler, asking him to intervene and restrain Mussolini.  Hitler promised he would do his best, but could not “prevent Italy from entering the course which Mussolini considered in the interest of the new Europe.”

When Ribbentrop, in March, at last went to see the Pope, to ensure that the plan for France’s surrender to Germany would work out as arranged, his pourparlers with the Pope, and with the Frenchmen who were working behind the scenes in co-operation with the Vatican, went so well that the Nazi Foreign Minister, in a moment of optimism, declared:—


France and Germany will seek and find peace within this year.  A New France will become the great partner of the Third Reich in rebuilding the New Europe.  This is the firm conviction of all Germans (Ribbentrop, March 12, 1940).


Meanwhile, the French plotters (Pétain, Weygand, and Laval) impressed upon the Pope that “French honor and national interest” could not be “allowed to suffer the humiliation of an Italian occupation of French territory,” and that “the whole plan so laboriously worked out for the rapprochement of France and Germany would be greatly imperilled” if Mussolini declared war on France.

Seeing that Mussolini did not respond to his requests, the Pope began a peace drive in Italy.  The Fascist Ambassador to the Vatican, Alfieri, remonstrated to the Pope against such Church manifestations in favor of peace “in Italy.”

Meanwhile, as the date fixed by Hitler for the attack on France was approaching, and as the French wanted assurances that Mussolini would not attack their country, the Pope sent a personal letter to Mussolini, written by his own hand, in which amongst other things, he said:—


May Europe be saved from more ruins and mournings, and especially may our and your beloved country be spared from the vast calamity.


In reply, Mussolini wrote:—


I desire to assure you, most Holy Father, that if tomorrow Italy enters the field, this would mean in an unmistakable manner that the honor, interest, and future of the country render this absolutely necessary.


Finally, Mussolini made it known to the Pope, through the Italian Under-Secretary of State, Guidi, who gave the news to the Archbishop Borgongini-Duca, that Italy had definitely decided to enter the war (May 22, 1940).  This Count Ciano confirmed to the Pope on May 28.

Pétain and Weygand asked Hitler to stop his colleague dictator.  Hitler answered that he could not “restrain Mussolini” from entering the struggle.

In desperation Pétain and Laval once more asked the Vatican for assistance, again acting through the Papal representative in Madrid, “the whole future of Catholic France having been endangered by Mussolini’s decision.

The Pope answered that after Mussolini had made known his intention of entering the war, and seeing how Mussolini was determined to act, he (the Pope) had tried to persuade the Italian dictator “to be moderate at this critical juncture.”

Pétain and Weygand hesitated to submit; Laval counselled them to do so, asking the Pope to impress upon them both the necessity of the situation.  The Pope went so far as to send a personal message to Pétain, asking France to “bow to the situation . . . with fortitude and realism,” and assuring him that he would in the meantime “continue to make personal appeals to Hitler and Mussolini to formulate their terms with moderation and the absence of vindictiveness.”

Pétain, Weygand, Laval, and Baudouin (a fanatical convert to Catholicism) decided upon the course they would follow.  The Nazi armies had invaded Belgium and Holland; King Leopold, on the advice of Weygand and his other Catholic advisers, and on direct instructions from the Vatican, after having prevented the Allies from co-ordinating their plans, had surrendered without even letting his Allies know about it.  The Nazi legions had invaded France and were steadily advancing towards Paris.

While all this was happening, and as the final disaster was fast approaching, the Pope and his Secretary of State had several very private meetings with the French Ambassador, to whom the Pope accorded a final interview on June 9, 1940, the day before Mussolini’s “stab in the back.”  What the Pope told the Ambassador and what the Ambassador told the Pope is not yet known.  But the coincidence of the date, which was no coincidence at all, is significant and should be borne in mind, in view of the sequel.

The following day Fascist Italy declared war on France and Great Britain.  Fascist troops entered French territory and, after very little fighting, achieved their first objectives of Mentone and Nice.

But while the above events took place in Rome, and while the Nazi armies were occupying France, Pétain, Weygand, Laval and the other plotters were playing their cards to achieve their plans.  Pétain, who meanwhile had become Premier, tendered his resignation, with the full agreement of Laval and Weygand, thus at this critical moment greatly embarrassing the French Prime Minister, to whom the Marshal sent a letter which, among other things, contained the following ominous lines:—


The gravity of the situation convinces me that hostilities must immediately brought to an end.  This is the only step which can save the country (letter found amongst the Marshal’s documents which he brought from Germany after his arrest in the summer, 1945).


This was written at a time when some Ministers wanted to continue the fight from North Africa.  President Lebrun and Premier Reynaud continued in vain to try to persuade Pétain to go on with the fight.  They asked him not to resign, but to await a reply from England.  But what became known later was that the letter was not written by Pétain himself, but was written and sent to the Premier by somebody else.  This Pétain declared to the High Court Commission of Inquiry, June 1945: “I was not there when the letter was drawn up.  My thought had been interpreted.”

By whom?  By his associates, General Weygand and Laval, who wrote it to bring about the downfall of the Government and thus gain the opportunity of assuming power themselves, which was all part of the intrigues, bribery, and deceit they plotted.

Long before the Nazi armies reached Paris, Pétain had decided that France should capitulate.  When Mr. Churchill flew to France to consult the French Government, he attended a dinner party at Briare, south of Paris (June 1940).  Trying to be optimistic, he said to Marshal Pétain: “We had difficult days in 1918—we came through.  We shall yet come through.”  To which Pétain retorted: “In 1918 I gave forty French divisions, which saved the British Army.  Where are your forty divisions to save us now?”

During the Cabinet Meeting, held on the same night, the atmosphere became tense with defeatism, two persons being mainly responsible by advising the Premier to surrender—namely, Mme. Helen de Portes and, above all, the fanatically Catholic-minded M. Paul Baudouin, M. Reynaud’s Under-Secretary.

Marshal Pétain and General Weygandwho at that fateful period was the French Commander-in-Chief—went to see M. Reynaud every day at 11 a.m.  But on June 10, the day on which Mussolini declared war, Weygand arrived without having been summoned.  The first thing he did was to read a note in which he asked the French Government to surrender.  Reynaud refused.  During the night, accompanied by General de Gaulle, he left by car for Orléans.

The following morning, however, General Weygand, who had been in constant touch with Laval and Pétain, telephoned Reynaud and told him that he, Weygand, had asked Mr. Churchill to come to his headquarters at Briare, so that the situation might be explained to him.

Meanwhile, many members of the Government were determined to go on with the fight, and urged the Premier not to follow the advice of either Pétain or Weygand.

On June 12, George Mandel, then Minister of the Interior, Edouard Herriot, President of the Chamber of Deputies, Jules Jeanneney, President of the Senate, and General de Gaulle, persuaded the Premier to continue waging the war.  France would go on fighting from North Africa.  Plans were ready to be put into operation by which about half a million specialized soldiers could be evacuated from all ports available—mainly from Brest and Nice—and transported to Africa.

The Premier gave a written order to General Weygand to carry out the plan.  But Weygand, seeing that the chance for which he and his Catholic friends had been waiting would thus be lost, did not carry out the order:


On June 12 we tried to encourage M. Reynaud.  I got out of him a written order to General Weygand for the execution of measures already planned for withdrawal to North Africa of two reserve classes still in training, specialists from motorized divisions, from Belgium, from Alpine divisions, etc., comprising some 500,000 men.

They would have been evacuated from all ports from Brest to Nice.  But General Weygand did not carry out the order (General de Gaulle, Paris, June 18, 1945).


Meanwhile the plotters were worried about Britain.  They wanted to be sure that she would surrender as France would do.  They had, therefore, to persuade Churchill to do what Pétain wanted to do, so when, on June 13, the British Premier arrived at Tours, they tried to persuade him to surrender.  This task was undertaken by the ultra-Catholic Baudouin.  Reynaud, however, stated that he would telephone Roosevelt before taking any step.

Seeing that the French Government did not want to surrender and thus give way to a new Government headed by Pétain, the plotters conceived another plan which, in addition to scaring the French Government, would greatly influence conservative England: they brought to the fore the Nazi and Catholic bogey of Communism.

Pétain, Weygand, and Laval decided to act immediately.  Pétain would try to overthrow the French Government by an open attack against it.  Should that not succeed, Weygand would solemnly announce that the Bolsheviks had captured Paris and that all the horrors of anarchy had begun to paralyse the city.  We quote the words of General de Gaulle:—


At a Cabinet Meeting held at the Château de Cange on the same day, Marshal Pétain opened the attack against M. Reynaud.  General Weygand announced that Paris was in the hands of the Communists.  We telephoned M. Roger Langeron, Prefect of the Paris Police, who denied this report (General de Gaulle, Paris, June 18, 1945).


The trick did not succeed just then.  The following day Reynaud left for Bordeaux.  De Gaulle and others asked him whether he would continue to fight, and he gave assurances that he would.

Thus the French Government was transferred from Paris to Bordeaux, where Marquet, another prominent Catholic and friend of Laval, was Mayor.  Laval, who was not yet in the Government, used threats and promises to persuade a majority of the Deputies to agree to surrender.

Once more Reynaud advised them to go on with the fight, if necessary from Africa.  In this he continued to be supported by Jeanneney, President of the Senate, and Herriot, President of the Chamber.  Daladier, Mandel and others actually sailed from Bordeaux in order to establish the Government in North Africa, but through the machinations of Laval the voyage was not completed.  Pétain ordered the ship to be stopped, and those who were trying to escape were arrested.

The intrigues of Laval, financed by his own and by German money, eventually secured the nomination of Pétain, through whom he hoped to rule the country once he could procure the dissolution of Parliament.  Meanwhile de Gaulle had come to Britain and was making plans to secure the necessary shipping to transport the French Government and troops to North Africa.  But Reynaud resigned, Pétain became Premier, and on June 17, 1940, at 1 p.m., Churchill and de Gaulle learned that Pétain had asked for an Armistice.

Some time later Laval, who continued to work behind the scenes, saw to it that Pétain should take full control of the State.  At the joint meeting of the French Chamber and Senate, which met at the National Assembly on July 10, 1940, full powers were delegated to Pétain.  On the same day a mission headed by Paul Boncour urged him to become a dictator.  In the words of Pétain himself:—


Paul Boncour paid me a visit on July 10.  He told me he wanted to see the full powers of a Roman dictator offered to me.  I refused, and said I was not a Caesar and did not want to become one (Pétain before the High Court Commission of Inquiry, June 16, 1945).


The whole manoeuvre had been managed by Laval and Weygand.  When asked (at the same High Court Commission of Inquiry) how he was able to assume power, Pétain declared: “The whole affair was managed by Laval, and I myself was not even present [at the National Assembly of July 10, 1940].”

On becoming head of the new State, Pétain’s first action was to sign the Armistice, after which he disposed of all who wanted to go on fighting the Nazis.  He arrested, imprisoned, and persecuted them.  An unofficial war against the Communists was begun by this new Catholic reactionary dictatorship.

By this time the Nazis had occupied Paris and almost half of France.  The French Army, Navy, and Air Force had surrendered.  The members of the old Government were either in flight or in prison, and Pétain, backed by his close associates, was at last where he wanted to be: at the head of a new Government.

Thus ended the Third Republic.

The Vatican, besides giving its blessing and encouragement to Pétain, Weygand, and their confederates, dared to express its enthusiasm in no dubious terms on more than one occasion.

In July 1940 the Pope wrote a letter to the French bishops.  Did the Pope bid them to repel the invader and disobey the orders of a foreign Power?  Did he call on them to preach rebellion to the Catholics, as was the case when he ordered the Spanish and Mexican bishops to fight their democratic Government, or when he had exhorted the Slovaks and the Austrians to “undermine” those forces which were unwilling to co-operate with Hitler?

Far from it.  On this occasion the Pope bade the bishops work harder, for now at last they had a chance to “bring about a reawakening of the entire nation,” as the “conditions for greater spiritual labor” were so good.  Here are his actual words:—


These very misfortunes with which God has today visited your people give assurance, we feel certain, of conditions for greater spiritual labor favorable to bringing about a reawakening of the entire nation.


When the new French Ambassador to the Holy See presented his credentials, Pius XII assured him that the Church would co-operate and give whole-hearted support to “the work of moral recovery” which France had undertaken (Havas).

That was not all.  The official organ of the Vatican, the Osservatore Romano, published an article on July 9, 1940, in which Marshal Pétain was highly praised and his efforts to ‘save’ France were lauded.  The article told, in enthusiastic terms, of “the good Marshal who more than any other man seems to personify the best traditions of his race.”  It ended by talking of the “dawn of a new radiant day, not only for France, but for Europe and the world” (Catholic Herald, July 12, 1940).

These praises elicited protests to the Vatican from all quarters, especially from Great Britain and America.  So much was this the case that the Vatican was compelled to call on one of the cardinals to explain matters.  The reader should recall the case of Cardinal Innitzer.  This time Cardinal Hinsley was selected.  His position as the British Cardinal gave him the ear of the English-speaking Catholics, and he was made responsible for reassuring Britons and Americans as to the Vatican’s open support of a Fascist régime and of the Germans.  Cardinal Hinsley, “on Vatican authority,” made the lame excuse that such utterances, especially those of the said article, were in no way officially inspired or sanctioned.  The article, he explained, had been written in reply to the French Catholic Youth Organization, which had publicly pledged the support of the Catholic Youth of France to Pétain and his new Government.

Once at the head of the new France, Pétain early declared his intention of abolishing the slogan of revolutionary France, “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.”  In its stead he would substitute a slogan sponsored by himself and the Church: “Work, Family, and Country.”  In his exhortations to the French people the words “discipline” and “obedience” were perpetually reiterated.  He declared that the new France would free itself from all traditional friendships (namely with Great Britain) and enmities (with Germany and Italy), announcing at the same time that he had asked Hitler’s permission to act as Nazi Germany’s colleague in creating and maintaining the New Order in Europe.

Pétain and the Church in France had a twofold programme: to rebuild a new society in the domestic field, according to the principles enunciated by the Popes, and to create a bloc of Catholic countries in the foreign field.  We shall deal with the latter presently.

On the home front the Pétain Government began to destroy many tenets and laws of the Third Republic, supplanting them with laws inspired by the Catholic Church.  Pétain was determined to abolish Socialism and Communism; he desired to build in France a Corporate State on the lines elaborated by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical Quadragesimo Anno.  We have seen that this meant a Fascist State, as in Italy.  Trade unions would be replaced by “corporations.”

All industrial measures were to conform closely with the Papal encyclicals, and with Fascist ideology.

Pétain preached the ideal of the large family, as Hitler and Mussolini had done.  He organized the French Youth in quasi-military formations, on the model of the Hitler Youth.  He abolished those laws of the Third Republic which limited the powers of the Church, and he ordained religious instruction in the schools, permitting in them the teaching of priests.  In everything he imitated Hitler and Mussolini, except that he surpassed both in the unheard-of power he granted to the Church.

Of course Pétain immediately adopted education as an instrument to shape the mind of all the youth of France to the New Catholic Fascist pattern.  He introduced compulsory religious instruction in schools.  He created a special commission to exercise censorship over the books used in secondary schools, and the teaching of history was especially modified.  Emphasis was laid on France before the French Revolution.  Chapters referring to recent history underlined the iniquities of the Third Republic, and the benefits accruing to discipline, obedience, and respect for the authority of the Church were given prominence.

Pétain’s educational policy was reactionary and ecclesiastical, and was further characterized by a desire to restrict intellectual training to the fortunate few.  Youth, for the most part, was destined to agricultural and industrial pursuits, having the ability to read, to write, to be obedient, and no more.

Anti-Semitism was introduced, and history-books by Jewish authors were interdicted.  In short, French youth was being trained on lines closely akin to National Socialism.

The Pétain régime was busily removing the influences, the principles, and the methods of the Third Republic in every department of the nation’s life.  To recapitulate every change is impossible here, and we believe that those just enumerated suffice to give an idea of the reforms which were being initiated, in spite of the hostility of the French people in general.  The tide was turning as persistently as in all other totalitarian régimes.

The relations of the Pétain régime and the Church were not wholly unruffled, for the same trouble that had disturbed Nazi and Fascist Totalitarianism began in France; and the trouble arose from the same eternal problem—youth.  The Church, although well satisfied in general, complained that the régime tended, in educational matters, to concentrate too greatly on patriotic, at the expense of Catholic, principles.  So much was this the case that at one time the clergy themselves were opposed to religious instruction in schools on the ground that, the teachers being anti-clerical, the education offered was not one hundred percent Catholic.  But apart from that, and cognate problems similar to those encountered by the Church in Italy and Germany, Pétain and the Church were in full harmony.  Together they began to draw up a Concordat which would have given to the Church almost unprecedented privileges, only comparable to those she enjoyed before the Revolution in the eighteenth century.

What was the Catholic Church’s attitude to the authoritarian régime set up by Pétain?

From what we have just examined, it is obvious that the Catholic Church was not only favorable to the régime, but helped and sustained it with all its might, openly and indirectly, and—what should never be forgotten—as long as this policy did not harm its interests in other parts of the world.

We have already seen how the Vatican intervened to bring about the change in the internal affairs of France which would create a favorable situation for ‘spiritual’ and political dominion by the Catholic Church.  That the Vatican ordered the French Hierarchy to side with Pétain there is no doubt.  The best proof lies in the fact that the French Hierarchy, with notably few exceptions, supported the new Government very warmly from the beginning.  It was only later that French bishops and even the Vatican (rarely) addressed some protests occasionally; but such protests were never against Hitler, never against the new Fascist Government, never against the Nazi system as such.  They were made only if the Nazis, Pétain, or Hitler did not keep their promises to the Church, if they conflicted with the Church’s interests in matters concerning education, spiritual welfare of workers, or if they trespassed on what the Church considered its sphere.

From the very beginning not a single French prelate of importance protested against the Nazis or Pétain.  It was with the passing of time and the realization of French resentment and hatred against the Nazis and Pétain, and growing French patriotism and the French Resistance movement, that the Church began to retreat here and there, and allowed some French bishops or cardinals to complain.  In spite of that, however, relations between the Church and Pétain remained always very cordial.  The higher ranks of the clergy spoke openly in favor of the ideals of the National Revolution, as they understood it in the early days after the fall of France, and their attitude can be summed up in the words of Cardinal Suhard in October 1942: “Politics are no business of ours.  The Roman Catholic Church in France is an intellectual reservoir which will some day help in the building up of the new France.”

If the Church of France was pro-Pétain, it was not pro-German.  How could it be when the majority of Frenchmen had only one aim—the expulsion of the Nazis from their country?  That would have been too difficult, even for the Church.  Yet, if the French Hierarchy as a whole had to restrain itself, many prominent French cardinals and bishops were openly and actively pro-Nazi.  Suffice it to mention a few: Cardinal Baudrillart, Recteur of the Catholic Institute, who, because of his extreme horror of Bolshevism joined the “Groupe Collaboration”; Cardinal Suhard, Archbishop of Paris, of the Abbé Bergey, who, in his Catholic paper Suotanes de France, became notorious for the violence and even vulgarity of his tirades; the Archbishop of Cambrai; Gounod, Primate of Tunisie; Gerlier, the Archbishop of Lyons; and many others.

The lower ranks of the clergy, at the beginning, followed the Pétainist lead given to them by their superiors, but later they cooled off, no doubt because they were in close touch with the people and their daily misfortunes.

Many Catholic papers were collaborationist and pro-Pétain.  The most notorious were: La Croix, the biggest Catholic paper, which after the liberation of France had to face legal proceedings on a charge of having supported the policy of collaboration; and the super-Catholic Action Française, which frequently attacked the Resistance movement among Catholics.  It continually gave examples of the attitude of the Curés, especially those responsible for the guidance of youth, and demanded their removal from Office.  This campaign of denunciation reached its height when the Action Française (June 26, 1943) reproduced, from the clandestine paper Courier Française du Temoignage Chrétien, an article by a priest who desired to remain incognito, questioning the legitimacy of the Vichy Government, and asserting that


in the circumstances the question of a citizen’s duty towards such a Government, which is a Government in name only, must be restated in new terms; the citizen is bound by no duty of obedience in civil or political matters; the right to serve—if his conscience demands it—the dissident authorities can be denied to no one.


A storm of abuse followed, the lower clergy being accused of every crime in the collaborationist calendar, from inciting the youth of the country to revolt or to join the “Maquis,” to the very serious question of the legitimacy of the Government.

This tendency on the part of the lower clergy alarmed the Vatican and the higher French Hierarchy, which took steps to prevent them from taking active part in the Resistance movement.  The issue was discussed at the General Assembly of the Cardinals and Archbishops of France, in October 1943.  They made a statement repudiating the theory and reiterating their loyalty to Pétain and their support of his Government, which they considered perfectly legitimate.

It is to be noted that this statement was issued as late as 1943 when the higher clergy seemed to have lost almost entirely the confidence of the French people and even of the lower clergy.

After the attack on Russia an intense campaign was initiated against the Reds, and often the most outspoken propagandists against Russia were the French Hierarchy.  The following are a few typical instances:—


Numerous French Catholics believe in all sincerity that Bolshevism is a bogey invented or exaggerated by the agents of Hitler.  These Catholics have forgotten that this is not so.  They should remember that “Communism is the complete ruin of the human society,” as Pope Pius IX said.

“Communism is a deadly pestilence,” as Pope Leo XIII declared.

“Communism is savage and inhuman, in such a degree that it is impossible to believe of what it is capable,” as Pope Pius XI stated.


After reading such statements, is it surprising that so many French Catholics became Fascists and made the anti-Communist, anti-Russian slogan their main policy?  Or that numerous Catholics formed themselves into military groups and went, side by side with Hitler’s legions, to invade and fight Russia?

The reasons for such behavior are obvious, but it might not be amiss to put them in a nutshell by quoting the words of the French Archbishop of Auch, who declared:—


The Hierarchy are undoubtedly afraid of civil war. . . . Let us be French above all.  Let us draw together around our flag and around him who bears it.

 Or of the Bishop of Brieuc, who put it even more bluntly:—


Should anarchy (e.g. Communism) come, we should be its first victims.


We should like at this stage to quote the sentiments expressed by one of the moderate French high clergy.  We say “moderate” because he was considered so in the Vatican and in French Catholic circles.  This Church dignitary, Cardinal Gerlier, stated that:


in one of the most tragic hours of our history Providence has provided France with a chief round whom we are happy and proud to gather.  My priests will remember what I told them.  We pray God to bless the Marshal, and to enlist us as his collaborators, especially those of us whose task is difficult.  The Church, therefore, continues to have confidence in the Marshal and to give him her loving veneration.


To the objections of several dissident bishops and many of the lower clergy, that the Marshal was a Fascist and was co-operating with Hitler, and that he wanted to build a totalitarian State, which had already, as in Germany, begun to enter the Church’s fields, the Cardinal replied:—


Nothing has changed or will change our support of the Marshal; Catholics will not make him responsible for the happenings of which the Church disapproves.


In further statements the Cardinal went so far as to declare that Catholics were not, and should not be, hostile to Laval.  All this, the reader should remember, was said as late as June 16, 1943.  On November 23, 1943, Mgr. Piquet declared:


For me and for some others like me, Marshal Pétain is the head of the French State because God Himself, and not a mediocre assembly of men who have resigned, wished him to become head of the French State.  And I say that if all Catholics of France—I say all of them: bishops, priests, doctors, laity, etc.—if they had all followed him religiously, blindly, and fanatically, before and after the Armistice, approving him and listening to him, the fate of France would have been different.


This was the Catholic Church’s attitude to the Nazi-sponsored Pétain Government, and to his social, economic, and political programme based on Fascist principles.

The policy of collaboration as dictated by the Vatican and the French Assembly was not supported by the whole Catholic body, which found itself at variance with the higher ecclesiastical authorities.  As a French dignitary put it:—


The theologians in Paris, Lyons, Lille, are making efforts to obey the orders of the bishops, but they are giving to the faithful inscrutable reasons which should tell them why they should not accept the situation in which France finds itself.  The cardinals and bishops have not been able to disregard them or to minimize their influence (Abbé Daniel Pezeril, 1944).


What was the grand plan envisaged by the Vatican?  We know it already.  To set up a concert of authoritarian States, when possible Catholic, which would be based on the Catholic conception of how a modern society should be built.  That was the general aim of the Vatican.  But what rôle did it play in the particular case of France, and, above all, what was the particular plan of the French high Hierarchy and all other reactionary strata of French society which worked hand in hand with it?

The plans of such sections of society were, of course, in full harmony with the Vatican’s plan, which was of a double nature: internal and external.

France, after the anticipated Nazi victory, would have to be rebuilt on the lines of the Pétain régime.  It had to become an authoritarian State, based on the Corporate system.  Socialism and Communism would, of course, be entirely abolished: the Church would be the great power in the life of the nation.

Besides this internal plan, there was the external one.  Both were an integral part of a greater scheme and had to fit into the Vatican’s world-wide programme.  The French plan was purely Continental, and the Vatican, although it might not have subscribed to it in its entirety or in the particular form in which it was envisaged by the French and the Catholics of other countries, nevertheless gave it its blessing.

What was its general line?  Curiously enough, it was a replica—although, of course, in a larger and more up-to-date form—of the plan for a great bloc of Catholic States as envisaged by an Austrian statesman.  The one great difference was that whereas Mgr. Seipel wanted the formation of a big block of Catholic States in Central Europe which would have been formed mainly by the former Austrian and Hungarian provinces, this new plan was for a bloc composed mainly by the Latin peoples.  It was to be the union of all the European Catholic Latin countries, and would have included Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and, curiously enough, the Catholic Southern German States.  How the last-named could have been included, had Hitler won the war, is a mystery.

Of course, the States concerned would have had to rid themselves of democratic parliamentarian government, and would all have been based on the principles of the Corporate system as enunciated by the Catholic Church.  The system would have been a mixture of Salazar’s Portugal, Franco’s Spain, Mussolini’s Fascist Italy, and Pétain’s France, the whole cemented by the ties and influence of the Catholic Church.  That Hitler had knowledge of this scheme has been proved by the fact that he himself made a solemn pledge to Pétain, when the latter was still in Spain and plotting with the Nazis, that he would permit the formation of “a solid bloc of Catholic countries, co-operating with the Greater Reich to the building of the New European and World Order” (quoted from a letter, dated August 1939, from the Italian Fascist Ambassador in Madrid).

This scheme was at that time seriously studied by a good many people, and supported by powerful personalities of the Right-wing Catholic elements in France, as well as in Portugal and Spain.  The fact that not a few of those who supported it did so, not to further Catholicism, but for non-religious interests, is immaterial.  Many were keen on the scheme through fear that an isolated France might become a mere vassal of the Greater Germany, whereas a France in the Latin bloc would become the centre of the new system.  The only alternative to this would be to fight Hitler.  But if Hitler and Nazi Germany were destroyed, the tide of Communism would then sweep over France; whereas with an ex-Soviet Russia under Germany, Hitler would have been only too glad to let France and the new bloc become consolidated.

To what extent Hitler personally supported this plan no one knows.  But one thing is certain: he promised Pétain, Laval, and Cardinal Suhard that once the war was over he would improve his relationships with the Catholic Church throughout Europe.  This was in accordance with his promise to the Pope that, at the end of hostilities, he would sign a new Concordat with the Vatican.   Cardinal Suhard, Salazar and other prominent Portuguese politicians, Franco, and the Secretary of the Fascist Party in Italy, all hinted at the plan on several occasions, and the German wireless elaborated on it, painting alluring pictures of a new ‘Christian’ Europe, formed by Catholic States and by “the victorious Germany,” who together would bring about “the complete restoration of a Christian Europe, the prosperity of the Catholic peoples, a restoration which would have been achieved with no “tyrannical interference from Judaic usurers in London and New York.”

This, then, was the long-range plan which the various Catholic and Right-wing elements in France had in mind when collaborating with Pétain and Hitler.  And this explains, if not entirely, at least to a great extent, the otherwise inexplicable policy pursued by the French high Hierarchy, who were perfectly aware of the unpopularity of their actions.  Of course, the plan was the secret of the privileged: the great majority of Catholics, including bishops and the lower clergy, knew nothing of it, which also explains their occasional protests and actions when they did what they considered in accordance with the welfare of France, and nothing more.

This great plan, envisaged by the Vatican and the French Hierarchy, never materialized, except for the first stage—namely, the creation of an authoritarian French State.  And although it is true that the Latin countries were Fascist and based on the Corporate system as expounded by the Church, the linking together of these countries depended, not only on the permission of Hitler, but also on how the war ended.  The military victory of the Allies decided the matter, and the great scheme fell with the routed Nazi armies.

The Vatican had suffered another set-back in its titanic efforts to create and consolidate an authoritarian Catholic Europe, a programme which it had begun immediately after the First World War.  The blow was particularly painful, considering that all such efforts seemed to be on the brink of being finally crowned with success.  The scheme had miscarried.  But does that acquit the Vatican and all the other forces which worked with it from the severe judgment which history will pass upon them?  We leave the answer to the reader.

When the Germans were expelled from France, and that country found herself under the provisional French Government headed by de Gaulle, the position of the Church, or rather of the French Hierarchy, was not an enviable one.  The Papal nuncio was cold-shouldered, and was asked in no ambiguous terms to leave France.  The head of the French Hierarchy, “confined to his palace” and was forbidden from taking part in the first great religious ceremonies in Notre-Dame, where the new Government and all Paris went for a solemn thanksgiving for the liberation of the city.  Several bishops were actually arrested, the most notorious of them being the Bishop of Arras.  It seemed as if the liberated French would punish without discrimination all who had collaborated with Pétain and the Germans.  Courts were set up, internment camps became crowded, trials started, condemnations began to fall on many a French collaborationist, heavy sentences, including the death penalty, were passed on journalists, broadcasters, officials of the Pétain régime, and leaders of the various Fascist French Parties.

[Doriot and ex-Premier Laval were among those judged and executed after the liberation (autumn 1945); Pétain was sentenced to life imprisonment.]

But although severe measures were taken against the high Catholic Hierarchy, time passed and not a cardinal or an archbishop ever appeared in court or was condemned.  The matter had been dropped very quietly.  De Gaulle himself, although a Catholic, on his return to France asked the Vatican for permission to bring to justice Cardinal Suhard and other high ecclesiastical prelates, but nothing happened in the long run.  Or rather, what happened was that the very cardinals who had supported, and who had asked all Frenchmen to support Pétain from the very beginning until the old Marshal left France with the retreating Nazi armies, now began to speak in favor of the new Authority and to ask Frenchmen to support it.

Few days had gone by since the new Authority came to Paris, before Cardinal Gerlier, Archbishop of Lyons, made a broadcast in which amongst other things, he said:—


We will practise towards this Government, to which the support of all good citizens is indispensable, the loyalty of free men, in conformity with the traditional doctrines of the Church. . . . Of the ceaseless growing adherence of the country to the new Authority, the only Government capable at present of ensuring order . . .


Cardinal Suhard himself, when he was allowed to appear and speak in public again, began to praise the new Authority and to ask Frenchmen to support it.

While this was going on, the Papal nuncio in Paris, Valéry, had left France and a new Papal nuncio with a clean record was accredited to the city; Pétain’s Ambassador to the Vatican was asked to resign, which he did when Pétain left France, a new Ambassador from the “new Authority” taking his place.  At the same time, a cardinal, Mgr. Tisserant, had a long meeting with de Gaulle, after having seen General Catroux and the North African bishops.

A nation-wide campaign had begun to show the great rôle that had been played by the Catholic Church in helping the forces of resistance.  The rôle of the individual Catholic and of the humble parish priest was rightly exalted.  General de Gaulle and other members of the Government attended Mass weekly.  The trials such as that planned against the super-Catholic newspaper La Croix were dropped.  While numerous laws passed by Pétain were being abolished, those granting privileges to the Church were maintained.  What had happened?  The Church, having lost one round, had begun on another.  It was once again operating its traditional policy of courting and making an ally of the successful.  In other words, now that Pétain was of no use, it was in the interests of the Church to support the new Government.

In this case the Church had strong cards to play.  The head of the new Government was himself a Catholic.  It is true that while he was an exile the Church had not recognized him, but had rebuffed him and his followers on many occasions; but that was past.  Then, many Catholics had helped in the liberation of France, and thus no one could accuse the Church of not having played its part in the national recovery.

De Gaulle, in his quality of a good Catholic, was asked “not to persecute or in any way disparage the Church at this grave hour of responsibility, by casting hasty accusations against her dignitaries.”  Such a promise was easily obtained, in spite of protestations and pressure from many French quarters, especially those of the Resistance movement.

The most compromised cardinals kept their silence, while those who had ever dared to speak against Pétain or the Germans now spoke far and wide.  The accusations of collaboration were gradually withdrawn from Government quarters, and were maintained only by the Socialist, Communist, and Radical elements.  The Church, which, immediately after the German retreat seemed to be about to suffer for its policy, after only a few months was at ease as much with the new Government as it had been with Pétain’s.  The Vatican had very successfully begun a new chapter.





It would be a mistake to think that the Vatican has considered Russia to be one of the greatest enemies of the Catholic Church only since that country became Communist.  Far from it.  Rome regarded Russia with the deepest hostility even when the Czar ruled supreme in that country.  But whereas the Vatican’s hostility to Soviet Russia was due to its economic, social, political and cultural structure, its hostility to Czarist Russia was mainly a religious antagonism.  It was the animosity of one powerful Church, the Roman Catholic, against another powerful and rival Church, the Orthodox Church.

This enmity had existed for centuries, but, owing to the comparative isolation of Orthodox Russia, it had lain dormant except in those Catholic countries on the borders of Russia or whose territories had, on occasion, been subject to Russian occupation.

Towards the end of the last century and during the first decade of the twentieth century the Vatican began to regard Russia with greater interest than before, and started, in fact, to formulate plans for an “eventual conversion of Orthodox Russia to Catholicism.”  To expiate on those plans is not the task of this book.  It suffices to say that the Vatican was becoming alive to the persecution of the Catholic Church by the Orthodox Church in Russia itself and in Russian-occupied territory.  Protests were lodged with the Russian Government and the oppression exercised by the Orthodox Church was denounced to the world.

That the Orthodox Church persecuted the little isles of Catholicism is true enough.  It is also true, on the other hand, that the Catholic Church persecuted the Orthodox Church whenever she could.

Two characteristics distinguished the two Churches and lent a particular importance to their hostility.  In the first place the Orthodox Church was, by comparison, very corrupt and her clergy were ignorant and superstitious.  Secondly, and this is equally important, it was a National Church—or, rather, it had been transformed into little more than an adjunct to the military caste and the Czar.  It co-operated with those who desired to keep the Russian people on the lowest possible cultural and spiritual level and thereby to secure a continuation of the Czarist régime.  It would not be an exaggeration to say that the Orthodox Church had become a powerful instrument of the Czarist régime, and, in turn, the Czarist régime had become a powerful instrument of the Orthodox Church.  Each was dependent on the other for a continuation of its rule and for eventual survival.  The fall of one would, in fact, have involved the fall of the other.

Although the Catholic Church has always sponsored a centralized and absolute Government, as was that of the Czar, nevertheless it hoped that Czarism might be swept away, in one manner or another.  This was not because the Catholic Church was hostile to the Czarist régime itself but in absolute Czarism the Catholic Church saw the main obstacle to its plans, as it was the great supporter of the rival Orthodox Church.

When, in 1905, the Czar was compelled to grant concessions permitting the practice of any religion, the Holy Synod made such religious liberties inaccessible to the Roman Catholic.  Thus it was that, on the outbreak of the First World War, the Vatican strove to hamper the alliance existing between Czarist Russia and the other Allies, for in every military or political Russian move the Vatican saw only a move of the Orthodox Church.  During the war this attitude became obvious when the Vatican made it understood that the Czarist plan for seizing Constantinople was, perhaps, the greatest factor hindering the consideration of Papal peace terms.

The Vatican emphasized that so long as Russia maintained her imperialist claims, the Allies could not find a just basis for peace negotiations.  The Vatican could give no benediction to the Western Allies while RussiaOrthodox Russiaremained in the Entente.  In the matter of Constantinople the Vatican greatly feared that if that town fell under Russian domination, the Orthodox Church would create there a great centre of the Orthodox Faith, in rivalry with that of Rome.

At that time the Vatican’s hostility to Russia was due to the Orthodox Church in the background.  Hence the words of Cardinal Gasparri, Secretary of State at the Vatican:


“The victory of Czarist Russia, to whom France and England have made so many promises, would constitute for the Vatican a disaster greater than the reformation.”  (Cardinal Gasparri to Historian Ferrero.)


More than twenty-five years later, in the time of another Secretary of State and another Pope, this sentence of Cardinal Gasparri was repeated over and over again, but on these occasions the reference was to Bolshevism.  Thus, when in 1917 the Czarist régime collapsed in utter ruin and was supplanted by Bolshevism, the news was received with great hopes and even rejoicing at the Vatican.  In view of what has since happened, this might seem strange; but happen it did.  The Vatican rejoiced at the realization of its long hopes.  The fall of the Czar involved the fall of Rome’s great rival, the Orthodox Church, since Nicholas II was also head of the Russian Church.

It is true that the assumption of power by Bolshevism was not very encouraging; but at that time the Vatican considered Bolshevism to be the lesser of the two evils, especially as the separation of Church and State became at last a reality under the rule of Kerensky.  Although this separation endangered the situation, still it bequeathed religious equality to Russia, which meant that hence forward Catholicism would be on equal terms with the Orthodox Church.  Thus there would be opened up to Rome a tremendous vista of religious activity in that vast Russian territory hitherto sealed against the missionary zeal of the Catholic Church.  The Vatican during those years was, in fact, seriously contemplating the conversion of the whole country to Rome.  Count Sforza, who was in the close contact with the Vatican, related that:


At the Vatican, Bolshevism was at the beginning viewed as a horrible evil undoubtedly, but also a necessary evil, which might possibly have salutary consequences.  The structure of the Russian Church would never have given way so long as Czarism lasted.  Among the ruins accumulated by Bolshevism there was room for everything, even for a religious revival in which the influence of the Roman Church might have made itself felt.


Immediately after the First World War the Vatican entered into contact with the Bolsheviks, with the object of reaching an agreement allowing Catholic activities in the new Russia.  This was done while, simultaneously, the Catholic Church was fulminating against the ideology and the “acts of terrorism” promoted by Bolshevism throughout Europe, including Russia herself.

But although the Catholic Church was condemning Bolshevism wherever found, it refrained from such condemnation during negotiations with the Soviet Republic.  It tolerated, and even negotiated with, Bolshevism in order to destroy that great religious enemythe Orthodox Church—or rather, after the Revolution, to supplant it permanently.

One of the first great moves of the Vatican was effected through the agency of Mgr. Ropp, Bishop of Vilna, a refugee from Czarist Russia.  Mgr. Ropp, in 1920, having established his headquarters to Berlin, summoned numerous meetings of Russian émigrés, including adherents of the Orthodox Church, converted Catholics, Balts, and Germans, with the aim of effecting a union between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church.  Mgr. Ropp made three demands from the Sovietpermission to return; liberty of conscience in religion and religious education; and the restitution of church edifices and other property to the Church.  The Vatican thus expressed its views on this effort:


The moment has arrived propitious for rapprochement, inasmuch as the iron circle of Caesaro-papism, which hermetically closed Russian religious life to all Roman influences, has been broken.  (Osservatore Romano).


The Vatican was very hopeful that Bolshevism would not last very long.  “Actual political conditions (inside Russia) form a grave obstacle, but this obstacle has a temporary character” (Osservatore Romano).  There was open talk of “converting a country of 90,000,000 people to the true religion.”  Diplomatic negotiations between the Kremlin and the Vatican continued, sometimes openly and sometimes secretly.

The Soviet leaders, meanwhile, were pursuing crafty tactics.  Although they assured the Catholic and the Orthodox alike that religion was untrammelled, they started a gigantic anti-religious campaign.  To both Churches liberty and privileges were promised, and these promises were extended to Protestant bodies, especially to American Protestants.  At that period Soviet Russia, obedient to the dictum “divide and rule,” was allowing simultaneously the formation of a large Catholic group, the formation of a powerful Atheistic centre, and the resuscitation of the Orthodox Church.  From this last sprang eventually the Soviet-inspired Living Church, with Bishop Vedensky as the first Patriarch, and various powerful Protestant groups.  All these were to fight each other in order to save the souls of 90,000,000 Russians.

These diplomatic, political, and religious machinations reached a climax, as far as it concerns the Catholic Church, in 1922, during the Conference of Genoa.  At a dinner the Bolshevik Minister for Foreign Affairs, Chicherin, and the Archbishop of Genoa toasted each other.  They had been discussing the future relationship of the Vatican and Soviet Russia.  Chicherin emphasized that any religion had ample scope in Russia, since the Soviet Republic had separated Church and State.  But when the Vatican later proposed concrete plans for “Catholicizing Russia” it incurred great difficulties.  The moribund Orthodox Church was moribund indeed, but it was not yet dead.

The Vatican next approached the various nations then having representatives at Genoa and sent a Papal messenger bearing a letter from the Secretary of State.  This missive asked the Powers not to sign any treaty with Russia unless freedom to practice any religion was guaranteed by it, together with the restoration of all Church property.  Meanwhile the Genoa Conference failed—and the Vatican abandoned its plan.

But soon the plan was resumed in Rome.  The Papal representative, Mgr. Pizzardo, negotiated with the Bolshevik Minister, Vorowsky, with satisfactory results.  The Vatican was allowed to send missionaries into Russia to prepare a great plan for feeding and clothing the population.  The first group consisted of eleven priests, who took with them 1,000,000 parcels bearing the inscription: “To the children of Russia from the Pope in Rome.”  It should be noted that the Vatican had promised Vorowsky to abstain from all “propaganda.”

Then the Vatican appointed Father Walsh as head of the Papal relief mission and representative of the Vatican, at the time when the American relief expedition arrived in Moscow.  Father Walsh joined forces with Colonel Haskell, chief of the Hoover American Relief Administration.  An interminable series of disputes arose between the Soviet Republic and the Catholics, each accusing the other of employing “propaganda.”

The “implacable and undisguised enmity” of Father Walsh soon caused difficulties and he became “the chief obstacle to the successful consummation of the Pope’s plan for winning Russia to Catholicism” (Louis Fischer).

This strained relationship reached a climax when fifteen priests were arrested on the charge of having aided the enemy, to wit Catholic Poland, during the war of 1920; and one was sentenced to death.

Father Walsh and the Vatican used every effort to arouse the world against Russia.  The Anglican Church sympathized with the Vatican, and finally the protest assumed the form of a concrete menace when the Catholic Polish General, Sikorsky, threatened another invasion.  Relations between the Vatican and Moscow were broken off, but both sides tried once more to mend their relationships.  A conference was held in Rome between the Soviet representative Jordansky and Father Tacchi-Venturi, the assistant to the head of the Jesuit Order Ledochovski.  The conference was without result.

Meanwhile, other events had occurred in the international field.  A strong Government and new politico-social ideology created, as it claimed, to fight Bolshevism at home and abroad, had arisen in Italy.  That movement was called Fascism.  We have already seen how the Catholic Church quickly realized that this movement would be useful to her in fighting Socialism and Bolshevism, and from the beginning supported it, foreseeing, amongst other things, that the significance of Fascism would not be confined to the internal policy of Italy.  It soon became clear that international repercussions would follow, and its economic and social ideology would counterbalance the ideology of Bolshevism—this, above all, in view of the fact that powerful elements throughout the world were hostile to the new Russia, and that such hostility was increasing with the passing of the years.

Thus the Vatican, instead of listening to the numerous overtures of the Soviet Republic, developed another plan.  This plan sought to utilize the old Czarist Russians on their return to their own country from their present exile abroad.  The Church initiated a great drive for their conversion, and by 1924 it had already made numerous converts in Berlin, Paris, Brussels, and elsewhere.  When the Soviet Republic again proposed a meeting to the Vatican, the Vatican refused.  In the next year, 1925, Chicherin made contact with the Papal nuncio in Berlin, Cardinal Pacelli, to whom he gave the guarantee that the Catholic Church, and all other Churches, would have the amplest liberty in Soviet Russia.  Chicherin went so far as to give to Pacelli a dossier on ecclesiastical matters, containing detailed plans for regulating the appointment of bishops and the education of children.  The one point the Soviet Republic demanded from the Vatican was the banning of Polish Catholic priests from Russia.

Once more the Vatican refused compliance and broke off relationships with the Kremlin.  It is notable that the Vatican’s refusals became increasingly frequent in proportion to the strengthening of Fascism in Italy and the growth of similar movements in other countries.

In 1927, while Fascism, being well established in Italy, promised that Communism and Socialism should be stamped out and that great privileges should be granted to the Church, the Vatican for the last time declared its dissatisfaction with “the Soviet proposals.”  Since that date there have been no direct communications between the Vatican and Moscow.

By 1930 the Pope was openly condemning Soviet Russia and indicted her before the world.  In one of his speeches he declared that if, at the Genoa Conference, the nations had followed his advice not to recognize Soviet Russia unless that country gave guarantees of religious freedom, the world would have been more happily situated.  The Pope indicted Russia on account of her religious persecutions, without mentioning the religious persecutions enacted in Catholic Poland against the Orthodox, the Jews, and the Socialists (see the chapter on The Vatican and Poland6), and he went so far as to appoint a Special Commission for Russia, by increasing the activities of the Institute of Oriental Studies.  Meetings were held in London, Paris, Geneva, Prague, and other cities.  This crusade was followed by that of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Grand Rabbi of France, the National Council of the Free Churches, and similar bodies.

The years 1930-31 saw the world “emotionally roused to war against Soviet Godless Russia.”

During the following ten years, from 1930 to 1939-40 (as already seen), the main task of the Vatican was to establish powerful political and military blocs designed to oppose and finally to destroy Bolshevism in its various forms.

The Catholic Church’s aim was twofold, and had to be accomplished in two definite stages.  First, to encourage and support certain political bodies within the various nations of Europe, directed to the destruction of Socialism and Bolshevism within a given country; and secondly, to support and exploit the diplomatic and political power, and finally the military might, of such groups, later Governments, for the purpose of war against Russia.

Powerful economic, social, and financial forces throughout the world assisted the Vatican in this double purpose, rendering its task infinitely easier.  Religious, ethical, economic, social, national, and other factors together formed an efficient bulwark against Bolshevism at home and Bolshevism abroad (Soviet Russia).  The same combination, in the brief space of a decade, was able to establish Fascism almost throughout Europe, and thus the way was prepared for the outbreak of the Second World War.

In Italy, by 1930, this was an accomplished fact, while in Germany Nazism also was growing in strength, and, like Italian Fascism, was largely inspired by enmity against Bolshevism and Soviet Russia.  By the end of 1933 two great European nations had been transformed into two powerful armed blocks whose internal and external policy was based on their hostility to the U.S.S.R.

But although the hostility of the world to Soviet Russia was still tremendous, there was already a steady, even if slow, recognition of her sincere desire for peace and of her various efforts to co-operate in establishing an international authority charged with the preservation of that peace.

Thus it came about that the League of Nations proposed the admission of Russia, hitherto an outcast from the family of nations, to that Assembly.  There were strenuous protests from all over the world; and these protests came mainly from Catholic individuals, Catholic Governments, or Catholic bodies, beginning with the Vatican.  Within the League itself the loudest opponents to Russia’s admission were the spokesman of Catholic Ireland, de Valera, and the Catholic representative of Austria, where Catholicism had just machine-gunned Vienna’s Socialists.  With them ranked the Catholic delegate from Switzerland, whose violent speech against Russia’s admission was fully reproduced in the Catholic Press and praised by the Osservatore Romano (October 5), which profoundly admired “his nobility of sentiment and rectitude of Christian and civic conscience.”

This boycott of Soviet Russia by Catholics at that period was meant to further the grand plan conceived by the Vatican—namely, to enclose her in an iron ring from the West and the East.  This policy took concrete shape when finally a powerful Nazi Germany on the one side, and an aggressive Japan on the other, began to draw closer together, chiefly as a result of their common interest in hampering and eventually destroying the Red Colossus.

To show the attitude of the Catholic Church on the matter it should suffice to quote a significant comment of the Catholic Times (November 23, 1934):


In the event of a war between Japan and Russia, Catholics would sympathize with Japan, at least in so far as religion is concerned, so let us beware of any Anglo-American bloc against Japan involving us on the side of Russia.


This was at a period when Hitler was voicing his ambition of acquiring the Ukraine, and the Catholic Church was indirectly supporting his claims by loudly proclaiming that no Christian nation should ever dream of helping Russia in the event of an attack upon her by either Germany or Japan.  “Let Russia fight its own battle” became the refrain of the Catholic world at this stage, “for the undoing of Godless Sovietism is no evil at all.”

This campaign was fought by the Vatican simultaneously on many fronts.  For while the Pope was thundering against “Godless” Bolshevism, the Catholic Press was depicting its horrors, first in Mexico, and then in Spain, and Vatican diplomacy was busy trying to weaken the ties of friendship and mutual assistance which linked France and Soviet Russia.

This last-named attempt failed, chiefly because France herself turned Red with the formation of the Popular Front.  We have already seen the Catholic Church’s reaction to this, first in sponsoring various French Fascist movements, and finally in taking part in a vast plot, led by clerical Fascist elements, to bring about the downfall of the Third Republic.

It is worth recalling the sequence of events, for each one was a stepping-stone, not only to the establishment of a dictatorship, but to an ultimate attack on Russia.

The rise of Hitler to power in 1933 was followed, in 1934, by the establishment of a Catholic dictatorship in Austria.  In 1935 came Fascist Italy’s attack on Abyssinia, which drew Europe’s attention away from Hitler’s first aggressive moves in the Rhineland.  In 1936 Catholic Fascist movements appeared in France, and in the summer of that year Franco began the Civil War in Spain.  In 1938 Austria was incorporated into Germany, and in 1939 Czechoslovakia suffered the same fate, the result being the outbreak of the Second World War with the attack on Poland.  Practically the whole of Europe had been converted into a Fascist block whose fundamental policy was the annihilation of Communism and its incarnation, Soviet Russia.  This was while Germany, Italy, and Japan solemnly bound themselves, through the Anti-Comintern Pact,7 to direct their energies against Soviet Russia; and while Japan went from one aggression to another in Asia.

And it should be remembered that in each of those major events the Vatican had played its hand, either directly or indirectly, with the set purpose of stirring forces and countries towards its final goal: war on Russia.

We have also seen the activities and anxieties of the Vatican immediately before and after the outbreak of the Second World War, which did not start on the Russian border, as the Vatican had hoped, but between the two ‘Christian’ countries of Nazi Germany and Catholic Poland; and we know also of the negotiations which went on between the Pope and Hitler, with the latter continually repeating that one day he would attack Russia.

Remembering all this, it might be of interest to glance at a particular stage of that period—namely, beginning with the partition of Poland—and bringing into relief the relationship existing between the Catholic Church and the Soviet Union.

The first blow which the Vatican received directly from Soviet Russia, against whom it had mobilized Europe, occurred when Catholic Poland was jointly occupied by the armies of Nazi Germany and Russia.  That occupation in 1939 involved a reality such as the Vatican had never dared to envisage, in that half of Catholic Poland fell under the rule of Atheist Russia.  At the close of 1939 over 9,000,000 Catholic Poles were, in fact, under the domination of Moscow.

Such a set-back to the policy of the Vatican acted only as a spur to its activities all over Europe, designed to procure the recovery of Catholic Poland and the final destruction of the U.S.S.R.

We have already seen the part played by the Vatican in the capitulation of Belgium and France in 1940, every action being directed to smoothing the path of Nazi Germany so that it would be possible for that country to attack Russia; the transformation of France under Pétain; and how, in June 1941, the great news was published to the world that the Soviet Union had at last been attacked.

We have already related the actions of the Vatican from this point onwards, and how, as the Nazi armies advanced, Catholic legions from the various Catholic countries were dispatched to the Russian Front to “fight Bolshevik Russia.”

Although things at that time looked very hopeful for Germany, the Vatican was deeply concerned at the possible Allied victory, and could never forget that Soviet Russia was one of the foremost Allies.  Thus the Pope made numerous démarches in London and Washington, asking for “assurances that they would not allow Bolshevism to spread and conquer Europe.”

During this time Catholic Poland, being on the side of the Allies, was, paradoxically, fighting hand in hand with Soviet Russia against the Nazi enemy.  The Catholic Poles were in continuous communication with the Vatican, and the latter continually emphasized to the Allies that Poland would persevere in fighting only if assured that Catholic Poland should never become a prey to Bolshevism.

We have already seen, in the chapters devoted to Germany, what the negotiations were.  It suffices to state here that Stalin, in 1942, made several attempts towards a rapprochement with the Vatican, giving guarantees that religion and the freedom of the Catholic Church in Poland would be scrupulously respected.  Stalin also assured the Pope that “the present war is not being waged for the expansion of Communism or for the territorial aggrandizement of Russia.”

The Vatican, however, rejected all these offers and continued to emphasize to Great Britain and the United States of America “the threat which Soviet Russia constituted, in case of German defeat.”

At the same time the Vatican became more and more outspoken and critical of the Allies for allowing Communist propaganda and for permitting their Press to praise “Atheist Russia.”


The Comintern considers the possibility of world-revolution greater than before,” reiterated the Vatican.  “The Western Nations should beware of such a dangerous ally; Soviet Russia will eventually destroy the structure of the Western Nations.  The Western Nations will become ripe for Communism (extract from Osservatore Romano).


“The Anglo-Saxons have carried the war so far that they are interested in, and sponsoring, Communist propaganda, which will weaken Germany as it did in the last war,” was the significant remark of the Papal Secretary of State (February 2, 1942).

To arouse the Western Allies’ horror of Russia, the Vatican gave figures illustrating the treatment of Catholics by Soviet Russia.  Thus in 1917 Russia possessed over 46,000 Orthodox churches, 890 monasteries with 52,022 monks, and 50,960 priests.  There remained in October 1935 only a few “Communist priests.”

During the same period there were, in Russia, 610 Catholic churches, 8 Catholic bishops, and 810 priests.  By 1939 there remained only 107 Catholic priests (Vatican Radio, 1942).

The year 1942 witnessed an event of great importance.  Great Britain and Soviet Russia signed a pact, binding the two countries for twenty years.

The Vatican raised further protest in Washington and London, accusing Britain of “having offered Christian Europe to Atheist Moscow.”  It became outspoken concerning the secret clauses of the pact, and in its immediate circle it was said that by virtue of these secret clauses the Soviet Union “would have political and military control of Europe in the event of an Allied victory, but nothing had been said about the religious future of the Continent.”

To the reproaches of the Allies the Vatican answered that “nobody can accuse the Pope of alarmism, because it is common knowledge that, ideologically, the Bolsheviks do not recognize Religion, and wherever they put their foot they persecute it.”

The Vatican insisted that the Western Allies should make the Pope privy to the secret clauses of the Anglo-Soviet Pact, “in connection with religious freedom.”  The strange answer was returned that the political and military pact had been signed with the Soviets, but that in connection with religion the Vatican would have to deal directly with the Bolsheviks.

The Vatican accused the Allies of having left out the Catholic Church in the planning of post-war Europe; or rather, of “not having taken measures for safeguarding Christian Catholic Europe from the Bolsheviks.”

President Roosevelt advised the Pope to make a direct approach to Stalin, but the Pope refused.  Roosevelt then asked Stalin to make overtures to the Pope “in view of the great spiritual influence the Vatican exerts on many territories liberated by the Soviet armies.”  Stalin once more made proposals, assuring the Vatican of his willingness to come to terms.

Stalin then abolished the Comintern with the design of making things easier for the Vatican and for those Catholic countries and armies fighting alongside the Soviet Republic and the Allies.  Political and military reasons, of course, were not without weight.  This move was welcomed with sarcasm by the Vatican, which warned the Allies not to trust Russia because that was “a move the better to deceive the Western Powers.”

Once more, in the spring of 1943, Stalin made approaches and Roosevelt urged the Vatican to come to terms with Moscow.

In May, June, and July 1943 the Soviet Republic again contacted the Vatican, desiring to restart “negotiations for a renewal of normal contacts and eventually for starting diplomatic relations.”

This time London and Washington, in their official capacity, sponsored the move of Moscow.

Roosevelt and Great Britain gave the Vatican to understand that it was their sincere wish to counterbalance the influence of the Soviet Republic by the “maintenance of a strong bloc of Catholic countries, under the Anglo-American sphere of influence.”  Spain and Italy were the Catholic countries in view.

In spite of all efforts from Moscow, London and Washington, in spite even of a personal letter addressed by Stalin to the Pope previous to all these negotiations, the Vatican refused either a discussion or an exchange of representatives.

Meanwhile, the Soviet armies were entering vast territories whose population were wholly or partially Catholics.  The greatest of such territories was again Poland.  There the Catholic Poles were in a dilemma.  They had been liberated from the Nazis by the Soviet armies.  Should they welcome the Bolsheviks as liberators?  The situation became very difficult for the Poles, for the Western Allies, for Russia, and for the Vatican itself.

Again Stalin, with the support of Roosevelt, approached the Vatican with a view to a final understanding with the Catholic Church.  Moscow, indeed, sent a memorandum to the Pope himself “offering a co-ordinated action between Moscow and the Holy See on post-war organization for the solution of moral and social problems” (Osservatore Romano, August 14, 1944).

Stalin reiterated his assurances to the Pope that he would be ready to exchange views, “to facilitate the work of peace,” and that “Soviet Russia does not desire to set up any social order by force or violence, but is on the contrary opposed to such measures.”  The memorandum asserted that “Russia hopes to reach her aims through peaceful channels and in a democratic and peaceful manner.”

But the Vatican spurned all these approaches and, at the same time, again attacked Russia, accusing her on this occasion of having betrayed the Poles in the rising of Warsaw.  Before the rising the Pope had, in a speech, given moral backing to the Poles, and in a private audience granted to General Sosnokowski had expressed his anxiety concerning the “menace to European civilization from Bolshevism,” and his “regretful surprise at the friendship between the Anglo-Saxon Powers and Russia.”

During these approaches, and after having repeated that the Catholic Church would find ample scope in Russia, Moscow went so far as to propose a kind of “United Front” between the Vatican and the Soviet, in order to solve the common problems created by the fact that many millions of Catholics were living in territories occupied by the Red armies.

Several of the cardinals at the Vatican, remembering that in Rome there existed an organization called “Pro-Russia,” which had been establishing with the express purpose of converting that country to Catholicism, were in favor of the opening of negotiations, as were the leaders of the above organization, being hopeful that their opportunity had come at last.  But, as usual, the Pope rejected the proposal, alleging he did so because of Russia’s persecution of the Poles.  Of what did this persecution consist?  Simply of the fact that Soviet Russia had counter-charged many Poles, who had fought against the Germans, with having turned on the Russians as soon as they had been freed from Nazi domination, averring that Polish soldiers had even organized an underground army with this intent, and, further, that plans were in preparation for the creation of an “anti-Soviet block” which would include Britain and even Germany.

That these allegations were no mere invention of the Soviet Government was found out in the following year, when the accusations were proved.  At the Moscow trials in June 1945 sixteen Poles, led by General Okulicki, formerly Commander of the Polish Home Army, confessed to having planned an “anti-Soviet bloc, beginning with the period of the Warsaw uprising.”  (in August 1944).

“A Soviet victory over Germany,” Okulicki stated, “will threaten not only the interests of Britain in Europe, but will place all Europe in fear.  Britain, taking into consideration her interests on the Continent, will have to mobilize the Powers in Europe against the U.S.S.R.  It is clear that we should be in the front row of this anti-Soviet block, and it is impossible to conceive this bloc, which will be controlled by Britain, without the participation of Germany.”

How much the Vatican knew about this plot, hatched by Catholic Poles while the Soviet armies were in the act of liberating them, it is difficult to state.  But the incident, nevertheless, was of the greatest value, for it threw light on activities which were too consonant with the inter-war foreign policy of Catholic Poland, whose chief characteristic had always been relentless hostility towards her great Eastern neighbor.  In addition, it gave the Vatican another excuse for refusing, for the hundredth time, the offer of compromise which, during the previous couple of years, Moscow had been trying to persuade the Pope to accept.

Why did the Catholic Church so persistently refuse to reach agreement with Moscow, in spite of the goodwill by the Soviets, the advice and good services of President Roosevelt, the millions of Catholics who had passed under Soviet rule, and the fact that Red Russia was no longer “persecuting” religion, and remembering moreover, that, after all, in the years following the First World War the Vatican and the Kremlin had negotiated and had even reached a working compromise on several problems?  Was there present some other factor, more important even than that of the Communist ideology and practice, which prevented the Vatican from reaching a satisfactory agreement with Stalin?

Yes; a resurrected and combative Orthodox Church.

In addition to the political, social, and ethical principles involved, a great stumbling-block to some kind of agreement being reached between the Vatican and Soviet Russia was the question of the Orthodox Church.

The Vatican had never lost sight of the revival of the Orthodox Church in Russia, and since its downfall after the First World War, it had incessantly feared its return.  It was therefore with great concern that it saw the Soviet Government grant freedom in religious worship throughout Soviet territory, for it realized that such freedom entailed the resurrection of its ancient enemy, the Orthodox Church, which would become the main opponent of its own missionary plan in that country.

This religious freedom was granted as far back as January 23, 1918.  By a decree issued on that day, the citizens of the U.S.S.R. were guaranteed freedom of conscience and of religious worship; but freedom was also granted for the publication of anti-religious propaganda.  By the same decree the Orthodox Church was separated from the State, and the school from the Church.  All religious organizations were placed on the same level, as private societies.  A citizen might profess any religion or no religion at all.  This enactment was so thoroughly put in practice that all reference to the religious affiliation of any citizen was deleted from Government acts and documents.

Article 124 of the Constitution reads:


In order to ensure its citizens freedom of conscience, the Church in the U.S.S.R. is separated from the State, and the school from the Church.  Freedom of religious worship and freedom of anti-religious propaganda is recognized for all citizens.


Thus every citizen of the Soviet Union was free to choose his religion, to profess any religion he pleased, and furthermore to enjoy all the rights of citizenship irrespective of his religious beliefs.  Nobody in Soviet Russia was expected to furnish information as to his religious beliefs on taking up employment or on joining any public organization or society.  No distinction was drawn between believers and unbelievers.

Paper was supplied from Government stores for the printing of religious literature.

Of course this complete freedom in the religious field was exploited during the first years of the Revolution by all those who had rebelled against the Church as an instrument of obscurantism and of political influence employed by the old régime.  Nevertheless, with the passing of time the forces of religious and of anti-religious propaganda became nearly equalized.  Although each faction used the freedom according to its belief or unbelief, each began to tolerate the other.

Little by little the Orthodox Church reappeared in the life of Russia.  This did not please the Vatican, which, in spite of all disappointments, still entertained hope that one day it might be allowed to “convert Russia to Catholicism.”  The reappearance of its rival, the Orthodox Church, constituted an obstacle potentially more formidable than all the social and political tenets of Communism.

The Vatican therefore, after all hopes of coming to an agreement with the Kremlin failed, in the years immediately following the First World War—as we saw—started to support anti-Communist movements, such as Fascism, and, as a natural sequence, entered upon a definite and world-wide campaign which, although apparently aimed solely against Communist Russia as such, in reality was also directed against the resurgent Orthodox Church, its ancient foe.

Strangely enough, the Vatican mobilized the Catholic forces of the world against Soviet Russia just when Russia was granting religious equality and liberty to her citizens.  It is certainly not edifying to realize that the Catholic Church was intensifying her campaign against Soviet Russia just when the freedom of religion and of the Church was entering into that country’s new life.  The Vatican was preaching to the world that Soviet Russia must be destroyed “because she persecuted religion.”

This campaign reached its climax in the decade preceding the outbreak of the Second World War and was continued throughout that conflict.8

During the Spanish Civil War of 1936-9, just when the Soviets were passing further legislation guaranteeing religious freedom, the Vatican initiated a world-wide campaign against Communism in general, and Soviet Russia in particular, on the charge that the Reds persecuted religion.

This was while Article 130 of the Stalin Constitution (1936) obliged all citizens to observe the Law and to respect the rules of Socialist intercourse, which prohibit any limitations of rights, any form of persecution for religious convictions or insult to religious susceptibilities, and at a time when religious freedom in the Soviet Union was reflected in the unhampered performance of religious service and rites, in the publication of periodicals and other religious literature, and in the existence of seminaries for training the clergy.9

When striving to convert Europe into a Fascist bloc, in the hope that Fascism would rule the Continent and the century, the Vatican made it clear that its enmity towards Communism was not inspired by its political doctrines only.  There was, in addition, the knowledge that behind the Russian Government stood once more the Orthodox Church.  The Vatican, in fact, accused the Orthodox Church of seeking a renewed attachment to the Civil Power in order to further her religious influence; while simultaneously the Soviet Government was accused of reviving the Orthodox Church as a tool for the Government’s political ends. [See footnote above-there was no religious revival at this time, only a near-total annihilation.]

For the Vatican, therefore, the destruction of Bolshevism was not enough; the destruction of the revived Orthodox Church was essential.  Thus, in the bargain between Hitler and the Vatican, as we have already demonstrated, it was provided that the Catholic Church should supplant the Orthodox Church throughout the Soviet territories occupied by Germany.

Hitler, needing in his turn the help of Rome, answered that the Vatican would be permitted to convert the Russians to the true faith, but “only through the German Catholic Hierarchy.”

It was during these negotiations that the Vatican became strenuous in the field of propaganda dealing with Russian matters.  It reorganized and brought up to date the Institution known as “Pro-Russia,” provided it with funds, priests, and propaganda of all kinds.  All concerned were advised to “keep ready for the great missionary work of redemption.”

While this was going on, the Vatican was awaiting the day when the gates of Soviet Russia would be opened by the impetus of the Nazi armies.  To ensure that the Nazis should be victorious the Vatican advised numerous Catholic Fascist Governments, many of whom did not need any encouragement, to provide active help to Nazi Germany for the destruction of the Bolshevik dragon.  We have seen that the Vatican refused to sponsor officially a campaign against Russia, fearing the reaction of the Catholics in the Allied countries; but unofficially, activity in advocating that every assistance should be given by all good Catholic countries did not cease for a moment.

As a result, numerous Catholic Fascist countries, or parties, organized anti-Bolshevik legions which, one after another, were dispatched to the Eastern Front to fight side by side with the Nazis, the list being headed by Franco’s Catholic Spain, with its Blue Division, followed by Catholic Portugal, Catholic Belgium Rexists, and French Catholic Fascists, with contingents from Holland and elsewhere.

Before and even during this active campaign against Soviet Russia the Soviet Government tried repeatedly to reach an agreement with the Vatican regarding the Catholics who had passed into Soviet jurisdiction in 1939, during the Nazi-Soviet partition of Poland.  The intractability of the Vatican, however, made all efforts on the part of Russia futile.

One of the main reasons given by the Vatican for its refusal to make a treaty with Russia, in addition to its mortal enmity to the socio-political principles of Communism, was that “the renewed influence of the Orthodox Church in Poland is putting obstacles before, and, persecuting, the Catholic Church in that country” (Cardinal Lhond, March 1941).

The Cardinal Secretary of State of that period declared that “the Holy See, although gravely anxious about the spiritual and material welfare of the Catholics in Poland, is unable to reach any agreement with the Soviet Government, owing also to the revival of the Orthodox Church, whose hostility has never ceased to show itself against the Catholic Church.”  What was the reason that compelled the Vatican to speak so bluntly about the Orthodox Church?

The fact that the Soviet Government, in order to unify the spiritual and physical resources of the nation and of the Army, had encouraged the Orthodox Church to appeal to the Russian people for the continuation of the fight against Nazism.

The Orthodox Church before the war, although entirely free, was yet in the background.  With the advent of war it came quickly into the foreground and exercised an active part in the formation of the front against German invasion.  This development was supported by the Soviet Government for two salient reasons; first, because the new Orthodox Church was an agency which united and encouraged the Russian people to fight; and secondly, in view of the continued hostility of the Catholic Church to Russia, it was desired to counterbalance the solid spiritual bloc of Rome with a solid Orthodox bloc.  The plan would eventually operate in all countries which housed members of the Orthodox religion.

This second point carried also a long-view policy and entered into the post-war world.  At this particular stage, Moscow was leaving nothing to chance.  Having seen Catholic Europe converted into a solid anti-Soviet bloc, she prepared to create a similar religious bloc designed to confront Catholicism during and after the Second World War.

It was thanks to such factors that the Orthodox Church began to assume a wider and ever more important influence in Russian affairs, soon becoming a powerful entity with a religious, and indirectly a political, significance.  Hence it was inevitable that the Orthodox Church, when inciting the Russian Faithful to fight against the Fascist enemies—that is to say, not only against Hitler, but also against his various allies, the anti-Bolshevik legions provided by Catholic Spain, Portugal, Italy, Catholic France under the sway of Pétain, and such-like—should emphasize that these were Catholic legions enjoying the support of Catholic Rome.  The issue, therefore, was not merely a patriotic defense of the Russian Fatherland, but also the annihilation of religious enemies, the Catholics, bent on Russia’s destruction.

Accordingly the appeal made by the Orthodox Church from this time onwards struck a political as well as a religious note.  Once again, as in pre-Revolution Russia, Church and State became close confederates, and the Church grew in influence.  Her voice was heard not in Russia only, but beyond; by none was it heard more loudly than by the Vatican.

The Orthodox Church thus began to organize itself under the aegis of the Soviet Government and became a great national spiritual institution working hand in hand with the Government.  This religious institution received an even more official recognition when, in September 1943, a convocation of bishops of the Orthodox Church elected a Patriarch of Moscow and of all the Russias and set up a Holy Synod.  In this connection the Soviet Government, in October 1943, appointed a Council for Russian Orthodox Church Affairs to act as a link between the Government and the Patriarch of Moscow and of all the Russians on ecclesiastical matters.  The representatives on the Council were to act in all republics, territories, and regions, as links between the local government authorities and the local religious bodies.

The religious, and especially the political, significance of this move did not escape the notice of the Vatican, and it certainly did not escape that of Hitler, who asked the high prelates hostile to the Soviet régime to declare the election of Moscow “invalid.”

Between thirty and fifty prelates, mostly from German-occupied Europe, led by Dr. Serafin Lade, the Metropolitan of Greater Germany who from the very beginning had cooperated with Hitler, assembled in Vienna to discuss the election to the Patriarchal Throne of Moscow.  They declared the election invalid, including the excommunication decreed by the Synod of Moscow of all Orthodox prelates opposing the Soviet régime, proclaiming Bolshevism to be irreconcilable with Christianity.

In 1944 the Soviet Government set up a council to deal with the affairs of religious societies other than the Russian Orthodox Church.  It was the function of this council to act as a link with such bodies as the Greek Catholics, Mohammedans, Jewish and evangelical bodies, as well as Roman Catholics.

The new Russian Orthodox Church became more and more prominent in the nation’s affairs.  Orthodox clergy received official decorations from the Government, notably a group of Orthodox priests from Moscow and Tula in 1944.

The Church, in turn, organized politico-religious ceremonies of public prayer to God for help, for the protection of Soviet Russia and for the defeat of her enemies.  “The Russian clergy will not cease to offer prayers for the victory of Russian arms.”  The support of the clergy was promised by the Church to the “Soviet Fatherland.”  “The entire Russian Church will serve its beloved Fatherland with all its strength in the difficult days of war and in the days of prosperity to come.”

The Orthodox Church went even further, and, in 1944, when it was seen that Nazi Germany would be defeated and that Russia was emerging as one of the great military Powers of the world, the head of the Orthodox Church declared that he “considered Stalin as the God-chosen head of Holy Russia.”  These were the words of Mgr. Alexis, who had just succeeded the Metropolitan Sergius as Patriarch of the U.S.S.R., written in a letter addressed to the Soviet Government in May 1944, thus echoing the declaration of Pius XI that “Mussolini was the man sent by Divine Providence.”

Meanwhile, the Soviet Government, desiring even closer co-operation with the Orthodox Church, attached the chairman of the Council for Affairs of the Orthodox Church to the Council of Peoples’ Commissars of the U.S.S.R. (1944).

A journal of the Moscow Patriarchate was sponsored by the Government.

Next, to encourage Orthodox believers, the head of the Soviet Council for Orthodox Affairs reiterated on many occasions that all who wished to open churches and to muster congregations were permitted to do so.  Any persons in Soviet Russia might ask for a church, and [abandoned] churches were given free provided a congregation existed.


[After the Second World War (January 1946), according to Fr. Leopold Braun, who had lived in Russia during the preceding twelve years, “two-thirds of the people of Russia, 150,000,000 souls, were believers in God”; while anyone wanting to become a priest could do so—witness Archbishop Sergei, of the Russian Orthodox Church, who, during a speech in which he described Stalin as one of the outstanding protectors of religion, made the following statement: “Anybody who wants to become a priest in Russia can do so.  there is no interference whatsoever. . . . The Communist Party is very co-operative” (August 1946).  In 1946 there were 22,000 Russian Catholics in Moscow, and 30,000 in Leningrad.]


By 1944 a theological school had already been established in Moscow.  In the town of Zagorak a seminary was opened, supported by the believers.  The students, besides receiving a theological education were trained on a scientific basis, and to this Orthodox Church agreed.

With the passing of time the Orthodox Church assumed gradually the rôle it had played in pre-Revolution Russia.  The Metropolitan of Leningrad, in a message to religious believers, declared in 1944: “Our Orthodox Church has ever shared her people’s destiny.  With them she has borne their trials and rejoiced in their successes.  She will not desert her people today.”  And when, finally, Germany was defeated, the same dignitary declared: “The Orthodox Church did not pray in vain; God’s blessing gave victorious force to the Russian arms.”

This ever-closer co-operation of Church and State culminated in an officially recognized Congress of the Russian Church, held at the end of 1944 in Moscow.  This Conference was pregnant with meaning.  The Orthodox Church met, in fact, to issue an invitation to all other Churches having a Christian basis to form a union with itself.  Thus would be created a great religious bloc, not only within the Soviet Union, but extending outside it to include the Orthodox Church in Greece, the Near East, Africa, and elsewhere.

The Conference was held in November 1944, in Moscow, and thirty-nine bishops took part.  It sent invitations and proposals for the formation of a huge spiritual bloc to the Oecumenical Patriarch and Archbishop of Constantinople, to Alexander III, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East; to Cristophoros, Patriarch of Alexandria; to Timothy, Patriarch of Jerusalem; and to Callistratus, Catholicos of Georgia.

Behind the renewed vigor of the resurrected Synod of Moscow since its intimate cooperation with the Soviet Government, the aim of restoring Russia’s traditional rôle as protector of Orthodox Christianity throughout Russia, the Near East, and in Eastern Europe, became every day more apparent.

Soviet Russia was not only taking the rôle of Czarist Russia of former days, but was going farther, in her sponsoring of the Orthodox Churches.  She desired to unite the Orthodox and other Churches under one head as a counterblast to Catholicism.

In the following year, 1945, this policy of forming a huge spiritual block, under the headship of the Patriarch of Moscow, began to give results, of which a few significant examples may be quoted.  As a first-fruit of the Conference there arrived in Moscow a delegation of Rutherian clergy bringing a letter from the Archbishop of Chust requesting admission to the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Moscow.  Hitherto the Church of Ruthenia had been attached to the Serbian Patriarchate, which now gave its consent for transference of the Ruthenian Church to the spiritual leadership of the Patriarch of Moscow.  The Serbian Patriarchate went farther than this and actually put itself under the spiritual jurisdiction of Moscow.

The Polish Orthodox Church made the same request and sent the Polish Orthodox Metropolitan of Lvov to Moscow on a like mission.  This was likewise a very significant act, as the Orthodox Church in Poland had hitherto been an independent body, having its own Patriarch.

Further, the Oecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople sent a delegation to Moscow and an agreement was reached by which the Patriarch of Moscow was recognized as the supreme leader of the great spiritual bloc under the Soviet aegis.

Now the Orthodox Church became largely preoccupied with the interchange of interests and tidings with other religious bodies, especially with such great Protestant Churches as the Church of England.  Invitations were sent to various English Protestant dignitaries to visit Moscow, and Orthodox religious leaders visited Great Britain in 1945 as guests of the Protestant leaders of that country.

The Patriarch of Moscow in person set out on an extensive tour of the East to visit various Christian communities.  In June 1945 the Patriarch announced in Cairo: “My visit aims at renewing once more the spiritual ties which have always united the Orthodox Churches.”

A few months before, in February 1945, the Russian Orthodox Assembly had sat in Moscow, under the presidency of the Metropolitan of Leningrad and Novgorod, to select a Patriarch.  Forty-five delegates from all over the Soviet Union were in attendance.  With them were representatives of the Orthodox Churches throughout the world, including the Metropolitan Benjamin of New York, Patriarch Alexander III of Antioch, Patriarch Archbishop Benjamin of Constantinople, Patriarch Cristophoros of Alexandria, and the Patriarch Timothy of Jerusalem.

No wonder that the Vatican observed the ever-growing influence of the resurrected Orthodox Church with dismay.  Such feelings were not limited to the precincts of the Vatican only, but were shared, in much lesser degree, by Washington and even by London, both the United States of America and Great Britain being inclined to see in the moves of the Orthodox Church, not only a spiritual revival in the Soviet world, but also a potential spiritual instrument to be used for the political interests of Soviet Russia in Eastern Europe, in other parts of the world, and, above all, in the Near East.

Thus once more the interests of the Vatican, of the United States of America, and of Great Britain were running parallel, notwithstanding the fact that although their ultimate goal was the same, all three saw the matter from a different point of view.

Unlike the Vatican, such great Powers as the United States of America and Great Britain regarded the revival and the growing influence of the Orthodox Church, both within and without the confines of Russia, merely from a political point of view.  Their concern in the matter was made known to the Soviet Government.  They pointed out that the anxiety caused by the increasing activity of the Orthodox Church was hampering the harmonious relations of the Allies.  It would be a source of embarrassment in the necessary cooperation of the post-war world.


Roosevelt once tried to influence the Soviet Government to search for, at least, a modus vivendi between Russia and the Vatican.  The Soviet Government answered that it was more than ready to do so.  As the Vatican continued in its refusal to negotiate with Russia, the Soviet Government, aided by America, went so far as to employ an “unofficial emissary” to render the approach easier.  Thus it was that an American-Polish priest, Father Orlemansky, was invited to Moscow, where he had long conferences with Stalin.  Orlemansky was charged to offer, on behalf of Russia, liberal terms to the Catholic Church.  He received assurances, for conveyance to the American State Department, that Soviet Russia was more than ready to co-operate with the Vatican in the settlement of religious disputes.  He was assured that the Kremlin was ready to start negotiations with the Vatican on the questions of religious freedom and on the status of the Catholic Church in territories occupied by Russian armies.

Father Orlemansky returned to America with these proposals, which President Roosevelt begged the Pope to accept.  Hopes were entertained in Catholic circles that, at last, some agreement would be reached.  The Catholic papers, although notorious for their rabid anti-Soviet spirit, wrote that perhaps the Vatican and the Kremlin after all might work together, each in order to safeguard its own interest.


“Wherever there is a body of Catholics in a geographical area, it is to be presumed that the Holy See will endeavor to establish such relations of convenience, with its rules, as will enable it to maintain their spiritual and material interests.  This is quite irrespective of the nature of the régime and commits the Holy Father to no condemnation of it” (The Universe, August 18, 1944).

“We have always recognized, therefore, that the unchanging condemnation of Atheistic Communism need not compel Rome to leave any Catholics who may be incorporated in the Soviet Union unprotected” (The Universe, August 18, 1944).


But the Pope once more refused and rejected all offers.  Father Orlemansky, on his return, was immediately suspended from his priestly functions—an act which, in the Catholic world as well as in Washington, was taken “as a Vatican rebuff to Stalin’s peace offer.”

The advance of the Soviet armies and the immensity of the territories they occupied, with the defeat of Germany obviously in sight, rendered the problem doubly urgent.  Accordingly Roosevelt again tried to influence the Vatican.  As late as March 1945, only two months before the collapse of Germany, he sent his personal envoy, Mr. Flynn, to Moscow and thence to Rome.  Mr. Flynn carried a renewed peace offer from Stalin, once again to meet with rejection from the Vatican.

Meanwhile the Soviet Government, certain of the unbounded hostility of the Vatican, had not ceased its support of the Orthodox Church.  The Catholic Church was already preparing to sponsor the revival of semi-Fascist movements, as in Italy, with a view to the post-war world.  Therefore the Soviet Government made it clear that it would support the anti-Roman plans of the Orthodox Church.  Church and State were to work in the fullest concord against the machinations of their political as well as their religious and spiritual enemy.

This policy had been assuming greater prominence ever since 1944, when the Orthodox Church began to display ever-increasing hostility to the Vatican, accusing it of enmity towards Soviet Russia and the Orthodox Church.

These attacks, owing to their nature and the quarter from which they originated, were very ominous.  It was very significant that the Orthodox Church felt sufficiently strong and united to launch them; and it was especially significant that they very often coincided with the onslaughts of the Soviet Government, which employed such official organs as Pravda and Izvestia to accuse the Vatican of Fascist and anti-Soviet policy.

We illustrate a few of these attacks, appearing in rapid succession towards the end of the war and after the cessation of hostilities.

In January and February of 1944 the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, in conjunction with other high dignitaries visiting Moscow, published a statement accusing the Vatican of affording protection to Nazi Germany.  The statement, significantly addressed to the people “of the world, “and not only to the people of Russia, said:


Bearing in mind the present international situation, we are raising our voices against the efforts of those, and especially of the Vatican, who are trying to safeguard the Hitlerite Germany from the responsibility for all her crimes and calling for mercy for the Hitlerites . . . who want, in this way, to leave on the earth after the war a Fascist, man-hating, anti-Christian teaching and its propagators (published in the Soviet papers in the first week of February 1944).


This attack by the Orthodox Church was followed by an attack in Izvestia, broadcast by Radio Moscow:


The Vatican has adopted an attitude of direct support of Fascism.  The inglorious part played by the Vatican in Hitler and Mussolini’s Spanish adventure is common knowledge, while silence was maintained by the Vatican when Italy attacked France in June 1940.  Franco is the Vatican’s pet, and Franco’s Spain is the image of the clerical State’s post-war Europe.


A few months later the Orthodox Church charged at the Catholic Church full tilt and denied the authority of the Pope in the religious field, stating that the Pope held no commission to represent Christ.  The challenge was delivered by the Patriarch Sergei, head of the Orthodox Church, in the Moscow Bulletin of April 1944.  The Patriarch’s statement not only shows that the Orthodox Church, led by the revived Holy Synod, remains faithful to the old tradition of Orthodoxy and is working in close touch with the Soviet Government, but also, and especially, its high political significance is demonstrated.  It shows that the Holy Synod and the Kremlin are working hand in hand; and this is proved by the fact that the doctrinal attack of the Orthodox Church is reinforced once more by a political attack on the Vatican, published in Izvestia.  The Patriarch’s statement is entitled, “Does the Vicar of Christ exist in the Church?”


In the Patriarchal view the mystical marriage between Christ and His Church renders the existence of an intermediary Vicar of Christ on earth altogether inconceivable. . . . The Gospel teaches us that Our Lord Jesus, while quitting the world bodily, had no thought whatever of handing over His Church to the care of anyone else. . . . He sent His Apostles and their successors, the Orthodox bishops, that they may preach the Gospel and lead the Faithful. . . .


This attack was received with concern at the Vatican, as well as at Washington and in London, on account of its political significance.  The Catholic Press all over the world, not excluding the British and American Press, protested.  In this they saw only the Bolshevik monster, bolstered by their great enemy the Orthodox Church.  The matter was rendered even more serious, in the eyes of the Vatican, by the fact that Anglican England manifested solidarity with that new philo-Bolshevik institution, the Holy Synod.  Moreover, the chorus of Anglican approval of the Patriarch’s words was echoed by the United States of America.

An English religious personality, the Archbishop of York, was prominent on this occasion, declaring that he “manifested his admiration for the Muscovite Patriarch’s challenge to the Vicar of Christ on Earth.”  The Archbishop added: “The Russian Church, as the Anglican, has repudiated the affirmation of the Roman Church about the ‘status’ of the Pope.”

A few months before the end of the Second World War in Europe, the prelates of the Orthodox Churches attended a General Assembly of the Orthodox Church is Moscow (February 1945).  They then issued another appeal to the world, strongly criticizing the Vatican for its attitude towards the coming peace.  Their appeal began thus:


The representatives of the Orthodox Churches attending the General Assembly of the Russian Orthodox Church held in Moscow . . . lift their voices against the efforts of those, and particularly of the Vatican, . . . who are attempting to absolve Hitler’s Germany from responsibility for all the abominable deeds she has committed . . . and are seeking to allow the continued existence on earth, after the war, of the unchristian Fascist doctrine and its agents.


Replying to these attacks, the Osservatore Romano answered:


The Pope is the Universal Father, who, on June 12, 1939, said: “We have before our eyes the Russia of yesterday, of today, and of tomorrow.  That Russia for which we never cease to pray, and ask prayers for, and in which we fervently believe.”


But the Pope, at a private audience, referring to the attacks of Soviet Russia and the Orthodox Church against the Vatican, said:


There is nobody who does not see in this episode one of the most sinister shadows cast by the present conflict on the future fate of civilization (Digest 1362.5.2.  A25).


However, the most significant remark made concerning the relations of the Vatican and the Orthodox Church came from the acting Secretary of State, who at the end of the Second World War declared:


We must pray God for guidance in this overwhelming time.  One event above all would give sound hope of securing a lasting solution of the world’s difficulties of today, the conversion of Russia to the Faith (April 28, 1945).


A few weeks earlier President Roosevelt had died.  The immediate result of his loss, as far as relations between the Vatican and Moscow were concerned, was a visible and speedy deterioration of the already shaky intercourse between the Pope and Stalin.  The Polish question, more acute since the liberation of Poland from Nazi Germany, aggravated matters.  This was due to the Soviet Government sponsoring a provisional Government in Lublin, in substitution for the reactionary Catholic Polish Government in London, whose activities (it was disclosed a month after the end of the war) were mainly directed to preparations for sabotaging Left-wing movements and all those Polish political forces which, at home, were trying to establish a true friendship with Russia.

Great Britain and the United States, after some hesitation and in spite of protests from the Vatican, gave recognition to the new Polish Government and disavowed the exiled Government in London.  The latter lost no time in publicly appealing to the Pope to find for it a new asylum, either in French Catholic Canada or in Catholic Ireland, from which to continue its work.

Pope, cardinals, and bishops spoke against the “arbitrary action” of Moscow, denouncing Soviet Russia, Communism, and the new injustice committed against “Catholic Poland,” while the Catholic Press all over the world continued for months to add vituperation to insult against that ally who had so greatly helped to win the war.

Then, with the collapse of Japan and the gradual gearing up of the tired nations from war to peace, the Vatican and its Hierarchy, with all the world-wide machinery at their disposal, turned their attention to the political life of the victors as well as of the defeated.  Catholics parties dashed into the political arena in Italy, France, Belgium, Austria, and Germany, once again shouting the old slogans against Atheist Bolshevism, Soviet Russia, and all those forces working for the destruction of ‘Christian’ civilization.

It was the beginning of a new chapter to the same old story: the mortal enmity of the Catholic Church towards Communism and its political embodiment—the U.S.S.R.  How could it be otherwise?  The political and social history of Europe between the two world wars revolved, as far as our study is concerned, around the relentless struggle between the religious and moral principles taught by the Catholic Church, and the social, economic, and political system advocated by Socialism.

It was this open and hidden conflict of contrasting ideologies which, in unison with forces of various natures and elements hostile to one another, and with economic, national, and other factors, contributed and greatly helped to drive great and small countries, and finally the whole of Europe and the world, into the abyss of a global war.  We have seen, country by country, how enmity towards Democracy and Socialist ideology and hatred against Russia have been amongst the main motives which have moved mighty forces, and how the rôle of the Catholic Church has been to direct these forces towards the annihilation of Socialist ideals and the destruction of Russia.


[During the Second World War Russia lost at least 6,000,000 and had possibly as many as 15,000,000 dead and wounded—anywhere from twenty to fifty times the losses suffered by her Allies (Collier’s, June 29, 1946).]


Now we have encountered another cause which has contributed, and will continue to contribute, to the hostility which the Catholic Church entertains against the U.S.S.R.—namely, the resurrected Orthodox Church.

If Soviet Russia incurred such odium from the Vatican during the period between the two world wars owing to that country having adopted the hated Communist ideology, how much greater will it be now that the Vatican’s Orthodox rival has come to fight by the side of Moscow?  And if the Catholic Church, through its unceasing exertions, succeeded in arraigning mighty social and political currents against Red Russia when the latter was comparatively weak, snubbed by the world and sponsoring simply an inimical economic system, that is from 1917 until 1939, what will it not try to do to a Red Russia emerging victorious—indeed, the second greatest Power in the post-Second-World-War period—and who, in addition to upholding her Socialist ideology and helping to spread it to other nations, at the same time counter-opposes to the centre of Catholicism, Rome, the centre of Orthodoxy, Moscow, thus continuing the fight, not on one, but on two fronts: the political and the religious?

The answer to that was given long before the war ended, first with the intrigues in Italy, the fall of Mussolini, the creation of Catholic parties everywhere, the renewed energy of political Catholicism which has suddenly re-emerged in a combative and trenchant spirit, to shape the social and political life of the nations and of the world in the future.  And from the symptoms already visible, there can be but one forecast: that the renewal of an ancient struggle and the resumption of an unfinished fight may once again greatly contribute to leading mankind to a third world catastrophe.





The Catholic Church is deeply affected by the apocalyptic events which have shaken Europe since the opening of the twentieth century and by the prospect of a future even more convulsed than the past.  Enormous losses in membership and the increasing strength and daring of its mortal enemies have compelled it to look Westwards.  Here Catholicism seeks new fields in which to consolidate and expand as compensation for its weakened position in bankrupt Europe.

This process, which had already begun in the opening years of the present century, was greatly accelerated during and after the First World War, and received a tremendous impetus particularly during the Second World War.

The Vatican has given more and more attention to the young and flourishing Church in the Americas, from which it had already greatly benefited.  Its gains are not local only, nor exclusively in the religious field.  They extend beyond America and to spheres with which at first sight the Catholic Church appears to have little or no concern.

The Vatican, in fact, is eager to transform the Americas into a solid Catholic Continent, to counterbalance the already half-lost Continent of Europe.  If this statement sounds exaggerated it should be remembered that we are dealing with an institution accustomed to carrying out its plans, not in terms of countries and years or even generations alone, but in terms of continents and centuries.

Long-range policies usually escape the notice of those who are preoccupied with more immediate issues, but it is possible to observe the Vatican’s plans in the Western hemisphere developing under our very eyes.  The increased tempo of the Catholic Church’s activities in the Americas and the success it has already achieved in that continent are more than remarkable.  This success, however, is due, not only to the energy with which the Catholic Church has undertaken its task, but also, to a very great extent, to the fact that general economic, social, and cultural conditions are infinitely more stable than in Europe.  This favors the plans of the Church, which has begun to be regarded by many as a stabilizing factor and a barrier against the revolutionary spirit of the age.

Such affinity of outlook and interests is not only to be found in those parts of the Continent which the Catholic Church has spiritually ruled for centuries—such as Central and South America—but has begun to penetrate and influence the attitude of Protestant North America as well.  For it is there that the Catholic Church has directed its main activities for a generation and is still striving to conquer.  The United States of America has become the key to the policy of the Vatican, not only with regard to the American Continent, but in relation to the whole world.

The policy of the Vatican, which for centuries was based on alliance with Catholic countries in Europe, now has been shifted to the West.  The Vatican, foreseeing the disaster impending over Europe, has been preparing for the creation of a new Catholic world in the Americas on which it will be able to rely for the secular support it needs.

For such a policy to succeed it is necessary for the Vatican, not only to exercise spiritual dominion over South and Central America, but also to capture as completely as possible the fountainhead of American dynamism—namely, the United States of America.  The United States of America, being the most powerful, wealthy, and active country in the Western hemisphere, has quickly become the undisputed leader of the American countries; and even before the Second World War it was obviously destined to be one of the most powerful countries, if not the most powerful country, in the world.

In view of this the Vatican, during the last generation, has concentrated its main efforts on making progress in the United States of America.  By so doing it has followed the rule which has guided its policy throughout the centuries—namely, to ally itself with powerful secular nations.

The activity of the Vatican in relation to the United States of America becomes even more interesting when one considers that North America is a Protestant country.  Catholics have formed only a very small minority, and powerful forces of a religious character are aligned against the incursion of Catholicism in that country.10

What was the position of the Catholic Church before this new Vatican policy was put into operation—and what is it now?  How does the Catholic Church intend to tighten its hold over a great Protestant country?  And, above all, what is the Catholic Church’s influence in social and political matters and how far has its hold affected the course of the United States of America’s foreign policy before and during the Second World War?

When Washington took command of the Continental Army, Catholicism had only one Church (in Philadelphia); while Protestant America had a yearly celebration on “Pope’s Day” (November 5), during which the Pope’s image was ceremoniously burned at the stake (1775).

On the entry of the United States of America into the Second World War (1941) the Catholic Church owned or controlled a network of churches, schools, hospitals, and newspapers spreading from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast.  It had become the biggest, most centralised and powerful religious denomination in the United States.  The American President deemed it necessary to keep an “official personal” envoy at the Vatican, besides having scores of private envoys journeying backwards and forwards between Washington and Rome as the situation required.  All this happened within the period of just over a century and a half.  The feat as such is remarkable, and becomes even more so when one considers the influence that the Catholic Church has begun to exercise on the life of the nation as a whole.

What contributed most to the numerical increase of Catholicism was the mass emigration from Europe which occurred at the close of the last century and the beginning of the twentieth century.  It was at that period that the Catholic Church gained most in strength and spread all over the States.  The following figures give an idea of the enormous numerical gains made by Catholicism only through immigration: Between 1881 and 1890 the American Catholic Church acquired over 1,250,000 new members; from 1891 to the close of the century another 1,225,000; and between 1901 and 1910 the figure was well over 2,316,000.  In the brief space of three decades Catholicism had been strengthened by almost 5,000,000 new members through immigration alone.

Parallel with this numerical increase, the establishment of new churches and all other religious, social, and cultural branches kept step with the demands of the new Catholic populations.  Their efficient supervision required a proportionately expanding hierarchical machinery.

The Vatican, already watching the progress of the American Church, was not slow in creating the necessary ruling bodies, represented by arch-dioceses, which in 1911 rose to 16, while bishoprics were brought to 40.  Religious, semi-religious, and lay institutions grew everywhere with the same rapidity.  Within thirty years, for instance, Orders for women, consisting mainly of small diocesan organizations, reached the figure of 250.  The activities of some were nation-wide, such as the Ursuline, whose members were mainly concerned with educational work, the Sisters of Charity, and so on.  Similar Orders for men grew all over the country, although they were not so numerous or varied; the principal and most active of them all was that of the Jesuits.

All these factors contributed to a steady increase of the Catholic population in the United States of America. By 1890 it had already grown to 8,909,000; in 1900 it had become 12,041,000; during the following decade it reached 16,336,000; in 1920 approximately 20,000,000 (18.76 percent); in 1930 approximately 23,000,000; and by the end of the Second World War it had passed the 24,000,000 mark (in 1946 being 24,402,124, Official Catholic Directory)

The educational work of the Catholic Church in the United States during this period and in the following decades grew in proportion.  By 1921 the Catholic Church was already conducting 24 standard colleges for women and 43 for men, 309 normal training schools, 6,550 elementary schools, and 1,552 high schools; the total attendance at these establishments exceeding 2,000,000.

This increase in the numerical strength of American Catholics and their hierarchical machinery did not stop there, but continued to soar upwards, gaining great impetus with the entry of the United States of America into the Second World War.  By the end of hostilities (1945) the American Hierarchy was made up of: 1 cardinal, 22 archbishops, 136 bishops, and about 39,000 priests; while the Catholic Church controlled over 14,500 parishes and numerous seminaries, where well over 21,600 students were being prepared for priesthood.  The number of monks was 6,700, and of nuns 38,000, while Religious Orders included 6,721 Brothers and 139,218 Sisters, of whom 61,916 nuns were engaged in works other than teaching.

[In 1946 Pope Pius XII created four additional American cardinals.]

In the field of general education the Catholic Church has made even greater strides.  In the years immediately following the First World War there were not sufficient high schools in the United States of America to deserve a separate report or an official directory, but by 1934 there were 966 Catholic schools, with 158,352 pupils; by 1943 1,522 schools, with 472,474 pupils; and by 1944 the Catholic Church was providing the teaching staff (mainly nuns) for 7,647 parochial schools, with 2,048,723 pupils.  In 1945 the Catholic Church owned, controlled, and supervised a grand total of 11,075 educational establishments, giving Catholic instruction to 3,205,804 young people (an increase of 167,948 pupils over the preceding year).

No branch of education escapes the attention of Catholicism.  It meets the needs of the youngest elementary pupils, the pupils at parochial and secondary schools, and the students at Catholic colleges and universities (769, in addition to the 193 seminaries).

American youth is cared for by the Catholic Church not only in schools, but also outside them.  For that purpose societies and organizations of all kinds have been established.  Bishops and others concerned with such activities are provided with a National Catholic Youth Council consisting of the leaders of the diocesan youth councils.  Other important bodies are the two Catholic student institutions, the Newman Club Federation and the National Federation of Catholic College Students, with more than 600 clubs.  The (Catholic) Boy Scouts are supervised by a special committee of bishops.

Once the young people have reached manhood or womanhood, the Catholic Church provides for their needs through the National Council of Catholic Men and the National Council of Catholic Women.  These Councils have set up thousands of parish groups, each responsible to its respective bishop, whom they are ready to help in his various religious and non-religious undertakings.  The building up of high schools, strengthening the Legion of Decency, sustaining the “Catholic Hour” and similar programmes on national radio networks, and so on, constitute the duties of the Councils.

The Catholic Church, which has also set itself to control the field of charitable institutions, has made similar striking progress in this direction and in the same period set up 726 hospitals.

During the Second World War the Catholic Church did not abandon its work amongst the troops, but built up a Catholic army of chaplains, which, from a mere 60 before Pearl Harbor, rose to 4,300 by 1945, Mgr. Spellman having been appointed “Military Vicar of Army and Navy Chaplains” as early as 1940.

The average number of Americans received yearly into the fold of the Catholic Church is about 85,000.  Within a single year, 1944, 90,822 American citizens became Catholics, and during the years of the Second World War the Church gained a total of 543,970 converts.

With figures like these it is no wonder that the Catholic Church, within the brief period of 155 years (1790 to 1945), has increased the number of its American members from 30,000 to over 24,000,000 (including Alaska and the Hawaiian Islands—see Catholic Directory, 1945).

The efficiency and success of all these nation-wide and manifold activities of the Catholic Church are due in part to the zeal with which the Catholics work for the maintenance and spreading of the Faith.  Not less important are factors of a purely administrative character.  The most notable of these are without doubt the Catholics’ singleness of purpose, unity, and discipline and last, but not least, the powerful nation-wide organization which directs the innumerable activities of the Catholic Church in the United States of America—namely, the National Catholic Welfare Conference.  This organization was created during the First World War to deal with problems affecting the interests of the Church in the United States of America, and appeared under the name the National Catholic War Council.  It was subsequently known as the National Catholic Welfare Council, and finally as the National Catholic Welfare Conference.  In it the American Hierarchy has almost unchallenged sway, although theoretically its power is of purely advisory nature.

The N.C.W.C. has come to be the factotum of the Catholic Church and the expansion of Catholicism depends on its driving force.

In addition to the various activities of a charitable, cultural, and educational character at which we have just glanced, the N.C.W.C.  is responsible for the efficiency of another instrument for the furtherance of American Catholicism—namely, the Catholic Press.

In 1942 the Catholic Church in the United States of America had 332 Church publications, with a total circulation of 8,925,665.  These comprised papers of all descriptions, including 125 weeklies, 127 monthly magazines, and 7 daily newspapers.  Within the brief period of ten years, up to the end of the Second World War, the circulation of Catholic papers increased by over 2,500,000—or nearly 35 percent.

All these papers are in close touch with the Press Department of the N.C.W.C.  This Department describes itself as the “International Catholic news-gathering and distributing agency, founded and controlled by the Catholic archbishops and bishops of the United States of America.”  It is ruled by journalists skilful in their profession, and maintains correspondents in all the most important towns of the United States of America and the rest of the world, collecting news items from all five continents, which are then distributed all over the country and treated from the angle best suited to the interests of Catholicism.  The N.C.W.C. Press Department during the Second World War forwarded between 60,000 and 70,000 words a week to about 190 publishers; and in 1942 it claimed to be serving 437 Catholic publications in the United States of America and other countries.

Many of these Catholic papers had a good circulation at the end of the Second World War.  To cite only a few:


Catholic Missions, 530,000.

The Messenger of the Sacred Heart, 260,000.

The Young Catholic Messenger, 420,000.

Our Sunday Visitor, 480,000.


Sales of Catholic pamphlets in the United States of America by 1946 approximated 25,000,000 a year.  In spite of war conditions, 650 new titles were published between 1942 and 1946, many attaining “best-seller” status with a sale of 100,000 copies each.  The Paulist Press leads, its sales totaling 5,967,782.  More than 10,500,000 people in 1946 bought the 367 publications of the American Catholic Press.  In the three preceding years thirty-five publications were launched and 1,500,000 subscribers were gained.  There were four Catholic dailies in foreign languages.

In addition to serving papers in the United States of America, the N.C.W.C. also serves Catholic papers abroad, especially in Central and South America.  Its Noticias Catolicas, for instance, go to all four daily papers of Mexico City.

Besides the N.C.W.C., the Church controls the Press through the Catholic Press Association, which is a Conference bringing together hundreds of publishers and editors, arranging for advertising the Catholic Press, reducing costs, encouraging Catholic outlook and Catholic journalists, and so on.

The Catholic Press, whose largest circulation is in parish papers, reaches all cultural and political strata.  Chief among such papers are the Jesuit weekly America, The Commonwealth, the Catholic World (published by Paulists), and the Inter-racial Review, which is said to be the most influential with regard to racial problems.

The last mentioned journal attempted to deal with the question of the Negroes, who at the end of the Second World War constituted one-tenth of the American population (13,000,000).  During the decade preceding Pearl Harbor the Catholic Church had started a drive for the conversion of this minority, and, although it made no remarkable progress (300,000 in 1945, as compared with the 5,600,000 acknowledging Protestant denominations), the attempt is worthy of notice.

Hostility had existed in the past between Negroes and Catholic minorities consisting mainly of immigrants who competed with the cheap Negro labor.  This began to disappear with the stabilization of the economic life of the country and with the rebellion of the Negroes against discrimination by Protestant society and the Protestant Churches.

With the passing of the years the Negro has tried with increasing success to fight back at all those forces which endeavor to keep him a second-class citizen.  The Catholic Church, by preaching racial equality and the right of the Negro to be on par with men of other races, will one day be able to swing to her side that minority—with the racial, social, economic, and political repercussions which would automatically follow.

The Catholic Church’s main instrument for the conversion of Negroes is its usual one—namely, education.  Thousands of nuns are engaged exclusively in teaching Negro children.

Almost one-tenth of the 85,000 American citizens who are annually converted to Catholicism are Negroes.  In the period between 1928 and 1940 the average per year was about 5,000, but during the war that figure greatly increased, the major gains being in urban centres such as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Baltimore.

During the Second World War the Catholic Church made great strides in its missionary work, and the number of priests devoting their full time to Negro conversion was 150 times greater than it was fifteen years before Pearl Harbor.  Religious Orders for women assigned to work amongst Negros were 72, with almost 2,000 nuns, while religious Orders for men during the same period increased from 9 to 22.  Most prominent of these Orders were those of the Josephite Fathers, founded in 1871, the Society of the Holy Ghost, the Divine Word, the Redemptorists, the Jesuits, the Benedictines; and for women the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, an Order for Negro women, and the Sister of the Blessed Sacrament.

The Catholic Church runs a university for Negroes, the St. Xavier University; and while in 1941 only ten Catholic institutions of higher learning admitted Negroes, in 1945 more than a hundred had opened their doors to them, as well as opening and encouraging on a large scale the priesthood for Negro youths.

By the end of the Second World War the Catholic Church in America, although it had prepared the machinery for the conversion of the Negroes, had by no means seriously embarked on the work, feeling it was premature.  But on the day it deems opportune it will start a full drive in the racial field and without doubt will make great inroads.  This particularly in view of the fact that about 8,000,000 Negroes claim affiliation with no religious denomination.11

We must remember that the Catholic Church thinks in terms of centuries, and that, having a long-range policy, it prepares its machinery long before it intends to use it.  One of the great moves of the Catholic Church to convert America to Catholicism will be its efforts to win over the American Negro to the Catholic Church.  Significant activities in this field were already taking place before and during the Second World War, and increased with the end of hostilities.  To quote only two: the work of the Inter-racial Review, as already mentioned, in the sphere of propaganda, and the activities of the Catholic Inter-racial Council in the field of practical endeavor.

In addition to all these activities, the Catholic Church, again through the formidable organization of the N.C.W.C., interests itself in social questions and the problem of labor.

The task of the N.C.W.C. is to drill the Catholic and non-Catholic population the social teachings of the Church in the controversial economic-social sphere, by endorsing all that the various Popes have said on the subject, based on the proclamations of Pope Leo XIII.  Thus questions dealing with the family, just wages, private property, social security, labor organizations, and so on, are propagated as seen and taught by the Catholic Church.  This teaching in the hard field of practical politics boils down to the advocacy of the Corporate State, as attempted by European Fascism, and hostility to Socialism and, above all, Communism.

The N.C.W.C. specializes in this important work through a “Catholic Conference on Industrial Problems,” which organizes discussions on current social issues—conferences which have been rightly described as “travelling universities.”  From 1922 to 1945 more than a hundred of these conferences were held in the principal industrial cities, sponsored by churches, labor leaders, professors in economics, and the like.

The Catholic Church also began a drive to train its Hierarchy in social problems.  To this end the American Hierarchy organized “Priests’ Summer Schools of Social Action” and Congresses such as the National Catholic Congress on Social Action, held in Milwaukee in 1938 and in Cleveland the following year, the first being attended by 35 bishops, 750 priests, and thousands of laymen.

Such activity is aimed at two great goals; the penetration by Catholics of the economic-social field of America, and the gaining of influence amongst workers and capitalists alike in order to fight the menace of Socialism and Communism.

To achieve both these aims the Catholic Hierarchy again employs the N.C.W.C., whose first great organized and open attack against Communism was launched in 1937, when its Social Department made a detailed survey of Communism in the United States of America.  It was followed by each diocese setting up a committee of priests to follow the progress of Communism and to report their findings to the N.C.W.C.  Catholic Schools, Catholic workers, professors, etc., had the task of passing on any news of Communist activities and were kept supplied with anti-Red pamphlets, books, and films, while the most brilliant priests were sent to the Catholic University of Washington to become experts in social science.  The Catholic Press was flooded by anti-Communist advertisements and articles, while Catholic workers and students were continually warned not to co-operate with the Reds.

This campaign was not merely theoretical, but entered the sphere of Labor itself; and also, in 1937, a special organization to fight Communism was created with the blessing of Cardinal Hayes of New York, and the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists was set up to carry the war of Catholicism into the very unions.

In addition to this Association there were many others sent on the same task, such as the Conservative Catholic Labor Alliance and the Pacifist Catholic Workers Group.

Another field in which the Catholic Church exerts a disproportionate influence is that of the screen.  In view of the immense importance that the screen has assumed in modern society, it has been one of the primary goals of the Catholic Church, particularly of the American Catholic Church, to control, either directly or indirectly, an industry whose power to influence the masses is generally agreed to be unequalled.

Although at its inception the Church did not take much notice of this new industry, with the passing of time it grew increasingly interested, an interest which finally culminated in the Pope himself taking the unprecedented step of writing an Encyclical on the subject (Vigilante Cura, issued July 2nd, 1936, by Pope Pius XI).  The Church, having realized the power of the film to influence the millions for bad or for good had determined to intervene, because as Pius XI put it, “the motion picture with its direct propaganda assumes a position of commanding influence.”  In his letter the Pope advised Catholics to see that the screen be inspired by Christian principles, to watch what was seen by the public, stating that it was their duty to have a say in the production of such a new medium and when possible to boycott films, individuals and organizations which did not conform to the tenets of the Church.  Indeed, Pius XI went even further, declaring that it would be a good thing if the whole film industry were inspired (read controlled) by the Catholic Church.  “The problem of the production of moral films would be solved radically if it were possible for us to have the production wholly inspired by the principles of Christian (read Catholic) morality,” Pius XI asserted.

Such directives came from the Vatican at a period when in the United States Catholic organizations were already hanging like invisible Damocles’ swords over every Hollywood studio, and the most important of which, the Legion of Decency, was warmly praised by the Pope himself: “Because of your vigilance and because of the pressure which has been brought to bear by public opinion, the motion picture has shown improvement.”  (Vigilante Cura.)

Although previous to the issue of this Encyclical, Catholic pressure on the film industry was considerable, after the Pope’s injunction it became even stronger, until nowadays there is hardly an individual in the whole of the film world who before planning a new production does not first reckon with Catholic approval or displeasure.

How can a religious body like the Catholic Church exert such power over an industry which at first glance has not the slightest affinity with religion?

In the same way as it does in the case of the Press or other similar means of public information or entertainment which deal directly with the masses: that is mainly through public pressure.

As early as 1927 such pressure had already become so considerable that certain producers made it a point to submit scripts to the National Catholic Welfare Conference for approval of ideas and scenes.

This custom, although unpopular, spread with the growing of the main Catholic organization which more than any other had set out to censor the film industry from coast to coast, namely the Legion of Decency, which assumed that name in 1930.  In that same year the Production Code was written and presented to the Association of Motion Picture Producers by the Rev. Daniel A.  Lord, S.J. and Martin Quigley.  The Code was meant to advise producers what to film and what not to film, what would be approved by the Catholic Church and what the Catholic Church would boycott.

This Catholic incursion into the film industry received further impetus when three years later the Papal representative summoned American Catholics “to united and vigorous campaign for the purification of the screen, which has become a deadly menace to morals.”  (Most Rev. G. Cicognani, in his capacity as a representative of the Pope.  October 1, 1933.)

The heavy machinery of boycott and threats was put into action with more vigor than before.  Millions throughout the States signed the Legion of Decency pledge: “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost . . . as a member of the Legion of Decency I pledge myself to remain away from them (films disapproved by the Church).  I promise further to stay away altogether from places of amusement which show them as a matter of policy.”

When, in addition to the rather stringent censorship through which every American film had to be subjected by the Legion, the Catholic Bishops followed the instructions of the Pope to the effect that besides the censorship of the Legion of Decency they should set up special reviewing boards in their own diocese so that “they may even censor films which are admitted to the general list (or the Legion of Decency approved list),” Hollywood became scared.

Will Hays announced that the Production Code (which until then had not been taken very seriously by the studios) would become a moral guide, and, later, took the unprecedented step of reporting to the Pope that he, Hays, thought as Pius XI did; indeed that “he found himself in accord with the Pope’s views on the morals of modern movies.”

Since the Second World War, Catholic pressure has increased a hundredfold.  Film producers who are not careful can get into trouble through being ignorant of certain moral teachings of the Catholic Church; those concerning marriage, for instance, which caused Mgr. McClafferty, Executive Secretary of the Legion of Decency, to declare: “the light of the screen as a death ray of disintegration . . . is attacking the family . . . by pictures which treat marriage lightly, which solve marital troubles through divorce.”  (Detroit, September 1946.)

At the conference at which he said this, 700 women representatives of more than 500 Catholic High Schools, colleges and universities in 30 states attended, pledging themselves to combat films which do not conform to Catholic teachings.

There are occasions when the Legion of Decency openly condemns certain films before or during production, thus involving the film company and actors in serious financial losses.  This occurred when the Catholic Church through the American Legion of Decency, “condemned” the $4,000,000 film “Forever Amber.”

Following this “condemned” rating by the Legion, numerous Bishops throughout the States denounced the film.  As a result, “some who booked the film already are reported asking to be let out of their contracts,” as Variety reported (December 1947).  After earning more than $200,000 in the first fortnight of showing, “the film receipts have fallen off considerably, due to the Church ban.”

20th Century Fox Company had to make an appeal to the United States of America Hierarchy, who insisted on certain specific conditions by which Catholic morals could be respected.  The Company had to submit to changes willed by the Legion of Decency in order to lift the film out of the “condemned” list.  Not only had the film company to appeal to the Catholic Tribunal to revise the film according to Catholic dicta, but the President of the Corporation, Mr. Spyros Skouras, had to apologize for earlier statements by Fox executives criticizing the Legion for condemning the picture.

Thus a great Film Corporation had to submit before a tribunal set up by the Catholic Church, sitting above the Courts of the United States of America, judging, condemning and dictating, not according to the laws of the country, but the tenets of a Roman Church which, thanks to the power of its organizations, can impose its standards upon, and therefore indirectly influence, the non-Catholic population of the country.

The Fox case was not the only one.  It was preceded and followed by several others no less remarkable.  To quote a similar case: during this same period the Loew Company followed up the Hollywood sacking of the ten alleged Communist writers, directors and producers by banning Chaplin’s most brilliant film, “Monsieur Verdoux,” from its 225 cinemas in the United States after a protest by the Catholic War Veterans that Chaplin’s “background is un-American” and that “he does not love the United States of America.”  Shortly before this, the Catholic Legion of Decency forced the temporary withholding of “The Black Narcissus,” a British film, on the ground that it was a reflection on Catholic Nuns.

The Catholic Church, however, does not confine its activities to condemning the motion picture industry.  It has been able to deepen its influence in Hollywood and elsewhere to such an extent that in the years following the Second World War, Protestant United States of America saw, not without bewilderment, one Catholic film after another appear in quick succession on her screens.

In 1946 plans were laid in Hollywood for the production of 52 educational Catholic films a year for schools and parish halls, under the direction of Fr. Louis Gales.  Since then various projects have taken shape in Hollywood and in influential American financial circles.

The Catholic Church has set out to capture the screens of the globe.  Hence the tremendous efforts of the American Hierarchy to exert increasingly heavy pressure upon the motion pictures of America; the American motion picture industry is the paramount supplier of films to the 90,000 cinemas of the World (1949).

As in various other spheres, the Catholic incursion into the American film industry has increased to an alarming degree.  Its penetration is due not only to its zeal to control a powerful machinery of entertainment the better to spread its spiritual influence, but to the co-operation of millions of American Catholics who are tirelessly working for the success of their Church.

And when it is remembered that large organizations such as the Knights of Columbus with its 650,000 members, the Catholic War Veterans, who in 1946 began a nation-wide campaign to increase their membership to 4,000,000, the National Council of Catholic Men, Catholic Trade Unions, the National Council of Catholic Women with more than 5,000,000 members, the Senior Catholic Daughters of America, Catholic students, and so on are all working in unison at the bidding of the American Hierarchy, it is not difficult to guess how a religious body like the Catholic Church, although still a minority, can already exert a disproportionate influence upon motion pictures, one of the greatest industries of Protestant America.

In addition to the film industry, the Catholic Church has also made great strides in the direct and indirect influencing of other instruments of public entertainment, education and information, such as the stage, the advertising business, etc.

The increasing power of the Catholic Church in practically every department of life has made it a very adventurous task for anyone to disregard discretion or prudence in the publishing world.  One could quote innumerable cases when national dailies have had to water down and very often to leave out altogether some items of news simply to avoid arousing the wrath of the Catholic Hierarchy.

Pressure on the press is exerted more often than is believed through the boycotting of advertisements, as in the well known case of David Smart when “the Catholic Hierarchy scared the shirt off his back with a boycott of his whisky advertisers in Ken and Esquire” before