Friday, November 9, 2007

Spanish Beatified Priests, Nuns, and the Luftwaffe

At my Vatican Rag web page I recently posted a commentary, Vatican Names Fascist Saints. In short the Catholic Church has beatified almost 500 clerics who it claims were killed by the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930's.

Coincidentally further light was shed on the situation because last weekend I went to the local Pay and Take, a fundraiser for seniors, in Gualala to check out the used books for sale. I bought four, spending $3.00 of my hard-earned dough. One book was The Rise of the Luftwaffe - Forging the Secret German Air Weapon 1918 - 1940 by Herbert Moloy Mason, Jr. Like most curious people and particularly political scientists, I have spent some time studying the Nazi (German National Socialist Party) rise to power. I figured at worst I would be treated to stories of air battles and design changes in early aircraft.

The book added some fascinating insights to the Nazi story. One of the most powerful, and bizarre, Nazis was Hermann Goering, a World War I ace fighter pilot. After the Nazis came to power (they were elected on a program virtually identical to that of the U.S. Democratic Party of the same era) Goering was put in charge of the German air force, or Luftwaffe. The first combat the Luftwaffe saw was in the Spanish Civil War. The Luftwaffe provided an air lift to General Franco's troops, from Morocco into Spain. Then the Luftwaffe bombed the Spanish Navy, which had mostly stayed on the side of the Republic (the sailors mostly had to kill their officers to achieve that end). Then the Luftwaffe took on the Republican air force, since most of the pilots had sided with the Republic.

At that point the Luftwaffe began the first major aerial bombing campaign in human history. They attacked the Basques, who had sided with the Republic. Which brings us back to the Catholic martyred saints story. I quote from page 231 of The Rise of the Luftwaffe, about Operation Magic Fire:

"The raid caught Durango at the time of early mass, and the town's three large churches were filled. One bomb plummeted through the roof of the Church of the Jesuit Fathers, killing everyone inside except the vicar. Another ripped into the roof of the Santa Susana chapel, killing fourteen nuns. Santa Maria was hit just as Father Don Carlos Morilla was elevating the Host; he was crushed under tons of rubble. The bombs poured through the rest of the town, and when the Ju.52s had emptied themselves, the He.51s swooped down ... the next day ... The fighters added new touches to their technique by machine-gunning the streets after scattering their fragmentation bombs, and two Sisters of Charity were thus killed while running for safety."

A few days later the more-celebrated carpet bombing of Guernica took place.

But the Nationalists fought for religious intolerance of a Catholic sort, Adolf Hitler himself was a Catholic, and by then Pope had already made a pact of collaboration with Benito Mussolini (who also aided General Franco).

Maybe if an outcry is raised, some day the priests and nuns killed by the Fascists will be beatified. That would surprise me, but they say with God anything is possible. More likely the Catholic Church will make Francisco Franco a saint first. After all, he is the Constantine the Great of the 20th century.


  1. I read this with interest. And there are things that could be more precise. Hitler was no Catholic. He may have been raised as Catholic but he never lived as Catholic. The other thing is that Catholics in Spain were not fighting for Hitler. They were fighting against Stalin's intervention in Spain.

  2. Jose - I think you will find that General Franco & Catholic friends were killing every non-Catholic they could get their hands on long before the USSR started giving aid to the Republican government. While Hitler was made Chancellor of Germany with the Pope's blessing, later they argued about many details. Within the Vatican some of Hitler's opponents tried to get him excommunicated. But the Church found he was a true Catholic and did not excommunicate him. And who would deny that the Fascist Franco was a Catholic?