Making the State Sacred: Catholicism's Role in Spanish Politics, 1759–1937

Association for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies
Friday, January 7, 2011: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Brandeis Room (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
Brian D. Bunk, University of Massachusetts
Enrique A. Sanabria, University of New Mexico

Session Abstract

This panel will explore Catholic political action in Spain during periods of increased anti-clerical sentiments of the late 18th through early 20th centuries. From the Iberian “Reconquista”, Catholicism played an integral role in developing the Spanish State. As Spanish Empire grew, the Catholic Monarchs defended Catholicism throughout the world, particularly in the costly wars of the Reformation and Counterreformation. Influences of the Enlightenment and French Revolution threatened religious authority in Europe, and questions arose about the role of the Church within the state. Spain was not immune from these influences, particularly during the Napoleonic invasion, War of Independence, Carlist Wars, First Republic, and the Monarchic Restoration. Liberalizing elements attacked this traditional bond, hoping to remove the Church's position in the government. The declaration of the Second Republic in 1931 highlighted this conflict and created a constitution that secularized the state, seized Church lands, and prohibited Catholic education in public schools. While liberals, socialists, and communists heralded this change as a victory against the power of the Church, Spain's devoted and conservative elements identified the Republic as a direct attack against their faith and identity. The Nationalist forces of the Civil War (1936-1939) used the language of “crusade” to garner support in traditional segments of society for their battle against the “atheistic and Bolshevik” Republic. Collectively, these three papers will explain how Catholics, in both Spain and the Vatican, used their historically powerful connections to affect the political atmosphere of the state. Even during the most anti-clerical periods of Spanish history, the strong Catholic influence in the state was able to repel attacks and find ways to express concerns relating to national politics. Catholicism's role in the Spanish state and culture remained undeniable, but this panel will actively highlight how different groups of Catholics found ways to manipulate the state, even during periods of liberalization. Scott Eastman's study will investigate the role of clergy in the National-Catholicism of Spain from 1759-1823. His work will explore the possibly paradoxical relationship between issues of national identity and to those of religious identity in Spain. Samuel Pierce will present a paper that explores the ability of a conservative organization that helped young Catholics use the freedoms of the Second Republic to undermine the political system. The Juventud de Acción Popular succeeded in organizing large segments of devote, young Catholics for the restoration of conservative ideals in Spain. Karl Trybus's research will highlight the attitudes of the Holy See during the early period of the Civil War. He will explore the Vatican's serious concerns about the Second Republic's inability to maintain peace, initiating communications about the destruction of Church property and the abuse of clergy. Together, these three studies will help to explain the powerful and historical influence of Catholic religious beliefs within the Spanish political system. This panel will attract an audience interested in the ever-changing role of Catholicism within Spanish politics, or those interested in the relationship of the Catholic Church with the governments of modern states.