The first four volumes of documents from the personal archive of Cardinal Isidro Gomá y Tomás (1869-1940), archbishop of Toledo and primate of Spain between 1933 and 1940, cover the period between July, 1936, when the military rising against the Second Republic began, and March, 1937. Few prelates in the Spanish Church's modern history faced greater challenges than the elderly Gomá, who had been promoted to the most important position in the hierarchy from the obscure diocese of Tarazona. It is not entirely clear even today why Pope Pius XI surprised ecclesiastical pundits of the day by passing over more well-known and experienced bishops in favor of Gomá, who had become a bishop only in 1927. Gomá's reservations about the policy of accommodation between the Church and the Republic attempted by Cardinal Vidal y Barraquer, the hierarchy's leader since the republican authorities forced the resignation from the archbishopric of Toledo of Cardinal Pedro Segura in the fall of 1931, may have moved the pope, frustrated by the strong anticlerical legislation passed by the Republic in 1933, to make the appointment.
As these first volumes in a projected multi-volume series show, Gomá was a meticulous record keeper who kept virtually every document that passed over his desk. Unfortunately, his archive for the period prior to July, 1936, was destroyed in the anticlerical disturbances that swept republican Toledo in the aftermath of the generals' rising on July 18, 1936. Gomá was more fortunate than his archive. When the conflict began, he was absent from his diocesan seat in an area dominated by the Nationalists, thereby escaping certain arrest, if not worse. The new archive that he began to assemble includes a wide range of documents including his communications with the Holy See and his correspondence with officials of the Franco regime and his fellow bishops as well as with other ecclesiastical and lay figures. Some of the documents in the collection have been published before, particularly Gomá's reports to and correspondence with Cardinal Pacelli, the papal secretary of state. But publication of the archive now makes it possible to follow with some clarity the Spanish Church's reaction to the rapid unfolding of events during the early months of the Civil War.
Gomá wore many hats as he confronted what often seemed to him an impossible task. As archbishop of Toledo, he worried about the fate of his diocese, where priests were subject to a wave of persecution. As president ex-officio of the Committee of Metropolitans, he had to confront the terrible reality of massive executions of bishops, priests, and religious in the republican zone. He conducted often difficult negotiations on ecclesiastical matters with a regime that was by no means free of a regalist view of church-state relations. As Pius XI's personal representative to General Franco (from December, 1936), he engaged [End Page 341] in a delicate, sometimes tense, juggling game between the Vatican and the Nationalist government over the extension of full diplomatic recognition. As an apologist, he defended the rising against the Republic as necessary to save the country from Communism and atheism. He was the author, for example, of the hierarchy's 1937's Collective Letter to the world's bishops exalting the war as a religious crusade. The cardinal's correspondence with his fellow bishops with respect to the Collective Letter reveals the evolution of his ideas over several months, although it also shows that more bishops expressed reservations about the project than once was thought because they feared that its publication might worsen the already desperate situation of clergy and laity in the republican zone.
Gomá's role as an apologist for the rising against the Republic in the name of religion caused controversy during the Civil War. It has continued to do so. There is no...