- New Perspectives on the Spanish Civil War:The Gomá Archive
The publication of the final volumes of the archive of Cardinal Isidro Gomá y Tomás (1869–1940), archbishop of Toledo and primate of Spain during the Spanish Civil War, concludes one of the most ambitious editorial projects in Spanish ecclesiastical history. Together with the published archive of Cardinal Francisco Vidal y Barraquer, archbishop of Tarragona and effective head of the hierarchy between 1931 and 1935 (Arxiu Vidal i Barraquer: Esglesia i Estat durant la Segonda Repúlica Espanyola, 1931–1936, ed. Miquel Batilori and Victor Manuel Arbeloa, 4 vols., Barcelona, 1971– 91), the Gomá archive provides a wealth of material for the study of the Spanish Church during the most turbulent period of its modern history.1 Some of the documents have been published previously, particularly those related to the complex and difficult relations between the Holy See and the Francisco Franco regime over the extension of full diplomatic recognition. But the archive covers a broad range of subjects affecting every aspect of ecclesiastical and religious life during the Civil War. There are, to be sure, materials on minor topics such as the cardinal’s intervention with the [End Page 792] Nationalist authorities to expedite the export of olive oil to the Vatican or to secure reduced railway fares for the clergy. Some of the correspondence is formulaic such as the numerous letters of congratulation received by Gomá from Spanish and foreign prelates on the occasion of the publication of the Collective Letter (1937) written by the cardinal on behalf of the Spanish hierarchy to the world’s bishops to justify the Nationalist cause as a defense of Christian civilization. But there is abundant documentation on the central issues affecting the Church, including relations with the papacy, the immense task of reconstruction in the former Republican zone where nearly 7000 clergy and religious had perished, the very nature of the Nationalist regime and its ideology, the problem of the Church’s reaction to the determination of the military to root out the autonomist sympathies of many Basque clergy in one of the country’s most Catholic areas, and the educational role of the Church under Franco.
Little in Gomá’s background prepared him for the formidable difficulties he would face during the Civil War. Ordained in 1885 for his native Tarragona archdiocese, he served briefly as a parish priest, then received doctorates in theology and canon law. He spent more than two decades as a seminary professor before he assumed diocesan administrative posts and was promoted to the obscure bishopric of Tarazona in 1927. Pope Pius XI, using the power to appoint bishops freely as a result of the separation of church and state by the Republic, surprised ecclesiastical pundits of the day by appointing Gomá archbishop of Toledo and primate of Spain in 1933. It is not entirely clear why the pope did not follow the customary practice of naming the prelate of a larger diocese to the most important position in the hierarchy.
But Gomá possessed important strengths. Although he was sixty-six when the war began and suffered from bouts of poor health, he worked tirelessly at the monumental task before him. His correspondence with bishops, clergy, government officials, generals, diverse figures in the Vatican, and even individuals of modest social standing reached impressive...