- Purchase/rental options available:
The Catholic Historical Review 89.2 (2003) 318-320
[Access article in PDF]
Pedro Segura: Un cardenal de fronteras. By Francisco Gil Delgado. (Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos. 2001. Pp. xxvii, 786. €33.56.)
In the political and ecclesiastical history of Spain during the first half of the twentieth century, few figures were more controversial than Pedro Segura y Sáenz (1880-1957), bishop of Coria (1920-1927), archbishop of Burgos (1927-1928), archbishop of Toledo and primate of Spain (1928-1931), and archbishop of Seville (1937-1955). His ingrained hostility toward the democratic reforms of the Second Republic and his monarchist sympathies led to his expulsion from the country within weeks of the Republic's proclamation [End Page 318] (1931). The Vatican, anxious to safeguard the Church's position as best it could in the new political order, forced his resignation from the primatial see a few months later. After six years of Roman exile, Segura returned as archbishop of Seville. Although deeply conservative in his political views, his resentment at the limitations imposed on the Church by what he perceived as an emerging totalitarian regime led to a series of pastoral letters and confrontations with the regime's quasi-fascist party, the Falange, between 1938 and 1940 that made him persona non grata with Franco.
During the late 1940's and early 1950's, the cardinal issued a series of pastoral letters criticizing what he saw as the authorities' laxity before the growth, minuscule though it was, of Protestant churches in his diocese. For a regime intent on negotiating a treaty with the United States, these repeated attacks proved embarrassing and used up whatever credit the cardinal had before the regime. His ecclesiastical credit proved no greater. His rigid and dictatorial administration of the diocese alienated him from his clergy and to some extent from his fellow bishops. In 1954 the Vatican, supported by the regime, carried out a series of maneuvers that culminated in the appointment of a coadjutor archbishop with full administrative powers. Segura, using his legal skills as a canonist, resisted to the point that the archdiocese had two functioning archbishops for several weeks, although in the end he had no choice but to accept the fait accompli.
Francisco Gil Delgado, canon of Seville cathedral and ecclesiastical historian, has written a book that is difficult to classify. It is part biography, part commentary on Spain's twentieth-century history, part personal memoir. The approach is strictly chronological with all of these elements mixing together uncomfortably in each chapter. The author has used Segura's personal archive, although he found that many files had been emptied by persons unknown. He has also consulted other church archives and interviewed individuals who knew the cardinal over the course of his career. Regrettably, the book's scholarly apparatus is thin, perhaps understandable in a work clearly intended for general readers.
The book provides fascinating details about Segura's career. But it provides little new information about the controversy surrounding Segura in 1931. The author sees Segura primarily as a victim of an unfair campaign launched by the republican government, although the cardinal was among the last of the Spanish bishops to urge the faithful to accept the new regime. Moreover, with characteristic indiscretion he did so while praising King Alfonso XIII, to whom he owed his appointment as archbishop of Toledo. Segura's political ideas, inspired by a deep hostility toward modern liberal values and a determination to defend the Church's interests, were common enough among the clergy of the time. But in circumstances that demanded caution, the cardinal's imprudence made him a symbol of clerical intransigence for republican opinion. Curiously, he was not overtly political beyond his almost romantic sympathy for the monarchy. He was not an admirer, for example, of the Primo de Rivera dictatorship of the 1920's in spite of its concessions to the Church, while his monarchist sympathies diminished considerably after 1931 until the last years of his life when he [End Page 319] supported the pretender to the throne, the Count of Barcelona, whose program...