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Reviewed by:
  • William J. Callahan
El clero en la Segunda República: Madrid, 1931–1936. By José Luis González Gullón. (Burgos: Monte Carmelo. 2011. Pp. 483. €19,23 paperback. ISBN 978-84-8353-356-7.)

This ambitious work on the clergy in the Diocese of Madrid during the Second Republic provides a rare study of the clerical rank and file in a period of political upheaval and intense popular and official anticlericalism. Between 1931 and 1933 the new republic ended historic ties between church and state, suppressed the Society of Jesus, curtailed the role of the Catholic Church in education, and introduced a variety of measures designed to convert Spain from a confessional to a secular state. The 1933 general elections gave the Church a limited respite from such policies, a situation that changed dramatically for the worst following the Popular Front electoral triumph in February 1936. This study is based on extensive archival sources—particularly those of the Madrid diocese—and a wide range of supplementary materials, personal letters, diaries, and clerical publications. It provides a convincing account of how the secular and regular clergy responded to the twists and turns of official policies with respect to the Church during these years. Although vaguely sympathetic to the monarchy, the clergy followed papal and episcopal instructions to accept the Republic following its proclamation in April 1931. This cautious optimism soon gave way to apprehension in view of the regime’s secularizing polices and the wave of church [End Page 827] burnings that swept through Madrid in early May 1931. These fears never dissipated during the Republic’s short history. Indeed, they deepened following the assassination of thirty-four priests and religious in Asturias during an attempted rising against the conservative ministry then in power and resurfaced with a vengeance following the Popular Front electoral victory that brought with it a revival of official anticlericalism and popular violence against Church and clergy.

The discussion of clerical reactions to the Republic is sound. It confirms in abundant detail prevailing interpretations among historians. But the greater part of the study focuses on subjects that will be of greater interest to those interested in the role of the Church and its clergy during this conflictive time. The author discusses the complex organization of the diocese, clerical demography, and what might be termed pastoral sociology to draw a grass-roots picture of the clergy unmatched by any other study. He focuses on the approximately 700 members of the diocesan clergy, although recognizing the educational and pastoral role of the religious orders.

The administration of the diocese rested with Bishop Leopoldo Eijo y Garay, appointed in 1923. The bishop ran a tight administrative ship, but maintained close contacts with his priests. He proved adept at fund-raising efforts needed to compensate for the massive reduction of the subsidy traditionally provided by the state until the Republic. Although later a fervent supporter of General Francisco Franco, he adopted a prudent stance in reaction to government policy. On one occasion, for example, he resisted pressure from right-wing Catholic politicians and the Holy See itself to take action against a republican priest who had won election to parliament as a deputy of a strongly anticlerical party. He also was aware of the need to promote the pastoral and cultural energy of his priests through the organization of conferences and spiritual exercises.

Eijo was generally satisfied with the quality and commitment of the diocesan clergy. But he also recognized that serious structural problems obstructed effective pastoral work. None was more important than the imbalance between the well-staffed parishes of the city’s historic core and the inadequate number and staffing of parishes serving the working-class suburbs where an ever growing population lived in desperate conditions. Efforts to remedy the situation were largely unsuccessful both for financial reasons and the unwillingness of priests to accept appointments to areas where anticlerical currents ran deep.

There were other problems. For centuries, Madrid, even before becoming a diocese in 1885, experienced a constant flow of priests from other dioceses seeking to improve their lot by obtaining positions in the city’s numerous religious and charitable foundations. Although the bishop...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-0708
Print ISSN
0008-8080
Pages
pp. 827-829
Launched on MUSE
2012-12-06
Open Access
No
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