Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Lessons of History

The Lessons of History 



My grandfather, for whom I’m named, fought against the Communists in Spain in the 1930’s in the Spanish Civil War.  I never knew much about his experiences because he died when I was six and my father said he would never speak about the war.  Over the two and a half minutes that were spent in high school covering the Spanish Civil War we were told it was a preview of World War II, which I have since learned is utter nonsense.  You can call the Franco government fascist, but he and the Nationalists were as far as you can get from Hitler and the Nazis.  The history and causes behind the Spanish Civil War were not those that led to German aggression in World War II, but there are many parallels to what is happening today in the United States.

It’s been said that those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it, and that has been proven true.  Our nation has not reached the point of 1936 Spain, but it is our duty to read the signs of the times.  Let’s fight now, in the courts, in the voting booth, in the arena of ideas, in prayer, so that we and our children will never face the horrors that my grandfather kept hidden for the last 40+ years of his life.

A quick look at a few of the events surrounding the build-up to the Spanish Civil War will prove some of them hauntingly familiar.  After disheartening election results in April, 1931, King Alfonso XIII left the country, ironically hoping to avoid heightening tensions that he feared might lead to civil war.  Immediately the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed, in which most of the cabinet members were openly hostile to religion.

The government promised to fundamentally change the nature of the country, and in October of 1931 Manuel Azaña, a future President, said in a speech that Spain had ceased to be Catholic.  Language is important and we would do well to remember that we have a President who ran on the promise of “change,” and famously declared that the United States is not a Christian nation.  His clarification of the remark still gave a distinct impression of a break with our historical tradition.

The turmoil that followed in the Spanish government and election irregularities in the early 1930’s have not yet been replicated in the United States, but much of the rhetoric and policies of the government toward the Church have been.  Church institutions were denied public funds, religion was forced out of education, and the public manifestation of religion was suppressed.  In response to critics, Azaña said, “Do not tell me that this is contrary to freedom.  It is a matter of public health.”  That quote should send chills down our spines given the administration’s defense of Obamacare and the anti-religion mandates that have been added to the legislation by executive order.

We’ve also seen education under attack, particularly with attempts to include a redefinition of marriage to curriculum.  And though Catholic schools have not yet been targeted, influential voices in Washington have said that the Church’s teachings on sexuality are bigoted and passing them on to children constitutes abuse.

There were violations of executive power in Spain.  In January, 1937 the President dissolved the Cortes (the parliament) in violation of his rights under the Constitution.  As mentioned before, President Obama’s controversial mandate is not in the health care law passed by the legislature.  He is changing the rules as the game progresses.  He also recently made a recess appointment even though the Congress was not in recess.

Class warfare was a prominent player in the demise of Spanish society.  There was a large anarchist contingent and one of the Communist leaders of Spain’s “revolution” proclaimed, “I desire a republic without class warfare; but for this it is necessary for one class to disappear.”

It would be a gross injustice to equate this unbelievable statement with anything Mr. Obama has said or done, but it is apparent that he has tried to benefit from the class warfare perpetuated by the Occupy movement.

I am not suggesting that we are watching a direct reenactment of 1930s Spain occur in the United States presently.  The population in Spain was far more sympathetic to anarchy and Communism, and there were numerous attacks on churches, priests, nuns and Catholic laypeople, including murders.  However, the trouble in Spain accelerated when an anti-Catholic, far-left government took power and began persecuting the Church through rhetoric, propaganda and unjust laws and regulations.  That is becoming more and more familiar to us here.

My grandfather and the other Nationalists had no choice but to take up arms, but we do.  We can draw a line in the sand now, and refuse to budge any further.  We can use every peaceful means at our disposal to fight back.  And, of course, every spiritual means.  There have been many throughout the course of history who thought they could destroy the Church, but at each time Our Lord raised up saints to defend her.   Now we are being called to be those saints.