COVER STORY: by Joseph Santamaria QCNews Weekly
B.A. Santamaria: the making of a political warrior
, January 21, 2006
In 1937, the 21-year-old B.A. ("Bob") Santamaria took a prominent role in Melbourne University's famous debate on the Spanish Civil War. He created pandemonium when he uttered the rallying cry, "Long live Christ the King!" What historical events and religious convictions prompted B.A. Santamaria to take this extraordinary and controversial stand? His son Joseph Santamaria QC takes up the story.
In 1936, B.A. Santamaria entered public life as the founding editor of the Catholic Worker. In 1938, he became the assistant secretary of the Secretariat for Catholic Action. In 1940, he embarked on the work which made him famous: the organisation and administration of the industrial groups.
Before doing each of those things, he had received an intellectual formation and orientation. For the rest of his life, that formation and orientation developed dialectically with his own maturity and study.
But, it is useful to examine some of the elements which seem to have been present as early as 1936. In his memoirs, published in 1980, Santamaria has some chapters on his family background and early education. He discusses the impact of the Spanish War on western political consciousness and particularly focuses on the debate at Melbourne University on March 22, 1937. He writes:
"After the Spanish debate, however, everything was changed ... From it originated the belief that so long as the Soviet Union existed, not only religion, but the liberal culture of the West, reflected in its free political institutions, was in daily jeopardy; and that if the battle was not won within the institutions of individual nations, the world would one day face a major conflagration."
That is how he wrote about it in 1980. However, there are contemporary records of what he said in that debate which are worth looking at and which may reveal these themes.
The historian Manning Clark was there. He has one description of it in the first volume of his autobiography The Quest for Grace
. Clark had written:
"The point at issue was the Spanish Civil War. That was the night when ... yes, was it Bob Santamaria ... raised the cry 'Long live Christ the King' in 'the temple of Australian secularism'. Well I remember the pandemonium after that."
There was something very special about that night. Hundreds were present; many were deeply affected. Its significance has been much discussed.Insensitive
The rallying call "Long live Christ the King" is at the heart of it. Only a fool could be insensitive to the way in which such a call would be interpreted by non-Catholics and secularists in the audience.
It is the call to theocracy. It lends itself to the interpretation that the speaker wants the secular constitution replaced by the religious; bishops and priests to rule in place of politicians; the public policy of the state to be determined by a foreign ruler: the Pope.
Of course, the idea of the kingship of Christ has no such meaning to the Catholic. And it is important to understand the themes which were implicit in Santamaria's use of it.
The distinction between Church and State is fundamental to Christianity. It was drawn by Christ himself: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's".
Jesus constantly repelled the suggestion among the Jews, and even among the Apostles, that the Messiah would restore the liberties and the kingdom of Israel. He shrank from honours; he fled from acclamation.
Moreover, for centuries, the Church was at odds with the State and could not have made the mistake of confusing itself with the State. It did not end with the Roman Emperor Constantine. He stood before the Milvian Bridge in 312. He attributed his victory to Christ. He replaced the Roman Gods with the one God.
That did not mean that the Church became the State. On the contrary, one can see in the letters of Augustine, written a century later, a sense of helplessness of the Church in the face of the depredations of the State: in its inability to protect the poor against the rich. The early success of Islam provides a rich contrast.
However, as things turned out, the Imperial Government abandoned, first, Rome and, then, Italy. The Church became the defender of the weak and the provider to the poor. During the Middle Ages, moreover, only the priest could read or write. He was forced to take on a whole series of responsibilities well beyond those properly associated with the role of a priest, which is to offer sacrifice at the altar of God. And higher responsibilities of State fell to bishops.
While it was not suggested that the State should be collapsed into the Church, nevertheless, as Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) has recently pointed out, Christianity - which began by denying that the State had "the right to regard religion as part of its own order" - came to contradict its own nature by becoming a state tradition and a state religion".
The concept of the kingship of Christ also derives from Christ himself:
"My kingdom is not of this world. If it were of this world, do you doubt that my Father would send legions of angels to my aid?"
"Long live Christ the King" was not the rallying call of Spanish Catholics as "No Pasaran
" was that of the Spanish Left. Rather, it derived proximately from the Crisitiada
in Mexico between 1926 and 1929. It was the rallying call of the Cristeros
Because of the publicity surrounding the death of Father Miguel Pro in 1927, I think it may well have been the case that, by the time he had left school, the Cristeros loomed large in Santamaria's imagination. The concept of Christ the King had developed a very special resonance by the time Santamaria entered university.Nation state
It is a complicated story. Its roots lie in the resumption of secular authority with the development of the nation state. The Reformation can be examined under several aspects. Part of it involved the resumption by the state of the responsibilities which it had abandoned; another part involved, under many different impulses, the slow differentiation of Church and State. However, Church and State were a dichotomy. Each was considered to derive its responsibility from God.
It was not only political; it was also intellectual. The Catholic gazed at the God-man on the Cross and drew powerful lessons. If this was the solution, what was the problem? It was given a name before it was understood: peccata mundi
(the sins of the world). Evidence of it abounded; but, what was it and where did it come from?
Christian theology, under the influence of Augustine, concluded that, if God had become man to save us, and, to do so He suffered death on a cross, we must be of greater dignity than was otherwise obvious to us and we must have suffered some calamity which had so separated us from God that we were incapable of restoring our relations with Him.
The idea that man could perfect himself was the heresy named after Pelagius. Man needed religion. He needed all those things such as the Church and her sacraments which Christ had provided and taught were necessary for His salvation. Accordingly, whatever the change in the constitution - from aristocracy to monarchy, from monarchy to the republic - the Church would always be tenacious to ensure the preservation of those institutions necessary for man to know the truth about himself and for his salvation.
Gradually, people became more literate. Other people became available to carry out many of the responsibilities which had been carried out by priests. History never does things cleanly. No doubt, there was a tug of war. No doubt, priests were slow to surrender functions which they had long performed. No doubt, toes were stood on and arms were broken.
But, so it turned out, there was more to it than the changing of the guard and the grinding of gears. According to Joseph Ratzinger, the Enlightenment, which could only have arisen in a culture constituted by a religion based on reason, took an anti-religious turn in the midst of "confessional conflict and the crisis of the image of God". The 18th-century secular intellectuals not only sought to deliver man from the darkness of religion; following Voltaire, they also insisted that its institutions be crushed. "Ecrasez l'infâme
" ("crush infamy").
Space does not permit an examination of the development and consolidation of anti-clericalism. But, the presence of anti-clericalism fundamentally compromised the ability of Catholics to give their adherence to the institutions developed in consequence of the French Revolution of 1789.
There is nothing in Catholic theology which is contradicted by democratic institutions. On the contrary, democratic institutions are probably more consistent with Christianity than any other political arrangements.
However, though the revolution was not the work of anti-clericals, it was soon captured by them. Within a month of the fall of the Bastille, work had begun on what became the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. The constitution has been described as the most serious mistake of the revolutionaries. It assumed that the state had jurisdiction over the Church. The willingness of Catholics to embrace democratic principles was compromised by their insistence on the independence of the Church.
As Owen Chadwick has pointed out, France was plunged into schism; and the "law of history that persecution always divides a church was thus fulfilled".Murderous oppression
Nineteenth-century French politics were dominated by the relations of church and state. Catholics were divided; and, the divisions between them were manipulated by those who stood to profit. During the last decade of the 18th century, the oppression had been murderous. Catholics found it difficult to embrace a revolution that had murdered their priests and nuns, had taken their churches, expelled the orders, occupied Rome, kidnapped two popes and pillaged Rome.
In 1802, Pius VII entered the Concordat with Napoleon Bonaparte. It was an uneasy peace.
It is hardly surprising, in the circumstances, that the autonomy of religion came to be confused with calls for the restoration of the Ancien Régime - that is, long live the king; not Christ
The goal of having Catholicism united in reaching some intelligent accommodation with the new dispensation must have seemed almost hopeless.
Successive European countries fell under anti-clerical domination. Famously, Pius IX thought he could repair the breach between church and state. He appointed a liberal Prime Minister, only to see him killed by the mob. His own secretary was shot before his eyes, and he himself was forced into exile.
|Captain Alfred Dreyfus|
The effort to subject the Church to the authority of the French state reached its culmination in the wake of the Dreyfus affair. It was the high watermark of the late French anti-clericalism.
Captain Alfred Dreyfus was a Jewish artillery officer in the French army, who was falsely accused of passing French military secrets to the German embassy in Paris. He had both the sympathy of Pope Leo XIII and the support of the Archbishop of Paris. Yet, the situation in France had become so confused that the army was able to mobilise Catholic sentiment against him.
It was a dangerous situation. The army had staked its reputation, as an institution of old France, on the guilt of Dreyfus. Support of Dreyfus was promoted as unpatriotic. Yet, when the conspiracy against him was exposed, the anti-clericals were able to blame the Church; they took the opportunity to crush it once and for all.Concordat repudiated
At first, the orders were expelled or dissolved; schools were closed. Then, in 1905, there was a thorough-going disestablishment. The concordat of 1802 was repudiated. Once more, all church property was seized and appropriated by the state. Understand what this means: the French Church was stripped of its material structure - that is, churches, bishoprics, presbyteries, colleges, convents and schools.
Furthermore, laws were passed which attempted to place the regulation of worship under a form of local government.
Pius X had become Pope in 1903. He called on French Catholics to resist what was taking place. He referred to the laws as "bad crimes". In 1906, he condemned the local associations and ordered the bishops to avoid any recourse to them in bringing worship to the people. He pointed to the laws which were being broken; the concordats which were being repudiated and the rights which were being infringed.
Thus, in the decade before outbreak of the Great War, the relations between the Church and France, her "eldest daughter", was one of crisis.
Pius X died just before the outbreak of the Great War. He was succeeded by Benedict XV who was engaged more by that war than by the consequences of the Revolution.
All this time, the Church was formulating its renewed social teaching. Before the industrial revolution, the social mission of the Church was expressed largely in works of charity. However, the industrial revolution had changed the demographic face of Europe. The population had been dislocated, from country to town.
Under various impulses (including, among them, Cardinal Manning in England), the Church actively renovated its own social teaching. At the very time that the Church was losing the benefits of established legal status, it was developing the principles which should inform its work in the world.
In 1891, Leo XIII had published his great social encyclical Rerum Novarum
(On Capital and Labour
Pius XI was elected in the conclave of 1922. Whereas Pius X was confronted by the very spoliation of the Church, Pius XI was able to reflect on what had brought these things about and how Christians should orientate themselves for the future. Freed from the crisis associated with the implementation of the anti-clerical legislation in France, Pius XI was able to bring Catholic thinking about church and state to a higher level.
On December 23, 1922, he published his first encyclical Ubi Arcano
, which had as its sub-title, The Peace of Christ in the Reign of Christ
. Thus, Pius XI brought the concept of Christ the King to the forefront of his papacy. He did not demand the re-establishment of the Church by the State; he did not even suggest that the Church was entitled to any special privileges.
However, he identified the principles fundamental to the Jacobin disposition: the elimination of God from all political, economic and social relations, as well as from the state, the family and the school. Pius XI suggested that the horrors of the Great War had arisen from the Lord having been forsaken:
"Neither God nor Jesus Christ being recognised by the law or by the state, and authority claiming to be derived from man alone, the very foundations of authority have been destroyed. The removal, namely, of the true and fundamental sanctions of law, and the ignoring of those supreme principles of justice which even the pagan philosophers, such as Cicero, believed to have been based upon the eternal laws of God alone, have brought about this destruction of the foundation of all authorities."Remedy
The remedy he identified was the "reign of Christ" with the restoration of that reign. That would be so both for individuals and institutions: the person, the family, associations and the State. Christ was to be given the highest honour in civil society. He was to be recognised as "the source of authority and law without which there would be no standard of rule, no obligation of obedience, no honour in rendering it".
However, he understood the separate jurisdiction of the State:
"Not that the Church lessens the power of civil societies, for each is legitimate in its own sphere, but rather that she perfects them as grace perfects nature. The connection between the Church and other societies places within their reach the power to assist man in the attainment of his ultimate end, which is eternal beatitude, and to secure for him, even in this life, happiness and prosperity."
It is possible to see even more clearly what Pius XI had in mind when one examines his second encyclical, Quas Primas
, published on December 11, 1925.
Pius XI dealt comprehensively with the principles fundamental to the relationship of the church to the state. The State was not the source of its own authority. All authority over every society derived from Christ.
In Quas Primas
, he formally established the feast of Christ the King as a central part of the Church's calendar. He intended that the devotion to Christ the King would be the antidote to the "plague of anti-clericalism". He also intended that an understanding of Christ's kingship would truly inform the relationship between the authority of the state over society and over the individual.
The new feast did not imply that the Church was entitled to be established; it did not imply that it was entitled to prerogatives over and against the State. Rather, Pius XI demanded that the Church be given the freedom to carry out its function.
The Church "cannot be subject to any external power", he declared. "The state is bound to extend similar freedom to the orders and communities of religious of either sex, who give most valuable help to the bishops of the Church by labouring for the extension and establishment of the Kingdom of Christ."
So, it can be seen that one of the themes present to the mind of educated Catholics at the commencement of the 1930s was the concept of the "Kingship of Christ". It had been the doctrine and the devotion emphasised by Pius XI as an antidote to anti-clerical laws.
However, it had a much broader aspect. Just as Rerum Novarum
had involved the renovation of the Church's social teaching, Quas Primas
was a most significant development in the renovation of the Church's political thinking.
In some ways, it is a reflection of the movement of salvation history, which is always from the external sign and into the intentions of the heart. In the beginning, the vehicle for salvation was Israel. An association formed by the blood, kinship, animal sacrifice, ritual and law. With the coming of Jesus, the association is based on those who hear the word of God and keep his commandments. The external corporeal association is replaced by a mystical one.
Similarly, although both the Gospels and the early history of the Church kept Church and state distinct, when the state could no longer carry out its responsibilities, it was necessary that they be fulfilled by the only other institution capable of doing so. As a result, institutions arose such as the papal states and the prerogatives of the Church within secular constitutions.
When the state was once more able or willing to resume its duties, the task of the Church came more clearly to be seen, not as preserving so many offices and so much property, but rather as a people gathered by Him from east to west offering the perfect sacrifice to the Father.
As Pius XI himself made plain in his encyclicals: it is just the same with the individual. We come to see that our salvation depends not upon our external behaviour. It is best that we kick away the props. God sees into the heart and counts as His friends, not those with office, but rather those who are prepared to die with him.
Where do the Cristeros
come into this?
During the 19th century, Mexico was itself working through the consequences of the French Revolution. It is another complicated story. Mexico fought to secure its independence from Spain; it also fought a war with the United States which led to the loss of Texas, California and New Mexico.Mexican Jacobins
The Spanish Bourbons had been able to persuade the Vatican to condemn the Mexican independence movement. This was despite the fact that Mexican Catholics and clergy were wholly in support of independence from Spain. This faux pas
on behalf of the Vatican played into the hands of the liberal anti-clericals. The Mexican Jacobins made repeated attempts to subject the Church to the State.
Throughout all this, there was among Mexican Catholics an abiding devotion to Christ the King and to Our Lady of Guadalupe. In January 1914, although there was no particular feast in the Church calendar, the Church consecrated Mexico to Christ the King.
However, in 1917, the Mexican Republic promulgated a new constitution. The constitution subjected all religious organisation and worship to the Mexican State. Article 130 of that constitution had the effect of dissolving the Church as an organisation and committing to the state the exclusive power to regulate the whole of religious life and worship.
A clash was coming. The Church was increasingly persecuted. Throughout Mexico during 1925, there were massacres and attacks upon Church property. In January 1926, the new president Calles began to enforce Article 130 of the Constitution. In July 1926, a decree, known as the "Calles Law", imposed penal sanctions on priests and bishops if they attempted to conduct the affairs of the Church independently of the law of the state.
On July 25, 1926, the bishops published a pastoral letter in which they suspended indefinitely the conduct of religious services. The churches were closed. People were unable to attend mass; unable to be married in churches; unable to have their children baptised.
The Catholic people of Mexico rose. The Cristiada
commenced. Army and police were deployed against the insurgents who were called the "christos reyos
": as it were, the "Christ the Kingers". That title was shortened to "Cristeros
". The rallying call of the Cristeros
was "Long live Christ the King! Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe!" Eventually, approximately 80,000 died.
|Fr Miguel Pro|
|Miguel Pro, having refused |
the benefit of a blindfold,
awaits his execution by
firing squad with his arms
outstretched in the
form of a cross.
On November 22, 1927, the Jesuit, Father Miguel Pro, was led through the streets of Mexico City. Calles had drawn together the world press to see the execution without trial of this miserable bandit. Pro walked to his death. He refused a blindfold. He lifted his arms and took on the shape of the crucified Christ. As he died, he shouted "¡Viva Cristo Rey!
" - "Long live Christ the King!
Within two years, the Government had been fought to a standstill. It sought peace. The Vatican reached a compromise (over the heads, it has to be said, of the Cristeros
): the Calles law would not be repealed but neither would it be enforced. The Cristeros
were told to lay down their arms. Those that did not were excommunicated. Those that did were subsequently executed by the Mexican Government.
The world press carried out the task that Calles had scripted for them. But it proved to be a great miscalculation. The photo of Miguel Pro, at the moment of his martyrdom, was published around the world to the inspiration of Catholic students everywhere.
The next struggle between the Jacobins and the Church took place in Spain.
In 1931, the King of Spain abdicated and the Second Republic was established. The republican constitution was not hostile to the Church. There was nothing to prevent Catholics from taking part in the government of Spain.
The situation was one of great complexity. It is not appropriate to trace the causes of the Spanish Civil War. But, during the 1930s, thousands of priests and nuns were murdered, churches were destroyed, and the graves of the religious were desecrated. In July 1936, the army rose against the Republican government. Painting with broad brushes, protagonists were able to describe the battle in apocalyptic terms.
Certainly, that is how it was represented outside Spain. It is easy to imagine the tension present when the matter was debated at Melbourne University in March 1937. One can see why - when Christ the King was invoked - there was, as Manning Clark described it, "pandemonium".
The invocation was undoubtedly interpreted as a reactionary demand for the re-establishment of the Church and all its ancient prerogatives. Undoubtedly, it was seen as anti-Dreyfusard, anti-liberal, anti-democratic and unpatriotic.
Of course, it was no such thing. Implied in it was not the assertion of prerogatives. Rather, it was the insistence on liberty. It did not echo the demands of Pius X that concordats be respected. Rather, it echoed the teaching of Pius XI that all authority derived from God and that political arrangements should not be used to destroy what the Church understood as God-given arrangements and the means of salvation: family, the church, Christian education and freedom of religion and association.
The Mexican Government had sought to destroy not only the prerogatives of the Church but every aspect of church life. Mexican Catholics, who had been the authors of the recent devotion to Christ the King, understood that what the Government was doing was assaulting the Kingdom of Christ.
These, then, were the historical circumstances which might account for a 21-year-old calling out "Long live Christ the King!" on March 22, 1937 in a debate at Melbourne University.Prophetic
But it seems that there was also something prophetic in what took place. It was a challenge. It saw political life not as political success; not, as prevailing. It was not "whatever it takes", nor did it suggest that the true interest of Australian Catholicism lay in grasping - Tammany-like - office and the perquisites of office.
Rather, the call echoed the call of the martyrs. It saw political life as death and sacrifice. Miguel Pro and the Cristeros
were asserting: if you kill us, you have not destroyed the royalty of God.
On reflection, one is reminded of the wish of the mother of the sons of Zebedee. The Gospel of Matthew (20: 20-25) records her asking Jesus to promise that her sons may sit, one at his right and one at his left, when Jesus comes into his kingdom. She was rebuked:
"You do not know what you are asking, Jesus answered. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?"
Miguel Pro understood very well that victory was not political success. Rather, he knew that it was a death that had brought forth life.
As the great Australian poet (and long-time friend of Santamaria), James McAuley, once wrote:"He keeps the merit in his hand,
And suddenly, as no-one planned,
Behold the kingdom grow!"