[Index / Índex]
At first glance, Serra d’Or might seem an unpromising place to look for liberal Catholic resistance to Francoism. Up to end of 1963, it described itself as the ‘Organ de la Confraria de la Mare de Deu de Montserrat’, and throughout the period we are concerned with it incorporated a Butlettí del Santuari, which gave news of the life of the Montserrat community, pilgrimages to the shrine, weddings, and First Communions. The subtitle, however, is misleading. Apart from small local bulletins and newsletters published in Catalan, and occasional articles in Catalan in predominantly Castilian-language journals, Serra d’Or was the only periodical in Catalan circulating throughout Catalan-speaking areas. It therefore had to fulfil multiple roles, reflected in the progressive expansion in size of each number from 36-40 pp. in 1961 to 80 pp. by December 1962. As one would expect, the journal included articles on pastoral theology, which was its main concern. Directly theological articles, however, usually occupied only about 5% of the space, though other matters were discussed from a predominantly Christian perspective. The bulk of each number was made up of articles on literary criticism, world affairs, economics, art and archaeology, cinema, architecture, urban development, housing and industrial design.
Beating the censor
The impact of this policy may be guaged by the hostility it provoked in right-wing circles. One manifestation of Serra d’Or’s internationalism was its frequent reprinting in Catalan of extracts from Informations Catholiques Internationales, which in 1961 published two articles on the state of the Church in Poland, in the course of which it referred to the Catholic organisation Pax, which was the trying to open a dialogue with the Communist regime. Conservative elements in the French Church, under the influence of the Polish hierarchy and emigré Polish Catholics, regarded Pax as virtually a Soviet spy network, and, from 1963, mounted a virulent campaign against Informations Catholiques Internationales because of what they regarded as their excessively sympathetic treatment of the organisation. In July 1964, El Español, in an article entitled ‘La revista Serra d’Or y los progresistas’ (almost invariably a term of abuse in right-wing Spanish journalism), demanded that Serra d’Or clarify its position vis-à-vis Informations Catholiques Internationales, which it described as ‘filocomunista’, a charge which was repeated even more explicitly the following year by El Cruzado Español and ¿Qué Pasa? (3)
Ante los secretos de la gramática, la habilidad de la alusión, la sutileza de los recursos literarios, las ambivalencias de alguna figura retórica, las segundas intenciones que para el público son perfectamente inteligibles como primera, los trucos de la confección y titulación, el lugar del periódico al que se condena la nota, el comentario, la glosa, la información sugeridas por la autoridad - ardid conocido de los lectores - ; ante el silencio que puede ser tan significativo, ante el mismo elogio, desmesurado ex profeso, la técnica judicial de los tribunales ordinarios puede resultar ineficaz e inadecuada en la mayoría de los casos. (7)
The freedom, however limited, conferred by these rhetorical subtleties, and by inconsistencies in the application of censorship, was exploited to the limits of safety by Serra d’Or. A typical example is the following apparently innocent item, tucked away in a series of miscellaneous notes, and entitled ‘Joventut i gerontocràcia’:
John F. Kennedy ha estat eligit President dels Estats Units d’Amèrica a l’edat de 43 anys. Setmanes abans, Janio Quadros, d’una edat semblant, era eligit President dels Estats Units del Brasil. Un amic, comentant aquests fets, m’invitava a girar l’esguard entorn nostre, a casa nostra. Ho vaig fer: l’experiència s’ho val i explica moltes coses’ (I-1961, 11). (8)
Another factor which enabled Serra d’Or to function relatively unmolested was that it relied on ecclesiastical, rather than state approval. As Josep M. Piñol has pointed out, publishers of religious books in Catalan tended increasingly, from the late 1950s on, to bypass government censorship and submit material only to the Church censor. In many of these cases, advantage was taken of a network of personal contacts comparable to that which operated in the state offices. (9) It is true that some of the ecclesiastical censors were even stricter than the state ones, but Serra d’Or enjoyed the additional advantage of being published by a monastic order, which enjoyed a certain measure of independence vis-à-vis the local bishop.
Aggiornamento: Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council
Besides, it was difficult for the state to censor a publication which was reflecting developments in the Church world-wide. Serra d’Or took advantage of this to quote statements from bishops and theologians writing in the new spirit of openness in the years before and during the Second Vatican Council. This new climate was characterised by, inter alia, a concern for social justice, represented especially by Pope John XXIII’S encyclical Mater et Magistra (1961). As an article by Dom Hilari Raguer emphasises (IX-61, 2-4), this document proposed no rigidly applicable formulae, but ‘una sèrie de exigències en el fons de cada un dels sistemes que la moral cristiana no exclou’. In other words, the encyclical requires Christians to seek what is best in secular systems of value, as well as in its own traditional ethical standards. This entails careful and critical thought, to discern how Christians are called to respond to the demands of justice in the world, and also implies that some political systems are incompatible with Christianity.
Strategies of criticism: Serra d’Or and the Spanish state
Despite the encouragement given to open discussion by Papal encyclicals, the scope for direct political comment within Spain was still very limited. Anything which explicitly questioned the basic structure of the state or its political modus operandi was taboo. The virtual silence surrounding the exile of Abbot Escarré, (11) who had come under severe pressure from the regime after giving a highly critical interview to Le Monde, and the total absence of comment on the violent attacks against premises associated with the monastery, (12) are very revealing. But it was still possible to comment on issues like housing, especially in the wake of the floods which struck Catalonia in September 1962, in which an estimated total of about 1,000 people died. This event gave rise to one of the most trenchant and direct statements on the economic structure of Spanish society to appear in Serra d’Or:
Hem emprat el mot exposar, plenament conscients del que dèiem. Car és evident que les persones que construeixen llurs habitatges en les condicions i als llocs esmentats, no ho fan pas per gust, ans al contrari, forçades per les estructures d’una societat, fonamentades en una economia basada en el lucre i l’especulació, en lloc d’ésser-ho en una economia dirigida al servei de la persona humana, i a satisfer, en lloc primeríssim, les necessitats més elementals de tots els ciutadans, com és l’habitatge, per exemple (XI-62, 14).
Serra d’Or’s critics could not fault the journal on this occasion for focussing attention on Catalan concerns, for the problem is clearly presented as an all-Spain one: some 90% of the victims were poor immigrants, whose living conditions prior to the disaster are described with an unmistakable undercurrent of anger: many earned as little as 36 ptas. a day, and could only afford to live in shanty-towns because the cheapness of the land was related to its unsuitability for building. When a second episode of flooding occurred in November, Serra d’Or returned to the attack, directing attention to abuses committed by landlords in poor areas inhabited by immigrants from Murcia. In defiance of the prohibition on converting old houses into multiple dwellings, some owners had even constructed huts in the patio: in one such building 21 families lived, paying rents which varied between 75 pesetas a month and 500: ‘No especifico les condicions d’higiene, ja que era una cosa que no tenia nom’ (II-63, 23-4).
La marxa de la cultura catalana no s’ha interromput, en són mostra suficient, ara per ara, la publicació cada dia en augment de llibres, la proliferació de conferències, l’interès de la gent jove pel seu propi idioma, els estudis que el nostre passat suscita, l’entusiasme per les manifestacions de caràcter folklòric, el ressorgiment de la poesia, de la novel·la, àdhuc del teatre a despit de les aparences (VI-63, 12). (13)
The repressive apparatus of the state was unable to cope with the volume of production in Catalan, or with the quiet determination of the community to express itself in the way which was natural to it. Besides, the regime wanted from 1962, when the first approach was made to the EEC, to present a more acceptable face to the world, including organisations like UNESCO. Serra d’Or was therefore a show-case for this cultural activity.
Al cristià, avui, li manquen síntesis doctrinals de tota la seva realitat. Síntesis vigoroses, globals, que abracin la seva religiositat marcada per la trascendència, però que al mateix temps abracin l’evolució i el progrés d’un món material, i les inquietuds intel·lectuals, científiques, polítiques, sociològiques i artístiques dels homes (X-62, 13).
In attempting such a synthesis, Teilhard stands in the tradition of the great synthesisers of the past, such as Aquinas and Augustine. With rare courage, Serra d’Or also pointed out, perfectly correctly, that a Monitum was not a condemnation or a suppression but merely a warning to pastors and educators of the young.
Strategies of dialogue: Serra d’Or and the secular world
The terms in which Serra d’Or couches its defence of Teilhard illustrate another feature of its characteristic ethos, which may best be described as ‘humanism’. Whereas Catholic publications have not, traditionally, encouraged their readers to engage with the secular world except on the cautious terms dictated by the hierarchy, Serra d’Or, well before the promulgation of the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, (15) and in the spirit of Pope John’s encyclicals, was advocating an attitude of co-operation and openness towards all institutions which, whatever their ideological presuppositions, were in practice working for a more humane social order. An article in the August 1961 issue, ‘Cultura, vida i cristianisme’, has as one of its subheadings ‘Salvem valors humans’, which could be taken as a summing-up of this attitude, which covered a wide spectrum, ranging from a religiously-inspired desire to seek spiritual values in all aspects of human culture to a more politically-orientated advocacy of dialogue with Marxism.
...hem de saber estimar el cristianisme també en allò que té de valor humà, amb drets indiscutibles entre els valors humans, que hem de defensar gelosament davant aquells qui no ens el voldran admetre sinó com a valor humà.
A logical extension of this attitude is the willingness to contemplate a working alliance, for certain purposes, with social forces traditionally considered a-religious or anti-religious. Thus the following statement from Témoignage Chrétien is quoted with approval as an example of the ‘progressisme cristià’ of that journal: ‘...si tenim les mateixes opinions sobre determinats fets concrets, no veiem per què no hauríem de mirar la possibilitat de treballar, entre altres, amb els comunistes’ (7-64, 9). Though in countries like France and Italy the Church and the Communists were competing for the same constituency, there is little evidence here of a crude proselytising intention, but rather of a genuine desire to find common ground for dialogue. This tendency is of long standing, for as early as 1961, Serra d’Or quoted from an article by the liberal Catholic journalist Georges Hourdin, in which, while recognising that the Cuban revolution had taken an atheistic direction, he spoke glowingly of the changes which had taken place, and concluded, ‘no podrem pas evitar la implantació del comunisme en el món, si al mateix temps no ajudem Fidel Castro a continuar la seva obra d’alliberament econòmic i la seva obra de justícia social’ (VII-61, 5).
Speaking out: 1964-65
Such formulations are characterised by a certain blandness, for neither in the two-part article on ‘Problemes d’una democràcia econòmica’, from which the above quotation is taken (November and December 1962), nor in one on economic development in China (October 1961) is there any clear recognition that certain methods of achieving economic progress entail a high political price in terms of human rights. This may partly be due to the political sympathies of certain contributors, but may also be ascribable to the theoretical nature of the problems being discussed. When more concrete and immediate issues are commented on, the tone can be noticeably more sharp-edged. One of the most striking articles in this whole period 1960-65 (XII-62, 20-24) describes the building by voluntary labour of a social centre in one of the most deprived shanty-town areas in Barcelona, Can Tunis. The nucleus of the original population consisted of those evicted from the port area more than thirty years before, who were allowed (‘quina generositat!’, remarks the author, Francesc Candel) to take the rubble of their demolished dwellings with them to rebuild elsewhere. Candel is quite outspoken about where he thinks the blame for this situation lies:
Els dirigents del Port Franc han estat, doncs, els qui han contribuit a la creació d’aquest suburbi, d’aquest gran poble de barraques, on l’home viu d’una manera indecorosa, injusta i, per què no ho direm, inhumana (XII-62, 21).
Those who took part in the work of building the centre had to cope with seeing their half-completed building demolished by officialdom, but doggedly resumed the task, showing what the main instigator, the local pharmacist Elías Ortiz, called ‘la presa de consciència d’aquella veïnat’.
La unió fa la força, i aquests veïns estan units. Ells volen casa, pis: pisos com els que fa el ‘Patronato de la vivienda’, fent-los pagar un acompte no massa abusiu. A nosaltres ens sembla que no poden ésser més raonables, sobretot si partim de la base que tenen dret a habitatge de franc, baldament només sigui per les calamitats passades i les que encara passen (V-65, 72-3).
A comparable outspokenness is found in Dom Miquel Estradé’s outraged reaction to comments made by a Madrid Catholic weekly (which, however, he does not name: there were still limits to what was tolerated) on leading progressive churchmen. Of Fr. Yves Congar, O.P., the article, as quoted by Estradé, said ‘el P. Congar, destacado líder del progresismo, puso el grito en la estratosfera (no decimos en el Cielo porque no cree en él)’, and went on to refer to Cardinals Gerlier and Feltin, ‘a quien el diablo habrá dado ya a estas horas su merecido’. Estradé’s reaction leaves no room for doubt:
En boca d’una criatura, o d’un irresponsable, no estranya res: judicis, insults, tot son raons. Pero és molt gros que això sigui dit d’un cristià - i home consagrat, encara! - per un altre cristià; i a sang freda! (VIII-65, 10).
But perhaps the most significant manifestation of this increased explicitness about sensitive subjects is the series of articles and book-reviews on recent Catalan history which appeared in the summer of 1965. In the July issue, Ambrosi Carrion recalled his experiences in the Ateneu Enciclopèdic Popular, which, prior to the Civil War, had helped young working-class men to educate themselves, at a time when public libraries were only open during the working day. The Ateneu also encouraged an adventurous climate of debate, which often caused its activities to be suppressed by the authorities (VII-65, 43-45). In August, two important books, Albert Balcells’s El sindicalisme a Barcelona (1916-1923) and Josep Benet’s Maragall davant la Setmana tràgica, were reviewed respectively by Jordi Pujol and Josep M. Piñol. Pujol took the somewhat risky step of underlining the fact that the only figure to emerge with any credit from the history of the labour movement in Catalonia was Salvador Seguí, (17) one of the leaders of the Anarchist C.N.T. Piñol, for his part, is concerned to emphasise the lessons that the events of 1909, and Maragall’s reaction to them, more radical than is conventionally supposed, carry for the present-day reader:
De poc ens serviria, doncs, aquesta obra, si ens acontentàvem de captar únicament una visió més justa d’aquella conjuntura històrica...en el nostre món concret en certa manera som encara en una cruïlla semblant (VIII-65, 15).
The relaxation of the intellectual atmosphere of the Franco regime in the mid-1960s, implied in this more vigorous exercise of free speech, was undoubtedly relative and uneven. In addition, it proved to be shortlived. Though 1966 saw the enactment of Fraga Iribarne’s Ley de Prensa, it also saw the tightening of police repression, as the regime entered on its final phase of crisis. In March a gathering of students and academics at the Capuchin friary in Sarrià was besieged by the security forces, who invaded the building, in defiance of the Concordat of 1953. (18) In May a peaceful march of priests and religious to deliver a letter of protest to police headquarters over the treatment of an imprisoned student was broken up with considerable violence. Some of those arrested were later tried by the Tribunal de Orden Público, established in 1963. The more liberal members of Catholic Action organisations were removed by the hierarchy, and the movement considerably weakened. (19)