No. 8 NAI DFA 19/1
Rome, 12 March 1932
It must, however, be remembered that in the modern world there are few, if any, countries where the issue between the Church and the forces hostile to the Church are knit in so simple a manner. In practically every modern state Catholics are divided in their political allegiance: some favour a dictatorship, others a democracy, others again a system of government lying somewhere between the two; and it is impossible for the Holy See to support whole-heartedly one party rather than the other. Moreover, the Catholic Church has always declared that it does not stand for any one system of government as against another, and that it depends entirely on the particular circumstances whether e.g., a monarchy is preferable to a republic or the reverse.
Again, internationally, it is impossible at the present time to divide the various countries into Catholic and non-Catholic: practically every modern non-Catholic state has its minority, sometimes a large one, of Catholics, while Catholic states have invariably a non-Catholic minority, whether the same be great or small. It is, therefore, not always obvious at the first view, either in internal political struggles or in international disputes, on which side the influence of the Holy See is likely to be thrown.
It must, however, be remembered that the political policy of the Church has always been directed by the fixed principles already indicated, and that its political activity has invariably been directed against that movement, whether represented by a state or by an international combination, which it recognises as the mainspring or instigator of the opposition to the Church in the world.
At the present time the great enemy of the Church is the Communist movement, already in possession of the reins of government in Russia and striving by means of the international agitation which it has succeeded in fomenting to secure power in the other states of the modern world. Consequently, the mainspring and principle of the policy of the Holy See at the present day is its opposition to Communism, and the explanation of the details of its policy can only be arrived at by remembering that every question is considered in the light of its possible effect on the great contest between the Church and its Communist enemies.
With regard to Russia itself, the policy is simple enough. A special commission has been set up, the Commissione Pontificia per la Russia, under the control of Monsignor d'Herbigny, Archbishop of Ilium, a very able and influential French Jesuit, with the object of investigating conditions in Russia, publishing such matter as it may be advised, and in particular of training for the priesthood in Russia a number of young men, prepared to undergo every possible hardship and, if need be, martyrdom, for the sake of preserving Christianity in that country.
Similar conditions to those in Russia obtain at the moment, though in a modified form, in Spain and Mexico, and the policy of the Holy See is similar with regard to them. Although their governments are not outspokenly Communist, they are Masonic, and are regarded as making the pace for the Communists, whether deliberately or by reason of the moral blindness engendered by their hatred of the Church. In all these countries, the policy of the Holy See is to do what it can to alleviate the conditions under which Catholics live, to keep alive the faith, and to await the circumstances which may alleviate the persecution of the Church.
(1) - Apart from its inevitable opposition to government by parties holding theories, such as Communism, Marxian Social-Democracy or Masonic Liberalism, which are in themselves opposed to the Catholic Church, there are other forms of government to which the Holy See appears to be opposed owing to the dangers inherent in them though not inevitable. Thus, it is undoubtedly reluctant to see the establishment of dictatorships, except on exclusively Catholic lines, if such a thing be possible: the events of the summer of 1931 showed its apprehension of Fascist dictatorship; it is even more strongly opposed to a possible National Socialist government in Germany. In each case, the reason is its fear of what was described by the Pope in his Encyclical of June 29, 1931, as statolatria or state-worship, and in particular of the interference of an absolutist state in the two matters which the Church regards as exclusively its own province, namely, matrimony and the education of the young. Nevertheless, the Holy See has shown itself, in certain circumstances, prepared to accept and even support such dictatorship in preference to more undesirable alternatives: it has already done so in Italy and would almost certainly do so in Germany if the occasion arose.
Another form of government which the Holy See views with the greatest reluctance is the system of non-Christian capitalism which exists in more or less modified forms in almost the whole of the world of today with its representatives in every parliament and almost every party. From the famous Encyclical of Leo XIII1 to those of the present Pope, the Holy See has protested, not against the capitalistic system in general, but against certain developments of capitalism which are in themselves unjust and which tend to drive the workers into the arms of the enemies of the Church. But, such capitalism not being part of an openly proclaimed programme but rather the result of the nineteenth century policy of laissez-faire, it is difficult to apportion the blame on the government rather than the individual capitalist, and still more difficult to blame the government for the defects of a system for which it is by no means solely responsible, and consequently it is not conceivable that the Holy See would adopt an attitude of definite hostility towards a capitalistic state as such, unless it had offended by some definite act hostile to the Church.
A third form of government to which the Holy See is undoubtedly opposed is that of an aristocracy or caste. Such governments scarcely exist at the present time, but the whole movement known as the Action Fran?se represents the policy of aristocracy.2 Apart from the doctrinal extravagances of M. Charles Maurras, it would seem that the denial in principle by this movement of the rights of the common man is a doctrine which could never be consented to by the Holy See.
In other words, the Holy See recognizes that the individual in the modern state has certain rights, and that he is prepared to insist on their being accorded to him. It is therefore opposed to any system of government in the interests of a minority whether of capital or of birth. Its dislike of a dictatorial system, such as Fascism, is not so fundamental, because this movement is based on the will of a majority of the people, however autocratic it may be in its methods; or, in other words, because the majority of the people has deliberately put the control of the state in the hands of one man who has in turn nominated his executive.
To consider in the first place the policy of the Holy See towards Italy. There can, in my opinion, be no doubt that relations now are more genuinely cordial than they have been since the time of the Treaty in 1929,3 and the exchange of decorations and in particular the audience of Mussolini were not mere courtesies but expressed a genuine mutual desire for cooperation and friendship. As I have pointed out, the Vatican always fears the tendency of an absolute state to interfere in the peculiar province of the Church; but various circumstances have combined to alter its attitude from that taken up in the early months of last summer. In the first place, the deplorable events which have taken place in Spain have created a profound impression, and the Holy See realizes that the alternative to a Fascist government might be one openly hostile to the Church. In the second place, it became obvious in the course of the controversy that the great majority of the country was solidly in favour of the Fascist government, and that an attitude of non possumus on the part of the Holy See, while it would without doubt injure the government, would injure the Church even more. Thirdly, owing to the course of events in the summer, the persons responsible for precipitating the crisis, notably Mons. Pizzardo, have been to a certain extent discredited, and there is a greater tendency to give the Italian state credit for good intentions. generally rumoured that the Secretary of State is anxious to remove Mons. Pizzardo to a Nunciature, but that he declines to accept any position offered. In any event, I am satisfied that, while there will doubtless be friction from time to time on questions of detail, the Italian State, or in other words the Fascist Government, will continue to enjoy the friendship of the Holy See. [matter omitted]
[The] influence of France with the Holy See is a most remarkable phenomenon and a triumph of French propaganda. In spite of the anti-Catholic measures of twenty years ago and the anti-clerical spirit still so strong in France, as shown, for instance, by the recent celebrations of the anniversary of lay education, France enjoys today the reputation of a pro-Catholic state - a state of affairs due largely to the intense nationalism of the French clergy, who never lose an opportunity of emphasizing every Catholic manifestation in their country. French ecclesiastics at Rome are undoubtedly more influential than those of any other country but Italy: apart from Cardinal Lépicier4 (who is not perhaps regarded as politically so important), there are Mons. d'Herbigny (mentioned above), Pére Gillet, General of the Dominicans, Mons. Hertzog of the Sulpicians, who was described to me by an Irish priest as the real representative of France to the Holy See, and various others. These ecclesiastics, no doubt in the most perfect good faith, depict a France which has given more saints to the Church than almost any other country, which protects Catholic Missions in Asia and Africa, and which is governed, if not entirely by Catholics, at least by a combination of Catholics and non- Catholics friendly to the Church. The anti-Catholic elements in French life are, needless to say, not insisted on, and the influence of the Grand Orient is, so far as possible, ignored.
But perhaps the strongest influence which France brings to bear on the Holy See is by means of the representation that it is the main bulwark against Soviet Russia at the present time, both owing to the conservative character of the French people, and owing to the system of alliances built up by France with Poland, Roumania and the other border states. The trade agreement between Italy and Russia was not looked on with favour in Vatican circles, and the French personalities have no doubt exploited the situation in France's favour. It may be stated in general that French influence with the Holy See is definitely anti-Italian, and it was stated openly in the Italian press last summer that Mons. d'Herbigny and other French and pro-French prelates were responsible for what was considered the anti-Italian attitude of the Pope himself.
How far French influence may decline in consequence of the improved relations between the Holy See and Fascist Italy, only the future can tell. It is very strong, and loses no opportunity of making itself felt. To give an obvious instance, the recent visit of Cardinal Bourne5 to Rome was made the occasion of a French demonstration, to which the Cardinal, who has always been extremely pro-French and recently spoke in favour of France at a Disarmament meeting in London, readily lent himself - an attitude which provoked criticism even among the English clergy. An instance of the manner in which French policy is supported by the Holy See is provided by the incident of the Flemish pilgrims referred to in my minute of September 11th, 19316
The position and influence of Germany at the Vatican is for the time determined entirely by the Centre Party. This party, though nominally interconfessional and actually comprising Lutheran and Jewish members, is of course predominately Catholic and was founded to safeguard Catholic interests. Though not essentially republican, its hostility to the extremely Protestant Hohenzollern dynasty and ruling caste of Prussia led it to accept the republic readily. Since the declaration of the republic it has been forced by political circumstances into a position rather on the left, and consequently stands for the democratic programme of republicanism, payment of reparations to the extreme limit of Germany's capacity to pay, and a rapprochement with France, if the latter should be possible. At the same time, it has in Germany, at any rate until recently, preserved the tradition of being the party to which Catholics are almost morally bound to adhere, and has retained the vast majority of the votes of the Catholic electors. During the period in which Cardinal Pacelli, Secretary of State to the Holy See, was Nuncio in Munich, and later in Berlin, he was on terms of intimacy with the leaders of the Centre, and naturally adopted their views of German politics to a considerable extent. The Pr?t Kaas, chairman of the party, wrote the introduction to the collected edition of the Cardinal's addresses in Germany, and is a frequent visitor to Rome.
In consequence, the attitude of the Holy See has been extremely hostile to the National-Socialist movement, whose condemnation by the German bishops was of course determined and approved of by the Vatican. Moreover, the influence exercised by the German Centre, in a sense hostile to National-Socialism, is reinforced by French influence, which is of course bitterly opposed to the possibility of a government in Germany which might take up a more resolute attitude in the questions of reparation and disarmament. At the same time, I think that there are several reasons for believing that the Holy See will materially modify its attitude in the event of the further growth of the National-Socialist movement in Germany.
In the first place, the indications are that both Communism and National-Socialism will tend to increase in Germany, and that the Centre, even if it succeeds in retaining its present members, will not increase. In the event of having to choose between the doctrines of Hitler and those of Lenin, there can be no doubt that the Holy See will support the party of the former, just as it has concluded peace with Fascism in Italy. Moreover, while France has consistently supported the Centre and republican parties in Germany, the Italian Government has increasingly tended to support German National-Socialism: and, if the influence of Italy increases, it is almost inevitable that its views of the German situation will colour the views of the Holy See.
Further, while I do not propose to analyze the theories or practice of National-Socialism, it would appear to me that, though certain of its elements are not such as could be expected to appeal strongly to the Holy See, it has many characteristics for which the Church must have a certain sympathy. For example, its desire for an authority in moral matters which would put an end to the extreme licence of the press and stage in present day Germany is entirely in accord with the views of Cardinal Pacelli, who has often in conversation with me deplored the liberty of thought, word, writing, and act, which are guaranteed by the Constitution of Weimar and have led to the most terrible moral abuses. Moreover, a triumph of National-Socialism at the coming Prussian elections would damage the prestige of the Centre at Rome as well as in Germany, and would, in my opinion, lead to a complete reorientation of the position of the Holy Sea towards German politics, and probably also towards international European politics. This view is, of course, purely personal and speculative, but is shared by many persons, ecclesiastical and lay, in touch with Vatican circles, who consider that the influence of the Centre has not led to an impartial appreciation by the Holy See of the true state of affairs in Germany.
As regards the attitude of the Holy See towards England, I have no doubt that it is correct to say that English influence is not at all so strong as it was before the war. This is due in my opinion to a number of causes which have contributed to the same result.
In the first place, there is a general tendency in international circles to consider England to be on the down grade. This tendency has existed since the general strike in 1926, has of course been largely accentuated by the devaluation of English currency, and is increased by the general experience of a falling off in England's competence both in politics and commerce. The general views expressed are similar to those set forth in the book of M. André Siegfried,7 of which portions were reprinted in the 'Times.' Events in India are regarded as a confirmation of the view that England has lost her grip on affairs.
Moreover, the increasing independence of the Dominions, both political and economic, is undoubtedly regarded as a weakening of England's force as a world-power; and the presence of Irish and South Africa ministers in Rome is taken as a symptom and symbol of such weakening. Visits to Rome of such persons as Mr. Scullin, then Prime Minister of Australia, tend to bring home to the Holy See the altered condition of affairs, in addition to representing to it in a dramatic manner the influence of Irish descent and Irish nationality in the Dominions.
For some time past, there has been no English person resident in Rome who has had much influence with the Holy See. When Cardinal Gasquet8 was alive, he undoubtedly exercised very considerable political influence in favour of England; the same, though to a less extent, was true of Cardinal Merry del Val9 who, though Spanish, would certainly, as the Spanish Chargé d'Affaires recently said to me, have chosen England as his country in preference to Spain. The resident English clergy are not, in any way, particularly noteworthy.
As regards the British representative to the Holy See, the late Minister, Sir Henry Chilton10 obviously regarded himself as being in a backwater, took no interest in Catholic affairs, and was practically a cipher. The Belgian Ambassador, in a recent conversation remarked to me that it was not surprising that the Holy See was not enthusiastic about the appointment of a man who was a mediocrity with a reputation as a bon vivant who could give a good rendering of a comic song. Since Sir Henry Chilton's transfer to Chile, England has been represented by a Chargé d'Affaires only.
The lack of English influence at the Vatican was conclusively demonstrated by the Malta affair,11 in which the crisis might have been avoided by a little judicious management on the part of such a person as Cardinal Gasquet acting in concert with the Minister. On the contrary, the whole controversy was conducted by the British Government in such a way as to give the maximum of offence, and practically to force the Holy See to support the Archbishop of Malta, whose position in the opinion of many persons - even in the Vatican - was not in all respects a strong one. The report of the Malta Commission has given a certain amount of satisfaction, but even this has been largely counteracted by the somewhat brusque refusal of the English Foreign Minister to consider the question of re-appointing a minister to the Holy See.
This weakening of English influence has naturally tended to increase Irish prestige in Rome. The mere presence of a minister tends of course to keep Irish affairs before the Holy See, and makes it possible to dispel such false impressions of Irish affairs as may have lingered in the minds of any persons in the Vatican. The reports of the Nuncio12 doubtless perform the same function. I should like once again to suggest that the most valuable propaganda work would be produced by the visit to Rome of the President or the Minister of External Affairs, as such tangible and visible signs of the existence of the Irish Free State have an incalculable effect.
From my audiences and more informal conversations with Cardinal Pacelli, I am convinced that, so far as the fulfilment of Irish national aspirations is concerned, efforts to that end would be regarded entirely without disapproval, and would be judged entirely on the merits of the particular question at issue. From my minutes on the question of passports it is, I think, clear, that the only reluctance on the part of the Holy See was due to the fear of involving itself in a controversy with the Italian Government.
On the other hand, there is undoubtedly a genuine fear of the influence of Communism, in all probability partly due to the example of what has recently taken place in Spain, where the course of events came as a surprise even to the best-informed circles in Rome. If questions should arise between the Irish Government and that of Great Britain, I have no doubt at all that the Holy See will take an entirely sympathetic view of the Irish attitude, provided that it is satisfied that there is nothing in its policy likely to lead to the disorder which has always proved the best breedingground for communistic ideas. It may well be that it is unduly nervous: but events in many countries have made it fear the infection of communism even among entirely Catholic communities. As indicated in the beginning of this memorandum, every government and every policy is subjected to the test, firstly whether it is consciously favouring communistic doctrines, and secondly, whether its policy will, even against its intention, tend to encourage communism either by way of reaction against oppression or by passivity such as to permit the unchecked growth of communist propaganda. The same test has been and will be without the slightest question applied to Ireland; and our national policy has been and will be judged accordingly.
As already indicated, the fact that Ireland's influence extends beyond the mother country to America and the British Dominions is very present to the mind of the Holy See, and will always secure a favourable hearing of any case which Ireland has to make. If the Vatican is satisfied that such influence is one tending to advance the spiritual interests of the Church and that there is no danger of its being linked up in any way with international revolutionary activities, I am confident that no representations on the part of the British Government, whether officially or unofficially made, will prevent it from receiving such support as can be given in political matters by such a spiritual force as the Holy See.
The Royal Irish Academy's Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series has published an eBook of confidential correspondence on the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations.
The international network of Editors of Diplomatic Documents was founded in 1988. Delegations from different parts of the world met for the first time in London in 1989.
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