If Italy constituted the open laboratory par excellence of Left Catholics in the long sixties, Spain must be regarded as the country where progressive Catholics in all likelihood played, when placed in a comparative context, the most crucial roles in the overall social movement culture in the course of the 1960s. A number of reasons may account for this Iberian anomaly, but one of the most important rationales was the unusual status of Catholic institutions in the Spanish state. With political parties and trade unions outlawed since the Spanish Civil War, the Catholic church, an ideological prop for mixture of instinctive sympathies and intellectual distance of Balducci towards the more radical variants of il dissenso cattolico.

  • 160 Diary entry for 15 January 1970 in Balducci, Diari, p. 824.
  • 161 La Valle, ‘Balducci e il Concilio’, p. 3 34. 162 Martini, ‘La cultura’, p. 119.
  • 163 Ernesto Balducci, L’uomo planetario (San Domenico di Fiesole: Edizioni Cultura della Pace, 1990).

Franco’s dictatorship in the forty years of its existence, was one of the very few ‘organizations’ outside the regime proper, which retained a certain degree of autonomy and independence. It was thus in part for these somewhat circumstantial reasons that opposition movements challenging the Francoist order— other than the organizations which had supported the Spanish Republic and which had then opposed Franco on the battlefields of the Civil War—first began to arise under the umbrella of the Catholic church.[1] Until the very end of the brutal dictatorship in 1975, church organizations and institutions, notably their facilities and buildings, often provided all-too-rare protection from the repressive strongarms of the state, even for groups of underground activists not hailing from the church milieu.

Benefiting from its special status, some initially rather marginal elements within the Catholic church in Spain constituted the first Catholic-inspired oppositional groups, above all certain sections of specialized Catholic Action operating within the working-class milieu (see Chapter 5), dating back all the way to the late 1940s and early 1950s. By 1956, Catholic students made headline news as university students suddenly became the unexpected mainstay of political unrest (see Chapter 4), and the subsequently emerging underground Spanish New Left, perhaps more powerful and influential for the course of national opposition politics than in any other European state,[2] was initially almost exclusively inspired and dominated by Left Catholic traditions and currents. The peculiarity of the Iberian political and ideological traditions helps to explain why the most radical theologian in the line-up of illustrious thinkers covered in this opening chapter hailed from Spain.

Six years older than Balducci and twelve years older than Johann Baptist Metz, Jose Maria Gonzalez Ruiz, born on 5 May 1916, thus belongs to a generation located halfway between Chenu, Rahner, and Congar and the notably younger scholars discussed in the preceding subchapters. Born into a relatively well-off middle class family in Seville, the Andalusian sociopolitical context helped shape Gonzalez Ruiz in ways that would be unthinkable and most unlikely in most other regions of Europe at that time. Andalusia was then a stronghold of anarchism, and the anarcho-syndicalist Confedera- cion Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) exercised hegemony within the labour movement in Seville. In 1921, a series of strikes led by the CNT, then in its phase of temporary and ill-fated flirtation with the Bolshevik tradition—from 1919 to 1922 opting for membership in the fledgling Communist ‘Third’ International—paralysed Seville. Gonzalez Ruiz’s father was then the managing director of a leading vegetable oil manufacturing plant, and the factory was one of the very few large plants in Seville where the workforce, on its own volition, had decided not to heed the strike call. Jose Maria Gonzalez Ruiz many decades later recalled a number of visits by one of the national leaders of the CNT, Salvador Segui, to his father, hoping to convince him to use his moral influence over his workforce for the latter to join the general strike. ‘My father, who, in very many ways, sympathized with the revolutionary ideas of that movement [the CNT], responded in a friendly manner, smiling: “I would agree with you, if it were not for Him... ”. “Him” referred to the crucifix prominently affixed on his office walls.’[3]

The syncretism of Andalusian culture and politics left a lasting memory in Gonzalez Ruiz’s mind. Syndicalist sympathies by a company manager coexisted with firm Catholic beliefs. One brother of his father was then bishop of Malaga, and Jose Maria’s elder brother had entered a priest seminary at a young age. Soon Jose Maria decided to follow his brother’s footsteps, entering the priest seminary, just like his brother, in Malaga to be close to his uncle. Bishop Manuel Gonzalez Garcia, however, repeatedly clashed with his superiors and, in the mid-1930s, was removed from the diocese of Malaga and relegated to the remote provincial town of Palencia on the barren high plains of Castilla-Leon. Jose Maria followed his uncle there, eventually receiving ordination at the hands of his nonconformist uncle in Palencia. But Bishop Gonzalez Garcia had already recognized the intellectual talents of his nephew and had arranged for Jose Maria to enrol in the Faculty of Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. From the second half of the 1930s onwards, the Eternal City became a home away from home for Gonzalez Ruiz, even though the stultifying atmosphere of Rome and the Vatican in the era of Mussolini and Pius XII did little to make Jose Maria feel comfortable there in the first period of his Roman education.[4]

  • [1] A similar situation enabled Portuguese progressive Catholicism to play a prominent rolein the opposition movement facing the most long-lived right-wing dictatorship on Europeansoil, the Salazarist regime. Here pioneering works include Joao Miguel Almeida, A oposigaocatolica ao Estado Novo. 1958-1974 (Lisbon: Nelson de Matos, 2008), and Joana Lopes, Entre asbrumas da memoria. Os catolicos portugueses e a ditadura (Porto: Ambar, 2007).
  • [2] The standard work on the—outside Spain—little-known but vital and imaginative SpanishNew Left remains Julio Antonio Garcia Alcala, Historia del Felipe (FLP, FOC y ESBA). De JulioCeron a la Liga Comunista Revolucionaria (Madrid: Centro de Estudios Politicos y Constitu-cionales, 2001).
  • [3] Jose Maria Gonzalez Ruiz, Memorias de un cura. Antes de Franco, con Franco y despues deFranco (Malaga: Miramar, 1995), p. 32.
  • [4] Gonzalez Ruiz, Memorias de un cura, pp. 15-40.
< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >