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  •  The Trouble with Ryan (1+ / 0-)
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    snakelass

    Over on Talk 2 Action, I suggested that Frank -- whose work I have tremendous respect for -- has erred on one important point, which was Ryan's support for fascism in the late 1930s. Frank disputed that assertion. Here's my source:

    On July 14, 1939, in an article subtitled "Mgr. Ryan hits Nazi Ideal; Assails Totalitarian States but Defends Franco," Winifred Mallon reported that Ryan, responding to a speech by a prominent rabbi urging the U.S. to reconsider the Neutrality Act, agreed with the rabbi that Germany was a totalitarian state but went out of his to defend Franco. "the Monsignor said... that he favored the Franco regime because the government it replaced had been 'Communist controlled, and not a true democracy."

    Ryan went on to say, "Only those who profess religion... have a logical ground for maintaining individual rights."

    The government Franco overthrew wasn't "Communist controlled"; but Communists did participate democratically in the government. It was as democratic as any government in Europe at that time. Franco's regime was an open, vigorous, explicitly fascistic rejection of democracy. Once Franco began the war, defenders of the Republic committed atrocities, although not on any scale at all comparable to Franco's Hitler-backed forces. The Spanish Church openly sided with Franco; indeed, many priests took to their bell towers to act as snipers. Many Catholics in America, meanwhile, vigorously opposed Franco; but not Ryan.

    To say that we should give Ryan a pass because the defenders of the Republic committed atrocities is to say that we should give David Irving, the British Holocaust denier a pass because the Allies committed atrocities (which they did.)

    Ryan backed a fascist government that overthrew a democracy, murdered hundreds of thousands of its own citizens, and continued to torture and silence critics right up into the 1970s, long after Europe's other fascist regimes were history.

    We can and should give Ryan credit for his progressive ideas; but we should never erase his support for a murderous, fascist regime.

    Especially not now, when rehabilitation of Franco has become a right wing project -- pursued, I should point out, by avoiding the topic of Franco's crimes by pointing to the crimes of a ragtag army that was on the defensive, and then obliterated.

    Author of THE FAMILY: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power (HarperCollins, Spring 08)

    by Ishmael on Wed Aug 27, 2008 at 12:26:20 PM PDT

    •  An Unfair Extreme Comparison (0+ / 0-)

      You can't compare David Irving to Ryan. A priest who would have been himself shot by the Republicans compared to a Holocaust denier? Sorry Jeff, that is absurd. It is just plain nuts and is all too typical of the scorched-earth reasoning too many of us on the Left readily resort to.

      And as I said earlier, Ryan's hostility towards the Republicans stemmed from the despicable actions of some Republicans to the clergy, including the murder of priests and nuns (and while I believe the overall Republican cause was correct, there was no excuse for this brutality whatsoever; if anything, it was counterproductive). While the number of these incidents may not have been on par with Guernica-style bombing by the fascists, it arises out of the same hatred and brutality unleashed in war.

      Unfortunately, there were some hardcore-Stalinists within the Republican ranks whose actions probably cost them support among Catholics who would have otherwise would have supported their cause. A lot of otherwise liberal American Catholics took the same position as Ryan.

      By your reasoning, should we condemn everything FDR did because of how badly he treated Japanese-Americans during WWII or because he tried to pack the Supreme Court? I think not. What is required is a little perspective here.

      •  That's a false analogy (1+ / 0-)
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        snakelass

        I specifically said we should NOT condemn everything Ryan did. That, in fact, we should praise his progressive positions -- but without ignoring his brutally wrong ones. Doing so is hagiography, and while hagiography has a role in the Church, it doesn't in political discourse.

        To blame the "Stalinists" -- that is, communists -- for Ryan's support for Franco is, I'm afraid, the exact same tact some American fascists, such as Merwin Hart, used for supporting Hitler. Relax; I'm not equating you to Hart, Frank. I'm a fan of your work. But the reality of the Spanish Civil War is that the communists were on the right side and Franco was on the wrong side. I've met quite a few of those old communists -- there was nothing unfortunate about their courage and clear thinking, and not one of them ever laid a finger on a priest.

        What I said -- and I'll say it again -- is that you can't propose that we celebrate Ryan without acknowledging this very black mark on his record. He was not a casual supporter of Franco; he was a very public figure, who spoke out publicly for Franco in 1939, at a time when Franco was busy killing thousands of political dissidents, having successfully replaced a democracy with a military dictatorship by inventing the modern concept of total war. Franco is indefensible. Ryan was wrong, and by being wrong he lent support to the American policy -- J. Edgar Hoover's -- of actually arresting those Americans who went to fight fascism in Spain. Hoover called them "premature anti-fascists."

        Author of THE FAMILY: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power (HarperCollins, Spring 08)

        by Ishmael on Wed Aug 27, 2008 at 01:41:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The Ideal Versus the Actual (3+ / 0-)
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          snakelass, Ice Blue, esquimaux

          Jeff, you are focusing upon one incident in the man's entire legacy. With that said;

          --Didn't Lincoln at one time want to send African-Americans back to Africa, a ridiculous idea? And yet he saved the Union and ended slavery.

          --Didn't Truman write some nasty things in his diary about Jews, but then recognized Israel, not to mention desegregate the military?

          --Didn't RFK once work for Joe McCarthy, but then go on to be a liberal icon?

          --Didn't FDR wrongly intern Japanese-Americans, yet we still recognize him as perhaps our greatest president?

          Jeff, you're never going to get the perfect liberal. All you can ask  for is that when he or she pulls a clunker it's an aberation of his or her works.

          •  You're ignoring the argument (0+ / 0-)

            I haven't once asked for the perfect liberal or suggested that Ryan's support for Spanish fascism invalidates all his ideas. Not once, Frank, and I'm beginning to wonder about your honesty in argument, here. In each comment, I've said, explicitly, that we can and should remember and praise his progressive ideals. But we should also remember the ugly side.

            As for the folks above: Yes, they did all of these things. And these things should be remembered. The point I made is that you wrote an all positive portrait of Ryan. When I pointed out some less than positive facts -- support for a fascist regime is a bit more than a "clunker" -- you responded first by telling me I was wrong, and then twice by radically distorting my argument to defend your man. You don't seem interested in wrestling with the complexity of history; rather, it seems, it's you who's looking for ideals.

            As a lefty, btw, the last thing I'm looking for is a "perfect liberal." I think I've a pretty good track record as a writer who doesn't believe in a perfect anything.

            Real history is always more powerful than political puffery. You want me to take Ryan seriously? Then do so yourself and stop accusing me of absolutism.

            Author of THE FAMILY: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power (HarperCollins, Spring 08)

            by Ishmael on Wed Aug 27, 2008 at 11:48:20 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  No Jeff, You''re Ignoring What I'm Saying (0+ / 0-)

              I never said "to give Ryan a pass," as you put it. Yes, Ryan was wrong here, but you're making him sound as if he was a bleeding brown shirt which he clearly was not. His response came primarily out of atrocities committed upon priests and nuns, simple as that. At the same time, he openly despised Hitler.

              Was Ryan wrong? On this issue, yeah, he was. And he was also wrong about fighting birth control. But you simply refuse to look inside him to see what made him take that extreme position, as puzzling as it was. How else do you explain a man who was otherwise an anti-fascist and openly defended the rights of Socialists during the Palmer Raids?

              Beyond that, this was an economic piece, an introduction to Ryan.
              While your point was not a distraction from these points, the harshness and laser-beam focus on this one of very few blemishes on his career was.

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