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Portugal – Freemasonry – Fatima

The Fatima revelations seemed to come at the least propitious time; and yet their political context made them all the more powerful, for God acts through historical events and the final victory belongs to Him.

The beginnings of the anticlerical Republic

The Revolution of 1910 brought the monarchy in Portugal to an end. Various Republican groups, heavily infiltrated by Freemasons, gained power. For many years they had made no secret of their anti-Catholic phobias and prejudices. Even while the coup d’etat was in progress (it forced King Manuel II into exile on October 5, 1910), antimonarchist speeches brought on assaults (often incited by the Masonic lodges) on the clergy and believers at large. As a result, two Lazarist priests died, and by year’s end at least another fifteen priests and monks had been murdered. At the same time, roving bands of populares (gangs made up of representatives of the Republican mob) badly beat up over a hundred priests.

Churches were routinely raided, not only in the capital but also in the provinces. Twenty places of worship were demolished within just four days of the establishment of the Republic. Convents and monasteries were also attacked and destroyed. (Laboratory equipment found in the Jesuit College in Campolide, near Lisbon, was deemed hostile to the Republic and consequently wrecked). In addition, the offices of the Catholic magazines Portugal in Lisbon and Palavra in Porto were raided and smashed.

The anti-Catholic pogroms formed an integral part of the new government’s program. Dr. T. Wituch, a Polish researcher on the subject, writes: “the actions directed against the Church were not accidental. Until 1918, the anti-ecclesiastical and anti-Catholic policies initiated by the first Republican government formed a central pillar of Republican activity.”

The name of Alfonso Costa is almost symbolically linked with the anti-Catholic policies of the Portuguese Republic. A professor of law in Coimbra and a Freemason, Costa served as minister of justice and later as premier. Like his French counterpart, Emile Combes (foremost secularist of the Third Republic in the years 1902-1905), he sought to root out Catholicism in Portugal (i.e. de-christianize his country) within two generations.

How the Freemasons proceeded to eradicate Catholicism in Portugal

As had happened earlier in France, and in Germany during the Kulturkampf, the war against the Catholic Church in Portugal began with attacks on religious orders. On October 8, 1910 (just three days after the Revolution had gained victory; clearly the matter was of top priority) the government enacted a decree (drawn up by Justice Minister Alfonso Costa) dissolving all religious orders in Portugal. As always (as in France and Germany), the Jesuits found themselves on the front line. All 388 members of the Society of Jesus were summarily arrested and expelled from Portugal.

As in other anti-Catholic “culture wars” then being waged in Europe, the teaching of religion in schools was abolished (October 22, 1910), and the clergy and Church institutions were forbidden to teach in both state and private schools.

The decree of October 18, 1910 calling for the removal of Catholic symbols from public buildings gave rise to a nation-wide de-crucifixion campaign in schools and offices. All references to God were removed from official declarations and oaths. Catholic feast days were stripped of their state holiday status. Only Sundays retained their status as workless days. In the official nomenclature these were designated as “days of rest” (decree dated October 26, 1910).

Another decree dismissed chaplains from the army, and the military were forbidden from attending religious services in uniform. The control over Catholic organizations and even liturgical functions was handed over to civil officials appointed by the government. (Needless to say, most of these were Freemasons or their supporters.) Henceforth, they — and not parish priests — would decide not only if services could be held outside a place of worship (e.g. the Corpus Christi procession) but also when and how many times religious services could be held inside a church. Priests were forbidden to wear cassocks in public places.

The October revolution of Alfonso Costa did not even spare his alma mater — the University of Coimbra. October 23, 1910 saw the closing of her Faculty of Theology. It had existed for 600 years. A month later, the Law School’s Department of Church Law was also dissolved. (Canon law had been taught there since the Middle Ages).

Part and parcel of the anti-Catholic legislation were the changes wrought by the Republican government in the area of family law. On November 3, 1910, divorce was legalized and made more easily obtainable. A decree enacted on Christmas Day of that year (the choice of date was not coincidental) accorded de facto relationships equal recognition with legal marriages, which in practice legalized polygamy.

From the Republican point of view it was natural that diplomatic ties with the Apostolic See should be severed. On October 29, 1910, the Apostolic Nuncio had to leave Portugal. The Portuguese ambassador to the Apostolic See had earlier been recalled to Lisbon.

The anti-clerical policies of the Republic culminated in a decree, modelled on the French law of 1905, on the separation of church and state (April 20, 1911).    The word “separation” was a mere smoke screen. Essentially, the goal was not so much to remove the Church as to ban the Catholic faith from the public domain and radically limit the freedom of the Church.

On the strength of this decree all church property was confiscated by the state. Henceforth, church buildings would be rented out by the state — not to religious or church institutions, but to “cult associations” (a measure taken directly from the French model). However, the lease could be terminated at a moment’s notice and with no requirement to show cause. Moreover, unlike its French prototype, the Portuguese law barred priests from joining such associations (to say nothing of running them).

The decree of April 20, 1911 also stipulated that only priests who had graduated in Theology in Portugal could work in Portugal (even though, as we have seen from the example of the government’s policy concerning the University of Coimbra, these opportunities had been radically reduced). The point was to close the door to priests who had been educated elsewhere, notably in Rome.

Within the provisions of the law on the separation of church and state the clergy were obliged to “use the postal service only for official correspondence with the public authorities, and not among themselves.” Every publication and reading in church of the bishops’ (and pope’s) pastoral letters was subject to the consent of the state authorities.

Church bells also preoccupied the authors of the decree — or rather the noise they made. The ringing of bells at night would henceforth be prohibited. As to the continued existence of the bells, the decision was placed in the hands of the municipal authorities.

Criticism of the law on the separation of the church and state, or “any other law pertaining to the Churches,” as well as any negative view expressed “in regard to the public authorities and their actions, the system of government or the laws of the Republic” were met with threats of imprisonment or loss of income.

Under the provisions of the decree of separation, the clergy would be maintained on a “state pension.” In reality, these pensions came entirely from contributions by the faithful, of which the state took one third anyway. To humiliate Portuguese Catholics still further, Alfonso Costa and his Masonic brethren included a provision whereby the same pension would be accorded to priests who had been removed from office by church authorities (e.g. for reasons of sexual impropriety). Money collected from the faithful was also to be disbursed to priests who had broken their vow of celibacy. After their death these “pensions” would pass to their widows or children.

The resolute stance of the pope and bishops 

Faced with a declaration of open warfare on the Church by the Portuguese Masonic government, the bishops addressed a pastoral letter to the faithful on December 24, 1910. Stressing their loyalty to the Republic, the bishops nevertheless forbade Catholics to take part in any action aimed against the Catholic Church. The state authorities banned the publication and reading of the letter. Bishop Porto ignored the ban, for which he paid with imprisonment in Lisbon.

In answer to the decree on the separation of church and state, Portugal’s bishops sent yet another joint pastoral letter to the faithful dated May 5, 1911. They protested against the new law. In response, the state passed a sentence of banishment on the patriarch of Lisbon, Antonia Mendes Belo, and the bishops of Braganza, Faro, Lamego, Portalegre, and Viseu. (Bishop Porto had been imprisoned earlier.) In this way the entire episcopate of Portugal found itself in exile. Here was an event without precedent in the history of the country. Indeed, it was unheard of in the history of any state.

The persecution of the Portuguese Church unleashed by the Masonic Republic was met by a decisive response from Rome. On May 24, 1911, Pope Pius X published the encyclical Iamdudum Lusitaniae. In it, he condemned the “immoral and harmful” decree on the separation of church and state, calling it “a law that spurns God and rejects the Catholic faith.” The Holy Father had no doubts as to the intent of this and other laws, which was “to make the Church subject to the State by persecuting her in all things that concern her sacred authority and spirit.”

A measure of the obduracy of the Portuguese secularists, who placed their own ideology above reasons of state, was the intention of the Republican government to extend their anti-Catholic legislation to Portugal’s colonies. They overlooked the fact that, since the fifteenth century, the presence of the Church in these territories had been the most powerful factor binding the colonies to the mother country.

In 1913 the government decided to send “lay missions” to the colonies where they would take over the work of the Catholic clergy. Those in the colonial administration proved to have more sense than the authorities in the mother country. Following the example of Angola and Mozambique, they flatly refused to implement the secular policies on colonial soil.

The lay missions had been the brainchild of Alfonso Costa, who became premier in January 1913. His rule proved to be a militant anticlericalism indeed. Here again Costa was following in the footsteps of his French predecessors, who during the Emile Combes era (1902-1905) had dispatched storming parties all over the country to combat such “manifestations of clericalism” as the celebration of First Holy Communion and the Corpus Christi procession.

Costa appealed to the carbonarios (a radical arm of the Masonic brethren) for help. The carbonario storming parties (police files referred to them only as “unknown perpetrators”) enjoyed absolute impunity in carrying out Alfonso Costa’s program of turning Portugal into a fully secular state. Their actions included the hurling of bombs into the St. Anthony procession in 1913. The procession traditionally wound its way through the streets of Lisbon every year on June 10. The brutal attack resulted in scores of worshippers being killed, including several children.

Such “anticlerical adventures” were unacceptable to even to the more moderate Republicans. On January 25, 1914, Premier Costa was forced to resign. The new government, lead by Bernardina Machado, tempered the anti-Catholic policies of his predecessor. In February 1914, the bishops were allowed to return from exile. Priests were permitted to take part in “cult associations” administering church buildings. That priests could now wear cassocks was an indication of just how far the “liberalization process” had come.

Grzegorz Kucharczyk

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