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American Society of Church History

Gustavo Juan Franceschi and the Jews: The Overcoming of Prejudice by an Argentine Prelate
Author(s): Allan Metz
Source: Church History, Vol. 62, No. 2 (Jun., 1993), pp. 207-220
Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of the American Society of Church History
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Gustavo Juan Franceschi and the Jews:
The
Overcoming
of
Prejudice
by an
Argentine
Prelate
ALLAN METZ
This article seeks to demonstrate how
Monsignor
GustavoJuan Franceschi
(1871-1957)
became a friend of the
newly
created state of Israel when
only
twenty years
earlier he had maintained that
Jews
constituted
Argentina's
major
political problem.
This intellectual transformation will be traced
through
a consideration of Franceschi's
writings
about the
Jews.
As a
promi-
nent member of the Catholic church and a
strong
advocate of
Argentine
nationalism, his views also reflected the
generally
ambivalent and
suspicious
attitude which that
powerful
institution held
regarding
Jews.
However,
following
the devastation of
European Jewry during
World War II and the
creation of the state of Israel in
1948, Franceschi's
opinion
of
Jews
moder-
ated, resulting
in
greater understanding.
Before
presenting
Franceschi's
views, a consideration of
Argentine
Catholic nationalism will be
provided
in
order to
place
these
opinions
within a
proper
context.
1
Gustavo
Juan
Franceschi was
part
of the Catholic nationalist movement
and his attitudes toward
Jews
were
shaped by
his involvement in this
political
movement. Catholic nationalism constituted a blend of
many
intellectual
currents and social and
political groupings
in
Argentina prior
to and
during
the 1920s. It remains a viable
religious
and
political tradition, representing
Argentina's unique
contribution to Roman Catholicism. Catholic nationalists
have been most successful as an
opposition group, generally
in collaboration
with the
military.
Burdick has defined Catholic nationalism as "an ultracon-
servative Catholicism...; these Catholics embraced the
political goals
of
right-wing
nationalists" and were
inspired by
the nation's traditionalism,
hispanism,
and militarism. Later, as the
country's political landscape changed,
so too did Catholic
nationalism,
acquiring
new allies with
temporary political
success and an eventual loss of
power.
1. M. Burdick, "For God and the Fatherland:
Religion
and Politics in
Argentina" (Ph.D.
diss., Univ. of California, Santa Barbara, 1991), p.
44.
Mr. Metz is assistant
professor
and
reference
librarian in
Drury College, Springfield,
Missouri.
207
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CHURCH HISTORY
The secular
precursor
to Catholic nationalism was the
literary
movement
known as traditionalism. Prior to 1914, traditionalism
may
be described as a
mixture of "federalist
nostalgia, hispanismo,
ultramontane Catholicism, and
literary
modernism."2 Later, international and national
developments
al-
tered the traditionalists'
political position, resulting
in their
participation
in
politics.
On the international scene, economic dislocations
engendered by
World War I worsened
labor-entrepreneurial
relations and the Russian
Revolution further enhanced
counterrevolutionary
sentiments
among
the
Argentine
elite. At home, the Union Civica Radical
(UCR
or Radical
Party),
the
political party
of the
growing
middle class, won the
presidential
election
of 1916, ending
the
period
of
oligarchic political
dominance. The
general
strike
ofJanuary
1919 and its violent
suppression (which
included a
pogrom
against
the
Jewish community
of Buenos
Aires),
known as the
"tragic
week,"
further induced the traditionalists to
engage
in formal
politics.3
As a result of
this event, a
potent reactionary opposition
formed
against
President
Hipolito
Yrigoyen
and his Radical
Party.
Due to the fluid
political
situation, traditionalists soon
joined
likeminded
Catholics and
military
officers to form a new
political
and cultural force.
Traditionalism also
adopted
the ideas of nascent economic nationalism.
Order and militarism came into
vogue
with the traditionalists, leading
to a
connection with their new allies that lasted over two decades.4 The tradition-
alists, however,
continued to be
marginal
to formal
politics
since the UCR
had maintained its
power.
From the
perspective
of Catholic nationalists, the
competing ideology
of
Liberalism was seen as inimical to
public order, with
leanings
toward laicism
and anticlericalism. Thus liberalism was described
by
one commentator as
representing
a
"rejection
of all norms;
uncertainty;
a state which does
nothing.
.. life divorced from tradition . . .
praising
of the
rights
of man,
the
French Revolution, socialism and communism . . . dominance of
intelligence
.... The
prototype
is the
petit bourgeois: mediocre, prudent, lacking
in
sacrificial
spirit; wanting
a
tranquil
life without
complications,
sentimental
and
insipid,
if not
cowardly."5
In
contrast, nationalism constituted "a reli-
gious
foundation for the moral and
legal order; strict norms . ..
certainty
of
revealed truth; a state which
protects
and exacts
respect
.. . life
regulated by
custom, history,
tradition and
legend
. . . subordination of
intelligence
to the
2. D.
Rock,
"Intellectual Precursors of Conservative Nationalism in
Argentina,
1900-
1927," Hispanic
American Historical Review 67:2 (1987): 299.
3. For more detail on the
tragic week, see V. Mirelman, "The Semana
Tragica
of 1919 and
the
Jews
in
Argentina,"Jewish
Social Studies 37:1
(1975): 61-73;
A.
Metz, "Despues
de la
'Semana
Tragica':
los intelectuales
argentinos y
la encuesta de
opini6n
de 'Vida
Nuestra' de 1919," Coloquio
20 (1989):
65-109.
4. Rock, "Intellectual Precursors," p.
299.
5. P. Snow, Political Forces in
Argentina (Westport, Conn., 1979), p.
106.
208
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FRANCESCHI AND THE
JEWS
precepts
of the Church and to the
greatness
of the fatherland . . . instead of
words, concrete deeds realized with ardent enthusiasm.... The
prototype
is
the cavalier of the crusades:
daring, sacrificing, wanting
to dominate and to
impose
his will for the
greater glory,
honor and
power
of the Church and the
fatherland."6 These two
contrasting perspectives,
however idealized,
embod-
ied forces
competing
for control of
Argentina.
From the nationalist
point
of
view, the
objective
was the achievement of actual
political power.
By
the late 1920s, Catholicism in
Argentina
had become a considerable
intellectual force. In
1927, intellectual Catholics like Cesar Pico, Ernesto
Palacio, Rodolfo and
Julio Irazusta, and
Juan
Carulla established La Nueva
Repuiblica,
a
major
nationalist
publication
of the time. This
publication
symbolized
the
emergence
of
rightist
traditionalism
seeking
a "New
Democracy"
based on
military governance
and
corporatism
and later
repre-
sented a transition from traditionalism to nationalism. The situation in
Argentina,
the decline of President
Yrigoyen,
and events in
Europe (for
example,
the
growth
of
fascism)
all influenced this new
ideology.7
Charles
Maurras of
France, founder of Action
Fran~aise,
also had a
significant
influence on Catholic nationalism in
Argentina by providing
the
philosophi-
cal basis for a
society
anchored
by
order,
hierarchy,
and
authority.
The
military
ruler in
Spain,
Primo de Rivera, and Benito Mussolini in
Italy
demonstrated the
political potential
of fascism. To
nationalists,
fascism could
contain the threat of communism and restore the social order.
By 1935,
Cesar Pico had
corresponded
with
Jacques
Maritain
following
the
publica-
tion of Maritain's
Integral Humanism, maintaining
that fascism was a
respect-
able
political ideology
for Catholics so
long
as a fascist state would not
impinge
on Catholic
rights.8
The directors of La Nuevo
Repuiblica symbolized
Catholic nationalism at its
apex,
but
they
constituted a cultural elitist movement and not a
political
party. They
offered an
ideology
to save
Argentina
from social disorder, but
did not have the
political
means to
carry
it out.
However, the new
ideology
did resonate with some influential
figures
such as General
Jose Uriburu,
who
in 1930 led the
country's
first
military coup.
He later
acknowledged
La Nueva
Repuzblica
and
Criterio, another nationalist
periodical,
for
assisting
in his
political
and
ideological development.
In an interview with Criterio, Uriburu
declared: "I
always
read Criterio, both its articles of doctrine and its
political
editorials. I am in
agreement
with the ideas it disseminates and defends."
The church and the Catholic nationalists backed Uriburu and
supported
his
intentions to
revamp Argentina's
liberal
democracy.
Uriburu's
corporativist
6. Ibid., p.
106-107.
7.
J. Zurretti, Una nueva historia eclesidstica
Argentina (Buenos Aires, 1972), p.
410.
Paraphrased
in
Burdick, "For God and the Fatherland," p.
50.
8. C. Pico, Una carta a
Jacques
Maritain
(Buenos Aires, 1935). Paraphrased
in Burdick,
"For God and the Fatherland," p.
50.
209
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CHURCH HISTORY
experiment
of
government,
however, turned out to be
ephemeral (due,
in
part,
to a lack of
widespread public support)
and Catholic nationalists
continued in their
quest
for a viable
political
base, finding
it in the nationalist
branch of the
military.9
In sum, "the
emergence
of
Argentine nationalism,
especially
... its
right-wing variant, constituted the
necessary political-
cultural matrix for the
resurgence
of
Argentine
Catholicism. Catholic intellec-
tuals colluded with
military
and civilian elites who were
equally sympathetic
to the ideas of traditionalism, hispanismo, corporatism,
and economic nation-
alism, converging
into what is ... called Catholic nationalism."l?
Thus in the course of the
early
1930s it became
increasingly
evident in
Argentina
that the "old nationalism" of
prior
decades had abandoned its
atheism for a "fervent Catholicism," whose
proponents
included Gustavo
J.
Franceschi. These ultra
right-wing
Catholic nationalists were also vehe-
mently
anti-Semitic.
Julio
Meinvielle and Gustavo Martinez Zuviria
(alias
Hugo Wast)
were the most visible advocates in this branch of Catholic
nationalism. Their
campaign
of hatred directed
against
the
Jews
in the 1930s
left a
legacy
for later rabid anti-Semites. Meinvielle, for
example,
influenced
anti-Semitic
groups popular
in the 1960s like "Tacuara" and Guardia Restau-
radora Nacionalista.
According
to Meinvielle in El judio, Protestantism, the
French Revolution, and communism had their
origins
in the antichrist,
that
is, Judaism.ll
His distorted vision of
history
led him to
apply
its lesson to
Argentina.
He believed, for
example,
that the
Jews
controlled finances, the
wheat and flax trades, as well as
major
industries. Meinvielle believed that in
the ideal national Christian state, there was no
place
for the
Jews.
The
process
of
Argentina's "purification
and
expiation" prohibited any
trace of
"Jewish profanity"
in his
corporativist falangist
state.
Both Meinvielle and Franceschi
rejected
totalitarianism,
but
accepted
authoritarian forms of
government
which shared
power
with the Catholic
church. However, there were some differences between the two
figures.
Franceschi was much less
intransigent
and
dogmatic
than Meinvielle. In the
1930s, although
Franceschi shared some of Meinvielle's anti-Semitic atti-
tudes, the former often
opposed
virulent anti-Semitism and denounced Nazi
measures
against Jews.12
And
by
the advent of World War II, Franceschi,
despite
his antiliberalism,
condemned the
persecution
of the
Jews,
and
by
the
1950s he visited Israel. Nevertheless Franceschi still wrote in 1933 that the
Jews
were
responsible
for
causing
the hatred directed
against
them, thereby
9. Burdick, "For God and the Fatherland," pp.
44-51. The Uriburu
quotation
is on
page
51.
10. Ibid., pp.
68-69.
11.
J. Meinvielle, Eljudio (Buenos Aires, 1936).
12. M. Navarra Gerarsi, Los nacionalistas, trans. A. Ciria
(Buenos Aires, 1967), p.
117.
210
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FRANCESCHI AND THE
JEWS
"awakening among Argentines hopes
for
vengeance
and
plans
of
expulsion."13
There was
nothing
new about the attacks of Meinvielle and Franceschi
against
the
Jews.
Much of
Argentine right-wing
nationalism had been anti-
Semitic since the
beginnings
of the movement in the 1920s. Most
nationalists,
however,
did not view themselves as anti-Semitic. Rather,
their
anti-Jewish
stance was based on their conviction that the communists were
predominant
in the
Jewish community,
reinforced
by
the fact that
many Jewish immigrants
were from Russia.
14
The
uncertainty engendered by
the
political
facade of
democracy,
that is,
the "crisis of
Argentine liberalism,"
deteriorating
economic
conditions,
and
popular
demands from the masses and workers, led nationalists to seek
scapegoats
to
explain Argentina's
internal
problems.15 Throughout
the 1930s
irrational anti-Semitism
replaced
all rational
thinking
in an obsessive search
for "the
Jewish conspiracy."
Besides
Jews,
such diverse
groups
as
capitalists,
communists,
entrepreneurs, workers, liberals, atheists, masons,
and intellec-
tuals were also
perceived
as a nefarious threat. Carlos M.
Silveyra,
director of
the anti-Semitic
magazine Clarinidad,
in
May
1937 labeled them as "that
army
of
vermin,
composed
of
apparently heterogeneous
forces." This
alleged
threat was used as an excuse to rationalize the contradictions and inconsisten-
cies of
Argentine
nationalism and the fanaticism of
right-wing
Catholicism.
The
pretext
for anti-Semitism was still anticommunism
(that is, anticommu-
nist
hatred),
but in the 1930s racist theories became more
pronounced.
Martinez Zuviria's anti-Semitic works
displayed
both anticommunist and
anti-Semitic hatred. For
example,
the
major premise
of his Buenos
Aires,
futura Babilonia, which later served as the
preface
to the novel El
Kahal/Oro,
was that a
"Jewish question"
existed in
Argentina
and that Buenos Aires
could end
up being
the
capital
of a "future
kingdom
of Israel" via
"Jewish
imperialism."16
The
arguments
contained in Martinez Zuviria's anti-Semitic
literary
works were
expanded by
later
nationalists, ranging
from the ridicu-
lous "Andinia Plan,"
conjured up by
Walter
Beveraggi
Allende
(a
former
legislator
and
professor
of
political economy
at the
University
of Buenos
Aires who
alleged
that an international Zionist-communist
conspiracy
was
preparing
to establish a
Jewish
state named Andinia in the Southern
Argen-
tine
region
of
Patagonia),
to more
sophisticated
versions
presented by
Mariano Grondona in the
magazine
Carta Politica. In 1935 Franceschi hailed
13.
G.J. Franceschi, "Como se
prepara
una revoluci6n," Criterio 289 (14 Sept. 1933): 30; L.
Senkman, "El nacionalismo
argentino y losjudios,"
Nueva Presencia, 3
September 1977,
p.
6.
14. M. Navarra Gerarsi, Los
nacionalistas, p.
117.
15. For more on the crisis of
Argentine liberalism, see L.
Senkman,
La identidad
judia
en la
literatura
argentina (Buenos Aires, 1983), pp.
199-224.
16. H. Wast, Buenos Aires, futura
Babilonia
(Buenos Aires, 1935); H. Wast, El Kahal/Oro
(Santiago, Chile, 1935).
211
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CHURCH HISTORY
the
publication
of Martinez Zuviria's El Kahal/Oro because this work demon-
strated "the seriousness of the threat of
de-Argentinization
which hovered
over"
Argentina.17 Perhaps
the
pretext
of this
alleged
threat with its
underly-
ing
anti-Semitism was considered
necessary
to
reinvigorate
what had been a
lagging
nationalism.18
2.
Gustavo
Juan
Franceschi was a
priest,
writer, philosopher,
and
sociologist
who was a
major figure
in the
Argentine
church in the first half of this
century. Originally
from France, he
immigrated
to
Argentina
in 1886 and
attained
citizenship.
Prior to
entering
the
priesthood
in
1902, he
already
had
made a name for himself as an oceanographer and
accomplished
writer.
Following
his ordination, he became a
superb preacher, especially emphasiz-
ing
Christian social doctrine. Franceschi was
chaplain
of the El Carmen
chapel
for three decades, during
which time he also was
secretary
of the
Argentine
Social
League,
an
organization
whose
goal
was to sustain Christian
values in
society.
In addition, Franceschi often acted as
chaplain
for the
national
prison
and served as clerical adviser to the Catholic Students' Center
and the Catholic Teachers' Union. He was director of the
publicationJusticia
social and a
frequent
contributor to El
Trabajo,
the
organ
of the Catholic
Workers'
Group.
Franceschi
began teaching philosophy
at the Catholic
University
of Buenos Aires in 1916 and from 1917 to 1941
taught sociology
and Catholic social
thought
at the seminario conciliar of Buenos Aires. From
1933 until his death in
1957, Franceschi was director of the Catholic
weekly
Criterio, founded in March 1928, and he contributed numerous articles and
commentaries to it. Franceschi's
writings
had a wide
readership among
intellectuals and the
general public
and were characterized
by
a clear
writing
style
on a wide
variety
of
subjects.
In all his
work,
Franceschi demonstrated
his abilities as a
theologian,
moralist, philosopher,
and historian who
always
was
knowledgeable
of his
subjects.
He was
greatly
influenced
by
French
thought
and he
proved very adept
at
relating
it to
Argentine
conditions. In
addition, Franceschi was a canon of the cathedral and was named a domestic
prelate
in 1933. He was
very
successful in
disseminating
Catholic doctrine
and
defending
the church's interests.19 Franceschi was a
major figure
of the
Catholic and
Argentine
scene in addition to
having
been a
discerning writer,
17. G.
J.
Franceschi, review of El Kahal/Oro, by
H. Wast,
in Criterio 382
(27 June 1935):
203-204.
18. Senkman,
"El nacionalismo," p.
6.
19. New Catholic
Encyclopedia,
18 vols., 1967,
s.v. "Franceschi, Gustavo
Juan,"
vol.
6;
D.
Abad de Santillan, Gran
enciclopedia argentina,
8 vols.
(Buenos Aires, 1956),
3: 387-388.
212
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FRANCESCHI AND THE
JEWS
a talented
essayist
on a wide
variety
of
topics,
and a man of well articulated
ideas and firm convictions.20
Franceschi, therefore, was the most well-known of all
right-wing clergy
due to his
prominence
in
Argentine
Catholicism and to his
editorship
of
Criterio. Due to Franceschi's
high profile,
he was
subject
to criticism from
liberals within and outside of
Argentina. However, historian
John
H.
Kennedy
defended Father Franceschi from accusations that he was antidemocratic
by
maintaining
that his
political writings
did "not indicate
conclusively
the
intention to overthrow the
existing
order and
implant
in
Argentina
a dictator-
ship
of the
right."21 Kennedy
conceded that Franceschi
supported
Franco-
style
fascism and
falangism,
but concluded that characterizations of the
Argentine clergy
as
profascist
have never been substantiated.22
According
to
Kennedy,
these
charges
have been
frequently
made
by
liberals both within
Argentina
and
internationally,
not
just regarding Franceschi,
but
against
the
rightist clergy
as well. If these
charges
of
profascism
meant that Franceschi
and the
right-wing clergy
were direct
supporters
of
fascism, they
would be
probably
untrue. Yet in the 1930s the term "fascist" was
vaguely
defined as
one who advocated an antidemocratic and
proauthoritarian ideology,
or one
who was
against granting
the lower classes a
greater say
in
government.
A
tendency
to
group "together
under the name 'Fascist' a
large
number of
different movements which have in common an
antipathy
both to the
established methods of
parliamentarianism
and to all forms of Socialism and
Communism" is
pertinent
to the
charges
made in the 1930s and also
applies
to
clergy
like Franceschi and Meinvielle.23 While Franceschi did not condone
the fall of constitutional
government,
since the church refused to
recognize
a
resort to
revolution, he
clearly
did state that
democracy
was an
unacceptable
system
of
government
due to its
inherently
liberal
philosophy,
and "a
Catholic cannot be a Liberal."24 Franceschi
argued
that liberalism
precipi-
tated such
catastrophes
as class conflict, economic
dictatorship, political
instability,
social chaos, imperialism, revolution,
monopolies,
and war.25
Franceschi was
very
clear about these forms of
government.
Communism for
Franceschi was "the exteriorization of evil; its
triumph
would be God's
punishment
for
humanity
for a second
time,
definitely condemning
it to
20. Israel visto
por ojos argentinos (Buenos Aires, 1960), p.
66.
21. J.
Kennedy, Catholicism, Nationalism,
and
Democracy
in
Argentina (Notre Dame, Ind.,
1938), p.
177.
22. Ibid., p.
180.
23. G. D. H. and M. Cole, A Guide to Modern Politics
(New York, 1934), p.
63.
24. G.
J. Franceschi, Totalitarismo, liberalismo,
catolicismo
(Buenos Aires, 1940), p.
82.
Citations in notes 24-33 are
quoted
and/or
paraphrased
in M. Navarra
Gerarsi,
"Argentine
Nationalism of the
Right:
The
History
of an
Ideological Development,
1930-1946"
(Ph.D. diss., Columbia
University, 1964), pp.
108-110. G.
J. Franceschi,
Totalitarismo, liberalismo, catolicismo, p.
34.
25. Ibid., p.
36.
213
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CHURCH HISTORY
degradation, returning
it to its miserable, primitive
conditions."26 He also
rejected
Nazism because of its
emphasis
on the
supremacy
of the state and
disavowal of
religion.27
Franceschi
rejected
fascism for the same reasons,
although
he was
very sympathetic
to Mussolini.28 Thus, like Meinvielle,
Franceschi evaluated forms of
government according
to the role
played by
the church in them. He believed that fascism, National Socialism, and
communism created
"godless
societies" since
they
were
"diametrically op-
posed
to Thomist
teaching
because in it not
only
all the men, but the
totality
of each man is
encompassed
in the State."29 Franceschi rejected these
regimes
not because
they
were totalitarian, but because
they
were totalitarian
in a
way
he did not
approve
of
by
not
making
a
provision
for
religion.30
Falangism,
Franceschi believed, merited full
acceptance
since it
provided
the
church with a
major
role in
society.
The anti-Semitism of Meinvielle was also reflected in Franceschi's
thought.
While Franceschi
frequently emphasized
his
opposition
to virulent anti-
Semitism and
disagreed
with Nazi treatment of the
Jews,
he nonetheless
noted that
Argentine Jews
were
responsible
for
provoking anger
and "a
passionate
reaction."31 The
prelate
described
Argentina
as a nation
undergo-
ing
an
implacable
Semitic
penetration
which ruined whole branches of
industry,
swallowed
up
land to have it worked under intolerable conditions,
united
everywhere against non-Jews, participated
in extremist movements,
and was
noticeably pornographic
in its
propaganda.32
These views were not held
by
the leftist branch of the Catholic church,
whose most
representative spokesperson
was
Monsignor Miguel
de Andrea.
This faction, however, restricted its activities
essentially
to social work.
Besides
being
more vocal,
the
right
controlled a
majority
of the Catholic
media, ranging
from
publishing
firms to
periodicals
like Criterio. Moreover,
the left was hesitant to contest the
right
too
publicly
due to the emotions
generated by
the
Spanish
Civil War,
in which a link had been established
between the Catholic church and
falangism.33
In
sum, Argentine
Catholics
crystallized
into two
groups:
the
predominant
conservative nationalist faction
and the
minority liberal-leaning
faction. Of a conservative
origin
and
despite
antipopular
and fascist
origin,
the nationalists would advocate a
hispanic
tradition and Christian values in order to secure
popular ideological loyal-
ty.34
While Franceschi and other
rightist
nationalist
clergy
did not advocate
26. Criterio 253 (5 Jan. 1933):
261.
27. Criterio 290 (21 Sept. 1933):
55.
28. Criterio 314
(8
Mar.
1934):
221.
29.
G.J. Franceschi, Totalitarismo, liberalismo, catolicismo, p.
14.
30. Criterio 335
(2 Aug. 1934):
319.
31. Criterio 283 (14 Sept. 1933):
30.
32. Ibid.
33. M. Navarro Gerarsi, "Argentine
Nationalism of the
Right," pp.
110-111.
34. G.
Farrel, Iglesiay pueblo
en
Argentina,
1860-1974
(Buenos Aires, 1976), p.
98.
214
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FRANCESCHI AND THE
JEWS
democracy's
violent downfall, by
their clear antidemocratic stance and
ap-
proval
of authoritarian
regimes
which favored the church, they
did
help
undermine faith in
democracy
and enhance the
strength
of the nationalist
movement with which it had so much in common.
3.
Franceschi's ambivalence toward
Jews
has been noted above. The anti-
Semitic tone of Franceschi's
writings
was clear
throughout
the 1930s. Follow-
ing
World War II, however, perhaps
due to
Jewish suffering
in the Holo-
caust, Franceschi
developed
a more
conciliatory position
which continued
until his death in
1957, as reflected in visits he made to Israel in the 1950s
and comments
published
thereafter. As will be
pointed
out, though,
even in
his later
stage
of
thought regarding
the
Jews,
Franceschi could still revert to
previous negative
attitudes.
The
origins
of Franceschi's attitudes toward
Jews
can be traced to the
early
part
of this
century.
In the immediate aftermath of the
tragic
week of 1919,
Franceschi
placed
most of the blame for this event on "Hebrews ... who were
the first in the
Argentine Republic
to sow
revolutionary
doctrines."35 A
reference Franceschi made to
Jews
in
September
1933 reflected a shift in
Argentine
nationalist
thought
from a
linkage
ofJews with bolshevism in 1919
to one of economic issues. This newer
linkage
included
Jewish
economic and
financial domination, which
replaced purely political considerations,
attribut-
able to economic woes
brought
on
by
the Great
Depression.
For
example,
Franceschi decried what he termed the
implacable Jewish penetration
of the
Argentine economy,
which infected entire industries, monopolized
and
exploited
the
agricultural sector, and
paid
workers starvation
wages.36
Franceschi elaborated on this and other related themes in his December
1933 Criterio article on
anti-Semitism,
which constituted a
very important
statement on this
subject
and will be
highlighted
below. Franceschi believed
that the
Jewish question
was a
complex
issue which had no
easy
solutions and
would continue to have serious
implications
for
Argentina.
He related that
when he became a
priest just
after the turn of the
century,
anti-Semitism did
not exist as a "social
phenomenon."
While there were a few isolated voices
who warned of a
gradual Jewish penetration
of the
country, they
were
dismissed as
retrograde by
liberals who had
encouraged
a
policy
of mass
immigration. According
to Franceschi, the first overt manifestation of anti-
Semitism occurred with the
tragic week, as a reaction to
Jewish immigration
and a
linkage
of
Jews
with
communists,
since
many Jews
came from Russia.
35. G.
J.
Franceschi in El Pueblo, 26
Jan.
1919; S. McGee Deutsch, "The
Argentine Right
and the
Jews,
1910-1933,"Journal of
Latin American Studies 18:1
(1986): 118.
36. G.
J. Franceschi, "Como se
prepara
una revoluci6n," pp. 30-31; Deutsch, "The
Argentine Right
and the
Jews," p.
128.
215
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CHURCH HISTORY
With this
Jewish influx, Buenos Aires had become "one of the
Jewish capitals
of the world," and Franceschi believed that there were more
Jews
in
Argen-
tina than in both France and
Italy
combined.37 Franceschi also believed that
the number ofJews
already living
in
Argentina
was "excessive" and he noted
that the
Argentine
Catholic nationalist writer Manuel Galvez had also
pointed
this out
years
earlier.38 Franceschi termed this influx of
Jewish immigration
as a "Hebrew invasion," which
provoked
"a new anti-Semitism"
manifesting
itself not in violence, but in numerous
anti-Jewish writings. Thus, it was
impossible
to
deny
that "the
Jewish problem
is the order of the
day
in the
Argentine Republic."39
Franceschi continued to
express hostility
toward
Jews
in 1935, particularly
in
opposition
to
potential immigration
of German
Jews
to
Argentina.
As he
had done in the
past,
Franceschi
through
his
writings
in Criterio created a
hostile
atmosphere
for
Jews.
This contributed to the failure of a
May
1935
mission
by
James G. McDonald, the
League
of Nations
high
commissioner for
refugees
from
Germany,
to secure a concrete
agreement
from the
Argentine
government
to admit more
Jews
into the
country.
Franceschi feared that
more
Jews
would threaten
Argentina's uniqueness
as a
predominantly
His-
pano-Catholic
nation.40
A
commentary
in the 24 November 1938 issue of Criterio
attempted
to
summarize that
publication's (Franceschi's) position
on the
Jewish question
in the
previous
five
years.
Franceschi maintained that a review of
writings
in
Criterio from 1933 to 1938 on the
Jewish question
would reveal a consistent
attitude in
response
to
alleged Jewish
actions and influence inimical to
Argentine
"national and
spiritual
interests"
(such
as
perceived Jewish
threats
to
Hispano-Catholic Argentine identity).
This defensive
posture,
the commen-
tary
assured, would consist in
"legitimate"
means which
respected
human
dignity
and should not, therefore, be
interpreted
as
reflecting
an anti-Semitic
attitude since no hatred was involved. "Our
opposition
to
Judaism
is an
opposition
of Christian order which
openly
and
categorically repudiates"
even a hint of
any
racial or totalitarian doctrine. Criterio's
position regarding
37. Franceschi's claim was not
supported by
the facts.
According
to The American Jewish Year
Book, the
Jewish population
in
Argentina
was 215,000
in 1933
(or
1.81
percent
of the
total
population)
while the number of
Jews
in France was estimated at
225,000 and
Italy,
based on a census,
at 47,435,
both for 1931
(which
were the nearest available
figures
to
1933).
Thus the combined totals for
Jews
in France and
Italy
were 322,435
compared
to
Argentina's
215,000. See "Statistics of
Jews: Jewish Population
of the
World," American
Jewish
Year Book, ed., H. Schneiderman
(Philadelphia, 1935), pp.
359-360.
38. M. Galvez, "Antisemitismo,"
Criterio 239 (29 Sept. 1932):
300-302. Galvez outdid
Franceschi
by greatly exaggerating
the
Jewish population
in
Argentina, citing
a
figure
of
800,000.
39.
G.J. Franceschi, "Antisemitismo,"
Criterio 301
(7
Dec.
1933):
317-321.
40.
G.J. Franceschi, "Governar es
poblar,"
Criterio 376
(16 May 1935):
1.
216
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FRANCESCHI AND THE
JEWS
the
Jewish question
was one of
charity
and
justice,
Franceschi insisted.
Thus,
Criterio
protested against
the brutal
persecution
of
Jews by
Nazi
Germany,
such as Kristalnacht.41
Franceschi's
analysis
ofJewish matters continued the
following year.
At the
close of an extensive
six-part
series written in 1939 on "The
Jewish Problem,"
Franceschi reached some conclusions
especially concerning Argentina.
Racist
solutions to the
Jewish problem
should be,
and had been, rejected outright
because
they
were
"unjust, anti-Christian,
and useless."
Unjust,
because
they
ignored legitimately acquired rights
and violated human
dignity.
Anti-
Christian, since
they
contradicted both the
dogmatic
and moral
principles
of
Catholic doctrine. And
useless,
because
history
demonstrated that
attempts
to
destroy
or
vanquish
the
Jews always
failed. Another theme Franceschi
addressed in this series was the
position
of the church vis-a-vis the
Jews,
which he summarized in three main
points: 1)
a
respect
for the
Jew
and
matters related to him; 2)
the need to
prevent
the
Jew
from
having
a
deleterious effect on "Christian conscience
through
his
propaganda
or
acts";
and
3)
a
prohibition
of
Jews
to attain
leadership positions
since this would
lead to an inevitable dechristianization of
society.
In other words,
while it was
imperative
to maintain the human
dignity
of the
Jew,
it also was
vitally
important
to
preserve
the Christian nature of
Argentine society by,
for
example, insisting
that the
president
be Catholic. Franceschi closed
by
wondering
when the
antipathy
between
Jews
and Christians would be
resolved and then he answered his rhetorical
question
in
theological,
even
eschatological
terms: "When the oration of the saints, urging
the
days
of
mercy,
will
open
the
eyes
of Israel."42
Just as Franceschi had written a series on the
Jews
in the
pivotal year
of
1939,
he wrote another article on anti-Semitism in the critical
year
of
1945,
which reflected a more
understanding,
less critical attitude, attributable in
part
to the
Jewish persecution during
World War II. Franceschi referred to
recent anti-Semitic outbreaks in
Argentina
which he viewed as an "intrinsic
evil" and
incompatible
with "true Catholicism."43 Franceschi then
proceeded
to define anti-Semitism and its two
major
manifestations. It was "the hatred,
the
hostility
toward the Semite, and
especially
the
Jew,
not due to a certain
defect which one or more individuals of this
ancestry has,
but
only
for
being
41. "Dos
pesas,
dos medidas," Criterio 560
(24 Nov. 1938): 315-316.
42.
G.J. Franceschi,
"El
problemajudio, VI," Criterio 593
(13 July 1939): 245-250. The five
other articles in this series under the same title were in the
following
issues of Criterio:
587
(1 June 1939): 101-105; 588
(9 June 1939): 125-130; 589
(15 June 1939):
149-154; 590
(22June 1939): 173-178; 592
(6July 1939): 221-226.
43. Franceschi's reference to "recent" anti-Semitism
probably
referred to incidents which
took
place during Juan
Per6n's
presidential campaign
in late November
through
mid-December 1945.
217
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CHURCH HISTORY
members of it." Its two forms, occurring
at times
simultaneously
and some-
times
successively,
were
physical persecution
and defamation.44
The trend toward more
understanding
on Franceschi's
part
vis-a-vis the
Jews
continued into the 1950s.
Following
a visit to Israel in 1952, Franceschi
related his
impressions.
He
pointed
out that the
Jews
were a
unique people
who
played
a
special
role in world
history
and that Christians should be
aware of the connection between Israel and "our own salvation." Franceschi
related that
just
ten
years
earlier
(1942),
the Nazis had
attempted
the
systematic
and brutal destruction of the
Jews,
who served as the scapegoat of
modern civilization. Franceschi wondered, considering
such a devastation of
human life, what other
people
could have
accomplished
what the
Jews
had in
Israel in such a
relatively
short time. Franceschi concluded that Israel was
able to achieve this remarkable transformation
through immigration.45
Franceschi's second article on his Israeli visit was
published
in Criterio.
Franceschi observed that Israel was the most western of the Middle Eastern
nations. And while its
political
institutions
(such
as ministries, administration,
police,
and
municipal government)
were similar to those in
every
modern
state, Franceschi noted that it was
necessary
to seek further in order to
distinguish
Israel from other countries: for
example,
its
unique history,
diverse
landscape,
and certain institutions. These institutions
gave impetus
to the
country's
tremendous
vitality
and
fully responded
to the "Israeli
mentality"
of the common
good.
Franceschi also
expressed
a
legitimate
concern whether Israel as a state and
society
would be
guided by religious
precepts, reflecting
its
religious
tradition, or if a more or less total secularism
(that is, laicism)
would
prevail.
Franceschi
similarly
was
greatly
concerned
with secularism and the threat he
perceived
that it
posed
to Catholicism in
Argentina probably
due, at least in
part,
to an anti-Catholic
campaign
from
1952 to 1955 conducted
by
the
government
of
Juan
Peron.46 It
appeared
to
Franceschi that it was
impossible
that a civil and a
substantially religious
authority
could coexist-a keen
insight
since this dilemma continues to be a
major
issue in
contemporary
Israel. Franceschi concluded, however,
that
Israel could not survive without its
spiritual underpinnings
and tradition.47
44. "La bestia enfurecida," Criterio 559
(17
Nov. 1938): 288; G.
J. Franceschi,
"Antisemitismo," Criterio 925 (6
Dec.
1945):
533-535.
45. G.
J. Franceschi, "Impresiones
de oriente
(IV):
Miradas sobre Israel," Criterio 1167
(10
July 1952):
469-474.
46. New Catholic
Encyclopedia,
1967, s.v.
"Argentina."
For more on Per6n and the Catholic
church, see Susana Bianchi, La
Iglesia
Catolica
y
el estado
peronista (Buenos Aires, 1988).
47. G.
J. Franceschi, "Impresiones
de oriente
(V):
Miradas sobre Israel
(11),"
Criterio 1168
(24 July 1952):
507-512.
47. Franceschi
expressed support
for Israel on
many
occasions. See "Solidaridad
argentino-
israeli," Israely
America Latina 7:68
(Jan.-Feb. 1956): 8-9; G.J. Franceschi, "Odios de los
seudo cristianos," Criterio 1252 (26 Jan. 1956): 43-45; G.J. Franceschi,
"Amar a todos
los humbres," Israel
y
America Latina 7:71
(1956): 11-13; G.J. Franceschi,
"Odios de los
seudo cristianos," p. 45; "Notas del continente,"
Israel
y
America Latina 7:72
(1956): 14;
218
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FRANCESCHI AND THE
JEWS
4.
Franceschi
adopted
a more reasonable, understanding
attitude toward
Jews following
World War II,
which continued into the 1950s when he visited
Israel, until his death in 1957.
Argentine
writer and
social/political
commen-
tator Samuel
Tarnopolsky
noted that some of Franceschi's earlier
opinions
on the
Jews
could have been mistaken for those of Nazi writers. And if
Franceschi did not wish to retract these
past
statements as a Christian
priest,
Tarnopolsky wrote, he should do it "in his
dignity
as an
Argentine."48
Despite
his more
conciliatory
attitude toward
Jews
and
Israel, Franceschi
still could revert to his
previous
attitudes toward
Jews.
Robert Weisbrot
observed that the anti-Semitism of the
Argentine
Catholic church was "so
deeply
embedded as to be almost
involuntary."
To illustrate this
point,
Weisbrot referred to some remarks made
by
Franceschi at a 1956
reception
held in his honor
by
Dr. Arie L.
Kubovy,
Israel's ambassador to
Argentina.
Franceschi had
just
arrived from a
trip
in Israel and was introduced most
cordially by Kubovy
to an audience of
approximately
500
guests
at the Israeli
embassy. Kubovy
noted the
magnanimous spirit
of the honored
guest
"whose
relationship
toward the
Jews
is not
merely
one of
tolerance, because toler-
ance
presumes
a certain masked
deprecation,"
which no doubt was
unworthy
of this famous member of the
clergy.
As it turned
out, however, Franceschi's
remarks were
scarcely
even
tolerant,
in Weisbrot's observation. He stated in
paternalistic generosity
that
according
to
Deuteronomy,
"the children should
not
pay
for the sins of the
fathers," and so
Argentine
Catholics "will not
attempt
to make the
Jews
of
today pay
for the crucifixion of Christ."
Kubovy
was
dismayed,
but Franceschi's
paternalism
was
just
one of
many
instances of
the church's ambivalence toward
accepting
Jews on an
equal
basis with other
Argentines.49
Yet, despite
such a
lapse, Tarnopolsky
described Franceschi as one who
had overcome
prejudice.
Franceschi became "the best friend of the nascent
State of Israel in
Argentina"
and received considerable
coverage
in
Jewish
magazines, according
to
Jorge Mejia, disciple
and successor to Franceschi as
director of Criterio.50 And
Tarnopolsky
related that Franceschi came to Israel,
where
upon stepping
on the land,
he
knelt, kissed it, and
wept.
He visited
Europe following
the Holocaust.
Facing
a
large
tomb of war dead, Frances-
chi's
remarks,
according
to
Tarnopolsky,
should be etched in
every syna-
gogue
and church: "There, all are
together
in
death, Jews
and Christians.
G. J. Franceschi, "Fraternidad judeo cristiana," Israel
y
America Latina 8:74
(1956):
8-11; "Notas del continente," Israel
y
America Latina 8:73
(1956): 14; G.J. Franceschi,
"Tierra llena de recuerdos," Israel
y
America Latina 8:76 (1956): 6-7.
48. S.
Tarnopolsky,
Los
prejuciados
de honrada conciencia
(Buenos Aires, 1971), p.
113.
49. R. Weisbrot, The
Jews of Argentina, pp. 218-219; La Luz 41: 1034
(16July 1971): 8.
50. J.
Mejia,
"Monsefior Gustavo
J. Franceschi," Criterio 1288 (25 July 1957): 493; S.
Tarnopolsky,
Los Prejudicios, p.
113.
219
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CHURCH HISTORY
Over the tomb is raised, on one side, the candelabra of seven arms, and on
the other, a
large
Christian cross. And this is how we should live; to suffer
together,
and if
necessary,
to die
together." Tarnopolsky
concluded that this
was "the
teaching
and the
example
of a
priest.
His lesson should not be
forgotten."51
In sum, what accounted for the
ambiguous
nature of Franceschi's
change
of heart?
Despite
the fact that he had
changed
his
political position
vis-a-vis
the
Jews (as
demonstrated
by
his
support
for
Israel),
his
theological position
remained
problematic-that is, he no
longer
believed that
Jews
should be
persecuted
for the sins of their fathers, but he continued to view the
Jews
as
collectively responsible
for Christ's death. Whether a moderation of Frances-
chi's attitudes toward
Jews paralleled,
on a
larger scale, a similar shift
by
the
Vatican is
subject
to
speculation
since there is no evidence of a direct link
between the two. However,
it
may
be noted that
following
Israel's
indepen-
dence a
general understanding developed
between Israel and the Vatican
regarding
Israel's
pledge
to
protect
Catholic
holy
sites in Israel and
especially
Jerusalem. (Franceschi
himself
expressed
this concern in his
writings
about
Israel in the
1950s.)
In
addition,
the
early post-World
War II
period
into the
1950s also witnessed efforts
by
the Catholic church to
modify
its
liturgy
so as
to
discourage language prejudicial
to
Jews.
So while a connection between
Franceschi's shift in attitude and
developments
in Vatican-Jewish/Israeli
relations is difficult to ascertain, there was a
greater understanding
on the
part
of both Franceschi and the Vatican in the 1950s,
without
necessarily
a
causal
relationship
between the two.
On the other hand, the Arab
League
in Buenos Aires in the 1950s
(and
beyond) charged
that
holy
sites in Israel were
being
desecrated and that the
Catholic church was
persecuted there,
thus
exploiting
the fact that
Argentina
had a
primarily
Catholic
population.
Moreover,
the Catholic church in
Argentina historically
has not been tolerant of
religious pluralism
and this
was reflected in its
general opposition
to the reforms
(including
the ecumen-
ical
movement)
of Vatican II. In
contemporary times, the
Argentine
Catholic
hierarchy
continues to be
antagonistic
toward
Jews
in
general
and
particu-
larly
in
Argentina.
Thus within this
specific context, perhaps,
the case could
be made that Franceschi was a
pioneer,
or at least more the
exception
than
the
rule,
in
seeking
to
improve Christian-Jewish
relations.
51. S.
Tarnopolsky,
Los
prejudicios, p.
113.
220
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