Z anglického originálu přeložil Jiří Šoler
CZECHOSLOVAKIA AND THE VATICAN
Within a few weeks of the absorption of Austria into the greater Reich, Hitler was employing the same tactics towards the Catholics of the little republic of Czechoslovakia. One would have thought that the Catholics in the various countries bordering on Nazi Germany would have learned their lesson from the fate meted out to Austria and, above all, to the Austrian Church. That was not the case. Soon they were co-operating with Hitler whole-heartedly, as if nothing had happened. The Vatican, of course, was in the background, for, as we shall have occasion to see, the Catholic movement aiding Hitler to disrupt the Republic was led by a most devout Catholic prelate, a miniature of Mgr. Seipel.
Before proceeding farther, let us review concisely the background of the disruption of the Republic.
The Catholic Church has hated Bohemia ever since the days of John Huss, the great "heretic," who was burnt by the Church owing to his daring ideas. During the Thirty Years' War the Catholic armies destroyed and pillaged the country in such manner that, at the end of hostilities, it was reduced to the utmost misery and despair. Yet this country had formerly been one of the most flourishing in mediaeval Europe. Its population, once estimated at over
3,000,000, was reduced to 780,000 people. Its rich villages and towns, once numbering 30,000, were reduced to 6,000 only. The remainder had been destroyed, burned, or left deserted by the slaughter of the inhabitants. After this holocaust, plague did the rest. A hundred thousand people were carried off by it, and many thousands of Bohemians were dispersed as refugees throughout Europe. The once prosperous Kingdom of Bohemia ceased to exist. It passed under Catholic Austria and became an appendage of the Hapsburgs.
Thus the birth of the Catholic Reformation and Catholic political control coincided with the disappearance of the politically independent life of the territories of the Czech Crown. For three centuries preceding the First World War the Czechs were attached to the Austro-Hungarian Empire under the Hapsburg Dynasty.
We have already noted that the Hapsburg House was devoutly Catholic, and the part it played in furthering Catholicism in lands subject to its rule. Under the Hapsburgs the Catholic Church regained completely the position she had lost in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and even the seventeenth centuries. In this part of the Empire, as well as in Austria, the Church and the despotic Hapsburg ruler made a pact of mutual assistance and interest, which they strove to maintain and strengthen. On more than one occasion the Church became the political instrument of the Hapsburgs-and vice versa. As a result the Nationalists, and allied elements in the Czech nation with a longing for liberty, railed against the community of interest subsisting between the Catholic Church and the detested Hapsburg regime. They objected to the discrepancy between the interests of the nation and ,the Church. These elements were to be found among the rank and file of those who were opposed to the Church. Their op- position was aroused because in the Church they perceived a bulwark of the Hapsburg despotism, constituting a reactionary brand of social, political, and national administration which the Church did her best to support on all occasions.
Futhermore, under the Austro-Hungarian regime all currents of thought and all ideas or principles not in harmony with the Catholic religion were to a great extent penalized and boycotted. This censor. ship assumed, at one and the same time, the double aspect of a religious and a political persecution. Catholicism was favored, not only because the dynasty was deeply Catholic, but also because
Catholicism was, as the rulers saw, an appropriate weapon for keeping the people thoroughly tamed.
Catholicism reigned supreme in the land of the Czechs, and although certain other Churches were granted State recognition, non-Catholics were to a great extent penalized. Free-thought was tolerated, but the public services, with the teaching and other professions, were open only to Church members. In consequence only 13,000 persons dared to register themselves as Freethinkers. It is not surprising, therefore, that the liberation of the Czechs and Slovakians from Austro-Hungarian domination after the First World War was followed by a strong movement "away from Rome" and directed against the Church. The Church had too closely identified herself with the Hapsburg dynasty and the main instrument of Haps- burg domination, political Catholicism.
Even before the First World War, but chiefly in the year following the establishment of the Czechoslovakian Republic, reforms were introduced to give the Church a specifically national character. The Czechoslovak tongue was to be the liturgical language, and a patriarchate was to be created for the territory of the Republic, enjoying the same independence as the Greek Catholic Church. That portion of the clergy of Czechoslovakia which had endorsed these endeavors only with much hesitation abandoned the thought of any further development of the scheme as soon as the disapproval of the Vatican became apparent. Only a very small group of clerics, who also aimed at abolishing the rule of celibacy, insisted on these reforms and finally went so far as to lay the foundations of "the Church of Czechoslovakia." This Church, in a very short time, lost any internal connection with the Catholic Church. The disapproval of the Vatican arose not only from religious, but also from political issues.
Between 1918 and 1930 about 1,900,000 people (mostly Czechs) changed their religion, the majority being deserters from the Roman Catholic Church. Some 800,000 of these, all of them being Czechs, formed themselves into a new Czechoslovak Church. Their Church represented a kind of reformed Catholicism, and, being independent of Rome, was untainted by memories of the hated Hapsburg connection. About 150,000 became Protestants of one kind of another, and the remainder, close on 854,000 in number, openly declared themselves Agnostics. The overwhelming majority of the citizens of
the new Republic, however, equivalent to 73.54 per cent, remained Catholics, although many of them were Catholics in name only. Strong anti-Catholic movements nevertheless continued their activities directed to the separation of Church and State and to compulsory civil ratification of marriage.
The State continued neutral in religious matters and its Constitution guaranteed complete liberty of conscience and religious profession. All religious professions were declared to be on an equal footing in the eyes of the law, and none was recognized as the State Church. Every Church complying with the Law received official recognition. Thus the State, giving a guarantee not to interfere in religious matters, was justified in demanding a reciprocal guarantee from the Churches-they must not interfere in political problems, which were the sphere of the State.
Owing to this understanding in the years following the creation of the Republic, the Holy See accepted the fait accompli and in 1918 recognized the State. The State therefore had no ground of contention with the Roman Catholic Church except with regard to the provisions of the Land Reform Law. This law affected, among others, the large estates owned by Roman Catholic dignitaries and religious Orders. The matter had since been compromised on a basis of quid pro quo.
The Vatican, on the other hand, hoped that Catholicism would easily reap great social and political advantages from the freedom granted to the Church by the democratic spirit of the Republic. Thus a kind of mutual agreement was reached by the Vatican and the Republic. The State was to grant certain prerogatives in the religious field claimed by the Church as her right, and the Catholic Church was to exercise her religious freedom. In exchange the Vatican ordered all Catholic elements working either for the restoration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire or for disruptive reforms to cease their activities.
At that time the Vatican had good reasons for this action. First, the mass-exodus of Catholic Czechs from the Church, as recorded above, was alarming; secondly, the suspicion and dislike felt for the Catholic Church in the minds of many was on the increase. Thirdly, there was the hope that with the Church's newly guaranteed freedom she would be able to reconsolidate her position. In this way the diplomacy of the Vatican did its utmost to cement the bonds
of unity between the Eastern and the Western Slavs, despite religious disputes in sub-Carpathian Ruthenia.
The ratification of this Modus Vivendi was justifiably regarded as a political event of premier importance. Unsolved problems, promising to cause recurrent difficulties, seemed to have been settled once and for all. Relations between the Republic and the Vatican were secured. In 1935 a Eucharistic Congress was held in Prague. Cardinal Verdier, the French Archbishop of Paris, went to Prague as the Papal Legate. In November 1935 Archbishop Kaspar of Prague was nominated Cardinal.
This state of apparent cordiality between Church and State began in 1917 under the auspices of Edward Benes. He realized the importance of Catholicism in Czechoslovakia, in the new Republic, and 'as an international factor, and therefore he tried to establish relations with the Vatican. Normal diplomatic relations with the Vatican were re-established immediately after the First World War. A Czechoslovak Legation at the Vatican was created without delay and a Papal Nuncio was nominated to Prague.
A short time after this, Dr. Benes, in his capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Republic, opened negotiations dealing with a number of politico-ecclesiastical questions. The negotiations began in the year 1921 with the Cardinal-Secretary of State, Gaspari, and Cardinal Ceretti, and they were continued in 1923 on the occasion of a later visit by Dr. Benes to Rome.
Any Church or religious denomination other than the Catholic Church would have appreciated such behavior in a secular Republic, like the Czechoslovak Republic, as perfect, and endeavor would have been made to co-operate with the State in the development and furthering of such cordial relationship. With the Catholic Church it was otherwise. The Catholic Church demanded one right after an- other, and in her demands displayed that intransigence which is her peculiar characteristic. The most typical example occurred in 1925, when the Czech Republic planned a great national ceremony to commemorate the country's hero, John Huss. It happened, however, that the Church had condemned John Huss, in his time, as a heretic, a spreader of errors, and an enemy of Catholicism. The Vatican therefore requested the Czech Government not to celebrate these festivities, lest offence ,be given to the Church and the Czech
Catholics by the glorification of a "heretic" who had dared to disobey the Vatican.
Naturally, the answer of the Czech Government was what it had to be. The festivities would take place with or without the approval of the Vatican. The Vatican ordered the Czechs, and particularly the Slovak Catholics, to initiate a campaign of protest 'against such a commemoration. This order was duly obeyed. The Catholic Press and the Hierarchy wrote and preached against the Government and against John Huss until the issue became one of great importance, not only in its religious aspect, but also socially and politically. The Vatican, perceiving that all its efforts to prevent the celebrations were unavailing, ordered the Papal Nuncio in Prague to protest "against the offence given to the Catholic Church by the honoring of a heretic." The Vatican instructed the Papal Nuncio to leave Prague after uttering his protest, and on July 6, 1925, he left the capital Diplomatic relations between the Republic and the Vatican were suspended
The reader should note that, during these events, the Czech Re- public was still granting one demand after another to the Vatican; the role which the Catholic Church, in alliance with the hated Hapsburgs, had played during three centuries of suppressing Czech national aspirations was forgotten. After holding the commemoration, the Czech Republic continued the attempt to cultivate the friendship of the Vatican and succeeded in re-establishing relations with Rome. Thus the young Republic pursued the course of friendship with the Catholic Church, allowing her complete freedom.
True to her principles, the Church produced complaints of an- other character purely social and political. Three were outstanding: First, that Slovakia, although pre-eminently Catholic, did not enjoy that freedom which a Catholic population had the right to enjoy; Prague kept the people under a "Hussite" yoke. Secondly, that the very principles of religious and political freedom enunciated by the Republic were increasing the spread of "Bolshevism." Thirdly, that the Republic was on too close and friendly terms with "Atheistic Bolshevik Russia."
For years the Vatican, acting through diplomatic channels, the local Catholics, and the Hierarchy, tried directly and indirectly to influence the Republic to yield to "the desire of the Church" on these issues. But the Republic, although acting impartially to the
Church, was also impartial in its principles and political interests, and therefore pursued the policy best adapted to its own welfare. That is to say, the Republic treated the ultra-Catholic Slovak on the same footing 'as any other citizen. Political freedom was allowed to the Catholic as well as to the Communist, and friendship with Soviet Russia was cultivated increasingly as a safeguard against the enemies of the Republic, especially Germany.
The main pillar of the Czechoslovak Republic's foreign policy had been the building up 'of a close and secure friendship and alliance with Soviet Russia, for obvious reasons. It is sufficient to glance at the map of Europe, displaying the position of Czechoslovakia vis-a-vis Germany, to understand why the Czechs desired Russia's friendship. Owing to this Czecho-Russian alliance, the young Republic stood like a mid-European Gibraltar on Nazi ,Germany's path to the Ukraine, which Hitler had repeatedly declared he would annex, especially in his Mein Kampf. Catholics in Czechoslovakia and elsewhere, as well as the Vatican, never ceased to complain of this alliance. On more than one occasion the Czech Government was actually accused of being a "Bolshevik Agent" in Europe. It is remarkable that the most bitter and vociferous critics were Catholics.
The principles of democracy 'and the friendship with Russia were responsible, according to the Vatican and the Catholics, for the disproportionate increase of the Socialists and communists within the Republic; they were a danger. At the last election in the Republic the Socialists and communists did, in fact, poll well over 1,700,000 votes. Finally the Slovaks wanted to be separated from the body of the Republic on the claim that they were all Catholics. They wanted a Catholic State where the Catholic religion would be supreme, and , as was said before, they disliked the rule of “Hussite Heretics” meaning, of course, the Liberal Czechs.
The Vatican, which claims never to interfere in politics, began to exert political pressure on the Republic in its ever-recurrent manner. On this occasion, having perceived that all its approaches to the Central Government regarding the abandonment of the Czech friendship with Soviet Russia and the civil liberties allowed to Socialists and Communists had been in vain, it started to exert a kind of political blackmail against the Central Government. This was done by confronting the Czech Republic with the threat that
unless it radically changed its domestic and foreign policy the Church would resort to the kind of pressure to which the Government was most sensitive-namely, support of the Separatist movement of the Catholic Slovaks. This the Vatican did, and for a period of several years gave its patronage to the Separatist movement in Slovakia with a degree of success varying according to its influence upon the successive Central Governments. It should he remembered that, although many racial, political, and economic causes were involved in the Separatist agitation, the religious issue was not unimportant; far from it, the movement was in the hands of zealous Catholics, and indeed the leaders themselves were Catholic priests.
This pressure on Prague, exerted over several years, was more or less indirect; but matters were coming to a head. The climax was reached when the Papal Nuncio interfered so openly in Czecho-slovakian affairs that the very tolerant Government was compelled to intervene. The Papal Nuncio dared to publish a letter in which he encouraged and supported the Catholic Slovak claims, and his expulsion from the territory of the Republic became essential. The Vatican., of course, protested. In addition to exerting pressure on the Czech Government through its catholic adherents within the Republic, it appealed to he French Hierarchy, and even to certain French political authorities. This happened during 1934 and 1935—dates which should be remembered in connection with the chapter on France. As we shall see, when dealing with that country, strong Catholic elements in France were already at work aiming at the creation of domestic and international Authoritarianism throughout Europe. Their two main objectives were anti-Bolshevism and a Society built on Catholic principles.
The French Government, backed by zealous Catholics, co-operated wit the Vatican and the Catholic Czechs in rebuffing the Central Government by organizing, in 1935, a monster demonstration in Prague. The Primate of France, Cardinal Verdier, was present as Papal Legate, and Polish and Austrian Catholics took a prominent part. The Prague Demonstration, organized by the Vatican, was an act of open defiance as well as a threat to the Czech Government.
From that time onwards events marched fast. The Vatican, in co-operation with other European elements —mainly Polish and Austrian Catholics, Hitler, and French reactionaries —began to work for the disintegration of the “Hussite Republic.”
Before proceeding with the events which brought about the disintegration of the Republic, let us glance briefly at some characteristic elements within the body of the State, which contributed in no mean way to its ultimate fate.
In the Czechoslovak Republic there were several political parties at this time. One of the principal reactionary parties was the Agrarian, which not only encouraged the formation of the Sudeten German Party, but actually helped it in numerous ways. This Sudeten Party, led by the Catholic Henlein, agitated for the abandonment of the Czech Republic's defensive pact with the Soviet Union and ardently advocated a policy of compromise with the Third Reich.
Another important party was the Czechoslovak People's Party, a Catholic party founded under the Austro-Hungarian regime. This Party remained loyal to Catholic Austria until shortly before the revolution. It then decided to exert its influence on the side of the Czech National movement, and made its appeal to the Catholic sentiments of the workers with varied success.
In Slovakia there was the Slovak Populist Party, essentially a Catholic party. Originally it tended to work side by side with its Czech counterpart, but, with the passing of time, it transformed itself into a Slovak Nationalist Party. This party was led by a Catholic priest, Mgr. Hlinka, and represented the strong opposition to unification which had existed in certain circles since the foundation of the Republic. It acted as spokesman for Catholicism as well as for Conservatism throughout Slovakia. Its main complaint was that Slovakia had not obtained full autonomy and similar rights. Among other things, it was felt by the Catholic priesthood that the improved educational facilities placed by the Republic at the disposal of the Slovak people were "a very serious menace" to the privileged position of the Catholic Church. We have already hinted that education in Czechoslovakia was secular and non- sectarian, although the Government subventioned ,the teaching of religions in schools. This subvention, however, was irrespective of any particular religious denomination-an 'arrangement which the Catholic Church condemned.
The Czech Republic had made giant steps so far as public education was concerned, and in this field was one of the most progressive countries in Europe. It would be of interest to glance at a
few figures in regard to the Slovaks, who complained of the treatment meted out to them by "the Hussite tyrannical Czechs." In 1918, 2,000,000 Slovak people had only 390 Slovak teachers for their children, only 276 Slovak elementary schools, and no other Slovak educational establishment. The situation in sub-Carpathian Ruthenia was still worse, for there were no schools at all. By 1930 the Czech Republic had provided Slovakia with 2,652 elementary schools, 39 secondary schools, 13 technical colleges, and a university. All this within twelve years. The State and local governments built, on an average, 100 new schools each year, and during the first fourteen years of the Republic's life they built 1,381 new elementary schools, and a further 2,623 were enlarged and modernized. During the same period the Republic built two new universities, nine new technical colleges, and 45 new secondary schools.
This is the record of the young Republic in Catholic Slovakia, whose motto "Slovakia for the Slovaks" was based, among other things, on anti-Semitism and on the resolve to arrest and reverse the racial integration of the Czech Republic. The Party on numerous occasions refused requests to join the Central Government.
In addition to the parties mentioned above there existed the "National Union"-a movement of distinctly reactionary tendency, founded in 1935. It was divided into two groups, based on Fascist principles, the National Front and the National League..
This, then, was the background of the events which we are about, very succinctly, to relate.
In the chapter dealing with Germany we have already related the plans discussed between the Vatican and Hitler before and after the Anschluss, when it became obvious that the next victim had to be Czechoslovakia. Once more Hitler, with the co-operation of the Vatican, employed Catholic tools to achieve his aims. Of course, he did not work with the Vatican in order to further religion; nor did the Vatican work with Hitler in order to further the particular type of Totalitarianism of the new Germany. Each one cooperated with the other in order to achieve its particular aim.
We have already said that the Vatican, having for years exerted pressure on the Republic, began to work for the ruin of the Czech State after the expulsion of the Papal Nuncio. It accomplished this end by internal pressure on the Catholic population and by bargaining with Hitler.
The Catholic Slovaks, led by Father Hlinka, continued their agitation during the time when the Republic was confronted with the menacing advance of Nazi Germany. Hitler had no need of Slovakia for his first steps towards the rape of the Republic; but he did need an excuse to justify his invasion designed to protect the Sudeten Germans. He had not long to search. A ready 'and easy tool was at hand, the very conscientious Catholic, Henlein, who began an agitation bent on furthering Hitler's aims. How could any sane person, unless blinded by fanatical political hatred, have failed to learn the lesson of the Catholic Austrians, whose 'betrayal had occurred a few months before? Yet many Catholics rallied to the support of Henlein and the plans of Hitler. It is true that a great number of Catholics objected, but their objection was based, not on political grounds, but rather on the apprehension that Hitler would treat the Catholic religion in their country as he had done in Austria. On this point Hitler gave his solemn word of honor to the Catholic Henlein, who had conveyed to the Fuehrer the objections of the Sudeten Catholics. Hitler promised that he would respect all the rights and privileges of the Catholic Faith among the Sudeten population.
To convince the Sudeten Catholics, and above all the Western Powers, Mussolini was employed in the plot. He published an open letter stating that private conversations with Hitler had convinced him that Germany wanted only to shear off the German fringe of Czechoslovakia. Thus Henlein and his Catholic followers continued their agitation with increased violence, supported directly and in- directly by the Catholic Slovaks, who deemed it untrue that they were seriously embarrassing the Central Government and bringing about the first step in the disintegration of the hated Republic.
Came Munich, with all the international complications it involved and the evil omen it portended for the future. It is not the task of this book to enter into the controversy whether it was or was not advisable for the Western democracies to surrender to Nazi Germany. We wish, however, to emphasize an important fact related to the problem we are studying-namely, the indirect 'but decisive influence of the Vatican in this fateful international problem. First, it is to be noted that the Catholic Church in Slovakia was the primary cause of the disintegration of the Republic, at a time when its unity was most essential. Secondly, when Hitler made his
first cut into the body of the Republic, severing the Sudeten lands from Czechoslovakia, the tool employed was Henlein, a Catholic. like his supporters and followers, with the exception of Nazis and fanatical German Nationalists. Thirdly, that Great Power which had given its pledge to stand by its treaty with the Czech Republic failed to keep that promise, France having left Czechoslovakia to her fate.
This third point leads directly to a very controversial field where we should be involved in international discussions too wide for this book and too foreign to its design. It need only be remembered that there were already in France strong Fascist elements, very powerful behind the scenes. These were working for the setting up of primarily a French, and more remotely a European, system of Totalitarianism. It should further be remarked that these Fascist elements consisted of zealous Catholics, no matter whether their constituents originated from the industrial, financial, land-owning, or official caste. All had the same dreadful fear of Soviet Russia and Communism as possessed the Vatican. Indeed, their alliance with the Vatican was designed to take measures to destroy this danger. (See Chapter 16, "France and the Vatican-")
It is remarkable that France left her friend in the lurch, whereas Soviet Russia declared clearly, precisely, and on numerous occasions, a readiness to fight if France should honor her word. Czechoslovakia has already been described as 'a kind of mid-European Gibraltar and fortress on the Communistic highway, and so it appeared to the minds of the Catholic Church and of many reactionary French elements; it was chiefly, for this reason that they desired her liquidation.
We shall see in greater detail what forces were at work in France, acting in this case in accord with the policy of the Vatican. For the present it is sufficient to say that Hitler achieved his ends, not-withstanding the adverse opinion of his own generals.
Hitler, however, did not dare to occupy the whole of the Czech Republic, deeming it more advisable to accomplish his task by degrees, the first and most important step-namely, the severance of the Sudeten land from the body of Czechoslovakia-having been made. His aim being to get possession of the whole of Czechoslovakia without precipitating a European war before he was ready, he had to work for the disruption of the Republic from within, and, once again having thought of the Catholics, he turned his eyes towards
Slovakia, where he found the immediate and whole-hearted cooperation of the Catholic Church.
So long as Father Hlinka led the Catholic Party in Slovakia, he restrained his followers, and on several occasions even the Vatican, from going to the extreme. His policy was to achieve autonomy for Slovakia, but not separation. When the Papal Nuncio had given him to understand that an independent Catholic Slovak State would be to the advantage of the Church, and that therefore the Slovaks should strive for their separation from the Republic, Father Hlinka was honest enough to answer that he did not think that this, in the long run, would be beneficial to Slovakia. At the same time he reminded the Nuncio that he had sworn allegiance to the Czech Republic.
Father Hlinka died in 1938, still urging the Catholics to be content with autonomy and not to endanger the Republic by pressing for a complete separation. But then another priest-namely, Tiso -who had been one of his most zealous followers, came into prominence and power. While negotiations were proceeding, and g
Father Hlinka was being subjected to pressure by the Vatican and the most extreme of the Slovak Catholics, Tiso had distinguished himself by his docility to the Papal Nuncio and the suggestions of Rome. The Vatican speedily recognized his services and Tiso was made a Monsignor.
Immediately he became Premier of Slovakia. Tiso's first action was to raise the cry for independence. This was done in complete accord with the Vatican and Hitler, who knew how the plan would eventually work out. The President of the Czech Republic-to whom, by the way, Mr. Tiso had taken the oath of loyalty-deposed him.
What did Tiso do? He fled immediately to Nazi Germany, the country of his supporter and friend Hitler. It was a detail of some significance that Hitler's close and continuous contact with Mgr. Tiso had been maintained through the agency of another Catholic, Seyss-Inquart of Austria. As go-between in the shaping of the conspiracy between Hitler and Mgr. Tiso, Seyss-Inquart had played his par,. Hiller ordered Seyss-Inquart to proceed with a plane to convey Mgr. Tiso to Berlin.
Having received a more than cordial reception in Berlin, Mgr. Tiso entered into close consultation with Hitler and Ribbentrop, keeping at the same time in even closer touch with the representative
of the Vatican. At this time the Secretary of State to the Vatican, who for so many years had shaped the policy of the Catholic Church, was crowned the new Pope, taking Pius X11 as his designation. He had been so much occupied during the days preceding the fall of the Czech Republic that, as his biographer records, he could take a few days' rest only. His pontificate, indeed, had started with two great problems requiring very careful handling. These were the invasion of Albania by Mussolini and the rape of Czechoslovakia by Hitler.
We posses few details as to the instruction given to Mgr. Tiso by the new Pope, but we do know that Mgr. Tiso and Ribbentrop were consulting with the Vatican, not only through the usual channels, but also through the Fascist Government. On more than one occasion during this crisis the Fascist Government acted on behalf of both Hitler and Mgr. Tiso in negotiations with the Pope.
A few days after the arrival of Mgr. Tiso in Berlin the Nazi Press began to circulate accounts of the horrors inflicted by Czech rule on Catholic Slovakia. Tiso telephoned to his Catholic friends in Slovakia that Hitler had given him a promise to support the Catholic Slovak cause if they were to make a declaration of independence. Meanwhile the Hungarians were also enticed to take a hand in the game. The Hungarian Catholic Primate, who communicated directly with the Vatican and with whom Tiso had been in touch, now reaped his reward. The Hungarian Government, which shared the hatred of Hitler and others against the Bolshevik Czech Republic, demanded Ruthenia from the Czechoslovak Government. Catholic Poland also was asking for the liquidation of the Hussite Republic as being the friend of Bolshevik Russia. Thus Catholic Poland sided openly with Hitler in demanding the dismemberment of the Czech nation.
In such manner the tragedy was enacted. Hitler summoned the President of the Republic to Berlin, where be arrived on March 15, at one o'clock in the morning. He was ordered to sign away his country, with the alternative that, if he did not sign, seven hundred Nazi bombers would flatten Prague, the Czech capital, within four hours.
President Hacha signed, and the fate of the Czech Republic was sealed. The "twilight of liberty in Central Europe," as the New York Times said, had begun. Nazi troops occupied Prague and the rest
of the country. Bohemia and Moravia became, in the language of Nazism, "Protectorates," whereat Catholic Slovakia was promoted to the status of an independent country as a reward for the help given to Hitler. The Czechoslovak Republic had ceased to exist.
Thus another stepping-stone towards the attainment of the Vatican’s grand plan had been successfully laid down. A Republic whose internal policy allowed the spread of Bolshevism and did not allow a full Catholic State to take shape, a Republic that was friendly with Atheistic Soviet Russia, had disappeared. On its grave a new Catholic State was ,built entirely conforming to the principles expounded in the Papal Bull Quadragesimo Anno, and soon this State was incorporated in the fabric of the newly emerging Catholic Christian Fascist Europe.
Immediately after the birth of the new Catholic State of Slovakia, Mgr. Tiso, who had naturally become Premier, began to shape it according to the new totalitarian, anti-democratic, anti-secular and anti-Socialist principles preached by Mussolini, Hitler, and the Catholic Church.
At first consideration of Mgr. Tiso was to find a new motto for the new Catholic State. He decided-"For God and the Fatherland." Then he ordained a new coinage bearing the portraits of the great Slavonic saints Cyril and Methodius. He naturally exchanged official representatives with the Vatican. He passed laws against Communism, Socialism, Liberalism, Secularism, and the like, suppressing their papers and organizations. Free opinion, freedom of the Press, and freedom of speech alike disappeared. The State was reorganized on the Fascist model. Youth was regimented on the Hitler Youth plan and schools conformed to the principles of the Catholic Church. Even the storm-troops were copied from the Nazis, and a legion of Catholic volunteers was recruited and sent to fight side by side with the Nazi armies against Russia.
While occupied with all these activities, Mgr. Tiso and almost all the members of his Cabinet, together with many Members of Parliament, made a regular retreat of three full days each Lent. They frequented the services of the Church with the utmost zeal, and Mgr. Tiso himself never allowed the cares of his new office to interfere with his priestly duties. Every week, like Mgr. Seipel, he relinquished for a time the care of the State to act as the simple parish priest of the Banovce Parish.
The new social structure of the State, as already hinted, was based on the corporate system, as enunciated by the Popes. Trade unions were therefore 'abolished because, as Mgr. Tiso explained, "they came under the all-pervading influence of Liberalism and Individual- ism; to prevent these elements of decomposition from wreaking destruction we had to unify professional organizations and organize our whole country on a corporate basis, as taught by the Catholic Church" (April 17, 1943). "Slovak workers may rest assured that they need not dream of a so-called Bolshevik Paradise, or expect a more just order from Eastern foreigners. The principles of religion will teach them what a just social order means."
Next in importance to the corporate system came the laws for the protection of the family, as taught by the doctrines of the Catholic Church and of Fascism. These were a replica of the Fascist laws, and everything was done to see that the family undertook the earliest teaching of religion, obedience, and Totalitarianism to the younger generation.
Then Tiso organized the Catholic Slovak youth on the model of the Nazi youth. He created the Hlinka Guards and the Hlinka Youth. In addition to this he organized the Slovak Labor Service copied from the Nazi model, and the Hlinka Slovak People's Party. All of these organizations were, of course, 100 per cent totalitarian, except that in certain matters there was a blend of Italian Fascism. In all other respects Nazi Fascism was the model adopted in Slovakia, and both were cemented by the spirit and the slogans of the Catholic Church.
In the programme of his Government Mgr. Tiso preached from Hitler's texts; he demanded discipline and blind obedience. He introduced religious instruction in the schools and granted privileges to the Church. Only those who showed themselves to be zealous Catholics could hope for employment in the State, the schools, and the Civil Service. All those who were suspected of Socialist or Communist sympathies were boycotted. Gradually the jails filled with political criminals.
Again in imitation of Hitler, Tiso created special political schools, in which the students were taught the fundamental principles of Catholic Totalitarianism. He initiated the Nazis even in their persecution of the Jews. To certain Catholics who questioned the righteous- ness of this. Mgr. Tiso replied:-
As regards the Jewish question, people ask if what we do is Christian and humane. I ask that too; is it Christian if the Slovaks want to rid themselves of their eternal enemies the Jews? Love for oneself is God's command, and His love makes it imperative for me to remove anything harming me (Tiso’s speech, August 28,1942). Tiso made himself the head of the Slovak Army. Addressing young officers, he frequently repeated to them: "The Slovak nation want! to live its own life as a national and Catholic State." (May 25, 1944).
Apart from the democracies, the main hatred of Mgr. Tiso and his Catholic State was, of course, directed against Liberalism, Social- ism,and Bolshevism, and hence against Soviet Russia. He spared no effort to make the Slovak Catholics good Bolshevik haters. The Catholic clergy were entirely on his side and co-operated with him in raising the Slovak Catholic legions which were sent to the Eastern Front.
The Bolshevik plans for predominance make it clear that Slovaks must fight, not only for their own survival, but also for the salvation and protection of European culture and Christian civilization against the forces of Bolshevik barbarism and brutality (May 25, 1944). Apocalyptic Bolshevism unleashed by Capitalists is wreaking death and destruction. We Slovaks are Catholics and have always striven for the furtherance of the interests of man (Tiso's Christmas message, 1944).
Not content with words, Tiso sent a legion to fight Bolshevism and more than once personally visited the legionaries on the Eastern Front (November 6, 1941). He spoke against the Western Powers as the chief enemy that the Slovak had to fight: "We cannot doubt that Allied victory would mean for our people a most horrible defeat of our national ideals and deliver our people to the tyranny of the Bolsheviks. Slovakia will hold out on the side of the Tripartite Pact Power until the final victory" (September 27, 1944).
The progress of the war, however, was not in accord with the wishes of Hitler and Mgr. Tiso. The Soviet armies invaded Germany as well as the territory of the former Czechoslovak Republic.
When in 1944, President Benes went to Moscow and signed a pact with Soviet Russia, Mgr. Tiso and the Catholic Slovaks screamed to Heaven of the monstrous crime of the "Hussite Benes" in selling the Slovaks to the "Godless Bolsheviks." Tiso was not alone: the Catholic bishops and clergy of the "Protectorates of Bohemia and Moravia"
echoed his words. They preached against Benes and his Government, then in London. They actually went so far as to issue a pastoral letter directed against the Czech Government in London. The letter was never published, as by this time the Vatican was working hand in hand with the Allies, realizing that the defeat of Germany was certain. The advance of Soviet Russia also stirred the Vatican to a cautious supervision of the utterances of Catholics dwelling on the Russian border. The bishops received orders not "officially to com- promise themselves." Thereupon the bishops issued stern warnings "telling people of the danger from the East." This was after Benes had signed the pact with Moscow.
Such was the new Catholic corporate State of Slovakia as desired by the Catholic Church. The structure did not last very long, for it crumbled with the defeat of Nazi military might. But the failure of the plan does not exonerate those religious and political institutions, or individual men, who had been responsible for the disappearance of the gallant Czech Republic. By their ambition to establish a totalitarian Fascist State they hastened the outbreak of the Second World War, the Slovak State having become the supporter and close partner of that Nazism which was to drench mankind in a sea of blood.