Dario Canali recently wrote an interesting book about Monsignor Joseph Tiso entitled “With songs on the lips” (Tricase di Lecce, Youcanprint Self-Publishing, 20171).
Unfortunately, the preface is spoiled by some commonplace and anti-Christian prejudices that do not allow it to penetrate the profoundly Catholic spirit of Monsignor Tiso’s figure; However, the book itself is very good and worth studying.
Monsignor Tiso is one of the great (albeit unknown) figures of political Catholicism who, together with Constantine, Clodoveo, Charlemagne, Saint Louis IX, Garcia Moreno, Antonio Salazar and Francisco Franco2, fought with ideas and as well as with weapons for the establishment of Christ’s social reign.
He is the embodiment of the militant spirit of the Catholic Church, which prays, works, studies, teaches, cares for souls and bodies, raises cathedrals, creates artistic / musical masterpieces and legally defends even with weapons (“vim vi repellere licet” / it is legitimate to forcefully repel a violent aggressor) its subjects [from enemies] both within their own country and from external assaults that may come from other nations or religious movements (such as Islam which was repeatedly defeated by Christian soldiers at Poitiers in 732, In Lepanto in 1571 and in Vienna in 1683). From the early years of Christianity the most valiant soldiers of the Roman Empire were Christians who fought for Rome with all their strength, refusing to obey only if they were asked to worship idols or men as if they were God.
A Priest As President
The author asks at the beginning of his work: “Can a President be a priest and above all sacrifice his life for his people?” (With songs on the lips, Tricase di Lecce, Youcanprint Self-Publishing, 2017, p. 8). The answer of course is affirmative.
But why did Monsignor Tiso, a priest, become President of the Slovak Republic?
Canali explains that little Slovakia - with about 2.5 million inhabitants, of which 85% were Slovak (about 2.3 million), 130,000 Germans, 90,000 Jews, 65,000 Hungarians and 31,000 Czechs - was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918, was surrounded by great nations (Germany, Poland, Hungary) and after 1918 it was annexed by the Czechs, who had unified it to Czech Republic by forming Czech-Slovakia.
The “Black Legend” Of Msgr. Tiso
The figure of Msgr. Tiso was surrounded by a black legend: a priest who rules a country for earthly pride, a fascist theocrate, a lackey of pagan National Socialist Germany, which serves for its expansion to the west of a small Catholic country (Slovakia).
Canali quotes Fr. Pierre Blet, Gregorian’s great Jesuit historian, who, on the other hand, defines Tiso as “a man of proven fidelity to the Church, but also deeply devoted to the cause of Slovak independence, who wanted to leave his office but remained in his place so as to save the salvable “(cit., P. 9).
The Life Of Tiso
Tiso remained President of the Slovak Republic from 1939 to 1945. He was born on 13 October 1887 in the then Austro-Hungarian Empire in a farming and fervent Catholic family (Joseph was the second of 10 children, of which another became priest) of Slovak origin. He was hanged on April 18, 1945 at only 59 years of age in Bratislava (capital of Slovakia from 1938 to 1945 and from 1992 until today).
Already at high school his intention to become a priest matured and in 1902 he entered the seminary where he learned to love more and more God and his homeland, Slovakia, which in 1918 had been annexed by the Czechs and lost its independence. In the summer of 1910, at the age of 23, he was ordained a priest; in 1911 he attained a doctorate of theology, specializing in the study of the Church’s social doctrine.
In 1910 he joined the Slovak Popular Party (born as a Catholic and patriotic party fighting for the autonomy of Slovakia) founded in 1905 by Mgr. Andrej Hlinka (September 27, 1864 - August 16, 1938), one of the great defenders of Slovak Patriotism. In his first year of priestly apostolate, Fr. Joseph founded a branch of the Slovakian Bank to help the needy to receive economic aid without having to pay heavy sums of interest.
Unfortunately in Slovakia most of the merchants were Israelites (although forming only 4% of the population they controlled 40% of national wealth) and imposed exorbitant prices on the rest of the population. However, “on the socio-economic issue with the Jews, young Tiso responded very peacefully. He tried to show simple people how to improve their position, without arguing against the Jews” (cit., p. 13).
In 1914, with the outbreak of the first World War, Fr. Joseph became a military captain of the Austro-Hungarian Army and then exerted pastoral care in the hospitals.
In 1918, after the fall of the Austrian Empire, Czechoslovakia was created (with the help of the USA, France and England) whose leaders were three: Edvard Benes, Milan Stefanik and Tomas Masaryk, who was proclaimed President On November 14, 1918. The independence of Czechoslovakia was proclaimed on October 28, 1918 in Prague (Czechoslovakia’s capital from 1918 to 1992 and since 1992 of the Czech Republic only, when the independence of Slovakia was re-established).
“The new Czech-Slovak state was forcefully imposed by the Prague of the Slovaks, with the acquiescence of the World War I winners. The Czech-Slovak handwriting was even pronounced as a crime and the birth of the Czechoslovak state was achieved through martial law. Slovakia’s marginalization was replaced by a Czech-isation” (cit., p. 17). Slovakia became a colony of Prague, which started a process of secularization of Slovakia (deeply Catholic / rural country) and strict separation between the Church and the state. President Masaryk, the chief builder of this process of secularization, was heavily oppsed by Slovene Catholics, who were 85% of the population, while the remaining 11% were [rom?] and protestants (of German and Hungarian origin) and 4% were Israelites.
The secularization followed the confiscation and nationalization of the assets of the Catholic Church, the mandatory military service for priests was introduced, the suppression of Catholic schools was introduced and strong support was given to the Czechoslovakian “church” that was cut off from Rome. Moreover, the government favored the citizen, bourgeois, protestant and Jewish elements at the expense of Catholics, who were very Traditional and rural.
The Catholic Church and the Slovak clergy (including Bishop Tiso in the front row) stood against this discriminatory liberal policy and advocated a sound and civil reaction to the Protestant and Israeli force. Tiso, who had thoroughly studied the Church’s Social Doctrine and the Encyclicals of Leo XIII (Rerum novarum, May 15, 1891) and Pius XI (Quadragesimo anno, 15 May 1931), was said to have put in practice and in political legislation the principles contained in the two Encyclicals.
In 1920 Msgr. Tiso was presented as a deputy on the lists of the Slovak Popular Party, which in 1923 became the first Party of Slovakia. Canali writes: “Andrej Hlinka is certainly the lighthouse of Slovak nationalism, but Tiso is the performer and the finalizer” (cit., P. 21). In addition, Tiso had a much stronger character than Hlinka and was reluctant to cede everything in the face of the pressures of the secular forces and the hostile Czechs to the Church and to independent and officially Catholic Slovakia.
1938: Slovakia Becomes An Autonomous Nation
The Slovak Popular Party slowly (from 1925 to 1932) had become the strongest in all of Slovakia and under the direction of Msgr. Hlinka and Msgr. Tiso succeeded in bringing together all the forces of the other political parties (except the Communists) to form a single party (Slovakian People’s Party). Czechoslovak President Edvard Benes then resigned and was expelled. Thus the Slovak government was formed and Tiso became Prime Minister.
In the following year and exactly on March 9, 1939, the troops of the Czech Army reacted to Slovakia’s independence, invaded and deposed Tiso, who was invited to Berlin on March 13 by Hitler, who promised him German protection for the maintenance of the Slovak independence.
Tiso returned to his homeland on March 14 and united the government. The situation was dramatic: on the one hand Masonic and philosophical secularism wanted to destroy Slovakia and annex it to the Czech Republic; on the other, the National Socialist Party promised help, but by accepting it, it was well understood that Slovakia would become more or less dependent on Hitler. On March 15 Hitler occupied Bohemia and Moravia and told Tiso that any delay in accepting German support would have led Slovakia to be divided between Hungary and Germany (cit., 30). All that remained was to accept the least disadvantaged situation. Tiso as the head of the Slovak government declared independence of Slovakia and the alliance with Germany. On 29 October 1939 he was elected President of the Slovak Republic.
The new Slovak state was recognized by the Holy See, Hungary, Poland, Germany, Italy, England, France, Japan …
The Christian Constitution Of Tiso’s Slovakia
The Slovak Constitution, which was promulgated on July 31, 1939, traced the doctrine contained in the Social Encyclical of Leo XIII and Pius XI and returned to the Austrian Constitutions of Engelbert Dollfuss (1892-1934) and Portugal by Antonio Salazar (1889- 1970).
It recognized the right to private property, but also its social function, which urged the owner to handle it in the general interest and the common good, thus avoiding the exploitation of the poor and recalling the duty of the right wage.
Other fundamental principles of the Slovak Constitution are the basic role that the citizen in the state engages. In fact, man is a “social animal” and is the cell of the family and the first hub of the homeland as it is the basis and finds its perfecting in common life, that is, in family and then civil or political society; The family has two functions: 1) material, which provides for the physical existence of its individual members; 2) spiritual or educational, because it transmits to its young members the first knowledge to live well and the first rudiments of general culture. So the family is similar to the vital cells of the human body that, if disturbed, develops the cancer that destroys the vital organism, that is, by analogy, the civil society. For Tiso, the family is “the first school to educate in accordance with objective reality, the first temple in which to practice prayer, the first workshop where one learns to work.”
The nation, governed by the state through the threefold power (legislative, judicial and executive), is a natural community of men gathered in families with the same geographical origin, the same ethnicity, same culture, same history, the same language, the same tradition, the same religion and the same purpose (the common temporal well-being of its members subordinate to the spiritual and supernatural). So it is natural that a nation or country has a government and becomes a structured state politically, legally and jurisdictionally.
Therefore, the more the nation is rich in cultural and spiritual values the greater it is. Geographic extent does not matter. For example, ancient Greece or Athens alone are much greater than the United States, a geographically wide nation but small spiritually and culturally, exporters or wars, moral degeneration and unhealthy ideas. This is why Tiso wanted Slovakia to be independent and free to return to its traditions, culture, history and religion, without having to be subjected to, and swallowed up by the Czech Republic.
Tiso’s Patriotism has nothing to do with exaggerated nationalism or chauvinism, which despises other nations. The important thing for him was to restore Slovakia to its traditional bases so that it could restore, once well organized and cohesive, the common temporal well-being of its citizens, subordinated to their supernatural good.
For Tiso, the state is at the service of man and must be limited to helping, coordinating and controlling the activities of individuals and families in order to converge towards the common good and must intervene only when individuals and families do not reach their well-being (“subsidiarity principle”). The state must promote the interests of citizens, against totalitarian collectivism, and must assist the weak ones who cannot achieve their purpose on their own, against the exaggerated individualism of liberalism.
According to the Constitution of the Slovakia of Tiso, not only the private ownership of immovable property but also the ownership of the capital of movable property and human labor must have a social function, not just private and individual. The state works well only if all the population bands have enough and convenient to live dignitously. This is the “third way” of the Catholic Social Doctrine against Liberal Individualism, which almost completely eliminates the role of the social state, and against communist collectivism, which completely absorbs the person in the state. According to Christianity, private property is a natural human right, but it must never be forgotten that it must be oriented to the common good, and not just to the individual.
Naturally, Tiso understood that the primary wealth of a nation is the numerous families and the abundance of children.
Tiso a Nazi?
Bishop Tiso was hanged like a war criminal. Now, during his six years of presidency in Slovakia, no condemnation was executed, but he made every effort to “adapt to the pressure of the German neighbor” (cit., p. 43). It must never be forgotten that in 1939 Tiso was faced with a terrible alternative: either independence from the Czech Republic and alliance with Germany or occupation of Slovakia (divided into two parts) by Germany and Hungary (cit., p. 44).
Hitler did not like Tiso and preferred Vojtech Tuka, but he was convinced that Tiso was the most beloved leader of the Slovaks. So he decided to leave him in his place and not to exempt him, even though he considered his policy towards the Germans and Israelis “lenient and bland” (cit., P. 44). In fact, Tiso tried to move the Israelis into the Slovak territory that had been abandoned by the Hungarians, thus preventing them from being deported to Germany in the labor camps. However, he did not hesitate to defend his country from the economic speculation of the Jews. As you can see, it was a theological and social anti-Jewishism aimed at preserving the faith of its people and its economic well-being.
With the precipitate of events, Slovakia was involved in the war with Poland, the UK, France, the USSR and later with the US, who had already informed the Vatican in 1943 that “the attitude of Mgr. Joseph Tiso with regard to the Jews would not be forgotten “(cit., 65). Slovakia itself was politically divided into two parties, a more radical and nationalist socialist leader, headed by Prime Minister Vojtech Tuka3 and Minister of Interior Alexander Mach4 and the founder of the Slovak National Socialist Party Karol Sidor5.
The “moderate” wing of Tiso, backed by the Slovak population and the Vatican, therefore, had full support, albeit against the heart of Germany. With regard to the Jewish issue, Tiso had adopted all the legitimate defense measures provided by the Church6, without ever coming to racial hatred and violent aggression. In fact “Tiso tried to stop or at least limit the deportations, supported in this by the Vatican and its delegate Mgr. Burzio “(cit., p. 48).
However, it should be remembered that the socio-economic situation of Slovakia between 1939 and 1945 was dominated by a strong preponderance of the Israeli element. In fact, “the Jewish influence in Slovakia corresponded to 40% of national wealth. Tiso appointed a Commission to reduce Jewish economic, political and social preponderance to the proportion corresponding to the percentage of living Jews in Slovakia, which was 4%. Tiso wrote that he would offer the Jews 4% of the opportunities according to the 4% percentage that they represent as a population in Slovakia “(Slovák, March 13, 1940, in D. Canali, cited above, p. 49). In short, Slovakia with 2.6 million inhabitants had only 60% of income, while the remaining 4% of Israelis, or about 100,000 people, owned 40% of national wealth. This was not just about the economic richness but also the country’s command posts; It is thought that the Slovak doctors were 1,400, of whom 620 (or about half) Israelites (cit., 49).
Slovak “Racial Laws” (1941)
On 19 September 1941 the Codex Judaicum Slovaccum was promulgated, which was not signed by Mgr. Tiso and which at a specific point moved away from Catholic doctrine. In fact, Article 9 of the Codex forbade mixed marriages between Jews and Catholics, which on the contrary according to the Church may take place, but only on condition of a dispensation by the Bishop of the Place. Cardinal Luigi Maglione pointed it out in the name of the Holy See. Tiso was in favor of extending the article 9 desired by Mach and Tuka of the Radical wing, limiting itself to counter Israeli preponderance in Slovakia’s economic and social life.
However, Tiso was very pleased to participate alongside Germany at the Crusade against the Bolshevik USSR, but did not approve of the harassment of the individual Jews. But “German pressure grew stronger and Tiso could only try to soften it. The Slovak Bishops also circulated a collective pastoral letter in which, while justifying the restrictive measures of Jewish preponderance, specified that Jews are human beings and must be treated as such. But deportation continued, as did the persistent Vatican protests and the displeasure of the people prompted the government in its radical wing to end it” (cit., 50).
The End Of Slovakia (1944 / 45)
In July 1944 troops of the Red Army began to advance to Slovakia and reached 40 km from the Slovak border. In August 1944 there was an insurrection of Slovaks and Czech dissidents, supported by the USSR and USA, against the government in Slovakia and Germany reacted immediately: they occupied Slovakia on August 29 and assumed direct control of the territory (rejecting the Soviets Until October 1944). Then the Jewish deportations began again towards the forced labor camps of Germany. But in January 1945 the Red Army penetrated deep into Slovak territory and on 4 April 1945 occupied Bratislava (the capital of Slovakia). On 8 May Slovakia also surrendered to Germany.
Trial, Condemnation and Death Of Msgr. Tiso
Tiso had abandoned Bratislava at the beginning of April and had fled to Austria to a Benedictine Convent, but was arrested by the US Police, sent to a concentration camp and then handed over to a court in New Czechoslovakia. Cardinal Faulhaber did all he could to save Msgr. Tiso, but the new President of Czechoslovakia Edvard Benes was unmoving in his will to condemn to death Msgr. Tiso.
The trial began in 1946 and lasted 171 days. The death sentence was given on 18 April 1947.
Father Cappuccino Hilar Pàrik, who assisted Tiso spiritually, told us about his last night. After greeting and encouraging the sisters who came to see him, he did not want to dine but confessed, then prayed and meditated, at 4:30 he celebrated his last Mass served by Fr. Hilàr, made the thanksgiving ending at 5:15, went down to the courtyard and hanged at 5:22, but the agony was slow and he struggled until 5:29. Hanging from his hand was the Rosary which he was still praying. The warden Joseph Apfel (which in yiddish means “apple”) was paid with 4 thousand crowns.
In his will Msgr. Tiso wrote among other things: “I consider myself a martyr for having defended Christianity from Bolshevism” (cit., 61).
May he help us become true Christians as he was until his death. In fact, we are only half Christians when our choices are indecisive, when we are submissive and reluctant, when we fear complications, isolation and momentary defeat, when we are ready to compromise and to talk with error and evil, when we do not dare to tell all the truth, but only half truths, more harmful than explicit error.
Fr. Curzio Nitoglia
- 1. The book (80 pages, 9 euros) can be requested at firstname.lastname@example.org. At the same time Roberto Mancini wrote another book titled Josef Tiso. With the people and for the people, Milan, Ritter, 2017 (160 pages, 16 euros) I will recount later and can be asked at email@example.com.
- 2. One could add to the figure of the Romanian politician Corneliu Zeleu Codreanu (1899-1938), founder of the Militia of the Archangel S. Michele and of the great mystic iron heroes and hero killed in prison by order of the Masonic government but unfortunately linked to the orthodox schism greek-Byzantine.
- 3. Condemned to death in 1946.
- 4. Sentenced to 30 years in prison, he was released in 1968 after 23 years in prison and died in 1980.
- 5. Ambassador to the Vatican from 939 to 1945, remained in exile after the defeat and died in Canada in 1953. Paradoxically, much more radical than Tiso, they were sentenced to less severe punishment except Tuka, who in 1941 had attempted a coup d’etat Against Tiso, fired by General Catlos, to establish a National Socialist regime in Slovakia.
- 6. “We recall a letter from Tiso to Pius XII where the President writes that the expulsion of the Czechs and the Jews is necessary to safeguard the unity of the Slovak nation, but in which he rejects allegations of violence and claims the right of the Catholic Church in Slovakia to make politics and to apply the rules of legitimate defense “(cit., P. 45).