No. 566 NAI DFA 19/1B

Confidential Report from Charles Bewley to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Vatican City, 5 September 1931

At my audience with Cardinal Pacelli yesterday morning, I thought it well to mention to him without any ambiguities that the Irish Government was gravely preoccupied with the state of affairs in the country owing to the activities of a small but determined minority, under Communist influence but masquerading as Irish patriots. I reminded him of the murders of Superintendent Curtin and Ryan (which I had already mentioned in July), and said that they were without doubt the work of an organization calling itself 'the Irish Republican Army' and that the organization in question had practically admitted its responsibility. I informed him that the Archbishop of Cashel had strongly condemned the latter murder, which took place in his archdiocese, but that to the great regret of the Government, he had not condemned, or even mentioned, the organization in question. I said that the Government was doing everything possible to overcome the danger, but that in a Catholic country like Ireland, where there was, at the same time, a tradition of hostility to the law, a condemnation by the Irish Episcopate would have far more effect, as Irish Catholic boys were induced to join what they believed to be merely a patriotic organization, and were led into crime. I mentioned that these matters had been discussed with the Nuncio and that I myself had had a long discussion with him on the question; at which point I interrupted myself to say: 'But it is possible that Your Eminence has already had full reports on these subjects from Monsignor Robinson and that I need not go into further details?' The Cardinal said that he had no recollection of the Nuncio having ever reported on these matters; that although he had lately been very much occupied, he always read Nuncios' reports himself before sending them upstairs, and that he was almost certain that no allusion to the state of affairs in Ireland had ever been made, but that Monsignor Pizzardo would examine the files in order to be quite sure.

I observed that it was of course difficult for the Nuncio to gather information on matters of such a nature (the Cardinal remarked that there were no doubt people whom he could trust for his information), that the matter had only come to a crisis lately, and that Monsignor Robinson would no doubt report fully when his information was more complete. I said that I was confident that Monsignor Robinson realized the seriousness of the situation as he had had interviews with more than one Minister, and that he and Monsignor Riberi had studied the weekly organ of the Irish Republican Army and had told me personally that it was definitely Communist. I also mentioned that Cardinal MacRory was cognizant of the state of affairs, and that it was hoped that the Bishops might see their way to take some definite step, but pointed out at the same time that many of them were very reluctant, even timid, at the idea of opposing anything which might be supposed to be a popular movement, and that the matter would possibly be brought by them to the notice of the Holy See for guidance. In this event, the Government was anxious that the Holy See should be in as full possession of the facts as possible, and with that object I would later hand him an Aide Mémoire setting out the condition of affairs as fully as possible.

I also mentioned that over a year ago the same extremists had protested in a pamphlet against holding the Eucharistic Congress in an Ireland not yet free, and pointed out that an attempt at an armed rising would be very injurious to the Congress as well as to Ireland.

I need not say that I was very careful not to say anything which could possibly be construed as a reflection on Monsignor Robinson, and mentioned en passant that I was aware of his difficulties, with the Irish Bishops. The Cardinal observed that Monsignor Robinson had mentioned his difficulties with them in his reports.

Later, at the Cardinal's suggestion, I inquired from Monsignor Pizzardo whether there had been any mention by the Nuncio of Communist or revolutionary activities in Ireland. He told me that the Nuncio had never mentioned the subject, but that he thought Monsignor Riberi might have referred to it: after going through the file, however, he told me that there was nothing.

The net result is that up to the present the Nuncio has not mentioned to the Holy See a subject which he knows to be gravely concerning the Government. Therefore, either he does not believe that the matter is serious, or he is afraid of stirring up trouble with the Bishops. In the first event, one would have expected that he would have at least reported the matter, giving at the same time his personal opinion, that the apprehensions of the Government were exaggerated. I am therefore inclined on the whole to think that his aim is to tide things over in the hope that there will be no trouble before the Congress, rather than face any more friction with the Episcopate. In either event, I have very little confidence that he will be of much assistance to the Government, though I sincerely hope that I am mistaken in this view.

It is probable that as a result of my audience to day he will be asked if there is any substance in what I have said. Agood deal will depend upon his answer; and it is therefore important that I should have a full statement of the facts, in particular with relation to Communist and revolutionary activities.

Cardinal Pacelli will probably leave Rome for a holiday in Switzerland in the middle of September, and remain away till the middle of October. There would be no time to take any steps before his departure, and in his absence nothing can be done. Before his return, it will no doubt have become clear whether it will be necessary to request his direct intervention. It would be of assistance if you would also let me have some statement towards that date of the attitudes taken up in the meantime respectively by the Bishops and by the Nuncio.

I should also be glad to know how far you have discussed the matter with Dr. O'Gorman, and whether I am at liberty to discuss it with him on his return to Rome.

[signed] Charles Bewley

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