Errázuriz y Valdivieso, Crescente

views updated


Chilean priest, archbishop, and historian; b. Santiago, chile, Nov. 28, 1839; d. there, June 5, 1931. Errázuriz was born into one of Chile's most aristocratic and prominent families of Basque origin, and as a youth was considered by many to lack the temperament to become a distinguished priest. Raised in the mid-19th century when the Church-State controversy was waxing bitter and when his uncle Rafael Valentín Valdivieso y Zañartu was the iron-willed archbishop of Santiago (184574), Errázuriz appeared to be too moderate and equable in character, too much the dispassionate scholar, to become the polemicist that clerical leaders at the time, according to the view of many, had to be.

Once ordained, Errázuriz, who suffered frequently from bad health, was content to be a rather inconspicuous and often ignored clergyman. Originally a Dominican, he soon left that order and took up his duties as a secular priest. With enthusiasm he began to study and to write on Chilean Church and colonial history. His historical

studies, beginning to appear in the 1870s, refuted the charges of Spanish depravity during the colonial past that had been spread by such liberal, anticlerical Chilean writers as Diego Barros Arana, Miguel Luis Amunátegui, and José Victorino Lastarria. Diligent in his research and objective in his evaluations, Errázuriz found much that was worthy of admiration in Chile's past. Along with history, Errázuriz dedicated himself to journalism, founding in 1874, and becoming the first director of, the newspaper El Estandarte Católico. As a journalist charged with defending the Church position on all issues, he disliked having frequently to publish harsh criticisms of old friends.

Church-State Controversy. The relatively obscure clergyman was nominated in 1919 by Pres. Juan Luis Sanfuentes as archbishop of Santiago. The nomination, which was duly approved, had been suggested by the long-time leader of the moderate wing of the Liberal party, Eliodoro Yáñez. Rightly foreseeing that within the next few years the issue of separation of Church and State, which had been under debate for decades, would have to be resolved, Yáñez felt that the times demanded a primate of unusual tolerance, moderation, and wisdom. With the majority of the clergy issuing extreme statements and predicting the moral ruin of Chile if separation occurred, Archbishop Errázuriz himself was for a time swept along by the tide of rising passions. On April 24, 1923, he issued a pastoral admonishing all Catholics to reject in toto the attempt to separate Church and State. Such a move, the prelate insisted, would signify an affront to God, a public and solemn declaration on the part of Chileans that God did not exist. Despite this stand, a new constitution providing for Church-State separation was approved in 1925, even though a majority of the registered electorate, for a variety of reasons, boycotted the constitutional plebiscite. Once the new constitution was officially sanctioned, the Chilean hierarchy decided to accept defeat gracefully. The prelates issued a joint pastoral that, reflecting the wishes of the archbishop, expressed the hope for the future safety of the Church and concluded with the confident prediction that the Chilean state would refrain from such acts of persecution as had already been unleashed by separation in other countries.

Fascist Influences. In the late years of his life Errázuriz found grounds for cooperation with dictator Carlos Ibáñez del Campo (192731). Avoiding totalitarian expedients, Ibáñez decided against establishing state control over the entire educational structure. In a number of ways he encouraged the expansion of a Church-controlled, private educational system. Errázuriz was highly pleased by this and also came to admire the corporate state ideology that Ibáñez, under the influence of Primo de Rivera and Mussolini, began to advocate. The Errázuriz views on fascism were reflected in the Feb. 16, 1929, edition of the official organ of the Chilean hierarchy, La Revista Católica. Not only had Mussolini managed to route the defenders of pseudodemocracy, stated the Revista; he had also crushed the doctrines and the parties of international Masonry.

In their concern with the Communist menace, a large majority of the more influential churchmen in Chile had by this time come to accept fascism as a desirable social, political, and economic system, and it was not surprising that the archbishop, in his late 80s, went along with this development, which was by no means without its positive features. Errázuriz cooperated wholeheartedly with the paternalistically administered social reform programs that Catholic Action groups, most of them under the influence of fascist ideology, began to advance in the mid-1920s. Happily death spared Errázuriz the ordeal of witnessing the extremes of violence and racism into which an originally benign Chilean fascism evolved with the rise in that country of a National Socialist or Nazi movement.

However valuable his contributions in preserving calm in the troubled 1920s, Errázuriz's most important role in Chile may, in the final analysis, have been that of historian. By showing a new generation of intellectuals that they could properly feel pride in Chile's colonial past, he helped provide the basis for an integral nationalism and corrected many of the errors of excessively partisan historians. The best insight into the nature of Errázuriz is provided by his autobiographical memoirs, Algo de lo qué he visto (posthumous, Santiago de Chile 1934). Among his many historical works appear: Don García de Mendoza, 155761 (1916); Historia de Chile sin governador: 155457 (1912); Historia de Chile: Pedro de Valdivia (2 v. 1916); Orígines de la Iglesia chilena (1873); and Seis años de la historia de Chile, 15981605 (2 v. 1908).

[f. b. pike]