Papa Spy: Love, Faith and Betrayal in Wartime Spain by Jimmy Burns - review by Nicholas Rankin

Nicholas Rankin

Murky Waters

Papa Spy: Love, Faith and Betrayal in Wartime Spain


Bloomsbury 416pp £20

It is debatable whether the Catholics or the communists in 1930s Britain were quicker to ignore wrongdoing – one lot through religious faith and the other through political ideology. Just as Stalin’s crimes were excused by the Communist Party of Great Britain and their fellow-travellers as mere egg-breaking for the great socialist omelette, so many Roman Catholics in Britain applauded Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia and Franco’s ‘crusade’ in Spain as blessed extensions of Christian civilisation. 

Take Tom Burns, for example, the subject of his son Jimmy’s pietistic biography. Burns was the cradle Catholic publisher (and later editor of the Catholic weekly, The Tablet) who commissioned the 1930s travel books that took Evelyn Waugh to Abyssinia and Graham Greene to Mexico. Born in Chile

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

RLF - March