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Post Catholics and the Church under Mussolini
Created by John Eipper on 10/22/16 7:09 AM

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Catholics and the Church under Mussolini (Roy Domenico, USA, 10/22/16 7:09 am)

Let me add a couple of things to Eugenio Battaglia's post of October 21.

The 1929-1931 "triennio" is very important. At the start--in February 1929--the treaties are signed between the Church and the Mussolini Regime, Vatican City is founded and Catholicism becomes the state religion. The diplomatic groundwork had been going on for years and part of the "tacit" deal was that Pius XI (1922-1939) facilitated Mussolini's destruction of the Catholic political party (Partito Popolare Italiano)--an act that understandably caused great resentment and division among the faithful.

There was, nevertheless, an important segment of "political" Catholics who favored the Regime and joined it. By 1939 most of them had been devoured by the Fascists. The era of good feelings between the Church and the Blackshirts, moreover, was very short-lived; it was pretty much over by 1930 for the reason that Eugenio provides: Catholic Action. C.A. youth battled Fascists in the streets, leading to an attack on Catholic Action offices in Padua. Consequently, Pius condemned Fascist violence in his June 29, 1931 encyclical, Non abbiamo bisogno.

Pius's relations with Mussolini were never "good" after that. Pius wanted to condemn Italy's invasion of Ethiopia but chose to move on instead of battling the Italian bishops who supported the war out of patriotism. In 1938 the dying pope composed--with some help from the American Jesuit John La Farge--his condemnation of Nazi racism. He unfortunately died days before he was to pronounce it and his successor, Pius XII, shelved it.

Finally, I think that mention must be made of the anti-Fascists who the Church sheltered in 1943-44--before the "liberation" (pace, Eugenio) of Rome in June 1944. They were not only hidden in the Vatican (and at the papal estate at Castelgandolfo), but across the city. Many of the most important stayed at the St John Lateran complex. Anyway, if the Nazis had caught those anti-fascists, they would have been executed.

JE comments:  A hypothetical we've never considered before:  if Pius XI instead of the notoriously collaborationist Pius XII had reigned during the war years, how might history have turned out differently?

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