The Pope And Mussolini: The Secret History Of Pius XI And The Rise Of Fascism In Europe, by David I. Kertzer
Although Italian history is not something I have often read about, recently I have read a few books that explore the relationship between Italy and the papacy in a variety of ways . In many ways, this book deals with the same sort of themes as the other two books I have read that deal with the subject. Likewise, this book manages, despite its very narrow focus on the period between World War I and World War II, to have considerable relevance for those who wish to examine potential relations between the papacy and any sort of European Union as well as some of the origin of the domination of the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy by pedophile priests, which was frequently commented on in this book. If the past serves as any guide, whether in the time of Charlemagne or Mussolini, there is a consistent pattern by which the Roman Catholic Church supports strongmen who need the church for legitimacy and who then are expected to provide military muscle for the aims of the church for cultural hegemony against its rivals. This is precisely the pattern we find in this book.
Taking advantage of recently released archives from Pius XI’s papacy, this particular book explores the codependency of the papacy and Mussolini’s fascist regime. Like any codependent partners, the scarlet woman and the beast had ulterior motives and both of them ended up somewhat satisfied but also somewhat dissatisfied with their mutually mercenarial relationship. The payoff for the Roman Catholic Church was greater social influence within Fascist Italy (and the postwar Italian Republic), legitimate control over the Vatican City as a recognized state, and the payoff for Mussolini was the removal of Catholic critics and achieving papal legitimacy for their rule. Both got what they deserved, mixed results and a lot of frustration (frustration, it should be noted, that demonstrates the difficulty of forming lasting and successful conspiracies). This book details a lot of information about the communications between the pope and Mussolini as well as the cowardice of King Victor Emmanuel III.
This book is somewhat lengthy (coming in at over 400 pages of text) but straightforward and easy to read, and full of painful detail about the sex life of Mussolini as well as pederast priests. Given the contemporary problem of pedophile priests achieving high places in the Catholic hierarchy, it is notable to realize that this was a problem in the Roman Catholic Church of Rome of the 1930’s, and provided opportunities for blackmail on the side of Italian civil authorities against the Vatican. Also of interest is the way in this book examines the different personalities of the forgotten papacy of Pius XI, who comes off as authoritarian and anti-Semite but as far more principled than either Mussolini or Cardinal Puccini, who became the controversial Pius XII. Pope Pius XII comes off in a very poor light in this history, as being very malleable in dealing with the dictators of Italy and Germany, but honestly, no one comes off very well, except for those few brave opponents of Fascist Italy who risked their life to speak up for justice in an age where justice was hard to find. Among the more chilling parallels between the age of Mussolini and our own is the way in which there are constant claims of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy even as anti-Semitism rises around the world. Let us recognize the parallels and take our stand against evil, recognizing that we too may have to pay a price to stand up for what is right.
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