Sunday, March 4, 2012

Speech in the Senate, May 25, 1929

On the Lateran Accords

By Benito Mussolini

Honourable Senators!

I wish, first of all, to reassure you that the length of my speech today will not be anything like the speech I gave in the other branch of Parliament on May 13th, although at times I may find myself needing to reference that speech.

Delivered three months after the signing of the Lateran Pacts, it was difficult; I shall call it crude, but necessary; even the polemical points were aimed at definite targets and the point was made, because those to whom I had directed those points have acknowledged that they received the message.

Unexpected events, long awaited and hoped for, can produce spiritual deviations or confusion. It was therefore necessary to disperse of an atmosphere that, being too nebulous and sentimental, would have ended up altering the contours of things, the nature and scope of the events. It was necessary to define by a drastic phrase the reality of that which has happened in the political world, and also to define the reciprocal sovereignties: the Kingdom of Italy on the one side, and Vatican City on the other. It was necessary to add that there was a distance of thousands of miles between the Kingdom of Italy and Vatican City, just as great as that between Paris and the Vatican, Madrid and the Vatican, Warsaw and the Vatican.

It was also necessary to clear up the misunderstanding that made people fancy that the Lateran Treaty had vaticanized Italy, or that Italy had Italianized the Vatican, or to quote an old saying, that the King had become the cleric of the Pope, or that the Pope had become the chaplain of the King. Nothing of the sort, for there are precise distinctions. The physical proximity means nothing, because the distance is political and juridical.

It is also absurd to assume that my speech was addressed to leftist elements, which do not exist in the Fascist Party (because the Fascist Party rejects this banned terminology), or that it was intended to appease Masonic cells, which we have never had and would never tolerate!

There are certain points in Senator Crispolti's speech that I must address: first among them, the point concerning the origin of Christianity.

My historical statement, made in the other branch of Parliament, has raised objections that I consider fair and legitimate. I did not intend to exclude—on the contrary, I acknowledge—God's plan in all that has happened; but it is also permitted to point out that the course of events took place in Rome and not in Alexandria, Egypt or even in Jerusalem: it is also possible to say that the first communities detached from paganism were formed by Israelites, so much so that in the first 64 years of the Christian era the phenomenon is called Hebrew-Christian, and it is in 64 A.D., at the peak of Nero's persecutions, the year of Peter's martyrdom, that a definitive fracture arises between Judaism—which restricts itself to its own ethnic confines, from which it still has not relented except for individual evasions—and Christianity, which fully accepted the Pauline preaching of universality and took to the consular roads to conquer the world.

Moreover, men of clear Catholic doctrine, like Monsignor Battifolle in his book L'Église naissante et le catholicisme, repudiate the Protestant thesis summarized in the three words: Christianity, Catholicism, Romanism—a thesis strongly supported by Renan. But he himself admits in this book, now in its fifth edition, that Rome's cooperation in the mission of the Cathedra Petri was providential. "And we"—says the author—"will not have the bad grace to deny it." "We have"—he adds—"our reservations concerning the political terms used to describe it, as well as the tendency to transform into a generative function that which was but a circumstance."

Another Catholic author, Duchesne, in his Histoire ancienne de l'Église (I must cite French works because Italian Catholicism has not been fruitful for some time now; intellectual production on this subject is found elsewhere; in recent times we have had only one translation, again from French: La primauté du spirituel by Maritain), begins the book, written in Rome in 1905, with a chapter entitled: "The Roman Empire: Fatherland of Christianity", and on page 10 adds:
"From all this it is clear that the propagation of Christianity found both facilities and obstacles in the Roman Empire. Foremost among the facilities were universal peace, uniformity of language and ideas, and rapid and safe communication. Philosophy, by the blows it had struck at old pagan legends, and by its impotence to replace them, may also be reckoned as a useful auxiliary..."
"The religions of the East, by feeding the religious instinct, had prevented its perishing and kept it alive, to await the new birth of the Gospel."
He adds:
"But, naturally, there were obstacles that stood in the way. The Roman emperors soon took to persecution; and the rationalist spirit of Greek philosophy seized upon the doctrinal elements of Christian teaching, which led to the emergence of many different heresies."
In the days of the Antonine emperors, Rome was the crucible of the whole Christian world, as the author himself says:
"All the leaders of the communities were meeting in Rome, all the most famous figures were there."
And on page 241:
"Polycarp, the patriarch of Asia Minor; Marcion, the fierce sectarian of Pontus; Valentinus, the chief exponent of Alexandrian Gnosticism; Hegesippus, the Judean Christian of Syria; Justin and Tatian, philosophers and apologists. It was a sort of microcosm, an epitome of the whole Christianity of that age."
I do not want to abuse your patience with these cultural reenactments, which however fully justify, I believe, my purely historicist statement—which was not at all intended to be of a theological nature—that Christianity found its most favourable environment in Rome. I said, in fact, in my last speech:
"However, upon this statement we can all agree: that Christianity finds its favourable atmosphere in Rome."
Another point Senator Crispolti touched upon is that of the rights of the State on education and instruction. I do not want to create misunderstandings because instruction is one thing and education is another. Are we Fascists a Regime which demands a fierce monopoly over instruction? No. Is it really necessary for me to remind everyone that it was the Fascist Regime that opened up and recognized the first Italian Catholic University?

There is, however, a side of education in which we are intransigent, if not intractable. Meanwhile, we are looking at things from the point of view of the reality of life.

To say that instruction is up to the family is to say something outside the confines of contemporary reality. The modern family, harassed by economic necessity, daily oppressed by the struggles of life, can not instruct anyone. Only the State, with every means available to it, can fulfill this task. I would add also that only the State is capable of imparting necessary religious instruction, integrating it with the complex of other disciplines. What then is the education that we claim in a totalitarian manner? The education of the citizen.

The Hon. Bevione rightly noted that we could renounce education if everyone else also renounced it. If the contemporary world was not that world of ferocious wolves that we know it to be... then we could renounce education, an education which (because hypocrisy repels us) we will call: warrior education.

The word should not scare you. This virile and warlike education in Italy is necessary, because for many centuries the military virtues of the Italian people have not had an opportunity to shine. After the wars of the Roman Empire, the war waged between 1915 and 1918 constitutes the first war that was fought and won by the whole Italian people.

And since we are interested in defending day by day our people's existence, we can not give in to the lure of universalism, which I can understand in peoples that have already "arrived", but I can not accept it for a people who have yet to "arrive".

In terms of education, will there really be a conflict between philosophy and religious teaching in schools of higher education, as the Hon. Credaro claimed in his magazine Rivista Pedagogica?

If everyone remains faithful to Senator Gentile's arrangements and programs, then I do not believe so. I believe that, rather than philosophy itself, it is the history of philosophy that is interesting, and even more than the history of philosophy, the life of philosophers; learning how they fought, how they suffered, how they sacrificed themselves to conquer their truth. This is highly educational for young people who overlook the spiritual aspect of life.

But is it true that the Catholics of this century are so distant from those developments which were spoken of yesterday, when mention was made of today's industrious world, full of life and fervour? No.

In one of the reports that will be presented at the Seventh International Congress of Philosophy, which I will have the pleasure and supreme honour of inaugurating tomorrow, there is someone who addresses this topic and makes some interesting findings. "Today we are very far removed"—he says—"from the time when Father Cornaldi in 1881 said that all modern philosophy is the pathology of human reason." An exaggeration!

We must not think that there are not still some individuals who think this, but there are also those who have approached the opposite direction.

"Spinoza"—he says—"must obviously be placed on the list of authors to be condemned". Yet who today is the greatest biographer and greatest scholar of Spinoza? A Jesuit of great spiritual insight named Father Dunin Bornowsky. Meanwhile, the Catholic University of Milan dedicated a volume of studies to Kant and the Rector of that University, who is so dear to the supreme Catholic hierarchy, advocates studying Kant, acceps recognition of his greatness, and even affirms his compatibly not only with Christian sentiment, but also with Thomistic philosophy, of which the Rector of the Catholic University of Milan is an exponent.

Furthermore, just browse the program of the courses held by the Catholic University of Milan in this academic year, and you will learn that Father Chiocchetti read the Critique of Pure Reason and Father Cordovani read the first book of Spinoza's Ethics, entitled 'On God'. And then Father Chiocchetti, like Professor Casotti, spoke of Antonio Rosmini.

Nor can it be said that these studies are taking place only at the Catholic University of Milan, which is so dear to those who rank very high in the hierarchy. It should not be forgotten, in fact, that among the collections of philosophical texts for secondary schools edited by the Salesian Fathers (who are also so manifestly dear to the supreme hierarchy), alongside the works of the saints and Catholic writers, we also find the works of Kant, Bentham, and, dear gentlemen, even the horrific Jean Jacques Rousseau.

As you can see, it will be possible to reconcile the non-compulsory teaching of religious disciplines with philosophy and with other disciplines.

I listened with emotion to the speech pronounced by Senator Boselli, who, with his report and his speech today, has done a great and magnificent service to the Country.

The Hon. Scialoja defended the Law of Guarantees. It is understandable that he would so strongly defend this law also for familial reasons; one of the architects of that law was, indeed, his father. But after all, how many of us living today, how many of you, or how many Italians, have gone back and reread the minutes of the sessions that were held in Florence to discuss the Law of Guarantees from January to May 1871? Few, very few. And those who have had the patience to do so—for me it was a duty—will be convinced that the Law of Guarantees deserves neither canonization nor condemnation. It was a law of compromise and transaction that was voted upon after a long and often chaotic and confusing discussion, during which the two opposing extremisms clashed, namely those who wanted to expel the Pope from Rome and those who wanted to at least give him the Leonine City, plus a strip along the sea.

The result was a law that was disliked even by those who wrote it, who were the first ones to admit its precarious character. Yet it was the best that could be done under those circumstances; but from this we must not draw the conclusion that the Law of Guarantees was always respected, nor that the law itself determined that state of equilibrium, which I will return to shortly.

It was not the Law of Guarantees in and of itself, but rather the often accommodating policy of the two parties that assured, despite the law, that there were no fearsome and dangerous crises.


Senator Scialoja's statement concerning the territory being "not very vast", is also not to my liking. Not only is the territory not very vast, it is not vast at all. Not only is it not vast, but it is not even small. In reality it is so minimal as to be irrelevant. Father Semeria in Trieste said this about the territory: "Now I see you, now I don't." To see it on a map one would need quite an exceptional magnifying glass. 44 hectares—compared to Rome, which in 1929, Year VII of the Fascist Era, counts one million inhabitants, and compared to Italy, which, from 1870 onwards, has considerably increased its metropolitan and colonial territory—44 hectares is truly the "body reduced to the minimum necessary to support the spirit". It would have been really cruel, I would dare say absurd, to wish to restrict this territory even further, unless one thinks to limit the sovereignty merely to the "study" of the Supreme Pontiff.

But now I must deal with Senator Croce's speech. I want to say upfront that I admire his vote against the Accords. However, he was not playing the role of spoiler, because we did not need his vote. Whenever opponents come to me, it leaves me very doubtful. Opponents must either fight us or resign. In the meantime, what did Senator Croce say?


So it is not the fact of the conciliation in itself, it is "the way" it was done that offends him. But what "way" is he talking about? It is not enough to say "I do not like your way". In order for this Assembly to be able to function, it was necessary to find another "way" to resolve the question. The Lateran Accords consist of three parts: the Treaty, the Financial Convention and the Concordat. So tell us, is it the "way" of the Treaty that you dislike? Do you think, perhaps, that those 44 hectares, ceded to the Vatican under the sovereignty of the Supreme Pontiff, seem too excessive? Or do you dislike the figure of 400 volunteer subjects, not all of whom are Italians, who will form the citizens of Vatican City? Is it the 1.5 billion in paper lire that hurts your sensitivities, because you fear a reduction in your income? Or is it the Concordat? Or a combination of all three?

I do not believe it is the Treaty that bothers you, because the Treaty achieves—and improves by far—those projects that overwhelmed men like Cavour, Ricasoli and Lanza.

All of this reminds me of the period of the war, when there were two ways of waging war: that of the generals and soldiers, who were serious about war; and that of the draft dodgers who, in the secure rear, always thought that in their own way they would move armies and win battles.

It is no surprise, dear gentlemen, if there are history dodgers alongside the draft dodgers, who—for different reasons, and perhaps also due to their creative impotence—produce events, that is to say, make history before writing it, then later avenge it, often diminishing it without objectivity and sometimes shamelessly.

But in reality it is not about the Treaty and the Convention; it is about the Concordat.

If Senator Croce had bothered to give a vague and superficial glance at my speech of May 13th, he would have seen dispelled the ghosts that seem to haunt his spirit: the secular arm, wooden stakes, mortmain and the like.

There is one contradiction in his speech that we must seize upon, and it is this: in the first part he said that the conciliation was obvious and that we had to do it, but later he says: "it is with sorrow that we see a break in the equilibrium that had been established."


Equilibrium from 1870 to 1929? Now we are no longer in the realm of history, but have entered the realm of fantasy! He is preying upon those who suffer from historical ignorance. We, on the other hand, know that this supposed period of "equilibrium" was a period in which the visits of our Sovereign were not returned by the Emperor of Austria; there was a break between the Holy See and France because of Loubet's visit; and, for over 40 years, Catholics were absent from Italian political life and were called "internal emigrants". And if they finally entered into political life, it was not because of liberalism, but because of the socialist movement, which, from 1890 to 1904 and 1905, introduced into the life of the Nation enormous masses of peasants and workers, which altered the political landscape of the Nation. The masterpiece of liberalism during that time was the famous Gentiloni Pact, a compromise pact which today is synonymous with hypocrisy.

There is another statement in this serious—very serious—speech. These priests, more Catholic than the Pope, who are going to confess to the new bishop, I would like to know who they are, because they must be of a very particular nature. But as for myself, I deny in the most resolute manner that Fascists worthy of the name communicated to Prof. Benedetto Croce their intention to plot anti-clerical revolts. I deny this in the most absolute manner, because the religious policy of Fascism has been unequivocal and straightforward since the beginning; I deny it because at the Grand Council, where it is possible to express all opinions and even opposing viewpoints, my report on the Lateran Accords was approved with absolute unanimity and received a triple applause.

And what is with this phobia of Concordats, which so bothered the Neapolitan jurists of the late 1700's? They may have been luminaries of science, I do not rule it out, but the fact is that the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church has a thousand years of history of Concordats. It is a fact that the first Concordat dates to July 5, 1098 and it was a Concordat by which Urban II gave the right of legation to Roger, Count of Calabria and Sicily. These concordats range from that time all the way down to the last pre-war Concordat, namely the one concluded with Serbia. After the war, there arose a new series of Concordats with Latvia, with Lithuania, with Poland, with Bavaria, in addition to a modus vivendi with Czechoslovakia. Discussions are underway with Prussia. And it will not be surprising if tomorrow something similar will happen with France, which broke off diplomatic relations with the Holy See in 1904, but restored them in 1921, and in 1929 made an exception to its secularist policy by recognizing nine Missionary Congregations. Moreover, the great solemnities that took place in France for the centenary of Joan of Arc shows that the atmosphere there has radically changed or is radically changing.

Some would like to suggest that we attend Mass only for opportunistic reasons... There is no opportunism here, because we did not wait until the Lateran Pact to adopt a religious policy. Our religious policy dates back to 1922, even to 1921!

See my June speech in the Chamber of Deputies. It was consequent and straightforward, even though it never renounced the dignity, prestige and moral autonomy of the State at all times.


Senator Crispolti concluded his speech with a question: Will the peace last? The peace will last. Because first of all this peace is not a gift we found on the street by accident. It is the result of three years of long, difficult and delicate negotiations. Every article, every word, we can say every comma, has been the subject of loyal, peaceful but exhaustive discussions. Each article represents the necessary meeting point between the needs of the State and the needs of the Church.

It is therefore not a miraculous construction, suddenly blossomed out of nowhere; it is something carefully and expertly elaborated. This is one of the attributes that guarantees its durability.

It will also last because this peace has deeply touched the hearts of the people, and because we will not allow ourselves be ensnared by neither the Freemasons nor the clericalists, who are interdependent on each other.

On the other hand, when it comes to these Lateran Accords, there is one part that will never be a source of discussion, namely the Treaty. Any potential disagreements would most likely pertain, instead, to the Concordat. Does this mean we need to paint a grim picture of the future if tomorrow, by chance, there were a difference in opinion between us and the Holy See concerning the nomination of a particular bishop? This is life, gentlemen! Will we be bogged down by that cowardice of the swamp, that is to say, the cowardice of men who want to stand still, immobile, and not face those risks which are an inevitable fact of living? That would be tantamount to renouncing life!

This is our conception of life, which we apply to individuals, as well as to peoples, and to institutions in which these peoples find their legal and political organization. You do not frighten me—nor do I frighten myself—by saying that there will be frictions, despite the very clear distinction between what must be given to Caesar and what must be given to God... such disagreements will be overcome, because the Holy See knows that the Fascist Regime is a loyal, straightforward, precise regime, which gives an open hand, but does not give an arm to anybody...

Vatican City is today standing next to the Fascist Regime, the creator of new economic, political and moral forces which make Rome one of the most active centers of modern civilization! The Holiness of the Popes stands next to the Majesty of the Kings of Italy, descendants of a thousand-year-old dynasty!

Honourable senators!

I do not wish for trifling discussions to obscure the magnitude of the event. Just think that since the days of Augustus, Rome did not again become the capital of Italy until 1870; and just think that from 1870 onwards, there was a big question looming over our great Rome. And it was not a question of a Duke or a Prince, or any of those whom we ousted when Italy was reuniting: it was a question of the Supreme Head of Catholicism... It can be frankly said that there were certain Powers that took pleasure in these unsettled disputes between Italy and the Holy See...

It is not for nothing that a French ship was stationed in the port of Civitavecchia until 1874!

Now we have solved this question; it is over; Rome belongs by right and by fact to the King of Italy and to the Italian Nation. This, dear gentlemen, is the magnitude of the event, and no polemic, no dialectical game, much less any foolish slander, can diminish it before the Italian people and before history.

Honourable senators!

I am certain that you, as always, taking into consideration the supreme interests of the Nation, will not fail to approve this bill by a majority.