(Published in Corrispondenze Repubblicane, July 14, 1944)
The affirmation made in the Lateran Pacts, that the Catholic Apostolic Roman religion is the only religion of the State—which derived from Article 1 of the Albertine Statute—was never an empty statement. By this we recognized the Catholicity of our believing and professing people, deeply endowed with a religious spirit, with disciplined respect for the ecclesiastical hierarchy, faithfully observing its rites. In Italy, Catholicism was and is a living force, perhaps more so than in any other nation. This is why we—more than any other people—have the right to call ourselves the eldest children of the Church.
Fascist policy both before and after the Concordat revolved around this very observation; and Fascism wanted to make the Italian State a Catholic State not only externally, but also and above all in the intimate essence of its spirit. Thus a relationship between the Church and the State was established, and it is impossible to ignore this reality.
The great enemies of Catholicism—namely materialistic Communism and atheistic Freemasonry, which have been condemned with harsh words by so many encyclicals—were also the enemies of Fascism, and the struggle was conducted with common criteria and spirit. The moral formation and religious education of the Fascist State was entrusted to the Catholic Church, explicitly recognizing the Church as a magisterium. Even the social problem was addressed by Fascism in way that was very Christian, to the point that one could speak of Father Toniolo as a precursor of corporativism and one could cite Rerum Novarum as an introductory text to the Charter of Labour. This pro-Catholic Regime, in short, with its legal guarantees, with its protection of the dignity of the clergy and with its recognition of the rights of the Church, was but one of the many expressions of a broader political orientation by which the Fascist spirit was joined to Catholic Church.
There are continual acknowledgments of this fraternal collaboration of spirits and action, ranging from the papal declarations of 1929 to the attitude of the clergy during the anti-sanctionist struggle of 1935.
Fascism healed a wound which had upset the conscience of the Italian people for a long time, one which was detrimental both to Italy and to the Church of Rome.
Yet today the attitude of many members of the clergy seems to indicate a desire to revive the old conflict, albeit on different basis than previously. Perhaps this was a phenomena limited to some individuals, but now it has assumed sufficient breadth and scope that it can be said to at least be a psychological fact. And so it naturally begs the question: what are the reasons for certain obvious or latent ecclesiastical hostilities toward the Fascist State? What is the origin and cause of this? If a gap can be identified, then that means there is a rift—at least a small one—between the two contracting parties of the Lateran Pacts. It is useful to specify which party desires this, and the answer is simple. It is not the Fascist State, which has always remained faithful to the principles established in the laws and declarations of its leader, a punctual and zealous executor of the clauses of the Concordat, and loyal to the social and political presuppositions that coincide with those repeatedly expressed authoritatively by Catholicism.
It is perhaps not inappropriate to remind certain clergymen of a few things. First, the questions of principle which make the doctrine of the Church and the doctrine of Fascism natural allies, both being spiritual, both being profoundly humane, and both seeking the good of the people as a whole. There should also be a debt of gratitude towards the only Regime that—in its twenty-years of unambiguous policy—has always recognized the dignity of the Church and the mission befitted to the Church. Finally, your own interests are also ours: stacked against Catholic Fascism are forces that are anti-Rome and anti-religion. An alliance with them can only be temporary and transient. Those who believe it is possible to make a compromise with the Anglo-Saxon nations are forgetting just how strong the anti-Roman forces of Freemasonry and Jewry are in those countries; they are forgetting how the derogatory term "papist" is so widespread in England and America; those who seek an alliance with Bolshevism pretend not to remember the harsh and bloody war they waged against the clergy and against the Church in Russia and in Spain; they pretend not to know that Stalin's current proclamation of religious tolerance is merely a diplomatic move in a skillful game of conquest.
These are considerations that should be taken into account by priests and faithful when attempting to resolve in their conscience the two great problems that have always constituted a point of contradiction, today more so than ever: the justification or at least the cessation of war; and the reconciliation of patriotism with religious universalism.
If it is true that the Church has always preached peace and has always considered armed conflict as a deplorable event, it is also true—nor does one need to cite any specific examples to realize it—that the Church was able to distinguish between just and unjust wars... and has always recognized the rights of peoples to protect their aspirations to life and their national dignity.
And in war, when the country is in danger, even the clergy can and must take a position in the name of their Fatherland. Priests can not forget that within them, underneath their cassock, there is the heart of a citizen. The priesthood is universal, but not anti-national. The clergy is made up of men who are necessarily linked to their people and their land. For an ecclesiastic, to forget his Fatherland is to renounce the essential part of his human personality.
But today the word 'Fatherland' lends itself to too many misunderstandings. Therefore let's be precise: we mean this Fatherland, the one that is faithful to the Pacts and which defends its existence. The reasons why the clergy should be at our side are those already mentioned: because we fight against all its centuries-old and irreconcilable enemies; because we alone represent the Roman and Catholic tradition of Italy and are trying to save its future.
If this were not enough, the clergy should at least remember that it has always been a function of order and pacification. Now many of its members seem to perform the opposite function: they are—consciously or not—advocates of anarchy, of disorder, of opposition to laws, of crime. In other words, they go against the teaching that the Church has always professed in line with the Gospel phrase "render unto Caesar". These considerations do not change the fact that reality often appears different from what it logically should be. We are witnessing those moral failings referred to by the Venetian episcopate in its "bulletin"; failings of the faithful, yes, but also of the shepherds themselves, which are rooted in certain unclear attitudes, in silences and equivocal words, in excessive activities, and above all in positions taken by those political organs that, despite having nothing to do with the mystical body of the Church, nevertheless still belong to the Holy See.
As Italian Catholics, it still pains our hearts to read the words spoken by the Holy Father to the 22nd Canadian Regiment and, more recently, to a group of more than 4,000 invading soldiers. We know that they do not fall within the scope of magisterial authority and do not have definitive value. We know therefore that they are not binding on the faithful. But we fear that they may generate further spiritual failures and cause the sacred to become confounded with the profane: the principles of the Church, the duties of the priests and the faithful may become confounded with political attitudes contingent of specific diplomacy, which suffers sometimes from preconceptions and perhaps temporalistic nostalgia. We fear that the flock, not directed by the Shepherds to the safe sheepfold, will be dispersed and become easy prey for wolves.