Hitler, Mussolini, and The Vatican

Fattorini-HitlerMussolini&Vatican

Hitler, Mussolini, and The Vatican
– Pope Pius XI and the Speech That Never Was
By Emma Fattorini – £20.00

It’s ironic that the very man whom the Roman Catholic Church considered ”a man of providence,” would end his profoundly misogynistic days, dangling upside down from a metal girder above a service station in the Piazzale Loreto in Milan.

To be sure, a mere week before the end of the Second World War, the very man who (along with Adolf Hitler) many considered had brought Italy to its knees, was shot not by the Allies, but by his own countrymen. A people for whom religion was tantamount to everyday life; to whom in September 1924, Benito Mussolini declared: ”A people will not become great and powerful if it does not embrace religion and consider it an essential element of public and private life.”

Amid such relative blind faith, Italy as a whole, not to mention the Vatican, embraced a leader who might have ensured that the trains ran on time, but other than that, that was about it.

He did very little else of any substance.

Very little, other than pursue a nigh impossible agenda of fraught aggrandizement whilst donning a peacock’s mantle of macho induced bollocks. And in a round-a-bout way, Hitler, Mussolini, and The Vatican – Pope Pius XI and the Speech That Never Was, sheds something of a revelatory light upon how the whole torrid mess of entanglement came about: ”The Church wanted more than an alliance of convenience with fascism or a simple exchange of favours. Mussolini’s arrival on the scene responded to deep needs and moral and social expectations that went well beyond a preference for the lesser of several evils.”

As authoress, Emma Fattorini – who is Professor of Modern History at the La Sapienza University in Rome – makes clear throughout these eight chapters and two hundred and fifteen pages (excluding Documentary Appendix, Notes and Index), Pope Pius XI ultimately viewed the thirties as a ”conflict of civilizations,” a crisis that could only fundamentally be (somewhat) resolved by a return to the so-called Christian roots of the West.

Hence the colossal expectations of the speech that never was: ”Reciprocal expectations led, however, reciprocal manipulations, as Mussolini sought to fascistize the Church while Pius XI sought to Catholicize fascism. It was an alliance cemented by important material interests but founded […] on that intimate understanding and sharing of fundamental values that served to distinguish fascism from Nazism.”

That Fattorini has been able to draw something of a didactic distinction between the two vile ideologies, is a testament to her unrelenting belief that where there’s a will, there is indeed a way. Clearly, her research, the result of which is this important book, was aided by recently released Vatican (Secret Archive) documentation.

That said, this scholarly study, for that is what it intrinsically is, essentially promotes, if not endorses, Pope Pius XI’s theological conviction that ”spiritually we are all Semites.”

David Marx

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