As we saw in A Brief Il Duce, in November 1919, Mussolini had said...
According to D'Agostino,** a youthful Mussolini had further described the clergy as:
and... "the first fascist program in 1919 had called for "the seizure of all goods belonging to religious congregations and the abolition of episcopal revenues." **
But less than a year later, Mussolini had said...
Mussolini abandoned his anti-ecclesiastical rhetoric and began to embrace the papacy even before he was able to form his first coalition Government on 30 October 1922 because the closer he came to attaining real power, the more he realised that without the positive support of the Church, his dream of Empire would remain just that - a dream.
With both Mussolini and the Church pursuing overlapping foreign policies, sharing a hatred of Marxism, Communism, Socialism, Liberalism, Democracy, and Secular Humanism - precisely those things that the Lady of Fatima in 1917 confirmed that she also hated - any compact he could forge between them promised to be a marriage born in Heaven.
And what manner of creature would this proposed marriage give birth to?
What could Mussolini offer the Church? He could protect them from their worst enemy, Communism; he could make them an offer they couldn't refuse regarding financial reparations for the loss of papal state revenues; he could enshrine into law the Church's teachings on population control and divorce; and, most importantly, he could confirm Catholicism as the official religion of the Italian State.
And what could the Catholic Church offer him? He, Mussolini, would gain respectability both at home and internationally because his would be the first government approved by the Vatican since the establishment of the Italian State fifty years before. He could pursue his expansionist dreams and introduce his economic programs knowing that at his back, immuring him from criticism, stood the enormous moral and spiritual forces of the Roman Catholic Church.
Crucial issues would have to be ironed out, education especially, and the Catholic Church was a hard bargainer. But, then again, so was he...and first, he would have to consolidate his power.
Photo of Mussolini courtesy of WestPlains1 photography collection site
* The Vatican and Italian Fascism 1929-1932 : A study in conflict, John F. Pollard, Cambridge University Press, 2005, page 22.
** Rome in America: Transnational Catholic Ideology from the Risorgimento to Fascism, Peter R. D'Agostino, UNC Press, 2004, page 168