Clerical fascism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Clerical fascism (also clero-fascism or clerico-fascism) is an ideology that combines the political and economic doctrines of fascism with clericalism. The term has been used to describe organizations and movements that combine religious elements with fascism, support by religious organizations for fascism, or fascist regimes in which clergy play a leading role.


The term clerical fascism (clero-fascism or clerico-fascism) emerged in the early 1920s in the Kingdom of Italy, referring to the faction of the Catholic Partito Popolare Italiano which supported Benito Mussolini and his régime; it was supposedly coined by Don Luigi Sturzo, a priest and Christian Democrat leader who opposed Mussolini and went into exile in 1924,[1] although the term had also been used before Mussolini's March on Rome in 1922 to refer to Catholics in Northern Italy who advocated a synthesis of Catholicism and fascism.[2]

Sturzo made a distinction between the "filofascists", who left the Catholic PPI in 1921 and 1922, and the "clerical fascists" who stayed in the party after the March on Rome, advocating collaboration with the fascist government.[3] Eventually, the latter group converged with Mussolini, abandoning the PPI in 1923 and creating the Centro Nazionale Italiano. The PPI was disbanded by the Fascist régime in 1926.[4]

The term has since been used by scholars seeking to contrast authoritarian-conservative clerical fascism with more radical variants.[5] Christian fascists focus on internal religious politics, such as passing laws and regulations that reflect their view of Christianity. Radicalized forms of Christian fascism or clerical fascism (clero-fascism or clerico-fascism) were emerging on the far-right of the political spectrum in some European countries during the interwar period in the first half of 20th century.[6]

Clerical fascism in Fascist Italy[edit]

Mussolini (the first on the right) signing the Lateran Treaty (Vatican City, 11 February 1929)

In 1870 the newly formed Kingdom of Italy annexed the remaining Papal States, depriving the Pope of his temporal power. However, the Papal rule over Italy was later restored by the Italian Fascist régime[7] (albeit on a greatly diminished scale) in 1929 as head of the Vatican City state;[7] under Mussolini's dictatorship, Roman Catholicism became the State religion of Fascist Italy,[7][8]

In March 1929, a nationwide plebiscite was held to publicly endorse the Treaty. Opponents were intimidated by the Fascist régime: the Catholic Action (Azione Cattolica) youth network instructed Italian Roman Catholics to vote for Fascist candidates to represent them in positions in churches and Mussolini claimed that "no" votes were of those "few ill-advised anti-clericals who refuse to accept the Lateran Pacts".[9] Nearly 9 million Italians voted or 90 per cent of the registered electorate and only 136,000 voted "no".[10]

In 1938, the Italian Racial Laws and Manifesto of Race were promulgated by the Fascist régime, enforced to outlaw and persecute both Italian Jews[11] and Protestant Christians,[8][12][13][14] especially Evangelicals and Pentecostals.[12][13][14] Thousands of Italian Jews and a small number of Protestants died in the Nazi concentration camps.[11][14]

Examples of clerical fascism[edit]

Examples of dictatorships and political movements involving certain elements of clerical fascism include:

The government of General Franco in Francoist Spain had Nacionalcatolicismo as part of its ideology. It has been described by some[by whom?] as clerical fascist, especially after the decline in influence of the more secular Falange beginning in the mid-1940s and before the strong economic development, the Spanish miracle, of the 1960s.[citation needed]

Scholars who accept the term clerical fascism nonetheless debate which of the listed examples should be dubbed "clerical fascist", with the Ustaše being the most widely included. In the above cited examples, the degree of official Catholic support and clerical influence over lawmaking and government varies. Moreover, several authors reject the concept of a clerical fascist régime, arguing that an entire fascist régime does not become "clerical" if elements of the clergy support it, while others are not prepared to use the term "clerical fascism" outside the context of what they call the fascist epoch, between the ends of the two world wars (1918–1945).[16]

Some scholars regard certain contemporary movements as forms of clerical fascism, including Christian Identity and Christian Reconstructionism in the United States;[17] "the most virulent form" of Islamic fundamentalism,[18] Islamism;[19] and militant Hindu nationalism in India.[17]

The political theorist Roger Griffin warns against the "hyperinflation of clerical fascism".[20] According to Griffin, the use of the term "clerical fascism" should be limited to "the peculiar forms of politics that arise when religious clerics and professional theologians are drawn either into collusion with the secular ideology of fascism (an occurrence particularly common in interwar Europe); or, more rarely, manage to mix a theologically illicit cocktail of deeply held religious beliefs with a fascist commitment to saving the nation or race from decadence or collapse".[21] Griffin adds that "clerical fascism" "should never be used to characterize a political movement or a regime in its entirety, since it can at most be a faction within fascism", while he defines fascism as "a revolutionary, secular variant of ultranationalism bent on the total rebirth of society through human agency".[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Eatwell, Roger (2003). "Reflections on Fascism and Religion". Archived from the original on 2007-05-01. Retrieved 2007-02-14.
  2. ^ Walter Laqueur, "The Origins of Fascism: Islamic Fascism, Islamophobia, Antisemitism" Archived 2008-01-14 at the Wayback Machine., Oxford University Press, 25.10.2006
  3. ^ Carlo Santulli, Filofascisti e Partito Popolare (1923-1926) (dissertation), Università di Roma - La Sapienza, 2001, p. 5.
  4. ^ Carlo Santulli, Id.
  5. ^ H.R. Trevor-Roper, "The Phenomenon of Fascism", in S. Woolf (ed.), Fascism in Europe (London: Methuen, 1981), especially p. 26. Cited in Roger Eatwell, "Reflections on Fascism and Religion" Archived 2007-05-01 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Feldman, Turda & Georgescu 2008.
  7. ^ a b c
  8. ^ a b Kertzer, David I. (2014). The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe. New York City: Random House. pp. 196–198. ISBN 978-0-8129-9346-2.
  9. ^ Pollard 2014, The Vatican and Italian Fascism, 1929-32: A Study in Conflict, p. 49.
  10. ^ Pollard 2014, The Vatican and Italian Fascism, 1929-32: A Study in Conflict, p. 61.
  11. ^ a b Giordano, Alberto; Holian, Anna (2018). "The Holocaust in Italy". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 15 August 2018. In 1938, the Italian Fascist regime under Benito Mussolini enacted a series of racial laws that placed multiple restrictions on the country’s Jewish population. At the time the laws were enacted, it is estimated that about 46,000 Jews lived in Italy, of whom about 9,000 were foreign born and thus subject to further restrictions such as residence requirements. [...] Estimates suggest that between September 1943 and March 1945, about 10,000 Jews were deported. The vast majority perished, principally at Auschwitz.
  12. ^ a b Pollard, John F. (2014). The Vatican and Italian Fascism, 1929-32: A Study in Conflict. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 109–111. ISBN 978-0-521-26870-7.
  13. ^ a b Zanini, Paolo (2015). "Twenty years of persecution of Pentecostalism in Italy: 1935-1955". Journal of Modern Italian Studies. Taylor & Francis. 20 (5): 686–707. doi:10.1080/1354571X.2015.1096522.
  14. ^ a b c "Risveglio Pentecostale" (in Italian). Assemblies of God in Italy. Archived from the original on 1 May 2017. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  15. ^ Biondich 2007, p. 383-399.
  16. ^ Griffin 2007, p. 213-227.
  17. ^ a b Berlet, Chip (2005). "Christian Identity: The Apocalyptic Style, Political Religion, Palingenesis, and Neo-Fascism". In Griffin, Roger. Fascism as a Totalitarian Movement. New York: Routledge. p. 196. ISBN 0-415-34793-9. Retrieved 23 November 2014. Lyons and I put Christian Identity into the category of clerical fascism, and we also included the militant theocratic Protestant movement called Christian Reconstructionism... a case can be made for... the Hindu nationalist (Hinduvata) Bharatiya Janata Party in India (which grew out of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Hindu religious movement).
  18. ^ Berlet, Chip. "When Alienation Turns Right: Populist Conspiracism, the Apocalyptic Style, and Neofascist Movements". In Langman, Lauren; Kalekin-Fishman, Devorah. The Evolution of Alienation: Trauma, Promise, and the Millennium. p. 130. In the most virulent form, theocratic Islamic fundamentalism could be a form of clerical fascism (theocratic fascism built around existing institutionalized clerics). This is a disputed view...
  19. ^ Mozaffari, Mehdi (March 2007). "What is Islamism? History and Definition of a Concept" (PDF). Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions. 8 (1): 17–33. Retrieved 23 November 2014. ‘Clerical fascism’ is perhaps the nearest concept which comes closest to Islamism.
  20. ^ Griffin 2007, p. 215.
  21. ^ Griffin 2007, p. 213.
  22. ^ Griffin 2007, p. 224.

Further reading[edit]