THE POPE AND MUSSOLINI by David I. Kertzer
Kirkus Star

THE POPE AND MUSSOLINI

The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe

KIRKUS REVIEW

More deeply troubling revelations around Vatican collaboration with evil. 

With the unsealing of archives in 2006 concerning the papacy of Pius XI, Kertzer (Social Science, Anthropology and Italian Studies/Brown Univ.; Amalia's Tale: A Poor Peasant, an Ambitious Attorney, and a Fight for Justice, 2008, etc.) found the call to scrutinize them “irresistible.” The author spares no toes in his crushing of the church’s “comforting narrative” around its relationship with Mussolini’s fascist regime. The signing of the Lateran Accord in 1929 between the Holy See and the dictator established the Vatican as sovereign territory and bound the Catholic Church and the regime to a new period of codependence. Having been elected to the papacy just as Italy was rocked by cataclysmic violence between fascists thugs and socialists, Pius XI and his advisers “began to question the wisdom of opposing Mussolini’s crusade.” While Mussolini had previously spoken out against the power and holdings of the church, and the fascists unleashed a campaign of beatings of priests and Catholic activists, Mussolini’s sudden and opportunistic embrace of the church by 1922—for example, asking for “God’s help” in his first address to parliament—charmed Pius into thinking he had an ally to bring the church more firmly back into Italian life, which had been challenged by modernism. Although Mussolini’s increasing cultivation of cult status alarmed Pius, his minions and, indeed, the church organ extolled fascism for seeking to “place spiritual values once again in the place of honor they once occupied, especially as required by the battle against liberalism.” Even Mussolini’s suppression of the pope’s darling Catholic Action youth groups did not fray collaboration between them to marginalize Italian Protestants and Jews, until Pius grew ill and it was too late to change course.

Kertzer is unflinching and relentless in his exposure of the Vatican’s shocking actions.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-8129-9346-2
Page count: 576pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2013




MORE BY DAVID I. KERTZER

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NonfictionPRISONER OF THE VATICAN by David I. Kertzer
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NonfictionTHE POPES AGAINST THE JEWS by David I. Kertzer
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