By Chet Yarbrough
Written by: David I. Kertzer
Narration by: Stefan Rudnicki
David Kertzer reminds the world that organized religion is only human. Religions are subject to the goodness and sins of human nature. Whether one believes in a Supreme Being or not, actions of organized religion are freighted with human error. Kertzer is only one of many who have exposed the perfidy of organized religion. His target, in “The Pope and Mussolini, is the Roman Catholic Church.
Cardinal Ratti becomes Pope Pius XI during the ascension of European Fascism and Nazism in the 1920s and 30s. Ratti is characterized as a pedantic, conservative, and sometimes bellicose Christian believer in, and defender of the Roman Catholic Church.
As a religious pedant rather than trailblazer, Pope Pius XI focuses on returning Roman Catholicism to a former time of independence, wealth, and influence. No price appears too high; Pope Pius XI’s purchase price paves the way for state Fascism (total control of government and society) in Italy.
Kertzer recounts early 19th century history of the Roman Catholic Church. The secular government of Italy confiscates Church lands. That taking decimates Catholic wealth, restricts Popes to the Vatican grounds, and reduces Papal control of the Holy See. More significantly, with the loss of wealth and independence, it reduces the church’s power to influence believers. After 1860 and until the Lateran Treaty negotiated between Mussolini and Pope Pius XI, the Church is treated as a part of the state of Italy, subject to secular rule. The Lateran Treaty makes Vatican City an independent sovereign state.
The new Vatican City-State becomes the capital of Roman Catholicism and vaults it into leadership of Catholic churches around the world.
Pope Pius XI agrees to support the government of Benito Mussolini in 1929 in return for the creation of an independent Papal State in Rome. Mussolini agrees to pay the church approximately $100 million for formally confiscated church land. Pope Pius XI acquires for himself and future Popes the right of independent rule, religious interpretation, and Christian doctrinal dictatorship. In return Mussolini gains the support of the Roman Catholic Church, the dissolution of Catholic political parties, and a title as II Duce, “The Leader” of Italy. At the stroke of a pen, Mussolini becomes a hero of Italian Catholics (over 90% of the population) and the totalitarian leader of Italy.
Kertzer notes there are common goals for Mussolini and Pius XI in the Lateran treaty which separates church from state. Both covet power. Both dislike the idea of a Catholic political party interfering with religious or state matters. Both desire elimination of factional interference in government and religion; i.e. Mussolini’s Fascist control of government and the Pope’s control of Church doctrine.
However, the Lateran treaty is a slippery slope for both. Mussolini and Pius XI are blinded by hubris and a false piety. Mussolini is shot by his countrymen and hung by his heals for destroying people’s freedom, losing a war, and betraying the principles of morality.
Pius XI compromises his morals and paves the way for Pius XII, a closet Christian anti-Semite, who becomes a Hitler’ collaborator by tacitly endorsing the immoral belief of religious purity. Though not widely known at the time, Cardinal Pacelli acted as a “too clever” intermediary between the German and Italian governments to undermine the growing discontent of Pope Pius XI with Germany’s treatment of Christians and Jewish converts to Christianity. Pope Pius XI commissions a new Catholic encyclical to condemn German treatment of Catholic citizens but dies before publication. Pope Pius XII (Cardinal Pacelli) buries the last encyclical of his predecessor in the archives of the Vatican library.
Kertzer offers insight to what really happened in Italy in the 1920s, 30s, and early 40s. His story resonates with all organized religions and their history before and after WWII.
Today’s Jewish isolation of Palestinians, ISIL repression and murder of Middle Eastern citizens, Taliban cruelty in Afghanistan, and Protestant proselytizing around the world are cut from the same flawed fabric; i.e. the flawed fabric of human interpretation of manufactured biblical texts and religions. In the name of God, organized religions’ killings continue. If there is a God, he/she is not evil; i.e. only humans are evil.