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Presence of Antisemitism in the Catholic world. The case of the «Enciclopedia Cattolica» (1948-1954)

by Elena Mazzini


Abstract

This paper enquires into the survival of the nineteenth-twentieth century anti-Jewish culture in Italy following the Shoah, in a specific cultural milieu, that of the «Enciclopedia Cattolica», published in twelve volumes from 1948 to 1954. While the more overt features of traditional anti-Semitism disappeared in Italy following 1945, avoiding its extrinsic characteristics, anti-Jewish stereotypes and images were practically untouched by a critical reappraisal, at least until the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, and were instead even proposed anew in theological, religious and cultural circles. This anti-Jewish ‘survivor’ will be investigated in the course of the paper by examining several entries contained in the «Enciclopedia» project.

1. Introduction

This article focuses on the positions that several Catholic institutions in Italy took towards the tradition of anti-Semitism in the years following World War II.  The investigation is limited to the first decade after the war, a period that witnessed the birth of a new type of cultural production – the «Enciclopedia Cattolica» –between the late 1940s and the early 1950s.

When introducing a study on the forms of anti-Semitism in the aforementioned period, a methodological clarification is needed: the Catholic Church did not assume a significant position regarding the issue of anti-Semitism until the Second Vatican Council, with the promulgation of Declaratio Nostra Aetate 1 For reasons of space, I shall abstain from examining the long tradition of Catholic anti-Judaism, taking for granted that the reader is already familiar with the principal theoretical and historical features of the phenomenon. The text of the document issued by the II Vatican Council can be found in “Declaratio Nostra Aetate. Dichiarazione sulle relazioni della Chiesa con le religioni non cristiane”, Enchiridion Vaticanum, vol. I (Bologna: Edizioni Dehoniane, 1993), 853-871. in 1965.  In addition to doctrinal motivations, the document responded to the necessity of the Church to publicly express its rejection of anti-Semitism and of all the persecution perpetrated against the Jews; however, it did not conflict with the theorization, legitimation and the preaching of anti-Semitism during centuries of Christian tradition 2 The fundamental problems underlying the Council document, along with the somewhat bumpy course of its drafting, are effectively outlined and discussed by Giovanni Miccoli, Due nodi: la libertà religiosa e le relazioni con gli ebrei, ed. Giuseppe Alberigo, Storia del Concilio Vaticano II. La Chiesa come comunione, settembre 1964 - settembre 1965, vol. IV, (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1999), 119-219..

Which forms did the issue of anti-Semitism take before 1965 in the institutions charged with the formation of the Catholic culture? Which brakes or continuity take place on the issue of racism and anti-Semitism in cultures like the Catholic culture in a period when anti-Semitism ceases to be a legitimate policy and political practice throughout contemporary Europe, and was officially banned in post-1945 democratic societies?

The article deals with these questions by examining two definitions ad vocem – «Racism» and «anti-Semitism» – published in the «Enciclopedia Cattolica», one of the most important educational instruments promoted by the Catholic Church in post-World War II Italy.

2. The «Enciclopedia Cattolica»: Context and Structure

The «Enciclopedia» is dedicated to Pius XII and consists of twelve volumes published from 1948 to 1954. It was presented as a comprehensive cultural project and aimed at endowing the Catholic world with a general knowledge capable of orienting and informing Italian Catholics about the various cultural, political and social aspects of the entire history of humanity.

The steering committee, headed by cardinal Giuseppe Pizzardo 3 Giuseppe Pizzardo (1877-1970), secretary of the Congregation of the Holy Office from 1951 to 1959, was among the exponents of Italian Catholic intransigentism. For a synthetic biographical profile, see. “Giuseppe Pizzardo”, Panorama biografico degli italiani d’oggi, (Roma-Firenze: Vallecchi, 1956), 360. as honorary president and Monsignor Pio Paschini 4 Pio Paschini (1878-1962), scholar of the history of the Reformation and the aspects of the Counter-Reformation in Italy, taught at the Pontifical Lateran University of which he was also rector. See “Pio Paschini”, Dizionario biografico friulano, (Basaldella di Campoformido: Ribis, 1997), 840. as president, consisted of two vice-directors, the Jesuit Celestino Testore 5 Celestino Testore (1886-?) Jesuit and journalist, contributor to the Venetian journal «Le Missioni della Compagnia di Gesù», was also editor of «La Civiltà Cattolica». See “Celestino Testore”, Panorama biografico degli italiani d’oggi, (Roma-Firenze: Vallecchi, 1956), 360. and Pietro Frutaz 6 Pietro Frutaz (1907-1980) was undersecretary for the causes of Beatification and Canonization of the Congregation of Rites. See “Pietro Frutaz”, Chi scrive? Repertorio bio-bibliografico degli scrittori italiani, (Milano: Igap, 1966), 347.; the editorial office covered thirty-seven thematic sections – from the «Apologetics» to the «Universities and Academies» – each headed by an editor.

The two encyclopaedia entries, «Racism» and «anti-Semitism», were found in the «History of non Christian Religions» section, entrusted to Nicola Turchi, professor of the History of Religions at the University of
Rome 7 Nicola Turchi (1882-1958), ordained a priest in 1904, taught literary subjects at the Institute for the Propagation of the Faith from 1905 to 1910. He was lecturer in history of religions at the University of Rome from 1916 to 1935, and was tenured professor in this subject from 1935 to 1940 at the University of Florence. See “Nicola Turchi”, Dizionario generale degli autori italiani contemporanei, (Firenze: Vallecchi, 1974), 400..

The clearly confessional intentions underlying the Encyclopaedia project are expressly stated in the Presentazione to the first volume, signed by Giuseppe Pizzardo. This entrusted the work with the task of “being the conscious and eloquent expression of this apostolate, at the end of a tragic and bloody armed conflict that has brought so much grief to peoples, and which is nothing other than the natural and sinisterly demonstrative fruit of an even more terrible conflict, which ensued from ideologies in conflict with the Christian Ideal” 8 Giuseppe Pizzardo, Presentazione, «Enciclopedia Cattolica» (hereinafter «EC»), (Città del Vaticano-Firenze: Sansoni, 1948), vol. I, IX-XI. The quotation was taken from page IX..

The reference to the war fully reflects the view on modernity that the Church had by then developed: the paradigm codified following the French Revolution was the preferred means to interpret, understand and explain the events that had occurred in a temporal dimension considered as “profane”. Indeed, for Catholic intransigent thought, the secularisation and laicization of societies, with its claims to replace the model of perfect society – guided by what Pizzardo defines the Christian Ideal of the Church –, had caused the outbreak of wars, tragedies, and catastrophes. These were interpreted as the “just” divine punishment for the divorce between man and God that had come about at the end of the XVIII century 9 I shall confine myself to Giovanni Miccoli, “Problemi e aspetti della storiografia sulla chiesa contemporanea”, Id., Fra mito della cristianità e secolarizzazione, (Casale Monferrato: Marietti, 1985), 1-16; Daniele Menozzi, La Chiesa cattolica e la secolarizzazione, (Torino: Einaudi, 1993)..  Pius XII and his closest collaborators did not diverge much from this interpretation of history, and on various occasions, the massacres perpetrated in the course of World War II were presented as signs of divine punishment inflicted on modern societies, guilty of straying from the only values sanctioned and upheld by the Church of Rome.

When the first volume of the «Enciclopedia» was published, the major European and non-European countries had projects for Catholic encyclopaedias that were mature both in the content and for the systematization and modern specialization of knowledge 10 Giuliana Gemelli’s essay is quite useful to comprehend the cultural as well as social function of modern encyclopaedias: Enciclopedie e scienze sociali nel XX century, (Milano: Franco Angeli, 1999)..

Catholic encyclopaedia initiatives began to appear in Italy in the early XIX century, and in 1840, Gaetano Moroni published the one hundred and three volumes of the «Dizionario di erudizione storico-ecclesiastica» 11 Venezia: Tipografia Emiliana, 1840-1878. and the «Enciclopedia ecclesiastica» 12 Ed. Mons. Adriano Bernareggi, (Torino: Marietti, 1938-1963)., works organised on the basis of criteria strictly circumscribed to the study of Christian theology and doctrine.  On the contrary, the «Enciclopedia cattolica» possessed features that were not limited to the religious sphere, but instead also embraced fields of general knowledge, an encyclopaedic knowledge, thus assuming a role and function specular to the influence that the «Enciclopedia Treccani» exerted on Italian lay society.

Nonetheless, the ideological element that more than any other aspect exemplifies and synthesises the work’s principal concept is the absence of the entry «Enciclopedia», while it instead contains that of «Enciclopedia Cattolica» 13 Celestino Testore, Enciclopedia Cattolica, «EC», vol. V, 1950, 330-335..  The fact that under this entry no mention is made of either the French Enlightenment or of the authors of the «Encyclopédie» is symptomatic. On the contrary, ample space is reserved for the history of ancient, medieval, and modern compilations edited by Christian authors.

3. Entries

The criterion that led me to select the two terms hereinafter analysed derives from the theoretical observation that they both plausibly attribute a stigma to an abstract and minority group of human beings.  Varyingly declined according to different historical contexts of reference, this stigma concerned carriers of elements and “values” considered as negative, disruptive, and inassimilable to the human consortium of the majority 14 This issue has been debated on the theoretical level more in the sociological ambit than in the historical ambit. For an initial orientation, I refer readers to the classic by Erving Goffman, Stigma. Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1963, trad. it. Stigma. L’identità negata, Verona: Ombre Corte, 2003)..

As far as the historical level is concerned, the stances of the Catholic Church toward racism and anti-Semitism were characterised by quite different approaches that show how the relationship between the two phenomena was not so close.  The neo-pagan and biology based racism promulgated by the National Socialist regime, condemned by a special encyclical promulgated in 1937, attracted official censure from the Holy See and the Catholic world 15 The encyclical letter Mit Brennender Sorge, dated March 14, 1937, was read in Catholic churches in Germany on the occasion of Palm Sunday, March 21, 1937. Contrary to the encyclical tradition, the text was first drafted in German and then in Latin. The text is found in «Acta Apostolicae Sedis» 29 (1937): 145-167.. Contrarily, as stated at the beginning of this article, the Church took no public stance towards anti-Semitism, expressing itself on the issue only in 1965 16 As far as the unsuccessful publication of the encyclical Humani generis unitas on antisemitism, desired by Pope Ratti and drafted by the Jesuits John La Farge, Gustav Gundiach and Gustav Desbuquois, see Georges Passelecq and Bernard Suchecky, L’encyclique cachée de Pie XI: Une occasion manquée de l’Église face à l’antisémitisme, (Paris; La Découverte, 1995, trad.it., L’enciclica nascosta di Pio XII. Un’occasione mancata dalla Chiesa nei confronti dell’antisemitismo, Milano: Corbaccio, 1997). For initial reflection on the unpublished encyclical, see Giovanni Miccoli, “A proposito dell’enciclica mancata di Pio XI sul razzismo e l’antisemitismo”, Passato e Presente, 40 (1997): 35-54..  These twofold and different stances, as we shall see shortly, are reflected in the definitions attributed to the two lemmas examined.

a. Racism

The entry Racism, drafted by the jurist Paolo Biscaretti di Ruffia 17 Paolo Biscaretti di Ruffia, Razzismo, «EC», vol. X, 1953, 590-592. About the author, tenured professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Pavia, and his copious scientific production, I refer readers to Studi in onore di Paolo Biscaretti Ruffia, (Milano: Giuffrè, 1987), 2 voll. and published in 1953, departed from considering the historical moment in which the term began to circulate in Italy, and then moved on to set forth the substantial contents of racism.

A term that came into use in Italy as of 1935-38 to indicate a doctrine and political practise concerning race, disseminated by National Socialism that had shortly before become a totalitarian regime in Germany. The doctrine was essentially based on the declared preponderant value that the contemporary existence of inferior races suited solely to manual tasks [...] assumed in the course of historical events and in the consequent development of human civilisation.  On the example of Germany, the expression racism soon also assumed a clear anti-Semitic meaning for the reason that the Aryan populations of Europe would find themselves in the imminent danger of being irremediably contaminated by Jewish groups admitted to their territory during the previous centuries.

Biscaretti rightfully ties anti-Semitism to the racist cultural root, but in the following passage stresses the clear contrast that emerged between racist theory and Catholic doctrine.  Concerning the racist policies that Mussolini inaugurated after the conquest of Ethiopia and the consequent foundation of the Empire, the author affirms that:

At first extraneous to racism, the fascist government in Italy embraced the creed in 1938 promulgating anti-Semitic laws nationally, and laws prohibiting race-mixing in the colonies, but due to the aversion of the Church and the general population, racism became persecution only during the Nazi occupation.  [...] A clear and insuperable rift immediately arose between the doctrine and political practise of racism and the dictates of Catholic morality, which teaches the equality of all men in Christ, and of the democratic praxis postulating the equality and freedom of all citizens, independent of sex, race, language or religious
beliefs
18 Biscaretti di Ruffia, Razzismo, 591, my cursive. The bibliography reported at the end of the entry merits careful reading because of its twofold nature: on one hand, it cites the “classic” books by the theorists of European racism, including Joseph Arthur de Gobineau, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, and Julius Evola. On the other hand, it mentions contributions like those of Wilhelm Schmidt, Emile Vermeil, and Mario Bendiscioli. Finally, the author inserts in the bibliography, Léon Poliakov’s volume, Bréviaire de la haine, (Paris: Calmann – Levy, 1952, trad. it. Il nazismo e lo sterminio degli ebrei, Torino: Einaudi, 1955). Two aspects concerning the bibliography merit attention: the first concerns the lack of a critical distinction between sources and historiography or, in other words, a clear division between primary sources and secondary sources. The second aspect instead concerns the historiographic references which cite titles of Italian and foreign writings oriented toward reconstructing the racist phenomenon on the basis of not only historical but also political necessities, in the sense that these books openly denounce the racism then extent in most European countries. In comparison to the cultural climate of the time, these rare testimonies give Biscaretti’s writing a less ideological veining, one more inclined to reflect on the racist phenomenon in historical terms. .

Fascist racism is thus considered as a secondary or marginal phenomenon compared to the countries, first and foremost Nazi Germany, in which the theory of the Aryan race as the master race destined to rule humanity, was taking on more definite, ideological and dangerous contours.  According to the author, actual persecution in point of fact coincided with the Nazi occupation of Italy.  In addition to this soft version of Fascist racism, and diluting anti-Semitism in racism, Biscaretti performs an apologia:  he indeed associates the condemnation of racism, expressed in the encyclical Mit brennender Sorge, with a condemnation of anti-Semitism, which was instead never pronounced by ecclesiastical authority 19 See supra note 15..

The absence of either an implicit or explicit pronouncement against anti-Semitism by the Vatican emerges nowhere in the piece of writing, which instead performs conceptual acrobatics aimed at crediting the Church with a denouncement of anti-Semitism that, in reality, it never did 20 See supra note 16..

b. Anti-Semitism

The encyclopaedic entry for Anti-Semitism, written by Monsignor Antonino Romeo 21 Antonino Romeo Antisemitismo, «EC», vol. I, 1948, 1494-1506. Monsignor Antonino Romeo – aiutante di studio of the Congregation for Seminaries and the University of Rome – in addition to the «EC» entry Jews, also wrote Judaism, contained in ed. Nicola Turchi, Le religioni del mondo, (Rome: Coletti, 1946), 379-458, that I shall return to at the end of this article., is set out in a diachronic narration that starts from the ancient world, then largely examines the so-called “Christian” epoch – emblematically intended as the Middle Ages – and finally arrives at the modern and contemporary age.  The entry ends with a paragraph entitled Antisemitismo e morale cattolica, dedicated to a sort of ethical-theological treatment.

For the author, the word Anti-Semitism indicates:

The aversion toward the Jews, which occurred in both ancient and modern times, based on social more than religious reasons.  The term is quite improper (it should be “anti-Judaism”), also because the Jews are traditionally hated by the largest modern Semitic group, the Arabs; apparently coined by W. Marr in 1880 and spread in Germany and Austria on the basis of ethnical-social antitheses, today the term usually means hostility toward the Jews for whatever reason 22 Romeo, Antisemitismo, 1494..

Taradel and Raggi have rightly observed that Romeo’s definition is similar to what father Raffaele Ballerini wrote in Della questione giudaica in Europa, which appeared in «Civiltà Cattolica» in 1890 23 Ruggero Taradel and Barbara Raggi, La segregazione amichevole. La «Civiltà Cattolica» e la questione ebraica (1850-1945) (Roma: Editori Riuniti, 2000), 177, footnote 99. For the Jesuit father’s article, see Raffaele Ballerini, “Della Questione Giudaica in Europa”, Civiltà Cattolica, 14 (1890): 5-14..  The reasoning that considered it illegitimate to define the aversion for the Jews with the lemma anti-Semitism, remained valid and still usable in the mid XX century, just as it had been in the late XIX century.  Moreover, we can also note that the social and political motivation underlying modern anti-Semitic practise is proposed anew, thereby neglecting and avoiding discussion on the non marginal religious aspect of the issue.  It is true that to designate anti-Jewish hatred, Romeo introduces the term anti-Judaism to refer to the religious sphere, but he exclusively attributes it to generic and indefinite Arabs.  After briefly describing the etymology of the word, in addition to Marr, the author also cites the definition of Catholic scholar Simon Deploige, in which the biological-racial connotation of modern anti-Semitism is evoked with the purpose of emphasising the extraneousness of the Christian doctrine, in every form and perspective, to the anti-Semite and racist cultural family 24 Simon Deploige (1868-1927), Belgian attorney who later became a priest and professor at the Catholic University of Louvain, authored numerous works whose titles and bibliographic details can be found in Otto Lorenz, Catalogue générale de la librairie française, (Paris, D. Jordell, 1931), vol. XVIII..

After synthetically outlining the phenomenon in the ancient world, Romeo expanded on the Medieval-Christian epoch.  This time his version develops along a twofold interpretative canon:  on one hand, the author refutes the presumed persecution that the Jews were allegedly subjected to by the pontifical authority; on the other hand, he justifies the appearance of anti-Jewish practises and sentiments in the Christian world, motivating these acts with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, committed by the Jews.

Mindful of the precept of charity, Christians had no social prejudice against the Jews, either as a nation or a race; they instead reacted to their particularity with the evangelical universalism of Saint Paul.  After Calvary, though, the Jewish hatred against Christians was very active as attested by the sacred books of the New Testament[...]  In the Middle Ages, in the pursuit of its moral and religious principals, the Church openly protected the Jews from persecution, as it had always done, but prohibited them from having influence in Christian society [...]  The thesis that the Church is responsible for the injustice suffered by the Jews is quite widespread among modern Jews (H. Graetz, T. Reinach, I. Loeb, Bernard Lazare), and Freemasonry denounces antis-Semitism as a “clerical manoeuvre”.  And yet, they should remember that anti-Jewish hatred existed before the Church.  The Rome of the popes was always hospitable to the
Jews
25 Romeo, Antisemitismo, 1495..

The cliché of the Jew’s tentacular presence in Christian society, and the affirmation of the charitable and judicious policy inaugurated by the Church toward the Jews suits a binary historical narrative which, on one hand, claims the Jews were protected by the ecclesiastical institution from the persecutions to which they were object of; on the other hand, it presents anti-Judaism as a phenomenon that was not so much tied to Christianity, as hypothesised by several Jewish historians, but was instead a historical manifestation that emerged ab initio, from the beginning of time 26 This political stance of the Church is also substantiated by documents specially emanated to support the segregation and contemporaneous protection of the Jews; documents like the Sicut Iudaeis by pope Gregory Magnus, act of 568 A.D. For an historiographic discussion on this vast topic, I confine myself to referring to B. Blumenkranz, Juifs et chrétiens dans le monde occidental (430-1096), (Paris: La Haye, 1960)..

Regarding the chapter of contemporary history, the text proposes a reconstruction that starts from the French Revolution and its evil consequences:  this exegetical scheme was recurrent in Catholic current affairs journalism, and is also found under the entry Ebrei in the «Enciclopedia» entry edited by Romeo 27 See supra note 22..

Concerning emancipation, the author observes:

The civil emancipation of the Jews, begun with Joseph II’s edict of tolerance (1782), was promulgated by the French Revolution.  “Breaking with the policies of the entire Christian Middle Ages, the French Revolution resolved the Jewish question by granting freedom, that is by negating the Jews’ very existence, in practise” (S. Deploige, p. 50).  On September 27, 1791, Abbé Grégoire had the Constituent Assembly vote their full equality of civil rights.  Emancipation, however, did not make anti-Judaic hatred diminish.  Indeed, Jews like H. Heine, I. Zangwill, L. Pinsker and Th. Herzl all lamented the contrary.  The cause of this was the intensification of the sense of nation in most of Europe, and the reaction of Catholics and Protestants against liberalism and materialism 28 Romeo, Antisemitismo, 1499..

Civil emancipation is presented here in adversative terms that have not at all changed with respect to the considerations of late eighteenth-century Catholic intransigent thought.  The author places the nineteenth-century emancipation in this traditional and codified system of reactionary culture, with the sole purpose of pointing out the failure of designs put forward by the advocates of emancipation who believed the political and legal equality of the Jewish minority could neutralise and eliminate anti-Semitism from European society.  Romeo on the contrary emphasises, ex-post, the radicalisation of the anti-Jewish phenomenon in the post-emancipation epoch with the intention of showing how the Christian age had been the only moment in which the Jews enjoyed the protection and tutelage of the Popes.

Nevertheless, the passage that perfectly summarises the opinions and prejudices contained in the piece of writing is represented by the synonymic operation on the terms liberalism, materialism and Judaism, all placed on the same conceptual and negatively evaluative level 29 Generically placing the emancipated Jews of Western Europe in the currents of thought like liberalism and materialism, the author indeed makes an ideological comparison, considering that these movements were condemned by the Church in the mid XIX century in the «Sillabo», appendix to the encyclical «Quanta cura», promulgated on December 8, 1864 during the pontificate of Pius IX. The encyclical condemned the errors issued and supported by the French Revolution: see R. Aubert, Il Pontificato di Pio IX (1846-1878), ed. it. a cura di G. Martina, (Cinisello Balsamo, Edizioni Paoline, 1990), II voll..

It is also interesting to observe which populations and geographical areas the author identifies as the most inclined to develop anti-Semitic practises and sentiments:

Anti-Semitism is a product of the XIX century inasmuch as it is a doctrinal system that, apart from religious considerations (which remained standing for the Muslims and “Orthodox” Russians), tends to scientifically justify the traditional aversion for the Jews.  An anti-Semitic “Weltanschaung” arose in the Slavic and German world, where contacts with Jews were more extensive, and social crises more frequent.  International laws imposed civil equality between the Jews and other citizens (Treaty of Berlin 1878, art. 44), but in practise Russia, Romania, Hungary and Poland applied them only in part.  The dissident Russian Church under the tsars fomented a theological anti-Semitism:  allegedly the incarnation of evil and satanic powers, the Jews were targeted with a brutal pogrom of 1882, and an even more savage pogrom in 1905.  The rise of pan Slavism strengthened this anti-Semitism with political-social motives, considering Judaism the inspirer of anarchic democracy, capitalism, and mechanical industrialism 30 Ibid..

Romeo’s concern is to clear Catholicism from the historical development of anti-Semitism, attributing the responsibility to a racial science that originated outside and against Catholic doctrine.  Moreover, anti-Jewish culture and practises are referred, and not coincidentally, to Orthodox Russia 31 See the observations proposed by Roberto Morozzo della Rocca, “Le Chiese ortodosse”, eds. Daniele Menozzi e Giovanni Filoramo, Storia del cristianesimo. L’età contemporanea, (Roma: Laterza, 1997), vol. IV, 261-352..  In Romeo’s opinion, anti-Semitic culture was typical of a specific area of Eastern Europe, where two anti-Jewish cultures came together, one founded on beliefs of a religious nature – not Catholic – the other on motivations of a political order.  The author’s political explanation of anti-Semitism presented the denunciations of the Slavic populations against the Jews. They were accused of being exponents of democratic anarchy, unregulated and disruptive capitalism and, finally, fierce industrialism 32 Romeo fails to note the similarity between the denunciations of the populations of Eastern Europe and those argued in Catholic environments. Read, for example, the numerous articles that appeared in «Civiltà Cattolica» in the late XIX century, as well as the many essays written on the subject for more than a century. As far as the Jesuit newspaper is concerned, the anti-Jewish articles that appeared between 1880 and 1900 were mostly by Giuseppe Oreglia and Raffaeli Ballerini, about whom Taradel and Raggi provide persuasive reflections, La segregazione amichevole, 16-57..

About the anti-Semitic legislation enacted by Nazi Germany and Austria in the course of the 30s, we read:

As of 1919, through the initiative of the populist deutsch-volkisch party, anti-Semitism spread in Germany where the defeat in World War I and chaos were attributed to Jewish factors.  While the Catholic press in the post war period (1919-1924) also protested against the actions of many Jews, anti-Semitism reached increasingly more absurd and fatal levels [...].  National Socialism endorsed anti-Semitism, introducing it into its programme, and justified anti-Jewish hatred with two arguments:  1.  the inferiority of the Jewish race as a mixture of two principal races; 2.  the ethical danger of the capitalist organisation of society and of the anarchist-subversive push attributed to the Jews.  This point was taken by Alfred Rosenberg whose work, placed on the Index in 1934, considered Judaism as a disruptive spiritual force; mechanistic-hedonist in morality, liberal-communist in politics, rationalist-atheist in religious matters; add to this, social-economic and historical-national motives 33 Romeo, Antisemitismo, 1499..

Strong and firm condemnation was expressed of Christians who embraced the Nazi theories of blood and race, and equally clear-cut was the disapproval of all the pamphlets written by the principal votaries of the Aryan race.  The condemnatory stance Romeo proposes, responded to the Holy See’s decisions which, as already stated, since 1937 had steadfastly condemned Nazi racism because it was animated by anti-Christian principles and consecrated to the neo-pagan deification of the Aryan race.  Romeo was in fact prompt to put the accent on the Pontiff’s rejection of the growing Nazi threat, declaring that “this absurd and wicked theory was clearly condemned by the Church (Pius XI and Pius XII in many speeches against hatred and violence, and on the respect of the natural rights of every person), and numerous massacres of innocent and peace-loving Jews were the monstrous effect during the war of 1939-1945” 34 Ibid., 1500..

Though only alluded to and not set forth in historical terms, the conclusion of the above sentence is the only allusion to the Shoah in the entire text.

As far as Italy is concerned, attention is entirely focused on underlining the absence of anti-Semitic tendencies and on presenting the anti-Jewish legislation of 1938 as a political move born of the desire to emulate Nazi Germany, rather than a decision founded on specific political and ideological calculations.

The author peremptorily states:

Anti-Semitism has never existed in modern Italy.  However, while the international disputes favoured ideological excesses, in 1938 the fascist government posed the issue of “race” in imitation of the Nazi government, which gave rise to the restrictive legislation against the Jews (R.D.L. November 17, 1938).  These laws included the prohibition of marriages between Jews (even the converts) and “Aryans”, which Pius XI condemned as a vulnus inflicted on the Concordat between Church and State of 1929.  The journals “La Difesa della razza” and “La Vita italiana”, and the newspapers “Regime fascista” and “Tevere”, continued to repeat the commonplace anti-Jewish clichés, but these did not influence the Italian mentality, which was instead generally balanced.  During the war, 1940-1945, the Italian forces of occupation in France protected the Jews from the harshness of the German and French governments of Vichy 35 Ibid..

Alongside Italy’s irreproachability and substantial innocence for the crimes perpetrated during the war – “balanced” is the term employed to define the stance of the Italians toward the race laws – the issue of the prohibition of mixed marriages, which punished the Jews who had converted to Catholicism, was the only reprehensible and unacceptable aspect of the entire fascist anti-Semitic legislation 36 The well-known polemic between Mussolini and the Holy See in the summer of 1938 on the question of mixed marriages ended in the defeat of the Church: the D.L. of November 17, 1938, no. 1728 defined the marriage of a Jew, even converted, to an Aryan as «concubinage». About the controversy of mixed marriages, see Michele Sarfatti, “Legislazioni antiebraiche nell’Europa degli anni trenta e Chiesa cattolica”, eds. Catherine Brice and Giovanni Miccoli, Les racines chrétiennes de l’antisemitisme politique (fin XIXe-XXe siècle), (Roma: École française de Rome, 2003), 259-273..

The conclusive part of the entry concerns the analysis of Catholic morality toward anti-Semitism, which indicates the usual categories of “tutelage” and “protection” as the proper method to relate to Judaism.

We read:

Inasmuch as it implies hatred and foments or even only justifies violence, anti-Semitism is contrary to Christian morality, and implies grave danger for the faith, which many forms of anti-Semitism reject.  The Church therefore condemns “odium illud quod vulgo antisemitismi nomine nunc significari solet” (Decretum S. Officii, March 25, 1928).  A religion of love, Christianity prohibits that any man be harmed or offended, even if one considers himself harmed or offended.  Even less does it authorise the persecution en bloc of a people or a race, which not only violates charity but also the justice due to the many innocent; the masses as such can never be judged responsible.  The absolute respect of every human personality, sacred and inviolable, lies at the basis of social and international coexistence.  “Justice and charity do not exclude prudent and moderate defence (Civiltà cattolica, 1945, II) 37 Romeo, Antisemitismo, 1501..

After setting out the programmatic and structural guidelines on which Catholic morality was formed, marked by universal love and charity, and reaffirming the extraneousness of the Catholic religion to discriminative stances based on racist theories, Romeo moves on to indicate the proper position that the Catholic had to assume toward the Jew:

Though imposing respect for the Jews, the Catholic Church recommends Christians not depart from their millenarian tradition of caution, so as to prevent dangers and misunderstandings; “be it in the domain of faith as in that of inner life, the differences between the two religions are such that there can be no reciprocal interpenetration” (L. Escoula).  The Holy Office then condemned the “Amici d’Israele” association in 1928, because “rationem agenda inivisse ac loquendi a sensu Ecclesiae, a mente ss.  Patrum et ab ipsa sacra Liturgia abhorrentem”.  The more objective Jews justify this Catholic reserve (Pinsker, Herzl, Lazare) that has nothing in common with the contemptuous “society anti-Semitism” that thrives from Poland to the United States, and tends to exclude the Jew, whether converted or not, from high schools, certain clubs or administrations.  A Catholic cannot, for reasons of blood or race, shun the Jews regenerated by Baptism but must instead embrace them as brothers.  And as for the others, there can be no moral and religious defence other than that based on understanding and love.  Only on these bases, and excluding all hatred for people, is anti-Semitism legitimate in the field of ideas, and aimed at the watchful protection of the religious-moral and social heritage of Christianity 38 Ibid., 1502-1503, my cursive. Considerations similar to those set forth by Romeo can be read in the already cited article by Raffaele Ballerini of 1890: “though never passing the limits of moral law, Catholic anti-Semitism employs every means necessary for the emancipation of Christians from the arrogance of their sworn enemy”, Ballerini, La questione giudaica in Europa, 5. This distinction is also found in the entry Antisemitismus, written in 1933 by the German Jesuit Gustav Gundlach for the «Lexicon für Theologie und Kirche» as indicated by Giovanni Miccoli, “Santa Sede, questione ebraica e antisemitismo fra Otto e Novecento”, ed. Corrado Vivanti, Storia d’Italia. Annali 11. Gli ebrei in Italia. Dall’emancipazione a oggi (Torino: Einaudi, 1997), vol. II, 1556-1557..

Eight years after the end of World War II and the final solution, legitimate anti-Semitism as a remedy to the evil Jewish influence is not only an indication of an anti-Jewish culture still active in some of its reasoning.  It is also a more profound symptom of the effective desire to neglect the level of historical phenomena in the name of a preoccupation entirely aimed at preserving the coherence and doctrinal and theological continuity of the Church from the contradiction and errors committed by humanity.

We must, however, point out the shift in concept compared to what had been defined as legitimate between the two world wars: at that time, legitimate anti-Semitism was the civil discrimination of non-converted Jews, though the persecution of the lives of the discriminated was not fully and clearly pronounced.  Silence was persistent and tenacious about the discriminations once recommended and advised by the Church.

The author also indicates an ambiguous solution to the so-called “Jewish problem”, expressing his hope that “anti-Semitic hatred disappear; but we fear that it will remain latent or violent until the Jewish question is settled despite the ingenious, unfortunately discordant solutions proposed by scholars and politicians, both Jewish and Christian” 39 Romeo, Antisemitismo, 1503..

The end of the text proposes precise conversion strategies as a solution to the aforementioned question:

The solution shall come with the triumph of the Christian brotherhood throughout the world, so that the Jews will no longer be persecuted or humiliated, while awaiting their conversion unto Christ; any other plan appears illusory.  As for the past, we must forget the mutual wrongs [...]  The principles of violence, however one attempts to justify them, are anti-Christian.  The Catholic must want the Jews to convert and live 40 Ibid..

Finally, the structure conceived for the bibliography merits attention: after recording the books about ancient and medieval anti-Semitism, the modern period is subdivided into one part that cites works by Jewish authors – mistakenly including Jean Paul Sartre for «Anti-Semitism: Reflections on the Jewish Question» – and the other that cites books by Christian scholars.  It is worthy of note that the latter contains no reasoning or critical insight into the texts indicated, which range from general historical reconstructions to anti-Semitic pamphlets compiled in the Italian Catholic milieu in the course of the XX century 41 The articles of the section dedicated to the bibliography of authors defined as «Christian», mostly come from the writing of anti-Jewish pamphlets that flourished in the Catholic world in the course of the first half of the XX century. The books cited include works by Hilaire Belloc, Enrico Rosa, Gino Sottochiesa, Mario Barbera, Herman de Vries, Giovanni Preziosi. Concerning the Catholic participation in fascist antisemitic propaganda, see Renato Moro, “Propagandisti cattolici del razzismo antisemita in Italia (1937-1941)”, Les racines chrétiennes de l’antisemitisme politique, 275-345..

This article ends with a citation from an essay written by Romeo himself, contained in an anthology dedicated to the history the religions of the world, published in 1951 42 Antonino Romeo, “Giudaismo”, ed. Nicola Turchi, Le religioni del mondo, 422-445..  In this case, too, the subject of the author’s interest was Judaism.  In a few lines, he summarises the specific features of a mentality steeped in the ancient anti-Jewish topoi that continued to inhabit the Catholic vision throughout the 1950s under the form of a “house” language and codified narratives.

Antonino Romeo wrote in the anthology:

Many Israelites today, though remaining faithful to the dogma of the Messiah, see His kingdom in modern “progress”, or believe that it will be realised with the triumph of the principles of the French Revolution, or they identify it with the “future universal kingdom of justice, truth, goodness and peace, when all men will form a single family and recognise a single God, the God of Israel” 43 Ibid, 425..

Once again, the schema of Catholic intransigence reappears with all of its force to propose a totally negative interpretation of the historical parabola of post-war, Diaspora Judaism marked by the resolve to introduce the subversive and anti-Christian principles promoted and supported by the French Revolution into society and, on the religious level, to create a single kingdom in the name of the God of Israel.

______________________

Elena Mazzini is Research Fellow in Contemporary History, at the Scuola Superiore di Studi di Storia Contemporanea of Milan (INSMLI). In her studies she has been dealing with themes such as history of Italian Judaism after the Shoah, the construction of Shoah’s memory, and anti-Semitic catholic culture in post-war Italy. Recent publications: “Chiesa ed Ebrei al Vaticano II (secondo due riviste ebraiche italiane)” [The Church and the Jews during the Second Ecumenical Council through Two Italian Jewish Journals], in Rivista di storia e Letteratura religiosa, 1 (2008), 22-56; “La memoria del 1938 nella stampa periodica ebraica: come ricordare?” [The Memory of 1938 in the Jewish Press. How to Remember?], in XXI secolo, monographic issue devoted to “Nel settantesimo anniversario delle leggi razziali in Italia”, edited by Tommaso Dell’Era, a. VII,  17 (2008), 21-45. Forthcoming: Terra santa o Israele? Stampa cattolica e tradizioni antiebraiche nell’Italia del secondo dopoguerra (1945-1974) [Holy Land or Israel? Catholic Press and Anti-Jewish Traditions in post-War Italy (1945-1974)], Brescia: Morcelliana. 

  


[1] For reasons of space, I shall abstain from examining the long tradition of Catholic anti-Judaism, taking for granted that the reader is already familiar with the principal theoretical and historical features of the phenomenon. The text of the document issued by the II Vatican Council can be found in “Declaratio Nostra Aetate. Dichiarazione sulle relazioni della Chiesa con le religioni non cristiane”, Enchiridion Vaticanum, vol. I (Bologna: Edizioni Dehoniane, 1993), 853-871.

[2] The fundamental problems underlying the Council document, along with the somewhat bumpy course of its drafting, are effectively outlined and discussed by Giovanni Miccoli, Due nodi: la libertà religiosa e le relazioni con gli ebrei, ed. Giuseppe Alberigo, Storia del Concilio Vaticano II.  La Chiesa come comunione, settembre 1964 - settembre 1965, vol. IV, (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1999), 119-219.

[3] Giuseppe Pizzardo (1877-1970), secretary of the Congregation of the Holy Office from 1951 to 1959, was among the exponents of Italian Catholic intransigentism.  For a synthetic biographical profile, see. “Giuseppe Pizzardo”, Panorama biografico degli italiani d’oggi, (Roma-Firenze: Vallecchi, 1956), 360.

[4] Pio Paschini (1878-1962), scholar of the history of the Reformation and the aspects of the Counter-Reformation in Italy, taught at the Pontifical Lateran University of which he was also rector.  See “Pio Paschini”, Dizionario biografico friulano, (Basaldella di Campoformido: Ribis, 1997), 840.

[5] Celestino Testore (1886-?) Jesuit and journalist, contributor to the Venetian journal «Le Missioni della Compagnia di Gesù», was also editor of «La Civiltà Cattolica».  See “Celestino Testore”, Panorama biografico degli italiani d’oggi, (Roma-Firenze: Vallecchi, 1956), 360.

[6] Pietro Frutaz (1907-1980) was undersecretary for the causes of Beatification and Canonization of the Congregation of Rites.  See “Pietro Frutaz”, Chi scrive? Repertorio bio-bibliografico degli scrittori italiani, (Milano: Igap, 1966), 347.

[7] Nicola Turchi (1882-1958), ordained a priest in 1904, taught literary subjects at the Institute for the Propagation of the Faith from 1905 to 1910.  He was lecturer in history of religions at the University of Rome from 1916 to 1935, and was tenured professor in this subject from 1935 to 1940 at the University of Florence.  See “Nicola Turchi”, Dizionario generale degli autori italiani contemporanei, (Firenze: Vallecchi, 1974), 400.

[8] Giuseppe Pizzardo, Presentazione, «Enciclopedia Cattolica» (hereinafter «EC»), (Città del Vaticano-Firenze: Sansoni, 1948), vol. I, IX-XI.  The quotation was taken from page IX.

[9] I shall confine myself to Giovanni Miccoli, “Problemi e aspetti della storiografia sulla chiesa contemporanea”, Id., Fra mito della cristianità e secolarizzazione, (Casale Monferrato: Marietti, 1985), 1-16; Daniele Menozzi, La Chiesa cattolica e la secolarizzazione, (Torino: Einaudi, 1993).

[10] Giuliana Gemelli’s essay is quite useful to comprehend the cultural as well as social function of modern encyclopaedias:  Enciclopedie e scienze sociali nel XX century, (Milano: Franco Angeli, 1999).

[11] Venezia: Tipografia Emiliana, 1840-1878.

[12] Ed. Mons. Adriano Bernareggi, (Torino: Marietti, 1938-1963).

[13] Celestino Testore, Enciclopedia Cattolica, «EC», vol. V, 1950, 330-335.

[14] This issue has been debated on the theoretical level more in the sociological ambit than in the historical ambit. For an initial orientation, I refer readers to the classic by Erving Goffman, Stigma. Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1963, trad. it. Stigma. L’identità negata, Verona: Ombre Corte, 2003).

[15] The encyclical letter Mit Brennender Sorge, dated March 14, 1937, was read in Catholic churches in Germany on the occasion of Palm Sunday, March 21, 1937.  Contrary to the encyclical tradition, the text was first drafted in German and then in Latin.  The text is found in «Acta Apostolicae Sedis» 29 (1937): 145-167.

[16] As far as the unsuccessful publication of the encyclical Humani generis unitas on antisemitism, desired by Pope Ratti and drafted by the Jesuits John La Farge, Gustav Gundiach and Gustav Desbuquois, see Georges Passelecq and Bernard Suchecky, L’encyclique cachée de Pie XI: Une occasion manquée de l’Église face à l’antisémitisme, (Paris; La Découverte, 1995, trad.it., L’enciclica nascosta di Pio XII. Un’occasione mancata dalla Chiesa nei confronti dell’antisemitismo, Milano: Corbaccio, 1997).  For initial reflection on the unpublished encyclical, see Giovanni Miccoli, “A proposito dell’enciclica mancata di Pio XI sul razzismo e l’antisemitismo”, Passato e Presente, 40 (1997): 35-54.

[17] Paolo Biscaretti di Ruffia, Razzismo, «EC», vol. X, 1953, 590-592.  About the author, tenured professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Pavia, and his copious scientific production, I refer readers to Studi in onore di Paolo Biscaretti Ruffia, (Milano: Giuffrè, 1987), 2 voll.

[18] Biscaretti di Ruffia, Razzismo, 591, my cursive. The bibliography reported at the end of the entry merits careful reading because of its twofold nature:  on one hand, it cites the “classic” books by the theorists of European racism, including Joseph Arthur de Gobineau, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, and Julius Evola.  On the other hand, it mentions contributions like those of Wilhelm Schmidt, Emile Vermeil, and Mario Bendiscioli.  Finally, the author inserts in the bibliography, Léon Poliakov’s volume, Bréviaire de la haine, (Paris: Calmann – Levy, 1952, trad. it. Il nazismo e lo sterminio degli ebrei, Torino: Einaudi, 1955). Two aspects concerning the bibliography merit attention:  the first concerns the lack of a critical distinction between sources and historiography or, in other words, a clear division between primary sources and secondary sources.  The second aspect instead concerns the historiographic references which cite titles of Italian and foreign writings oriented toward reconstructing the racist phenomenon on the basis of not only historical but also political necessities, in the sense that these books openly denounce the racism then extent in most European countries.  In comparison to the cultural climate of the time, these rare testimonies give Biscaretti’s writing a less ideological veining, one more inclined to reflect on the racist phenomenon in historical terms.

[19] See supra note 15.

[20] See supra note 16.

[21] Antonino Romeo Antisemitismo, «EC», vol. I, 1948, 1494-1506.  Monsignor Antonino Romeo – aiutante di studio of the Congregation for Seminaries and the University of Rome – in addition to the «EC» entry Jews, also wrote Judaism, contained in ed. Nicola Turchi, Le religioni del mondo, (Rome: Coletti, 1946), 379-458, that I shall return to at the end of this article.

[22] Romeo, Antisemitismo, 1494.

[23] Ruggero Taradel and Barbara Raggi, La segregazione amichevole. La «Civiltà Cattolica» e la questione ebraica (1850-1945) (Roma: Editori Riuniti, 2000), 177, footnote 99.  For the Jesuit father’s article, see Raffaele Ballerini, “Della Questione Giudaica in Europa”, Civiltà Cattolica, 14 (1890): 5-14.

[24] Simon Deploige (1868-1927), Belgian attorney who later became a priest and professor at the Catholic University of Louvain, authored numerous works whose titles and bibliographic details can be found in Otto Lorenz, Catalogue générale de la librairie française, (Paris, D. Jordell, 1931), vol. XVIII.

[25] Romeo, Antisemitismo, 1495.

[26] This political stance of the Church is also substantiated by documents specially emanated to support the segregation and contemporaneous protection of the Jews; documents like the Sicut Iudaeis by pope Gregory Magnus, act of 568 A.D. For an historiographic discussion on this vast topic, I confine myself to referring to B. Blumenkranz, Juifs et chrétiens dans le monde occidental (430-1096), (Paris: La Haye, 1960).

[27] See supra note 22.

[28] Romeo, Antisemitismo, 1499.

[29] Generically placing the emancipated Jews of Western Europe in the currents of thought like liberalism and materialism, the author indeed makes an ideological comparison, considering that these movements were condemned by the Church in the mid XIX century in the «Sillabo», appendix to the encyclical «Quanta cura», promulgated on December 8, 1864 during the pontificate of Pius IX. The encyclical condemned the errors issued and supported by the French Revolution: see R. Aubert, Il Pontificato di Pio IX (1846-1878), ed. it. a cura di G. Martina, (Cinisello Balsamo, Edizioni Paoline, 1990), II voll.

[30] Ibid.

[31] See the observations proposed by Roberto Morozzo della Rocca, “Le Chiese ortodosse”, eds. Daniele Menozzi e Giovanni Filoramo, Storia del cristianesimo. L’età contemporanea, (Roma: Laterza, 1997), vol. IV, 261-352.

[32] Romeo fails to note the similarity between the denunciations of the populations of Eastern Europe and those argued in Catholic environments.  Read, for example, the numerous articles that appeared in «Civiltà Cattolica» in the late XIX century, as well as the many essays written on the subject for more than a century.  As far as the Jesuit newspaper is concerned, the anti-Jewish articles that appeared between 1880 and 1900 were mostly by Giuseppe Oreglia and Raffaeli Ballerini, about whom Taradel and Raggi provide persuasive reflections, La segregazione amichevole, 16-57.

[33] Romeo, Antisemitismo, 1499.

[34] Ibid., 1500.

[35] Ibid.

[36] The well-known polemic between Mussolini and the Holy See in the summer of 1938 on the question of mixed marriages ended in the defeat of the Church:  the D.L. of November 17, 1938, no. 1728 defined the marriage of a Jew, even converted, to an Aryan as «concubinage».  About the controversy of mixed marriages, see Michele Sarfatti, “Legislazioni antiebraiche nell’Europa degli anni trenta e Chiesa cattolica”, eds. Catherine Brice and Giovanni Miccoli, Les racines chrétiennes de l’antisemitisme politique (fin XIXe-XXe siècle), (Roma:  École française de Rome, 2003), 259-273.

[37] Romeo, Antisemitismo, 1501.

[38] Ibid., 1502-1503, my cursive. Considerations similar to those set forth by Romeo can be read in the already cited article by Raffaele Ballerini of 1890: “though never passing the limits of moral law, Catholic anti-Semitism employs every means necessary for the emancipation of Christians from the arrogance of their sworn enemy”, Ballerini, La questione giudaica in Europa, 5.  This distinction is also found in the entry Antisemitismus, written in 1933 by the German Jesuit Gustav Gundlach for the «Lexicon für Theologie und Kirche» as indicated by Giovanni Miccoli, “Santa Sede, questione ebraica e antisemitismo fra Otto e Novecento”, ed. Corrado Vivanti, Storia d’Italia. Annali 11. Gli ebrei in Italia. Dall’emancipazione a oggi (Torino: Einaudi, 1997), vol. II, 1556-1557.

[39] Romeo, Antisemitismo, 1503.

[40] Ibid.

[41] The articles of the section dedicated to the bibliography of authors defined as «Christian», mostly come from the writing of anti-Jewish pamphlets that flourished in the Catholic world in the course of the first half of the XX century. The books cited include works by Hilaire Belloc, Enrico Rosa, Gino Sottochiesa, Mario Barbera, Herman de Vries, Giovanni Preziosi.  Concerning the Catholic participation in fascist antisemitic propaganda, see Renato Moro, “Propagandisti cattolici del razzismo antisemita in Italia (1937-1941)”, Les racines chrétiennes de l’antisemitisme politique, 275-345.

[42] Antonino Romeo, “Giudaismo”, ed. Nicola Turchi, Le religioni del mondo, 422-445.

[43] Ibid, 425.

How to quote this article:
Elena Mazzini, "Presence of Antisemitism in the Catholic world. The case of the «Enciclopedia Cattolica» (1948-1954)", in Jews in Europe after the Shoah. Studies and Research Perspectives , eds. Laura Brazzo, Guri Schwarz, Quest. Issues in Contemporary Jewish History. Journal of Fondazione CDEC, n.1 April 2010

url: www.quest-cdecjournal.it/focus.php?issue=1&id=196


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