Italian politico: Church shares blame with fascists for 1938 laws

Official: One must ask why Italian society adapted as a whole to the anti-Jewish legislation.

Pope Pius XII (photo credit: courtesy)
Pope Pius XII
(photo credit: courtesy)
At a parliamentary commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Italy's anti-Semitic Racial Laws of 1938 on Tuesday, Gianfranco Fini, speaker of the Chamber of Deputies and a former foreign minister, criticized the lack of opposition to this "infamy" by the Catholic Church and by Italian society in general. Fini, a leader of the majority whose roots go back to the postwar, neo-fascist Italian Social Movement (later transformed into the conservative National Alliance) has made repeated and progressively stronger statements against wartime and present day anti-Semitism in recent years. At the parliamentary commemoration, Fini said, "The Fascist ideology does not by itself explain the infamy of these Racial Laws. One must ask why Italian society adapted as a whole to the anti-Jewish legislation and why, except for a few shining exceptions, we find no particular act of resistance taking place - not even, it pains me to say, by the Catholic Church." "Today," he said, "we recall a shameful page in Italian history. Those laws represent one of the darkest moments of the story of our people." His accusation against the Catholic Church drew an immediate response from Father Giovanni Sale, a historian and editor of the prestigious Civiltà Cattolica biweekly magazine. Fini apparently "does not know enough about World War II Church history and the Church's concerted efforts to save Jews," the Jesuit priest said. While the controversy over Pope Pius XII's silence regarding the Holocaust has slipped off the front pages, an internal Italian debate regarding positions taken by the Catholic Church now seems to have attracted one of the country's top political figures. Regarding the Racial Laws, documents show that while the Church did issue a protest to the Mussolini regime, it referred specifically to issues regarding mixed marriages and conversions, without voicing opposition to the general punitive measures against Jewish Italians.