A Comparative Analysis of State and Church Relations in Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's Germany

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Totalitarian Regimes, Unit 3
A Comparative Analysis of
Church and State Relations in
Mussolini's Italy and in Hitler’s Germany.

Richard Rothwell

This report will explore the relationship between Church and State in both Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's Germany. The position of the church prior to change of government will first be taken into account, providing both a better understanding of the events that followed, the societies in question and their perception of church and government. Figures of government opposition will be researched. The levels of intolerance will be looked at in each country and a search for reasons behind each dictators approach to religion. Hopefully by the end of researching the subject, an informed conclusion on the subject will have been reached that identifies the cultural differences of society and the ideological tenets of State that for a while dictated the place of the Church and its role to the populace.

A Modern History of the Catholic Church in Italy in the 19th Century

The unification of Italy saw a restructuring of Italian government and power. Prior to the late 1800’s Italy didn’t function as a nation with a central power base, it was a network of small independent provinces, with Pope Pius IX being the only authority with power extended beyond the province. The unification or ‘il Risorgimento’, could be characterised as the evolution of a clandestine social agenda, with its aims to create a new centralised government free of papal dictate, and to become a nation strong enough to rid itself of Austrian occupation, which ruled Italy through the strength of The Holy Alliance. (Derrick Murphy, 2008) From the 1820’s onwards, the next half century saw alliances made and broken and states’ independence won and taken away. However, the agenda to consolidate the provinces was pushed forward with steady progress over time. Government figures also acted as proxy agents of the secret Carbonari brotherhood, and it is said that they were the instigators of many of the insurrections and movements involved in the unification process. Starting with minor provincial revolutions in 1820-21, the proceeding years saw the assimilation of more and more territories and by 1865 the first Italian parliament was summoned in the newly designated capital of Florence. But Pius IX still stood in the way of a united nation, tenaciously holding on to the papal states through an alliance with Napoleon III, and it wasn’t until 1870 that Rome was finally taken. The Vatican was eventually stripped of all its land, wealth and power of governance after Pius IX refused to compromise with Victor Emmanuel II over his offers of terms that would of preserved some authority for the pope. (Derrick Murphy, 2008) From the unification until1922, Liberal Italy saw 29 prime ministers come and go in what was termed Transformismo politics, with the government model having been set up by the Italian elite so as to be inherently weak, thus enabling a perpetuation of the power of the upper class establishment . Ultimately, the gross mismanagement of the country over that period led to the circumstances that made Mussolini and fascism a viable solution to the problems Italy faced after WWI, with the country heavily afflicted by mass unemployment and the highest inflation rates in Europe. Furthermore, through stripping the Vatican of wealth and authority, the unification process provided Mussolini with a platform from which in later years he would stage his most successful performance. (Ridley, 1999)

Childhoods Dictated
Both Mussolini and Hitler had upbringings that, to some degree or other, shaped their views of the church and of authority. Both had strict and sometimes brutal fathers, and both had mothers who were pious, practicing Catholics who saw that their sons, at some point, were educated in strict religious schools....
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