De-Vaticanisation: Declaration to the Italians

Originally published in Florence: Edizioni Fiorentine, n.d. [1931].

© Translation generously provided by Chris Adams (Estorick Collection) and was published in the exhibition catalog for Piety and Pragmatism (26 September – 23 December 2006, Estorick Collection, London).

Faced with the treason of Achille Ratti [Pope Pius XI] – that renegade Italian, masked as leader of the Catholics but for some time manifestly operating in profane and political spheres – who dares to attempt the formation of a coalition of worldwide anti-Fascism, thereby making the nth appeal of the Papal State to foreigners against the fatherland; faced also with the imbecility of almost all the Italian press, we feel the profound and irresistible need as intellectuals of Fascist temperament and faith to assert:

1. That it is time to cut the Gordian knot of a serious misunderstanding. Fascist Catholics – that is to say, practising ones – constitute a risible minority. The majority of Italians are not practising and therefore do not belong to any Church. As the papal newspaper Lo Smerdatore Romano[i] admitted: to be Catholic ‘it is not enough to attend Mass every Sunday and occasionally take the Eucharist’.

2. Since time immemorial in Italy the word priest has been considered synonymous with hypocrite, parasite, louse and anti-Italian. To shout the word ‘priest!’ at an enemy has the same effect as landing a blow to his soul, offending him in the deepest manner possible.

3. The entire Risorgimento was the fiercest, most bloody and desperate struggle against the priesthood, which allied itself with all the enemies of the fatherland: the Emperor of Austria, the Empress Eugénie and the Bourbons.

There are four towering figures, who together are venerated by the Italian people as the authors and creators of unity and independence:





Throughout his life, Garibaldi was slandered, persecuted, mocked and denounced by the priesthood. By some miracle of providence, he managed to avoid assassination by papal thugs, despite their numerous attempts.

Mazzini was also slandered, derided and persecuted by the priesthood, and that Roman Republic ignited by him as a sublime funeral pyre beneath the perfidious miseries of the post-Napoleonic period was overturned by the priesthood, which had called for the intervention of a foreign army.

Cavour was excommunicated.

Vittorio Emanuele, who was forced to use cannons to drive the cowardly brigand Mastai-Ferretti [Pope Pius IX] from Rome, was also excommunicated.

In this moment of fatal historic justice, from the fields of battle, from the streets that were barricaded, from the Austrian, Bourbon and papal prisons and the ditches that saw the flower of Italian youth dangle from the gibbet – its only crime that of having loved Italy too much – the following admonition rises to all Italians: we died at the hands of the priesthood or through the complicity of priests with our oppressor; liberate divine Italy from the priesthood!

. . .

And so: in the name of all the blood shed by Italians for Italy, we dare – after the brief illusion of a possible conciliation – to entreat the Duce to denounce the Concordat.

Once this has been dismantled, the head of the Papal State will find himself in the same situation as Pius IX did following the seizure of Rome by Vittorio Emanuele.

The denunciation of the Concordat does not logically return him to the statu quo ante. In fact, the Concordat superseded those ‘guarantees’ of which Garibaldi spoke in the following terms: ‘Today, Italy flirts with the sacerdotal idea, flattering and caressing it on its knees in supplication, thereby maintaining its children in ignorance and brutishness and calling this suicidal, infamous action guarantees!’

We shall return to the situation of XX September 1870, when Pius IX was a fugitive from the churches of Rome and at the mercy of Italian troops, the Italian State, the Italian people and the King of Savoy.

However, for the head of the Papal State the conditions have grown immensely worse. Pius XI will be a Pius IX without the Emperor Franz Joseph, without Spain and with the burden of the defeatist heritage of Benedict XV who proclaimed the matricidal phrase (thus erasing himself in disgrace from the history of the world): ‘The World War is a useless massacre.’ For the Italian State, however, there remains a great victorious king and the prodigious novelty of the Duce, the creator of a powerfully Italian regime, for which the capture and conviction of the renegade Italian Achille Ratti and his accomplices would be an easy operation with a Roman legion of Blackshirts, and the logical result of a straightforward trial of the Special Tribunal of the Fascist Revolution.

Emilio Settimelli

Ottone Rosai

Remo Chiti

Alberto Maurizio

Bruno Rosai

Believers in God and, therefore, in the dictates of our own conscience. – Faithful to the Fascist oath.

Florence: Edizioni Fiorentine, n.d. [1931]

[i] A play on the title of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano (The Roman Observer) derived from the verb smerdare, meaning ‘to befoul’.

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