Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Chiesa Cattolica E Minoranze in Italia Nella Prima Metà del Novecento: Il Caso Veneto a Confronto

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Chiesa Cattolica E Minoranze in Italia Nella Prima Metà del Novecento: Il Caso Veneto a Confronto

Article excerpt

Chiesa cattolica e minoranze in Italia nella prima metà del novecento: Il caso Veneto a confronto. Edited by Raffaella Perin. [I libri di Viella, 122.] (Rome: Viella. 2011. Pp. 230. euro32,00 paperback. ISBN 978-88-8334-630-9.)

With antisemitism in Italy on the rise, any new research about this intractable problem is welcome. In their study of the Church's response to minority groups in Italy from 1900 to 1950, Rafaella Perin and her fellow authors present important information about the country's Protestants and Masons, but the Jewish problem dominates the book. In general, the authors criticize the Church for its antagonistic relations with Italian Jews.

Yet the Church's relentless, almost obsessive, centuries-long compulsion in Italy to convert the Jews illustrates a key difference between what the authors in this anthology call anti-Jewishness and antisemitism. Anti-Jewishness involves an antipathy toward Jewish culture, particularly its tribalism. The Catholic version of anti-Jewishness allows hope for the Jews, if only they can see Christ. Antisémites see no hope for them. They are fated by blood to be what they are: the cause of everything that is wrong in the world.

It requires a complete lapse of faith and a repudiation of Christ himself for a Catholic to become an antisémite. The ethnicity of Jesus is an insurmountable problem for a would-be Catholic antisémite who retains any understanding at all about the faith. The Church opposed the racism of the Fascists when, influenced by the Nazi regime, they promulgated the racial laws of 1938. Cardinal Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster, archbishop of Milan, publicly attacked Nazi antisemitism as a flagrantly anti-Christian heresy.

Jews historically came under implacable criticism from the Church, however, not for the taint of their blood, but for their perceived clannish obstinacy in rejecting the Gospel of the Church Universal. The authors of this collection draw mainly on the diocesan literature of the period from the Veneto, in the northeastern part of the country, for their arguments about the Church's perception of Jews, Protestants, and Masons as the country's archetypal anti-Catholics. …

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