The relationship between the Catholic Church and the Mussolini regime remains a contentious topic among historians of the Fascist period. This paper challenges the view that the Fascists used religion only opportunistically, as an instrumentum regni, to further their political ends. The deeper ideological motivations that led Fascism to recognize the importance of religion can be found in the previous appropriation of the Roman tradition by the nationalists at the turn of the century. When the Fascists, like the nationalists, decided to incorporate romanità into their ideological, mythical and discursive universe, they also incorporated Catholicism, which they understood as an offshoot of that Roman ideal. By virtue of its totalitarian ambitions, its spiritualistic orientations and its peculiar philosophy of history, Fascism came to regard Catholicism as an integral part of the Roman tradition, to be immanent in the “new civilization” that it intended to create. In the work of Giovanni Gentile it found the definitive rationalization of an “ethical state” in which religion is immanent.
Keywords: Ideology of Fascism, Catholicism, Ethical State, Romanità, Conciliation.
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