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Clerical fascism is an ideology that combines the political and economic doctrines of fascism with clericalism, i.e. a specific religious tradition. The term has been used to describe organizations and movements that combine religious elements with fascism, support by religious organizations for fascism, or fascist regimes in which clergy play a leading role.
The term clerical fascism emerged in the early 1920s in Italy, referring to the faction of the Catholic Partito Popolare Italiano which supported Benito Mussolini and his régime; it was supposedly coined by Don Luigi Sturzo, a priest and Christian Democrat leader who opposed Mussolini and went into exile in 1924, although the term had also been used before Mussolini's March on Rome in 1922 to refer to Catholics in Northern Italy who advocated a synthesis of Catholicism and fascism.
Sturzo made a distinction between the "filofascists", who left the Catholic PPI in 1921 and 1922, and the "clerical fascists" who stayed in the party after the March on Rome, advocating collaboration with the fascist government. Eventually, the latter group converged with Mussolini, abandoning the PPI in 1923 and creating the Centro Nazionale Italiano. The PPI was disbanded by the Fascist régime in 1926.
The term has since been used by scholars seeking to contrast authoritarian-conservative 'clerical fascism' with more radical variants.
Examples of clerical fascism
Examples of dictatorships and political movements involving certain elements of clerical fascism include the Croatian Ustaše movement (See the attempt of Canonization of Fascist leader Stepinac), Obraz in Serbia, António Salazar in Portugal, Engelbert Dollfuss in Austria, Getúlio Vargas in Brazil, the Iron Guard movement in Romania, which was led by the devoutly Orthodox Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, the Rexists in Belgium and Vichy France.
The government of General Franco in Francoist Spain had Nacionalcatolicismo as part of its ideology. It has been described by some as clerical fascist, especially after the decline in influence of the more secular Falange beginning in the mid-1940s.
Scholars who accept the term clerical fascism nonetheless debate which examples in this list should be dubbed clerical fascist, with the Ustaše being the most widely included. In the above cited examples, the degree of official Catholic support and clerical influence over lawmaking and government varies. Moreover, several authors reject the concept of a clerical fascist régime, arguing that an entire fascist régime does not become ‘clerical’ if elements of the clergy support it, while others are not prepared to use the term ‘clerical fascism’ outside the context of what they call the fascist epoch, between the ends of the two world wars (1918–1945).
Some scholars consider certain contemporary movements to be forms of clerical fascism, including Christian Identity and possibly Christian Reconstructionism in the United States; militant forms of politicized Islamic fundamentalism and anti-democratic Islamism; and militant Hindu nationalism in India.
Political theorist Roger Griffin warns against the "hyperinflation of clerical fascism". According to Griffin, the use of the term 'clerical fascism' should be limited to "the peculiar forms of politics that arise when religious clerics and professional theologians are drawn either into collusion with the secular ideology of fascism (an occurrence particularly common in interwar Europe); or, more rarely, manage to mix a theologically illicit cocktail of deeply held religious beliefs with a fascist commitment to saving the nation or race from decadence or collapse". Griffin adds that ‘clerical fascism’ "should never be used to characterize a political movement or a regime in its entirety, since it can at most be a faction within fascism", while he defines fascism as "a revolutionary, secular variant of ultranationalism bent on the total rebirth of society through human agency".
- Alois Hudal
- Fatherland's Front
- Iron Guard
- Latin Conservatism
- Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi
- Neo-völkisch movements
- Positive Christianity
- Unione Nazionale
- Eatwell, Roger (2003). "Reflections on Fascism and Religion". Archived from the original on 2007-05-01. Retrieved 2007-02-14.
- Walter Laqueur, "The Origins of Fascism: Islamic Fascism, Islamophobia, Antisemitism", Oxford University Press, 25.10.2006
- Carlo Santulli, Filofascisti e Partito Popolare (1923-1926) (dissertation), Università di Roma - La Sapienza, 2001, p. 5.
- Carlo Santulli, Id.
- H.R. Trevor-Roper, "The Phenomenon of Fascism", in S. Woolf (ed.), Fascism in Europe (London: Methuen, 1981), especially p.26. Cited in Roger Eatwell, "Reflections on Fascism and Religion"
- Roger Griffin, "The 'Holy Storm': 'Clerical fascism' through the Lens of Modernism", Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, Vol. 8, N.2, 213-227, June 2007.
- Roger Griffin, Id., p. 215.
- Roger Griffin, Id., p. 213.
- Roger Griffin, Id., p. 224.
- Various authors, ‘Clerical Fascism’ in Interwar Europe, special issue of Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, Volume 8, Issue 2, 2007.
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- Randolph L. Braham and Scott Miller, The Nazis Last Victims: The Holocaust in Hungary (Detroit: Wayne State University Press,  2002). ISBN 0-8143-2737-0
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- Michael Phayer, The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, 1930–1965 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000) ISBN 0-253-33725-9
- Livia Rothkirchen, "Vatican Policy and the ‘Jewish Problem’ in Independent Slovakia (1939-1945)" in Michael R. Marrus (ed.),The Nazi Holocaust 3, (Wesport: Meckler, 1989), pp. 1306-1332. ISBN 0-88736-255-9 or ISBN 0-88736-256-7
- Ronald J. Rychlak, Hitler, the War, and the Pope, revised and enlarged edition, South Bend: Our Sunday Visitor, 2010.