The Gentiloni pact is the 1913 agreement between Italian Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti and Count Ottorino Gentiloni, the president of the Catholic Electoral Union from 1909-1916 to swing Catholic voters behind Giolitti's coalition.
Due to the evolving relationship with the Catholics and the Italian liberal state, Giolitti saw in the 1910s a way to further his clout and sway over the masses after the extension of suffrage to all adult males.
In 1904, Pope Pius X informally gave permission to Catholics to vote for government candidates in areas where the Italian Socialist Party might win. Since the Socialists were the arch-enemy of the Church, the reductionist logic of the Church led it to promote any anti-Socialist measures. Voting for the Socialists was grounds for excommunication from the Church.
The Vatican had two major goals at this point: to stem the rise of Socialism and to monitor the grassroots Catholic organizations (co-ops, peasant leagues, credit unions, etc.) Since the masses tended to be deeply religious but rather uneducated, the Church felt they were in need of conveyance so that they did not support improper ideals like Socialism or Anarchism.
Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Giolitti understood that the time was ripe for cooperation between Catholics and the liberal system of government.
The Gentiloni Pact was born out of a secret deal in the run-up to the 1913 general election between Catholic voters and Giolitti's liberal candidates who promised to support Catholic policies, especially funding of Catholic private schools, and opposition to a law permitting divorce. It was estimated that over 200 deputies were elected through the Pact.
The Socialist Party gained votes (from 19% to 23% of the voters) while the liberals were strengthened in the short run. In the past, Giolitti had co-opted many moderate Socialists (as well as members of other fringe parties). Giolitti himself was against political parties, which he felt were divisive and harmful to the "gentleman's game" of politics.
The Gentiloni Pact made the Socialists and anti-Clerical allies of Giolitti furious. They saw the Church as the bulwark to progress and felt betrayed into an alliance with Giolitti in the past. The Socialists would never trust Giolitti or the liberal system again.
This led the revolutionary faction of the Socialist Party to gain strength in Italy although the Vatican became increasingly influential in Italian politics as well.
Eventually, Giolitti was forced to resign by his anti-clerical allies in March 1914 and was replaced by Antonio Salandra, a conservative of the old guard.
- Roland Sarti (2009). Italy: A Reference Guide from the Renaissance to the Present. Infobase Publishing. p. 308, 313.
- Frank J. Coppa. "Giolitti and the Gentiloni Pact between Myth and Reality," Catholic Historical Review (1967) 53#2 pp. 217-228 in JSTOR