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Clerical fascism (also clero-fascism or clerico-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 (clero-fascism or clerico-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. Christian fascists focus on internal religious politics, such as passing laws and regulations that reflect their view of Christianity. Radicalized forms of Christian fascism or clerical fascism (clero-fascism or clerico-fascism) were emerging on the far-right of the political spectrum in some European countries during the interwar period in the first half of 20th century.
Examples of clerical fascism
Examples of dictatorships and political movements involving certain elements of clerical fascism include:
- Father Jozef Tiso's régime (Slovak People's Party) in the Slovak Republic (1939–1945)
- The Ustaše movement in the Independent State of Croatia (1941–1945)
- The Serbian Government of National Salvation
- António Salazar in Portugal
- Engelbert Dollfuss in Austria
- The Serbian Chetnik movement in the Balkans.
- the Iron Guard movement in Romania, which was led by the devoutly Orthodox Corneliu Zelea Codreanu
- the Rexists in Belgium
- Vichy France.
- the Lapua movement in Finland
The government of General Franco in Francoist Spain had Nacionalcatolicismo as part of its ideology. It has been described by some[by whom?] as clerical fascist, especially after the decline in influence of the more secular Falange beginning in the mid-1940s and before the strong economic development, the Spanish miracle, of the 1960s.
Scholars who accept the term clerical fascism nonetheless debate which of the listed examples 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 regard certain contemporary movements as forms of clerical fascism, including Christian Identity and Christian Reconstructionism in the United States; "the most virulent form" of Islamic fundamentalism, 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 Front (Austria)
- Religious nationalism
- Latin Conservatism
- Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi
- Neo-völkisch movements
- Positive Christianity
- The Odessa File, a thriller by Frederick Forsyth
- Unione Nazionale
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- 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"
- Feldman, Turda & Georgescu 2008.
- Biondich 2007, p. 383-399.
- Griffin 2007, p. 213-227.
- Berlet, Chip (2005). "Christian Identity: The Apocalyptic Style, Political Religion, Palingenesis, and Neo-Fascism". In Griffin, Roger. Fascism as a Totalitarian Movement. New York: Routledge. p. 196. ISBN 0-415-34793-9. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
Lyons and I put Christian Identity into the category of clerical fascism, and we also included the militant theocratic Protestant movement called Christian Reconstructionism... a case can be made for... the Hindu nationalist (Hinduvata) Bharatiya Janata Party in India (which grew out of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Hindu religious movement).
- Berlet, Chip. "When Alienation Turns Right: Populist Conspiracism, the Apocalyptic Style, and Neofascist Movements". In Langman, Lauren; Kalekin-Fishman, Devorah. The Evolution of Alienation: Trauma, Promise, and the Millennium. p. 130.
In the most virulent form, theocratic Islamic fundamentalism could be a form of clerical fascism (theocratic fascism built around existing institutionalized clerics). This is a disputed view...
- Mozaffari, Mehdi (March 2007). "What is Islamism? History and Definition of a Concept" (PDF). Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions. 8 (1): 17–33. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
‘Clerical fascism’ is perhaps the nearest concept which comes closest to Islamism.
- Griffin 2007, p. 215.
- Griffin 2007, p. 213.
- Griffin 2007, p. 224.
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- Walid Phares, Lebanese Christian Nationalism: The Rise and Fall of an Ethnic Resistance (Boulder, Colo.: L. Rienner, 1995). ISBN 1-55587-535-1
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- Griffin, Roger (2007). "The 'Holy Storm': 'Clerical fascism' through the Lens of Modernism". Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions. 8 (2): 213–227.
- Biondich, Mark (2007a). "Controversies Surrounding the Catholic Church in Wartime Croatia, 1941–45". The Independent State of Croatia 1941-45. Routledge. pp. 31–59.
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