SINCE last November the Osservatore Romano has ceased to be numbered among Italian daily papers. It has retained its old name and continues to be published in the Italian language, but it has moved to its new quarters in the Vatican City and therefore is no longer subject to the Italian press laws. Its principal editor, Marquis Giuseppe Dalla Torre, has relinquished his Italian citizenship so as to be counted among the 500-odd subjects of His Holiness the Pope; and though the Vatican already publishes the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, this Latin gazette is really in the nature of a house organ, and the more elaborate Osservatore seems destined to be the Vatican publication which will secure a world-wide even if not very large circulation.

The outward appearance of the Osservatore has been little modified since it left Italian soil. As always, it carries the Papal Arms and the two mottoes -- Unicuique Suum (To each his own), and Non Prevalebunt (They shall not prevail) -- and is described on the heading as a political and religious daily. In the notice for subscriptions, Italy is listed separately from the Vatican City. The "City News" refers only to the Vatican, and on the days in which no pilgrimages take place the editor of that department has a very easy task. "News from Italy and other countries" occupies the third page, and it is interesting to note that events which secure headlines across the border are often relegated to an inconspicuous corner.

The Osservatore has a new printing plant, and it is now endowed with such ample means that it is able to maintain its own representatives in every country of the world. In fact it not only gives far more space to foreign news than does any other paper published in the Italian language, but it strikes an entirely different note from that sounded by the somewhat uniform Italian press.

With one possible exception, the Osservatore is probably the only paper described as Catholic and printed in Italian that will continue publication in the Italian peninsula. The editors of Catholic newspapers had hoped that the signing of the Lateran Treaties would signify better times for their hard-pressed group, but they were disappointed. The Momento of Turin and the Corriere d'Italia in Rome have recently ceased publication. The old and famous Unità Cattolica, founded in Florence in 1862, has been transformed into a weekly, and most of the other survivors may be expected to disappear within the next few months.

In examining the situation and the history of the Italian Catholic press one must bear in mind that the word "Catholic," as applied to newspapers, political parties and even organizations, conveys a very different meaning in Italy than is the case in other countries, particularly the United States. Purely theological interest is rare among Italians, and though a non-Catholic Italian is an exception, it has often been pointed out that in comparison to other nations Italy has made meagre contributions to ecclesiastical studies and research.

Almost every Italian is christened, confirmed, married and buried according to the ritual of the Catholic Church. He associates it with the traditions of family and homeland which are most dear to him, and he has never known any other. But Italians are not called upon to give financial support to their churches. There are no family pews or contributions for seats. The poor look to the Church for aid, while the attention of the wealthy is directed to charities in which the Church may or may not be interested. Since Italians are not called upon to take up a defensive or propagandistic attitude in regard to their faith, papers founded on religious discussion could hardly hope for any great circulation or influence. Hence, the term "Catholic" is applied by Italians of the Catholic faith to other Catholics who represent some particular political and social views which are said to be based on the principles of the Catholic Church. These latter endeavor to have the laws of the land in matters regarding education, marriage and worship made to coincide with the dictates of Canon Law.

At all periods of Italian history the "Catholics" (understood in this sense) have supported certain political principles. In 1870 the fact of being a "Catholic" signified disapproval of the action taken by other Catholics, such as Cavour and Victor Emanuel II, with whom the Roman Question originated. The "Catholic" papers of those days, such as the Osservatore Cattolico in Milan and the Jesuit Unità Cattolica in Florence, denounced the King as a usurper and upheld the edict issued by Pope Pius IX to the effect that no good son of the Church could participate in the political life of the Italian Kingdom and swear allegiance to its sovereign.

The editor of the Osservatore Cattolico, Don Davide Albertario, whose fiery editorials conveyed a sense of political passion more than of religious conviction, was the leading figure at that period. In 1898 he was accused of fomenting revolt and imprisoned. The liberal Catholics failed to come to his aid, and it is interesting to note that a protest regarding his arrest was issued by the newly formed Italian Socialist Party, over the signature of the still youthful leader, Filippo Turati.

Albertario was succeeded in the political battle by Filippo Meda, one of the first Catholic deputies to enter the Italian Parliament and a leading figure in Italian public life in the years preceding the war. Meda was too young for the events of 1870 to have left any deep impression on him. Although belonging to a very devout family, he was educated in a public school and took a degree in law at the Royal University of Bologna. Italian unity was for him an accomplished fact, and while still very young he had come to believe that the event might in the end prove to be of signal benefit to the Church; his theory was that once it had been liberated from material cares and limitations it would be able to give all its attention to spiritual matters, with increased influence not only in Italian but in world affairs.

At the time, the Church was confronted with a new problem. The doctrines of Karl Marx were spreading far and wide. The Italian Socialist Party had developed rapidly and was gaining ground not only among the working people of the great cities, but even in the agricultural regions which were the stronghold of the Church. Pope Pius IX had condemned "socialists, liberals, masons, modernists and all such pests," but his able and broad-minded successor, Pope Leo XIII, realized that dogmatic condemnations were not enough and that it was necessary for the Catholics to compete with the Socialists on their own ground.

In 1891, therefore, Pope Leo XIII published the Encyclical Letter known as "Rerum Novarum," in which for the first time in history a Pope discussed the conditions of the working people. He urged Catholics to unite, not only in alleviating their sufferings but in studying the laws regulating the relationship between capital and labor, so as to find out if the working man was fairly treated, and to aid him to defend his rights through organized action. To some extent this was the origin of the sociological program which was to be developed, first by the early Catholic societies, then by the Populist Party, and at present by the great organization known as the Catholic Action.

This of course opened up a vast field for the Catholic press. The political and sociological character of the new publications which sprang up was emphasized by the fact that they were issued mostly in northern Italy, and prospered in those centers where the Socialists had made the greatest headway. It is true that Rome had the Osservatore Romano, but the semi-official character of this sheet was responsible for its apparent detachment from matters of local and political interest; it never took part in heated polemical discussions and simply upheld the general principles on which the Church differed from both Socialists and Liberals, particularly in regard to agnostic schools and the introduction of divorce into the Italian code. Only in 1907 did a political Catholic paper, the Corriere d'Italia, make its appearance in Rome, while southern Italy, where the religious sentiment is the strongest and political and class consciousness the weakest, had no newspapers which could be described as Catholic.

Once the compromise had been found whereby devout Catholics might enter political life the field lay open for the organization of a Catholic party. It took form shortly after the World War and rapidly rose to a spectacular success under the able leadership of Luigi Sturzo, a Sicilian priest. The Catholic press simultaneously assumed a novel importance as the organ of a political party -- with the exception, of course, of the Osservatore, which followed the policy of the Holy See in remaining outside and above political discussions. The Italia, a well organized and in every sense a modern paper, replaced the Unione in Milan, and even Sicily boasted an unpretentious Populist paper.

The days of Davide Albertario were indeed ended. While the Catholic press expressed fervent hopes that the Roman Question should find an adequate solution, the "usurper" was spoken of as "our well-loved sovereign," and the patriotism of military chaplains and of Catholic writers who had fallen in the war was extolled. The fight against modernism waged by Pope Pius X had made Catholic journalism lose some of its ablest writers, and Luigi Sturzo endeavored to replace them from among the returning soldiers. This introduced some new and valuable writers to the press.

The rise of the Fascist Party, with its gradual absorption of all the machinery of state, the strict enforcement of the new press laws, and even more the dissolution of the old political parties, spelt the end of a number of Italian publications. Naturally the Catholics were hit the hardest, next to the Socialists. About a year ago the total circulation of Italian Catholic papers was estimated at less than thirty thousand copies; and when we consider the drop in the circulation of all Italian daily papers the estimate appears to be accurate.

In the period which elapsed between the signing of the Lateran Treaties on February 11, 1929, and the discussion of their contents before the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate at the end of May, the Catholic press was exultant; it even seemed somewhat indiscreet in its jubilation.

In his speech before Parliament, Mussolini told the Deputies that within that period of three months he had ordered the suppression of more Catholic newspapers than at any other time; and it is certain that the interpretation which some of these papers gave to the various articles of the Concordat were such as to arouse the apprehension of all Italian liberals, as well as the violent wrath of some prominent members of the Fascist Party who had not outlived the anti-clerical principles which were so evident in the history of the Risorgimento and which were inscribed in the very birth certificate of Fascism. Mussolini endeavored to appease the clamor, and by strict censorship prevented the Fascist press from entering into violent polemics with the Catholic writers. On the other hand, he gave the irate members of his own party the satisfaction of denying that the "sacred character of the city of Rome" implied the closing of non-Catholic places of worship and the removal of the statue of Giordano Bruno.

It was not until the treaties had been ratified by the Senate that the Pope made any reply. His remonstrance and reservations were contained in the famous letter to Cardinal Gasparri published by the Osservatore Romano on June 6, 1929. This gave the Catholic press more courage, and in an article in the Jesuit magazine, Civilta Cattolica, Mussolini was indirectly reminded that Napoleon had signed a Concordat, but broke his word -- and ended his life on the island of St. Helena. The issue was immediately suppressed, and when the author, Father Rosa, was sent on a mission to Spain many got the impression that the Pope was seeking to minimize all causes of friction. This seemed the more evident when Cardinal Gamba failed to secure financial assistance from the Vatican for the Momento, which soon ceased publication, being followed not long after by the Corriere d'Italia and the Unità Cattolica.

In weighing these actions we must bear in mind that when it decides on a policy the Church takes only centuries into serious consideration, and looks at the general outline of the world picture rather than at details of life here and there. To have obtained recognition as an independent and sovereign state, and hence to be enabled to deal directly with all foreign governments, was far more important in the life of the Church than were the details of the accompanying treaties.

We are perhaps justified in concluding that the Pope prefers to see the papers which formed the old Catholic Trust cease from publication rather than have them attempt to work out a compromise. Speaking recently to the parish priests of Rome, he lamented that the Government should not see fit to allow the words of the Pope to be printed by the Catholic press, "which we call ours only inasmuch as it defends and extols the Divine Truths for which we stand." After having thus severed his direct relationship with this press, he urged the members of his audience to perform, by both word and action, the service which the printing presses were not allowed to render, and he made clear that in this field of direct action he placed all his hope and confidence.

In Article 43 of the Concordat Italy recognized the legality of the organizations belonging to the Catholic Action, depending exclusively from the Church authorities and organized outside of all political parties for religious purposes. No other independent organization is recognized in Italy, and since the signing of the Lateran treaties its membership has grown by leaps and bounds. The Church officials and the Osservatore constantly emphasize the purely religious character of the Action, yet its spectacular growth can but be looked upon with apprehension by the Government. Past experience has demonstrated how difficult it is to draw a line of demarcation between the part which is due to Cæsar and that which is due to God.

The newspaper Italia, issued in Milan, is to become the official organ of the Italian Catholic Action, and as such it will probably modify its editorial policy and assume a semi-religious tone, thus avoiding open conflict with the authorities; but the latter will not fail to watch its columns and, if necessary, order the suppression of an issue. The Osservatore Romano alone, printed as it is on foreign soil, will escape all censorship. It is, however, too much concerned with the universality of the spiritual organization of which it is the spokesman to give much space to local Italian news, so that those who hope to find in its columns abundance of material not printed elsewhere are likely to meet with disappointment. This will not be because the Osservatore lacks the freedom to print it, but because that which appears to be a poignant drama to many millions of Italians is of relatively little interest to the Holy See.

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