Page 1, 10th January 1947

10th January 1947
Page 1
Page 1, 10th January 1947 — Appalling Living Conditions Breed Anti-clerical Extremism In Italy

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People: Don Basilio
Locations: Milan


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Appalling Living Conditions Breed Anti-clerical Extremism In Italy

From a Special Correspondent The appalling living conditions of so many Italians and the effect of freedom after censorship, should be taken into account in judging the present wave of antipapal and anti-religious propaganda at present flooding Italy. This is the conclusion a a Catholic Herald special correspondent in Italy.

" The anti-clerical campaign," he writes, " does not draw its support exclusively from the Left. There are plenty of extremists of the Right that agree with the views circulated by Don Basilio and II Polio. One of the bitterest (and least intelligent) attacks on the Church that I have heard was made by a woman student who had admitted earlier that she had burst into tears when she passed in Milan the petrol pump from which the body of Mussolini was hung.

" I think that in any attempt to estimate the real hold of political extremism on the Italian mind, a great deal of allowance should be made for the fact that so many people are living in sub-animal conditions.

" The philosophical errors of Communism are not likely to appear acute to the family living in a lavatory in Portomaggiore. (This is no

exaggeration. It was a large lavatory, but none the less a lavatory). They'll vote Communist, Fascist, anything you like so long as you promise a home."

North of Ferrara is an industrial village called Pontelugoscuro. It was very thoroughly bombed and there remain only some shapes of factories and a good many heaps of bricks. The people have moved into cottages and stables beyond the village. There is no work for them.

In what had been a cowshed (5 metres by 31) there is now a family of four adult persons. They cook, eat, sleep, exist in this single room. There are two beds, a double one (made by planks on bricks) and a single one.

There is a rough table (borrowed), some boxes for sitting on, a bicycle, a stove, a shelf with some bread, some sausages and some knives on it. The bedclothes are rags and old coats, the pillows are sacks (neatly sewn) stuffed with straw. The room, in spite of being asphyxiatingly overcrowded, is clean.

TYPICAL OF CONDITIONS I have described it in some detail because it is typical of conditions— not at all the worst conditions—in every one of the badly-damaged areas I have seen this last week about Ferrara.

Half-way between Pontelugoscuro and Ferrara is the so-called Zone lndustriale. There in grim little houses—"Artisans' Dwellings"—the former inhabitants of Pontelugoscuro have installed themselves.

As many as eleven people live in two rooms. Many of the houses are without doors or windows. In three out of the five homes I visited the double bed consisted of planks on bricks. The priest of Pontelugoscuro lives in one room in one of these houses. He has, of course, no church.


But in all these " homes " the St. Anthony calendar and the Murrillo Sacred Heart a,re still on the wall; and in a corner is a crib with rather worn, gaudy terra-cotta shepherds and chickens and Wise Men. Our Lady in pink and blue, a very bearded St. Joseph and an Infant Jesus with rays around His head lying on clean white paper.

There is a deep, almost subconscious, attachment to Catholicism (for all kinds of reasons, some of which would not, perhaps, meet with Cathechism approval), which seems to animate all Italians if you scratch beneath a surface tradition of anti-clericalism.

For twenty years the newspapers and journals were rigorouslY censored. The sensational reporting of murder trials and divorce proceedings was forbidden (as it is in Russia now, I believe), as also were attacks on religion. An inevitable result of the Liberation has been the release of a lot of pent-up imagination (and none the better for having been kept) on these " forbidden " subjects.

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