Page 6, 27th June 1969

27th June 1969
Page 6
Page 6, 27th June 1969 — The decline and fall of the Roman Catholic Empire

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Locations: Vienna, Naples


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The decline and fall of the Roman Catholic Empire


Italy in the Making, 1815-1R46 by G. F-H. & J. Berkeley (Cambridge University Press 5 vols 60s., 70s.. and 90s.)

THE period of which the joint authors treat has in these beautifully produced volumes been well summed up in the phrase Italia fora do se. when Italian Patriots still believed that they could free and unite their country by their own undivided efforts. The battle of Custom proved that such was was not the case.

The authors rightly maintain that the Italian problem in the nineteenth century was the direct result of the Vienna settlement, for "from 1815 to 1846 Metternich's right of intervention gave him a stranglehold," and most of the rulers in the small states in northern Italy—and to a lesser extent the Neapolitan Bourbons —were nothing more than Austrian puppets.

It was, indeed, a state of affairs closely resembling that which exists behind the Iron Curtain today where the native regimes, unpopular with their own people, rely upon Russian tanks for their support. Above all, across the centre of Italy stretched the States of the Church, the greatest international organisation of that, or any other, day, and the whole question of the Temporal Power was bound up with the position of the Church in the world, for no one ever took the Pope seriously as a temporal monarch in the ordinary sense.

It was all very well for Metternich to say that Italy was only a geographical expression, but that was a half-truth from the beginning, and with the passage of time it ceased to be true at all. Before long Italy was to grip the attention and excite the emotions of a large part of western Europe to a remarkable extent, though opinion abroad was by no means unanimous. If there were large numbers of Liberals and Protestants to whom — Mazzini and Garibaldi were heroes, there were not a few Legitimists and Catholics to whom their names were a pseudonym for the Evil One; indeed, the activities of the Secret Societies, during the earlier period alienated many foreigners who later acclaimed Victor Emmanuel II and Cavour.

In the thirties and forties there were several different schools of thought among those who were working for Italian independence, and they are all discussed in detail in these pages. First of all there were the federalists, inspired by Vincenzo Gioberti. who desired to see Italy united in a federation of which the Pope should be President.

The weakness of this scheme lay in the fact that it presupposed a Pope who was willing to offend Austria, the leading Catholic • Power, for the sake of the freedom of Italy— an impossible decision to expect any man in such a position to take. Slightly different was the view of Cesare Balbo who held that the exact terms of the confederation could not be fixed until the Austrians had been driven out, and that then the predominant part in the new Italy should be played by Piedmont.

At the other extreme were Mazzini and his republicans, whose plan was to overthrow the Temporal Power, expel the existing dynasties and the Austrians, and create a unitary republic. They had their chance in 1848, and failed miserably. When the Gianiculo passed from the hands of Garibaldi into those of the French, the real victor was neither Louis Napoleon nor Pius IX, but. Victor Emmanuel 11, who now became the only hope of every Italian patriot: every other solution had either failed or proved impossible, and foreign help was inevitable — Italia fora du se was dead.

The authors' delineation of character and description of events are equally good. and unlike so many writers on this subject their approach is commendably objective. Pius IX,

we are told, "has never received the credit due to him for his splendid effort during his first two years. And indeed, until recently, the same might be said of almost the whole of Charles Albert—and about one or twc of the other princes as well."

There is even an examination of the charges brought by Gladstone and others against Ferdinand II of Naples — the "Bomba" of legend — which exonerates him from most of them, which was only to be expected in this present age when "bombing defenceless cities has become the daily custom in war."

Irish readers in particular cannot fail to be appreciative of the sympathy extended to Ireland by Pius IX at the time of the Famine.

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