chapter  12
14 Pages

Enacting Encyclicals? Cultural Politics and ‘Clerical Fascism’ in Austria, 1933–1938 Robert Pyrah

While the precise nature of Austria’s authoritarian regimes between 1933 and 1938 remains contested, programmatic statements by its political leaders are not in short supply. The epigraph, from an agenda-setting speech in 1933 by Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss to the Viennese Allgemeiner Katholikentag [Catholic General Congress] points to Austria’s relevance in discussions of interwar European ‘clerical fascism’. Leaving aside the disconnect between intention and practice, these were regimes that not only sought to rule by authoritarian means, but that proclaimed a pathbreaking aim: to incorporate Catholic teaching into the very apparatus of state, through the constitution. In this context, ‘clericalism’ applies less to the clergy, who withdrew from frontline Austrian politics in 1933, and refers both to the influence exerted by the Catholic Church in matters of state (as in the original Italian application of the term ‘i clerico fascisti’), and to the actions of lay Catholic politicians who led the country between 1933 and 1938.