chapter  2
18 Pages

Fascism and Religion: The Metaxas Regime in Greece and the ‘Third Hellenic Civilisation’. Some Theoretical Observations on ‘Fascism’, ‘Political Religion’and ‘Clerical Fascism

Byand ‘Clerical Fascism’ Aristotle A. Kallis

The concept of ‘clerical fascism’ is both fiercely contested and theoretically elastic. Like the history of the term ‘fascism’ itself, ‘clerical fascism’ made its debut in 1920s Italy, and was used to describe the ideas and attitudes of a particular group within the Vatican clergy that sought an ideological and political rapprochement with Benito Mussolini’s Fascist regime. ‘Clerico-fascisti’ – as they were disparagingly called by their opponents – had been members of the Partito Popolare Italiano (PPI), who abandoned the party in the early to mid-1920s and became intermediaries between the fascist state and the church.1 Yet the term soon acquired a more generic meaning, applicable to all members of the clergy who showed support for fascist movements and/or regimes across Europe. As a heuristic category, it has described a web of complex interactions, and convergences between fascist movements and religious (Christian) institutions or groups within them – a convergence made possible on the basis of shared ideological beliefs or political objectives. As an essentialist genus, it has been put forward as an adjunct to the broader definitional corpus of fascist ideology. Therefore, ‘clerical fascism’ touches upon the dialectics of religion and politics, of thought and action, of tradition and modernity.2 As such, it is located in a rather fuzzy analytical territory, flanked by equally nebulous concepts such as ‘religious politics’, ‘political religion’, and so on.3 As if this were not enough, ‘clerical fascism’ also crosses into the territory of ‘generic’ fascism itself – with its notorious conceptual, methodological and other ambiguities.4