Progetti di ricerca

CMCIR - Catholic Moral Conundrums in the Italian Resistance (1943-1948)

Ambito disciplinare Macroarea 3

Area scientifica Area 16 - Scienze politiche e sociali

Tipologia finanziamento PROGETTI DI RICERCA DI ATENEO (Finanziamenti di Ateneo)

Tipo di progetto Nazionale

Stato progetto Concluso (archiviato)

Responsabilità scientifica Principal Investigator

Data avvio: 1 September 2018

Data termine: 31 August 2020

Durata: 24 mesi

Importo: € 90.000

Principal investigator:

Alessandro Santagata


« The main aim of this research project will be to study the Catholic partisans in the Resistance, with specific reference to Christian morality and moral conundrums surrounding the different mentalities, representations, motivations and behaviors in the civil war. The aim for the 2 year term of the post-doc will be to delimit part of the research with a specific focus on  2 regional cases: Veneto and Emilia-Romagna. This kind of delimitation is deemed  necessary in order to test the methodology and evaluate the initial results in view of a more extensive project  on the national context. The main thesis of this project is that Christian Faith was a relevant factor in the military conduct of the Italian Resistance. In this project I will employ the category of “religious morality” thus connecting my research to Pavone’s reconstruction. The analysis will be structured in 3 sections:  the issues that arose in relation to  the “moment of  choice” after 8 September 1943;  the problems of  military violence;  and finally the issues surrounding the memory in the Postwar. »


The present project aims to contribute to historical studies with a specific point of view. Following ClaudioPavone’s methodology and with reference to the historiography which tackled the problem of the memory of the Left (communists, socialists, and azionisti), it aims to start from the documentation produced by the fighters during the war (diaries, letters, etc) to explore how Catholic partisans lived the experience of the Resistance as a religious one. This perspective is yet unexplored and will explore mentalities, motivations, and the cultural framework of the fighters and of their political leaders with referent to their Christian origin and their religious sense of belonging.

Piano delle attività:

The first step will be to analyse the experience of the Resistance based on the documentation of the Catholic partisans. Working on a large spectrum of sources (diaries, letters, political documents, etc) the objective will be to explain how Catholics described the fight as a «religious moment».  How did they experience the moment of battle? How did they legitimate violence against the enemy? And, above all, how did they represent and justify their engagement in face of the Vatican’s equidistance? More in general, the study will concern the military and political leadership of the Resistance (educated laics who, in many cases, came from the Azione cattolica). Through a selection of groups and biographies, I will investigate the self-representation of this leadership. Diaries, letters, memoirs will be a very important source of study. Not less relevant will be the analysis of the military sources held by the Istituti storici della Resistenza in Milan and in Emilia-Romagna (Bologna, Modena, Reggio-Emilia, Rimini, Forlì-Cesena, Ravenna, Parma, Piacenza) and Veneto (Padova, Venezia, Verona, Vicenza) will also be deemed relevant. The aim will be to compare the representation of the war that emerges from the diaries/books with the results of the research on the archives. The main documents that will be consulted include diaries, memoirs, clandestine documents, letters, memoranda of the CLN, military documents, political press, documentation produced by the Christian Democrat Party. At the same time, I will work on the Fascist documentation – held in the Archivi di Stato – and on the ecclesiastic sources at the Diocesan Archives (including, in particular, the Azione cattolica press and documents).



The main result of this research project is the submission for publication of the monography "La violenza 'incolpevole'. Rappresentazioni e pratiche dei cattolici nella Resistenza in Veneto", based on the main categories used by Claudio Pavone to study the “morality” of the Resistance.
The first part of the study focuses on the “moment of choice” after 8 September 1943: joining the Resistance. The book shows how in the cultural melting pot of religion and nationalism we can find one element of justification of the violence against the enemy. The influence of the Azione Cattolica associations’ teachings explains how Catholics partisans connected their religious experience to the traditional doctrine on war, adopting specific moral and political motivations to justify their engagement in the Resistance; therefore we can understand the role played by the clergy and how we can no longer consider the Catholic resistance as and act of indipendence from the ecclesiastic Hierarchy.
The second part of the book deals with the question of violence as a moral problem. Catholics affirmed it was necessary to “kill without hate” in order to define their moral difference from the enemy. This is the real moral conundrums of the Catholic fighters, which shows the distance between the Catholics representations and the cruel reality of the war.
The third and last part of the monography takes on the representation of the Resistance developed after the end of the war, considering the issue of the war memory and of its conflicts in the Republican context; this resulted in the archetype of the “moral partisan” developed by the Catholics: a fighter model who did not shoot to kill, lived the Resitance as religious experience of solidarity and sacrificed himself for the liberation.
This is how "La violenza 'incolpevole'" fills a gap in the studies on the Italian Resistance and proposes a new exploration angle of the phenomenon, in line with the most recent approaches to the topic.