Murri, Romolo


Murri, Romolo
(1870–1944)
   Born in the Marches, this leader of radical Catholicism in pre-1914 Italy had become a priest in 1893. Like many young priests born after the Risorgimento, he chafed under the Church’s ban on political activity and found the Vaticanapproved social movements (the most important of which was the socalled Opera dei congressi) intolerably conservative. Beginning in 1898, Murri edited a magazine, Cultura sociale, a Catholic rival to the Socialist Party’s intellectual journal Critica sociale. Spurred by the state’s repression of workers’ movements throughout Italy in 1898–1899, Murri’s critique of Italian society assumed nearly Marxist tones—so far as he was concerned, the state was merely the ex pression of the desires and ideas of the property-owning classes, an essentially repressive organization that had to be transformed into una democrazia cristiana (a Christian democracy). Disenchanted with the conservatism of the Vatican, Murri founded the Lega Democratica Nazionale/National Democratic League in 1905. The new movement openly proclaimed its intention to recruit young working-class activists who would spread democratic and socialist ideas within Catholic organizations in Italy. Displeased, the Church banned priests from participating in the new movement and eventually suspended Murri from the priesthood in 1907, after he openly called for state supervision of religious schools and the ending of religious instruction in elementary schools. Undaunted, Murri was elected to Parliament as a radical for his native Ascoli Piceno (Marches) in 1909. The Church responded by excommunicating him. Murri’s hostility to Giolittian liberalism and the influence of the philosophy of Giovanni Gentile later caused his political views to turn to the right. He won the plaudits of the Fascist hierarchy by publishing a paean to the strong state entitled La conquista ideale dello stato (The Ideal Conquest of the State, 1923). After the publication of this book, Piero Gobetti dismissed him as “the perfect example of a failed prophet.” He was reconciled to the Church in 1943 and died the following year.
   See also Giolitti, Giovanni.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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