An Embarrassing Collabboration

Written by  Romeo Sgarbanti

Giovanni Grosoli, founder of the Italian National Centre (1924-1930).

On 12 August 1924, seeing in fascism an opportunity for a religious revival in Italy and a retreat from social disorder, the Senator Giovanni Grosoli founded the Italian National Centre, the CNI, in Bologna. Fascism appeared to him as a broadly acceptable solution. He was also against the policy of opposition to fascism of the Partito Popolare, which he regarded as damaging to catholic interests. The Holy See, understanding the irresistible rise of a party which was by now on the way to becoming a regime, was embarrassed by the presence of the Partito Popolare, which – though predominately Catholic – had never been delegated the role of protecting catholic interests. Thus, in founding the CNI, Grosoli supported an essential requirement of the Church at this historical moment.

Grosoli never shared the fascist ideology, and, although he led a collaborationist movement, never became politically involved in fascism. His life was dedicated to breaking down the isolation of practicing Catholics in the country. He did not change this line even in the face of fascism. He may be accused of misunderstanding fascism. But in this failure to grasp the potential nature of fascism he was not alone; many intellectuals and politicians understood fascism as a transitory phenomenon, which, once social order was restored, would respect liberal institutions and return to a basis in law. Grosoli, highly regarded for his moral integrity, independent of fascism in his moral and political judgements, gave comfort to the logic of fascist totalitarianism. The Catholic banks - including the Piccolo Credito di Ferrara - became unstable due to an excessive investment which destroyed their liquidity, and this led to the final economic and political downfall of a collaboration which had become embarrassing. The failure of theBank of Italy to intervene was enough to put the CNI out of business. In 1929 Grosoli, stripped of everything, withdrew to a Franciscan convent in Assisi. The following year the CNI disbanded.