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  • Il Professorino: Giuseppe Dossetti tra crisi del fascismo e costruzione della democrazia, 1940–1948 by Enrico Galavotti
  • Massimo Faggioli
Il Professorino: Giuseppe Dossetti tra crisi del fascismo e costruzione della democrazia, 1940–1948. By Enrico Galavotti. (Bologna: Società editrice Il Mulino. 2013. Pp. 885. €60,00 paperback. ISBN 978-815-244529.)

Giuseppe Dossetti (1913–96) was member of the anti-Fascist resistance, politician, canon lawyer, priest, peritus at the Second Vatican Council, founder of a religious order, and in the final years of his life a monk in the Middle East. In 1945 Dossetti became vice-secretary of the Christian-Democratic party (Democrazia Cristiana), the pivotal center of the political system immediately after [End Page 177] the war. In 1953 he founded the Istituto per le scienze religiose in Bologna. In the early 1990s Dossetti became the most important Italian Catholic engagé against the first Iraq War (fearing the dire consequences of Western-waged wars for Arab Catholics) and in 1994 against the rise of Silvio Berlusconi (who has changed the ethos of Italian politics). But, to understand Dossetti and a vast theological, spiritual, and political tradition within Italian Catholicism, it is important to go back to the roots of the young Dossetti. Enrico Galavotti previously analyzed the first twenty-five years in the life of Dossetti (Il giovane Dossetti. Gli anni della formazione 1913–1939, Rome, 2006), with a particular focus on the relationship between Dossetti and the Fascist regime while Dossetti was a young research fellow at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan.

In this second book, Galavotti focuses on the central years of Dossetti’s political activity, 1940–48: his involvement in the resistance during World War II and the work for the foundation of Italian democracy on the ruins of the war and of the two decades of Fascist dictatorship. The title of the book, Il professorino (“the little professor”), was a diminutive used by Dossetti’s adversaries (even within his own political party) to label him as intellectual, young, and inexperienced. But he was anything but inexperienced, as this massive volume, based on remarkable and impressive research in multiple archives (both institutional and private), is divided in ten chapters that follow Dossetti’s path step by step. The opening chapter is about the years 1940–42, with the shift from Italians’ enthusiasm for the war until the turn of 1942 also on the position of Italian Catholics toward the war and Fascism. The next key moments are Dossetti’s decision to become an anti-Fascist active in the underground (even though he refused to bear arms); the complicated relationship in the resistance between Catholic anti-Fascists and Communists; his rise to roles of leadership in the Christian-Democratic Party until becoming vice-secretary of the biggest political party in Italy (the Western country with the biggest Communist Party); his crucial role at the constitutional convention of 1946–47; and the dramatic electoral campaign for the parliamentary elections on April 18, 1948.

Dossetti was a unique kind of politician in twentieth-century Italy. As a Catholic, he was totally faithful to the Church and at the same time totally engaged to the political community and its institutions; his biography is an important reminder of the complex paths of Catholicism in contemporary political cultures. At almost twenty years after his death, Dossetti still is an inspiring figure for many Italian Catholics and for some politically engaged Italian Catholics (but certainly not for a Catholic like the young prime minister Matteo Renzi). In this sense, the oblivion suffered by Dossetti in Italy is not completely dissimilar from the crisis of “political Catholicism” throughout the whole Western world (North, Central, and South America included).

The book is dedicated to Angelina and Giuseppe Alberigo, the latter Dossetti’s successor as the director of the Bologna institute who died in 2007. This is one of the signals that tells us that this book needs to be read with an awareness of [End Page 178] the author’s intellectual tradition. But one of the reasons this book deserves to be read is the ability of Galavotti to keep an objective approach to Dossetti, without becoming part of a...


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