1st Edition

Catholics and Political Violence in the Twentieth Century A Global History

By Lucia Ceci Copyright 2025
    312 Pages
    by Routledge

    Catholics and Political Violence in the Twentieth Century presents a historical reconstruction of the ways in which Catholics have justified the recourse to political violence during the twentieth century, a period marked by major wars, nationalisms, decolonization, ideological clashes, and episodes of genocide. Legitimation processes are particularly complex when this violence is not endorsed by the state, and perhaps used against it. Depending on perspective, the protagonists of this radical form of collective action may be seen as ‘terrorists’ or ‘freedom fighters’.

    Written by a leading historian of contemporary Catholicism, this book examines a series of case studies from different parts of the world, selected because of the central role played by the Catholic religion. They range from Northern Ireland to the Basque Country, from the Philippines to Colombia, and from Mexico to Rwanda. It highlights how theological sources, paradigms of martyrdom, and symbols of the Christian tradition have provided a catalogue of reasons to give moral value to violence and promote it in the name of God.

    By looking at the history of Catholicism in global terms and adopting a transnational perspective, Catholics and Political Violence in the Twentieth Century sheds a critical light on the themes that are crucial to understanding the relationship between religion and violence. It will appeal to scholars and students like studying Modern and Contemporary History, Religious Studies, Terrorism Studies, Cultural and Global Studies and Intellectual History, as well as all those interested in the History of Political Thought.



    1. The mystique of sacrifice and political violence


    Passion and resurrection in Ireland

    Doctrine, public opinion, and politics

    A war waged by saints

    Squadrismo, violence, and obedience


    2. Tradition and rebellion in Mexico


    Against the secular state

    Hard-line rebels


    In defence of the faith


    3. Sacralized insurrection


    Crusade and terror in Spain

    A universal struggle in a national battleground

    The Church in combat

    El derecho a la rebeldía

    Holy war and the Holy Office


    4. Revolution and incitement to hatred: the deliberations of Rome during total war


    The battle between devils

    The truly Catholic war

    The heresy of hatred


    5. Holy war during the Cold War


    Not revolution, but war

    A crusade to save Hungary?

    Global mobilization

    Discrimination and disadvantage


    6. Latin America and revolution as an obligation


    Armed charity from sociology to guerrilla warfare

    Transatlantic circulation of ideas

    Theology and revolution

    Violence by the peace-lovers and the mystique of guerrilla warfare

    From liberation to human rights


    7. Words and deeds


    The increasing disconnection

    A Catholic element in the origins of the Red Brigades?

    Division and infiltration

    The beginning of the end

    The ‘Sands bomb’


    8. Rwanda: colonialism and its legacy


    A ‘Catholic country’ in central Africa

    The Church during the revolution

    Construction of ‘the enemy within’

    Complicity and silence


    9. The end of the revolution?


    Rosaries, not bullets: the Aquino ‘miracl’ in the Philippines

    Lights in the East and the ‘morality of means’

    Ambivalende and the peace process in the Basque Country

    Democracy and policies of terror: Peru’s tragic twenty years

    Armed for life: anti-abortion attacks in the United States




    Lucia Ceci is Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Rome Tor Vergata. Her research interests include the relationships between Catholicism, politics, and ideologies in the twentieth century. As well as writing five books on these themes, including The Vatican and Mussolini’s Italy (2016), whose original Italian edition (2013) won the Friuli History Award, she has edited eight others, and published numerous articles.