So then historical experience at hand it was more imperative that you educate our soldiers to object rather than obey. As for objection, they have known far too little during these one hundred years of history; as for obedience, they have known far too much, unfortunately for them and the world. Let us run through history together. Each time you shall tell us what side the Fatherland was on, which direction we should have shot in, when it was time to obey and when it was time to object. An army of Neapolitans, brimming with the idea of Fatherland, tried to force back into the sea a handful of brigands who were attacking their Fatherland.
Among those brigands were various Neapolitan officers who were deserters from their Fatherland. In point of fact it was the brigands who won. Now, here and there in squares in Italy, there are statues to every one of them in their capacity as hero of the Fatherland. The context is the unification of Italy - translator's note.
A hundred years on and history repeats itself: Europe is at our gates. The Constitution is ready to welcome her: Our children will laugh at your concept of Fatherland, just as we all laugh at the Bourbon Fatherland. The House of Bourbon ruled many territories and were Kings of the two Sicilies - formerly the kingdom of Naples and the kingdom of Sicily - translator's note.
Our grandchildren will laugh at Europe. Soldiers and armed forces chaplains' uniforms will be seen only in the museums. The war following was another aggression. Rather, a pact was made with the most quarrelsome, warmongering nation in the world the Prussians - translator's note to attack Austria together.
The wars against the people of Rome were certainly aggressions. The people of Rome did not love their age-old Fatherland much, in point of fact they did not defend it. But they did not like their new Fatherland which was attacking them much either, so much so they did not rise up to help it win. In his diary Gregorovius writes: The enemy was a crowd of beggars who were waiting for soup in front of a convent in Milan.
The General fired on them with mortars and cannon just because the rich demanded the privilege then as they do now of not paying taxes. They wanted to substitute the tax on cornmeal for something worse for the poor and better for them. They got what they wanted. Eighty dead, numerous wounded. Among the soldiers not one wounded, not one objector. After their period of military service was over they went back home to eat cornmeal mush polenta.
Just a little, though, for the price had gone up. And the officers kept on making them cry "Savoia" even when they led them in attacks twice on a peaceful people far away Ethiopia - translator's note who were certainly not threatening our Fatherland's borders. They were the only black people who had not yet been infected by the plague of European colonialism.
When whites and blacks are fighting are you on the side of the whites? Is it not enough for you to force the Italia Fatherland on us? Do you want to force on us the White Race Fatherland, too? Are you the sort of priests that read "La Nazione"? Be very careful because that paper considers a white person's life more than that of a hundred blacks. Have you seen how it gave prominence to the killing of sixty whites in the Congo, forgetting to describe the appalling massacre of the blacks, which was happening at the same time, and without looking for those pulling the strings behind the scenes here in Europe?
The same goes for the war in Libya. Then we are in Italy attacked Austria with whom she had been allied this time. Was Battisti a Patriot or a deserter? It is a small detail that needs to be cleared up if you wish to talk of Fatherland. Did you tell your young men that it was a war which could have been avoided?
That Giolitti Prime Minister -translator's note was certain to be able to secure gratis what was then secured with , deaths? That the vast majority of the Chamber of Deputies was with him out of ? Was it, then, the Fatherland that issued the call to arms? And even if it was, did it not call them to a "useless massacre"? It was in that the Fatherland under attack needed to be defended. But the army did not defend it.
They were waiting for orders that never came.
If their priests had taught them to let their Conscience guide them instead of "blind, prompt, absolute" Obedience how much harm the Fatherland and the world would have been spared 50 million dead. That is how the Fatherland ended up in the hands of a gang of criminals who violated every human and divine law and, their mouths full of the word Fatherland, brought the Fatherland to ruin.
In those tragic years those priests whose minds and mouths were only filled with the sacred word "Fatherland", those who had never wanted a deep understanding of its meaning, those who spoke like you do, did immense harm to the Fatherland and, incidentally, let it be said, they dishonoured the Church. In fifty thousand Italian soldiers found themselves embarked on a new, vile aggression. They had received the call-up papers to "volunteer" to attack the ill-fated Spanish people. They hurried to the aid of a general who was a traitor to his Fatherland, who rebelled against his legitimate government and sovereign people.
With the help of the Italians and at the cost of a million and a half lives he managed to secure what the rich wanted: Still today, in defiance of the rest of the world, that rebel general imprisons, tortures, kills or rather, garrottes whoever is guilty of defending the Fatherland back then or trying to save it now.
Without the obedience of the Italian "volunteers" all of this would not have happened. If in those sad days there had not been Italians on the other side, we could not look a Spaniard in the face. In point of fact those Italians were rebels and exiles from their Fatherland. People who had objected. Have you told your soldiers what they should do if they happen to have a general like Franco? Have you told them that one must not obey officers who disobey their sovereign people? Then from onwards it was downhill all the way: Italian soldiers attacked one after another six other Fatherlands that had certainly not attacked theirs Albania, France, Greece, Egypt, Jugoslavia, Russia.
It was the war in which Italy was fighting on two fronts: They were and are for now the two most noble political systems that humanity has given itself. One represents the loftiest attempt by humanity to give freedom and human dignity to the poor, right here on this earth. The other is the loftiest attempt by humanity to give justice and equality to the poor, right here on this earth. Do not trouble yourselves to reply accusing one or the other of these systems of their considerable defects and errors. We know they are human things. Tell us rather what was happening on this side of the front.
Without a doubt the worst political system that unscrupulous oppressors have ever been able to come up with. Negation of every moral value, of all freedom except for the rich and the wicked. Negation of every justice and religion. Propaganda of hate and extermination of the innocent. Amongst others the extermination of the Jews the Fatherland of the Lord, dispersed all over the world and suffering.
What had Fatherland got to do with all this? And what meaning can Fatherlands at war have anymore from the moment that the last war was a battle between ideologies and not Fatherlands? But in this hundred years of Italian history there has also been a "just" war if such a thing exists. The only one that was not an aggression against others' Fatherlands, but a defence of ours: On one side there was the civilian population, on the other, the military. On one side soldiers that had obeyed, on the other, soldiers that had objected.
According to you which of the two contenders were the "rebels", which the "regulars"? It is a notion that demands clarification when you talk of Fatherland. In the Congo, for example, who are the "rebels"? Then by the grace of God our Fatherland lost the unjust war it had unleashed. The Fatherlands that had been attacked by ours managed to repel our soldiers.
We surely have to respect them. They were wretched men who worked on the land or as labourers transformed into aggressors by military obedience. That obedience you chaplains extol without a hint of any distinction distinguo which could reconnect you to St. In many countries in this more civil than ours the law honours these people by allowing them to serve the Fatherland in other ways. They are asking to sacrifice themselves for the Fatherland more than the others, not less.
It is not their fault if in Italy they have no other choice than to serve by idling away their time in prison. Moreover, in Italy, too, there is a law which recognises a form of conscientious objection. It is that very Concordato you wanted to celebrate. Its third article gives its blessing to the fundamental conscientious objection of the Bishops and Priests. With regard to the other objectors, the Church has made no pronouncement, neither against them nor against you.
The human sentence which condemns them only says that they have disobeyed the law of men, not that they are cowards. Who authorises you to make bad worse? And then when calling them cowards doesn't it occur to you that nobody has ever heard tell that cowardice belongs to only a few and heroism belongs to the majority? Pause before you insult them. Maybe tomorrow you will discover that they are prophets. It is true that the place for prophets is prison, but it is not very nice to be on the side of those that keep them there. If you tell us that you chose your mission as chaplains to attend the wounded and dying, we can respect it.
Gandhi himself did it as a young man. Later on in life he harshly condemned this error of his youth. Have you read his life story? But if you tell us that the refusal to defend yourself and your family according to the example and commandment of the Lord is "extraneous to the Christian commandment of love" then you do not know which Spirit you belong to! What language are you speaking? How can we understand you if you use words without weighing them?
If you do not want to honour the objectors' suffering, at least keep quiet! We hope, then, for the very opposite of what you hope for: Let us respect suffering and death, but before those young people who look to us let us avoid making a dangerous confusion between good and evil, between truth and error, between the death of an aggressor and that of his victim. If you agree, let us say: I am putting down in writing here what I would have willingly said in the courtroom.
It is unlikely that I will be able to come to Rome because I have been unwell for some time. I enclose a doctor's certificate and beg you to proceed in my absence. The illness is the only reason I am not coming. I want to make this very clear because since the time of Porta Pia 20 September when the Italian government sent a military expedition against the Pontifical State, putting an end to the temporal power of the Popes. Porta Pia was the gate which the soldiers breached to enter the Pontifical State - translator's note Italian priests have been suspected of having little respect for the State.
And this is the very accusation levelled against me in this trial. But it is unfounded as regards many of my fellow priests and has no foundation whatsoever as regards me. Indeed, I shall explain how much I care about impressing on my boys and girls a feeling for the law and respect for the courts of men. I would like to clarify something regarding the counsel for the defence. The things I wished to say in the letter under accusation are close to my heart as teacher and priest. In these two capacities I am capable of speaking up for myself.
Thus, I asked my court-appointed counsel for the defence not to speak. But he explained to me that he cannot promise not to do so, either as a lawyer or as a man. I understand his reasons and have not insisted. Another clarification regarding the magazine which is accused alongside me for having given space to my letter. Since 23 rd February I had distributed the letter on my own. Only afterwards 6 th March did "Rinascita" publish it, followed then by other newspapers.
Therefore, it is for procedural reasons - that is, totally accidental - that I find a Communist magazine incriminated together with me. I would have no objection if we were dealing with other matters. But it does not deserve the honour of proclaiming itself upholder of ideas which do not become it, like freedom of conscience and nonviolence. This is of no benefit to clarity, i. Now I shall come to the reasons why I felt it a duty to write the letter under accusation.
But first you will need to know the reasons why as well as being a parish priest I am also a teacher. Mine is a mountain parish.source site
L'obbedienza non è più una virtù. Documenti del processo di Don Milani
There was only an elementary school when I arrived there. Five forms in one classroom. The children left the fifth form semi-literate and went to work. So I decided there and then that I would spend my life as parish priest not only for their religious, but for their civil edification. So, for eleven years now the largest part of my ministry has consisted in a school.
The city-dwellers marvel at its timetable: Before I arrived the youngsters worked the same hours and what's more, doing hard work to provide those in the city with wool and cheese. Now that I make them spend the same time at school people say I am working them to death. The above is relevant to this trial simply because it would be difficult for you to understand my way of reasoning if you did not know that the children and I practically live together.
We receive visitors together. Even if it is an offence I had the moral duty to speak out. We were together as usual when a friend brought us a newspaper clipping. Later we came to know that already this expression was incorrect. Only 20 out of a total of were at the meeting. I was not able to ascertain as to how many had been informed. Personally, I only know one: In fact the text is gratuitously provocative. It is enough just to think of the phrase "expression of cowardice". Giorgio Peyrot of the University of Rome is compiling a collection of all the sentences against Italian conscientious objectors.
He tells me that since the Liberation up to now there have been more than of them. He has sure data for and the texts for He assures me that nowhere has he found the word "cowardice" or any equivalent. Indeed, in some he has found terms showing respect for the moral character of the accused. For instance, "From the entire behaviour of the accused it must be retained that he has incurred the rigours of the law out of love for his faith" 2 sentences of the Military Tribunal of Turin, 19th December , defendant Scherillo; 3rd June , defendant Fiorenza.
In 3 sentences of the Military Tribunal of Verona he found the motive was recognised as being of particular moral and social value 19th October , defendant Valente; 11 th January , defendant Perotto; 7 th May , defendant Perotto. I enclose the complete text of the research findings, which Prof. Peyrot has been good enough to prepare for me. Now, I was sitting before my boys and girls in my double role as teacher and priest and they were looking at me with indignant and impassioned expressions. A priest who affronts a prisoner is always in the wrong. All the more so if he insults those who are in prison for an ideal.
I had no need to point this out to my pupils. They had already understood. And they had also intuited that at this point I was committed to giving them a lesson in life. I had to teach them well how a citizen reacts to injustice. How he has freedom of speech and of the press. How a Christian reacts also to the priest and even the bishop who errs. How each one has to feel responsible for everyone else. It is the motto of principled young Americans, and difficult to translate in our language. It is the exact opposite of the fascist motto "I couldn't give a toss". We knew that neither the civil nor the religious authorities had reacted.
An austere school like ours, which knows no recreation or holidays, has plenty of time available for thinking and studying. Thus it has the duty and the right to say what others do not say. It is the only recreation I allow my pupils. So we took our history books serviceable middle school books, not monographs written by specialists and we went back over a hundred years of Italian history in search of a "just war". Of a war which was in conformity with article 11 of the Constitution. It is not our fault if we did not find one. From that day to this many unpleasant things have happened: We have been harmed by some journalists with "interviews" which were a tissue of lies; other journalists have reached incredible conclusions drawn from those "interviews" without taking pains to check how genuine they were.
Our letter has been incriminated. However, it has been comforting to keep our gaze fixed on those 31 young men who are at this very moment in prison for an ideal.
DON LORENZO MILANI and HIS LETTER to the JUDGES
They say that in class he talks about sport a lot. That he tells them he is very keen on hunting and judo. That he has a car. It was not his business to call those 31 young men "cowardly and extraneous to the Christian commandment of love". I want my boys to be more like them than him. Notwithstanding that, I do not want them to grow up anarchists. At this point I need to explain what the essential problem of every school is. We have arrived at the key point of this trial, I think, since I, a teacher, am accused of instigation to commit an offence, i.
We shall have to agree on what good schooling is. A school is different from a courtroom. Only that which is established law counts for you judges. A school, however, stands between the past and the future and has to keep both in mind. It is the delicate art of leading pupils along a razor's edge: The tragedy of your profession as judges is that you know you have to judge with laws that still are not all just.
There are judges still alive in Italy who in the past even had to condemn people to death. If today all of us are horrified at the very thought, we have to thank those luminaries who helped us to make progress, teaching us to criticise the law which was in force then. This is why, in a certain sense, schooling lies outside of your jurisdiction. Young people are not yet legally chargeable and still do not exercise their sovereign rights; they simply have to prepare themselves to exercise them tomorrow, and so on the one hand they are our inferiors because they have to obey us and we are responsible for what they do, while on the other hand they are our superiors because tomorrow they will promulgate better laws than ours.
So the teacher has to be a prophet as far as he can. He has to scrutinize the "signs of the times", to divine in the eyes of the young people the splendid things they will see clearly tomorrow and which we only see vaguely. The schoolteacher too is therefore in some respect outside the range of your regulations and yet at your service. If you condemn him you will be attacking the legislative process. As for their lives as sovereign young men and women tomorrow, I cannot tell my pupils that the only way to revere the law is to obey it.
I can only tell them that they should hold mankind's laws in such esteem as to observe them when they are fair that is, when they uphold the weak. When they see that they are not fair that is, when the laws sanction abuse of power by the strong they should fight to change them. The official lever for changing the law is the ballot box. The Constitution places the lever of the strike alongside it. But the real lever of these two levers of power is to influence other voters and strikers by words and example.
And when it is time there is no greater schooling than to pay in person for an objection based on conscience; that is, to break the law your conscience tells you is bad and accept the punishment foreseen by the law. Schooling is, for example, our letter in the dock and schooling is the witness of those 31 young men in prison at Gaeta. Whoever pays in person testifies that he wants a better law i.
I do not understand how he can be taken for an anarchist. We pray that God might send us more young men capable of so much. I learned this technique of constructive reverence for the law together with my pupils while we were reading the Crito, Socrates' Apology, the life of Our Lord in the four gospels, Gandhi's autobiography, the letters of the Hiroshima pilot. The lives of men who tragically clashed with the rules in force in their time, not to undermine them but improve them. I have applied this, in my own small way, also in my whole life as a Christian with respect to the laws and authority of the Church, being strictly orthodox and disciplined and at the same time passionately attentive to the present and future.
Nobody can accuse me of heresy or indiscipline, nor of making a career: I am 42 years of age and parish priest of 42 souls! However, I have brought up admirable youngsters; excellent citizens and excellent Catholics. Not one of them has grown up an anarchist. Not one of them has grown up a conformist. Find out about them for yourselves; they testify in my favour.
But is it really an offence? So far I have declared to you that even if the letter under accusation amounted to an offence, it was my moral duty as a teacher to write it all the same. I have pointed out that taking this liberty away from me you would be attacking schooling i.
But then is it an offence?
A SOLDIER, TOO, HAS A CONSCIENCE -- The Trial of don MILANI
The Constituent Assembly invited us to give space in schools to the Constitutional Charter "in order to make the new generation aware of the moral and social achievements that have been attained" Resolution approved unanimously 11 th December One of these moral and social achievements is article You jurists say that laws only concern the future, but we ordinary folk say that the word repudiates has a much richer significance, it embraces the past and future.
It is an invitation to heave it all out of the window: Pardon me if I have to dwell on this point, but a letter which is a glimpse of a hundred years of history in the light of the verb repudiates has been interpreted by the public prosecutor as an apologia of disobedience. It is from the premisses of how those wars are to be judged that it follows whether one should or should not obey with regard to future wars. When we went to school our teachers, God forgive them, misled us so basely.
Some poor souls really believed it all - they misled us only because they themselves had been misled. Others knew they were deceiving us, but they were afraid.
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Most of them were perhaps simply superficial. If you listened to them all wars were "for the Fatherland". Let us now examine four kinds of war which were not "for the Fatherland". Our teachers forgot to point out to us something totally obvious: From to people no longer received an electoral certificate, but everyone got their call-up papers for three dreadful wars.
Today there is universal suffrage by right, but article three of the Constitution warned us in , with disconcerting sincerity, that workers were de facto excluded from the reins of power. Since no request has been made to revise that article it is legitimate to think as I do that it describes a situation which has not yet been superseded.
So it is officially recognised that labourers and those who work on the land, that is, the bulk of the Italian people, have never been in power. Therefore, the army has marched only on the orders of a restricted class of people. What is more it bears their stamp: They do not eat the same food at the same mess, the sons of the rich have the sons of the poor as their attendants. So the army has never, or almost never, represented the Fatherland in its entirety or in its equality.
Moreover, in how many wars throughout history have armies represented the Fatherland? Perhaps the army which defended France during the Revolution. But certainly not Napoleon's army in Russia. Perhaps the British army after Dunkerque. But certainly not the British army in Suez. Perhaps the Russian army at Stalingrad. But certainly not the Russian army in Poland. Perhaps the Italian army at the Piave. But certainly not the Italian army on 24 th May when they entered the First World War - translator's note.
At school I have solely the children of labourers and those who work on the land. We got the electric light at Barbiana a fortnight ago, but they started delivering the call-up papers to people's homes back in I cannot refrain from pointing out to my pupils that their unfortunate fathers suffered and caused others to suffer to defend the interests of a restricted class which they were not even part of!
A SOLDIER, TOO, HAS A CONSCIENCE -- The Trial of don MILANI
Even the Fatherland is a creation, that is to say it is something less than God - an idol if one adores it. I think that you cannot give up your life for something less than God. Even if you should allow that one's life can be given up for the good idol the Fatherland , you certainly cannot concede that it can be given up for the evil idol speculation on the part of the industrialists.
To give up your life for nothing is worse still. Our teachers did not tell us that in Austria had offered us the Veneto region gratis. That is, that those who died had died for no purpose. That it is monstrous to go and kill and die for no reason. If they had told us fewer lies we would have glimpsed how complex the truth is. How also that war, as every war, was a mix of the heroic enthusiasm of some, the heroic indignation of others, and the criminality of others still. I am saying this because there are some who accuse me of a lack of respect for the fallen.
It is not true. I do respect those unfortunate victims. For this very reason it would seem to me an insult to them if I were to praise those who sent them to die and then saved their own skin. For example, our former king who ran off to Brindisi with Marshall Badoglio and various generals, and who in his hurry even forgot to leave any orders. Further, my respect for the dead cannot make me forget my pupils who are alive.
I do not want them to come to the same tragic end. If one day they will be capable of offering their lives in sacrifice, I shall be proud - but let it be for God and the poor, not for signor Savoia and signor Krupp. We shall also have to remember those wars to extend the borders beyond our national territory. There are still some poor old fascists who write pathetic letters to me to tell me that before saying the holy name of Battisti I should wash my mouth out with soap and water.
This is because our teachers presented him to us as a fascist hero. They had forgotten to tell us that he was a socialist. That had he been alive on 4 th November when the Italians entered the South Tyrol he would have objected. He would not have taken one step beyond Salorno for the very same reason that four years beforehand he had objected to the presence of the Austrians on this side of Salorno and he went off and deserted, just as I say in my letter. Under fascism the mystification was systematically organised.
Not only by means of books, but even to the landscape: Candido filled with the exhumed bodies of those who had really fallen at Caporetto. I am talking of borders for those who still believe, as Battisti believed, that borders should make a clean cut between nation and nation, and certainly not to give satisfaction to those antiquated Nazis who shoot at twenty-year-old carabinieri.
As for me, I teach my pupils that frontiers are an obsolete concept. When we were writing the letter we saw that our boundary stakes were always shifting here and there. And whatever continues changing position according to the whims of military fortunes cannot be a dogma of faith, either civil or religious.
They presented the Empire to us as a glory for the Fatherland! I was 13 years old. It seems like yesterday. I jumped for joy for the Empire. Our teachers had forgotten to tell us that the Ethiopians were better than us. That we were off to set fire to their huts, with their women and children inside, while they had done nothing to us. That cowardly schooling - consciously or unconsciously, I do not know - paved the way for the horrors three years later. It prepared millions of obedient soldiers. English Choose a language for shopping.
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