The Coup that Failed:
A Case Study in "Counter-Revolutionary" Strategy

Miguel Martinez

May 24, 2001
This article has very much to do with the Italian situation, however I decided to put it in English as well, since it gives a good idea of the not-very-scrupulous tactics used by the "Counter-revolutionary movement".

A couple of months ago, I wrote an article on the conflict inside GRIS ("Group for Research and Information on Sects", the official Catholic body dealing with "cults" in Italy) between the National Secretary, Giuseppe Ferrari, and the head of the Rome branch, Raffaella Di Marzio.

A few days ago, I received a package containing photocopies of a new, long letter from Ms Di Marzio against Ferrari, dated April 12, 2001 and addressed to the National Board of GRIS, with a large number of attachments.

Obviously, somebody wants this material to be made public. However, in order not to serve any of the conflicting parties, I shall leave aside most of the accusations levelled by Dr Di Marzio against Ferrari. I shall only analyze the part which has to do directly with the subject matter of these pages: CESNUR, with its roots, the "counter-revolutionary" movements Alleanza Cattolica and Tradition, Family and Property (TFP); the latter being the apocalyptic Brazilian landowners' cult, gathered around Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira.

brazilian farmers

Occupation by the Brazilian "Sem Terra", landless farmers, against whom Tradition, Family and Property is waging a violent campaign. From the website of Piet de Blanken

One of the accusations that Dr Di Marzio makes against Giuseppe Ferrari is that he allowed the publication of some "not very scientific" articles on two magazines issued by GRIS, Dossier MRA and Religioni e sette nel mondo. As evidence, Ms Di Marzio encloses eight letters with complaints:

  • A text by Matteo Sciutteri, complaining against an article attacking role-playing games. I largely agree with Sciutteri, indeed I already linked the website hosting his article. CESNUR has nothing to do with this, but I mention it because of a curious detail: Sciutteri's letter can be found on Internet under the title "Comments on the article by G.R.I.S. Rome"… yes, Rome, where Di Marzio works. This title disappears in the version which Di Marzio submitted to the National Office of GRIS Nazionale. This is simply because Sciutteri complained about an article published in Dossier MRA (which is gotten out by the National Office of GRIS), but which was cheerfully hosted... on the website of the Rome branch of GRIS.
  • Then there are two letters written by priests and a nun, apparently unrelated to CESNUR, so I shall not comment on them.
  • These are followed by no less than five letters complaining against issue 16 of the magazine Religioni e sette nel Mondo, entirely devoted to "Traditionalism" (the issue bears the date of December 1998, but it actually came out at the end of 2000).

    It should be said that this magazine was never distributed in bookshops or newstands, but only by individual GRIS leaders, including Ms Di Marzio (who, by the way, wrote an excellent study on the Saint Pius X Fraternity in the same issue). For some reason, the people who complained wrote, not to the editors of the magazine (who are in Bologna) but to the Rome branch of GRIS.

And now let us take a look at each complaint.

"Favourable and devoted" to Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira 

  • Kenneth Drake, Secretary of the Office of Tradition, Family and Property (T.F.P.) of Rome, complains about an article on Tradition Family Property: Religion and Politics in the Tropics. This article, by Jesús Hortal Sánchez, S.J., Chancellor of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, provides an excellent picture of the history and nature of TFP.

    Drake's reply is, at the same time, verbose and unsubstantial. In seven pages, he accuses Father Hortal of not taking into account the better side of TFP, but the only factual mistake he is able to point out is that the booklet Land Reform, a Matter of Conscience, written in 1962, had four and not two authors.

    Odd. My website has been disseminating critical information on TFP in several languages, and can be accessed from Alaska to the Antarctic via any search engine, yet I have never received a word of complaint from the TFP people. However, they do complain at once about an article in a magazine which was never even distributed.

  • Antonio Marzorati, of the Marzorati publishing house, accuses prof. Franco Cardini, author of one of the articles in the magazine, of lack of orthodoxy, having written that the Qur'an was divinely revealed. A prickly theological issue, of course, but nothing to do with science. In any case, one can see just how spontaneous the complaint is from the words with which Marzorati begins his letter: "Dear Dr Raffaella Di Marzio, as you requested, I am sending you my comments…"

    Just a coincidence of course: Antonio Marzorati is also the Italian publisher of one of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira's least-marketable books, the enormous Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites in the Allocutions of Pius XII to the Roman Patriciate and Nobility (Marzorati, Settimo Milanese, 1993), with a preface by no less than His Imperial and Royal Highness (in the sense that he would like to be the Emperor of Brazil), Prince Luiz de Orleans e Braganza, well-known TFP militant.

    As a touch of black humour, we can mention the words recently pronounced by his Imperial and Royal Highness, Grand Master of the Order of the Rose and of the Order of Pedro I, Grand Cross of the Constantinian Order of Saint George of the Royal House of the Bourbons of Sicily, during a lecture in the town of Ceará: "Brazil's problem are not young people without land; its problem is a land without young people".

"A land without young people" - irrigation of occupied land at Quixabinha

  • The third letter in the collection takes us back home. It is signed by Giovanni Cantoni - the "regent" of Alleanza Cattolica and fellow-militant of Massimo Introvigne for over three decades - on the letterhead of Cristianità, the official organ of Alleanza Cattolica. He criticizes certain statements by Father Hortal (specifying, by the way, that he himself belongs to the ranks of the people who are "favourable and devoted" to Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira) and corrects a few inaccuracies in an article by Micaela Mariani, in the same issue of Religioni e sette nel mondo. His corrections are sometimes reasonable (for example, he is quite right in saying that Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira è died in 1995 and not in 1997), others seem to be sophistries (for example, when he says that Alfredo Mantovano - militant of both Alleanza Cattolica and the right-wing party Alleanza Nazionale - is a magistrate and not a lawyer). Oddly enough, Cantoni picks up Marzorati's anti-Islamic thesis (for some time, Islam has been the main obsession of Alleanza Cattolica's crusaders).
  • The fourth letter is truly bizarre. Franco Maestrelli, director of the Circolo Carlo Magno (Charlemagne Circle) of Alleanza Nazionale in Milan, writes a letter with legal threats to the small magazine published in Bologna (sending a copy, who knows why, to Ms Di Marzio). A brief note for non-Italian readers: Alleanza Nazionale is the new name of the M.S.I., the proudly "neo-Fascist" party whose initials are supposed to repeat some letters of Mussolini's name, and whose symbol supposedly represented a flame rising out of the tomb of the Duce. Alleanza Nazionale has largely given up such mythology, and many of its current leaders do not have a neo-Fascist background; technically, the most correct definition for AN would be the "former neo-Fascist party".

    Now, what is Maestrelli complaining (and threatening) about? On page 102 of the issue of Religioni e sette nel mondo, Father Hortal, writing in Rio de Janeiro, makes a passing reference to Alleanza Nazionale as a "political party with neo-Fascist tendencies".

    Mr Maestrelli must have his hands full, if he writes threatening letters every time an unknown magazine hints that there may be something neo-Fascist about Alleanza Nazionale.

    Speaking of coincidences: I already put the Circolo Carlo Magno on Kelebek several months ago, in a list of "Friends of CESNUR". For example, their website has exactly three links. One of course is to the party, Alleanza Nazionale. The second is to Alleanza Cattolica and the third is… to CESNUR.

No babelish facilism...

  • The last letter in the series comes from a certain Rita Calderini of the C.N.A.D.S.I. (National Committee Association for the Defence of the Italian School), which had been included in a list of "traditionalist groups of Catholic inspiration" by Micaela Mariani, in the magazine Religioni e sette. Calderini complains because the article called her "President" of CNADSI, whereas actually she is only the "Secretary". Then, without any further explanation, she adds:

    "I hope the author of the article will be more accurate next time and not put us in a list we have nothing to do with."

    It seems that Ms Calderini was offended, therefore, not only by unexpectedly being promoted to the rank of President, but also because her association was included in a list of right-wing Catholic traditionalists.

    How strange - Rita Calderini's letter was not sent directly to Ms Di Marzio; it came as an attachment along with the letter from the Circolo Carlo Magno:

    "As evidence confirming the fact that some associates of GRIS were not very careful - to put it mildly - when writing about the issues assigned to them, I also enclose a copy of the letter (sent to me in CC) by Professor Rita Calderini, Secretary of the CNADSI."

    Summing up: in her article, Micaela Mariani had listed over one hundred associations and magazines of the Catholic Traditionalist area. A considerable job, if we remember that these organizations often come and go and rarely love being watched too closely. When doing the study, Ms Mariani took a secretary for a president. One wonders of course how the secretary-non-president ever found out about the mistake, but we can let this pass. At the same time, the secretary obscurely says she is hurt by being considered a right-wing Catholic. This information comes - for some reason - through a group of militants of Alleanza Nazionale of Milan, close to CESNUR. They may not be neo-Fascists, but they certainly are right-wing Catholics (Franquistas might be an even better definition). These right-wing Catholics of Milan complain - one wonders why - to the Rome branch of GRIS. Used for all it is worth, this document is then employed to demand punishment of the national secretary of GRIS for having breached article 3 of the articles of association of GRIS, which call for respecting "scientific canons" in research and for "objectivity" and "intellectual honesty".

    But is it actually honest to claim that CNADSI "has nothing to do with" right-wing Catholic traditionalism? Let us take a look at the President of CNADSI. Professor Manfredo Anzini of Verona is also the director of a magazine which proudly calls itself "traditionalist" and bears the title of Civitas Christiana. Anzini is also the author of the "Project for Global Reform of the School of Tomorrow", taken up by the National Committee on the School of Alleanza Nazionale on December 9, 1996, a project which claims to fight all at once against "unnatural egalitarianism, collegialism, babelish assemblearism and facilism" (these words sound no more normal in Italian than in English).

    Here you can read Gonzalo Guimarães, a member of the staff of Civitas Christiana wax emotional about the "unsurpassable master of counter-revolution, Prof. Plínio Corrêa de Oliveira." He is not alone: our very friend, Ms Rita Calderini, writes for the Civitas Christiana too.

    One does have the feeling that Calderini's complaint about being included in a list of right-wing Catholic traditionalists has more than a touch of babelic facilism.

"militants of Alleanza Cattolica are engaged, wherever possible..."

Now let us try to put a little order into this story.

One of the contestants in the "GRIS wars" - Ms Di Marzio - uses as a weapon eight letters criticizing official publications of GRIS. Complaints are expressed about a serious mistake (regarding role-playing games); otherwise, it is simply a matter of crossing a few "t"'s or else of expressing personal opinions (how pious was Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira?).

Five letters out of eight complain about an issue of the magazine which was never distributed publicly (one even threatens to sue, and for the most foolish of reasons). Every one of the authors of these letters is closely connected to the world of CESNUR - Alleanza Cattolica - TFP.

Alleanza Cattolica had already tried to take over GRIS, more than ten years ago, in an attempt to achieve hegemony in "cult" matters in Italy. Eight years ago, Introvigne was able write:

"Militants of Alleanza Cattolica, together with others, founded and still inspire CESNUR […]. And this too is why militants of Alleanza Cattolica are engaged, wherever possible, in Catholic groups involved in study, information and pastoral action, on a diocesan and national scale, in some quite important dioceses they are the main animators".

(Massimo Introvigne, La questione della nuova religiosità, Ed. Cristianità, Piacenza, 1993, p. 49).

The "groups involved in study, information and pastoral action" are of course the individual branches of GRIS.

The design failed, mostly because of the aggressiveness of the "Alleantini" and their tendency to grasp control of everything. Indeed, Introvigne left the board of GRIS in 1993, shortly after having written the words above.

A second attempt at infiltrating the Milan branch of GRIS failed recently, due - it seems - to direct intervention by Cardinal Martini.

Giuseppe Ferrari, the current Secretary, although almost as conservative a Catholic as Introvigne, has managed to keep GRIS independent.

The clash between Ferrari and Di Marzio provided a new opportunity. Ms Di Marzio, once a strong opponent of Introvigne, was invited to contribute to CESNUR's Enciclopedia delle religioni italiane; she was allowed to lecture along with Introvigne and even invited to speak at the CESNUR conference in London, without apparently being censored; indeed, Introvigne - playing on the profoundly ambiguous nature of Alleanza Cattolica's ideology - has recently started speaking in a less demeaning tone about what he previously used to label as "the secular humanist anti-cult movement."

At the same time, as we have seen, the whole "counter-revolutionary" front, from TFP to Giovanni Cantoni and the Circolo Carlo Magno, offered logistic help to Ms Di Marzio's attempt to overthrow the National Secretary of GRIS.

So far, this attempt does not seem to have been very successful. Of course, this is partly the fault of the warriors of the Counter-Revolution, who could have acted with a little more caution.

Miguel Martínez

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