António Costa Pinto & Maria Inácia Rezola

"Political Catholicism, Crisis of Democracy and and Salazar's New State in Portugal"

Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions


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In interwar European conservative circles, António de Oliveira Salazar’s New State was praised for being an example of a ‘good’ dictatorship: one that avoided the ‘totalitarian’ and ‘pagan’ elements of both Mussolini and Hitler. Salazar,Portugal’s ‘Catholic dictator’, was a political product of the war of secularisation that followed the country’s republican revolution in 1910. The leaders of the 1910 revolution believed that Catholicism was holding Portuguese society back; in the years that followed, the cleavage between the church and their regime was to increasingly radicalise them. Co-existing with and permeating other Catholic Southern European societies, this secularising movement, which was often linked to the difficult consolidation of democratising republicanism, became a powerful engine that drove the ideological and political conflict during the transitions from oligarchic to democratic liberalism.
The main hypothesis of this paper is that the compromise between the Roman Catholic Church and the Portuguese state formed the basis for the institutional framework of Salazar’s New State. The church was also a powerful agent against the ‘fascistisation’ of some of the regime’s institutions, ‘Catholicising’ them (particularly the corporatist apparatus and the youth movement), whilst simultaneously maintaining its strong and independent Catholic Action movement.

Contact Information

Antonio Costa Pinto   |
Institute of Social Sciences   |   Av. Professor Anibal Betencourt, 9   |   1600-189 Lisbon   |   Portugal