Religion: Communist Catholics

Eight years ago Pope Pius XII trained Roman Catholicism's biggest gun on Communism. Party members and collaborators, he decreed, were automatically excommunicated. This tough tactic obviously could backfire—especially in areas like Bologna and Emilia, where 85% of the population was at least nominally Communist. To keep their flocks from evaporating, many a priest uncomfortably ignored the papal decree, went on marrying and burying known Communists.

Last week Italy's influential clerical weekly Palestra del Clero pointed out that the original decree provided a loophole for just such discretionary application. The Pope spoke of those who became Communists scienter and libere—with full knowledge and...

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