The Neopolitan Clergy and the Camorra: between Collaboration and Resistance
Scholarly approaches to organized crime in Italy have recently opened up new avenues for research, including the Church’s attitudes toward Italian crime organizations, especially but not only the Sicilian Mafia. My research focuses on the mafia operating in Naples and the surrounding region of Campania: The Camorra. There is still no systematic analysis of the relationship between the Camorra and the local clergy, a notable lacuna in the study of organized crime, the historiography on the Catholic Church, and the broader history of modern Italy. The sporadic literature available on the subject has tended to adopt one of two approaches: either focusing on individuals (Don Peppe Diana, for instance); or engaging the issue from a sociological, political, or moral – rather than historical – perspective (see for example the books by Antonio Riboldi and Aniello Manganiello). The aim of my article is to interpret the ambiguities in the controversial history of relationships between local clergy and organized crime. Combining journalistic sources and first-person narratives along with cinematic and literary representations of Camorra bosses and affiliates, I identify and examine the lives of several key ecclesiastical figures who, since the 1980s, have been engaged with the criminal underworld in Naples and the surrounding area (from Monsignor Antonio Riboldi and Don Aniello Manganiello to Padre Mariano Santini and Suor Aldina Murelli). By exploring the seemingly unlikely and often alarming intimacy in the relationship between priests and mob bosses, my work also contributes to research in two related spheres: the Camorra’s infiltration of patron saints’ day festivals and other religious celebrations, and the impact of spiritual beliefs and Catholic rituality in the initiation rites, culture, and “devout imagination” of the “camorrista”.