In Bologna, Italy, in 1858, kidnapping a child
was not a crime! How could that
the Roman Catholic Church ruled the Papal
States for centuries as political and religious dictator.
What were the Papal States? It was the country of
Italy. for centuries, the Pope had been the absolute political dictator over all of Italy.
The Religious police, called
the Inquisition, enforced allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church and the pope with an iron fist.
This was one of those laws: If a Jewish child is near death any Catholic can
baptize the child EVEN IF the child's parents do not approve.
If a Jewish child has been baptized, the child
is a Catholic and cannot be raised in a Jewish home EVEN IF the home belongs to his parents. Catholic Canon Law required that
every child baptised Catholic must be raised in a Catholic home.
For centuries, the
Catholic church got away with
using the police authorities to forcibly remove Jewish children from their Jewish homes, kidnap them from their families,
and raise them Catholic.
1858, they did it once to often. It caused a war that toppled the pope from power and changed history:
A police squad, acting on the orders of the Inquisitor,, invaded the
home of a Jewish merchant, Momolo Mortara.
The Inquisition Police tore his crying six-year-old son from his arms, and rushed him off in a carriage
bound for Rome.
mother's hysterical weeping could be heard across the city.
Edgardo's parents desperately searched for a way to get their
son back. They learned why he--out of all their eight children--was taken.
Years earlier, the family's Catholic servant girl, fearful that
the infant might die of an illness, had secretly baptized him (or so she claimed).
Edgardo recovered, but when the story reached the Bologna
Inquisitor, the result was his order for Edgardo to be seized and sent to a special monastery where Jews were converted into
Inquisitor's justification for taking the child was based in Church teachings: No Catholic child could be raised by Jewish
parents. The case of Edgardo Mortara became an international cause célèbre. Such kidnappings were not uncommon in Jewish
communities across Europe.
But, this time the political climate had changed. As news of the family's plight spread to Britain. The Rothschilds
got involved. In France, Napoleon III got angry.
In America, public opinion turned against the Vatican.
Pope Pius IX began to regard the boy as his own child.
The fate of this one boy came to symbolize the entire revolutionary
campaign of Mazzini and Garibaldi to end the dominance of the Catholic Church and establish a modern, secular Italian state.
The resulting war destroyed the pope's dictatorship over the Papal
States, and Vatican City became an independent country all by itself.
The full history of thie outrage can be read in the book by David I. Kertzer, "The Kidnapping
of Edgardo Mortara".
important story has been ignored by modern historians.
It is politically incorrect to accuse the pope of kidnapping children.
The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara has been made into a play by
Pulitzer and Oscar winning playwright, Alfred Uhry. It opened at Hartford Stage in 2002.