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      A peer-reviewed international annual journal devoted to the history of psychology, and especially to the interconnection between historiographic survey and problems of epistemology. To submit to this journal, click here

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      The Pope and the Unconscious: Pius XII’s Speech on Psychotherapy in 1953 and Its Interpretation by Agostino Gemelli


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          In 1953, Pius XII gave a public speech in which he touched on the subject of psychotherapy, and which exerted a profound influence on the attitude of the Catholic world towards this issue. It was read at a congress of Catholic psychotherapists held in Rome. The impression made by this speech outside Italy was one of greater openness toward psychoanalysis, as several historians have noted. Desmazieres (2011) considered the speech nothing less than the definitive acceptation of psychoanalysis in the Catholic world. Herzog (2016) pointed out that much of the press of the time, especially in the United States, considered the Pope’s words as a kind of authorization to use psychoanalysts, even for Catholics. In Italy, however, the reception was different. The real opening towards psychoanalysis occurred only under the papacy of Paul VI (Foschi, Innamorati & Taradel, 2018). In fact, it was Agostino Gemelli’s interpretation of Pius XII’s speech that directly influenced the Italian Catholic world. This paper illustrates that interpretation and also explains how its meaning in no way distorted what the Pope asserted. Gemelli, however, would have preferred the psychotherapy congress not to have been held. This fact, previously hypothesized by Desmazieres (2011), is demonstrated by hitherto unpublished letters, quoted in the course of the paper.

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          Italian psychology under protection: Agostino Gemelli between Catholicism and fascism.

          Between the 1930s and 1940s, Agostino Gemelli (1878-1959) was the main Italian psychologist; he accepted and promoted an empirical conception of psychology influenced by neo-Thomism. The views of Gemelli were a landmark for many psychologists and psychological models in Catholic universities. Gemelli, moreover, throughout his scientific activity, continued ongoing work of expertise in matters concerning science, morality, and psychology. He was a Franciscan monk but also an officer of the Italian air force, a psychologist, and a rector. During the period of fascist rule in Italy, Gemelli sought compromise solutions to foster the survival of psychological institutions. Around his story, contrasting interpretations have emerged. The aim of this article is to look at Agostino Gemelli as an important historical subject to understand the ways in which scientific enterprises and institutions are likely to be influenced by political regimes and by the dogmatic and intolerant milieu. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).
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            Psicoanalisi e cattolicesimo

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              The Jung-White Letters


                Author and article information

                European Yearbook of the History of Psychology
                Brepols Publishers
                January 2021
                : 7
                : 109-129

                Psychology,Anthropology,Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry
                Psychology, Anthropology, Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry


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