church of christ - Italy

Hi. Okay I really need some help. This is partly un-weaving some family mysteries and partly setting the record straight on lies about the RC Church. This is going to be long so bare with me…
Okay. So I have a very anti-Catholic mother-in-law. She is also very dishonest so it is hard to decipher heads from tails on what she says. She grew up in Italy (so did most of my family, but not me). She is a member of the church of Christ (you know the type, non-denominational denomination, founded 33AD doncha’ know!) Anyways – she claims that when she lived in Italy (1950’s – 1970’s until she moved here) she was persecuted for not being Catholic. I don’t just mean socially (which I would buy) – I mean legally. She claims the police arrested her family and other church members, drowned people and that they had to meet in secret at night in the dark. OH, and it was illegal to have the bible. From what I understand, the Italian constitution (since the 1940’s at least) has provisions for freedom of religion pretty much like we have here in the U.S. Basically, I think her story is bull. Does anyone out there have any experience of living in Italy at this time that can confirm or deny that this could have actually happened? It seems like she is just taking common fallacies about the medieval church and attributing them to her life.
The complication is that her father whom she idolizes even though he is dead, and who she considers the model Christian molested, raped, physically and mentally abused her. As a result she has what most of us in the family believe to be borderline personality disorder. She is basically still romantically in love with her dead father (I know it sounds sick). She exposed her daughter to this child molester and even planned to have him come here from Italy to live with her BUT he died before that could happen (aww, shucks, right?). He was apparently an elder in this ‘church’ that they attended. No reason has ever been given for why he was ex-communicated to begin with. She claims she was excommunicated as a kid, but we all know the church doesn’t excommunicate children.
The idea that she worshipped in secret and her family was arrested is weird to me. Almost makes me think they were involved in something bad and her father just lied and used the Catholic Church as a scapegoat for his actions. She would rather vilify the church than admit her father is a scum bag. She is also the type that constantly forwards things on that are found on Snopes easily and hoaxes but she buys into the hysteria without even thinking. She is child like in a lot of ways. So, I can see how she may have latched on to her father’s lies from an early age and clung to them.
SO I ASK, does anyone know if any of this could have really happened to her and her family by the Catholic Church?
And secondly is anyone familiar with any groups either church of Christ or otherwise that were in Milano in the 1950’s – 1960’s that had a sinister underbelly? If you have any info that involves family names you can PM me.
Oh, and both she and her older sister came to America as sort of “mail order brides” which makes me suspicious of why they couldn’t just marry someone in Italy. Her brother married an Italian woman and raised his kids Catholic – so obviously he did not hold these biases, so I wonder if only the girls were sexually exploited and made a part of this bizarre thing that was going on.

Is there anyway you can contact her brother and ask him about his years in Italy?
Her story sounds like just a story to me.

Thank you for your reply. I agree that this is probably a story.
He is dead unfortunately. He has a widow and two adult daughters who keep themselves very guarded and will have nothing to do with my mother-in-law or her sister and mother. I corresponded with his widow via a letter shortly after I got married and she assured me that her husband and her had a happy marriage and that he died a happy man and that she didn’t know the reason why the family wasn’t Catholic. There was a language barrier so it was hard and I don’t really want to bring this lady into the situation since I am guessing she suffered enough because of the meddling nature of the family she married into - guessing by how scared she is of them. She will not give out her daughter’s addresses to anyone.
I should note that my mother-in-law is not on speaking terms with her own mother or sister (I know, its a complicated jumble of broken family relationships). My husband’s grandmother lives alone in Milano with nobody to care for her because they have been isolated from all of their family.

I hope there is still someone out there on the board who has some experience with Italy, more specifically with Milan in this time frame.

Sounds like you know everything about her. Are you sure that you have enough time left over to know your own faith?

Hi Rosarygirl. You do have a messy family problem, and I am sure you take time to know your faith!!!
God Bless you on your quest.

I’ve done a web search in Italian and it would appear that the Church of Christ, seen as a cult, was put under considerable pressure both legally and, indeed, in terms of individual acts of violence.

Eventually, I came across this piece in English from Time.

Thank you for taking the time to research this.

From the article:

Older Protestant churches in Italy, which have complied with the registration laws, have not had any trouble. Said the Rev. Emanuele Shaffi, a Methodist, and chairman of Italy’s Federal Council of Evangelical Churches (membership: 60,000): “We enjoy complete freedom of worship . . . We feel that our friends of the Churches of Christ are not entirely in the right.”

I wonder WHY they were under scrutiny. Here in the U.S they don’t have a reputation for trouble.

I don’t see anything about individual acts of violence in the article - is there another source you are pulling from? Thanks again!

Well, it rather does depend on how good your Italian is. I just searched using ‘Chiesa di Cristo’/‘Chiese di Cristo’ together with words like ‘violenza’ and phrases like ‘persecuzione dei protestanti in Italia’. There wasn’t a lot but we’re talking about a tiny sect in a sea of Catholics nearly 60 years ago. The longest piece I found was here, which contained names etc that you could use for further searches.

Using my own advice of following names given in the ‘Le religioni in Italia’ article on ‘Le Chiese di Cristo’, I found this blog (in English) which gives the general story - obviously from a Church of Christ perspective.

When I have some more time I’ll see if I can find something on Azione Cattolica and the ‘Chiese di Cristo’ in Northern Italy.

You can take some time to know about your faith for her. If you dn’t believe her its not going long relation.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit