Special Report: Devil in Rome premieres Monday, Aug. 22 at 8 PM ET
COLLEPARDO, Italy (ChurchMilitant.com) - The leftist dust cloud hanging over Steve Bannon's "school for gladiators" at Trisulti monastery in Italy instantly dissipated with Tuesday's court victory supporting the legality of a lease agreement between the country's ministry of culture and the school's sponsoring organization, the Dignitatis Humanae Institute (DHI).
A statement from DHI said it "welcomes with great humility today's sentence of the Administrative Court of Lazio, decisively overturning the Ministry of Culture's annulment of its 19-year lease for the 800-year-old abbey of Trisulti."
It was a year ago, almost to the day, that Steve Bannon declared the legal challenge bogus. "All of this stuff is just dust being kicked up by the Left," he said. But Bannon wasn't diminishing its importance. On the contrary, he went on to say, "The fight for Trisulti is a microcosm of the fight for the Judeo-Christian West."
The ink was barely dry on the Institute's 20-year agreement to lease historic Trisulti Monastery from the Italian government's ministry of culture when the ministry reneged, claiming there was a problem with the "competitive tender process." The ministry also tried to say DHI hadn't paid certain fees or performed promised maintenance work at the monastery. That was the "dust" to which Bannon was referring and the basis for the ministry of culture's attempt to revoke the lease.
The global press was delighted to see the deal crash and the headlines could not hide their glee. ArtNet called out, "Italy's Culture Ministry Quashes Steve Bannon's Dream to Turn an 800-Year-Old Monastery Into a School for Far-Right Nationalists."
Yesterday's ruling cleared DHI of each of the charges, thereby exposing that there had been no basis for the legal challenge and that Bannon had been correct in his charge that the legal action had been politically motivated.
Opposition to DHI's plans were championed by Nicola Zingaretti, leader of Italy's center-left Democratic Party. Matteo Salvini's populist party, Lega Nord (which Bannon has promoted) has opposed Zingaretti. Lega Nord also opposes illegal immigration and has expressed skepticism about the European Union's leadership. Zingaretti is governor of the region in which both Rome and Trisulti are located.
From the beginning, Benjamin Harnwell, director of DHI, said his organization would fight the trumped-up legal challenge using "every resource at its disposal no matter how many years it takes."
In a 2019 statement published exclusively on Church Militant, Harnwell wrote:
It is difficult to describe just how aggressive the Left's opposition to the Academy for the Judeo-Christian West has been. They organized three protests and two emergency parliamentary hearings, which culminated in their successfully bullying the Italian ministry for culture into finding whatever pretext it could to annul the Dignitatis Humanae Institute's 19-year lease for the Trisulti monastery. Surrounding these activities was a two-and-a-half-year drumbeat of lies, distortions and misrepresentations.
After yesterday's ruling, Harnwell said, "I am very satisfied with this result. Now I hope to be able to carry out the monastery's restoration project in accordance with the program we presented during the tender."
Harnwell founded DHI in 2008 with a mission to:
protect and promote human dignity based on the anthropological truth that man is born in the image and likeness of God. Our primary aim is to promote this vision of authentic human dignity, mainly by supporting Christians in public life, assisting them in presenting effective and coherent responses to increasing efforts to silence the Christian voice in the public square.
Steven Bannon first became acquainted with DHI when he as invited to address the organization's 2014 annual conference. He currently chairs DHI's board, and together with Harnwell, planned for Trisulti abbey to be both the headquarters for DHI and the campus for the Academy for the Judeo-Christian West.
According to Bannon, the academy is going to be a "school of gladiators," a place where a new generation of political leaders could be trained in the values and traditions of Christendom.
With the legal challenges put to bed, Harnwell says DHI "is pleased to announce with great joy that registrations will open for the long-awaited Academy for the Judeo-Christian West on June 1, which — for now — will be online distance learning, managed and carried out directly from the United States."