When Obedience is No Longer a Virtue...

Fr. Lorenzo Milani was born in Florence, Italy, in 1923 and died in the same city in 1967, at the young age of 44. He suffered a painful form of leukemia for many years.

Lorenzo was born in a rich, well-educated and non-religious family. Lorenzo was 20 years old when he decided become a Christian and a priest. He wanted to have a mission to accomplish: to spend his life in helping the poor and the oppressed.

On February 11, 1965 the military chaplains of the Italian Tuscany Region, released a press communiqué in which they describe 'conscientious objection to compulsory military service' as a "expression of cowardice" and "unrelated to the Christian commandment of love." In those days in Italy, conscientious objection to military service was a crime punishable with a jail sentence.

Fr. Milani answered the military chaplains defending the right to object, and especially the right to civil disobedience. Fr. Milani's letter caused a great deal of polemics and reaction, to the point that he was charged with 'an attempt to defend a criminal act'. Fr. Milani was already very sick and unable to travel to Rome to be present for the trial. As a consequence, on October 18, 1965, he wrote a self-defense, known as "Letter to the Judges," a document that became hugely important and influential. 'Letter to the Judges' is considered an Italian 'Magna Charta' for conscientious objection' to militarism and war. It endorses non-violence and the primacy of conscience over any unjust laws. After 40 years, it still inspires persons, groups and movements all around the world.