Page 4, 26th June 1970

26th June 1970
Page 4
Page 4, 26th June 1970 — POLITICS AND THE VATICAN
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POLITICS AND THE VATICAN

POPE PAUL's objection to the Bill, now before the Italian Senate, to legalise divorce is not simply that divorce as such is unacceptable to the Church, but that the State of Italy is unilaterally breaching the Concordat, which the Pope is prepared to renegotiate in bi-lateral talks. As regards divorce itself, the Pope was right in February to reassert Christian teaching on family integrity, and it was not this which held up the formation of a new Italian government. The real split turned on the perennial problem of how far the non-Communist parties are prepared to cooperate with the Communists. The Christian Democrats are now dissociating themselves from Vatican opposition to the Bill, presumably on the basis that, in a pluralist society, the Church can no longer expect to impose its positions by civil law. This development, in fact, reflects a tendency for the Christian Democrats to act more independently of Vatican policy-a principle which Pope Paul, as Mgr. Montini, strongly supported in the earlier post-war days.

Now that the confrontation with the Cornmunists is less sharply etched, the Italian bishops, while still indicating their preference for the Christian party have made it plain that the individual's vote is his own. Clerical influence is still very strong, however, in the powerful and conservative peasant unions.

In the towns, ACLI, an association of Catholic trade unions, has disengaged from the Christian Democrat Party, and Catholic unions are now working to some extent with their Socialist and Communist counterparts. Some Catholic labour leaders, too, are active in the militant shop stewards' movement which the unions fear.

This is a class division, opposed to the Christian Democrat principle of "one nation". But the overall trend is healthy, and will in the long run strengthen the Christian contribution to politics.

Concerto in a minor key

MR. HEATH'S new Cabinet lacks lustre, but his musical tastes were always astringent. At least he is more concerned with content than allure. His men are competent realists, with a touch of creative flair in Mr. Macleod and Sir Keith Joseph.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home is where he belongs. He is a frosty professional, and a very tough cookie indeed. He dislikes but can bargain well with the Communist powers, who would probably prefer him to a smoothie pretending to "understand" them.

After the prospect of Sir Edward Boyle, Mrs. Thatcher, in the Ministry of Education, is a comedown. Lord Carrington, in Defence, is not proven. The other worry is Mr. Robert Carr. If he is out to bash the unions, we are in for a bloodless civil war, and the JonesScanlon-Jenkins team will eat him alive.

But Mr. Carr is no fool and probably knows that sanctions can never go to the heart of the matter. If he can help the unions restructure themselves and their outworn bargaining machinery, he will earn a place in history. British Leyland have struck the right note with their plea for a joint council of management, unions and shop stewards.

This government could be too cerebral and cynical, concerned more with what works than with what ought to work. At its best, it could offer a sensible balance of social endeavour and personal opportunity, with a firm belief in Britain's world role. It will be resolute, at least, in a period of titanic change, when the Tories must prove their credibility or disintegrate. For everyone's sake, we wish them well.

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