Page 4, 27th December 1946

27th December 1946
Page 4
Page 4, 27th December 1946 — UESTIONS OF THE WEEK

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Organisations: Christian Democrats
Locations: Rome


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By Michael de hi liedoyere

Anticlericalism in Italy

TO many the rather sudden recrudescence of a violent and scurrilous anticlericalism in Italy

will conic as an unpleasant sutprise. Yet there are many explan ations, if not excuses, and we should have been not unprepared for it. The immediate explanation is, no doubt, the one insisted on in Rome itself. There is a steady Communist infiltration into Italy through the disputed region of Venezia Giulia from the Communist and anti-Catholic persecuting dictatorship in Yugo slavia. For this situation the Big Powers are largely responsible since they have left a still very disordered and unstable Italy helpless before the power and influence of Russia acting through its Yugoslav spearhead. This first explanation, let it be clearly said. goes very far to account for the fact that Italy is the first country of the West to revive a type of anticlericalism that seemed to have faded out with the war. Even the Soviet itself and its satellites have so far adopted subtler methods of attacking the Church than the recourse to the scurrility of an earlier age.

No doubt the presence of the Papacy in the heart of Italy and the great record of the Pope himself during the war—a record better known to the Jtalians than to any other people — has made the charge of crypto-Fascism and reaction sound especially empty there. But the welcome given among too many Italians to the new anticlericalism demands a further explanation. It is to be sought in part in an expression of reaction against the actual Fascist regime when it served Mussolini's purpose to exalt the Church's prestige while endeavouring to weaken its actual influence in political matters. To this regime we owe the Lateran Treaty itself and the Concordat, one of whose effects was the establishment of a marriage law, natural to a wholly Catholic country, yet anomalous, unfortunately. in the pagan modern world. With the reversal of fortunes, there was a fertile soil for anticlericalism. And this anticlericalism was likely to take the form that seems connatural to the Latin, the form of gibing and mocking and libelling. Nor would the more serious enemies of the Church to-day object to a development well calculated to create the atmosphere in which the Italians could be persuaded into believing that the Church was indeed the enemy of democracy and that there might, after all, be something in the charges of the Soviet and Tito. It would. we imagine, take a lot to persuade any representative number of Italians that Russia these days Was preferable to the Pope and the Western Powers, but we must not overlook the fact that Britain is coupled with the Church to some extent in this business, because Britain is believed to have deserted Italy and broken her word. So much so, that a Young Christian Worker recently returned from Italy re

marked: " This people. once the very soul of courtesy, is now violently zenophobe."

The Church in Italy

ON the other hand. while a rather weak-kneed type of Leftism, including too many Catholics, cleverly led, that is, by the Communists, grows in Italy, so do the forces of the Right, represented in the main at present by the rapidly developing Qualunquists. Between these two wings the Christian Democrats arc weaken ing. Like any party of the Right to-day the Qualunquists are not in a position to express very explicit aims. To do so is inevitably to he charged with the odium of being Fascist, and in Italy it would raise again the awkward question of Monarchism, the date for whose resurrection is certainly not yet.

Now there can be no doubt that in a situation of this kind the Church in Italy finds itself in a very awkward position. It certainly aims at not interfering in politics, yet of course it cannot in conscience renounce its spiritual and moral role of denouncing what is intrinsically wrong, whether this be political or not. and furthering what is intrinsically right, whether political or not. But while in other countries the Church's moral voice is either relatively weak, in so fur as it comes from national Catholic spokesmen, or distant, in so far as it comes from the Pope, in Italy the Church is a direct and very strong influence within an otherwise largely secularist modern State, Hence the very strength of the Papacy must in difficult and fluid times generate a politico-religious heat likely to produce extremist action of one kind or another.

Causes of Anticlericalism

NO Catholic will ever under-rate

the danger to the Church that can arise from a difficult ecclesiastical situation in Italy, nor will he be prepared to tolerate any attack on the Supreme Pontiff, the figure on earth whom he venerates the most highly of all. And to-day it does not take a Catholic to understand the extreme importance of the role of the Church in Italy, for Italy may well prove a decisive field of campaign in the struggle between the West and the East, between freedom and tyranny. Now that we have insanely left Italy exposed to the East. we shall indeed have to look to the Catholics of Italy and, above all, to their Leader, who is also ours as Catholics, for the protection we have failed to give. Thus, we shall all participate in spirit with the demonstrations in Rome in defence of the Pope by Italian Catholic Action, And further than this, we know well enough that anticlericalism, or rather its root, anti-Catholicism. is highly contagious, and that if anti

clericalism becomes the fashion in Italy, it will very soon spread again to other countries, not excluding Spain. (This, doubtless. has not been overlooked in certain quarters.)

Hence the immense importance on our side of not giving any sort of excuse for the furtherance of so disastrous a development. Already one feels that this Italian development is something despairing. just because it is a harking back to something silly that the war should have killed, The Church has given ample proof of the social breadth of its mind, and it has shown itself a rock on which any extreme totalitarianism must sooner or later strike. To-day, the whole Western world should he looking to the Catholic communities behind the Iron Curtain for the sole surviving resistance to what is the enemy of all of us. What then could be more infuriating than the revival of these bogies of a dead age?

More and more, therefore, does it become necessary that we should distinguish ever more clearly both in theory and in fact between the supreme moral and spiritual authority of the leaching Church. expressed by the Holy Father and the successors of the Apostles, and the participation at a political and civic level of the Catholic, whether clerical or lay, in the secular affairs of the world, described by the Holy Father himself on Sunday last as " heavy with responsibility and duty."

In so far as there is any excuse for anticlericalism. it is not to be found in the rather childish attempts to accuse the Church of being "reactionary," but in the attempts of Catholics to enter the political and social field wielding spiritual weapons whose legitimate use is always a complex and delicate question. To enter that field in an apostolic spirit and determined to persuade by example and argument is, of course, a wholly different matter and one about which we are called to do far more than we do.

The Doctors and the Health Bill

IN reference to the B.M.A. ballot about whether doctors should co-operate with the Minister of Health in applying the principles of the Health Act, we have seen it argued, even in Conservative papers, that once the will of the people has been expressed through the passing of the Act, it world be an act of sabotage on the part of

the doctors to refuse to work it. This seems to us a thoroughly dangerous and fallacious argsment. To begin with, the phrase " the will of the people" is an imprecise, inaccurate. and very misleading way of referring to a constitutional and factual reality, the will of Parliament. It would be very much better it the phrase were never used, whether in this democratic country or in autocratic Russia. The will of Parliament, which in these days reflects the will of the leaders of the party which wins a majority at some particular date in a General Election. makes the positive Court-enforced law of the country. But this law need not by any means coincide wilt the moral law or with the conscience and judgment of individual free men. It is always possible that there will be free men who cannot obey and who are willing to pay the price of disobedience. It is always possible that bodies of men may have to refuse obedience. as would be the case for Catholics if manifestly immoral, unjust or anti-Catholic laws were passed.

Test Cricket

PERHAPS in this end of the year issue we may turn for a moment to a lighter topic, though one from which a moral can be derived—the test cricket in Australia.

It is sometimes said that this paper, because of its insistence on the primacy being accorded to spiritual and moral values. is not sufficiently patriotic. But we can assure our readers that when it comes to sport nobody shall heat us in fearless patriotism. Thus in the matter of the first two tragic Tests we wholly subscribe to the views of those critics who make broad hints about the impartiality of the umpires, even to the point of suggesting that our players should carry a revolver with them to back their appeals. Equally certain arc we that we have suffered from nothing but bad luck, and not from had form. Nor can we hear with any sort of equanimity the way in which Bradman scores double centuries with a limp. And naturally we only mention these matters with such decent restraint because we abide by the national virtue of never saying anything which is not " cricket."

Thus it is that we compensate for our refusal to indulge in exaggerated nationalism in matters of great importance by boldly displaying the virtues and vices of such nationalism where it is a question of Hammond's merry men, whose further adventures we shall follow with a bold and loudly beating heart.

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