Monday, January 24, 2011

Benedict Lectures Italian Police While Italian Prime Minister Avoids Same

Things have cooled off between Italy's two super powers and one may go down in flames.  It won't be the one in white.
Silvio Berlusconi, the embattled Italian Prime Minister is having scandalous issues again.  Seems he may have a predilection for sex with under age teenage girls.  This latest scandal may or may not have prompted both Cardinal Bertone and Pope Benedict to speak on public personages and rediscovering the moral roots of society.  If true, this would be very close to a pot calling the kettle black kind of thing.
Rediscover moral roots of society, Pope urges - January 21, 2011
In a January 21 meeting with police official of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI said that it is crucial to uphold clear moral principles at a time when the public fears “that moral consensus is breaking down.”
The Pope’s comments, calling for a revival of public morality, were interpreted by many reporters as a subtle reference to the personal scandals plaguing Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. But in fact the Pontiff’s remarks were addressed to a broader sense of turmoil in society—a sense that all ethical standards have been called into question. The Pope spoke of “a sense of insecurity, primarily due to social and economic instability, but also exacerbated by a weakening of the perception of ethical principles that underpin the law and personal moral attitudes, which always give strength to the rules that govern society.” This is especially true when the lack of personal moral attitudes and ethical principles is at the heart of major religious institutions.  People expect to get snowed by politicians.  They don't expect to get snowed by bishops.)
In such a climate the public witness of the Church is especially important, the Pope argued. He observed that many people today think that all morality is subjective, “because modern thought has developed a reductive view of conscience, according to which there are no objective references in determining what has value and what is true; rather, each individual provides his own measure through his own intuitions and experiences, each possesses his own truth and his own morals.”(It might be better if the Church found a different person to give that public witness.  Unfortunately Mother Theresa and Padre Pio are dead.)
The result of this subjective approach, the Pope continued, is that “religion and morals tend to be confined to the subjective and private sphere; and faith with its values and its modes of behavior no longer merits a place in public and civil life.” The importance of faith is “progressively marginalized,” he said, at precisely the time when the witness of faith is most important. (That's actually a pretty good description of what happened with clerical sexual abuse.  The importance of the Faith got progressively marginalized until it wasn't a factor.)


I can easily imagine that Silvio Berlusconi is paying scant heed to anything coming from a Vatican spokesman about sex with under age teenagers, especially in view of the fact the age of consent in the Vatican City States is twelve.  Perhaps Berlusconi should consider changing his place of residence.  He would still appear to be a cradle robber, but he would be a legal cradle robber--not that this would give the appearance of weakening ethical principles or engaging in a personal form of moral relativity or anything like that.

It is really sort of mind boggling that Benedict is lecturing Italian Police on the damage public figures and institutions have done in weakening the rules that govern society and undermining trust in the body politic.  It makes me wonder if he really has a grip on just how damaging the sexual abuse crisis has been to his ability to project any kind of moral voice in the West.  I really don't think he understands the' do as I say, not as I do' days are long gone.  There really isn't much difference between actively engaging in immorality or protecting those that do the engaging.  Police have to deal with both kinds of perpetrators because both have their role in the victimization of others.  At least in Berlusconi's case, he is alleged to have paid up front.  Not that that makes him some sort of moral giant--relatively speaking.

I also find it really ironic that Benedict is lecturing to Italian police at the same time the Vatican is attempting to spin the 1997 letter to Irish bishops.  This was the letter which instructed said bishops not to talk to the police at all when it came to criminal sexual activity.  I'm aware that John Allen says that's not what the letter says in his piece for the NCR, but I doubt seriously that any of the bishops who read that letter took it the way Allen has spun it.  I feel pretty safe in that statement because no bishop turned an abuser over to the police until after 2002.  Things may have changed, but they didn't change voluntarily or because the Vatican suddenly found a 'true' moral compass.

It will be interesting to see how Italy's version of a Teflon Don weathers this latest scandal.  Berlusconi has done the Church a number of favors, mostly involving tax breaks and other concessions while pushing the Vatican's culture wars.  Losing the support of the Vatican will not help Berlusconi's chances at keeping a workable coalition together since it would probably cost him his last remaining conservative supporters.

Maybe this will start a novel concept amongst right leaning people.  Maybe they will start to demand that their leadership actually walk their talk.  This might mean that a three time marriage adulterer like Newt Gingrich will never again be able to say anything along the lines that it only matters that he says what people need to hear not that he actually lives it.  Maybe the Vatican will get that message as well.


  1. "Mr Luzzatto told Corriere della Sera he had found a note written by John XXIII dated 25 June 1960 recording his receipt of "very serious information on PP (Padre Pio) at San Giovanni Rotondo" from a Vatican investigator, Monsignor Pietro Parente of the Holy Office, who had taken notes and made secret films.

    The note says Monsignor Parente "looked, and was, broken hearted". The Pope wrote: "I am sorry for PP, who has a soul to be saved, and I pray for him intensely. What happened - that is, the discovery because of the films - si vera sunt quae referentur (if it is true what they say) - of his intimate and incorrect relations with the women who constitute his Pretorian guard, which even now stands firm around him, leads one to think of a vast disaster of souls which has been diabolically set up to discredit the Holy Church in the world, and especially in Italy." "

  2. The allegations in the article are not exactly fresh news. Pio was pretty much under 24/7 surveillance after world war II.

    What I've always found interesting about his core Praetorian guard is that his relationship with them continued after he was essentially put under house arrest because of the suspicion. Whatever else one says about those particular relationships, Pio didn't succomb to the pressure to end them.

    On the other hand, I can easily see where John XXIII would not be enamored of the piety and theology espoused by Pio. I'm not either, but the man was quite the psychic and spiritual healer. It maybe easier for me to believe that because I've met a number of others, they just don't have the desire for the kind of following and adulation Pio had--some say endured.

  3. Interesting. According to that article, the Catholic Anti-Defamation League claims that canonization is covered by infallibility of the Church. And yet, I recall being taught by Dominican nuns in preparation for my Confirmation that no Catholic was obliged to believe in the definitive sainthood of any person - living or dead. Was there a time when this infallibility on the subject of canonization was taught? I know my grandmother was surprised to hear the name I'd chosen as my Confirmation name because she's heard that St. Barbara had been 'delisted' so to speak along several others [St. Christopher among them].

    I wish I still had my school notebooks from that year. We were taught there were 7 items that Catholics were obliged to believe. And that everything else was negotiable. But I can't recall anymore exactly what those 7 items were.

  4. I'm not a fan of Newt Gingrich by any means. Nor do I believe in the annulment process. Newt gets out of having to go through such a process himself because he was not married in the RCC the first time he married or the second time. I do, however, resent this type of language that says someone is an "adulterer" if they remarry, such as you say here in your blog today, Colleen: "This might mean that a three time marriage adulterer like Newt Gingrich ".....

    According to you anyone who has been married before and marries again is committing adultery?
    Or are you just being sarcastic? Or, are you trying to make some point out to the hierarchy of their hypocrisy in accepting Newt as one of their own, yet they don't bend at all or give a crap about the millions of other Catholics around the world who are divorced and remarried only once but still don't have access to the sacraments like their pet conservative Newt does?

  5. Butterfly-Gingrich is or was an adulterer because he was having an affair with a mistress while he was married. He then married the mistress and started another affair with the next future wife.
    Charming man! But the accusation is not about divorce and remarriage.

  6. "Rediscover moral roots of society, Pope urges"

    Does the Pope have no sense of irony LOL ?


    "Interesting. According to that article, the Catholic Anti-Defamation League claims that canonization is covered by infallibility of the Church. And yet, I recall being taught by Dominican nuns in preparation for my Confirmation that no Catholic was obliged to believe in the definitive sainthood of any person - living or dead. Was there a time when this infallibility on the subject of canonization was taught?"

    Some thing like it is taught now - see the S.C.D.F.'s "Doctrinal Note" accompanying "Ad Tuendam Fidem". has an abbreviated translation - EWTN has the whole thing:

    See paragraph 11, towards the end:

    "With regard to those truths connected to revelation by historical necessity and which are to be held definitively, but are not able to be declared as divinely revealed, the following examples can be given: the legitimacy of the election of the Supreme Pontiff or of the celebration of an ecumenical council, the canonizations of saints (dogmatic facts)..."

    A dogmatic fact is something that has to be true if the dogma of which it is an expression is to be a true dogma. It is not itself a dogma. So if Saint X is not a Saint at all, the act of canonisation would not be infallibly certain. At the very least, Saint X has to be among the "saved" in Heaven.

    At least during the 1950s, the theological status of canonisations was uncertain - positions change because of that nebulous quantity "theological research".

    Hope that helps :)

  7. Sorry, my bad. Bad subject for me that annulment business.

  8. I think that when one looks at the subject of infallibility, it is easy to question as did Hans Kung. When we see people jumping to declare the infallibility of canonization, there is even more reason to question. St. Christopher metals were always in our cars when I grew up and he was my brothers Confirmation saint. So how could we have a non infallible canonization of one saint and an infallible canonization of another? Sounds very political to me particularly when there was a rush to canonize Ethchavera and now JP II. Seems like some in the Church are politicizing the process as part of their power games. Those that think one way are infallibly canonized. Therefore if others think another way, what is wrong with them.

    As we see the politicization of the canonization process, the less meaning both canonization and the idea of infallibility have in out lives. There were some certain saints in my lifetime, some of them were not Roman Catholic. In fact my daughter attended a mass at an Ecumenical Catholic Church, the priest was consecrated in the OLd Catholic Church--- one of those valid but illicit organizations like the Greek Orthodox. The name of this Church was St. Martin Luther KIng. Now that’s a saint not so hard to believe in.

  9. Dennis I'm kind of thinking that in some in some instances sainthood is an honorary award to pay back people and their supporters who have financially contributed directly to the Vatican. Maciel, had he not proven to be utterly less than saintly, would have been another such case. He had all the other window dressing down pat.

    The Vatican has a history of awarding honorary titles for services rendered. But I sometimes wonder if too much of this becomes all frosting and no cake.

    The truth is for all of JPII's saint factory, there still are very few lay saints, so how much relevance do these saints lives really have for the average Catholic. The people I consider saints, at least in their influence on my life, would never ever be considered, and not because they didn't lead saintly lives, but because such a concept was meaningless to them.