Divine Injustice: Papal Influence Italian Politics

Article excerpt

For a country that contains the seat of Roman Catholicism, Italy is decidedly un-Catholic in its politics. Despite the declaration of abortion as immoral by Pope Paul VI in 1968, abortion has been legal in Italy for 25 years; despite the Church's 2,000-year-old condemnation of divorce, 12 percent of all marriages in the 98 percent Catholic country end in it; despite the Vatican's strong denunciation of human cloning, the Italian government has yet to fully ban it. The distance between Rome and the Vatican has continued to widen beyond the width of the Tiber River.

In the past year, Pope John Paul II took a strong position on the war in Iraq, calling it a "defeat for humanity." Meeting personally with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, he won widespread approval throughout Europe for his efforts to bring all parties to the table of peace. However, while the Vatican's clear stance on the war was popular with the Italian people, it was all but ignored by the Italian government. Going against domestic, international, and religious sentiment, the politicians in Rome were some of the greatest European supporters of US President George Bush. Giving the United States complete access to the state's military and civilian infrastructure in order to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime, the Italian government made a very risky move in defiance of both popular sentiment and papal authority.

The Vatican and Rome have long had a tumultuous relationship. When Victor Emmanuel I sacked and declared Rome the capital of a unified Italy in 1870, Pope Pius IX shut himself up in the Vatican until his death, declaring himself"prisoner." Pius IX'S antagonistic policy toward the Italian government banned all Catholics from running in Italian elections and thus maintained itself for over half a century. This antagonism led Italy to oppose the Vatican's inclusion in international treaties and organizations, including the League of Nations--a precedent preserved to this day (the Holy See is one of the few sovereign states in the world denied a seat in the UN General Assembly). The 1929 Lateran Treaty officially reconciled Italy and the Vatican, but the treaty, coming from the Fascist Benito Mussolini, provided the Vatican with unfavorable terms. …