Strange Bedfellows

Despite all odds, the Catholic church and the extreme right in Italy (and similarly in Malta) seem to be forgetting their differences. Silvio Berlusconi seems to be temporarily absolved from everything, be it sex scandals, corruption and even his opposition to the value of life of foreigners.


The reason for this truce is the European Court of Human Rights’ decision to remove Crucifixes (not crosses) from public places. What they have in common is actually fear. However if one scratches below the surface he will realize that while the Catholic Church is afraid, the extreme right is just enjoying the spoils of its fear.


The Catholic church has been afraid for quite a while. Europe is becoming more and more secular. People, including most moderate Catholics are asking for the church to keep its distance from the state. Many are asking for civil rights such as that of divorce, while homosexuals are coming out of the closet at a much faster rate then predicted. While I welcome all this, I don’t blame the church for feeling afraid. It knows it is losing its grip, and the Crucifix decision is just adding insult to injury.


The extreme right does not really care about the Crucifix. Some of them consider themselves as secularists, while others claim they embrace Christianity (which includes a local branch of the Ku Klux Klan, the same organization that in the U.S. has persecuted both Catholics and Italians in the previous century). Secular or not, the Italian right, including Members of Parliament in the outgoing government, is conveniently capitalizing on the church’s fear by spinning a tale about migrant Muslims and Jews out there waiting to swallow Catholic Italy.


Needless to say all this is based on a lie. The Court decision involves a case filed and won by an Italian citizen of Finnish descent who is an atheist. Muslims, Jews and migrants have absolutely nothing to do with this. However the fear spinning machine never found it hard to spread its message even if this was either based on lies or severely modified truths (ironically a sin according to the Catholic Church).


Fear, rational or not is an extremely powerful force that has been able to achieve practically everything, from overturning governments to justifying genocides.


The Catholic Church is in my opinion doing a grave mistake, both in Italy and in Malta. Its voice against the removal of the Crucifix is loud as one expects it to be. However, by omitting to mention the fact that migrants, Muslims and Jews are not behind this it is leaving open terrain for the much less noble right.


Maybe digging a little bit of history might help the church take the right decisions. It is not an isolated event that the Catholic church has been used and then conveniently disposed of. Most outstanding is obviously Nazi Germany. If the church wants to control this tide of secularism it needs to be closer to its people, and listen to them rather than dictating. Making an alliance with the devil will definitely backfire, probably much sooner than they expect.


Robert Callus


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