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Report: The Italian Church Exports its Model to Spain

March 4, 2007

From Chiesa:

When in Verona on October 19, 2006, speaking to bishops, priests and laypeople of the Italian Church, Benedict XVI wagered on Italy as “fairly favorable terrain” for Christian renewal in Europe and the world, many shook their heads in disbelief.

And the lively battle that the pope and the bishops are waging against the legalization, in Italy, of de facto heterosexual and homosexual unions is also raising skeptical reactions.

The skeptics include some of the most prestigious Catholic intellectuals. One of these, the jurist Leopoldo Elia, a former president of the constitutional court, explained to “Corriere della Sera” on February 13 why he thinks both pope Joseph Ratzinger’s bet on Italy and the Church’s strong reaction to the new laws are mistaken:

“It appears that the Church wants to make Italy an exception within Europe: a Catholic Italy in which the laws in force in all the other countries do not apply. Why has the Spanish Church shown a moderate reaction to de facto unions, while the Italian Church is storming the barricades in parliament?

Why such an excessive reaction with respect to the entirely correct reaction shown by the French and German bishops’ conferences? This seems to reveal an intention to maintain an Italian exception. Perhaps it is because the see of Peter is in Rome, because we had the pontifical state, the Counter-Reformation, a long tradition of joining the throne and the altar… The fact remains that the Italian Church is not accepting its Europeanization.”

But is this really the case? Without a doubt, in other European countries the Catholic Church has mostly reacted weakly and without success to the laws on de facto unions, homosexual marriage, quick divorce, abortion, euthanasia, artificial insemination, the use of embryos.

So also it is beyond doubt that in Italy, the Church’s resistance has been much more effective in recent years. It should be enough to think of the victory in June of 2005 against the referendum that intended to liberalize heterologous fecundation and the killing of embryos. The Church proposed a boycott of the vote, and in effect three citizens out of four did not vote, annulling the referendum.

But there’s another more interesting fact. For some time, the Italian Church has no longer been a solitary exception among the Churches of Western Europe. Other bishops’ conferences look to it as a model, and imitate its actions. In Portugal, for example, the Church recently opposed forcefully a referendum for the complete liberalization of abortion: and the referendum, which was held last February 11, failed because of low voting participation.

But the most striking case of replicating the Italian model is taking place in Spain. There the bishops’ conference is carrying out a real and proper about-face, after years of divisions, uncertainties, and the absence of an authoritative guide…

Full report here.

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