The free voice of the Church

2012-01-24 L’Osservatore Romano

The topic – the Church which invades spaces of public freedom – is taken for granted and also taken for granted is the viewpoint of the pamphlet by Sergio Romano and Beda Romano, La Chiesa contro (the Church against). It would therefore be more correct to entitle it Against the Church.  Since it is a polemical tract, the book presents the characteristics of this genre: the superficiality of the sources (both historical and bioethical) and inaccurate information, as in the case of the information on the Italian National Bioethical committee, which a perfunctory check shows to be full of inaccuracies.

The book immediately shows a firmly-rooted xenophilia: Beda Romano thus faced hours of conversation with the secretary of the French Bioethical Committee, which is a very partisan source — interviewing the scientist who has headed it for years, Didier Sicard, might perhaps have helped establish a more critical discourse — but never met with a member of the corresponding Italian body. For his part, Sergio Romano writes that the separation between State and Church has been successfully achieved in all the European countries except Italy,  basing this on a very partial interpretation of both the Risorgimento and the Concordat.

Yet the book also presents new aspects: the historical comparison of State-Church relations in the various European countries, especially in part two –  more innovative and interesting – the treatment of bioethical problems without examining the moral and philosophical issues inherent in them but rather analysing the reality of behaviour in the presence of the technical and scientific matters in discussion. For every country, Beda Romano chooses to go into the subject in which, in her eyes, it has proven to be most advanced: organ transplants in Spain, the PACS for the cohabitation of homosexuals in France, artificial insemination in Denmark, cloning in the United Kingdom, euthanasia in Switzerland. Perhaps, in the authors' view, the ideal country would be the one in which all these “peaks of progressivism” were combined. Italy, however is the opposite, for  it does not fit into any category of “good”, “modern” or “scientific”.

It is of course the Church which is to blame, known since the times of Galileo for obscurantism in her institutional situation and in her evil effects on the Italian bourgeoisie; returning to the argument that Italy's modernization failed because of the Counter Reformation – another commonplace which historical research in recent decades has broadly refuted.

Is it really so difficult to believe that the applications of technoscience or the juridical acceptance of homosexual unions do not constitute a test of modernity but rather give rise to anthropological problems because they transform our culture and thus that it is good that they are the object of reflection and debate, and even of a prudent suspension of judgement? Many lay philosophers and scientists, both Catholics and non-Catholics, are of this opinion. Instead, the pharmaceutical industries, researchers who want rapid fame and funds for their activities are not.

The Catholic Church is of course the one global institution that dares to express a critical judgement on a deliberately superficial “progressivist” trend. She is the only one that dares to denounce the possible negative consequences of these innovations, that  essentially dares to stimulate a discussion to make people think and to ask for true reasons. And it is curious that for this very reason her being free and thinking – on certain topics hers is the only critical voice that can make itself heard throughout the world – should have been silent about obscurantism and the inability to face modernity.

The individual intellectuals who address the issues critically – for example, Testart and Agacinsky, in addition to Jonas and Habermas – remain in fact fatally confined to a narrow audience, often made up solely of intellectuals who speak their own language. The Church, on the contrary, speaks in a far easier way and makes herself heard everywhere. Disturbing, considerably, the little picture so dear to many of a nice modernity that makes progress without any dark patches.

Lucetta Scaraffia