Reflections on the Italian election

Antonio Suetta, bishop of Ventimiglia-Sanremo, is known in Italy for his impressive pastoral activity and his commitment to the defence of life and the family. In 2021 he sent a strong message to the March for Life, organised by Virginia Coda Nunziante; and in a message to his diocese just before the 2022 election, he brought out the ways in which some electoral initiatives conflict with Catholic doctrine and with the Church, “due to the presence, for example, of support for gender ideology, assisted suicide or euthanasia, and the so-called recognition of women’s sexual and reproductive rights”.

Of particular interest therefore is his analysis of the vote of 25 September, taken from an interview with Mauro Mazza, editor of the magazine Charta Minuta, which we reproduce here in its entirety.

MAZZA: Your Excellency, the vote of 25 September seems to depict a new and different Italy. There are winners and losers. Voters have made a clear choice that could be the prelude to a time of stability. Hopefully beyond the crisis or crises, what can we expect from the new government, between emergencies to be faced and a future to be written?

MONS SUETTA: First of all, a stable government, one that may guide the country in the complicated and dangerous situations critical for this time — the exit from the pandemic, the menacing risks of war with its repercussions on the economy and social stability, inflation and recession. The new political order also has the great and serious responsibility of implementing the National Recovery and Resilience Plan by fostering development, justice, social peace, the modernisation of the state in terms of infrastructure and the revitalisation of industry, employment, the reform of the bureaucracy and the administration of justice as indispensable prerequisites for what I have just recalled.

MAZZA: From your point of view as a bishop, how do you evaluate the political figure and the decisions — those announced and those implemented so far — of Giorgia Meloni? And how does a pastor explain the great success of the Brothers of Italy party?

MONS SUETTA: What interests me and inspires confidence in me does not so much concern the many current issues requiring concrete attention, naturally bound by the rules of the various fields of activity, by contingent situations, by international relations and by inherited decisions and situations. Nor is it my place to deal with these aspects. Instead, I am satisfied that the popular vote has brought out a characteristic sensibility of our people and our history, marked by a tradition of Christian humanism, and therefore incompatible with the exaggerations expressed by leftist culture, which has increasingly deserted the real issues and needs of the people in order to promote, even with a certain political and promotional violence, very dangerous ideologies, which, while hiding cleverly behind the defence of alleged human rights, are in reality profoundly inhuman and harbingers of a highly negative situation with bad fruits for the future of society. The different movements of the left — even the more moderate ones and those that claim an affinity with the Catholic world — are dangerously tainted by that dictatorship of ethical relativism of which Benedict XVI speaks, which is rampant today through so-called “political correctness”, and which unfortunately constitutes the prevailing (sometimes exclusive) criterion of major institutions such as the European Parliament. For this reason I interpret the success of the Brothers of Italy party, and its political coalition, not primarily as the result of a protest vote or the logic of alternation, but rather — I truly hope this — as an awakening of authentic political civilisation, capable of rediscovering and revitalising the formidable tradition of our people and of promoting, especially in the family and in the schools, an ever more necessary capacity for discretion concerning the authentic values on which the life of man and society is to be based.

MAZZA: Generalisations should be avoided. But at times one gets the impression from the Catholic side — pastors, media, movements — that there is not always fairness of judgment. It seems that there is no serenity in the attitude towards the right, not only that of Italy, in spite of its positions in harmony with the magisterium and natural law. To be blunt, it is as if more consideration were given to decidedly secular forces.

MONS SUETTA: It is true; unfortunately, this is the impression one gets and, I believe, it is sometimes the truth. I believe that this mainly depends on two factors: a substantial lack of knowledge and formation in Christian doctrine and in history — above all, in the search for the philosophical and ideological premises that determine its course — and even a sort of “timidity” when faced with the pervasiveness of models absolutely antithetical to the Christian vision, which leads one to be inclined towards a path of misunderstood dialogue and winking tolerance; in the end, this produces dangerous contaminations in the rather useless effort to remain part of the scene. In fact, the results of such a strategy always show how true the statement of the Gospel is that “if the salt lose its savour, it is good for nothing any more but to be cast out and trodden on by men” (cf. Mt 5:13). The world, with its logic, applauds such approaches, as long as it can benefit from them, or as long as they do not disturb its course, but disregards or fights against the Christian message when it finds it incompatible or obtrusive. The criterion “in the world, but not of the world” always remains illuminating and appropriate. I believe that the Catholic tradition must rediscover and demonstrate its originality — luminous and always relevant — and overcome a sort of inferiority complex with respect to the claims of the pervasive narrative of the left that it has exclusive possession of culture, progress and ethics.

MAZZA: What can we expect from a politic, which is now the parliamentary majority, on the highly delicate terrain surrounding ethical questions?

MONS SUETTA: Always bearing in mind that politics is the art of the possible good. I hope that, in the complex management of the multiple institutional and social spheres, a renewed political action may promote and allow the development of the foundations of our Italian and European civilisation, blocking the tendency towards unconditional surrender to the non-principles of relativism. In A Turning Point for Europe? The Church in the Modern World, Joseph Ratzinger writes: 

“Who could ignore the growing tendency towards nihilism on the part of the relativism to which we are all exposed today? Thus we have an urgent question: with what contents can we fill up the intellectual vacuum that has come into being after the failure of the Marxist experiment? On what intellectual foundations can we build a common future in which East and West are joined in a new unity, but also in which North and South find a common path?”

MAZZA: In the face of the hegemony of the “groupthink” that dominates in Europe, is there still the concrete possibility of correction, of reconsideration? Today, if a national government takes different positions, it is scolded and condemned by Brussels …

MONS SUETTA: Theologically I would answer absolutely yes, because goodness and truth are intrinsically diffusive and of solid authentic value; and, unlike the evil and error that seem to prevail in the violent dynamic through which they try to impose themselves, they patiently take root in the heart of man and then bear outstanding fruit. I would also add that unity is strength … and today, here and there, a number of promising cracks can be seen in the brazen display of the “groupthink” proposed for ruling the world.

MAZZA: Without meaning any harm to the distinction between politics and religion, couldn’t the Church do more and better in the mission territory which Europe has become? Sometimes it seems that fear and timidity prevail, or that the issues chosen are distinct and distant from the principles that Pope Benedict XVI called “non-negotiable”.

MONS SUETTA: The Church is called to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus with word and witness, promoting the true good — earthly and, above all, eternal — in the lives of men, and denouncing any derailment on the level of doctrine and conduct: this is her task. The Church does not present herself to the world as one of the many institutions or agencies, but offers, as mother, teacher and companion for the journey, her most precious treasures, which are divine revelation, the sacraments, prayer, the holiness and charity of her children. The Church knows that her battle “is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places” (Eph 6:12), and she therefore knows that she cannot simply fight it with worldly expedients. In the same letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul asks for himself what today I too ask for my ministry as bishop and implore for the Church: “And pray for me, that speech may be given me, that I may open my mouth with confidence, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, so that therein I may be bold to speak according as I ought” (6:19).