Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christoph Prantner offers this view from Austria, which has long experience of Church involvement in politics

 Christoph Prantner
Perspektiven: Die Wiederkunft der Pfaffenpolitik 
Der Standard (Austria), 22 January 2008
 It’s beginning to look as if we’ve gone back to the time of the political Reconquista: In Spain, France and Italy political Catholicism is being revived. Clerics are intervening unabashed in politics, politicians are cosying up to the True Faith – and doing it as a matter of course, in a way not seen for a long time in secular Europe.
At the beginning of 2007, for instance, the bishops tangled with the ruling Socialists over their family politics. The Spanish Church showed ill-concealed sympathy with the opposition Partido Popular a few weeks before the parliamentary elections in March 2007. Cardinal Antonio Canizares, vice president of the Spanish Bishops Conference even accused the government of Zapatero in front of 160,000 archconservative demonstrators of “threatening democracy with their radical secularism”. [1]
Clouds of incense
Meanwhile on a visit to pope Benedict XVI and also in his New Year’s address Nicholas Sarkozy was so caught up in religious rapture that some French citizens began to fear that under their quasi-born-again President the secular state could disappear in a cloud of incense. He had said that only believers can have hope. And that every civilisation is based on something religious and that God is a bulwark against – of all things – arrogance and madness.
And finally, in Rome the Church is making it clear that nothing can be done against its will. When it comes down to it, the political agents of the Vatican don’t hesitate for a moment to have the government of the liberal Catholic stalwart Romano Prodi overturned. At one time ex-EU Minister Rocco Buttiglione boasted about having direct access to Carol Wojtyla at all times. Today ex-Justice Minister Clement Mastella bows eagerly before the papal throne.
“Mariazell Manifesto”
It was not until 1952, through the Mariazell Manifesto, that the Catholic Church [gave up its claim to being the national church and] brought to an end the ill-fated political Catholicism (For example, Prelate Ignaz Seipel as Chancellor.) [This was the “Roman Catholic priest, twice chancellor of Austria (1922–24 and 1926–29), whose use of the Fascist paramilitary Heimwehr in his struggle against Austria’s Social Democrats led to a strengthening of Fascism in his country.”] [2]
In the worldwide Catholic Church there is nothing else that explicit. It’s true that the Viennese theologian Paul Zulehner refers to the Second Vatican Council, according to which the Church is to be “political, but not politicised in the sense of party politics”. However, others interpret this as mainly an attempt on the part of John XXIII to limit the damage from the close relationship to the Nazis cultivated by his predecessor Pius XII.
Why is this new offensive, this “Second Coming” of papal politics, coming just now? One factor is the debate about Islam in the last few years. Those who want to argue against terrorists inspired by Islam — like President Nicholas Sarkozy in his most recent speeches — fall back, without thinking, on “Christian values". That, of course, encourages the churchmen. […]
Whenever politics becomes a matter of religion — as it is with the Islamicists — the field of action is dramatically narrowed. This is because religious demands are non-negotiable.
This may not worry people with a terrorist’s view of politics. It should, however, concern the Catholic Church which is still committed to the rationalist tradition of Europe. Luckily, in addition to this there are still enlightened citizens — and not only in Spain, France and Italy — who after centuries under the power of the Church no longer wish to rely on the blessings of its wisdom.
Notes
[1] A later charge of Cardinal Canizares, reported on 14 January 2008, is that “The Government intends to transmit a radical secular vision of man which gives no importance to God”.
[2] “Ignaz Seipel”, Encyclopedia Britannica. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/532880/Ignaz-Seipel

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