Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi was forced to resign last Thursday as he lost a vote of confidence in the Senate.
Yet, the Roman Catholic Church is to blame for Prodi’s demise.
The fiasco started when Clemente Mastella, the Catholic leader of Italy’s Udeur Christian Democrat Party, resigned his post as justice minister January 17 after being implicated in a cash-for-favors scandal.
The Udeur Christian Democrat Party was a member of Prodi’s coalition. It is a small party, having only three seats in the Senate—but when the ruling coalition has a majority of just two, the small parties make all the difference. Initially Mastella said his party would continue to support the coalition government.
Last Monday he changed his mind. Prodi lost his majority in the Senate and is now out of office.
According to the Italian newspaper La Stampa, the Vatican changed Mastella’s mind for him. “Prodi’s government dared to challenge the ecclesiastical hierarchy for the second time and this time it has had its hands burned,” it wrote.
Mastella is merely a “loudspeaker” for the Vatican, according to Franco Giordano, a Communist member of parliament.
According to the Guardian,Mastella is “one of the Vatican’s most prominent political ‘trusties.’” He was in contact with the Catholic Church in the days leading up to his withdrawal of support for the Italian government.
Several newspapers reported that Catholic Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco was among the first people Mastella informed about his decision to rebel against Prodi. In short, before talking to the Vatican, Mastella supported Prodi.
Afterward, he didn’t.
The Vatican does not shy away from taking credit for Prodi’s downfall.
“What has happened is a result of a lack of dialogue with Catholics, which has penalized Catholic values in particular. Without this dialogue, the country cannot go forward,” said Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins.
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa and president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, made several anti-Prodi comments last Monday, the same day Mastella announced his decision.
“The country is in pieces,” he said. “There is lazy administration and a shirking of responsibility.”
The next day, an interview with Bagnasco was published in the papal newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.
“Catholics must bring the contribution of spiritual and ethical values into the public square,” said Bagnasco during the interview. He continued: The presence (in the public square) must be assumed by Catholics with greater persuasiveness and a greater capacity to respectfully explain our convictions, knowing that they come both from the gospel and from a common understanding of the value of life. …
There is no real politics without high moral and spiritual values. Politics, in fact, has justice as its goal, and justice is a moral virtue. It therefore requires from all those involved in politics a high sense of the human person, the right to life and the family.
In essence, what the cardinal is saying is that Catholics need to get more involved in politics, especially when it comes to protecting the family.
Last year the Trumpet pointed out how the Vatican forced Prodi to toe its line when it came to same-sex unions.
Now, it seems, it’s had enough of him entirely.
The biggest question remaining, though, is why now?
Prodi has always been unpopular with the Catholic Church with his anti-family stance on many of these issues. But the question of what triggered the Vatican’s attack remains. There are a number of possibilities. One is that this may have simply been an opportune time to oust the prime minister and bring in a government more acceptable to the Vatican.
If this is the case, then this would show a markedly different approach to politics for the Catholics than what we have been seeing. They would have moved from simply opposing legislation with which they disagree, to playing the role of king-maker.
Most members of Prodi’s cabinet would oppose a new campaign, supported by the Vatican, to increase Italy’s restrictions on abortion.
Ousting Prodi may just be the Catholic Church’s way of removing that opposition. Again, if this is the case, it shows a far more proactive approach to politics by the Catholics than seen in recent times.
A third possible trigger is Prodi’s desire to reform the election procedure. Antonio Polito, a senator for the Democratic Party, blames the tiny political parties for Prodi’s downfall. “These parties feared that Mr. Prodi would change the electoral law, which would bring about their demise.
The current law has given them their seats.” Much of the Vatican’s power in Italian politics comes from the tiny parties. It was through tiny parties that it forced Prodi to change his mind on same-sex unions last February. It was through a tiny party that it brought his government down this time around.
By removing Prodi, the Vatican may have simply been protecting its own interests. Whatever the trigger was, the Catholic Church is becoming increasingly active in politics.
In Spain last month, Catholic bishops organized a rally that brought nearly 2 million pro-family demonstrators to Madrid.
With Spanish elections coming up in March, the Catholic Church badly wants to oust Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero, who has clashed with the church on abortion, same-sex unions, and religious instruction in schools.
Watch for the Vatican to become far more aggressive in its political agenda. As we seen the last time the Vatican attacked Prodi, Ever since becoming pope, Benedict has used politics as one of his tools to instill Christianity back into the heart of Europe.
Just a couple of months into his reign, for example, the Vatican called for a boycott of a referendum to change Italy’s strict fertility laws. The boycott was successful in voiding the referendum.
Most recently, Benedict told politicians in a papal document released March 13  they must not vote for laws that go against the Catholic Church’s position. Catholic legislators must strenuously defend the church’s “non-negotiable values,” the pope stated.
He said Catholic politicians must not vote for bills endorsing such issues as abortion and homosexual marriage, and also “called for Sunday to remain a day of rest”. It is lawmakers’ social responsibility to give “public testimony to their faith,” the pope stated.
This is about more than just blocking laws that promote immorality. The Catholic Church is seeking to unite Europe under the power of religion—the Catholic religion, and Catholic laws.
Soon it will attempt to impose its beliefs in areas such as Sunday worship on the whole European continent.
The pope has demonstrated his political clout in Italy.
Watch for it to extend across Europe, and then, the whole world. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
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