The Most Serious Thing in Italy

Ruini is the other guy
Ruini is the other guy

Yesterday’s Corriere della Sera had an interview with the openly gay actor Paolo Poli, which is relatively rare in Italy. Now, I don’t know much about Poli’s acting career, nor do I think an actor’s opinions matter much. But when an openly gay communist–who also happens to be a declared atheist–tells a widely-read Italian newspaper that the only serious thing in Italy is the Catholic Church, and that Italy’s greatest politician is Camillo Ruini, I begin to have serious doubts about the future of the Italian Republic.

Yesterday was also April 25, an important holiday here in the Boot, as it commemorates the country’s liberation from Nazi-fascism. Not a minor holiday, that–somewhere between the Jewish Passover (liberation from slavery) and the 4th of July (national independence). And much more recent, too.

So let’s get this straight: Italy fought a war against the Church 150 years ago so that a secular state might be established. The Pope’s power was reduced to almost nothing, forcing him to declare his own moral infallibility that he might not be disposed of entirely by the newly-emancipated Italians. Then comes Mussolini, followed by Hitler. Pope Pius XII may not have been the devil in disguise, but he almost certainly didn’t use his influence to oppose the rising tide of fascism in his own backyard. The Church to this day claims Pius did everything he could to save the Jews–all of it in complete monastic silence, and without leaving the tiniest trace for posterity. The Vatican’s WWII archives are still off-limits to researchers and historians, which doesn’t exactly suggest transparency.

The Vatican’s positions on homosexuality, atheism and Communism are sufficiently well-known. So we’re left with this incongruous declaration by Mr. Poli–an affermation that makes no sense whatever no matter which way you look at it. Or was he being (maybe, just maybe), ironic?

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