Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Playing Along

Been corresponding a little with a friend back in Toronto about the New Rocco:
In an interview with Corriere della Sera, Italy's leading daily newspaper, Rocco Butiglione, one of Italy's best-known Christian Democrat politicians, said that he is opposed to efforts to create binding legal protections for the unborn in Italy. Instead, he said, he favors a shift in emphasis on "reducing abortion" by supporting women in need.

Butiglione spoke of a new network of pro-life parliamentarians who are not against Law 194, which permits abortion. "We do not want the law changed. Less than ever." The new emphasis, he said, must be to oppose the "use of abortion as a means of birth control."

This is really, I believe, the tip of a new iceberg of policy coming from the Secretariat of State.

Others, apparently, agree.

Subject: more on Rocco
To: "Hilary White"
Received: Wednesday, July 22, 2009, 5:57 AM

Saw your good article on Buttiglione. Meanwhile, another friend writes, "That is weird. I did notice that Cardinal Cottier, who used to be theologian to the papal household, wrote some gushing thing about Obama".

They must think, at the Vat, that Obama is the wave of the future and the thing is to try to direct him toward doing one or two good things rather than absolutely opposing him as many American conservative RCs want to do. This would be in line with the Vatican’s political judgement about so very many issues ...

I responded,
I've been thinking about all this.

I think it is very significant that Buttiglione is using the same expressions used by Fr. Lombardi about "reducing abortion".

Earlier this year, Lombardi accompanied the pope to Africa where the HF spoke to the Angolan officials about the badness of abortion. Later, at a press conference, Lombardi said that the pope had not intended to "condemn therapeutic abortion" but merely to say that the Church is opposed to the use of abortion "as a means of birth control".

The Italian papers (but not, strangely, the English language papers) immediately followed with headlines that said "The Vatican does not condemn abortion for therapeutic purposes" ...Corrierra della Serra ran a healine, "Vatican, Benedict XVI does not condemn abortion," etc.

There never was a clarification or correction issued and despite my efforts, nothing was made of it by anyone. Lombardi serenely carries on being Benedict's media spokesman. Sandro Magister reported the Africa quotes and I emailed Lombardi to try to get him to clarify what he had meant. When I asked if he had meant to say that the Holy Father did not condemn abortion in all circumstances, he dodged the question.

Now we have had the visit from Obama to the pope for which all the L'Osservatore Romano fawning was clearly meant as preparation and we have Bertone (Lombardi and Vian's boss) telling the media at the pope's vacation spot this week that they welcomed Obama's promise to "reduce abortion".

Next we get Buttligione pushing this motion through the Italian parliament to call on the UN for a moratorium on, you guessed it, "using abortion as a form of birth control".

Buttiglione is the leader of a gang of Italian parliamentarians who are known to be influenced by the Secretariat of State. They're kind of the Pope's boys in parliament and are regularly accused of being in the Vatican's pocket by the socialists and communists, probably justifiably.

It is clear that this business with Fisichella ["I wrote the article on request"] was meant as part of that larger plan by Bertone to shift the Vatican's public emphasis on the life issues away from the right of the unborn to the plight of women in distress. One that we managed to scupper.

But the larger plan is obviously still in place. Position the Vatican as more interested in a new stream of thought on "helping women" in order to "reduce abortion" and find "common ground" where we can all agree, more or less. This last seems to be in the areas of coercive abortion in China, abortion "as a means of birth control" and sex-selective abortion. (But even these are strongly supported by the real abortion zealots who are running the show in the White House right now).

This position of "supporting women" is much more politically viable a stance than claiming the rights of the unborn, the humanity of the unborn or the right to life. The "pure" pro-life line is being increasingly abandoned as an untenable failure by the political pro-lifers since the Obama election.

It is to be noted, however, that the pro-lifers who are dumping the absolute-evil-of-abortion line are the ones who have been looking for political and social acceptance all along. These are the "common ground" and "seamless garment" types who seem to be mostly interested in seeking friends among our natural opponents [on this blog, I've called them the Stockholm Syndrome Pro-lifers" many times]. A hold over, I believe, from the hippie-dippy 1960s philosophy that there should never be any such thing as opposition or conflict in public or private life. Let's all just hug and be friends.

I think the Vaticanistas who are trying to play along with Obama are going to be in for a few nasty shocks at some point, but at the moment, I think the main motive is the aforementioned love-peace-groovy-man hippie-dippiness that seems to be the main operating principle in the Vatican as it is in the wider Church. The one thing that the Church hierarchy of our modern era seems unable to stomach is the idea that there are some things one simply must oppose, and some people with whom one simply cannot make friends.

I suspect that at some point, there will be some harsh lessons to be learned, and I sincerely hope that Obama is up to the task of teaching them.


BillyHW said...

We need to reduce the number of slaves by supporting slave traders in need.

We need to reduce the number of prostitutes by supporting pimps in need.

We need to reduce the number of gas chambers by supporting Nazi's in need.

Robert B. said...

Somebody (Magister or Allen I think) pointed out that after the battles with Zapatero and other hostile European laicists, Obama's "let's have an open discussion" style seems irresistible at the Vatican. But there's more at work here--Americans who could be in a position to explain Obama to the Vatican are not in the position of trusted advisors because they have been undermining the Pope's authority to speak on issues of economics and geopolitical conflict for years.

I think you are correct that Cottier, Fisichella and Buttiglione are following a line of thinking coming from the Stato. It's not as plausible these days, though, to suggest that there are strong differences in policy between the Pope and the "vice-Pope" when the latter is an outsider to diplomatic circles and a Ratzinger protege.

Dad29 said...

Robert B., do you include Cdl. Burke among the 'Americans who are untrustworthy'?

Because certainly, at least one Italian Jesuit (Lombardi) seems to be far MORE 'untrustworthy' than Cdl. Burke, or any other American in the Vatican.

Robert B. said...

Dad29, I did not say "untrustworthy."

No, I was not referring to Cardinal Burke, or any American bishop.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

If I may, I think it was more a reference to the likes of George Weigel and co. Vian gave that away when he made an oblique reference in one of his interviews to those who would "instrumentalize" (seems to be a favourite Italian political buzzword) Vatican policies to serve partisan political interests in the states. There is a group of "conservative Catholics" who, it is argued, have tried to equate Catholic teaching with Republican policies.