Italian intellectuals reflect on relationship between faith and politics


The re-election of George Bush in part because of moral issues, and the rejection of Italian politician Rocco Butiglione for a post on the European Commission because of his Catholic beliefs, have led two Italian intellectuals of opposite political persuasions to interesting conclusions about the relationship between faith and politics.

Massimo Cacciari, a left-wing philosopher and former mayor of Venice, said, “Bush mobilized grassroots supporters more consistently than Kerry, overcoming the contradiction between materialistic and moral interests by a call to strong values.”

In an interview with the Italian newspaper “Il Manifesto,” Cacciari argued, “The mobilization of Evangelical groups has been evidently formidable.  It was carried out based on a vast appeal to ethics.”

“The left has convinced itself too quickly perhaps that politics are now separated from the values of heaven and hell,” Cacciari said.

The Buttiglione affair

On the other hand, Giuliano Ferrara, director of the influential Italian newspaper “Il Foglio,” argued, “The Commissioner designated by the Italian government has been politically burned because he refused to remain silent about his personal view of things in matters of family and homosexuality, using a word that true liberals should not erase from their vocabulary, the word ‘sin’.”

“In a letter to the newspaper “Corriere della Sera,” Ferrara wrote, “Buttiglione has made a clear distinction between sin and crime, between morality and law, between his personal convictions and adherence to the Charter of European rights and the policies of non-discrimination against anyone.”

“Today there is a danger that the elitist and intolerant bias of civil and secular religion might betray secularism in its very own liberal principles,” he argued.

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