Italian Senator on Pope Benedict, Europe and Relativism
BY EDWARD PENTIN
July 16-22, 2006 Issue | Posted 7/17/06 at 9:00 AM
ROME — Sen. Marcello Pera, the former president of the Italian Senate, isn’t Catholic — in fact, he’s not even a Christian believer.
But he is a deep admirer of the
ideas of Pope Benedict XVI, with whom he collaborated on the 2004 book, Without Roots:
How did you come to co-author the book Without
I had been an admirer for some time of the writings of Cardinal Ratzinger. I considered him a profound theologian and an original thinker.
One day I went to visit him and
proposed that he give a lecture in the Senate on the critical situation of
This is how the book was born: We both reviewed our theses and decided to include additional comments.
In the book, you issued a strong indictment of relativism and focused upon
the loss of Christian values in
No, I see signs going in the
opposite direction. The de-Christianization process underway in Europe is
moving forward at high speed, from
What John Paul II most feared and
denounced is underway: the perverse alliance between relativism, as the
equivalence of all substantive values, and democracy, as a mere formal process.
And the opinion of Benedict XVI, according to whom
I believe that the situation is becoming increasingly serious because Catholics themselves are not reacting as they should.
You oppose multiculturalism on the grounds that it is the result of relativism. What do you propose as an alternative in which a society of different cultures can exist harmoniously?
Multiculturalism can be taken both as a doctrine and as policy. As a doctrine it gives rise to insurmountable contradictions. It affirms that all communities have an equal right to exist because outside these communities, individuals would lose their own specific identities.
So, what are you supposed to do when a community does not respect certain rights, for example, the equality between men and women? If you leave the community freedom of action then you might violate certain fundamental rights — if you force them to respect these rights then you violate the principle whereby all communities possess equal dignity in the ethical sense.
As policy, the effects of
multiculturalism are exactly the opposite of integration, because it gives rise
to separate communities that are then reduced to a ghetto-like status and enter
into conflict among themselves. The examples offered
As you know, there is still deadlock over the European Constitution. What solution to this crisis would be favorable to you?
I do not see any realistic solution — and nobody is proposing one. I think that the European states can unite through treaties, not through an actual constitution. A constitution presupposes that a “people” exists, with a specific identity, but at the moment there is no European people with a European identity.
Identity is not like a common
currency that can be negotiated around a table. An identity presumes a sense of
belonging, and therefore a common spirit. Today,
Pope Benedict XVI is sympathetic to the idea of an ethic for globalization — universal principles on which all cultures agree and can unite around. What is your opinion of this idea?
From an intellectual point of view it is an arduous endeavor, because universal ethics presumes either natural rights or recognized rational rights, and everyone knows that both rationalism and [natural law] are attractive, but difficult-to-justify doctrines. Nonetheless, I believe that we should work towards universal ethics. I do not believe that we will ever achieve this, but the very search would make us more aware of the possibilities ahead of us, would further unite us and would constitute a step forward for humanity.
How do you see the future of relativism and multiculturalism in
My diagnosis on
Maybe we have already been dealt a
blow to the heart and did not notice it. What Pope Ratzinger
says in Without Roots comes to mind:
The impression today is that Europe resembles the
Some say that Pope Benedict XVI hasn’t spoken out against relativism and
in defense of
No, Cardinal Ratzinger spoke clearly and Pope Ratzinger uses the same language. I think that he is very firm on principles and I do not understand these objections.
Do you have plans to write any more books on this subject, and any more to be co-authored with Pope Benedict?
Naturally, another book with Benedict XVI would please me immensely, and especially the opportunity to converse with him, but this is not likely. In Without Roots, he makes an appeal to the “creative minorities.” Personally, I consider myself a modest member of these minorities, and will continue to work in the direction that he indicated.
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