The Italians And The Curia

I had to smile – though not always – at reading Father Blake's experiences with, shall we say, Italian administration. As a proud son of the Country, I think I should say a word or two; my short reflections will also, I hope, ground my argument about why Italians are good for the Church, and we need more of them.

Italy is a Country of contrasts. For reasons which have a lot to do with our historic past, we are a rather surprising mixture of an extremely dynamic, efficient, intelligent and productive mentality on one side and a stunning carelessness, inefficiency, stupidity or outright corruption on the other. Which is why foreigners wonder how the Country avoids sinking in the Mediterranean Sea, and Italians wonders where they would be if the various toxic influences polluting a good part of the population (which have their own more or less colourful names: furbismo, menefreghismo, favoritismo, leccaculismo among others) were expunged with a massive exercise in punishment of bad behaviour that the Country – even those who have none of these shortcomings – are ultimately too kind and gentle, too soft-hearted to implement.

But notice this: Italians aren't a mixture of Northern European virtues and Northern African shortcomings. In matters concerning work ethic, efficiency, and honesty they tend to be either 100% of one kind, or 100% of the other. In a country where many cut corners, the honest ones are truly honest; because they are honest out of deeply felt conviction, not out of fear of punishment like, say, pretty many are in Germany.

This polarity is why Italy has peaks or efficiency coupled with pits of inefficiency. This is why Italy as a Country has vastly outperformed England and France since the end of WWII. This is also why so many Italians are – also thanks to an excellent education system – in a position to escape from a country partially suffocated by nepotism and party card politics and can go abroad, and do rather well for themselves.

The matter is therefore, in my eyes, not whether to pick Italians – there is no doubt in my mind we are among the very best intellects on the planet – but rather in the picking of the right ones. Then Italy has many Pacellis, and at least an equal number of, shall we say, aspiring Bergoglios. Though I am sure even Bergoglio would not have been as bad had he been brought up in Italy, see below.

Italy also has traits eminently suited to the Church: the Anglo-Saxon oscillation between Puritanism and utter licence is foreign to them. Countless generation of dominant Catholicism have left them happily immune to the extremes. Never have I seen a bible-bashing street preacher in Italy, but the sense of sin is much more developed than in feminist England. Feminism, Vegetarianism, Environmentalism, animal rights activism, all these extreme “isms” are blessedly absent from Italy compared to most other Western Countries. These is the kind of people you want. Serene, solid-minded, lovers of (cough) God, Country and Family. Pick an Argentinian instead, and you might discover the man is a rotten fruit of Liberation Theology, an Italian in name only. And no, Italians aren't Puritans. But you don't need long to understand the Blessed Virgin looks at them with all their shortcomings and cannot but smile.

There is more. Italy is a country of people smart in ways foreigners not always see. Father Blake notices the small commercial premises where all the family is more or less – more often less – usefully employed; what he has not noticed is that this is the way the wise Italian parents keeps their children busy, teach them duty and responsibility, keep them away from the street and bad company, and keep an eye on them all the time; it may seem inefficient, but it isn't; particularly in places where there would be no other realistic opportunity of employment. Then, these parents will try to help the cousin, the future son-in-law, or the oldish uncle who has lost his job in the foundry. It's the way it works, at least in the healthy way. It can be worse than this, and it often is. But we must consider the constraints of the economic environment if we want to understand how it works.

More Italians, say I. And let them be very patriotic and a tad nationalist as a people (we are), and utterly persuaded of their own awesomeness as individuals (we are that, too: mamma has persuaded us of this from the cradle). You only have to pick the right Italians, and you can do no better.

As the (cough, again…) Duce said: a people of poets, saints, navigators and transvolators. Sure.

But a people of great saints, too, and great warriors who built huge empires, the Church not excluded. And a people with a great common sense, allergic to fanaticism, and with a great sensus catholicus.

More Italians!

But please choose them wisely.



Posted on August 20, 2014, in Catholicism, Conservative Catholicism, Traditional Catholicism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Lovely! Thank you for this very interesting insight into your country.

  2. Well I agree with you in all the virtues and I desagree with you with the defects. they (italians)are very honest, they never tray to appear saints, perfects,etc,, as all the northem do ((being horrible hipocrits after) They know very well human kind, and how and what humans are, and that is , If they are saints they really are and if not well they dont play to be one, as northen do specialy the English ones, awful hipocrits, germans are better. I am not italian not german, but I live in Italy

    • Thanks, E.
      I noticed in England a shocking propensity to self-aggrandising and self-promoting. Everyone seem to have his own chariteeee, and to help some “cause”. And the way they do it would be considered stupid AND offensive in Italy, and would have people laugh at them in their face. Actually, I do that here. Just in case they feel they are so good.
      I blame the loss of faith.

  3. To reveal He had a sense of humor, God created Italy.

  4. I love Italy and the Italian people; have been there many times. But please tell me why the Italian post office is comprised of 100% (or close) of the ‘other kind’ you mention? Is it a sort of postal mafia?

    • I’ve had different experiences exactly at the post offices.

    • Some time ago, I sent a large packet to a friend in Roma, surface, so it went via Genova of course. Somehow the carton top, marked in indelible ink, went missing (!) but Massimo trekked there, complete with ID + a printout of the unmistakably conclusive ebay images of these wares, and his winning moniker to prove ownership. Mattered not, he still had to slip 100 euronen across the desk… 🙂

  5. This is a most beautiful piece about the country and the people I love. Thank you.

  6. Sir Martin Gilbert, the eminent historian describes In his book “The Righteous” how Italians helped the Jews during the war to avoid capture and deportation to concentration camps by the Germans. Mussolini himself refused to deport the Jews while he was in power , to the rage and disgust of the likes of Goebels and Hitler. After Mussolini fell, the Germans took over the part of the country still under occupation and the Jews became vulnerable.The Vatican and Pius XII played a significant part in hiding Jews, a fact of history confirmed by Prof Gilbert but ignored by the bien pensant who find this item not in conformance with their agenda.

    • Yes, this piece of Italian history and the events both before and after that fateful 8 September 1943 are well-known to every educated Italian.
      It is also well known that on the same day the leggi razziali became law, the Government sent telegrams to all the Italians prefetture clelarly stating that the Government had no interest in the enforcement of the law.
      Thinking of which: to make a law and to say at the same time you want it not to be enforced is so, so very Italian… 😉

  7. Francesco Fraietta

    The tongue of modern day Rome is Italian. Perhaps Fr. Blake, Cardinal Pell, and the young South American Sister shouldn’t go to Italy. Obviously they can’t respect Italy’s language and traditions.

    It would never be tolerated to say that English, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and French are the curse of the Church.

  8. I well remember my late Nanna’s frequent ‘outburts’ of Italian wisdom. One of my favourites was the time she recounted to me and my younger brother, barely aged 7 and 6 respectively, what she would do to some rapist then in the news: “Chop it off!” (with suitable actions and all).
    We were staying with her at the time because, sadly, my parents were having “marital difficulties”, and she was not sparing in her condemnations as to their behaviour either. She was a real stalwart, I only wish I could remember those expletives she used in her more “eloquent” moments, they were priceless in their expressiveness – whether dismissive or condemnatory – and we were never in any doubt as to her feelings on a matter, or of the rightness of such.
    Despite being a mongrel, with Jewish and Irish ancestry besides, I have always been most proud of my Italian heritage and wear it as a real badge of honour.
    And anyway, Italian opera beats everything else hands down, while Montalbano is often the best thing on the BBC by miles (it pretty well illustrates your post, btw), and what a theme tune!

    • You will be surprised to know I have never read or seen anything of Montalbano.
      Since I left Italy I tend to avoid things which would leave me feeling miserable for not living there. Some things trigger it, other don’t. Montalbano and the immense popularity he got in Italy do. It is like making aware that they kept living their own Italian lives, whilst I am away.

  9. Francesco Fraietta

    Yes. Bad priests are the curse of the Church.

  10. My comment about the post office certainly was not about the clerical staff. I was referring to packages being stolen somewhere inside the postal system. As an example, a family I know in northeastern Italy, who are jewelers/goldsmiths, told me that every Monday they drive to the local airport and place all their packages with UPS, just as the plane is about to leave. This type of problem is very well known if you are shipping valuables into or out of Italy (as are month-long delays in Customs). Having met so many wonderful Italians — hardworking, efficient, charming, intelligent — I was wondering how the bad type seem to have a lock on jobs in areas like parcel and baggage handling? To me it is a terrible disappointment that Italy has the worst postal system of the civilized nations.

    • It’s news to me, Alison.
      I ship valuables to Italy in normal packets, never got any problem.
      What you describe is certainly the fruit of criminal energy of some sort, not the everyday of Italian services.

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