Synods, Politics, And The Catenaccio.
Firstly, let me say that out of the last four wars, Italy has lost only one. And the one it has lost, it has lost because the US were on the other side. Like, well, pretty much everyone else. I will also notice, en passant, that the great Erwin Rommel absolutely loved Italian soldiery.
Having extracted this little pebble from my patriotic shoe, I will move to the important part of this blog post: politics.
I know, I know: there should be no compromise in the fight against heresy. But if we do not understand how politics works, of course we do not understand what is happening.
Out of 40 years of experience I can tell you that the Vatican politics is very, very Italian. Not, mind, XXI-Century Italian. Rather, it is very much XX Century Italian, Democrazia Cristiana-style. This kind of politics was difficult to understand for an Anglosaxon or a German, which is why neither ever understood how it worked.
This kind of politics had no harsh confrontations. No big proclamations of victory, defeat, joy, or disappointment. It was based on the principle that – in a world dominated by long-term professional politics – all the actors would have to live together for a long time, and would therefore never cross certain invisible boundaries, certain unwritten but very real rules of behaviour. In this world, the winner never humiliated the loser, and actualky he would never run the risks of pushing big – the precondition for winning big – in the first place. Victories could be clear, but they were hushed, and never total. Defeats could be clear, but they were never humiliating, and never total, too. The knives were never out. A great contrast with, say, even the Italian political landscape that came later, starting from the Nineties.
The Vatican works – like it or not – like the Democrazia Cristiana. All actors want to be there – like it or not – for the long term. Their way of winning and losing is – like it or not – different from yours. It has no proclaims, no great announcements. It is an internal matter as much as a public one. Everyone knows what has happened, and this is enough for them. They will say it. They won't shout it. The texts will state what is what. But they will never go full gas in one direction or another. Those politicians will also not seek the destruction of the enemy, because they fear consequences for themselves. But they will go for the victory on the point anyway. They will still draw a line you can't cross. But they won't go for your jugular. Not even if you are a Communist. I never liked the system. But I was also never blind to it.
Today's earthly Church, my friends, isn't Sparta. This is a black, red and purple Democrazia Cristiana, at all levels; and the head of the party is on the wrong side.
Foreigners don't get this. They don't get the Italian corridors. They don't even get when Italians – or people who think like them – are being smart. For decades, they thought Italy – the most stabile political system in Western Europe for 50 years – was an unstable country because of mere exteriors to which Italians did not gave any big importance, like the well-known fact that Italy often changed its Primo Ministro. Fools. They measured the Italian Metric system with their Imperial tools, and were surprised they did not get anywhere.
The very same is happening now. Those who got – or lived – a system akin to the Democrazia Cristiana and the soft Italian politics of the time immediately “get” what has happened, because they know how the system works. They know who has won. They know how they have won. They know that the losers very well know who has won. They know that there will be no steamrollers, and no parades. Remember, the enemy is in charge of the party, and the party grandees are no heroes at all. They are in for the long term.
The others are, it seems to me, struggling to understand. Like Germans after the football match, they will complain that the victory wasn't a sonorous 3-0. They do not get that at the Synod, the players got together and decided that it would be a 1-0 victory, limited but clear enough, and all three points for them; but no 3-0 or 4-0, because the manager sides with the other team, and they do not want to lose their contract. Like it or not, this is the way it works in the age of V II. This Church has no Spartans. I thank God she still has, at least, smart Democristiani. Democristiani, by the way, can, if push comes to shove, screw you all right anyway. But they will use a lot of Vaseline, and will say to the press it was just a suppository, inserted in full harmony with your wishes, and in a spirit of collaboration and fraternal mutual help.
Now don't get me wrong. I understand what has happened, but I do not approve of it. To remain by the football metaphor, I think heresy should be dealt with in the same way as Germany dealt with Brazil, pounding at them to the point of complete humiliation and annihilation.
At the same time, I do not live in a fantasy world. I must understand how these things work if I want to understand what is happening. Most certainly I cannot call the outcome of the Synod a defeat purely because the roaring anti-heretical wording was missing.
It wasn't a defeat. It was a victory. It was even a clear victory. It even took away all the crap of the Instrumentum Laboris. What it wasn't, was the 3-0 or, which would have been ideal, the 7-1. The Synod reminds me of the old Italian catenaccio: ugly to look at, more than vaguely cowardly, universally despised. And very, very effective.
Stuff the beautiful game. Bring home the victory. That's all that counts.
But please understand that we live in V II times. Do not pretend to think that Pius X is Pope. A heretic is Pope. This isn't the First Crusade. This is the Democrazia Cristiana. It will not turn into Sparta overnight. But it isn't the Communist Party, either.
You may – and I most certainly do – criticise the weakness of this soft approach, and say that heresy does not deserve this soft approach. You may – and I most certainly do – point out to the dangers of such a policy, which leaves the heretics defeated, but still strong and still dangerous. Heavens, how long will the Evil Clown live? How many Cardinal and Bishops will he appoint? By all means, decry all this!
But what you cannot do is to transform this victory in a perceived defeat, thus contributing to its transformation in a real defeat, just because you are not happy with what has happened.
A scant, dirty, 1-0 victory.
After a lot of ugly play, and shameless catenaccio.
And the three points home.