I was born and raised in Italy. In those years, Catholicism was the “Official Religion of the State” and this was anchored in the Italian Constitution. A Crucifix adorned every classroom. This was, besides its obvious religious significance, a most natural cultural factor. The mere idea of questioning its presence would have seemed bizarre in the extreme.
Then came the (disgraceful) “Revision of the Concordate”. Catholicism was not the Official Religion of the State anymore, but the State recognised the “cultural role” played by the Church in Italy’s life. The Crucifix remained on the school walls, but in “superior schools” at the beginning of the year the teachers had to ask whether there was opposition to it. In my school of twenty classes, opposition never came.
Mind you, this was not because of the absence of atheists (sometimes rather vocal ones; Communists were, after all, still around), but because even the Communists and Atheists would have been ashamed of asking for the removal of something so naturally part of the country’s cultural backbone. It would have been a bit like declaring pasta “fascist” and in those years even the Communists possessed the basic decency to respect commonly and widely spread religious feelings. In short: even those who insisted in being wrong took care not to appear stupid.
There might have been exceptions. I am sure they weren’t many.
Not anymore, you might say, but you’d be wrong. The support for the Crucifix is still widely spread within the Italian society. The biggest party of the Centre-Right coalition (yes, that one!) and the biggest party of the Centre-Left coalition (yes, the one with the ex-Communists in it!) are both in favour. So are many of the smaller parties. So is, in his overwhelming majority, the Country. The Crucifix, some years ago challenged by a Muslim father because – hear this – it “scared his child” was even upheld by the Italian Constitutional Court.
All right, then? Well, er, no. A not-so-well-known organ called Europe’s Human Rights Court (constituted by an even-less-known supranational organisation called Council of Europe, nothing to do with the EU by the way) has decided that the Crucifix has to go. What the tradition, the people, the political parties and the judicial system of the country all consider right is actually, we are informed, wrong.
The Italian government has now presented an appeal, together with another dozen or so countries. Even if they should lose the appeal, I do not doubt that as long as the Centre-Right coalition is in power they will do whatever they please for as long as they please. Italian governments have this down to a fine art and the Italian electorate – always fond of the “furbi” – would like it a lot. I can’t imagine that they would just give up. They might even be hoping to lose the appeal and reap a rich harvest with the opposition to it, but that’s just me.
Still, I must reflect on a couple of things (three, actually):
1) this is what happens when a government consents to participate to feel-good initiatives only meant to create jobs and to show some humanitarian activism. Italy is no Zimbabwe. No, really. It knows a thing or two about human rights, democracy, and Crucifixes. Yes, even the actual Prime Minister 😉
2) I am fed up (as many of you I am sure are) with delegation of Sovereign Powers (at least nominally) to supranational organisations. If you ask me, it means to put your cultural patrimony at the mercy of a bunch of feminists (of whatever sex) and atheists largely of other countries. You don’t want that.
3) This must be reversed. Italy must (as every other European country) proudly re-claim the *right to decide for itself* in matters like this. It can’t be that a bunch of judges start to remould the cultural fabric of an entire Country against the will of its Parliament, Judiciary and people.
If we don’t wake up, we’ll all end up in the hands of a bunch of social nannies playing God at our expense.