Prodi Bows to Papal Pressure
On February 19, Italy’s Prime Minister Romano Prodi, President of Italy Giorgio Napolitano, and a number of senior Italian government officials, met at the Vatican for a closed-door session with some of the pope’s senior advisers. The topic under discussion was a burning issue on which Pope Benedict xvi had publicly declared his stance at extreme odds with Prodi’s government: the matter of state recognition of unwed and homosexual couples.
In numerous public declarations, both the pope and senior Vatican sources had declared vehement opposition to the Prodi government’s attempt to ram legislation through the Italian parliament that would allow for the official recognition by the government of such civil unions. If passed, this legislation would allow for those involved in such unions to receive certain government benefits currently available only to those engaged in the traditional institution of marriage between man and woman as endorsed by the church.
Upon emerging from the in-camera session at the Vatican last Monday, Prime Minister Prodi was closed-mouthed. His sole words to the press were that it went “well.”
Two days later, Prodi resigned his post.
We have grown used to the volatility of Italian politics, which has seen more prime ministers come and go than there are years since the end of World War ii. However, both the timing of and the circumstances surrounding Prod’s surprise resignation bear a closer look.
As reported to the public, Prodi resigned as a result of his coalition government failing to raise a sufficient majority to pass a vote on Italy’s involvement in the nato-led force involved in Afghanistan. Yet the publicized reason for his resignation simply does not stand up to closer scrutiny. Consider the following sequence of events.
Prodi’s and the Italian president’s closed-door meeting at the Vatican occurred on Monday. Prodi resigned on Wednesday. By Thursday the press was predicting Prodi probably had the numbers to return to power once the president called for an election. Other sources alluded to the possibility of the previous prime minister, opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi, having a stab again at regaining the post.
That night, a leading EU news source predicted that Prodi was set to regain office. Friday morning that story was pulled. The press then went silent on the Prodi issue.
We combed the news wires during the day and all remained silent on Prodi’s future … until Friday evening, European time.
About 10.30 p.m. cet, Catholic World News (cwn) released a story that seemed to tell it all. It was tucked away in the midst of the normal sheaf of news that cwn releases regularly in doing its usually admirable job of keeping its subscribers aware of the latest happenings at the Vatican.
The CWNews.com news release ran under the headline, “New Italian government would not require allies to support civil-union bill.” It reported, “Romano Prodi—struggling to forge a new ruling coalition in the Italian parliament after a key foreign-policy loss prompted his resignation as prime minister—has drafted an agreement that will not require his coalition allies to support civil unions. … The 12-point agreement seemed likely to draw enough support to return Prodi to the parliamentary leadership post. Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema, a Prodi ally, told reporters that the coalition ‘can continue on this basis’” (February 23).
Now that we find intriguing!
The foreign minister made no reference to the Afghanistan issue, which is what was originally touted as the reason for Prodi’s resignation! The main issue highlighted in this statement, alluding to the prospect of the Prodi coalition being able to come together to reform a government, was the removal of the requirement to push the civil-union bill through parliament in opposition to the pope’s powerful stand against it!
On Monday, the most reliable news services were reporting the prospect of Prodi retaining the prime ministership, based on acceptance by his coalition partners of the 12-point program, the highlight of which was not the Afghanistan issue, but Prodi’s changed stance on civil-unions! “To lure support from moderates, Prodi watered down a 208-page program crafted during his April election campaign. The revised version is a 12-point list that drops legislation that authorizes same-sex unions, a measure opposed by some Catholics in the coalition” (Bloomberg.com, February 26).
So who rules now in Italy?
It would seem that this victory for the papacy has significantly strengthened not only the Roman Catholic vote in the Italian parliament, but especially Pope Benedict’s own political authority and hence that of the Vatican State. It is a notable victory for the pope in his aggressive endeavors to claim the moral high ground for the Vatican in its quest to turn the whole of Europe away from the influence of secularism, back to that which he calls “Europe’s traditional roots”: its Roman Catholic roots!
As we have constantly said for the past decade, watch Joseph Ratzinger, this present pope. Watch for the increasing political clout being exerted by Pope Benedict xvi, most recently demonstrated in Italy, to soon extend across the whole European Union. Indeed, watch for Benedict’s political and religious influence to grow to such an extent as to eventually be felt across the whole globe.