Prodi Bows to Vatican Pressure
On February 19, 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 Italy’s Prime Minister Romano Prodi: 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, Prime Minister Prodi was closed-mouthed. His sole words to the press were that it went “well.”
Two days later, Prodi resigned his post.
Volatility in Italian politics is nothing new: The nation 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 Prodi’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 closed-door meeting at the Vatican occurred on a Monday. Prodi resigned on Wednesday the same week. By Thursday the press was predicting Prodi probably had the numbers to return to power once the president called for an election.
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.
Our news bureau combed the news wires during the day, and all remained silent on Prodi’s future…until Friday evening, European time.
That February 23, 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. It ran under the headline, “New Italian government would not require allies to support civil-union bill.”
“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 report said. “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.’”
Now that is 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 re-form 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 February 26, the most reliable news services were reporting the prospect of Prodi retaining the prime ministership, based on the 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).
Sure enough, following agreement to the 12-point program by Prodi’s coalition, Prodi won a confidence motion in both houses of parliament, ending the current crisis.
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!
Ever since becoming pope, Benedict has used politics as one of his tools to instill Christianity back into the heart of Europe. Just a couple of months into his reign, for example, the Vatican called for a boycott of a referendum to change Italy’s strict fertility laws. The boycott was successful in voiding the referendum. Most recently, Benedict xvi told politicians in a papal document released March 13 they must not vote for laws that go against the Catholic Church’s position. Catholic legislators must strenuously defend the church’s “non-negotiable values,” the pope stated. He said Catholic politicians must not vote for bills endorsing such issues as abortion and homosexual marriage, and also “called for Sunday to remain a day of rest” (ansa, March 13). It is lawmakers’ social responsibility to give “public testimony to their faith,” the pope stated.
This is about more than just blocking laws that promote immorality. The Catholic Church is seeking to unite Europe under the power of religion—the Catholic religion, and Catholic laws. The Bible prophesies that this powerful entity will yet gain the power to enforce the policies—including Sunday worship—it now calls upon Europeans to uphold.
For the past decade, we have consistently advised readers to watch Joseph Ratzinger, this present pope. His increasing political clout, most recently demonstrated in Italy, will soon extend across the whole European Union—and, indeed, the whole globe.