|Benedict XVI greeting Marcello Pera|
Marcello Pera is an influential intellectual in Italy. A former president of the Italian Senate, he is a close friend of Benedict XVI, and even co-authored a book of lectures with him on the decay of the West (Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam)
In an interview with Naples newspaper Il Mattino, published on July 9, 2017, Marcello Pera presented what can reasonably be called the general view of Pope Francis by the wide moderate spectrum of Italians, and Europeans, of all classes.
"Bergoglio just wants to do politics, the Gospel does not matter at all"
Pera: "The indiscriminate welcoming [of migrants] risks exploding tensions"
Naples, July 9, 2017
Interview by Corrado Ocone
Pope Francis, in a new exclusive interview granted to Eugenio Scalfari for "Repubblica" intervenes in the political debate with strong and explosive opinions that at one time would be considered "leftist". This time, the Pontiff turned to the great of the earth assembled in Hamburg for the G20, opposing as a matter of principle to every policy intending to control and limit mass immigration from poor nations to Europe. In order to better understand the ideas, and above all the political and media action of the Pope, in relation to those of his predecessor, we have posed some questions to the former President of the Senate Marcello Pera. He, a [classical] liberal and Catholic, has, as it is known, shared many ideas with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (even writing in four hands with him a book: Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam, Mondadori, 2004).
Mr. President, what is the judgment you have reached regarding the continuous calls made by Pope Bergoglio on the welcoming of migrants? An indiscriminate, unconditional, total welcoming?
"Frankly, I do not get this pope, whatever he says is beyond any rational understanding. It's evident to all that an indiscriminate welcoming is not possible: there is a critical point that cannot be reached. If the Pope does not make reference to this critical point, if he insists in a massive and total welcoming, I ask myself: why does he say it? What is the true end of his words? Why does he lack a minimum of realism, that very little that is requested of anyone? The answer I can give myself is only one: the Pope does it because he hates the West, he aspires to destroy it, and he does all he can to reach this end. As he aspires to destroy the Christian tradition, Christianity as it has realized itself historically.
"If one does take into consideration the critical threshold above which our societies cannot welcome anyone else, and not even assure them that minimal dignity that is owed to every man, we will soon watch a veritable invasion that will submerge us and that will put in crisis our customs, our liberty, Christianity itself. There will be a reaction, and a war. How does the Pope not understand this? And on which side will he be once this civil war breaks out?"
Don't you think that also the Gospel is related to this, the preaching of Christ? The ethics of the Pope are not perhaps of absolute, abstract, conviction that do not take the consequences into consideration?
"No, absolutely not. Just as there are no rational motivations for it, there aren't evangelical motivations either to explain what the Pope says. After all, this is a Pope who, from the very day of his election, just does politics. He looks for easy applause playing the part, at times, of Secretary-General of the UN, at times of Head of Government, at times as a union leader when he intervenes in the contract arrangements of a corporation such as Mediaset. And his vision is the South American one of the Peronist Justicialismo, that has nothing to do with the Western tradition of political liberty with its Christian origin. The Pope's Christianity is of a different nature. And it is a political Christianity, integrally."
This does not seem, however, to provoke the uprising of secularists, who were in permanent and effective duty in the previous pontificates?
"In Italy, conformism is total. This is a Pope who is appreciated by the informed public opinion, who corresponds to certain basic urges of theirs, and who are ready to applaud him even when he says nonsense."
In a passage of the Scalfari interview, after having made an appeal to Europe, he fears "very dangerous alliances" against the migrants by, "powers that have a distorted view of the world: America and Russia, China and North Korea." Is it not at least bizarre to group together an old democracy like America and countries that are strongly authoritarian, and even directly totalitarian?
"It is, but I'm not surprised in light of what I'd said before. The Pope reflects all the prejudices of the South American regarding North America, markets, freedom, capitalism. It would be like this even if Obama had remained American president, but there is no doubt that these ideas by the Pope are welded together, in a dangerous mix, with the anti-Trump sentiment spread throughout Europe."
Mr. President, I will insist a little on this "doing politics" of this Pope. Is it truly a novelty relative to the past?
"Surely. Bergoglio is little or not at all interested in Christianity as doctrine, in the theological aspect. And this is a novelty, without a doubt. This Pope has taken hold of Christianity and has turned it into politics. His affirmations are apparently based in Scripture, but in reality are strongly Secularist. Bergoglio is not concerned with the salvation of souls, but only with social welfare and security. And this is a preliminary fact. If we then move on to the merit of the things that he says, we cannot but see with concern that his affirmations risk unleashing a political crisis and a religious crisis in an uncontrollable way. From the first [political] point of view, he suggests our States commit suicide, he invites Europe to not be herself anymore. From the second [religious] point of view, I cannot but observe that a hidden schism is underway in the Catholic world, and that this is pursued by Bergoglio, with obstinacy and determination, and by his allies, even with wickedness."
Why is all this happening? Isn't it all deeply irrational?
"No, it isn't. I would even say that the Vatican II Council has finally exploded in all its revolutionary and subversive radicalness. They are ideas that lead to the suicide of the Catholic Church, but they are ideas that were already supported and justified at that time and in that occasion. It is forgotten that the Council preceded in time the student revolution, the sexual one, that of mores and of modes of living. It anticipated them and, in some way, it provoked them. The aggiornamento of Christianity secularized the Church strongly then, it triggered a change that was very deep, even if it, which risked leading to a schism, was controlled and kept at bay in the following years. Paul VI supported it [the Council], but in the end became its victim. The two very great Popes who followed him [John Paul II and Benedict XVI] were perfectly aware of the consequences that had been triggered, but tried to contain and govern it. They assumed a tragic vision of reality, they resisted, they tried to bridge what is new with Tradition. They did it in a sublime way. They had made reverse course; but now those reins are unraveled: society, and not salvation, the Augustinian earthly city, and not that divine one, seem to be the reference point of the ruling ecclesiastical hierarchy. The rights of man, all and without exclusions, have become the ideal and the compass for the Church, while there is almost no room left for the rights of God and of Tradition. At least apparently. Bergoglio feels himself to be and lives completely liberated regarding the latter."
Why do you say "apparently"?
"Because, behind the showcase and the applause, not all that shines is golden. Applause in Saint Peter's Square is not all there is. I, who live in the countryside, realize that a portion of the clergy, above all and surprisingly the younger ones, remain stupefied and baffled by certain affirmations of the Pope. Not to mention so many ordinary people who already today live with the safety issues that migrants create in our outskirts, and who are irritated when they hear talk of unconditional welcoming. The older clergy, the middle-aged ones, are more on the side of Bergoglio: either due to conformism, or to opportunism, or due to conviction (having grown also in that same cultural climate of the Seventies that is at the origin of certain choices). Precisely due to this, I speak of a deep and latent schism. With which the Pope does not seem to be concerned."
What do you think in general of the control of migratory flows and of the insensitivity of Europe towards Italy?
"Our Country is alone, dramatically alone. It's dangerous. This worries me. We're alone because other countries follow above all their national interests. Behind the pretty words of facade, they do not worry much about us. And we're alone because the Church invites us to open wide the doors, she seems almost to enjoy our feebleness. I fear a brutal reaction. I fear that the protest of the people may curdle and reach a non-desirable outcome. It's not a matter of Right and Left in this case. Also, I think that the Pope's contradictions will soon be seen in broad daylight: he's not in sync with his faithful anymore. An alliance between conservative Catholics and nationalist forces, so to speak, is highly probable."
How to come out of the crisis? What do you hope for?
"I hope for a Pope who will take into his hands the Cross of the West, of its values. Who does not dream of an impoverished West. And, in Italy, I hope for a political class and a public opinion that bring back to the center of public discourse the issues of identity, of national feeling, of tradition. However, I'm always more pessimistic. And I take ever more pills in order to be calm."
* Only one non-Church related question and answer here on former Italian Prime-Minister Renzi.
[Translated by Rorate Caeli.]