Catholics and the betrayal of a pro-European Italy

Whoever wished to pass judgement on Alcide De Gasperi’s policy as a dated product of its time, that person could not fail to acknowledge the fact that De Gasperi’s foreign policy remains unmatched. The limits of Brussels’ Europe are evident, but all great foreign policies – in the past and present alike – are rooted in solid historical grounds. And United Europe is one of them. Ignoring its history is unacceptable, just as unacceptable are those Catholics who are ignorant about their faith. On certain issues betraying the former means betraying the latter

Our future in Europe risks being compromised by a set of wrong assumptions made by the Government, which not only isolate us from the rest of Europe but also isolate Italy from its own historical past. Italy did not become one of the founding countries of the European Union by chance. The European project brought together deep-rooted visions projected towards the future that are typically Christian. Rare are those moments when faith and politics proceed at the same pace. One of those moments was when De Gasperi conceived a Europe of peace, prosperity and fraternity between its peoples after centuries of nationalisms and fratricidal wars. De Gasperi heralded Italy’s national reconstruction and foreign policy in the years 1946 – 1954, leaving an indelible mark not only in Italian history but also in political Catholicism. Breaking the bond that ties De Gasperi’s policy with our foreign affairs policies means betraying a historical course that involves not only Catholics but the Country as a whole.

If we should fail to make a dignified return into the European fold we would be committing a mistake which would not only cost us a great deal, it would also transform our political DNA.

As the CEI President said past November 12, “if Italy denies its history as well as its civil and democratic values, there will be no bonus Italy there to replace it. If accounts are wrong there is no bonus bank there to save us.” Political life has its own logic, and every majority has the right to democratically enforce its programme, but this should be done in the interest of the Country and of the international community alike, as enshrined in Art. 11 of the Italian Constitution. The Parliament and the Country have the experience to know that today’s Europe, marked by widespread tensions, can’t afford to endure such rash challenges to its set of regulations, which see Italy amongst its signatories. The going gets tough not against Italy, but because the European Union and Euro zone Countries are struggling for their own survival. Germany’s government majority is weak, Macron in France no longer enjoys the consensus he once had, the British are headed to leave the EU, many East European Countries are restless, the United States’ foreign policy poses a threat to European unity while Russia seeks to exploit our internal rifts.

All European Countries, including the greatest opponents of Community policies, are united in their isolation of Italy.

But without friends there is no moving forward. And the problem is not confined to national debt or to austerity measures: in politics betraying friends is a great moral hazard. Alcide De Gasperi’s political life spanned the first half of the twentieth century. He witnessed the folly of two World Wars and European diplomacies’ indulgence towards Fascism. His decision to join the Atlantic alliance and his relentless engagement to establish the pillars of a united Europe were not motivated by narrow-minded interests, nor by electoral gains. In one of his most heartfelt speeches, “The moral grounds of democracy”, delivered in Brussels in 1948, De Gasperi highlighted the love for civil society and its bond to the religious and political realms. For democracy to become an act of conscience it had to include the love that “in society is called solidarity, which requires a spirit of service, at the service of the community.” Accordingly, love is “the driving force” of democracy, the cornerstone of that very concrete philosophy, which, assimilated by the people, was tasked with holding the reins of the Country, and without which democracy would be stalled.
Love incorporated the origins of democratic aspiration “rooted in the Gospel”, which permeated a large part of modern political history, to the point of shaping the watchwords – liberté, égalité, fraternité- of the most important of all revolutions in modern history.

This Italian statesman died in 1954 with the sadness of seeing the rejection of  a common security project, most of which has been completed today. So why should the European project be called into question? Whoever wished to pass judgement on Alcide De Gasperi’s policy as a dated product of its time, that person could not fail to acknowledge the fact that De Gasperi’s foreign policy remains unmatched. The limits of Brussels’ Europe are evident, but all great foreign policies – in the past and present alike – are rooted in solid historical grounds. And United Europe is one of them. Ignoring its history is unacceptable, just as unacceptable are those Catholics who are ignorant about their faith. On certain issues betraying the former means betraying the latter.

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