From 1958 to 1970 Wladimiro Dorigo, my father, directed a political and cultural magazine called "Questitalia" ("This italy"), where emerging political issues were discussed, and the ongoing transformations of Italian society were dissected by a distinguished group of intellectuals. I own a copy of all the 150 issues of that publication, and every once in a while I pick one of them out of the lot at random, and learn what Italy was 40 or 50 years ago.

I  often find myself amazed at realizing that despite the incredible evolution of our society and of the world during this frenetic fin de siecle, some things have not changed by an inch. One of them is the issue of the Vatican's meddling  in Italian society and its continuous steering of the political agenda.

In 1965 a law was proposed by Loris Fortuna (socialist party) to allow a consensual divorce between husband and wife. This caused an unprecedented battle at all levels of Italian society, which culminated in 1970 (and straggled on further). In December of that year the law finally was approved, despite the opposition of Vatican-directed Democrazia Cristiana, the leading Italian party.

In the meantime, the same forces which had worked against the divorce law managed to pass a law which disciplined the application of the institution of the referendum, an instrument by which the people could abrogate a law passed by the parliament. The referendum was used to try and cancel the law Fortuna-Baslini in May 1974, when the attempt was defeated with a 60%-40% majority: a huge victory of the progressist, democratic forces of my country.

The article I read this evening was written by my father in March 1970. It discusses the contortions of the Vatican to try to stop the Fortuna law, and the mechanisms -still active in Italy today- by which the Vatican steers the opinion of voters and blackmails its political referees. I thought it was a good idea to translate a few passages of the article for those of you as interested as I am in the recent history of Italy. Please find them below (needless to say, I am totally responsible for the bad translation, of which I apologize in advance). For Italians, the full text of the article is here.

From "Questitalia", Venezia, March 1970, issue 144, p.1: "The integrism of the seventies", W.Dorigo:

If the clerical continuum has never ceased in the past years in the Italian society, we had not seen for a long time an integristic spurt of such complexity and gravity, like the one which, in the midst of the most laboured political and government crisis of post-war years, has submerged all other social, economical, and political Italian issues -and God knows there are a few!- under the blanket of the most specific and characterizing moral and political mystification which our society is feeding.

[...] In a picture which could not be more bleak and critical for the catholic Church throughout the world, afflicted as it is from the crisis of the hierarchical authority, from the challenge of sacerdotal discipline, from the fall of sexual moral, from the shattering of the institutional structure and the giving in of cultural, psycho-sociological and linguistic presuppositions of faith, the ecclesiastic leaders of that beatified enclave of a remote past inside a saeculum which burst irresistibly which is Italy cannot find anything better, to save the "collapsing house", than recur to diplomatic quibbles to retain a domination in partibus infidelium, and to the patented blackmailing on the "social heading" to drive to reason the rebel colonels of his own army of volunteers.

[...] The facts are known. On one side, an impressive series of Vatican interventions -official but secret, unofficial but patent, reserved and direct ad personam, public and intentional coram populo- have scanned with articulated unscrupulousness the development of the crisis of government to try and gain from them the specific anti-divorce bid inside the concordatary cage and to also gain no mean political waste from the muddle caused within the unsteady equilibrium of the democristian currents; on the other the ultimatum to the ACLI of the president of CEI, not well served by the clumsy resurrections of clerical and right-wing minorities of the movement, has shown once more, whether necessary or not, how ecclesiastic politics has not yet abandoned the classical parallel bars which represent its idea and its praxis: a beyond-Tevere diplomatic line, and a socio-political line from the inside of society, be it civil or religious.

[...]In his brief statements Paolo VI did not fear, therefore, to rewrite history ad usum delphini with respect to the responsibilities of the 1870 conflict and the secular "rights" of the pope on the "pontifical States" (we are close, therefore, to start discussing on "Constantine's donation"!) and about the situation -sufficient and safe- which Mussolini allegedly yielded with the pacts in 1929 (and one could see, for whomever was not in bad faith, with the facts of 1931, and the racial laws of 1938: here is a vulnus to art.34 which the Vatican forgot very soon!); and did not fear to reiterate personally what his press had put in the mouth of democristians since the start of the issue with the Fortuna law [...] about the incompatibility between it and art.34 of the Agreement, coming actually to a frankly incredible excess: because one cannot really understand how a pope may distort a divorce law, which aims at breaking up marriages already destroyed, into an attack, a wound knowingly inflicted to the idea of a Christian life, and even as a disuniting act of family and of the love of whom one loves!

[...]In the March 7th issue of the cited magazine [La Civiltà Cattolica -TN] p.Sorge, after enjoying to recognize that the diplomatic note and the speech of February 11th had finally awoken the public opinion from the "torpor" and from "resignation" with respect to the problem, rising up "a profound echo, causing rumours in the political world", "while the parties where trying with effort to give new life to a government..." etc. etc., repeated the known little lesson, not omitting some insisting schematizations which appear involuntarily comical (the "sacrament-marriage" is ruled by a "civil discipline", "already established in art.34 of the Agreement", which has "solemn nature of international treaty": thus, we are about to inflict a "vulnus" to a sacrament by the violation of a international treaty! Medieval theology had not ventured to guarantee sacraments with international laws and treatises: one needed p.Sorge for that), to get to a few alternatives: 1) let us stop the law, waiting to discuss in a proper diplomatic venue the revision of the Agreement; 1b) let us proceed with the law, but omitting art.2, relative to divorce of a concordatary marriage; 2) let us modify art.2, safeguarding the indissolubility of concordatary marriage; 3) let us apply to the law the procedure of constitutional law. A quick glance was sufficient, to realize that all the four proposals were converging on a single point: suspend (1), or start back from scratch the iter of the law (1b and 2), or even double its length (3). In any case, was the conclusion of the learned Jesuit, "DC would be left with leaving the problem to the sovereign decision of the people, by means of the referendum expressly foreseen by the procedure of constitutional revision", or: "DC cannot abstain from using any legitimate means (use of abrogative referendum) in defence of concordatary marriage, without causing disturbance and distrust in its electoral basis". Forlani and his peer were advised.

[...]In this big political battle raging in Italy on integristic issues, the Vatican has probably realized a single element of truth of the complex problem of the religious institution (in its doctrinal, social, institutional, and diplomatic sides) that has suddenly grown beyond all bounds in front of it [...] The Vatican understands, even belatedly, that the strategy of a "revived restoration" is not only lost and impossible, but most of all the epochal settling of the religious institution is ineluctably over, such that, in this process of true "end of antiquity" in which we are today [...], the passage from the "theistic" setup to the "atheistic" setup of the world seems to be unforgiving, totalizing, and "in fine velociter".[...]

The leaders beyond the Tevere reason that, if every day a point is lost, it is better to try and sanction institutionally today what would be certainly lost tomorrow. Do they also value, on the other hand, that today's demonstrations of intolerance and restlessness cannot but speed up that process, while every formal victory of today would be certainly destined to a quick wear and nearby overturning ? Are really the Vatican men unable to escape from their modest accountancy ?

In itself, the event is of tragic size. But since it is not anything else than a part (and not even the most important, nor the most lamenting) of the transformation crisis of the world, it appears to our eyes [...] marginal, disturbing, inadmissible. [...] Therefore, one must say no, and ripen however possible the scandal of believers, the contradiction of integrism, the dissolution of the party and institutional power structures which bear the crisis of the Italian society preventing -not alone- its radical transformation.

It is maybe not a coincidence the fact, which I have often mentioned in my posts, that I believe the uncompromising behavior of the Vatican today is the source of its progressive disconnection to the civil society, its isolation, and it ultimately will be the cause of its final defeat in the political battle that the Catholic church has chosen to fight in Italy since tempus immemorabilis. Even without having read my father's pieces on the matter, I must have absorbed his creed somehow. I now regret not having had a chance to discuss these issues much with him before his death, three years ago...  However, he left me a huge legacy: hundreds of books and articles, which it will take a lifetime to digest.