All of a Sudden the Catholic Church is "Powerful"

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Written on 1:43 AM by Jack B.

The Catholic Church has taken a beating in recent years (some of it well deserved). I remember that either Newsweek or Time had a headline in the midst of the worst of the Boston Scandal that went, "Can the Catholic Church Survive?". Well, obviously it has. But it doesn't have the moral authority or the power it once had. Just look at all the Canadian and American politicos who routinely not only disagree with the Church but seem to go out of their way to say so (i.e. Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, John Kerry, Mario Cuomo, etc.). So it was with surprise that I saw this AFP article, via The Curt Jester, that says: Low turnout in Italian fertility referendum after Church urges boycott. The line that caught my attention was the very first -

With less than one out of five Italians casting their ballot, Italy appeared set
to keep its tough assisted procreation law after the powerful Roman Catholic
Church
called for a boycott to scuttle the two-day referendum.


Which leads me to ask - since when is the Catholic Church "powerful" in Italy or any other European country outside of Poland? Haven't we been told over and over that the Church is basically meaningless and marginalized in secular Europe, even in Italy, where it couldn't overturn the abortion and divorce laws via similar referendums? Aren't we always told the Church is basically ignored by Catholics (especially in the West) when it comes to anything to do remotely to sex and sexual reproduction? Haven't we been told the Church is out of touch and must change its tune if it wants to influence society? Doesn't sound very "powerful" to me. Yet, now that the refrendum shows signs it is failing and that Italians (against everything we've been told in the past) are actually heeding Church calls to abstain from voting - it is "powerful". Ironic, no?

Of course if the refrendum passes and the law is changed to the media's satisfaction then the Church will have "blown its capital" and shown further signs of its irrelevance and we will be reading on how much of a political "loss" it is to Pope Benedict and the Church. Don't think so? Take a look at this via another wire service, UPI: Analysis: Italy birth referendum stirs debate -
Italians go to the polls this weekend to vote in a national referendum. No, it's not another vote on the European Union constitution, but it has created a political storm both in the conservative coalition of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and in the left-of-center opposition. It is also a test of the residual influence of the Catholic Church and its new pope in a country where it was once all powerful.

Go that? In one article it says the Catholic Church is "powerful" and thats why the vote is turning out the way it has so far. But in another it was "once" powerful. I really wish they would make up their minds. But I think the real truth is that the wire services (from which most US Vatican news sources comes from) are setting up for an either/or case with the Italian refrendum. I don't think they actually thought a few months ago that the Church's abstention policy would work. But now that it has a chance, if the vote fails they can blame the "powerful" Church and its mindless followers and if it succeeds its a triumph of progress over a "once all-powerful" Church. Either way the script is already written out ahead of time.

Another interesting thing is in the UPI article is the final passages with one laugh out-loud quote:
The Italian left is worried that the referendum has become a fight over the
church's influence in Italy. Piero Fassino, secretary of the Left Democrats said
Thursday, "There is maximum respect for the position of the Catholic Church, but
the duty of the state is not to abide by religious, philosophical, or ethical
beliefs. Its duty is to provide citizens with laws granting freedom of choice."
A positive vote "can make more children be born, and be born better, making it
safer for them and for the mother," Fassino said. "Thus from this point of view,
it is pro-life."
So let me get this straight. This guy, Signor Fassino, says the Left has "maximum respect for the Church" but at the same time says it should shut up and not speak out to its members. Thats not respect in my eyes. If Signor Fassino doesn't have the votes, that's his problem, not the Church. And wasn't the Italian Left behind most of the anti-clerical (i.e. anti-Catholic) laws in Italy from 1870 to the present? This "respect" must be a new thing. I also love how they claim to be "pro-life" when it suits them. It reminds me a little of some politicians (we all know who they are) who claim to be "pro-life" but who never met an aborted fetus, a death row inmate, or a disabled Terri Shiavo that they didn't think would be better off dead. One of the things I like about the Catholic Church as opposed to its critics is that when it says it's "pro-life" it actually is - in ALL cases. No picking and choosing what you like and discarding what you don't (something that sadly applies across the political divide in the US).

There's also a historical inaccuracy in the article. Can't the reporter be bothered to do homework in his expert "analysis"? -
But the political fireworks have overshadowed what many regard as the larger issue of the church's campaign. The Italian bishops have lost two previous major battles. They failed to block the introduction of divorce in the 1970s; and a decade later they were equally unsuccessful in halting the legalization of abortion. Their battle plan gives them two chances of success -- rejection of the four amendments, or cancellation of the referendum. But to get there the church will have encouraged Italians to fail to do their civic duty -- and that's a dangerous precedent.
It would set a "dangerous"(not very objective, is he?) precendent by encouraging Catholic not to vote? Whatever happened to Pius IX's Non Expedit, forbidding Italian Catholics to vote in Italian elections AT ALL and which lasted (with some modifications) from 1870 to World War I - a total of over 40 years! But all of a sudden NOW a "dangerous precedent" would be set? I can do more accurate "analysis" than that!

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