01-01-2006 - Traces, n.1
Secularity or Secularism

Caprara. “Undue Interference”? Not at All

He was once the secretary of Palmiro Togliatti, the leader of the Italian Communist Party. Now a convinced Catholic, Massimo Caprara speaks of fallen ideologies. “The Church is freedom”

edited by Luca Pesenti

For twenty years, he was Palmiro Togliatti’s secretary, member of parliament in four governments, journalist, and co-founder of the Italian Communist daily Il Manifesto. He eventually rediscovered the Church and the faith, in a journey he described in a book last year (Riscoprirsi uomo [Rediscovering Oneself ], published by Marietti). Child of an age in which Christianity was under siege, he is a privileged witness of an age, our age, in which it is still necessary to explain why there is still a great need for the Church.

In his book, Why the Church?, Fr. Giussani writes, “The Church’s function in history is that of a mother calling back her children to the reality of things. […] The Church indicates the attitude which constitutes the best condition for tackling human problems: its direct task is not to provide man with solutions to the problems he encounters on his way; its function in history is to educate man in the religious sense.” How do you interpret this indication in our age?
I believe that the Church is watching the course of events in Europe and in the world with concerned objectivity, legitimately raising alarms or simply expressing apprehension when doctrine and the faith suggest it, and the active presence of religious tradition demands it. Personally, I think that these interventions are part of the Church’s usual concern for the spiritual health of the nation and for its organic balance between worldliness and freedom. It’s a matter of vigilant support for man’s creative intelligence, solicitude for his humanity. By no means is it undue interference!

How has the role of the Church changed in the course of these past decades?

I think that the Church has strengthened its function, intervening in defense of experiences that cannot change with time, freeing itself from the defense of the temporal power typical of the nineteenth century, and taking up the role of peace builder, mediating in conflicts between nations and states. Wojtyla, in particular, was a great champion of peace, and contributed towards the overthrow of ideologies by continually appealing to reality, to truth, and to the dignity of all men. He was the greatest example of how battles can be won without wars, by acknowledging man as the center of life.

Are we now safe from ideologies?
The battle is anything but won. The ideologies today are the debris of failed ideologies, but they are more totalitarian, because they are apparently libertarian. This is why the Pope’s concern to defend life is the help he gives in combating the emptiness of ideology and its cultural predominance, as the Second Vatican Council pointed out forty years ago.

The totalitarianism of last century always tried to deny the Church freedom of expression, reducing it to silence. In your own experience, what is missing in a society when the Church is denied and violated?
When a society denies freedom of expression, the whole historical and social scene suffers and falls back, innocent victims suffer, and values and institutions proper to democracy and life are lost. The Church is freedom, as St. Ambrose wrote. Without it or against it there is no life; man becomes impotent against despair and loses all hope. In the Church, the homo viator finds his completeness, and in freedom the search for the better. When the Pope asks for more freedom, he asks it for everyone, not only for Christians.