Ex-Italian President Scalfaro on the Lack of Christian Politicians

Sees a Need for Better Formation

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ROME, MAY 23, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The problem of Christians’ involvement in politics lies in their lack of formation, says former Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro.

Born in Novara in 1918, Scalfaro interrupted his career as a magistrate when he was elected to participate in the Constitutional Assembly, which wrote the present Italian Constitution after World War II.

Scalfaro has held many government posts since 1954, outstanding among which was his decisive contribution to uprooting terrorism in Italy when he was elected Minister of the Interior in 1983. He was president of Italy from 1992 to 1999.

In this interview with ZENIT, Scalfaro comments on the doctrinal note on «Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life,» published recently by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Q: Why are there so few well-formed Christians in politics?

Scalfaro: I will begin with an affirmation of principle. According to natural law, ratified by many constitutions, the task of educating and forming youths, children, is not a right of schoolteachers. They receive this right by «delegation.»

The right/duty of forming a citizen corresponds, in the first place, to the parents. How many parents are capable of giving this formation? From my point of view, very few.

When a young person is studying, his parents do everything possible to dissuade him from making political commitments. And when he begins to work, they say to him: «If you go into politics, you will get into problems. You will be fired from your work!»

The other entity that has the right/duty to form, by divine reason, is the Church. It has the right to form the Christian as an individual person, as a member of the family, as a man who works, studies, enjoys himself … as a man who participates in the community in which he has rights and duties.

The Church is fit to form, but does it do so? I permit myself to say that the Church has lacunas in this area. It has many lacunas.

Q: You have had a decisive role in the Italian Christian Democratic Party. Don’t you think that today there is also a need for an openly Christian party?

Scalfaro: At this time, how this is done doesn’t interest me. I am not interested in the fact that a Catholic confessional party should or should not be created.

What is of interest to me is that each Christian citizen live his condition of citizen as a Christian. This is what really interests me, as the Lord will not judge a people, but persons individually. And I will not be able to say: «As no one got involved, I didn’t get involved either.» What is important for the Lord is if I did my duty.

The great issue is for believers to understand that it is not enough to have healthy ideas. It is not enough to say that the Gospel is valid for all times. In 2,000 years, not one of its words has grown old. The Gospel is valid for all persons and for all peoples. It is valid for states and governments. It is valid for international organizations.

It is not possible to believe and not make use of it. We cannot say, It’s of no use to me, as today it is inapplicable. The Gospel has the capacity to resolve international or national problems of all types. The issue today is to begin again with patience to show through catechesis that there is a problem of formation.

Is there a Christian way of being a doctor, lawyer, farmer, chauffeur? If there is a Christian way of exercising a profession, is there not also a Christian way of engaging in politics. If there isn’t, then let’s call it a day and go. And if it is so, will we remain staring with our arms crossed and pray? No, it’s not enough. It is certainly indispensable to pray, but it’s not enough, when there is a possibility to do something.

Q: The document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explains that there is a certain laicism in public life, namely, in politics; it is the laity that must make the decisions, not the pastors, their bishops. What has been your experience?

Scalfaro: A bishop cannot tell a surgeon how to operate. He cannot tell a lawyer how to exercise his profession. At the Catholic university, we were taught professional ethics. Then, each individual does his work: lawyers, psychologists, etc. We have been given a measure. It is up to us to take the measurements of each thing, each day, always carrying the measuring tape in our pockets.

It is important, of course, to meet people who exercise their profession as Christians, who become examples, people who show us by their lives that they believe.

What is important, therefore, is to prepare the Christian to be a Christian, remembering that the grace of God exists, and that all we need to do is to receive it. And, as if it were not enough, a curious miracle happens, as God responds to all our needs, as love is not the offspring of logic, and neither is the love of God the offspring of reason.

God, then, who on his own is more than sufficient for each one of us, has also given us his Mother. It isn’t logical, but such is the logic of the love of God.

Q: Can Christ be a model for politicians today?

Scalfaro: The Church has always used terminology that I don’t like. It does not speak of Christ’s «political» life but of his «public» life. It’s the same thing, but I would prefer if it spoke of his political life.

Why did Christ die? I often wonder: if Christ had spoken of the resurrection, which many did not accept, would they have killed him? Why did they kill him? Because he said: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!» Seven times.

The scribes and Pharisees were the ones who ruled. He attacked the world that ruled. And with what words! «Whitewashed tombs.» I would not like to be called a whitewashed tomb. «Serpents, brood of vipers!» Words of incredible force. Another passage is that of the merchants expelled from the temple. He was killed because of this political life.

In order to understand it, we can also look at the example of Mary. Mary followed Christ throughout his public life. Who was next to the cross? Mary. «Stabat» [she was standing], John’s Gospel says. It is one of the strongest political terms.

In reality, he speaks in the plural, as there were several women there. But this «stabat» is overwhelming, as it shows how in life — and, perhaps, in a particular way, in political life — there are times in which each one must stand next to the cross.

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