There was a fascinating post by Andrea Gagliarducci on Monday Vatican this morning that delves into the contentious subject of the Baptism of a little Jewish boy by the Christian maid when the child was in danger of death. Gagliarducci ties his story into the real problem, “the cancer of anti-Catholic propaganda [that] has seeped into the Church” today.
Marginalized, sidelined from history, increasingly made to play a part which is not that of the main character – as secularization increasingly envelopes the Church from the inside, attacks against the Church are coming more frequently from the outside, from the cultural world, following a campaign that began with the Enlightenment. Traces of this campaign could be found in the recent debate surrounding Amoris Laetitia, as Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Mueller has noted.
The Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith dropped this clue in an interview granted to the Italian ultraconservative magazine Il Timone. The main focus of the interview was doctrine, and just about everyone has tried to find within the lines of the interview answers to the dubia which theologians and faithful alike are struggling with after the publication of Amoris Laetitia. In fact, there is one passage of the interview that is of greater interest, as it goes back to the roots.
At one point the interviewer notes that doctrine has had “bad press” and is presented as a series of “legalisms”. The Prefect objects that “this bad reputation of doctrine is a legacy of 18th century rationalism. As reason pretended to understand everything of the world, albeit being impotent toward transcendence, faith was reduced to a mere sentiment valid for simple people. Faith is seen as a subjective judgment that comes about only after reason has recognized its limit.”
But the act of faith has its basis in reason, notes Cardinal Mueller. Faith – he says – is “a participation in God’s logos, and for this reason it is always necessary to underscore the rationality of the act of faith.” This was one of the themes Pope Benedict XVI loved the most, and probably also one of the reasons he had bad press. Arguing that faith is not an irrational act, but something which is part of the life of every man, is simply disruptive for a world that is built on rationalism and excludes faith, thus generating a human being unbound to transcendence – a man with no goals other that of living day by day.
So the campaign started with 18th century rationalism. In Italy, it brought about a process of national unification whose final goal was the conquest of Rome and of the Papal States. The era of Italian unification was later called Risorgimento, but it was in fact a movement about the seizure of Rome, as Angela Pellicciari, a prominent Italian historian, has pointed out in many books and especially in her Una storia della Chiesa.
In an interview granted to ACI Stampa, she explained that “the Papal States were the reference point for Catholics from all over the world. Both Pius IX and Leo XIII insisted on the importance of the pope’s temporal power. Temporal power was necessary in order to guarantee the libertas ecclesiae, the freedom of the Church, that is, the freedom of spiritual power. Pius IX wrote this in many documents: Catholics from all over the world would never have been certain of the current pope’s independence, and so of the actual independence of his Magisterium, if they had not the certainty that the Pope was free from the pressures of ruling princes.”
Pius IX, the last “Pope King”, affirmed that history had become “a plot against truth.” He is still a victim of attacks.
The latest of these attacks will be presented via cinema, as already happened last year. The Academy Award winning director, Steven Spielberg, is filming a movie on Edgardo Mortara’s story. Mortara was a Jewish, sick child from Bologna who, when in danger of death, was secretly baptized by a Christian maid whom his family hired illegally. Once his baptism was made known, he was separated from his family so that he could know the Faith into which he was baptized.