Roy’s Rock goes to Italy

An Italian court has banned crucifixes in schools. As the judge points out, the crucifixes show an intent to portray Catholicism as the center of everything, even though the Vatican has accepted since 1984 that Catholicism is no longer the religion of the state. Since that’s so, the decision makes sense. The Church has already agreed that the Italian state will recognize something other than Catholicism as the final truth of things. But then why shouldn’t the same principle apply to state education?

Of course, the decision raises an issue as to just what the state will recognize—and state schools teach—as the ultimate standard. Cardinal Tonini says the crucifix should be kept as a symbol of popular religious and cultural values. The reason for having the crucifix is that people are used to it and most of them like it. The state and education, it seems, should be based on the habits and will of the people. That’s not a reasonable view, though. The people and their will aren’t such unequivocal realities that it makes sense to treat them as ultimate authorities. And there’s even a logical problem—if the will of the people is the ultimate standard, then what to standard should the people look in deciding what to do? The presence of the crucifix suggests it’s Christ, but that’s just the position the 1984 concordat rejected.

So people can squawk, but I expect classroom crucifixes in Italy to go the way of Roy’s Rock. All coherent human activities are based on some final standard. The Vatican itself has agreed that the final standard for Italian government will not be Christ but will be something else. Given the intrusiveness of the modern state, that final standard can hardly be different from the one insisted on as publicly authoritative in society at large. So the 1984 concordat was a fundamental decision regarding the status of Catholicism in Italy. How can government schools fail to reflect it?

2 thoughts on “Roy’s Rock goes to Italy”

  1. Dear Jim: I don’t know the
    Dear Jim: I don’t know the precise wording of that 1984 agreement, but for what I know of Catholic thought, I would say that it didn’t imply that the Church accepted the State to have a different standard other than The Lord and our religion. The Catholic stand is that Church and government are complimentary, one doesn’t displace the other. The latter will take care of the physical needs of its subjects whereas the former will take care of their spiritual well-being (with some actions in the physical realm, but just as a secondary aim- for the Church- and a complimentary activity in the life of the State). St. Thomas Aquinas back in the XIII century already accepted such status as one of the possible and legitimate arrangements in societal life. I think -might be wrong, of course-that that was the rational behind such treaty, in which case, there is no contradiction for Catholic faithful to demand their crucifixes on the classroom wall. Something similar happened in Poland where even during the most repressive times of Communism, crucifixes were never removed from public schools. What do you think about this? Greetings 🙂

  2. I agree with you about
    I agree with you about doctrine but not everything Church officials sign on to perfectly puts doctrine into effect. Here’s the U.S. State Department interpretation of church/state relations in Italy:

    It appears that the Concordat makes Italy a secular state, and “aid to religion” is also available to Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and whatnot.

    So it seems that from the standpoint of the Italian state under the Concordat religion is a personal commitment and social phenomenon, but not something that relates to the way things really are.

    The Church hierarchy isn’t contesting that—thy’re debating the issue from the standpoint of social habit rather than truth. If that’s so though I’m not sure what the crucifixes are doing in the schools. If a crucifix doesn’t stand for truth what good is it?


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