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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

OUT and PROUD: Italian Catho-Communism and the Correction of False Categories

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OUT and PROUD: Italian Catho-Communism and the Correction of False Categories

(Photos  taken by Hilary White at the Roma Pride demonstration in 2009)

 “Just go to a better Mass…”

I suppose most of the Remnant’s audience will not be under any illusions about the health of the Church in “traditionally Catholic” Italy. But I wonder if people know in detail how bad it really is. I’ve observed that among North Americans, and lately even Brits, there is a kind of consumer mentality growing, even in the Traddie world. If you don’t like the silly guitars and bongos of your local Novus Ordo, just go to the local Traditional Mass, or at least “choose a parish” that does the NO “more reverently.”

In a recent exchange on Twitter, in response to a post I made rather unmanfully complaining about the poor quality of our local village Novus Ordo Mass, a woman said, essentially, “Why don’t you just go to the local TLM?” I’m pleased to say that I successfully refrained from responding, “Sure, I’ll just have a little cake instead of bread…”

Some years ago, while I was scouring the Umbrian landscape to find a new home after the 2016 earthquakes, I met a nice American traditionalist Catholic family on the train. They were heading to Assisi and it was fun to point out to the kids the real castles up on their craggy perches as we passed along the densely populated line of medieval towns and villages between Spoleto and Perugia.

When they asked where I was going, I explained and said that I was looking for a place that was both close enough to be in shouting distance of Norcia and that had access to the traditional Mass. I said that those criteria, together with my need for a place that wasn’t in a major urban centre (rentals in cities range from twice to three times what they are in rural areas), had me scurrying up and down the region. At that time there were about 22,000 other displaced “terremotati” also looking for rental accommodations close to home and my added liturgical priority had narrowed things down to nearly nothing.

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My travelling companions expressed their surprise at my difficulty, saying, “But the traditional Mass is on the rise, isn’t it? It’s available everywhere.” In the winter of 2016 there were five Mass locations listed on the Italian Traddie websites for the region[1] of Umbria. But when I physically investigated on the ground, it turned out there were only three; and one of them was in Norcia.

What is not understood by many is that there are no alternatives. Even the concept of alternatives does not exist. Mass, all Masses, are accompanied by a guitar “folk” choir; it has always been thus and always shall be for much the same reason that we have always been at war with Eastasia. There is no such thing as a “reverent” Novus Ordo in Italy as we think of it in Angloland because there is no such thing as a “conservative” tier of Catholicism. There is “mainstream” Novusordoist Catholicism, which always involves the guitars, clapping and shenanigans Americans associate with “liberalism” and there is a tiny, persecuted or ignored fringe of traditionalists; effectively the Italian Church is trapped forever in the amber of 1976. The easiest way to learn that the category of “conservative” Catholicism is a politically generated phantom is to spend some time living in Italy. In reality there is Novusordoism, which is “liberal” by its nature, and there is Catholicism which cannot be grafted onto the New Paradigm. 

The division between the two, and their inherent incompatibility becomes clear when you see what is being done to the remnants of Catholicism by the Novusordoist establishment here: it’s being hounded out of existence. Since 2016 those Traddie websites have been updated and a glance will show a dismal picture, with about half the Masses listed as “suspended,” “suppressed,” “abolished,” “deleted” or “cancelled” across the country. As of now, Umbrian TLMs: Norcia, daily; Perugia, almost weekly except in the summers when they are entirely cancelled; and a convent of sisters affiliated with the SSPX in the countryside vaguely in the vicinity of Narni[2]. There is still rumoured to be a Mass available twice a month in Orvieto, but I haven’t confirmed this[3]. And that’s it. The earthquakes and the suppression of the FFIs – who often brought the traditional Mass to rural areas and small towns – have resulted in the effective suppression of the traditional Mass in Umbria – the “green heart of Italy” barely beats.

“Reverent Novus Ordo” a political and economic construct

The nice young American family on the train had no idea that things were different here, or how different. This casual insouciance among “conservative” and traditionalist Catholics from the Anglo world is based on a secular political reality that doesn’t really exist anywhere outside the Anglo bubble. In our time in most North American dioceses there is at least one – usually more – traditional Mass, but more than that, there are usually at least a few places where a “reverent Novus Ordo” is offered with some of the trappings of the past, a certain air of “conservative” respectability. This situation is what is now considered “normal” and is broadly taken for granted.

This mentality of liturgical consumer choices, whether we celebrate or decry it, comes not only from the Bugnini catastrophe but from a political and cultural history unique to Anglo-land. Partly it grew from the alliance of US Catholic and Protestant political “conservatives” in the Culture Wars in the ‘80s and’90s that created a market within the Church for the at least Catholic-looking externals we associate with “conservative” Novus Ordo liturgy. The category of “conservative” Catholicism as a kind of middle ground between “liberal” and “Traditionalist” was more or less created out of whole cloth by the political Culture Wars in North America.

But it also came out of the American culture’s devotion to consumer choice – the idea that where there is demand there must eventually be goods and services to fill it – mixed together with the old English jurisprudential idea of civil liberties, that a citizen or subject can do as he likes within the law. In the old world of continental Europe, by contrast, the populace, the lower order, gets what they’re given and learns to like it.[4]

In Italy – a nation that has been ruled by left-liberal socialism since at least the end of World War II – that mentality of the consumer culture does not exist in or out of the Church. Tourists from the US will especially notice the difference in shops and other businesses; the customer is decidedly not king here. Businesses don’t actually exist to provide goods and services; they exist to provide employment for one’s family, the provision of goods or services considered an unfortunate necessity to make the main goal happen. If this could be accomplished without all those annoying customers making demands, it certainly would be. The ubiquity of the market mentality in the US makes it difficult for people who live in that atmosphere to understand how omnipresent it is; until it’s not there anymore.

In this country it’s different. If there is a demand for a Traditional Mass, that demand has to be squashed by any means available – the Italian bishops reacted with violent opposition to Summorum Pontificum and have done everything possible to either ignore or undermine it to death[5]. And more recently, the bolder episcopal voices are starting to denounce it openly[6]. The idea that it would be a good thing to provide something to fill the demand, just because there’s a demand, will never cross the mind of any Italian bishop, “conservative” or otherwise.

No “conservatism” but plenty of “Cattocommunismo”

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All of this illustrates why the division of the Church into the “liberal” and “conservative” categories is not merely a mostly-inaccurate but convenient journalistic conceit but completely inapplicable outside the Anglosphere. This confusion of categories is one of the things standing in the way of understanding the situation in the Church in Italy. The insistence on shoehorning every situation into the false categories of “conservative” and “liberal” makes it difficult to understand why, for instance, a bishop assumed to be “conservative” would knowingly give Holy Communion to one of Italy’s most famous “trans” activists, right in front of the media’s cameras. Or indeed, why he was officiating at the highly politicised funeral Mass of one of Italy’s most notorious “red priests” in the first place.

What’s that? You haven’t heard of the red priests? It might be because your categories aren’t entirely adequate. Since McCarthy, and the highly successful media campaign to discredit his efforts to reveal the extent of Communist Party infiltration into US society, most North Americans have been trained to think of the “Red Menace” in almost comic terms; it’s all a silly conspiracy theory, like those pseudo-documentaries about space aliens building the pyramids. The idea that the Communist movement – funded mainly by the Soviet Union – infiltrated nearly all the institutions of Western society is now relegated to the basement-dwelling fringe, declassified Venona documents notwithstanding. Anglos don’t believe in Communism anymore. If it is in their minds at all, it is a thing of the past that ended when the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union broke up. And anyway, the early ‘90s are ancient history to the internet-trained mind.

This explains their shock when they arrive in Italy to find the hammer and sickle prominently and un-ironically displayed at political rallies and on election campaign posters, like they really mean it. Communism – official and card-carrying – is still very much a force in politics in Europe, particularly in Italy, and most especially in the Church. That there are red priests in this country who openly and aggressively promote Marxism, qua Marxism, who sing the Italian Marxist anthem, “Bella ciao[7],” and wave their Marxist red scarves at Mass – and are tolerated and often even celebrated by their bishops – is something the average mildly mainstream “conservative” Catholic Anglo just couldn’t get his head around.

But I’m afraid it’s real. And the frankness with which the Cattocomunisti conduct their affairs has forced the Italian faithful to confront more forthrightly than their North American and British counterparts some of the more unpleasant realities of the modern Church, including most prominently the collusion of their bishops.

What would an Anglo “conservative” Catholic audience make of a cardinal archbishop of one of the ancient sees officiating at the funeral Mass for the country’s most notorious red priest, concelebrated by priests draped in rainbow stoles? What would be the reaction if the news had proudly carried photos of this same cardinal giving Holy Communion to the nation’s most prominent celebrity “trans” activist and cross-dressing former member of Parliament, a man named Wladimiro Guadagno, who goes by the moniker of “Vladimir Luxuria[8]”? There would at least be an uproar from the “conservative” wing of the Catholic media.

This was what happened in 2013 after the death of Don Andrea Gallo, a Marxist and promoter of homosexuality and drug use who bragged to a dewy-eyed media that he had “accompanied” prostitutes to the hospitals to obtain abortions. Angelo Cardinal Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa and former head of the Italian bishops’ conference, celebrated a funeral Mass for the deceased priest before an enormous crowd. In his homily Bagnasco described his relationship Don Gallo as one of “frankness and respect.”

Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian bishops, covered the cardinal’s homily:

“In the last days of the illness, cared for and accompanied by family and many friends, I went to see him at home. As always he was happy and grateful for the meeting, serene and at times playful. In his room on one side the image of the Madonna, on the other side the window on the port. We could say the two presences of his life as a priest and as a man. Between these two poles he walked: love in Genoa, and love for the Holy Virgin, to the son Jesus, to the Gospel and to the Church.” 

The funeral was highly publicised by Italian media, with the moment at which the Cardinal gave Holy Communion to Guadagno, prominently featured.

What, then, are we to take away from this high praise from such a high ranking prince cardinal of the Church for an abominable apostate like Andrea Gallo? What is the message? As the Traditionalist Catholic news and commentary website Corrispondenza Romana observed, the cardinal took it upon himself to offer to celebrate the funeral mass:

“Cardinal Bagnasco is a person too intelligent not to have calculated what the implicit consequences would have been in his decision. To celebrate the funeral of Fr. Gallo meant, first of all, to accept in advance an abusive liturgical scenario, more like a political-revolutionary demonstration than the sacrifice of Christ. And, punctually, came the verbal disputes addressed to the prelate by not a few people present: a prince of the church dragged into a worthless and avoidable uproar.

“But there is something else. The archbishop who celebrates that funeral explicitly tells public opinion that, for the Catholic Church, Don Gallo represented a legitimate interpretation of the priesthood. 

“…On balance, the suspicion arises that at the funeral of Don Gallo the cardinal went, not despite the mass media, but precisely because of their presence.”

In a comment remarkably perspicacious for 2013, CR commented: “In the parishes, hundreds of priests of good will cry each Sunday to explain to the divorced faithful remarried that they cannot receive Communion. And what does the Archbishop of Genoa do?”

LGBTism a special project of Catho-communism

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The close connection between the Cattocommunisti and the “LGBTQ” movement becomes clear when studying the red priests who are increasingly devoted to the project of normalisation of same-sex relations. And it’s pretty mainstream. In Turin the diocese offers “loyalty lessons” to “gay couples”[9] preparing for “civil unions”. Don Gianluca Carrega is responsible for the “pastoral care of homosexuals” in the Turin diocese, and claimed to La Stampa that he participated in only one marriage between a “hetero couple” in three same-sex civil unions. Don Gianluca, who teaches the New Testament at the Turin Theological Faculty, offered a Lenten retreat for “gay couples” titled, “Worthy of loyalty.”

The La Stampa article notes that Turin is also the home of one of the reddest of red projects, the “Abele Group” a non-profit organisation founded by Don Andrea Gallo’s close friend, Luigi Ciotti[10]. The group does the usual Marxist method of claiming loudly to protect and promote the interests and rights of various underdog categories, “the poor,” prostitutes, drug addicts and homosexuals and now migrants and “the earth,” as the current ecclesiastical fashion has it. But no one there is preaching Christ crucified or the need for moral conversion. The method – time tested by Communism from the start[11] – means that such organisations get a lot of sympathetic media coverage and support from government and the Church, giving them the freedom to focus on altering society to adopt Marxist principles.

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Don Luigi Ciotti, a celebrity leftist priest and great favourite of Pope Francis who leverages the media attention given to his opposition to the mafia, is also one of Italy’s leading clerical boosters of the LGBT doctrines – always carefully including the standard clerical caveat that this can’t include “gay marriage”. And his enthusiasm for the sin that cries to heaven includes the episcopate. Ciotti recently declared to his adoring media and movement followers that it’s fine for a bishop to be “gay” as long as he’s open about it.

It should go without saying that no bishop, either of Genoa or Turin, or pope, has ever had a stern word to say about any of this. Indeed, an article celebrating Don Ciotti’s 70th birthday described him “embracing” John Paul II, Benedict and Francis with equal warmth. It’s probably not a coincidence that it was in Turin that the country’s first “Gay Pride” event, affiliated with the international movement, was held in 1978.

No reparations allowed in Genoa for “Liguria Pride”

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Although usually sanitised in media coverage, the “Gay Pride” demonstrations in Italy are always colourfully accompanied by prominent displays of hammer and sickle flags. Anyone questioning the assertion that the “LGBT” movement has been a project of Communism should go to the march in Rome, always held in June, “Pride Month”. The Rome Pride event, as one would imagine, is especially dominated by the movement’s loathing of Catholicism; blasphemy and mockery of Christ, Our Lady and sacred things are the order of the day.  

In recent years, however, Catholic laity have fought back, starting in 2017 for the first time[12] organising prayers in reparation for the blasphemies of the homosexualist movement. The 2017 event was organised by a lay committee in Reggio Emilia. reported that “many local religious, priests and bishops have distanced themselves” publicly from the group. One Italian bishop, Luigi Negri, and the usual suspects of Cardinal Raymond Burke and Bishop Athanasius Schneider lent support.

These reparations, however, have at last aroused the ire of some bishops who are enjoying their détente with the World, the flesh and the Devil. In response to a prayer vigil in Rome, June 8th by the Traditionalist organisation Militia Cristi, some laity and priests in Bagnasco’s Genoa had planned Rosary prayers for June 15 in three local parishes to make reparation for offenses against “the Most Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary brought by Liguria Pride 2019.”

When the diocesan curia got wind of this, they immediately swooped in, declaring that the intention of making reparations for Pride’s offences against Christ and Our Lady was none of theirs. A message – that reportedly followed a series of phone calls to priests ordering the churches closed to the offenders – was posted on a popular Italian Rosary website:

“We are sorry to inform that the archiepiscopal curia of Genoa has asked the priests responsible for the churches below to cancel the scheduled public reparation times. We therefore invite the faithful interested in making reparation to pray elsewhere, in spiritual communion.”

In other words, if you must pray for such unsavoury things, please do it at home where it won’t bring the archdiocese of Genoa into disrepute with our friends. Messa in Latino website, also a Traditionalist publication, commented: “Perhaps only in North Korea is prayer in silence prohibited in the church by the parish priest.”[13]

Reparations were carried out successfully in Turin on June 15, the same day as the Pride event, though in a piazza, not a church. Other prayer vigils were carried out for Avellino, Campania on June 11 in the entrance of a parish church in nearby Irpinia, organised by a Catholic journalist through Facebook. In Varese, reparation prayers, organised by a lay pro-life group, were allowed in a church. In Vicenza lay people organised a Rosary procession through the town.

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In Pavia the lay committee of Bl. Veronica da Binasco issued a statement saying their Pentecost Sunday procession, that ended in the cathedral with Second Vespers of Pentecost, had nothing to say to those who have fallen down on the job. “We do not ‘oppose’ ourselves to the silences and omissions of those who would be called to propose these gestures to the Catholic faithful. It is not in our style to stay outside the churches, but to carry out these actions with humility and firmness, which Catholic Doctrine foresees and promotes.”

Notably, all these lay initiatives were organised through unofficial channels like blogs and private websites and Facebook pages.

Only in one place did the local faithful receive an encouraging message from the bishop. In Trieste, in the very furthest north east corner of the country, Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi issued a lengthy message implicitly rebuking Bagnasco:

“What was intended to be an event of fight against discrimination, translated into a discriminatory event against the Christian people. Here is the need to repair what has been broken and to clean what has been soiled, which, from Jesus Christ onwards, constitutes the mission proper to the Church and to us Christians.

… Dear brothers and sisters, the Christian style does not claim anything with pride. Rather, it is a style that continually seeks to conform to the austere message of Fatima: doing penance, praying, believing in the Gospel, converting. That of Fatima is a profoundly evangelical message; it is a message that invites us to live the Gospel; it is a message that urges us to follow Christ who is our salvation.”


[1] The equivalent of a US state or Canadian province.

[2] … where you can’t get without a car or the willingness to spend a packet on a taxi. They are in a tiny, exceedingly beautiful hamlet in the hills. The last time I went I had to go down on Saturday night, get a hotel in Narni Scalo and spend about 30 Euros on a taxi the next morning.

[3] I investigated the listing for Foligno on that website, and learned that the youngish, conservativish bishop there had asked the Norcia monks to offer it from time to time, but that this was abandoned when his priest council – mostly men in their 60s – howled the suggestion down.

[4] There’s a big long history of jurisprudence behind this cultural difference that is worth looking into for the habitual googlers among us. Why is the underlying assumption of English Common Law that a person is free to do what he likes within the boundaries of the law, and the assumption of the Napoleonic Code that a person may only do what the law allows him to do – and the government is there to provide a list? And what is happening in jurisprudence in our time that is eroding the first principle and increasingly favouring the second?

[5] Everyone blaming Bergoglio for the destruction of the FFI has failed to understand how hated they were by the Italian episcopate.

[6] In November 2018, Carlo Redaelli, bishop of Gorizia, is reported to have claimed at a meeting of the CEI that the Mass of Paul VI had “abrogated” the traditional Mass and that the permission for the latter’s celebration ought to be rescinded immediately. 

[7] “Hello Beautiful” – it was a folk song adapted by leftist resistance partisans during the German occupation of Italy. An interesting choice for a priest to adopt given that these Communist partisans were known to have murdered at least 130 Catholic priests.

[8] Latin for “lust”.

[9] “Gay marriage” remains illegal in Italy, though it is a high priority for the movement.

[10] Who made a point of singing Bella Ciao from the altar at Mass of the Immaculate Conception shortly after his friend died, while the media cameras were rolling of course.

[11] Bella Dodd is not the only ex-Communist to note that the Marxists’ apparent devotion to the poor and downtrodden, while sometimes resulting in positive works, are always motivated by the need to provide cover and gain acceptance for the ideology. The trick has fooled nearly everyone, with even Pope John Paul II admiring some of Communism’s supposed “good works”.

[12] “Pride” events have been happening in Italy since the early 1970s. As far as anyone was able to tell me, no bishop has ever organised reparations.

[13] If it were me, I’d have told everyone to turn up at the church anyway, pray the Rosary on the steps and invite the media to take as many pictures as they wanted.


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Last modified on Wednesday, June 19, 2019
Hilary White

Our Italy correspondent is known throughout the English-speaking world as a champion of family and cultural issues. First introduced by our allies and friends at the incomparable, Miss White lives in Norcia, Italy.

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