As of October 21, Italy has a new government: the best possible government at the worst historical moment since the birth of the Italian Republic in 1946.
What does it mean, the best possible government? It means that since politics is the art of the possible, those who govern cannot constitute an ideal government, but only that which reality permits. Giorgia Meloni has had to take into account the international and European context, which leaves very little autonomy to our country, because nation-states, after Maastricht, have been stripped of much of their sovereignty.
The premier must also keep in mind the media firepower of the so-called strong powers and the driving forces within a center-right coalition made up of different political souls. Like any man of politics, she can do what is concretely possible, while not forsaking a few basic principles that guide her.
And this appears to be the best government among those possible, because it is the first right-wing and conservative government of the Italian Republic since its foundation.
Silvio Berlusconi, who deserves a great deal of credit for having stopped the rise of communism in Italy in 1994, was and is a liberal in the European sense of the term, but he has always defined himself as a man of the center, rather than a conservative.
Giorgia Meloni is a woman of the right, in 2020 she was made president of the European Conservatives, a group whose cornerstones are the defense of the sovereignty of nation-states, the control of illegal immigration, freedom from arbitrary and oppressive taxation, the rejection of ideologies such as that of gender.
This grouping includes the Law and Justice party (PiS) that governs Poland. And everything leads one to think that Giorgia Meloni will follow, in terms of international policy, the approach of Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki rather than that of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. “We will not give in to Putin’s blackmail,” she said amid applause in the October 25 speech with which she won the confidence vote in the Chamber of Deputies.
In her first speech as premier, Giorgia Meloni condemned Nazism, fascism, and racial laws, and presented a vision of society founded on the values of the Western and European tradition: “We are the heirs of St. Benedict, an Italian, the principal patron of the whole of Europe.”
Businesses and families are at the center of Giorgia Meloni’s platform/manifesto. Businesses will get more help through tax cuts and support for investments aimed at the country’s economic development.
The family, she says, represents the “core of our societies, the cradle of the affections and the place where the identity of each one of us is formed. Therefore, we intend to support and protect it and, with this, to support childbearing, which in 2021 recorded the lowest birth rate from the unification of Italy until today, in order to emerge from the population freeze.”
On immigration, she stated that the government wants to stop illegal departures and break the chain of human trafficking in the Mediterranean.
On the environment, she maintained that “there is no more convinced ecologist than a conservative; but what distinguishes us from a certain ideological environmentalism is that we want to defend the nature that has man in it.”
Giorgia Meloni quoted a phrase of Roger Scruton’s, “one of the greatest masters of European conservative thought,” according to whom “ecology is the most vivid example of the alliance between those who are here, those who have been here, and those who will come after us.” “Protecting our natural heritage,” she added, “is no less a duty for us than is the safeguarding of our heritage of culture, traditions, and spirituality, which we have inherited from our fathers in order that we might pass it on to our children.”
The new Italian premier concluded her speech with these words:
The day our government took its oath before the head of state was the liturgical memorial of John Paul II, a pontiff, a statesman, a saint whom I had the honor of knowing personally. He taught me something fundamental that I have always treasured. ‘Freedom,’ he used to say, “does not consist in doing what we please, but in having the right to do what must be done.” I have always been a free person, I will always be a free person, and for this reason I intend to do precisely what I must do.
This government, however, finds itself facing a dramatic situation. Italy and the West have been at war since February 24, 2022. A hybrid war, but a real one, which has not yet reached its peak, and which could have serious repercussions not only in the military theater but also within individual nations, threatening the social fabric that ensures their survival and setting off phenomena of protest, even violence.
But the political and economic catastrophe that is threatening Europe as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, even before the geopolitical reasons, has its ultimate roots in the abandonment of the natural and Christian order on the part the West. The conflagration of war appears to be only the latest outcome of a historical process with cultural and moral origins.
It must be said that without special help from God a change of course appears humanly impossible. This help is obtained with prayer, which allows us to obtain the grace to follow the natural law.
The mission of the Church and of the Vicar of Christ on earth is this and no other: to recall the saving truths that the world ignores or despises. Paraphrasing Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, who said “he who prays is saved, he who does not pray is damned,” it’s worth repeating that when a nation returns to the natural and Christian order, it rises again. When it moves away from this, it plunges into chaos.
This is the fundamental crossroads before which the new Italian government finds itself, to which we extend our best wishes, assuring it of our prayers.
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James V. Schall, S.J.’s On Saints and Souls