Religion in Italy. Carlo Ruzza University of Trento http://www.soc.unitn.it/users/carlo.ruzza/Presentations-EN.htm. Catholicism and its background.
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The worldwide Catholic Church is made up of one Western or Latin and 22 Eastern Catholic autonomous particular churches, all of which look to the Bishop of Rome, alone or along with the College of Bishops, as their highest authority on earth for matters of faith, morals and church governance.
It is divided into jurisdictional areas, usually on a territorial basis. The standard territorial unit, each of which is headed by a bishop, is called a diocese in the Latin church and an eparchy in the Eastern churches.
At the end of 2006, the total number of all these jurisdictional areas (or "Sees") was 2,782
The Church traces its history to Jesus and the Twelve Apostles, and sees the bishops of the Church as the successors of the Apostles in general, and the Pope as the successor of Saint Peter, leader of the Apostles, in particular.
After an initial period of sporadic but intense persecution, Christianity was legalized in the fourth century, when Constantine I issued the Edict of Milan in 313. Constantine was instrumental in the convocation of the First Council of Nicea in 325, which sought to address the Arian heresy and formulated the Nicene Creed which is used by the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, and various Protestant churches.
On 27 February 380, Emperor Theodosius I enacted a law establishing Catholic Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire and ordering others to be called heretics.
Following the decline of the Roman Empire, the Church underwent a time of missionary activity and expansion. During the Middle Ages Catholicism eventually spread among the Germanic peoples (initially in competition with Arianism); the Vikings; the Poles, Croats, Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Finns and Estonians. The success of monasticism gave rise to various centers of learning, most famously in Ireland and Gaul, and contributed to the Carolingian Renaissance.
Later in the medieval period, cathedral schools developed into Universities (see University of Paris, University of Oxford, and University of Bologna), the direct ancestors of modern Western institutions of learning.
Through a gradual process over a number of centuries, the church underwent a great schism that divided the church into a Western (Latin) branch, which has been known as the Catholic Church and an Eastern (Greek) branch, which has become known as the Orthodox Church. These two churches disagree on a number of administrative, liturgical, and doctrinal issues, most notably the Filioque clause and papal primacy of jurisdiction.
Beginning in 1095 the Crusades, a series of military campaigns in the Holy Land and elsewhere, sanctioned by the Papacy, began under the pontificate of Urban II in response to pleas from the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I for aid against Arabic expansion. This and the subsequent crusades ultimately failed to stifle Islamic aggression and even contributed to Christian enmity with the sacking and occupation of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade.
Beginning around 1184, and continuing through the Protestant Reformation, a number of historical movements involving the Catholic Church, broadly referred to as the Inquisition, were aimed at securing religious and doctrinal unity within Christianity through conversion, and sometimes prosecution, of alleged heretics.
The second great rift in the history of Christianity began with the Protestant Reformation, beginning in Germany in the 16th century. During this period various groups, often supported by local rulers, repudiated the primacy of the pope, clerical celibacy, the seven sacraments and various other Catholic doctrines and practices, as well as abuses (such as simony or the sale of indulgences) that were common at the time. Reformers within the Catholic Church launched the Counter Reformation or Catholic Reformation, a period of doctrinal clarification, reform of the clergy and the liturgy, and re-evangelization begun by the Council of Trent.
The Council of Trent and its reforms provided the central theme for the next 300 years of Catholic history. The period emphasized catechesis and missionary work. Catholicism spread worldwide, at pace with European colonialism: to the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania.
In addition to all of the main points of orthodox trinitarian Christianity, Catholics place particular importance on the Church as an institution founded by Jesus and kept from doctrinal error by the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and as the font of salvation for humanity. The seven sacraments, of which the most important is the Eucharist, are of prime importance in obtaining salvation.
The principal sources for the teachings of the Catholic Church are the Sacred Scriptures. Catholicism is monotheistic: it believes that God is one, eternal, all-powerful (omnipotent), all-knowing (omniscient), all-good (omnibenevolent), and omnipresent.
The second of the three Persons of God, became incarnate as Jesus Christ, a human being, born of the Virgin Mary. He remained truly divine and was at the same time truly human. In what he said, and by how he lived, he taught all people how to live.
After Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, his followers, foremost among them the Apostles, spread more and more extensively their faith with a vigour that they attributed to the presence of the Holy Spirit, the third of the three Persons of God, sent upon them by Jesus.
Throughout the centuries, the Church has responded to people or groups attempting to change core beliefs. Some of these opponents were declared heretical. The 18th and 19th century church found itself facing not only the teachings of Protestantism, but also Enlightenment and Modernist teachings about the nature of the human person, the state, and morality.
With the coming of the Industrial Revolution, and the increased concern about the conditions of urban workers, 19th and 20th century popes issued encyclicals (notably Rerum Novarum) explicating Catholic Social Teaching.
Many of the challenges focus on a few issues, such as sex and gender themes. Joseph Ratzinger, a cardinal and theologian elected Pope (Benedict XVI) in 2005, responded to these in several statements prior to his election as pope: the Church is ecclesia sua, "His [God's] Church", and not the laboratory of theologians.
The First Vatican Council (1869-1870) affirmed the doctrine of papal infallibility which Catholics hold to be in continuity with the history of Petrine supremacy in the church.
The Catholic Church undertook one of the most comprehensive reforms in its history during the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and the decade which followed.
Over the past three years, church leaders and their parliamentary allies have fought three big battles and lost none. In 2004 a cross-party group of lawmakers drastically restricted the scope of a law on fertility treatment. A year later, the head of the church in Rome, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, deftly foiled a bid to broaden the law in a referendum (he asked the faithful to abstain, robbing the vote of its quorum). And in February, when a former prime minister, Giulio Andreotti, now a life senator and ever the church's political man, nudged Romano Prodi's centre-left government close to defeat, the coalition dropped as a priority its plan to extend legal rights to unwed couples, including gays.
Vatican officials say Pope Benedict is determined to stop Italy following Spain under the Zapatero government, which legalised gay marriage and made other social reforms at odds with Catholic teaching.
The pope sees Italy as uniquely emblematic of Roman Catholicism and thus ideal ground for an attack against the creeping secularisation of Europe. Italy's contorted politics may make this easier.
Several observers have argued that in recent years the church has moved to the right. The bishop Ruini has been the most passionate defender of right-wing catholicism in recent years. Also vocal has been a daily newspaper editor, Giuliano Ferrara of IL FOGLIO, a former Berlusconi minister.
How far can the bishops go to impose Catholic views on society? Church leaders often behave as if Italy were still as homogeneously Catholic as in the days when every Italian home had a crucifix above the marital bed and a black-and-white television from which Pius XII would occasionally bestow a restrained wave.
After church groups rallied several hundred thousand people to a family day in Rome on May 12th, Archbishop Bagnasco – Ruini successor - declared smugly that it was "society expressing itself in an unequivocal way".
The number of Catholics in the world is around 1.1 billionand continues to increase, particularly in Africa and Asia. Brazil is the country with the largest number of Catholics. The increase between 1978 and 2000 was 288 million.
In most industrialized countries, church attendance has decreased since the 19th century, though it remains higher than that of other "mainline" churches.
In Europe, Romance-speaking countries are historically Catholic, northern Germanic-speaking countries Protestant, and Slavic countries split between Orthodox and Catholic, although there are exceptions.
Italy – and specifically Rome - is the historical site of the Church. For this reason it has a special relevance to Catholics
Yet today's Italy has one of the world's lowest birth rates, thanks to near-universal defiance of Vatican teaching on contraception. A quarter of young cohabiting couples are unmarried.
"The whole of society is not Roman Catholic," says Marcello Vigli, a lay activist and veteran of the Christian Social movement. "So you cannot impose by law what the hierarchy considers to be right.
Otherwise, you start to become a confessional society." To Giuliano Ferrara of IL FOGLIO, such a view is pure hypocrisy. "If the church has a right to say what it thinks, it also has a right to be on the political scene. What it does not have is a right to coerce." Many Italians would agree. But some argue that it does, in practice, coerce.
In March Archbishop Bagnasco's office in effect told those politicians who consider themselves Catholic to vote against granting legal rights to unmarried couples.
The tension between brotherly religion and the world has been most obvious in the economic sphere. Capital economy is incompatible with the ethic of brotherliness. It is possible to regulate ethically relationships between masters and slaves but not in the same way in the stock trade.
The ascetic monk has fled from the world by denying himself individual property. The paradox is that rational asceticism as createdeverywhere the wealth it rejects (example theshakers)
To escape the tensions the Puritansrenounced the Universalism of love and routinized all work in the world. The other solutions mysticism. There is an objectless devotion to anybody and a disinterestedbenevolence.
Salvation religions are in growing tension with thepoliticalorders of the world. The rational bureaucracy of the state is incompatible with brotherliness. The state is an association that claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of violence.
The tension is stronger because there is direct competition with religious ethics. Politics, especially in war claims as much loyalty as religion. Solutions are for the asceticist the acceptance of violence in theinterest of god’s cause.
For the mystic there is a radicalantipolitical attitude. They recognize the autonomy of the world but infer its diabolic character. “Render on to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s” (for what is the relevance of those things for salvation.)
As economic and rational political actions follows laws of their own, the clash with religion increases..
There is a relation between religion and purelymetaphysicalspeculation, although the latter easily leads to scepticism.
Intellectual knowledge works for the disenchantment of the world and its transformation into a mechanism. Every increase of rationalism in empirical science pushes religion from the rational into the irrational realm. But this only happens today. Book-religion have promoted rational thinking.
But no salvation religion has not at some point asked to ’believetheabsurd’ that is the sacrifice of the intellect.
Religion defends itself from the attacks of the intellect by arguing that it deals with a different sphere. But as soon as region surrenders the incommunicability of religious experience (to influence the world) it encroaches on the intellectual sphere.
The intellect has created an aristocracy based onthe possession of rational culture, which is anunbrotherly one. But the cultivated man who strives for perfection cannot reach it because culture is endless. He will not be satiated with life. He cannot find in culture an ultimate meaning. Instead every step forward increases senselessness.
Religionreacts to this need for salvation and the accompanied devaluation by becomingmoreother-wordily.