Four Italian intellectuals with sympathy for the politics of the Old Left issued a “Ratzingerian Marxist” manifesto late last year:

Their manifesto is, in effect, an explicit declaration of appreciation of the vision of Pope Benedict XVI.

Tronti [one of the four] says:

The current interpretation according to which this is a ‘conservative’ pontificate constitutes a complete overturning of the pope theologian. Central, in Joseph Ratzinger, is the necessity of the public dimension of the experience of faith. Instead of contenting themselves with commonplaces, the cultures of the left should if anything raise themselves to this level and accept the encounter on the terrain of ‘indispensable principles.’ Any experiment in the transformation of reality cannot do without the spiritual element present in every human being. There is a very close connection between transcendence and revolution.


It’s that spiritual horizon which they see as forming the basis for productive dialogue, and even certain forms of political activism, with believing Catholics (two of the manifesto’s authors are practitioners of the faith, two are not). The common enemy would be a consumerist-inflected secularism and a certain strain of upper-middle-class liberalism with its attendant libertarian ethics:
The “Ratzingerian Marxists” charge the left in Italy and the West with having given in to “falsely libertarian cultures, for which there exists no right other than the right of the individual.”

In order to rebuild the foundations of the human community, the four identify therefore the decisive interlocutor with whom the left should engage not as some “borderline” theologian, but as Benedict XVI, the highest and most authoritative expression of the Catholic vision, in particular on “two fundamental themes of his magisterium: the rejection of ethical relativism and the concept of non-negotiable values.”


No formal response from the Holy Father yet—unabashed enthusiasm, of course, would seem to be ruled out by much of his prior work. In his 1987 essay on “Freedom and Liberation,” to take but one example, he writes, against the decade’s trendy liberation theology, that “the Christian faith knows no utopia in history . . . no doubt, that sounds very mythological to the man of today. But it is much more reasonable than the mixture of politics and eschatology [central to Marxism].”

Still, given his co-authorships of books with Jürgen Habermas  and Marcello Pera , it wouldn’t be all that surprising if he were to address these four thinkers sympathetically. He certainly shares their concern for what they term the twenty-first century West’s “anthropological emergency.” And while many on the contemporary left rarely cease to extol the importance of “dialogue,” it would seem there’s a demonstrated commitment to that, and more of a genuine openness to certain elements of the Christian vision, among these more marginal figures than among their platitudinous peers.

h/t: Mark Misulia

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