As I read Communion and Liberation President Julian Carrón’s letter to the Editor of the Italian newspaper  La Repubblica published on Wednesday, I felt like he was channeling Richard John Neuhaus. With Italy in complete political gridlock since February and a hung parliament due to the lack of any clear winner in the last election, Carrón posits that he knows the reason for this gridlock and has the solution.

“It seems to me,” he says, “that the situation of deadlock is the result of the perception of the political adversary as an enemy whose influence must be neutralized or at least reduced to the minimum.” This does not sound unlike liberal-conservative culture wars in the United States today. “But,” he goes on, “the outcome of these efforts has led to a clear conclusion: it is impossible to reduce the other to zero.”

What is needed rather is an understanding of the other, with his differences, as primarily a good in himself and secondarily a resource for the common good. This “affirmation of the value of the other and the common good” should be held “above all other interests of party.” Society must hold its citizens as more valuable than politics itself:

If the substance of those who serve this great work that is politics lies only in politics, there is not much to hope for. Lacking any other sure foundation, they will necessarily grasp at politics and personal power and, in the case in question, will see conflict as the only chance for survival. But politics is not sufficient unto itself. This has never been as clear as it is today.

To quote Neuhaus :
First Things  means, first, that the first thing to be said about public life is that public life is not the first thing.  First Things  means, second, that there are first things, in the sense of first principles, for the right ordering of public life . . . . Authentic religion keeps the political enterprise humble by reminding it that it is not the first thing.

Carrón, in answering the question of how the Church should confront the current situation in Italy says, “I do not believe it is by intervening in the political arena as one of the many competing parts and opinions. The contribution of the Church is much more radical.”

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