Religion and Politics. The Italian Case : Diffused Religion / Religion et Politique. Le cas italien : La religion diffuse. - article ; n°1 ; vol.58, pg 29-51
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Religion and Politics. The Italian Case : Diffused Religion / Religion et Politique. Le cas italien : La religion diffuse. - article ; n°1 ; vol.58, pg 29-51

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Archives des sciences sociales des religions - Année 1984 - Volume 58 - Numéro 1 - Pages 29-51
23 pages
Source : Persée ; Ministère de la jeunesse, de l’éducation nationale et de la recherche, Direction de l’enseignement supérieur, Sous-direction des bibliothèques et de la documentation.



Publié par
Publié le 01 janvier 1984
Nombre de lectures 18
Langue Français
Poids de l'ouvrage 2 Mo


Roberto Cipriani
Religion and Politics. The Italian Case : Diffused Religion /
Religion et Politique. Le cas italien : La religion diffuse.
In: Archives des sciences sociales des religions. N. 58/1, 1984. pp. 29-51.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Cipriani Roberto. Religion and Politics. The Italian Case : Diffused Religion / Religion et Politique. Le cas italien : La religion
diffuse. In: Archives des sciences sociales des religions. N. 58/1, 1984. pp. 29-51.
doi : 10.3406/assr.1984.2325 Sc soc des Rel. 1984 58/1 juillet-septembre) 29-51
Cet essai part de hypothèse suivante les intérêts et les pressions
émanant des sources ecclésiastiques ne sont pas les uniques fac
teurs pouvant rendre compte du poids de la religion qui pèse sur la
vie politique en Italie Il en existe autres
Le concept majeur retenu dans cette étude est celui de religion
diffuse Diffuse en ce sens elle concerne de vastes secteurs de
la population italienne et qu dépasse les strictes limites de la
religion confessionnelle Qui plus est depuis il été démon
tré elle était aboutissement historique et culturel de la pré
sence presque bi-millénaire en Italie de institution catholique et
de son action socialisatrice et légitimatrice elle est largement ré
Encore faut-il éviter la confusion entre religion diffuse et au
tres significations voisines telles que par exemple celle de com
mon religion employée par Towler ou celle de civil religion
utilisée par Bellah
It is usually believed that the religious Catholic institution has direct and
specific influence on Italian politics In fact Vatican action has several times
been considered to be of prime importance for the development of the
internal affairs 1)
Our paper however focuses mainly upon the Catholic world 2) and
this is justified by the key role it still holds in Italy
After the wave of secularization and the more recent development defined
as religious revival Italian social scientists studying the religious phenome
non are becoming far more cautious about the use of certain data which in the
past and even today give importance to either the first secularization or the
second revival hypothesis It has already become apparent that in both ca
ses this process is probably due to tendency towards the sociological cons
truction of inconsistency by means of purely theoretical reasoning or of
marked use of figures and results which are put together in scientifically unac
ceptable ways
If we then examine other hypotheses which on the international level in the
field of sociology of religion are frequently under discussion we can see that
they are not totally applicable in the case of Italy In fact any effort to verify
these hypotheses has generally failed
Thomas theorization regarding the invisible religion has at
tracted much attention on the part of Italian sociologists even though it has not
always brought scientific consensus The idea of functional substitution of
church religion by series of topics such as individual autonomy auto-
expression auto-fulfilment mobility ethos sex and familism has developed pa
rallel to the theory of secularization
Thus the invisible religion perceived by Thomas Luckmann 4) which is
based on the assumption of crisis of the institutional apparatus seems to be
applicable only in relation to certain aspects of modern Italian society and does
not completely destroy so-called church religion
civil religion has not really been taken into consideration in
Italy because of the ethnocentric perspective of the sociological reading of the
religious dimension which is specifically applicable to American society It is
well-known fact that Bellah attaches major importance to series of beliefs
symbols and rituals which have not removed the religious factor from politics
The contents of this kind of civil religion are furnished by the perception of
universal reality bearing religious characteristics which is reflected in
initiatives especially those referring to biblical concepts exodus chosen peo
ple new Jerusalem sacrifice etc..
similar form of civil religion in Italy would not contain either the
same kind of awareness with regard to biblical sources or the consciousness of
chosen people in exodus nor is any task of salvation attributed to the Ita
lian nation Strangely enough this occurs in spite of religious hegemony
which is not totally alien to the same sort of concern The fact is that in Italy
only recently has there been direct access to the Holy Scriptures after the Se
cond Ecumenical Vatican Council provided the incentive to this It can also be
said that in the last hundred years Italians have never had any sense of aware
ness or of achievement of New Israel status The missionary incentives of
the church in Italy should themselves be observed within the framework of
universal kind of religious identity i.e catholicity) rather than within that of
national culture Neither does the location of the seat of the Papacy favour
much the idea of an outstanding commitment to the path of salvation on the
part of the Italian people
Another reason for this difference is typical of the psychology of the mas
ses The religious element often acts as unifying factor among individuals or
groups otherwise in contrast Religious identity can thus partly make up for the
lack of national identity Seen from this dimension civil religion was held to
be the unifying element which made possible the birth and development of the
united States of America
One could therefore be led to believe that the long process of unification in
Italy which has only come about in modern times followed the same pattern
In Italy however religious motivation rather delayed than favoured the ef
fects of the achievement of territorial unity It is enough to recall the fact that af
ter the episode of Porta Pia with the military conquest of Rome 1870) the king
of Italy was obliged to take possession of the capital almost in secret avoiding
all clamour For many years Catholics officially abstained from taking any part
in Italian politics as sign of protest over the 1870 affront When the impor
tance of the function of the new national state was finally understood from time
to time Catholics would lead numerous political initiatives either through the
old Popular Party up to the present Christian Democratic Party D.C. This
alone does not suffice however to justify the influence of religious factors on
present Italian politics
Rather than referring to Christian Democratic religious inspiration it
is more relevant to demonstrate the part playd by religion not only Catholic
religion in the present Italian context Thee hypothesis put forward in our
paper is still in embryo This hypothesis is both of historical and sociological
We must first of all take into consideration the plurisecular presence of the
Christian movement which in Italy has borne much weight also thanks to the
means adopted even before Constantine to ensure legitimation of reserved or
protected spheres This action was pursued in various ways For some time the
Catholic church dealt with political questions on its own thus becoming itself
state the Church State The Italian Risorgimento in the last century put an
end to this situation by relegating the centre of Catholicism to the ghetto of the
Vatican The 1929 agreement with the Mussolini regime came through the fall
of Fascism unscathed and was in fact incorporated into the Italian Constitu
tion with the recognition of sort of state religion not excluding however
the formal tolerance of other expression of faith This situation still persists
From the sociological point of view it is important to remark on the va
rious Catholic militants within lay parties as well as the former Catholic socia
lization of many politicians today Furthermore pure electoral calculations at
stake make certain parties openly hostile to the relative majority the Christian
Democrats) refrain from taking decisions which could negatively influence
part of their electorate This is the case for example for the Communist Party
P.C.I. which doubtlessly includes many Catholics within its ranks and within
its electorate It is in some way psychological and sociological factor which
favours the prolongation of Catholic privilege within the Italian state In order
not to hurt feelings either real or presumed) it is decided not to de
cide one may discuss the question one may express disagreement regar
ding this status quo but meanwhile all action is postponed This is the political
choice adopted whenever in Italy Historical Compromise agreement is rea
ched with the Christian Democrats and the Italian Communist Party at its lead
More recently leftist alternative has been proposed but basically no real
change has been proposed regarding religion and polit

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