An Italian newspaper has called on the Catholic Church to excommunicate Matteo Salvini, alleging that he flouts Catholic teaching on social justice.
Il Fatto Quotidiano published an article Saturday saying that according to Canon Law Mr. Salvini should be excommunicated because of his attacks on the Church’s representatives and disregard for doctrine.
Salvini responded to the article on Twitter saying the suggestion he should be excommunicated as an unworthy Catholic had reached the point of “comedy.”
“Fewer departures, fewer landings, fewer deaths, and less business for swindlers and mafiosos. Simple no?” Salvini said. “What do you say, tomorrow I can go to Mass..??”
In point of fact, Church doctrine does not encourage politicians to indiscriminately welcome migrants but recognizes their right and duty to regulate immigration for the benefit of the common good.
The record also shows that it has been Catholic prelates, priests, and organizations that have attacked Mr. Salvini, rather than the other way around, calling him everything from Satan to the antichrist.
Last week, an Italian priest railed against supporters of Salvini and his efforts to combat illegal immigration, calling them “insignificant Christians.”
In what Italian media referred to as the “umpteenth attack against Matteo Salvini,” Father Enrico d’Ambrosio, a priest from a parish in the northern Italian town of Campagnola, used his church pulpit last week to assail Mr. Salvini, saying that “anyone who does not welcome [migrants] and votes for that party that closes ports even on Christmas Eve is an insignificant Christian.”
The priest’s words referred to the decision by Mr. Salvini to refuse to allow the Spanish NGO vessel Open Arms to disembark the 311 African migrants it had picked up near the coast of North Africa.
“My answer is clear: Italian ports are closed!” Salvini Tweeted. “For human traffickers and those who help them, the party is over.”
During a homily in Saint Peter’s Basilica last summer, one Catholic priest referred to Salvini as the “antichrist” and urged the police to practice “civil disobedience to block the deportation of persons back to countries where their lives are at risk.”
In late July, Italy’s largest Catholic magazine attacked Mr. Salvini with a cover story comparing the interior minister to the devil.
The Catholic weekly Famiglia Cristiana placed a photo of Salvini on its cover with the caption “Get behind me, Salvini,” playing on the words of Jesus, “Get behind me, Satan!” reported in Saint Matthew’s Gospel.
In December, another Italian priest accused Salvini’s supporters of “killing God” and said he would close his church on Christmas to protest the minister’s decree reining in illegal immigration.
“If Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were to present themselves today to celebrate his birth, they would be stopped at the border and thrown back, thanks to Salvini’s dirty decree,” said the priest, Father Paolo Farinella.
An Italian bishop published a Christmas letter to the faithful in which he claimed that Salvini’s security decree has abandoned “thousands of immigrants of every color and origin living in our cities.”
When asked how he explains the “unprecedented hostility” toward him from the Catholic establishment in Italy, Mr. Salvini said the opposition has bewilders him.
“Honestly I cannot explain it. So much virulence leaves me truly perplexed,” Salvini said, adding that on the other hand he is “flooded” with mail from Catholics — even priests and bishops — who encourage him to continue carrying out his campaign promises.
Italian media have attributed the pope’s “collapse” in popularity to his insistence on welcoming more and more migrants, which has led many to suggest that he is out of touch with the Italian people and their concerns.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome