Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro has voiced strong opposition to a proposed law that would mandate placing crucifixes in all public buildings, rejecting the bill as the politicization of a religious symbol.
Father Spadaro, the left-wing editor of La Civiltà Cattolica and an adviser to Pope Francis, accused Matteo Salvini’s League party of wanting to use the crucifix as an action figure, which is “blasphemous,” he said in a tweet Tuesday.
When the European Court of Human Rights banned the placement of crucifixes in Italian classrooms in 2009, the Vatican reacted sharply, calling the intervention “wrong and myopic,” while standing behind the Italian law dating back to the 1920s that mandated the placement of crucifixes in public schools.
At the time, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi defended the public display of the crucifix as essential to Italian and European identity.
“It seems as if the court wanted to ignore the role of Christianity in forming Europe’s identity, which was and remains essential,” Lombardy said on behalf of the Holy See.
Curiously, the argument used by the Vatican fewer than ten years ago to defend the display of crucifixes in public buildings closely resembles the reasons given by the League in its bill, the very arguments opposed by Father Spadaro.
The crucifix has “universal value as a symbol of civilization and Christian culture in its historical roots, independent of a specific religious confession,” the bill states.
“For thousands of citizens, families, and workers, it is the symbol of a history shared by an entire people,” it reads.
Father Spadaro, on the other hand, has rejected the idea that the crucifix is a mark of identity, insisting on the contrary that “it is NEVER an identitarian symbol.”
Usare il #crocifisso come un #BigJim qualunque è blasfemo.
La croce è segno di protesta contro peccato, violenza, ingiustizia e morte. Non è MAI un segno identitario. Grida l’amore al nemico e l’accoglienza incondizionata. È l’abbraccio di Dio senza difese. Giù le mani! pic.twitter.com/0fxBJZLY8B
— Antonio Spadaro (@antoniospadaro) July 24, 2018
On Wednesday, Spadaro added that the new bill is unacceptable, because the cross is not a “a team emblem” to be displayed for political ends, AP reported.
According to Italian media, a number of Catholics reacted unfavorably to Father Spadaro’s words, suggesting instead that he would be better off preaching the gospel rather than playing politics.
“For a priest to say that it is not a symbol of identity offends me profoundly,” one commenter said, while another exclaimed: “We have fought in European court to defend the crucifix as a cultural symbol and then you come out today with these words? When will you stop with the political opposition and go back to being a priest?”
Most accounts have suggested that Father Spadaro’s harsh reaction to the proposed bill stem from his dislike of the League party and particularly Matteo Salvini’s efforts to rein in illegal immigration.
Father Spadaro’s journal has accused Salvini of trying to usher in a new era of “neo-Constantinianism,” referring to the reign of the Roman emperor who legalized Christianity in 313 AD.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome