The Italian politician and philosopher Rocco Buttiglione has said Western culture is being steadily dismantled, leading to a “crisis in social systems” that is the result of attacks on non-negotiable values such as the right to life.
A friend of the late Pope John Paul II, Buttiglione added that unless these attacks are resisted, democracy itself is in danger of being destroyed.
Speaking from his offices in the Italian parliament, where he is deputy president of the lower house, the Italian lawmaker lamented how many pressures are brought to bear on legislative processes “through the dismantling of culture, piece by piece — attacks on marriage, life, promotion of abortion, euthanasia.”
He said democracy is not always guaranteed, and offered ancient Greece as an example. “We know from history that Greek democracy didn't last for long,” he said. “Why did it go down? Because of corruption. Why was it corrupt? Because of a dominance of moral relativism.”
Referring to Plato's Republic, a philosophical dialogue on justice and a just city-state, he recalled that in a democracy dominated by relativism and corruption, people will look to a man who promises to return some sort of order.
“We are not very far from that,” Buttiglione warned.
Seven years ago, Buttiglione was forced to withdraw his nomination as the European Union’s new commissioner for Justice, Freedom, and Security because of his Catholic views on homosexuality and women. Many Catholics were appalled by the decision, seeing it as an example of what Benedict XVI would later describe as “a dictatorship of relativism.”
Today, the Italian lawmaker is arguing for “a new engagement” of Christians in politics, not only to defend Christian values, but to defend democracy, and to thwart this process which leads toward tyranny. “There are many kinds of totalitarianisms that are brewing in our society,” he warned.
A professor of philosophy who is thought to have helped write some of John Paul II's encyclicals, Buttiglione said he sees today's economic crises as a “kind of economic relativism based on moral relativism.” Too many banks, he said, have a relativist view of money, thinking it can multiply by itself “like rabbits.” But he believes many of these erroneous attitudes can be put down to poor education in schools.
“We've tried to build a society in which liberation of the impulses is the rule and we don't want to be taught to be self-controlled,” leading many to live in a “world of dreams,” he said.
“In our schools, we must teach diligence, how to be reliable, to study and not just socialize, and to learn self-sacrifice.” And he argued that popular culture is encouraging people — and politicians — to have ideas “that don't correspond to reality.”
“We see an enormous amount of people who don't love reality, who don't love their real lives,” he said. “They read about famous people in the papers and identify themselves with them and put so much passion into these things, but they don't put any passion in their own lives. Their lives become frittered, because our real passion is put somewhere else.”
“If you look around, most people are kind of repressed and don't put passion into what they do,” said Buttiglione.
What is needed, he argued, is faith in God in order to “see the reality around oneself, the reality of others, to learn to love yourself and to love others, and to have passion for your life.”
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