Tag Archives: Italy

Oldfield, “Sanctity and Pilgrimage in Medieval Southern Italy, 1000–1200″

Next month, Cambridge will publish Sanctity and Pilgrimage in Medieval9781107000285 Southern Italy, 1000–1200, by Paul Oldfield (University of Manchester). The publisher’s description follows.

Southern Italy’s strategic location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean gave it a unique position as a frontier for the major religious faiths of the medieval world, where Latin Christian, Greek Christian and Muslim communities coexisted. In this study, the first to offer a comprehensive analysis of sanctity and pilgrimage in Southern Italy between 1000 and 1200, Paul Oldfield presents a fascinating picture of a politically and culturally fragmented land which, as well as hosting its own important relics as important pilgrimage centres, was a transit point for pilgrims and commercial traffic.

Drawing on a diverse range of sources from hagiographical material to calendars, martyrologies, charters and pilgrim travel guides, the book examines how sanctity functioned at this key cultural crossroads and, by integrating the analysis of sanctity with that of pilgrimage, offers important new insights into society, cross-cultural interaction and faith in the region and across the medieval world.

A River Runs Through It

As a young woman in 1968, American Wallis Wilde-Menozzi moved to Rome, leaving behind a troubled first marriage and a tenured faculty position in the UK. In The Other Side of the Tiber, she reflects upon that experience and the decades that followed, in which she developed as a writer, married again and raised a family, and became acculturated to her new home. Her metaphor for remembering is the Tiber, the river that runs through Rome, carrying with it the residue of earlier times and civilizations. Like the river, she writes, one’s memories are always a fluid part of one’s present.

The book is not only a personal memoir, though. A major theme is the contrast between the American and Italian ways of doing things–between a Protestant, progressive, rule-of-law society that exalts individualism and looks relentlessly to the future, and a Catholic, traditional one that rejects the idea that people can disregard the past and create their own identities. (“There is no such thing. We are always accompanied by ancestors.”) Each way has advantages and disadvantages. Americans are often shocked by what they see as the casual lawlessness of Italian life–“there is a breathtaking gap,” she writes–“a metaphysical canyon, between what is considered moral and what is considered legal in Italy”–which, no doubt, contributes to economic and political stagnation. On the other hand, there are qualities of community and public forgiveness to compensate. Italians are dismayed by American free-market economics, which often seem heartless and uncivilized, and by Americans’ lack of real appreciation for history. One of the most interesting episodes in the book is Wilde-Menozzi’s account of teaching American students in Siena. The students seem unaware of even the recent history of their own country, to say nothing of the ancients. She attributes their ignorance to the cost, and emptiness, of higher education in the US.

Wilde-Menozzi often gets nostalgic for the leftism of her youth, when she read Gramsci and Pasolini, and she tends to find feminist implications in everything, from Etruscan statuary to the annual August holiday, the Ferragosto. But, ideology aside, her writing is often lovely, and her images remain with you. (She is admirably spare in conveying, without detail, the pain of the sexual abuse in her childhood and her tense relationship with her mother; the theme of mothers is a recurring one in the book). On sfogliatelle, the Neapolitan pastries that must be done in a certain way: they are “a conscious effort to deny time its novelty.” On the the mosaics at the fourth-century church of Santa Costanza: their creators “imagined permanence, and yet, how could they have imagined us, so far away in time, still delighted by them?” And on the infinite regress of memory: “Italy is a story that always starts with ‘In the beginning there was already something before what you think is the beginning.'”

Conference: The Lateran Pacts and the Jews (Oct. 24-25)

On October 24-25 in New York, the Centro Primo Levi, the NYU Casa Italiana Zerilli Marim, and the Museum of Tolerance will co-sponsor a conference, “The Lateran Pacts, the Rights of Jews and Other Religious Minorities”:

In view of the upcoming 85th anniversary of the Lateran Pacts and the current debates on the position of the Church toward the Jews during Fascism and World War II, Centro Primo Levi has invited an interdisciplinary group of scholars to closely examine and discuss the legal, social, political and economic aspects of this redefinition of the relations between Church and State in Italy and in totalitarian Europe.
The conference will offer an overview of the Lateran Pacts, the background of negotiations between Mussolini and Pius XI as well as an analysis of the ways the Pacts affected Italian society, the rights of minorities vis-à-vis family law, education, public moral, protection of minority rights, with a particular focus on the subsequent re-organization of the Jewish communities. Scholars will present new research on the changes to the civil and penal codes brought about by the Pacts, as well as the reforms of key public institution that became necessary in order to make them compatible with a state religion.

Looks interesting. Details are here.

Annicchino on Developments in Religious Freedom in Italian Foreign Policy

Our friend Pasquale Annicchino (European University Institute) has posted a concise and highly informative paper on recent developments in the promotion of freedom of religion or belief in Italian foreign policy. Here is Pasquale’s abstract:

The right to freedom of religion or belief has visibly made an entry into the international arena through specialized institutions aimed at its protection and promotion in multilateral fora, in international organizations, and in relationships with third countries (countries that are not part of the European Union) and civil society at large. This is also true in the case of Italy, which recently joined the growing number of countries with dedicated policies for the protection and promotion of freedom of religion or belief in their foreign policy. In this article I provide a brief update and analysis of the recent attempts undertaken by the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs in the field. An English translation of the protocol between the City of Rome and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs establishing the Italian Oversight Committee for Religious Freedom is provided in the Annex.

Breda on Accommodation of Sharia Law in Italy

Vito Breda (Cardiff Law School & Australian National University) has posted Sharia Law in Catholic Italy: A Non-Agnostic Model of Accommodation. The abstract follows.

The Italian Constitution and its interpretation by the Constitutional Court have led to the development of a model of accommodation of religious practices that seeks to balance a commitment to promoting religious pluralism whilst, at the same time, maintaining the neutrality of state institutions. What is distinctive about this quasi-neutral constitutional stance is the commitment to reducing the discrepancies between the legal and religious effects of key life decisions (e.g. the decision to get married). I call this stance positive secularism. In this essay, I would like to show that, thus far, positive secularism has been particularly effective in accommodating the demands of Muslim immigrants (Pacini 2001). For instance, some aspects of the Sharia law, such as marriage (including some effects of polygamous marriage) and divorce (including some effects of unilateral divorce), are already recognized by Italian international private law. The second stage for the accommodation of Sharia law in Italy is likely to be the recognition of Islam as one of Italy’s official religions. Recognition will increase the level of the Islamic communities’ autonomy and will allow for the automatic recognition of some aspects of Sharia law. In February 2010, the Italian government established the Committee for Islam, composed of representatives of Italian Islamic communities, within the Ministry of Interior Affairs. In the recent past, these types of dialogues between institutions and religious representatives have been the proxy for the official recognition of nine faiths in Italy. Waldensian Evangelical Church, the World Assemblies of God Fellowship, the Evangelical Baptist Church, the Lutheran Baptist Church, the Apostolic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, the Adventist Church, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Italy, Hebrew Communities of Italy. The chapter is divided into two sections, which is preceded by an introduction, and followed by a conclusion. The first section will discuss the judicial introduction of Sharia law via the procedure of Italian international law. The second section will explain the advantages of the recognition process and the reasons that have prevented Islamic communities from benefiting from it.

Shopping on Sunday

Every year, it seems, Christmas becomes more commercialized. In NYC this year, we started seeing Christmas decorations in stores in October. In October. Christmas is starting to lap Halloween.

I was thinking about this when I read that the Catholic Church in Italy is working to repeal that country’s new Sunday shopping law. Earlier this year, in an effort to stimulate the Italian economy, the Monti government enacted a law allowing shops across the country to open on Sundays. The new law is opposed by a coalition including the Vatican, small shop owners, and some secularists who argue that a nationwide day of rest is in everyone’s interest. The Italian campaign is part of a larger movement called the European Sunday Alliance, a network of “trade unions, civil society organizations and religious communities committed to raise awareness of the unique value of synchronized free time for our European societies.”

The Sunday Alliance is not at heart religious . Sure, some Christians argue that Sunday shopping violates the Sabbath, but mostly the movement has secular goals, such as working less, putting a brake on commercialism, and spending time with family and friends. To be sure, small shop owners have an economic interest in ending Sunday shopping, since the practice disproportionately favors big-box retailers. But it’s not like the big-box retailers who favor Sunday shopping are being altruistic. They’re only advancing their economic interests.

The arguments for allowing Sunday shopping are pretty straightforward. Increased commercial activity means more wealth and greater tax revenues. More people will be able to find employment. And there is the matter of consumer choice. If people want to buy TVs on Sundays, why should the state stop them? Who’s harmed? Finally, allowing shopping on Sundays could be seen as a gesture toward religious pluralism. Not everyone observes the Christian Sabbath, and Sunday closing laws may create burdens for non-Christian businesses and consumers.

These arguments have carried the day in America. Notwithstanding the fact that the Supreme Court has declared Sunday closing laws constitutional, most places allow Sunday shopping nowadays. Americans have become accustomed to the convenience and see nothing wrong with it. A movement to ban shopping on Sundays in America would go nowhere.

To my mind, though, opponents of the new Italian law have a point. Economics isn’t everything. It’s not unreasonable to think that, one day a week, society should forgo buying and selling, even if that means a reduction in wealth and tax revenues. (Tax revenues? In Italy? Who are we kidding?) In a culture as homogeneously Catholic as Italy’s, Sunday is the only realistic option. Moreover, it’s not unreasonable to think that Sunday store openings will create a situation in which observant Christian employees feel pressured to work, or that Sunday shopping will threaten traditions Italians enjoy. Perhaps Italians don’t want a society in which Christmas becomes, inevitably, the Biggest Shopping Season of the Year.

So, to the opponents of the Italian law, I say, Good Luck and Buon Natale. Not that any of this would affect us here at CLR Forum. We’re open seven days a week. 

Michelson, “The Pulpit and the Press in Reformation Italy”

This looks like an absolutely terrific book about the intellectual work of theThe Pulpit and the Press Italian clergy “in the public square” at a time of great political and social turmoil, The Pulpit and the Press in Reformation Italy (Harvard 2013), by Emily Michelson (St. Andrews).  The historical importance of the American political sermon has been understudied as well, though this is slowly changing (for me, Michael McConnell’s work has been helpful in bringing these fascinating texts to light, though others have written about them as well).  From the description below, it also appears that Professor Michelson usefully puts into some question the dichotomy that one often hears: Americans “choose” their religion while Europeans are “born into” theirs.  At any rate, I am greatly looking forward to reading Professor Michelson’s book.  The publisher’s description follows.

Italian preachers during the Reformation era found themselves in the trenches of a more desperate war than anything they had ever imagined. This war—the splintering of western Christendom into conflicting sects—was physically but also spiritually violent. In an era of tremendous religious convolution, fluidity, and danger, preachers of all kinds spoke from the pulpit daily, weekly, or seasonally to confront the hottest controversies of their time. Preachers also turned to the printing press in unprecedented numbers to spread their messages.

Emily Michelson challenges the stereotype that Protestants succeeded in converting Catholics through superior preaching and printing. Catholic preachers were not simply reactionary and uncreative mouthpieces of a monolithic church. Rather, they deftly and imaginatively grappled with the question of how to preserve the orthodoxy of their flock and maintain the authority of the Roman church while also confronting new, undeniable lay demands for inclusion and participation.

These sermons—almost unknown in English until now—tell a new story of the Reformation that credits preachers with keeping Italy Catholic when the region’s religious future seemed uncertain, and with fashioning the post-Reformation Catholicism that thrived into the modern era. By deploying the pulpit, pen, and printing press, preachers in Italy created a new religious culture that would survive in an unprecedented atmosphere of competition and religious choice.

Deutscher, “Punishment and Penance: Two Phases in the History of the Bishop’s Tribunal of Novara”

This December, University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division will publish Punishment and Penance: Two Phases in the History of the Bishop’s Tribunal of Novara by Thomas B. Deutscher (St Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan). The publisher’s description follows.

Punishment and Penance provides the first comprehensive study of an Italian bishop’s tribunal in criminal matters, such as violence, forbidden sexual activity, and offenses against the faith. Through numerous case studies, Thomas B. Deutscher investigates the scope and effectiveness of the early modern ecclesiastical legal system.

Deutscher examines the records of the bishop’s tribunal of the northern Italian diocese of Novara during two distinct periods: the ambitious decades following the Council of Trent (1563–1615), and the half-century leading up to the French invasions of 1790s. As the state’s power continued to rise during this second time span, the Church was often humbled and the tribunal’s activity was much reduced.

Enriched by stories drawn from the files, which often allowed the accused to speak in their own voices, Punishment and Penance provides a window into the workings of a tribunal in this period.

ECtHR Rules That Ban on Screening IVF Embryos for Genetic Defects Violates European Convention

A chamber of the European Court of Human Rights ruled yesterday that Italy’s ban on testing IVF-created embryos for genetic defects violates Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Italian law permits IVF in limited circumstances, but forbids pre-implantation testing of embryos; on the other hand, Italian law allows women to abort fetuses conceived through natural reproduction if the fetuses  have certain diseases, for example, cystic fibrosis. In the case before the chamber, an Italian couple who were healthy carriers of cystic fibrosis wished to conceive through IVF and to have all embryos tested for the disease before implantation. The chamber ruled that the Italian ban violated article 8’s grant of a right to respect for private and family life. The chamber rejected Italy’s argument that the ban was  justified, among other reasons, to avoid the risk of eugenic abuses. This was a legitimate aim, the chamber said, but the ban on pre-implantation testing seemed “disproportionate,” given that Italy allowed women to abort naturally-conceived fetuses that showed signs of the disease. In effect, Italy was requiring parents in the applicants’ position to conceive through natural means but then abort a fetus that showed signs of cystic fibrosis, a choice that would bring the parents only more anxiety and suffering. Italy’s IVF law is one of Europe’s most restrictive, a result, in part, of the influence of the Catholic Church. Italy has three months to appeal the chamber decision. The case is Costa and Pavan v. Italy (ECtHR, Aug. 28, 2012), available here (follow the link for the PDF).