Since August 24th this year, Italy has been struck by a series of violent earthquakes, and after two months they show no signs of diminishing. According to the seismologists, there have been thousands of aftershocks, different in their intensity and magnitude. Up until now, there have been a limited number of victims, but there has been severe damage to the churches and public and private buildings, depriving tens of thousands of Italians of their material goods and homes.
The quake on October 30th - the most severe after August 24th - was felt all over Italy, from Bari to Bolzano and had its symbol in the collapse of the Cathedral of Norcia. The news of the Basilica’s destruction was reported all over the world. Only a fragile facade of the church, the birth -place of St. Benedict, was left standing.. Everything else has vanished under a cloud of dust. Much of the mass-media, like the American CNN, emphasized the symbolic nature of the event, choosing the image of the collapsed cathedral for its homepage.
There was a time when men were able to read messages from God in every event that eluded their will. Everything that happens, in fact, has a significance, expressed in the language of symbols. Symbols don’t have a conventional meaning, but are the deepest expression of the essence of things.
Modern rationalism, from Descartes to Hegel, from Marx to neo-scientism, wanted to rationalize nature, substituting the truth of symbols with a purely quantitative interpretation of nature. Today rationalism is in crisis, but post-modern culture, which drinks from its own intellectual fonts( from Nominalism to Evolutionism) has created a new symbolic system, very different from the old ones, that doesn’t refer to the reality of things, but deforms it, as in a house of mirrors. The symbolic code which is expressed in all forms of post-modern communications - from tweets to talk-shows - promotes the stirring up of emotions and sentiments and rejects understanding of the fundamental reason for things.
Norcia’s cathedral, for example, is a symbol of art, culture and faith. For the mass- media, its destruction evokes the loss of Central Italy’s artistic patrimony, not the image of the collapse of the faith or the fundamental values of Christian Civilisation. The word earthquake furthermore, despite the fact that it is used commonly to indicate cultural and social upheaval, may never refer to a Divine intervention, since God may only be presented as merciful, never as just.
Those who talk of “Divine chastisement” , incur the smearing of the mass-media immediately, as happened to Father Giovanni Cavalcoli, whose words on Radio Maria [recently] were defined “offensive statements to believers and scandalous to those who don’t believe” by the Secretary of State’s substitute, Monsignor Angelo Becciu.
Yet if there is scandal, it’s precisely the one created by the Vatican prelate’s position which ignores Catholic theology and the teachings of Popes, such as Benedict XVI, who, at his audience of May 18th 2011, while speaking about Abraham’s intercessory prayer for Sodom and Gomorrah, the two biblical cities punished by God on account of their sins, affirms:
“The Lord was prepared to forgive, he wanted to forgive but the cities were locked into a totalizing and paralyzing evil, without even a few innocents from whom to start in order to turn evil into good. This the very path to salvation that Abraham too was asking for: being saved does not mean merely escaping punishment but being delivered from the evil that dwells within us. It is not punishment that must be eliminated but sin, the rejection of God and of love which already bears the punishment in itself. The Prophet Jeremiah was to say to the rebellious people: “Your wickedness will chasten you, and your apostasy will reprove you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God” (Jer 2:19).”
How can we forget that between August and September 2016, the first homosexual civil unions were performed?
“We’ll rebuild everything” declared Italian premier Matteo Renz. However, on July 23rd 2016 , he had [already] signed the implementation decree of the Law no. 76/2016, (or the Cirinnà Law) which legalizes homosexual unions in Italy. This law is a moral earthquake, as it demolishes the walls of the natural, Divine law. How can one not envisage that this wicked law will not be without consequences? Those who have not abandoned common sense realize this. Today man is rebelling against God and nature is rebelling against man. Or better, man is rebelling against the natural law, which has its foundation in God, and calamities in nature are happening.
The Cirinnà law, however, doesn’t destroy houses but the institution of the family, producing a moral and social devastation no less grave than that material in an earthquake. Who can deny us the right to think that this natural calamity is permitted by God as a result of negating the natural order, implemented by the Western ruling classes? And since symbols allow for different readings, how can you blame those who see in the facade of a cathedral the symbol of what today, from a human perspective, seems to be what is left of the Catholic Church: a heap rubble? The declarations by Monsignor Becciu (one of Pope Francis’ closest collaborators) are the expression of an ecclesiastical world in ruins which attracts more ruin to itself.
From the promulgation of the Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia to the honour bestowed on Luther at Lund, Pope Francis has certainly not contributed to the re-establishing of order in this shattered world.
The Pope has been repeating that we must not build walls, but knock them down: well then, walls are collapsing, but along with them the Catholic faith and morality are collapsing; Christian civilisation, with Norcia, St. Benedict’s country, as its symbolic cradle, is collapsing.
And yet, even if the cathedral has crumbled, the statue of St. Benedict at the centre of the piazza in front of it still remains standing, Around this statue a group of monks, nuns and lay people gathered to recite the Rosary. Also this is a symbolic message which speaks to us of the only reconstruction possible: that done on our knees, praying.
Along with prayer, action and effort are needed, as well as the public witness of our faith in the Church and Christian civilization, which will rise again from the ruins. Our Lady of Fatima promised it. Before the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart though, the Blessed Virgin also predicted a world-wide chastisement for impenitent humanity. We must have the courage to remember this.