From apology of the Inquisition to cult apology
by Miguel Martinez
Considering Plinio Correa de Oliveira's love for the inquisition, it may come as a surprise that Introvigne signed a manifesto in defence of Scientology, rather than branding the US multinational with the "mark of infamy" ("infamy" is also, in Canon Law, one of the features of "apostates"): In August, 1996, the international conference of CESNUR issued a statement calling Germany's attempts to take a deeper look into the operations of the concern as a "sign of extremely dangerous fanaticism" and a "campaign of hatred". It is hardly surprising that the CESNUR appeal avoided any mention of the reasons why Scientology was having trouble in Germany: for example, according to former Scientology leader Gunther Träger, the expulsion of tenants from their flats, bought up by the organization and put up for sale. None of these reasons had even a remote association with "religious fanaticism". "Hatred" of course is the typical empty catch-word used by the "politically correct" to describe the motivation of their critics, and is basically meaningless.
The CESNUR appeal also means that this supposedly scholarly organization accepts the ridiculous equation made by Scientology's PR of measures taken in Germany with "religious persecution" and/or a "return of the Nazis". Whatever Germany's faults, "religious fanaticism" in the country ceased in 1648, at the end of the Thirty Years' War, long before it did in any other country: Jews were persecuted by Hitler on pseudo-economical and pseudo-racial grounds, not because they did not believe in the Trinity, and Catholic and Protestant Nazis ecumenically oppressed Protestant Dutch and Catholic Poles. Very simple facts, which it is hard to believe a person of Introvigne's background does not know. However, Introvigne is - or should - certainly be aware of the fact that the reason why the German state views Scientology with some alarm is that nearly all Germans today believe that any totalitarian organization should be nipped in the bud: Scientology has the same problems and the same enemies as do neo-Nazis, and for the same reasons. Although no law has ever been applied in Germany against Scientology, Scientology critics suggest that the organization should be subjected to the very strict laws which exist in Germany for defending democracy against the slightest suspicion of a totalitarian organization. The idea of not allowing Scientologists to have sensitive government jobs is based on the famous Berufsverbot for which thousands of teachers and other government employees, suspected of being neo-Nazis or Communists (an ideology closely associated in the German mind with totalitarian East Germany) have lost their jobs.
Introvigne might be hostile to such anti-totalitarian legislation, but if he is, why not say so?
Introvigne's liberalism is however for
Scientology only. Alleanza Cattolica today carefully measures its words, if not the meaning
behind them; however other TFP associates in Italy have launched noisy
campaigns against foreign immigrants; they even attacked non-political
research on pre-Columbian America and tried to stop a light comedy in a
parish hall which had some friendly jokes to say about priests. Other highlights
include explicit defence of European colonialism and attacks on Islam (to
celebrate the anniversary of the Crusades, AC's magazine dedicated its
cover for one full year, issue by issue, to episodes from the Crusades).
Speaking of Introvigne's favourite subject, religious tolerance, Cristianità
(January-February 1993, p. 5 ff.) published a long interview with an
Argentine professor, who has the following words to say about the forced
conversion of the Americas:
No mention is made of other forms of slavery. The March 1992 issue prominently displays this title on its cover: "Christopher Columbus, Genoese admiral and 'Defensor fidei". Controversial Spanish queen Isabel receives another title: "The servant of God Isabel the Catholic, model for new evangelization" (Cristianità April 1992). We are told that this lady, who may be a model for evangelization, but not for religious freedom, is "one of the most extraordinary figures in history, and her life seems to be an important chapter in God's plans for the world and the Church".
Scientology may be alright for Alleanza Cattolica; but Catholic Liberation Theology is treated with all the old Catholic sect-branding repertoire. In "Notes between Revolution and Counter-Revolution", leader Giovanni Cantoni asks, is a certain progressive Brazilian theologian a "neo-Gnostic and a neo-Anabaptist?" (Cristianità, november 1992, p. 25).
A favourite issue is the fight against the rights of homosexuals. On September 27, 1994, the deputy chairman of the European Parliament received a delegation of the "Committees for the Defence of the Natural and Christian Family Order", a T.F.P. front, which had collected 136,000 signatures against equal rights for homosexuals. Members of the delegation included Guillaume Babinet, director of T.F.P. France; marchese Luigi Coda Nunziante, president of Famiglia Domani (another T.F.P. front - Coda Nunziante made headlines some time ago when he presented a plea in court against the Italian society personality Marina Ripa di Meana for having posed naked for a poster against fur coats); professor Roberto de Mattei, president of Centro Culturale Lepanto; Leopold Werner, representative of T.F.P.-Covadonga, Spain; and several Italian Parliament members (Controrivoluzione, n. 37-40, April-Nov. 1995, Florence, Italy).
The TFP affiliate, Centro Lepanto, made headlines in Italy on June 23, 1995, when it persuaded the speaker of the Italian Parliament, Irene Pivetti, to attend a special ceremony asking God's forgiveness for the city of Rome having allowed the building of a mosque.
There is nothing new in this. For example, a note from an Argentine friend tells us how T.F.P. supported General Juan Carlos Onganía's coup in 1966, and organized an enormous campaign in 1973 attacking the return of Juan Domingo Peron. Besides its massive, American-style anti-Communist campaigns, mention should be made of its relations with Augusto Pinochet, whom it supported at first but then accused of paying too much attention to the poor ("TFP: la nouvelle inquisition", in Golias, n. 51, nov.-dec. 1996, p. 64). This criticism did not prevent Pinochet from appointing Ettore Riesle, founder of the Chile branch of T.F.P., as the ambassador for the military junta to the Holy See in April 1974 (Giovanni Tassani, La cultura politica della destra cattolica, Coines Edizioni, Roma, 1976, p. 211, note 86).
Italian TV recently showed documentaries from the Allende period in Chile, including an anti-Communist demonstration by TFP: it was amusing to see that the young demonstrators were all dressed in the same way as on the background drawing to be found on the Cristianità pages describing CESNUR's activities, and were also carrying the same kind of tall pseudo-Medieval banners.
The same style was also to be seen on Italian TV during a great right-wing demonstration in Rome at the end of 1996, or early 1997: each demonstrator of AC's cousin group, Centro Lepanto, wore a pin with T.F.P.'s lion rampant, and they were all holding one long banner - "PRIVATE PROPERTY, A DIVINE RIGHT". For those lucky to have such property, of course. TFP in fact considers property ownership to be a prerequisite for a decent Christian life, which is the reason for the "property" in the name. As Roberto de Mattei, leader of Centro Lepanto, puts it, the preservation of the Catholic tradition needs an environment, the family¸ and "the family, in order to survive and grow, needs a material substrate to ensure its life and freedom " (De Mattei, Il crociato del secolo XX: Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Piemme, Casale Monferrato, 1996, p. 203), such a substrate being, of course, property. However, this does not mean giving property to everybody, but rather keeping it with those who have it already. A way of restricting salvation which should give food for thought to many a theologian.
This is an essay about Introvigne, not
about politics. As long as people clearly and honestly express strong opinions,
I may object to such opinions, but not to the people who express them.
All I wish to emphasize is that none of the statements or actions I mention
above, and which are basic features of Introvigne's world, have to do with
"scholarly research", "sociology" or "religious tolerance".