Confronting the Malady of Populist Nationalism

Claire Giangravè writes:

“Populism is an ancient malady. Even Christians have been faced with its force,” said Father Rocco D’ambrosio, a diocesan priest and professor of Political Philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University, in an interview with Crux Jan. 10….

D’ambrosio spoke at a conference titled “Power and populisms” along with Vincenzo Buonomo, dean of the Gregorian, as part of a cycle of lectures commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights….

Today’s populist leaders, or “new Caesars,” said D’Ambrosio, “are immature, corrupt, with monolithic institutions at their back and are weary of measures of control.”…

“I think it’s a Christian cultural deficit,” said D’ambrosio of the Catholic adherence to populist politics, calling out the United States as a ground zero of what he defined as the “great marriage between the political right and right-wing Catholics.”

According to the scholar and author of the book “Will Pope Francis Pull it Off?” the pontiff’s social push for the poor is often misunderstood in the United States, leading to a general refusal of his vision.

“Take a young person, a 20 or 30-year-old in the United States. He grew up with most priests and bishops telling him that being a faithful Christian means fighting for certain principles such as bioethics, sexual morality and family morality – which are important, no doubt – but setting aside all the others such as peace, justice, commitment toward immigrants, solidarity, fighting poverty and corruption etc,” he explained….

Many Catholics, he said, “take a part of the Christian teaching, exclude another and, on a practical level, tie themselves to those who have a populist vision of politics.”…

In a 2017 interview with the German weekly Die Zeitrendeva, Francis said that “Populism is evil and ends badly, as the past century proved,” a message echoed by the speakers at the conference in Rome, who at the same time urged people not to lose hope….

He recalled that in the Italy of 1926, in the wake of a global war and during the rise to power of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini – strengthened by the populist writings of the French writer Charles-Marie Gustave Le Bon – the priest and politician Father Luigi Sturzo urged his countrymen to be the seed that grows under the snow.

“Let’s hope that the DNA has the strength to beat the malady, that the malady is not chronic but transitory,” he said. “Under the snow, the seed.”