By WILLIAM MAYER, translation from the Italian by the author
May 15, 2017 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - In an April 26 column appearing in the Vatican mouthpiece, the Vatican Observer, author Di Franco Lo Piparo undertakes a sleight-of-hand Marxist deconstruction of the Catholic faith, using the theories propounded by the highly influential Italian communist, Antonio Gramsci whom he quotes:
“Religion is a need for the spirit. Men often feel so lost in the vastness of the world, they feel so often pushed by forces they do not know, the complexity of so subtle and subtle historical energies so far escapes the common sense, that in the supreme moments only those who have replaced the religion [with] some other Moral strength are able to save themselves from shaking.”
With Piparo’s analysis:
“Thus writes the 25-year-old Antonio Gramsci under the heading "Under the Mole" of the Turin edition of the "Avanti!" On March 4, 1916. The anthropological-philosophical observation is part of an article that is inspired by the news of an exorcist whose business had increased as a result of war events…We note that religion is neither the opium of peoples nor a superstructure intended to collapse once it has changed.” [source, Di Franco Lo Piparo, PhD, For Gramsci Religion is Necessary - Eighty years ago the disappearance of the Italian intellectual, April 26, 2017 Vatican Observer]
Piparo is a Marxist academic whose specialty is exploring linguistic aspects of Gramsci’s work. His selected passages seem clearly chosen to establish [without actually saying it, hence “sleight-of-hand”] a sense of moral equivalency between worldly utopian philosophies and Christianity.
Why this would be of interest to [and tolerated by] a Catholic readership is mystifying, perhaps one of the reasons why the article is only available in Italian and does not appear on a search of the English language version of the website.
For those not familiar with the name, Gramsci [1891-1937] is a genuinely reverential figure among the Marxist intellectual class. Though sickly, he wrote voluminously oft-times from behind prison bars courtesy of Benito Mussolini. Gramsci is credited for developing the theory of cultural hegemony, the factors and processes that work together to create the ethos or gestalt of a people at a particular time and place in history.
In articulating his ideas Gramsci was primarily moved by the need to explain a major contradiction in Marxist-Leninist theory; why weren’t worker-led communist revolutions spontaneously springing forth from all the societies whose economic success depended upon capitalist enterprise?
From his observations, traditional societies seemed to be naturally resistant to the “allure” of dictatorships of the proletariat,” so he struck upon a novel idea, that though slow to move of their own accord [traditional culture being primarily based on what had previously worked in a historical sense, creating a kind of organic inertia] culture was nonetheless malleable. Thus it follows that if the institutions that together came to form and define the nature of an entire society could be infiltrated by individuals who were sympathetic to revolutionary ideologies that society could eventually be subsumed bit by bit. Gramsci called this process of engineered cultural change “marching through the institutions,” subverting what had resisted attack from the outside.
Piparo chooses another interesting snippet from Gramsci:
“…the socio-economic structure on which it stands. "It is a need of the spirit." It has to do with the nature of man regardless of the ways in which that need in history declines.”
This is a straightforward case of Marxist denigration of religious faith by simply treating it as another “ism,” hence [again] the question why would the Vatican associated news source be publishing heterodoxy?
The phrase, “that need in history declines,” is telling, it references the Hegelian concept of historicism, i.e., the theory that mankind is inevitably being “driven” to a point [along for the ride so to speak] where history “ends.” Marx found the idea useful from the standpoint of being able to claim that his ideology was something of a force of nature unfolding according to dialectical principles which are in soft focus Platonic in origin. The Greek philosopher’s dialectical process however, was quite different from Marx’s “materialistic” version. The former is an open ended process, a give and take between opposing viewpoints. The later is tightly structured and circumscribed within notable constraints:
Plato spoke of the most desirable end point in all human interaction being the attainment of “the good” which necessarily implies that the world can be understood in a rational manner, that there are ultimate truths that represent knowledge. That he did this from a deity rich environment implies that his system was thoroughly consistent with the idea of supra-natural guiding forces.
So while Marxism “borrowed” the skeleton of the concept from the ancient Greeks, they at the same time lifted it from its contextual base making it entirely relativistic. Within this system “truth” consists of simple declaratives - their creation a movable feast, the sole purpose of which is to further the revolution…as it existed at any point in time. It is this elastic nature of the revolutionary concept [and hence the need for relativism] that was demonstrated at the 7th COMINTERN  where the world’s Marxist leadership did an abrupt about-face concluding that it was unwise under current circumstances [featuring the rising militaristic state socialism of Germany] to self-identify as communists choosing instead the similar but now dialectically correct terminology, “anti-Fascist” in furtherance of the movement.
It stands to reason then that metaphysical or religiously derived truth would have no applicability or meaning whatsoever in a dialectical materialistic context, except as a psychic model of a “successful” stratagem of control resulting in “hegemony.” Marx of course knew such a limitation disarmed the right [the ideological right] of its most powerful argument, the appeal to Mosaic law and all that it implied.
This is a remarkable document, appearing as it does in a publication so closely associated with the Vatican, if only because likening the Catholic faith to the Gramscian idea of ideological hegemony is heterodox to say the least.
Gramsci looked at Catholicism from the detached perspective of approbation, in that it has [had?] been successful for such a long period of time across the span of two millennia, certainly not because of the worthiness of its moral, ethical and/or spiritual content. To Gramsci it is merely a “thing” that has been extremely successful in its crafting. Gramsci admires Catholicism as would one any other precision instrument that is a marvel because of its efficaciousness over time.
What Gramsci misses [borne out in his other writings] and likewise the author [not to mention his complete lack of reverence for the Catholic faith] is that the edifice of modernity rests upon post-Reformational Judeo-Christianity, while acknowledging the contributions made by the Greeks and Romans that so neatly merged with it to form the meta social organization, Western Civilization.
Professor Piparo looks at the matter, as we would expect a good Marxist, in a mechanistic way, somewhat like a recipe whose success or failure is determined by the level of fidelity one brings to the process. There is no appreciation at all for the majestic notion of man joining with his creator as the result of a well lived life…that one could actually become one with the universe in the most perfect of ways.
At this point orthodox Catholics should be asking themselves why would the Vatican Observer allow what is a basic attack on the essence of Christianity to appear on its pages?
In a more general way, it is professor Piparo’s choice of the Marxist ideologue Gramsci as his subject, not necessarily his explanatory commentary, that should be of concern far outside the realm of Catholicism because it bares essential components of an ideology that has over time and with much intent become sacralized - a secular faith, complete with a religious level of fanaticism - that looms undoubtedly as the greatest threat facing the West.
Piparo, according to his short wiki, “developed specific interests for the Sicilian language and for the glottological contribution of Antonio Gramsci,” thus identifying him as a Marxist.
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