Evangelii Nuntiandi remains a pastoral document which has been unsurpassed.
Is there a hierarchy of values to respect in the management of public affairs?
Of course. Always to protect the common good. This is the vocation of any political figure. It is a broad concept which includes, for example, care for human life, its dignity. Paul VI used to say that the mission of politics is one of the highest forms of charity. Today the problem with politics—I am not speaking only about Italy but rather about all countries, the problem is a global one—is that it is devalued, ruined by corruption, by the phenomenon of bribery. A document which the French bishops published 15 years ago comes to mind. It was a pastoral letter entitled "Rehabilitating Politics" and it addressed precisely this question. If service isn’t the foundation, we can’t even begin to understand what politics is.
You said that corruption smells rotten. You also said that social corruption is the fruit of a sick heart and not merely of external conditions. There wouldn’t be corruption without corrupt hearts. A man who is corrupt doesn’t have friends but rather chumps who are useful to him. Can you explain this to us better?
I spoke about the matter on two consecutive days because I was commenting on the reading about Naboth’s vineyard. I like to speak about the daily readings [at Mass]. The first day I addressed the phenomenology of corruption, the second day how those who are corrupt end. The corrupt man, then, doesn’t have friends; he only has accomplices.
In your opinion, is there so much talk about corruption because the mass media insist too much on the matter, or because we are actually dealing with an endemic and serious evil?
No, unfortunately it is a global phenomenon. There are heads of state in prison precisely for this. I have thought a lot about it, and I’ve come to the conclusion that many evils increase especially during times of momentous change. We are not experiencing so much an era of changes as we are a change of era. We are therefore dealing with a change in culture; it is precisely at this stage that things of this sort emerge. The change of an era feeds moral decadence, not only in the political sphere but also in economic and social life.
Even Christians don’t seem to giving a shining witness …
It’s the environment that facilitates corruption. I’m not saying that everyone is corrupt, but I do think that it’s difficult to remain honest in politics. I am speaking about everywhere, not about Italy. I am also thinking about other cases. Sometimes there are people who would like to clear things up, but then they run into difficulty and it’s as if they’d been swallowed up by a multi-level, across the board, endemic phenomenon. Not because it’s the nature of politics, but because when times are changing the push towards a certain moral drift becomes stronger.
Are you more alarmed by a city’s moral or material poverty?
Both alarm me. Take a man who is suffering from hunger, for example. I can help him so that he’t no longer hungry, but if he’s lost a job and can no longer find work, that’s another kind of poverty. He has no more dignity. He might be able to go to Caritas and bring home a package of food, but he experiences a very serious poverty that ruins his heart. An auxiliary bishop of Rome told me that many people go to the cafeteria and secretly, full of shame, take some of the food home. Their dignity is progressively impoverished, they live without hope.
On the streets of Rome you can see girls as young as 14 often forced into prostitution amid general neglect, while in the subway you see children begging. Is the Church still a leaven? Do you feel powerless as a bishop in the face of this moral decline?