Don Luigi Sturzo took the decision to enter the Italian economic and political life with a precise objective: to Christianize, that is, to moralize, the political and economic world. Two worlds that have always been dominated by behaviors that contrasted Christian teaching, especially at the top levels in government and business. This is the origin of the great injustices and the consequent widespread poverty that eventually “fed” Marx’s revolutionary proposal. In the encyclical “Rerum Novarum“, Leo XIII judged this proposal as a medicine that causes more harm than the illness it wanted to cure. In fact, Marx incited fierce conflict between the working class and the “owners”, to the point of transforming the state in the only “master” of the system, the only judge and the only player.
In 1891, the Pope wrote: “harmony is the beauty and the order of things, while a perpetual conflict between capital and labor cannot but generate confusion and barbarism. Christianity has the wonderful power to heal the breach and expose its roots”.
The young Luigi Sturzo, who in 1891 was only 20, embraced this invitation with enthusiasm. He studied theology and philosophy, but also social economy, under the guidance of Giuseppe Toniolo. Soon, he switched from studies to action, at first in administrative leadership of the Municipality of Caltagirone, Sicily, as vice-mayor, then at a national level, founding the Italian Popular Party. With his constructive action, devoted to the achievement of the others’ wellbeing, he showed that it was true that “Christianity has a lot of wonderful power.” He understood that the first rule of good governance is the following: political reasons (the so-called “reasons of State”) and the economic reasons should never trample on moral reasons, but always respect it. Otherwise, those two reasons, sooner or later, will prove to be irrational and immoral.
Fascism first and statism later prevented his economic and social thought to demonstrate the great validity of that “wonderful force.” Unfortunately, many politicians and entrepreneurs, many of whom called themselves Christians, were not able to grasp his message nor that of the many social encyclicals written by the successors of Pope Leo XIII. Sturzo preannounced “Gaudium et Spes“, calling for a renewal of the ecclesial fabric, because they become able to influence society and to give it a direction in a new vision of the common good.
Our great hope is that Pope Francis – with whom the Servant of God Father Luigi Sturzo would fully agree – will reach more members of the political and economic world than his predecessors, because these two worlds keep trampling moral reasons in a shortsighted (and often criminal) way.
Journalist, writer, former president of the International Centre Luigi Sturzo Studies