Nino Lo Bello, The Vatican Empire, “The Vatican in Politics X:”
The Vatican does not directly control the Christian Democrats, who are popularly known among the Italian people as democristiani, and also as i preti—literally, the priests. It does not give instructions to its men—but it doesn’t have to. It does not express opinions on given political issues—but the party leadership is always aware of the Vatican’s views. Ostensibly, Italy’s is a secular government, but the rules of conduct are formulated by the Vatican. For this reason, the Vatican has allowed only trusted practicing Catholics who will do the Church’s bidding to rise to the top political jobs in Italy.
One might ask whether the success of the Vatican in Italian politics can be attributed to the merging of its secular and spiritual qualities. The answer is indeed in the affirmative. The Vatican alternately poses as a church and as a political force, depending upon which pose will prove more advantageous at the moment. At the lower levels, through the local congregations, the Church presents itself as a religious organization and wins support by religious appeals to its followers; often these appeals influence voters. At the higher levels the Church becomes increasingly a political organization and, indirectly, exerts a controlling influence over the affairs of the Italian state. The Church’s chief instrument has been the democristi-ani, an army of faithful Christian Democratic politicians that has obviated the Vatican’s need for maintaining powerful lobbies. Italy’s postwar political history is intimately tied to i preti, under whom Italy has been carefully guided to its present position in the world of nations.