On February 8, the Italian Parliament almost unanimously approved the reform of two articles of the Constitution according to an “ecological” key, in a process that lasted only a few months, which is quite unusual for the era of the Chambers in Italy and even more unusual for a constitutional amendment. What should we think of these interventions and the thinking behind them?
The Constitution of the Italian Republic, approved in 1948, is logically in line with Western liberal constitutions since the French Revolution. It presents all the themes common to this type of document: human rights, religious freedom, absence of references to the divine order, secularism, and all the well-known principles condemned on several occasions by the Pontiffs of the past as contrary to Revelation.
These liberal and revolutionary principles were accepted by ecclesiastics, as we know, with Vatican II’s declaration Dignitatis humanae in 1965. Generated by the world and entered into the constitutions of modern states, it was only after a long struggle that these ideas penetrated the minds and documents of the Catholic episcopate. As Cardinal Suenens said, Vatican II was “1789 in the Church.”
This time, however, the new environmentalist perspective, which makes the earth an entity subject to rights and almost a living person to be protected, first entered into the documents of Pope Francis, and only later into the constitution (at least that of Italy).
The Encyclical Laudato Si'
Pope Francis’s encyclical, published in 2015, is truly the fundamental charter of this new era of the Church: it is presented in fact as “a philosophical and theological vision of the human being and of creation” (no. 130).
Chapter VI explicitly calls for such an “ecological conversion” (sic) of the individual and of the Church herself (nos. 216-217), presented, using a typically modernist terms, as an essential aspect of “the Christian experience,” making it clear that it is not only a question of doctrines and ideas but “of feeling, of living,” of a “mysticism which animates us.”
The great ecological duties of the new world need a profound reason to be lived, and Christianity (like other religious experiences) presents itself here as this engine of spiritual animation.
In the encyclical, the earth is presented as a real living organism, mother and sister, and not only in the figurative sense. Gaudium et spes 22, developed by John Paul II in Redemptor hominis, was able to say that “through the Incarnation, the Son of God was united in a certain way with every man” (no.13). It should be remembered in this regard that, for Catholic doctrine, through the Incarnation, the Son of God united Himself personally with a human nature, that born of the Virgin Mary.
Today it is said that Christ has united Himself with all creation (cf. for example nos. 235 and 238 of Laudato si'), and therefore, creation is worthy of charity and salvation as such, just as every man has been saved according to John Paul II.
Chapter five of the encyclical is a great invitation to States, international organizations and associations to review their priorities in depth, not only through specific interventions, but through a far-sighted and principle-based environmental program (nos. 177- 178). The Italian Parliament seems to have responded to this call.
The “Ecological Transition” in Italy
The current Italian government has thus made it its mission to bring Italy into this new perspective, going so far as to modify the constitution. A “special ministry for ecological transition” has already been created, entrusted to the physicist Roberto Cingolani.
Mr. Cingolani is known for having declared during a conference in June 2021 that “the planet Earth is designed for three billion inhabitants” and that “the human being is a parasite because he consumes energy without producing anything.”
A few days later, he told La Stampa that the ecological transition “could be a bloodbath” and that “we will have to pay dearly for CO2 and its consequences, for example on the electricity bill.” Today, this character welcomes constitutional changes.
Thus, from now on, article 9 of the Constitution – an article which is part of the “fundamental principles” – specifies that, in addition to culture and landscape, the Republic “protects the environment, biodiversity, and ecosystems, also in the interest of future generations. State law regulates the modalities and forms of animal protection.”
Article 41, which stipulated that private economic initiative could only be limited by requirements of security or human dignity and freedom, was supplemented by the fact that it can be regulated, even positively, by environmental requirements. The reform of large sections of the civil and penal codes, which until now considered the environment and animals as “things” in the service of man, will not be long in coming.
Constitutionalist Marilisa D'Amico commented: “Until now, the notion of environment has been recognized from an anthropocentric perspective, linked to the right to human health: the individual is the beneficiary of legal protection and not the environment as such, excluding its landscape value, which is always the product of human vision.”
“From now on, an objectivist conception of the environment has been adopted: this is an acquisition which is part of the evolution of constitutional case law which has reinforced the autonomous dimension of the concept of environment in recent years.”
In short, the Italian State announces that the protection of the environment can justify any intervention aimed at reducing the economy - and perhaps the population, as Minister Cingolani wishes - because the earth, like animals, is a autonomous subject of law, in a vision not surprisingly similar to that of Pope Francis.
The men of the Church therefore seem to have made up for the “two hundred year delay” of which Cardinal Martini spoke shortly before his death. They are now even ahead of Western states in the race to the abyss. They begin the processes, as Pope Francis says, believing that “time is greater than space.”
But unfortunately, they have forgotten the One who remains eternal, superior to time and space.