Ten years after a courageous struggle by the Catholic Church against Sicily’s Mafia, there is a loss of momentum in such efforts, even as religious and quasi-religious currents are now playing a prominent role in this criminal culture.
Britain’s The Tablet (Jan. 31) notes that 1993 marked the height of church protests against the Cosa Nostra, when the pope publicly condemned the crime organization and Fr. Pino Puglisi was murdered for his anti-Mafia activism. It seemed that the Mafia’s longtime ties to a complacent — and in some cases complicit — Catholicism had been broken, writes John Dickie.
But today the church has stepped back from confronting the Mafia, and is “more interested in celebrating a martyr [Puglisi] than in tackling the organization that killed him.”
Dickie writes that “recent research has revealed a majority of [the Mafia] membership, several thousand strong, profess themselves to be devout Catholics;”police raids regularly turn up private altars and images of Padre Pio and the Sacred heart in their hideaways. “There is something more disturbing at work here than just a self-interested borrowing of the paraphernalia of Christianity for evil purposes,” Dickie writes. The Mafia in Sicily is now believed to exist as a shadow state with religion serving as its “cultural glue.”
Cosa Nostra executions are seen as carrying out a “quasi-divine” justice and Mafiosi often refer to themselves as “`Christians’ or `Cristiani che corono’ — Christians on the run . . . Becoming a mafioso also means having a new identity, for which religious morality is often integral.” Although women have no role in the Cosa Nostra, their function of transmitting this religious culture in the home to the next generation is crucial, Dickie concludes.
(The Tablet, 1 King St., Clifton Walk, London W6 0Q2, UK)