Wednesday, November 16, 2005

On the campaign trail (Church interference part II)

VATICAN CITY, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Pope Benedict warmly praised pro-life activists on Wednesday as the Italian government was considering deploying them into abortion advice centres to try to dissuade women from terminating pregnancies.

The pope's comments came amidst a controversy in Italy over abortion that has led to accusations the powerful Catholic Church was trying to interfere in domestic politics.

Read the complete article Pope enters Italy pre-electoral abortion debate from Reuters AlertNet.

This article is definitely worth reading in full, as it gives a nice list of the issues that the Church aims to tackle in the months before the next election in Italy.

In other news in Italy
Italy is set to pass a controversial reforms bill which could result in the first major changes to the country's constitution since the fall of fascism.

The Constitutional Reform Bill is aimed at the eventual devolution of extensive powers from Rome to the regions.

The bill will give more powers to the prime minister, reduce numbers of MPs in both houses and allow Italy's 20 regions to make many decisions.

Italy set to revamp constitution from BBC News.

The regionalization of Italy is a trend that began back when the post-World War II constitution was written. Italy was divided up into regions and there were vague clauses directing how the regions were to function and so on. These clauses were not implemented after the war and the regions for many decades were a dead letter.

In 1970, the Italian central government created new governments for the regions and granted the regions some budgetary powers. In his book Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy, published in 1993, Robert D. Putnam examined the evolution of the regions in Italian politics over the two decades of their new existence. Putnam's book is one I recommend wholeheartedly.

The reason I bring this up is because I'm wondering what implications such a devolution of power will have on the Church's ability to affect policy in Italy. Rome's concentration of government power is great at the moment. With power centered in one place, effective lobbying is facilitated by having all the principals in one central location. Even referenda on issues are tackled as 'national' issues. But when much government power is divided up among twenty regions, new challenges will have to be overcome.

Italian readers are welcomed to comment on this.

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