Mafia-Catholic Church changing relationship

The Mafia-Catholic Church relationship is not static, but has changed over the past 30 years says Rossella Merlino.

She says the Church is very far from the brotherhood these days.

This hurts the members she says as they have what she calls a “complex and varied” relationship with the Church.

They rely on the Church for spiritual strength.

“Entering a Mafia is converting into a religion – one never stops being a priest and one never stops being a Mafioso.”

A short biography about Merlino on Setpon Hall University’s website this year, where she was a guest lecturer, says she is “Lecturer and Head of Italian at the University of Bangor”

Her research focuses on “the cultural dimension of Italian organized crime, with a specific reference to the Sicilian mafia and religion …”

Merlino says the Church tolerated and bowed down to the Mafia until the 1980’s.

It wasn’t until pro-Mafia police, magistrates and politicians died off in the 1980’s and 1990’s that the church began turning away from the criminal brotherhood.

The Church relationship with the Mafia is very different today.

Merlino used a situation involving the Cardinal Archbishop of Palermo in 1964 as an example of how far the Church has changed over the years.

Ernesto Ruffini, the Cardinal, claimed the Mafia was a much maligned small band of petty criminals.

He also claimed the name Mafia was a detergent brand.

St Pope John Paul denounced the Mafia in 1993. Then in 2014 Pope Francis excommunicated all Mafia members for adoring evil.

Merlino says in the past some priests have been close to the Mafia, said Mass for them and offered spiritual support.

In return, some Mafia members offered the Church financial support. These days many priests refuse this and return donations.

In fact, Merlino says some clergy have always refused favours from criminal gangs. even before the post-1980s changes.

“For example, there was the famous Sicilian priest Pino Puglisi [pictured], from a very Mafia-dense part of Palermo, who was killed in 1993,” Merlino says.

“It was because he was clearly opposing the Mafia.”

In Merlino’s opinion, excommunicating the Mafia will help keep clergy away from them.

Pope Francis has said the Mafia’s values and “morals” are incompatible with the Church’s.



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