Doctrinal mind control in Italy and Roman Catholic brainwashing
Biagio Catalano interviews Domenico Pacitti
Biagio Catalano: Professor Pacitti, I see from your writings that you describe yourself as an atheist. In what precise sense are you an atheist?
Domenico Pacitti: I am an atheist in that I know of no convincing reason to support the existence of a supreme deity. Nor do I believe in immortality, an afterlife, heaven or hell, miracles or that Jesus Christ was the son of God. Of course, I cannot completely disprove that there is a God in the same way that I cannot completely disprove that there is currently a fully functional Italian restaurant on the planet Pluto or that our world is populated by ghosts that lie in principle beyond our detection. But I consider my scepticism on all three counts to be entirely reasonable and I take the onus of proof to be on the part of the proponents of such propositions. The term ‘agnostic’ I would reserve for those who become more deeply involved in the question and find they can express no certainty either way.
Catalano: What was your first contact with Roman Catholicism and how did you first become an atheist?
Pacitti: I remember around the age of 4, in Glasgow where I was born and brought up, asking my aunt about the holy pictures she kept in her Sunday missal. One showed St Michael triumphantly driving a lance into a fallen Lucifer. Another depicted the Archangel Gabriel holding the trumpet he would eventually use to announce the end of time. I immediately wondered how a supposedly benign God could promote such pitiless bloodshed and sadistically pull the carpet of time from under our feet. But I received no satisfactory replies to my insistent questions. My vague feeling was that religion had no literal sense and had to be viewed in symbolic or mythological terms, although I was unable to express it as such at the time. I don’t think I ever really believed any of it seriously. So it is not that I became an atheist; rather I simply never became a theist.
Catalano: How did your early school experiences reinforce your atheism?
Pacitti: At the convent school I attended between the ages of five and nine, the nuns made us learn the catechism by heart: “Who made you? God made me. Why did God make you? God made me to know Him, love Him and worship Him in this world so that I may be happy with Him forever in the next” – that sort of thing. By this time I knew very well that my parents, and not God, had made me and felt it as an affront to them that that this act should, for better or worse, be attributed to God or that I should love Him more than I loved them.
The notion of worshipping always seemed intolerably servile and self-abasing to me and unworthy of any self-respecting person. Nor did having to call a nun “Sister” and a priest “Father” do anything to help matters. Part of the catechism required us to accept that a miracle quite literally took place every single time a mass was held and that this miracle consisted in the priest’s transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. I remember asking the nuns whether transubstantiation was not perhaps meant to be interpreted symbolically, like the eating of an apple by Adam. The horrified response was that it all had to be accepted as quite literally true and that I must learn not to be such a doubting Thomas.
I should add that my parents’ decision to send me to Roman Catholic private schools was based purely on the supposed high standards of education since my parents were neither practising Catholics nor especially interested in my religious education.
Catalano: Can you say something about your later school experiences?
Pacitti: Religious education at the Jesuit primary and secondary schools I attended added to indoctrination by rote learning a more subtle form of indoctrination: automatic self-censorship. This was instilled by allowing and even encouraging the asking of questions provided they fell within the accepted doctrinal framework, in other words provided they posed no radical challenge to doctrine. Anything that fell beyond the predetermined bounds was inadmissible.
It began to strike me that the behaviour of believers in God, the afterlife and immortality was in sharp contradiction to their professed beliefs. On one occasion a teacher had just died after receiving the last sacraments, which guaranteed him a safe passage to heaven, and I couldn’t understand why there was so much sadness. They ought to have been rejoicing, I thought. And I wondered about all those who, having died without receiving the necessary preferential treatment, would be roasted in hellfire in accordance with this bizarre doctrine.
Catalano: Were there any particularly memorable personal episodes or clashes you can tell us about?
Pacitti: There were quite a few incidents. I can tell you about the one that made the greatest impact on me. When I was nine I sat the entrance exam for a Jesuit primary school in Glasgow and had my first experience of a Roman Catholic-style injustice. The headmaster, a certain Fr Tracy, a man intoxicated by priestly power, had been losing patience with Scots Italians for putting their children to work in the family business before they had completed their schooling and he said that he wanted to teach them a lesson. Well the lesson came in the form of denying entry to the candidate with the highest marks, which happened to be myself, on the grounds of having an Italian family background. Meanwhile other Scots Italians, the recommended ones, were being granted places at the school. A determined campaign by my parents eventually brought the headmaster to his knees. I can still remember the anguish on my mother’s face when I asked when I would be getting my school uniform and reassured her that I hadn’t made any errors in the exam.
I was told the truth long after the matter had been resolved, when I also discovered that the headmaster was especially annoyed at having to deal with a woman, my father having been too disgusted to want to meet the headmaster in person. It was just one more experience which reinforced my view that priests are viruses in society, corrupting truth and infecting the mind.
Catalano: Professor, in what way and to what extent does religion bear the brunt of the responsibility for the socio-cultural education of the individual with particular reference to Italy?
Pacitti: Let me make it clear that I oppose all religions on the grounds that they are irrational and promulgate false beliefs. Here we are talking specifically about Roman Catholicism. The examples I have just cited concern the UK in a very limited sense but they still contain some of the unmistakable hallmarks of the Italian Roman Catholic Church: the poisoning of the minds of young children through the inculcation of nonsense by indoctrination; the placing of arbitrary constraints on freedom of thought by instilling the self-censorship principle; the use of the notion of gratuitous physical and psychological violence to terrorise for given ends; lack of respect for merit; over-concern with power and hierarchies; acceptance of the philosophy of recommendations and exchanges of favours; disregard of truth and justice as the highest principles; lack of respect and even scorn for women; and hypocrisy.
The situation in Italy is clearly far worse in that these prejudices have for centuries been part of the normal course of everyday life in a much wider sense. At best, the Roman Catholic religion encourages believers to perform some morally positive acts and refrain from performing other morally negative ones – but invariably for the wrong reasons. In this very limited sense Roman Catholicism may be considered positive. On the other hand, notably in Italy, the ethic of forgiveness has led to the deep corruption of values such as truth and justice. It has also fostered weakness of the will, providing little incentive to obey laws.
I think the harm greatly outweighs the good here, so that the Roman Catholic religion must be held primarily responsible for deep-rooted, endemic corruption. Meanwhile, with the publication of his Catechism Herr Ratzinger (§43 ff.), evidently not content with his Church’s abysmal record of corruption, has taken an important step towards the legitimation of the sort of atrocious human slaughter that is caused by bombs and other weapons. Also, you will remember that on the eve of the allied invasion of Iraq the Vatican disapproved of the pacifist protests in Italy, the chief reason being that the Vatican considered itself to be the sole self-appointed protagonist on the issue. Nor did the pacifist protests receive the media coverage they deserved in Italy, which comes as no surprise.
Catalano: You have a very sound knowledge of the Italian university system, being yourself an academic. In many of your articles you speak out indefatigably, highly critically and without half measures against the abnormal state of degeneracy within Italian universities. What is this disaster due to and what problems might it cause in the long term?
Pacitti: How can you have a credible school or university within a system which not only fails to recognise the central concept of merit together with the supreme values of truth, justice and genuine freedom of thought and expression but actually holds them in cynical disregard and actively punishes insistent attempts to uphold them? A competition for a tenured post that has been decided in advance hardly deserves to be called a competition at all. An exam where everyone cheats and where professors show favouritism is hardly an exam.
An Italian university does not deserve to be called a university since many of the connotations commonly associated with bona fide universities are crucially absent. We need to reflect on the fact that in addition to teaching a particular subject a teacher is simultaneously teaching by example, probably largely unconsciously, in the same sort of way that children learn more from their parents by example than by explicit instruction. Students assimilate this latter aspect largely unconsciously. At an Italian university the teacher who is teaching you is at best guilty of passive complicity in perpetrating a corrupt system since it is not credible that he is unaware of the various corrupt processes and yet weakness of the will and fear of reprisals prevent him from speaking out.
The Italian mentality here, again due to the Roman Catholic Church, hinders perception of such behaviour for what it is. It should be fairly obvious that people who choose not to speak out when they know the truth, who opt for the wall of silence solution, automatically become the accomplices of criminals and partners in corruption. But Roman Catholic cultural conditioning systematically obscures this and other similar perceptions. At worst your teacher is playing an active part in that corruption on a regular permanent basis. What chance do the students have if those with the formative roles are themselves decadent? A careful study of the mechanisms by which knowledge is assimilated in the classroom context helps illustrate this. So education in Italy has a key role in reinforcing and perpetrating the corruption and perversion of fundamental values.
Catalano: Given the current state of political, economic and social disaster in Italy, would you advise a prospective student to embark on a lengthy (and very onerous) course of study in Italy? Or is there a danger that one might in the end equally well find oneself not only without a job but also strongly conditioned in one’s way of thinking and thus contribute to an increase in Italy of “educated ignoramuses” or prospective brain drain candidates?
Pacitti: My advice is to consider whether higher education is the only way forward and to evaluate possible alternatives. A university education tends to be overrated in a country which until fairly recently had a relatively high illiteracy rate. It would be hard to find Italian parents who would not consider it a major accomplishment for their son or daughter to take a university degree. In those cases where a university education is considered to be indispensable, my advice is to attend university with the dual aim of learning a subject and transforming the system. This means having the necessary will and ability to organise widespread, effective student action.
When Italian students protest, it is invariably about study conditions, fees and accommodation. They never protest about the corrupt processes that produce their teachers. Evidently this is not important to them, which means much of the blame for the sad state of Italian universities is due to the students themselves. Those students who wish to be judged on merit but who are unwilling to try and reform the corrupt Italian system should go abroad and join the brain drain exodus – but they should be prepared to have their foreign qualifications devalued and their chances of obtaining a tenured post reduced on returning to Italy.
Catalano: In one of your articles , which I recently quoted from with reference to the link between religion and economics , you elucidated the existence of a close relationship between Italian political and economic failure and the influence of Catholicism. In your view, are there any intrinsic reasons along climatic-geographic lines that might have justified the creation of Catholicism together with all its familiar characteristics and its implementation as an instrument of mass control in the specific case of Italy?
Pacitti: Any line of enquiry that can help throw light on the role of climatic or geographical criteria in helping us understand the formative processes which moulded the characteristics of our remote ancestors and ancient societies within the Italian peninsula should certainly be encouraged. I see no reason why these factors should not have played at least a contributory formative role.
For example, the fact of Italy’s being a peninsula together with the fact of its Mediterranean location obviously rendered it a prime centre of commerce in ancient times and this would certainly have fostered a mercantile mentality among the inhabitants. The question is definitely worth studying seriously along the lines you suggest.
You could use the method of concomitant variation, that is to say try to find other examples of similar geography and climate with similar cultural traits and then look for cases where climate, geography and culture are unrelated or related in different partially overlapping ways. You would obviously also have to take the historical parameter into account in order to try and get at the truth and isolate the relevant factors. The French historian Fernand Braudel, who died in 1985, did some important research in this area. I know that there is a Braudel centre in New York which is carrying on his work, but I haven’t been keeping up with developments.
Catalano: Professor, it is immediately obvious from a careful analysis that the history of the Roman Empire and that of the Vatican are clearly interdependent. In your opinion, why are certain academic specialists and public opinion itself so unable to perceive the evidence of the fact that Christianity was a political creation of the Roman Empire.
Pacitti: One reason is that they simply do not know their history. Another is that school and university indoctrination has kept them to within the safe established framework of investigation. Professional academics tend to overspecialise in a given area. This often leads to a form of stultification or mental rigor mortis which prevents them from perceiving certain situations within their correct context and in their proper perspective, or from being able to interpret the results of their research adequately. The independent gifted amateur or self-taught man is more likely to be free of these considerable faults. Another factor is that there is evidently no effective motivation and perhaps only disincentives for following the sort of lines you suggest in that it is not politically useful.
Public opinion in Italy and elsewhere continues to be guided for the most part by those who control the media. It is certainly true that from the time of Plato through to the Middle Ages and modern times there has been this continuity in degeneracy as a sort of corrupting force assimilating and transforming everything they came in contact with into something base and immoral. The deep and sustained insatiable thirst for power within the Italian peninsula since earliest times is a phenomenon that remains unparalleled in human history.
It is perhaps worth reminding our readers that the Roman Empire is generally said to have begun with the Battle of Actium in 31 BC and to have ended under Romulus Augustus in 476 AD. By the early sixth century the Western Empire had evolved into the Byzantine Empire. The Holy Roman Empire may be seen to have run from Otto the Great in 962, or from as early as Charlemagne in 800, right up until 1806 when it received its final coup de grâce following Napoleon’s defeat of Francis of Austria. So here you have a quite remarkable, unique phenomenon in history of the same city, Rome, having produced the two most powerful empires the world has ever seen, together spanning over two thousand years: in the words of Augustine of Hippo, one the City of Man, which was temporal and perishable, and the other the City of God, which was eternal and not subject to those criteria which brought down empires and ended civilisations.
Catalano: You have written about the Counter-Reformation and the Concordat as key events in the reaffirmation of Catholicism and its pernicious influence on Italian and world history. Do you think that it is possible to reverse these processes and if so, how?
Pacitti: The important point about the Counter-Reformation, or Catholic Reformation, the principles of which were enshrined in the Council of Trent of 1563, is that at a time when other European countries were making a giant leap forward, the Roman Catholic Church was making a giant leap backwards to medieval times. The need for belief in absurd dogma, such as transubstantiation, the sacraments and the afterlife, was emphatically reaffirmed, while the actual reforms were in large part bureaucratic. The Concordat, on the other hand, was part of the Lateran treaties which Mussolini drew up with the Holy See in 1929.
The creation of an independent Vatican state, the consolidation of the Church’s powers and the granting of new powers – notably control of the country’s education system – were among the concessions made by an all-powerful dictator who at the same time recognised the enormous strength and influence of a Church with hundreds of millions of adherents throughout the world. The move, an entirely political one which was at the time a good one for Mussolini, was a decidedly bad one for the Italian people. Like the Counter-Reformation, the Concordat took a decisive step in the wrong direction. Despite the nominal reversal of some of this damage in the 1948 Constitution, the contemporary Italian mentality remains Church dominated. So how do you reverse over 2,000 years of social and psychological conditioning? I think there is no single conceivable measure that could succeed on its own.
Two things are needed: a series of measures acting together plus the public perception of the permanence of the changes. Even if Antonio Di Pietro’s mini-revolution had succeeded, the sheer weight of the past would have left a widespread feeling of confidence that a future government could have reversed all of the important changes. Positive measures would have to include: a morally meticulous example set by the country’s politicians; publicly perceptible rewards for good conduct and the punishment of bad conduct; a radical reform of the country’s universities and schools; initiatives aimed at demonstrating the need for the abolition of religion on account of the immense harm it has caused; and the need to shed the old identity in favour of a new, positive European identity. As this is unlikely to come into force, I think we can reasonably expect the current mentality to prevail for still some time yet.
Catalano: Why do you think the Italian political class, regardless of colour, has an irresistible desire to cling almost subliminally to the politics and ideology traditionally expressed by the Vatican without being concerned about the effects of this alliance on Italian and foreign opinion? Is it just a question of banal clientelism or are there other determining factors?
Pacitti: Recognition of the weakness and instability of their own governments, on the one hand, and the power and influence of the Roman Catholic Church, on the other, provides the essential answer. It is beginning to look – and not only in Italy – as though the term ‘honest politician’ is an oxymoron, a pure and simple contradiction in terms. Political action is largely incompatible with the observance of moral criteria, or at least that is how it has always seemed to me.
In Italy, traditionally, politicians enter politics with the aim of becoming powerful and influential – a sure reflection of inner weakness and instability – and of amassing wealth through the art of transferring public funds to private bank accounts. No one in Italy really goes into politics to benefit the Italian people. This means that it is primarily the fault of Italians themselves for failing to take adequate action to stop this. That is to say that by doing nothing, through prolonged intent inaction, they are giving their silent consensus to this criminal class.
At the last election Berlusconi instructed his candidates to address voters as though they were eleven-year-olds. Well that sums up how voters are regarded. Italy never had a French-style revolution with the guillotine and never benefited from the full spirit of the Enlightenment. There is a sense in which most nations have the sort of government they deserve. Italians too, by their weakness of will, lack of courage and Church-conditioned mentality, have had the governments and political system they deserve.
Catalano: Many Italian opinion writers, journalists and anchormen currently have a Catholic background, or are at least for the most part aligned. Do you think that in the medium term it is possible to bring about a defenestration of these polluted generations so as to provide an example to young people who want to become good journalists, and if so, what instruments should be used?
Pacitti: Here it is not a question of being a practising Catholic, since some prominent Italian journalists are Jews, Muslims and Buddhists. The point is that they all possess the requisite culture of servility and intuitive self-censorship to be allowed on the air. And these are deep-rooted Italian cultural characteristics which are part of the legacy of a Church-instilled mentality.
The most pernicious aspect of the resulting media distortion consists in the illusion that the full spectrum of opinions is being presented to the viewer, listener or reader. The truth is that radical and independent opinion is carefully and systematically filtered out on account of its subversive potential – a veritable constraint on free speech. So the anchormen you mention are less dangerous when they are obviously acting as henchmen for their political puppet-masters than when they appear to be operating with meticulous impartiality, since in the latter case the art of deception is conducted as subtly as in a game of chess through a sophistical arrangement of partial truths which together produce a false picture.
Again, I consider the elimination of this corrupt class to be as unlikely as the elimination of the corrupt political class for the reasons given in my last answer: weakness and passivity as part of the Church’s indelible stamp on the Italian mentality.
Catalano: Do you believe that starving a country and reducing it to ignorance still constitutes a technique of efficient demagogic manipulation? If so, in what way and through whose work is this coming about in Italy?
Pacitti: No. The US National Security Council has long understood that systematic media indoctrination is far more effective in gaining control of people’s minds than the old methods of hunger and starvation. And Italy is learning from the US all the time. Italians are a naturally creative people whose creativity must be restricted to within certain well-defined confines if it is not to become politically dangerous or subversive. Hungry people are potentially more dangerous than the well-fed and the suitably entertained.
The promotion of “safe” cultural knowledge is considered legitimate. But, again according to the NSC, you have to keep people in the dark over certain matters. And that, again, means media control – not just what gets communicated and how but also, and more importantly, what gets omitted.
Catalano: Professor Pacitti, thank you for your kind collaboration. We look forward to talking to you and benefiting from your opinions again soon.
Biagio Catalano is an independent researcher who specialises in the history of Christianity.
Note: This interview was published by JUST Response on August 22 2005. The original Italian version appeared in Alexamenos on August 21 2005 titled "A tu per tu con Domenico Pacitti" and may be read here.