i-ItalyNY - 2014-06 - page 12

12
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i-
Italyny
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June-July 2014
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FifteenyearshavepassedsincePopeJohnPaul
IIlaunchedhisattackonthemafia:“Convert!
OnedayGod’sjudgmentwillcome!Noman
cantramplethisholyrightofGod.Mafia,stop
thekilling!”Notlongbefore,thePopehadmet
privatelywiththeelderlyparentsofJudge
Livatino,ayoungmagistratemurderedbythe
mob.Thatexperiencepromptedhispublic
outcry,whichstillechoestoday,fromtheValleyof
theTemplesthroughthestreetswhereinnocent
peoplearebutcheredeveryday.PopeFrancis
repeatedhispredecessor’sappealaftermeeting
withvictimsofmafiacrimelastMarch.“Ifeel
thatIcannotconcludewithoutsayingawordto
theonesmissingheretoday,”saidPopeFrancis,
“tothemenandwomenofthemafia:please
changeyourlives,convert,andstopdoingevil.”
Toconvert,torenounceyourpastandembark
onanewwayoflife,isconsideredthegreatestact
offaith.
“Convert!”continuedFrancis,gentlyyetfirmly.
“I’mdownonmykneesasking.Itisforyourown
good.Thelifeyouleadtodaywillnotbringyou
gratification.Itwillnotbringyoujoy.Itwillnot
bringyouhappiness.”
Conversionmeansdirectingyourwhole
existencetowardyourfaith.AndifforChristians
thetruthishandeddownbytheLord,then
convertingisdoingastheLordwishes.“The
power,”saidFrancis,“themoneythatyouhave
gainedbydirtybusinessandcrime,isblood
money.It’spowerboughtwithblood.Andyou
cannotbringitwithyouintotheafterlife.”Asking
membersofthemafiatoconvertisameans
ofdeclaringthefaithful’scompleteandtotal
aversiontoasinfulwayoflife.Thereisnosocial,
historical,environmentalorculturaljustification
fordoingevil.
Sadly,forthemafiatosurviveitneedsastrong,
well-organizedgroupofpeople.Itneeds
consensusandrecognition.Andthosethingsare
gainedbyusingthekindoflanguageandrites
thatgrowoutofreligioussuperstition.Themafia
hasnotalwaysfoundanenemyintheChurch.In
“TheSopranos,”totakeanexamplefrompopular
culture,oneofthebossescomplainstohispriest
that23yearsofgoodworkscannotguaranteehim
ascensiontoParadise.Itisnotuncommontohear
aboutchurchgoingCamorrabosseswhocarry
saintsandMadonnasinprocessions,orread
scripture,orgoonpilgrimagestosanctuaries.
PopeFrancisfirmlyasksthatthoseinthemafia
convert.Itisajustappealtothemembersofthe
mafia,butalsotoaChurchthathasnotalways
beenabletofreeitselffromitsmoreambiguous
role,proposingpietyontheonehand,and
insidioussuperstitionontheother.Thelatterhas
terribleconsequenceswhenusedtojustifybad
behavior.Intheworldofbelievers—ofallfaiths—it’s
hardtorootoutsuperstition.EveninHinduIndia,
VikramChandradescribesacrimebosswho
justifiedhimselfbysaying:“Ithasallbeenwritten,
andIamcarryingouttherolethatGodhasgiven
me.”.
.
byMons. GennaroMatino*
Church
andtheMafia
Pope Francis and Father Luigi Ciotti,
founder of the Italian anti-Mafia group
Libera
, participate in a prayer service
for Mafia victims.
*
Gennaro Matino teaches Theology and History of Christianity
in Naples, where he runs the parish of SS.Trinità. He has
written several books and essays, and collaborates extensively
with both traditional and newmedia.
of the streets into academia, so that [people
there] would study reality, not fantasies. At
the conference I read parts of a book I am
writing now about my life growing up within
organized crime in Chicago.When people
think of the Mafia, they think about what
they see onTV, in films. But for me Mafia has
always been something that is part of life.
Some people I knew committed crimes and
others did not, but everybody participated in
one way or another.
You went to the podium wearing a black suit
and a white tie – the stereotypical image of a
gangster…
FG:
Yes, I wanted to play the stereotype.
But I also wanted to make people think
about what it means when the Mafia is part
of your life. It took me a long time before
I understood that I was inside the Mafia. I
didn’t understand why my father was killed.
The police said it was some crazy man who
came into the store and killed him and ran
away…Or why my grandfather was killed,
or my godfather…I was just told lies about
these people. And as I grew older I realized
that the very men I was working for (after my
grandfather died my mother put me to work
for some Men fearing I was going to get in
trouble) were the men who were involved in
killing Kennedy… It took me 40 years!
What about today?What is left of the power
of those men today?
FG:
The way it was explained to me when
I was young was: “Look, we came to this
country and we were not a part of the
system.We had to create our system until
we figured out how to get into the big
system.”The system was not intended
to stay a separate kingdom forever.They
wanted to enter legitimate businesses,
politics, the legal system, and they did.
Nobody wants to be a criminal. No gangster
wants to look around every day to see if
someone is going to shoot him.The men
I was working for became successful and
sent their kids to college.They became
assimilated in such a way that even their
children today don’t know anything about it.
Those people were fundamentally proud to
be Americans because they couldn’t succeed
unless America succeeded.They believed in
America. And they sent their kind to fight in
the army, to die for the country they were
able to steal money from.
JS:
And that’s another good reason why we
should contribute to the knowledge of this
phenomenon.To really fight the Italian-
American mafia stereotype in the media
we should not bury the facts under positive
images.That’s
omertà
.We as scholars need
to study, to know, to bring facts out into the
open air.
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