Luigi Sturzo, “free and strong” for a hundred years!

The principle of “authority” in the thought of the Sicilian priest

Exactly one century ago, on 18 January 1919, Don Luigi Sturzo launching his appeal “To all free and strong men” and establishing the Popular Party, restored to the country the active contribution of Italian Catholics. We would like to recall a fundamental aspect of the theoretical apparatus developed by the priest from Caltagirone on the question of political authority. Luigi Sturzo teaches us that every society, whatever its form, can never do without authority. Sturzo sees in it a “principle of order”, a “means of unification”, the “symbol” of sociality itself. Sturzo starts from the belief that we can not talk about society, if not as a “sharing” of ideas, feelings, affections, values ​​and interests. It is precisely the conflict and intersection of the actions carried out in the name of these values ​​and interests that lead Sturzo to affirm that individuals in society contribute, each in his / her own way – directly or indirectly – to the “creation, implementation and solidification of authority “; for this reason he reiterates that “the essence of authority is the same permanent, active, unifying and responsible conscience”. This assessment gives rise to the consideration of Sturzo in relation to the genesis of institutions, since both the emergence of authority and the subjection to it are “facts of conscience” and only in the individual conscience is it possible to trace the value of social unification in authority. There are different types that deny authority. The former are those who deny it as such, and they are the anarchists, who immediately and autonomously put themselves outside society. Then there are the enemies of authority, as opposed to their own particular interest and end up being hit by the same laws that they violate. Thirdly, there are those who deny authority and a certain social order because they believe that there is another better one. The latter express a continuous form of social renewal, a perpetual ferment that can lead to the best, but also to the worst. To these three categories: the anarchist, the partisan and the reformer, Sturzo adds a fourth: the despot. Indeed, Sturzo includes among the enemies of authority and social order even those who hold power by abusing it and, in so doing, become the very reason for the disorder that emerges in reaction to their despotic exercise of authority. The focus of Sturzo’s thought is the consideration of the “method of freedom”. Moreover, according to him, the basis of the social fact is the person and not “abstract public authority”. Authority is an attribute that belongs to each person, since we are all sons of the same Father. Of course, in order to better organize and coordinate civil coexistence, men organize themselves in such a way that the evolutionary process, with which the institutionalization of human action takes place, ensures that the authority of each individual does not harm but rather promotes the freedom of others; thus the person does not renounce authority, if anything he orients it to an objective that judges superior (transcendent) precisely for the pursuit of the good that is proper to him: “the individual good which is true good […] becomes in itself a common good” .