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New Book Compares Power of White House and Vatican

Interview with Rafael Navarro-Valls

MADRID, Spain, SEPT. 28, 2004 (Zenit) - Rafael Navarro-Valls, professor at Madrid's Complutense University and Secretary General of the Royal Spanish Academy of Jurisprudence and Legislation, has just published a book entitled "On Power and Glory."

The book is a collection of essays that focus on different aspects of the presidency of the United States (where "political power is manifested in a pure state") and of the spiritual authority represented by John Paul II.

The work also addresses issues of "Sex, Marriage, and Law," "Culture and University," and "Conscience and the Law," which the author explains in this interview with the Spanish news agency Veritas.

Q: What was your intention in collecting the series of essays in your book?

Navarro-Valls: Focusing in a comparative manner on the power of the president of the United States and that of the Pope, the first spiritual authority on earth, I wish to show a series of contrasts that exist between both powers, separated only by "a thin red line."

If Washington is a political theater of which the president is the main actor, Rome is the See of a Pope who believes that any person in this world is an actor in a great play of which God is author.

Q: The U.S. presidency is in the headlines with the proximity of the Nov. 2 elections. In your opinion, what are the ethical characteristics that the most powerful man in the world should have?

Navarro-Valls: The presidency has two faces: one evokes hope and tradition; the other, darker, entails broken promises and harsh realities. Kissinger said that you "have to be a rich egotist without a job to be able to be a candidate to the presidency of the United States."

This is not my point of view. I think that a president must have character, intellectual curiosity, energy, a sense of history and a vision of the future.

The crises he must face daily in the Oval Office are a chain of challenges that presidents have not always been able to resolve. Naturally, then, in these essays (which make up the first part of the book) there is a bit of everything: scandals and issues, substantial errors and successes, integrity and corruption.

The study I make of the presidencies of Roosevelt, Kennedy, Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton and Bush Jr., etc… demonstrates this, although the book also analyzes other figures whose course was marked by power: Churchill, De Gaulle and Bob Kennedy.

Q: You dedicate the longest part of the book to an analysis of the "spiritual power," and topics connected with it. What is your point of view on John Paul II?

Navarro-Valls: John Paul II is a revolutionary who heads a revolt against a way of life dominated, as Indro Montanelli said, "by that anxiety for the new which by the afternoon has made decrepit what was invented in the morning."

Its "distressed divisions (as opposed to those of the Pentagon) are not measurable in martial terms, but its actions and words have the force of integrity -- which its enemies criticize as temerity -- of those who raise the standard above the atmosphere of mediocrity.

Most of the book, in fact, addresses a series of topics that have the Pope's spiritual power as protagonist. This is a power, as I said earlier, that many times is separated from the scene only by a thin border.

It is natural that on the border skirmishes of identity occur (secularism and its limits, freedom of expression and the religious factor, sects, the public and private sphere in political activity, etc...). I study these with care.

In addition, the book includes an analysis of another series of actions of John Paul II (trip to Cuba, the Middle East, his struggle for human rights, his relations with the PLO and Israel, Fatima and the Third Secret, his confrontation with the new totalitarianisms, etc...) which noticeably illustrates his constant activity.

The challenges that the Pope must address in St. Peter's are much more complex than those of the president in the Oval Office.

Q: On two occasions in this interview you have referred to the "thin red line" that separates the spiritual power from the earthly. Can you enlarge on this idea?

Navarro-Valls: Only someone who is naive can think that in this uncertain border there are no incidents. But incidents and skirmishes are one thing, paradoxes quite another.

Today we witness a curious tendency of the media to intervene and pass judgment on exclusively religious actions of the ecclesiastical authorities. A tendency that, in its extreme form, lights civil bonfires on whose pyres these authorities are thrown, as new social heretics.

Something like this is happening in Spain in response to the legitimate actions of the ...

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