Peter Stockland

Peter Stockland

Peter Stockland is publisher of Convivium magazine and a senior fellow at Cardus.

ROME - Given the perpetual chaos of the Eternal City, visitors might be surprised to learn of the strict regulations governing the tourist mecca known as the Spanish Steps.

According to a sign, it is forbidden under Article 14 Regolamento P.U. to “shout, squall and sing” anywhere on the elegant 18th century outdoor stairs linking the Piazza di Spagna and the Church of Trinita dei Monti.

It seems a case, however, where ignorance of the law is no abuse. I have never, in numerous visits to the area over the years, witnessed anyone shouting or singing. As for squalling, not even the drafters of Article 14 Regolamento P.U. could have imagined a greater lack of it.

What tourists who visit the Spanish Steps do is what they seem to do everywhere else they go: have themselves photographed, self-conscious and impatient, in front of the site of their latest inattention.

In an address to young university professors during his World Youth Day visit to Spain, Pope Benedict XVI warned against the cult of technicalism engulfing education.

“At times, one has the idea that the mission of a university professor nowadays is exclusively that of forming competent and efficient professionals capable of satisfying the demand for labour at any given time,” the Holy Father said.

“One also hears it said that the only thing that matters at the present moment is pure technical ability.”

Pope Benedict reminded his listeners that a university is not merely a repository of utilitarian proficiency but a home for those seeking  “the truth proper to the human person.”

“We know that when mere utility and pure pragmatism become the principal criteria, much is lost and the results can be tragic,” he said.