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Papa Otiosus

by de Gondi Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 06:32:23 PM EST

The old rule goes that it doesn't matter what they say about you so long as they talk about you. It's common fare in Italy to give the Pope or his government a front-page blurb every day but the past couple of  days he's been grabbing headlines by  simply doing nothing. I mentioned last Saturday that he had been invited to open the academic year at the University of Rome this coming Thursday. For reasons that may escape most people this particular pope is not well received by large sectors of the Italian population because of his heavy handed meddling in Italian affairs as well as his curious notions of what science out to be. And what makes it all the worse is that the entire political spectrum eagerly grovels at his every call.

In a highly symbolic event last December the Vatican made it perfectly clear that they could topple the Prodi government whenever they wanted. The occasion was the conversion of a repressive government decree into law. The far left had tagged on an article that would have reinstated hate speech crimes after the previous government had rendered the 1975 law ineffectual. Never mind that the "controversial" article had a glaring error that led to the trashing of the entire decree at the end of the year. What counted was that Prodi put a confidence vote on the package and almost lost but for one single vote, generously thrown his way by the ailing and lunatic Francesco Cossiga.

The Vatican is very much opposed to hate speech laws. Not so much because it violates freedom of speech but because they wouldn't like to see themselves denounced by homosexuals for their Sunday sermons. Even worse, there was an explicit yet erroneous reference to the Amsterdam Treaty which empowered the Council in Article 13 to "combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation."  A bit too much to swallow for ecclesiastical authorities. Now party discipline by an elected Senator cannot stand in the way of the Lord. So the very Catholic numerary, Senator Paola Binetti, member of Veltroni's new Democratic Party, called upon the Holy Ghost to descend upon the Senate congregation, apparently to enlighten them with tongues of fire.

For those who are not well versed in Catholic mythology, the Holy Ghost is a supernatural bird known for having impregnated a virgin by chattering in her ear. The Italian Senate is hardly the place to prospect for virgins. Apparently there is only one left. Word has it that in the end it was only the Binetti who heeded the call, but to a far more mundane messenger in the Vatican. Many a commentator bluntly wanted to know who was on the other end of the line of Senator Binetti's sacred cell phone. And to what state she owes her allegiance.

But back to our very active pope. In the past few days Ratzinger has managed to say mass with his back to the faithful, alarm all pet owners by asserting that animals will not be found in paradise, and deliberately insult Walter Veltroni, the mayor of Rome and head of the largest Left party, during a courtesy visit. So it was past time to be perfectly idle, much like Deus Otiosus, who once having created the irreparable mess, retired behind the scenes.

It's precisely this absence of papal activity that has caused all havoc today. After the student occupation of the Dean's office and the Academic Senate today, the Dean finally granted that a small way-side demonstration could be held within the university during the papal visit. Within a few hours, a laconic statement announced that the Pope would no longer attend the annual inauguration of the academic year.

He would however send a copy of his intended lecture.

To be read, perhaps, in absentee. By far more effective in this mounting farce.

All hell has since broken loose with every possible public authority from Prodi on down vying for attention to beseech the Pope to back-peddle on his decision. The students and the university professors are being hung in effigy by everyone on the national media, criminals whose names should be publicized for public opprobrium.  

Yes, the Pope's right to free speech has been trammelled upon. This is the darkest day of the Republic. The rabble has denied poor citizen Ratzinger his right to express himself as the rest of humble humanity. The nation has been swamped by intolerance and fanaticism. The state has been wounded and humiliated. Liberty and secularism have been defeated. Democracy is in peril.  

In this self righteous cacophony, one lucid voice sums it up. Lanfranco Turci, socialist deputy:

"Are we sure the Pope's forfeit is justified? Beside a few voices, by no means decisive, the reaction to the announced visit was expressed with civil contestation over Benedict XVI's well known opinions on scientific research and civil rights... A campaign of victimism is being mounted that appears contradictory and baseless in a phase of clerical invasiveness that has no precedent in the history of the Italian Republic."

Update. January 16th has been a very eventful day in Italy, a fitting chapter for the centuries old Commedia dell'Arte. There were dozens of arrests for mafia in Sicily. But that news item disappeared when the Minister of Justice and head of the nano-party Udeur, Clemente Mastella, used the parliament to deliver a hallucinatory and calumnious broadside against the Italian Magistracy and theatrically resign as minister. All but spelling out the end of the Prodi government. He based his speech on events that had yet to happen, the arrest of his wife. How he had learned about it is up to future investigative authorities. Most everyone was taken aback seeing as all eyes were riveted on Vatican silence. And what better context to accuse perfidious magistrates of  persecuting Catholics. First the pope, now me. Two destinies intertwined.

But as the day unwound, Mastella's legal situation worsened. Not only was his wife arrested for bribery but 26 members of his micro-party. And last, it was announced that Mastella in person was under investigation for the same crimes. Good riddance.

Meanwhile, the pope played it cool, nary a mention of the university controversy. Why should he? Most newspapers had dedicated the first five pages to the story. Ratzinger was on to mediatic martyrdom, a hero of true secularism, true religion, true science, true truth. The president of the Republic wrote him a letter condemning intolerance and promising to take action. The dean of the university solemnly declared that he himself would deliver Ratzinger's magister lectio and the Vatican daily quickly published the entire lecture.

And in the end his lecture isn't that bad seeing who wrote it. We'll never be sure it didn't enjoy a last minute touch up to appear more humble and learned. But as soon as the English version is published the ET community can unleash their critical acumen on yet another religion diary.

I wanna thank everybody for the barrage of fours today. Surprisingly no thread. What were you waiting for?
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 06:34:26 PM EST
So Mastella is toast??? Good and unexpected news! Now when do they reach to kiss-kiss Cuffaro and B?

Any news on what happens to Udeur mandates in parliament held by arrested members of his party? (Or are none of the 26 MPs?)

As for Ratzinger, der kann mich mal!

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 06:45:19 PM EST
All of the Udeur party members are officials in Campania. A TAR judge has been arrested for false acts in public office, a cop for revelation of investigative secrets. Four party members are presently detained. As myself and Beppe Grillo quiped, they've arrested the entire party.

We'll see what happens today. After Mastella's vulgar attack against the magistracy, he has no business being Minister of Justice.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Thu Jan 17th, 2008 at 01:19:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You vill not be allowed to protest against his imperious holiness.  How dare democracy sully his divine insightfulness. Lie down, Plebs!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 08:06:22 PM EST
  1. Today's Holy Ghost uses mobile phones. Why not?
  2. Does Veltroni really need the likes of Binetti?
  3. Are you confirming that Prodi's government is likely to fall? What are his chances of forming a new one?
  4. The rise in influence of religion leads to real political power, which Ratzinger was demonstrating.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jan 17th, 2008 at 03:54:20 AM EST
1.    Binetti has refused to answer as to the identity of person she talked to before the confidence vote. Like all voluntary slaves- and she has proudly declared so- she needs no prodding to know what she is expected to do.

2.    Veltroni thinks he does, both out of political realism and perhaps personal creed. In fact Binetti is in charge of drawing up the Party's ethical charter. Which is precisely why many of us have no intention to vote for his party.

3.    See my recent comment on the situation.

4.    "The rise in influence of religion" certainly has nothing to do with the crisis of vocation and the collapse of attendance to church functions. Practicing Catholics are at an all time low in Italy. However, the influence of the Vatican is based on its amazing power to accumulate monetary, mediatic and political capital. That's not religion. It's pizzazz. Any government in Italy is the Vatican's hostage. It's 101 war strategy.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Thu Jan 17th, 2008 at 07:33:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I vaguely remember reading somewhere That the catholic church owns 2/3 of the shares on the Italian Stock exchange. If true, that's a fair bit of leverage.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu Jan 17th, 2008 at 07:37:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mastella's resignation has been confirmed. Romano Prodi will be the Minister of Justice ad interim. The Udeur- or what's left of it- has assured Prodi that they will continue to support his government.

It  was practically impossible for Mastella to continue as Minister of Justice for several reasons:

His outrageous attack against the Magistracy yesterday was beyond the pale. He may be sued for calumny at this point.

He is under investigation on the same charges that led to all the arrests yesterday. Tapes of the conversations have been published today that clearly indicate that he was the driving force behind a system of bribery, corruption and nepotism in Campania.

His insistence as Minister of Justice to ramrod laws through parliament aimed to hamper if not eliminate the possibility of investigative judges to use taped conversations as evidence is now clearly a major conflict of interest. It is a clear abuse of power.

This shocking farce casts a long shadow over political power and the institutions in Italy. That a government, whatever its colour, must rely on scoundrels and o' sistema to barely function is a national shame. The political caste has systematically demonstrated its incapacity to reform itself. This may only lead to adventurism and disaster.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Thu Jan 17th, 2008 at 07:19:43 AM EST

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