Avvenire, CEI, Card. Bagnasco, Il Giornale, PM Berlusconi

What goes on in the Church in Italy has subtle effects on the Church throughout the world.

The daily of the Italian Bishops Conference, Avvenire, is in the midst of a controversy.

This is from CNA… with my emphases and comments.

Catholic newspaper editor who criticized Berlusconi resigns, Cardinal Bagnasco reacts

Rome, Italy, Sep 4, 2009 / 03:53 am (CNA).- An intense row between a leading Italian Catholic newspaper and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has led to the resignation of the newspaper’s editor over what he called “diabolically engineered” rumors reported by a newspaper owned by the Berlusconi family

Dino Boffo, editor of the Italian Catholic Bishops Conference’s daily paper Avvenire, resigned a week after the newspaper Il Giornale reported that Boffo had accepted a plea bargain and paid a fine in a 2004 lawsuit after being accused of harassing a woman.

Il Giornale claimed that Boffo had a homosexual relationship with the woman’s partner. The paper also charged that Boffo was a hypocritical moralist who should not criticize Berlusconi’s lifestyle because of his own past transgressions, Reuters reports.

Boffo, who has edited Avvenire for 15 years, denied the report and said the woman was harassed by someone else using his cell phone.

Berlusconi is presently going through a divorce and has been facing media scrutiny over his relationship with an 18-year-old aspiring model and allegations he spent a night with a call girl in his Rome residence.

According to the London Times, in an August editorial Boffo said that because of Berlusconi’s alleged actions “people have understood the unease, the mortification, the suffering that such an arrogant abandonment of a sober style has caused us.”

In response, the prime minister, who is also an influential media business magnate, has said he is “no saint” but has not done anything improper. He has accused left-wing media [by implication Avvenire?] of mounting a smear campaign against him and has filed lawsuits against Italian, French and Spanish publications for libel.

Reacting to the allegations against him, Boffo wrote a letter to Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the head of the Italian Bishops Conference, saying, "For seven days my name has been at the center of a storm of gigantic proportions."

"I cannot accept that a war of words that is upsetting my family and increasingly startling Italians … keeps developing around my name for days to come," he said, according to Reuters.

Boffo said it was now clear that the scandalous accusation against him was “a colossal fictional set-up which was diabolically engineered.”

Prosecutors in the harassment case against Boffo denied that any court document contained references to any sexual relationships. They said they did not investigate the possibility of a third person using a cell phone in the harassment case because they did not think it was credible.

The Department of Social Communications of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) has released a statement in which CEI’s president, Cardinal Bagnasco, said he accepted Boffo’s resignation with “sadness.

“Personally and on behalf of the entire episcopate, I confirm my profound gratitude for his deep commitment shown through many years of competence, rigor and passion,” the cardinal wrote.

Dino Boffo provided a service “extremely precious” for the life of the Church and Italian society, the cardinal continued, offering “our unmoved appreciation for his person, the object of an unspeakable attack in the media."

In response to the attack on Boffo, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone cancelled a dinner with Berlusconi scheduled for last Friday. He and many church officials and party leaders have expressed solidarity with Boffo, accusing Il Giornale of mud-slinging and dirty tricks.

According to Reuters, Boffo has thanked church leaders for their support but has insisted his resignation is irrevocable.

“The Church has better things to do than strenuously defend one person, even if unfairly targeted," he said.

You might recall that recently the noted vaticanista Andrea Tornielli published on his blog, Sacri Palazzi, his story about the CDWDS’s plenary session and its recommendations to the Holy Father about reverence in worship.  You might recall that the Holy See Press Office rushed to deny, with a non-denial denial, the substance of Tornielli’s story.  You might recall that Tornielli writes for Il Giornale.

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  1. chironomo says:

    Perhaps it’s my lack of orientation in the Italian media culture, but….I don’t see what is the connection you’re implying between Tornielli’s statement and the face off between Berlusconi and Avvenire. Perhaps that Il Giornale is striking back at the Vatican for impuning the integrity of one of its writers?

  2. Phil_NL says:

    Regardless of this sad affair, I still wonder why the Bishops should have a daily to begin with. Besides spreading the good, it’s also a sure way of getting involved in muck one would rather keep a healthy distance from. Let others do the hatchet jobs, even if they are warranted. There will be no shortage of candidates for it.

    (Not to mention the fact there are plenty of issues on which Catholics of good faith can differ – while any newspaper will inevitably take positions on those debates as well, diminishing the respect for the bishops as the paper will appear to carry their preference (even if it doesn’t)).

  3. GOR says:

    “You might recall that Tornielli writes for Il Giornale.”

    Which may also explain why Tornielli has not commented on it on his blog. Paolo Rodari, however, has commented on his blog. He states that Boffo’s resignation was offered earlier in the week and rejected. The article in Il Giornale does appear to have been an attack on CEI and the Church in Italy – not just on Boffo personally.

  4. lucapi says:

    Berlusconi does NOT have a relationship with an 18-years-old young woman. She got acquainted with him. Stop.

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