Bad Jokes in Italy

 Italy considers prosecuting comedian over pope joke

13th September

Comment: So Much for Turning the Other Cheek...

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State persecutors go to court to sue over satirical joke

Can't wait!

Italian politicians of right and left, comedians and even some priests yesterday deplored a move by prosecutors in Rome to put a satirist on trial for contempt of the Pope.

Sabina Guzzanti, known for her take-offs of the prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, risks being jailed for up to five years. The prosecutors recommended to the justice ministry that she be indicted because of a speech she made to a leftwing rally in July.

Referring to the attitude to gay people of the Catholic church and Pope Benedict, Guzzanti said: In 20 years Ratzinger will be dead and will end up in hell, tormented by queer demons - not passive ones, but very active ones.

The 1929 Lateran treaty that created the Vatican city state describes the Pope as a sacred and inviolable person . It makes insulting him an offence in Italy on a par with contempt for Italy's president, punishable by between one and five years in jail. Indictment, however, requires an endorsement from the justice minister.

The minister, Angelino Alfano, has not yet replied to the prosecutors' request.

Father Bartolomeo Sorge, editor of a Jesuit monthly, condemned the attempted prosecution: I am sure the Pope has forgiven those gratuitous offences.

As for Guzzanti, she said she felt honoured .

Comment: Holy Revenge

13th September 2008. Thanks to Alan

What I suspect is happening is that Berlusconi is out to get Sabina G because of what she said about him, especially her comments in the same speech about him and Mara Carfagna. Making the Pope the wounded party seeks to disguise that.

Berkusconi may be overreaching himself. Some members of his own party think so, notably Senator Guzzanti, who's, errr, Sabina's dad. (One of the funnier bits in her film Viva Zapatero! was the bit where some minister effectively said to her, Sabina Guzzanti, I'll tell your dad about you.

Indicentally, some people call Berlusconi the neo-Duce. To give the real one his due, he wasn't an interfering busybody seeking to ban prostitution (as per the other Italian story). I've got a copy of the authorised price list of an official knocking shop ("casa di tolleranza") dating from the Fifteenth Year of the Fascist Era (1938).


19th September

Update: Vengeful Thoughts...

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Italy decides to back off from prosecuting satirist over pope quip

Pope Benedict turns the other cheek

Angelino Alfano, the Italian Minister of Justice, said he had refused a request by the public prosecutor in Rome for permission to charge the comedienne and satirist Sabina Guzzanti with insulting Pope Benedict.

Ms Guzzanti had said during a left wing rally in Rome in July that because of the Church's stand on homosexuality the Pope would go to Hell, where he would be tormented by very active poofter devils.

Under the 1929 Lateran Treaty between Italy and the Vatican, an offence to the pontiff carries the same weight as an offence to the Italian head of state, with a penalty of up to five years in prison. However prosecution requires the go ahead from the Justice Ministry.

Alfano said he had decided not to proceed with a prosecution knowing the depth of the Pope's capacity for forgiveness . Speaking at the Catholic University in Milan the minister said that as a Roman Catholic himself he had been saddened and shamed by Ms Guzzanti's remarks. However she had accepted full responsibility for them, and he saw no point in adding further fire to the flames.


29th September

Offsite: Dangerously funny...

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Sabina Guzzanti is a satirist irking the Italian state

I didn't pick on the Pope, Sabina Guzzanti insists: That was the only remark they hit upon in a 20-minute address. It made it look as if I delivered a speech to say the Pope's a poof.

In Italy, she has been in and out of headline-grabbing controversies for at least 10 years. But this month she went global. On September 10, prosecutors in Rome asked for leave from the government to put her on trial, charged with contempt of the Pope . Addressing a big leftwing rally in the Italian capital, the comedian had said: In 20 years [the former Cardinal Joseph] Ratzinger will be dead and will end up in hell, tormented by queer demons - not passive ones, but very active ones.

Within 48 hours, her case had even worked its way into the US presidential election. Sitting alongside John McCain on Barbara Walters' morning talkshow, The View, the actor Whoopi Goldberg asked: Did you know that in Italy a comedian called Guzzanti risks five years in jail for a joke about the Pope? It brought howls of dismay from the live audience.

Quite a few Italians, too, were shocked to discover that it was an offence in their country to poke fun at the pontiff. The offence was introduced in 1929 by a treaty between the papacy and Italy's then fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini. The treaty was revised in the 1980s and one of the changes was to remove the offence of which Guzzanti was accused.

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