Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Thou Shalt Not Insult the Pope

An Italian comedienne is facing prosecution for insulting the pope:

An Italian comedienne faces prosecution for insulting the Pope, an offence that carries a prison sentence of up to five years.

Sabina Guzzanti, noted for her sharp satirical wit and lampoons of the powerful, is accused of “offending the honour of the sacred and inviolable person” of Pope Benedict XVI at a rally in Rome in July at which opposition leaders accused Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister and media tycoon, of passing ad personam laws to protect his own interests and avoid prosecution for alleged corruption.

Here’s what she said:

Speakers at the rally on Piazza Navona also protested against excessive interference by the Vatican and the Catholic Church in Italian affairs, from abortion to gay rights. Ms Guzzanti, noted for her satirical impersonations of Mr Berlusconi, told the crowd that within 20 years Italian teachers would be vetted and chosen by the Vatican.

She added: “But then within twenty years the Pope will be where he ought to be, in Hell, tormented by great big poofter devils — and very active ones, not passive ones.” Giovanni Ferrara, the Rome prosecutor, said that he had asked Angelino Alfano, the Minister of Justice, for permission to proceed with a prosecution.

And here’s the legal basis for such a prosecution:

The 1929 Lateran Treaty between Italy and the Vatican lays down that an insult to the Pope carries the same penalty as an insult to the Italian President. Prosecution however requires authorisation from the Ministry of Justice.

This is absolutely insane. There are no “sacred and inviolable” people, for crying out loud. The pope is just a human being, like 6 billion other human beings, and so is the Italian president. The notion of making it a crime to insult either of them is….well, I can’t think of another word so I’ll stick with insane. And if the “Ministry of Justice” allows prosecution for such a “crime” then we can only presume that the Italian Ministry of Justice is the equivalent of Oceania’s Ministry of Truth.