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Thursday, 10 February 2011

Ruby Rubacuori, Berlusconi and the Vatican

The real villain in this pantomine is still hiding behind the curtain. Step aside Signor Berlusconi and allow us to see Herr Ratzinger!

It will provide a case study for some enterprising journalist or Ph D student to demonstrate how in this costume drama (nurses' unforms, police outfits ...)the Vatican, as is always the case, has subordinated its supposed principles to its perceptions of who has power and who is most likely to enhance its own power.

The Vatican is pro-Berlusconi. First, he has largely ensured that Italian legislation toes the Vatican "moral" line. Second, his opponents are too "secular" and "liberal". Some of them might want to reduce the influence of the Vatican in Italy and might want to scrutinise more carefully its cover-ups of sexual and financial scandals.

In consequence, the Vatican (and its media) have largely remained silent about the entertaining private life of Signor Berlusconi and its more important public consequences - like 'phoning up to claim that Ruby is a relative of Mubarak's (she isn't) and that therefore the Police Chief of Milan must let her out of jail, pronto. Which he did.

Only in the last couple of weeks has the Vatican felt obliged to register an opinion. Not a thundering editorial in its newspaper, not a denuniciation from the pulpit, but some strangulated squeaks of disquiet from the the Pope's understudy (Signor Bertone).

My recent reading has included an academic study of the Vatican's relations with Germany during Hitler's rise to power and subsequently. I blogged about this previously.

The war time Pope Pius was in earlier life Pacelli, the papal Nuncio to Germany. Pacelli was a good diplomat who avoided moral judgement whenever possible. This is not to say that nothing outraged him. In particular, female gymnastics and modern fashion:

"Any gymnastics wear for girls that provocatively accentuates their shapes or that is inappropriate for the female character must be avoided... Gymnastics for girls must take place in halls or places that are not open to the public" (quoted from Hubert Wolf - Pope and Devil, page 63).

"Catholic morality ... must with disgust resolutely and unconditionally condemn and reject the currently dominant fashion with its tendentious exposures and accentuations of physical forms ..." (page 64)

When the resolute and unconditional condemnation flows from the Vatican press office, its target will not be Signor Berlusconi but those modern forms of gymnastics, lap dancing and pole dancing, and their scantily clothed practitioners whose activities "engender concupiscence".

Under cover of this "moral" assault, and if all goes to plan, Signor Berlusconi will be able to exit, smiling, on his way to the next bunga bunga party. Ruby will be left behind, centre stage perhaps, doing penance.

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