Censorship

'Gratuitous Insults Must Be Punished'

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A prosecutor is threatening Italian comedian Sabina Guzzanti with a five-year prison term for telling a joke about Pope Benedict XVI in Hell, "tormented by great big poofter devils," at an anti-government rally in July. According to the London Times, Rome prosecutor Giovanni Ferrara claims Guzzanti violated the Mussolini-era Lateran Treaty between Italy and the Vatican, which "stipulates that an insult to the Pope carries the same penalty as an insult to the Italian President." (I gather that Italians also can go to prison for insulting their president, currently a former senator named Giorgio Napolitano.) Ferrara has to get permission from the Ministry of Justice for the prosecution, which Guzzanti's father, a member of Parliament, called "a return to the Middle Ages." One of his colleagues, Christian Democrat Luca Volonte, either disagrees or pines for the days of the Inquisiton, saying "gratuitous insults must be punished." The pope, meanwhile, already has forgiven Guzzanti, or so a Jesuit scholar speculates.

[via The Freedom Files]

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  1. From “Turkey Bans Evolutionary Biologist Richard Dawkins’ Website” earlier today,

    BDB | September 17, 2008, 11:12am | #

    I see they don’t want to join the EU anytime soon, then.

    You see? They’ll fit right in.

  2. their president, currently…

    A former senator. Previosly:
    A former porn star.
    A former cabbie.
    Some guy named Antonio who never worked past three. In the morning.
    A former tenor who had been dead for six years.
    A dubious, greasy fellow in a striped shirt who kept yelling “Gondola!”

  3. Is there ever an insult that’s not gratuitous? And how does one punish an insult anyway?

  4. Is there ever an insult that’s not gratuitous?

    Antonyms for gratuitous are: deserved, justifiable, necessary, needed, reasonable, warranted.

    There are always insults that are deserved or warranted, like “LoneWacko is a dipshit”. So, yes. And in this case, I think she can easily prove that.

  5. “Ferrara has to get permission from the Ministry of Justice for the prosecution, which her father, a member of Parliament…”

    Umm…just so it’s clear, the Member of Parliamment mentioned here is the father of the accused Sab[r]ina Guzzanti, not the prosecutor Giovanni Ferrara, who is a him not a her.

    Jacob, I’m amazed. You’re usually so clear and accurate when you write.

    In this case I’ll recommend people RFTA and not rely on your summary.

  6. Anyone know exactly what the insult was? I’d like to make a point of repeating it.

    In the meantime, i’ll go with some general purpose anti-Fascist and anti-Papist insults: fuck that goose-stepping mackerel snapper!

    -jcr

  7. Ah, here we go:

    “But then, within 20 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.”

    Not that I buy the mythology, of course.

    -jcr

  8. And in this case, I think she can easily prove that.

    You’d think so, but pope jokes tend not to go over well. Even mild pope criticism is dangerous territory.

    When the hubbub after Pope John Paul’s death was going on, and people were talking about what a fantastic, saintly guy he was, I made the mistake of mentioning that his anti-contraceptive kick was kind of douchebaggy. In earshot of my tiny, feisty, Irish Catholic grandmother. I barely lived to tell the tale.

  9. From the article:

    “Father Bartolomeo Sorge, a Jesuit scholar, told La Repubblica the move to prosecute Ms Guzzanzi was incomprehensible. ‘We Christians put up with many insults, it is part of being a Christian, as is forgiveness. I feel sure the Pope has already forgiven those who insulted him on Piazza Navona.'”

    Damn, those crafty Jesuits, messing with the metanarrative of Papal oppression against free thought!

    Article 8 of the Lateran Treaty:

    “Considering the person of the Supreme Pontiff to be sacred and
    inviolable, Italy declares any attempt against His person or any
    incitement to commit such attempt to be punishable by the same penalties
    as all similar attempts and incitements to commit the same against the
    person of the King.

    “All offences or public insults committed within Italian territory
    against the person of the Supreme Pontiff, whether by means of speeches,
    acts, or writings, shall be punished in the same manner as offences and
    insults against the person of the King.”

    Apparently, now that Italy is a Republic, the same principle has been applied to the President of Italy as to the King. In other words, the President of Italy doesn’t get to have *greater* protection against assassination, libel, and other assaults and insults than the Pope.

    If this comedian chick can legitimately be prosecuted for talking about the Italian President being in Hell, then she can be prosecuted for saying something similary about the Pope.

    A key planted axiom – that it is a crime under Italian law to talk about the President of Italy being in Hell. I don’t see how this could be a crime, but if it it, it’s not a church/state problem, but a problem of the state taking itself too seriously.

    Blaming the Pope for having the same protection as the Italian President is absurd.

    Does this alleged comedian actually want to claim that she can legitimately be sent to prison for insulting the President of Italy, so long as she leaves the Pope alone?

    No, both officials should have the same protection – which in this case should mean *no* protection.

  10. Interesting dichotomy: the more faith someone has in an all-knowing, all-powerful God, the less faith they have in God’s ability to handle problems by himself, without the help of flawed mortals. If God has a beef with Pope jokes, I’m sure he can handle the problem without help from the Italian government.

  11. “I made the mistake of mentioning that his anti-contraceptive kick was kind of douchebaggy. In earshot of my tiny, feisty, Irish Catholic grandmother. I barely lived to tell the tale.”

    Did she invoke the Lateran Treaty as justification for rebuking you? Did she say that she *had* to rebuke you for the sake of consistency, because she would rebuke you for similar insults against the Italian President?

  12. Italians and their pope love . . . sheesh, get a room already.

  13. If God has a beef with Pope jokes, I’m sure he can handle the problem

    Their god is much diminished these days, Jennifer.

  14. Jennifer,

    You still alive? I’m sure that you have been struck by the spiteful wrath of god after you submitted that comment.

    “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”

  15. Jennifer, you’re assuming that Italian politicians have an unusually high amount of faith in God (more than the Jesuit quoted in the article, at least). That assumption may not be warranted.

  16. “But then, within 20 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.”

    Perhaps it loses something in translation. The Pope makes for such an easy target, Pope jokes are a debased currency. I’d say this one earns five years at least. A funny Pope joke, though, should earn you a cash prize.

  17. Why is the Pope riding around in a bullet proof Popemobile anyway? Kinda takes the faith outta the equation.

  18. Answers.com has a much different tale on the definition of gratuitous, and one that seems to better fit this situation:

    http://www.answers.com/topic/gratuitous?method=26&initiator=answertip:more

  19. This blog post seems more Moynihan territory — ohh yeah, the right wing controls Italy — my bad.

  20. Oops, Episiarch provided antonyms, not synonyms.

    My bad.

  21. St. Benedict once said, “Pray as if everything depends on God. Work as if everything depends on you.” Faith doesn’t mean you totally ignore the dangers in the world around you. You do everything you can to protect yourself and those in your care and once you’ve done all you can, you trust God to take care of the rest.

  22. In earshot of my tiny, feisty, Irish Catholic grandmother. I barely lived to tell the tale.

    It’s so nice having grandparents who say things like “thank God I’m an atheist” instead of dealing with someone like your grandmother.

  23. You still alive? I’m sure that you have been struck by the spiteful wrath of god after you submitted that comment.

    Well, after brushing my hair I have noticed an unusually large number of split ends. The moral of this story is: if you’re going to risk inciting the wrath of a vengeful god, make sure you use a good conditioner.

  24. Why is the Pope riding around in a bullet proof Popemobile anyway? Kinda takes the faith outta the equation.”

    From the Gospel of Matthew:

    “1 Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. . . . 5 Then the devil took him up into the holy city [Jerusalem], and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple,

    “6 And said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone. 7 Jesus said to him: It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. 8 Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, 9 And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me. 10 Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve.”

  25. I’m a guy, Jennifer. What the hell is this . . . what did you call it? Cond . . . itioner? Conditioner? Are you just making up words?

  26. Mad Max,

    Just because I was raised deep woods baptist doesn’t mean I still adhere to that nonsense. Translate for me cuz I only got faith in friends, family, and me.

    “I’m just here for the gasoline”

  27. Those who RTFA will have pound out that it is unlikely the prosecution will proceed.

    This is one prosecutor, apparently wanting to curry favor with Berlusconi who is currently sucking up to the Vatican.

    Continue with the dago bashing.

  28. I liked the Mad Max with the Interceptor a lot better. Seriously, the bible stuff is lame. Shouldn’t you be posting at WND?

  29. “found out” not “pound out”

  30. RUP,

    The LAST of the V-8 Interceptors. A piece of history.

    All kidding aside, a dream of mine is to own one someday.

  31. Naga Sadow –

    Indeed. When the Apocalypse comes, I too dream of running down rogue motorcycle gangs.

    Take that Toecutter.

  32. The chain in those handcuffs is high-tensile steel. It’d take you ten minutes to hack through it with this. Now, if you’re lucky, you could hack through your ankle in five minutes. Go.

  33. RUP,

    Verily. Unfortunately it will only be to make room for my own rogue gang as I aspire to be a warlord when the Apocalypse comes.

    ” I am the Nightrider. I’m a fuel injected suicide machine. I am the rocker, I am the roller, I am the out-of-controller! I’m the Nightrider, baby”

  34. “Shouldn’t you be posting at WND?”

    Are you kidding, I’m an America-bashing Paultard. The people at WND are all pro-American and they Support the Troops (TM).

    Sorry if the Bible quotes offend your tolerant nature.

    Can you think of an insult which should be punished if directed against the President of Italy, but not if directed against the Pope? If not, then what is your specific complaint against the Church in this particular case?

  35. I have a funny Pope joke.

    Did you know that they still have a Pope?

    Oh and they still claim he’s God’s Authority on Earth? And they still make him wear the hat?

    That’s all pretty funny (i’ll let you decide whether it’s funny haha or funny odd).

  36. According to the London Times, Rome prosecutor Giovanni Ferrara claims Guzzanti violated the Mussolini-era Lateran Treaty between Italy and the Vatican

    Ferrara has to get permission from the Ministry of Justice for the prosecution, which her father, a member of Parliament, called “a return to the Middle Ages.”

    Isn’t enforcing a Mussolini-era treaty a return to the 1930’s? For all the talk of Europe being ahead of America, I would much rather live in 1930’s America than in 1930’s Europe.

  37. And they still make him wear the hat?

    Really, you’d think God would outfit the pope in at least as nice threads as Jesus. And we all know Jesus has mad style.

  38. dogs fuck the pope? no fault of mine.

  39. “For all the talk of Europe being ahead of America, I would much rather live in 1930’s America than in 1930’s Europe.”

    You *do* know who was a big inspiration for the National Recovery Administration – the key New Deal Policy until the Supreme Court struck it down?

    So Mussolini was willing to do what previous Italian regimes were unwilling to do – resolve the dispute between the Italian state and the Papacy. In exchange for the resolution of that dispute – recognizing the existence of the Italian state and its sovereignty over the formerly-Papal territories – the Church got express guarantees of its status in Italy – an important consideration, since Mussolini had a troubling anti-Catholic record. Nor was Mussolini pleased by the fact that, thanks to the treaty, the Church had legal status, providing an alternate source of authority to the Fascist Party. There’s nothing Mussolini would have liked better than to have his Fascists be the *sole* locus of authority in Italy, but the power of the Church wouldn’t permit it. And when, under the influence of his new buddy Hitler in the late 1930s, Mussolini adopted racist theories, the Church stood as a standing rebuke.

    Or, to put this in H&R terms, “OMG the Pope signed a treaty with Mussolini – what a Fascist!”

  40. jtuf,

    More fascingating information about 1930s America.

    A book review in Reason explains:

    “FDR’s adviser Rexford Tugwell wrote in his diary that Mussolini had done ‘many of the things which seem to me necessary.’ . . .

    “Roosevelt himself called Mussolini ‘admirable’ and professed that he was ‘deeply impressed by what he has accomplished.’ The admiration was mutual. In a laudatory review of Roosevelt’s 1933 book Looking Forward, Mussolini wrote, ‘Reminiscent of Fascism is the principle that the state no longer leaves the economy to its own devices.?Without question, the mood accompanying this sea change resembles that of Fascism.’ The chief Nazi newspaper, Volkischer Beobachter, repeatedly praised ‘Roosevelt’s adoption of National Socialist strains of thought in his economic and social policies’ and ‘the development toward an authoritarian state’ based on the “demand that collective good be put before individual self-interest.”

  41. Isn’t enforcing a Mussolini-era treaty a return to the 1930’s? For all the talk of Europe being ahead of America, I would much rather live in 1930’s America than in 1930’s Europe.

    So you want to tear up the Autobahnen and autostrade? You know, the fact that the governments of Italy and Germany during the 30s were bad doesn’t mean that everything those governments did was bad.

  42. The bad thing is that freedom of speech in Itay is limited in making fun of authority figures. Remember the President of Italy and the Pope are both heads of state. The treaty was likely written that way to acknowledge the seculaly equal postions of the Pope and the President.

  43. Italians and their pope love . . . sheesh, get a room already.

    Hey-a, whadda you say-a? You say I shoulda no like-a the pope? Maybe I shoulda bop you one witha my squeezebox, eh? How you like- that, ah?

  44. Stephano Darcliano,

    A grammatical point. It should be “how you like-a that,” not “how you like that.”

  45. But how can this be? I thought it was only them Moos-lum countries who are agin’ free speech. Isn’t that what Hannity, Savage, et al have been telling us…

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