Relations between the Church and the disgraced Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi are fast dropping below zero. Scheduled talks with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone -- the Pope's number two -- have been cancelled following extraordinary attacks by Il Giornale, owned by Berlusconi's brother Paolo, on the editor of Avvenire, the bishops' daily, which has been a strong critic of Berlusconi's philandering. See Reuters here and the Times here.

The row comes on top of strong church disapproval of the Berlusconi government's appalling new legislation criminalizing migrants (See previous post).

Richard Owen, the Times correspondent in Rome, comments:

Scandals have continued to erupt over the Prime Minister’s private life, despite his power over the state and control of the media. This is why the timing of the attack in Il Giornale on a Catholic editor yesterday could not have been worse: after months of manoeuvring to court the Vatican this vicious article by an overzealous character assassin backfired, and the explosion could be heard all over Italy.

There is serious alarm in the Berlusconi entourage about a fall in support among religious voters because of the contradiction between the Prime Minister’s espousal of family values and his alleged cavorting with young women and prostitutes.

Berlusconi is becoming increasingly erratic, issuing libel writs against half of Europe's media -- including La Repubblica for asking 10 questions about his behavior. His megalomania and fury increasingly trump his political judgement, as this pointless rift with Rome spectacularly shows.

Comments

Anonymous | 8/31/2009 - 5:43pm
I am a fan of the author of this article as he often gives a very intelligent handle on things.Here he is way off.I live in Italy and can tell you that any rift between Berlusconi and the Vatican is merely wishful thinking on the part of certain segments of the media.Anybody who knows Italy can sense and feel that the masters running things are  on the other  side of the Tiber.Many people resent this especially the left who think the Church should hand over its political clout to them.Silvio is learning lessons and knows full well that one bad word from the Pope and the show is over. He will learn in time as he always does and his opponents dont.Within a year all will be well and the journalists who are imagining these things will have to seek new ground.The vatican knows that Berlusconi has to play with the north and give them at least lip service and if that legislation is truly offensive to human rights a phone call will pull the plug on it.