Freedom of humour in Italy

Sabina Guzzanti could get five years in prison for ‘offending the honour of the sacred and inviolable person’ of Benedict XVI. Who knew? Who knew the pope’s person was ‘sacred and inviolable’ as a matter of law in Italy? I suppose I might have guessed it was if anyone had asked me directly – ‘Excuse me, do you think the person of the pope is sacred and inviolable as a matter of law in Italy?’ – but no one had asked me directly, or indirectly either – ‘Excuse me, how do you think Italian law treats the person of the pope? Any guesses?’, and I didn’t know. I can’t be everywhere at once you know – I only have two hands.

But now I do know, and I think it’s an outrage.

Giovanni Ferrara, the Rome prosecutor, is invoking the 1929 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.

Oh – so an insult to the Italian President carries a penalty of five years in prison? Who knew? That one I wouldn’t even have guessed, even if someone had asked me directly. I would have said oh don’t be so silly, of course there’s no such law in Italy. Shows what I know.

The July rally [at which Guzzanti committed her crime] was called to protest against alleged interference by the Vatican and the Catholic Church in Italian affairs, from abortion to gay rights, but also to attack the Prime Minister for passing “ad personam” laws to protect his own interests and avoid prosecution on corruption allegations.

Gee, I can’t see why anyone would object to laws like that, can you? ‘I, the president, rule that it shall be against the law to attempt to charge with with any crimes I may happen to have committed while in office.’ What’s wrong with that? Guy’s got to be able to concentrate, after all.

The move to prosecute her over her anti-papal remarks was praised by some on the centre Right, including Luca Volonte, a Christian Democrat, who said that “gratuitous insults must be punished”.

By a prison sentence. Of five years. What an interesting way to think about the matter.

Pink News points out that this is all a tad fascist, literally.

The Minister of Justice in Italy has given prosecutors permission to use a Fascist-era law to punish a comedian for mocking the Pope…Now the Rome prosecutor has been given permission to proceed against her under the 1929 Lateran Treaty. The treaty, between the Vatican and the Italian government, was signed when fascist leader Benito Mussolini was in power.

Gone but not forgotten, apparently.

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