Paper with Connections to Italian Prime Minister ’Outs’ Catholic Journalist

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Sep 4, 2009

The editor of the Catholic newspaper Avvenire, which is the publication of the Italian Bishops' Conference, resigned amid what he said were "attacks" on himself that hurt his job and his family.

After criticizing the alleged antics of the Italian prime minister, 71-year-old Silvio Berlusconi--who reportedly has frolicked with expensive prostitutes and teenaged girls, and attended a party for a young negligee model--the editor of Avvenire, Dino Boffo, was subjected to salacious accusations himself in the pages of Il Giornale, a newspaper run by the prime minister's brother, reported The New York Times in a Sept. 3 article.

The Times article quoted from an editorial Boffo wrote, in which he expressed the view that, "People have understood the unease, the mortification, the suffering that this arrogant neglect of sobriety has caused the Catholic Church."

In front-page stories that appeared subsequently, Il Giornale claimed that some years ago Boffo had gone to court for making harassing phone calls to the wife (in some media accounts, the girlfriend) of a man with whom he was allegedly involved at the time.

The paper also claimed that Boffo was "a homosexual known to the Italian secret services."

Boffo resigned as editor of the Catholic paper on Sept. 3, but in that same say's edition of Avvenire, he told his own side of the story, claiming that the sexual harassment suit, which was settled five years ago, resulted from the actions of a person other than himself using the same cell phone.

Boffo also noted that his sexuality was never at issue in the case, and said that he had received word from the country's interior minister that the Italian security apparatus had not been monitoring him.

Boffo indicated that he was leaving his editorial post only because the attacks on him in the press had proved a distraction at work and hurtful to himself and his family.

"My life, the life of my family and that of my newsroom have been violated in an act of sacrilege I would have never thought imaginable," the Times quoted him as writing.

Boffo also decried Berlusconi, writing, "If he does this with independent journalists, what will the future be for free and responsible information?"

Boffo also sent a letter to the head of the Italian Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco in which he said that the allegations had amounted to "a massive campaign against me," and claimed that, "My life and my family have been attacked," reported ADN Kronos International in a Sept. 3 article.

But while Boffo's loss of his job can be construed as Berlusconi flexing his muscle, even the prime minister's might does not seem sufficient to spark life back into the stalled Italian economy.

Rumbles of discontent have been heard from even those close to the prime minister, such as adviser Giuliano Ferrara, whom the Times quoted as saying, "He has an ego, not a plan."

Ferrara, too is a newspaperman, the Times reported, servinf as editor for the conservative Il Foglio.

Added Ferrara, "No one thinks that Berlusconi will go to heaven, but he's decided to join his enemies in hell."

The Times reported that Berlusconi is also striking out at other targets, going after several publications with lawsuits alleging defamation.

An earlier New York Times article, published June 24, provided a rundown of the prime minister's alleged conduct, noting that Berlusconi's wife had announced in May that she was leaving him following one episode in which the prime minister attended a party for Noemi Letizia, a model whose 18th birthday party the prime minister went to in April.

In June, fresh allegations emerged when several women claimed they had received payment for their presence at parties in the prime minister's home. One of the women, Patrizia D'Addario, also claimed that she stayed the night with the prime minister.

Berousconi denied any recollection of such events with A'Addario in an interview he gave celebrity magazine Chi--a publication owned by himself, the Times reported.

ADN Kronos International indicated that the church was striking back in its own way, canceling a dinner engagement between the prime minister and a Vatican official and speaking out against the "smear campaign" leveled at Boffo.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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