September 4, 2009

Dino Boffo steps down

Epicureans showed little interest in participating in politics, since doing so leads to trouble. So they preferred to live without pursuing glory or wealth or power, but anonymously, enjoying little things like food, the company of friends, etc. Now one might think that their favorite saying, Lathe biōsas (λάθε βιώσας, meaning “live secretly,” “get through life without drawing attention to yourself”), would apply to Dino Boffo, the editor of Avvenire—the Italian Bishops Conference’s daily—who criticized Silvio Berlusconi’s flamboyant lifestyle but just a few hours ago resigned after another newspaper, Il Giornale, owned by Berlusconi’s family, reported last week that Boffo had accepted a plea bargain and paid a fine in 2004 after being accused of harassing the girlfriend of a man with whom he was in a relationship. And that is why Vittorio Feltri, the editor of Il Giornale, had an easy time with Boffo when he called him a hypocritical moralist who should not criticize Berlusconi’s lifestyle because he had sexual skeletons in his own closet.

Yet, I myself have never liked Epicureans, I’ve always preferred Stoics, like Marcus Aurelius, who once wrote “Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one” (this seems to fit well into the whole story, doesn’t it? But ok, I can’t stand moralists—no one is perfect..). However, apart from quotations, that’s a very serious (and sad) story, and I am very sorry for Dino Boffo and his family, even though, at the same time, I can’t entirely blame Vittorio Feltri, who did his own (dirty) job, exactly the way the editor of la Repubblica did with Berlusconi (and that's why il Cavaliere is suing la Repubblica for defamation, asking for one million euros in damages for the newspaper’s recent coverage of the premier’s personal life).

But, honestly, what I regret most is the damage suffered by the Church, which however is not entirely innocent.. As Vittorio Messori put it (see yesterday’s Corriere della Sera, in Italian), after the conviction in the 2004 trial,

traditional prudence would have suggested to ask the “convicted” to step down, assuming less prominent roles, less exposed to blackmail and scandal news. And this even if the whole story had been a misunderstanding, a revenge, a miscarriage of justice.
The oblivion of the virtue of prudence costs dear.

Vittorio Messori is one of the most popular Catholic writers, and the author of Jesus Hypothesis (1976). He is also the first journalist in history to publish a book-length interview with a Pope, the best-selling Crossing the Threshold of Hope (1994). And I generally trust his opinion (as well as his knowledge on such matters).


  1. The simple reason why the bishops didn't ask Boffo to step down years ago is that they knew very well what had happened and still they trusted him. If he is guilty, some bishops should resign.
    It has emerged that Feltri's allegations are based on a hoax. How can people still listen to him?
    Boffo hosted complains about Berlusconi in the catholic newspaper and that's not acceptable in today Italy. This is the real scandal!

  2. Although Berlusconi should have known better than fall into such an obvious trap, one hopes that he succeeds in obtaining legal satisfaction from La Repubblica. Such a just outcome might also worry Murdoch who has done nothing to preserve the reputation and impartiality of the newspapers he took over.

    Although times have thankfully changed, perhaps there is a slight risk of Berlusconi falling into another trap, that of his own vanity. A bit like Oscar Wilde taking on the Marquis of Queenbury for libel, an engagement that was to prove tragically fatal, as we all know.

    But Berlusconi is no Oscar Wilde. Even less so is Dino Buffo, from all accounts, preferring to avoid facing the music after having joined the easy band waggon of 'Berlusconian critics'.

    If Oscar Wilde was living today, he would have avoided criticising Berlusconi. I'm fairly sure he would even have approved. He would also have been able to express a wealth of ironia, paradoxical humour and wisdom that would have effectively exposed all the mean minded hypocrits that we are too generously bestowed with.

  3. I can’t entirely blame Vittorio Feltri, who did his own (dirty) job, exactly the way the editor of la Repubblica did with Berlusconi

    Allow me to say that the two things (the two newspapers actions) cannot be compared in my opinion. Berlusconi is our Prime Minister, Boffo is only a journalist. Criticizing power’s flaws - conflict of interests, some women's political careers promoted for weird reasons….etc. etc. - is among the duties of any free press - much less that of repressing any criticism by destroying a journalist’s career.

    Berlusconi has a greater responsibility than Boffo. If the wife of Caesar must be beyond suspicion, this even more applies to Caesar himself.