October 27, 2009

He who lives by the sword..

You’ll remember in Matthew 26 when the man who drew his sword and cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest was told by Jesus, “Converte gladium tuum in locum suum. Omnes enim, qui acceperint gladium, gladio peribunt” (“Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword”). Hence the famous proverb “He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword” (Latin: Qui gladio ferit, gladio perit). Well then, in a sense this is just what happened to the Italian Left, which tried to frame Silvio Berlusconi with a(n) (alleged) sex scandal and got itself in a big, embarrassing sex scandal.

What happened? Just as the Democratic Party was preparing to elect a new leader and relaunch its image in nationwide primary, Italy’s largest opposition party was last weekend rocked by a scandal involving Piero Marrazzo, the center-left Governor of Lazio. This is how things happened:

Last Saturday, former TV presenter Mr Marrazzo resigned his position following allegations that he had paid €80,000 to four carabinieri blackmailers in return for their silence about his regular frequenting of transsexual prostitutes in the Via Cassia area of Rome. The four policemen, who were arrested last Thursday, are also believed to have attempted to sell a short film, shot on a mobile phone, in which Mr Marrazzo is seen participating in “erotic games” with a viados, transsexual prostitute. […] Italian dailies yesterday carried interviews with various members of the Rome transsexual community who claimed that Mr Marazzo was a regular, much-prized client who would pay up to €3,000 for a “session”. All of the viados interviewed reported that their encounters with Mr Marrazzo also involved the consumption of cocaine. […] Furthermore, Via Gradoli [the street where is located the apartment in which many of Marrazzo’s encounters of the transsexual kind took place] residents claimed that Mr Marrazzo regularly used his auto blu (state car), complete with his police escort, when visiting the prostitutes.

Although at first Marrazzo denied everything (he was quoted in the daily newspaper La Repubblica saying that “the video is fake”), later on he acknowledged his fault: “It’s a personal case in which weaknesses that have to do with my private sphere have come into play.” Yet, he added, “The mistakes I have made have in no way interfered with my public activity.”

Last but not least, this is the latest sensational detail to emerge from investigations :

Three days before the arrest of the Carabinieri officers from the Trionfale company, Silvio Berlusconi warned Piero Marrazzo that Mondadori had been offered the video showing him with a transsexual. Mr Marrazzo then contacted the Photo Masi agency to try to get hold of the video. […] It turns out that, just as he had in July when he was surprised in the flat in Rome’s Via Gradoli, Mr Marrazzo declined to make a formal complaint and instead attempted to sort out things himself.

What shall I say about this except that, yeah, if you want to put it this way, they sowed the wind and reaped the whirlwind? And yet, in my view, this is not a reason for anyone in Italy to rejoice. Although it couldn’t be called “a bipartisan debacle” this is a sad moment for all those—whether they be right or left-wing—fighting the good fight for a better country.

Of course I don’t question Marrazzo’s sexual tastes, although I don’t certainly like them and even though, along with former prime minister—and senior Democratic Party figure—Massimo D’Alema, I think that “the private behaviour of a public figure has a public relevance.” No, I try to keep politics and my ethical convictions and religious beliefs separated. Marrazzo is to blame, above all, for giving in to blackmail, which is incompatible with the function or dignity of any public office. The rest is between him and his conscience, between Mr Marrazzo and his wife and family.


  1. This ancient proverb is so true and we can always appreciate the irony when it's still appropriately applied today. Basically it comes down to setting one's own standards. We shall see, for example, where this ultimately situates those who profess to defend- within limits- the principle of democracy. Or, regarding the press, the muck rakers who eventually find themselves inextricably submerged in their own quagmire.

  2. Here in the States an ESPN Sports commentator was blackmailed by a staffer he had an affair with, and has been suspended. Clinton and all the Kennedy's had their affairs. Bunches of politicians can't keep it zipped up. Then Letterman has been sexually exploiting, for years, young women on his staff and had to confess due to blackmail. Letterman is just an alleged comedian, so is of minor consequence. Politicians influence too much, and their actions are consequential. If you can't trust a man in small matters, how can he be trusted in consequential matters? What else are they lying about? If they are caught, it's like the drunk driver being caught. You know for sure it's not the first time he's driven drunk. If a politician is caught committing adultery, who else is he cheating on? I submit he cheating on the citizens he's been hired to represent. If a man can't be trusted to be faithful to his wife, how can he be trusted to govern honestly and with integrity?