September 27, 2011

How About Taking a Break, Mr. Prime Minister?

Anna Wintour
Do you know what the editor-in-chief of Vogue America, Anna Wintour, and the head of the Italian Bishops Conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, have in common? Well, they both don’t like Silvio Berlusconi. Not even a little bit. At least not anymore (especially in the latter case). And they both take a great care to let the world know it. Of course there are also important differences between the two: one is that Mrs. Wintour hardly knows who this guy is and what he is like, whereas Cardinal Bagnasco—along with the rest of the Italian people—obviously knows Berlusconi all too well. Which is not a good sign for the Italian prime minister: you just don’t need to know him well to feel (Mrs. Wintour) “disgusted and embarrassed” by him, or “mortified” (Card. Bagnasco) by his “sad and hollow” behavior.

Add to this Pope Benedict XVI’ call—last Thursday, before he left for his third trip to Germany—for “an increasingly intense ethical renewal for the good of beloved Italy,” and you’re done!

Cardinal Bagnasco and Silvio Berlusconi
Well, it is true that Cardinal Bagnasco did not name explicitly the prime minister—nor, of course, did the pope—but there is little doubt about whom he was referring to when he denounced “licentious behavior and improper relations” or when he said that Italians had been left in a state of “dumbfounded astonishment” by their political class—not that the rest of the Italian political class are exactly saints…, er, au contraire, but, as the old Latin saying goes, “Est modus in rebus!”

All this, of course, while not only Berlusconi but all of Italy itself is now under a kind of worldwide microscope, after having had its sovereign credit rating cut by Standard & Poor’s, with the ratings agency keeping the country’s outlook on negative in a major surprise that adds to contagion fears in the debt-stressed eurozone.

Hard times, no doubt about it. One could argue that the prime minister has earned a well-deserved (and long) vacation for all the hard work he has done for the country, to say nothing about the inevitable exhaustion following his legendary “athletics exploits.” But I’m afraid he is too damn stubborn to admit—because of his strong sense of duty toward the country, of course—that taking a break might be a very extremely good idea. For the good of his health, of course. But you may be sure that I, along with crowds of conservatives, no matter whether Catholic or not, both here in Italy and abroad, are praying for him and will keep him in our thoughts and prayers until he decides to take a break from his stressful job, or better still to put an end to it once and for all. As the Jennifer Hudson song goes, “If this isn't love, tell me what it is.”

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