Derogatory remarks against Pope Benedict XVI could land Italians in prison.(Getty Images)
Derogatory remarks against Pope Benedict XVI could land Italians in prison.
(Getty Images)

Italian Comedian Faces Prosecution for Insulting the Pope

September 18, 2008  •  From
Italy is attempting to invoke a fascist-era law in order to penalize those who insult the pope.

Italian comedian Sabrina Guzzanti is facing possible prosecution and a prison term of five years for making controversial remarks about the pope at an anti-politics rally in Rome.

Guzzanti could be tried for this offense at the hands of Rome’s prosecutor, Giovanni Ferrara. If Ferrara obtains the authorization from the Italian justice minister that he has requested, he will start proceedings against Guzzanti for “vilification” of the pope. Under Italian law, courts are allowed to sentence people to up to five years in prison for “offending the honor” of the pope, the same punishment as offending the honor of the Italian president.

Another satirist at the same anti-politics rally insulted Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, but charges against him have been dropped after authorities deemed the comments to be straightforward satire. Apparently the pope was the only figure they felt like defending.

The interesting thing about this whole situation is that Ferrara has to invoke the Lateran Treaty in order to enforce this law. The Lateran Treaty was a concord between Italy and the Vatican signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Gasparri and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in 1929.

The civil government of Rome is attempting to bring into play a fascist-era law to justify imprisoning a secular comedian for insulting the head of the Roman Catholic Church.

Paolo Guzzanti, Ms. Guzzanti’s father and a center-right Italian member of parliament, called the move “a return to the Middle Ages.”

Italy is indeed starting to return to the medieval practice of inviting Catholicism to dictate governmental policies and national politics. The separation between church and state is beginning to crumble. Watch for the Italian government to take an even harder line against those who insult or work against the Vatican hierarchy.

For more information on the increasing influence of the Vatican on the Italian political scene, read “The Kingbreaker.”