Italian newspaper Libero, in light of the recent suspension of one of its journalists, decided to revive last year's dispute between Fr. Livio Fanzaga and the Order of Journalists, exposing the vulnerability of freedom of speech and religious liberty in Italy.
Fanzaga, director of private Catholic radio station Radio Maria, used to host a news commentary show. In February 2016, amidst the heated debate regarding the soon-to-be-legalized gay civil unions bill, the priest spared no words for politician Monica Cirinnà, the Democratic Party senator who authored the bill.
"She reminds me of the woman from the 17th chapter of the book of Revelation," he remarked. "Now she's cheering her victory with Prosecco. ... Madam, one day a funeral will arrive for you, too. I hope it won't be for a really long time, but it'll arrive."
Cirinnà, a prominent LGBT rights activist, is acquainted with the legal mechanisms capable of silencing her enemies into oblivion. The very next day she complained to the government's Agency of Communications, as well as the Federal Journalists' Union, the Catholic Journalists Association, and the Order of Journalists, seeking their intervention. The Order eventually suspended Fanzaga for his statements, but the news of his punishment was only made public a few weeks ago by the discussion initiated by Libero.
Falsely accused by the press of "wishing for the senator's death" and of calling Monica a "prostitute," Fr. Livio found himself having to explain Catholic exegesis to a bunch of secular bureaucrats. The priest, author of numerous theological books, clarified, "Whoever reads my writings knows that "Babylon" is how I refer to a world without God, as described by the novel Lord of the World, by Robert Benson. I meant that the bill proposed by the senator contributes to the construction of this type of world, where man takes the place of God."
In an interview with La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, Fr. Livio claimed that "absurdly, I had to demonstrate, Bible in hand, that the word 'prostitute' means 'idolatrous.' ... I've shown them that I explain the meaning of this word in many of my books."
He went on, "For me, what's quite dangerous about this ordeal is that I had to discuss sacred texts with nonreligious people. These are not matters to be left to the expertise of [secular] tribunals, not at all."
The accused also attached to his defense copies of some of the interviews where he clarified his use of biblical allegory. Speaking with TheHuffington Post, the priest explained, "Monica is a Catholic and she knows exactly what I meant. I reminded her of the Last Judgment ... that when we leave this world we will be held accountable for our works before the Lord."
His arguments failed to convince the Order of Journalists. Father Livio was sanctioned to six months without pay on the grounds of insufficient reasoning. "The explanations provided by Fanzaga are unfounded," the Order declared. "[H]e wishes for Cirinnà's death, even if in the far future."
The case that triggered Libero to remind Italians of the attacks on freedom of speech committed by the Order of Journalists was that of journalist Filippo Facci, currently defending himself from a two-month sanction that would also deprive him of his salary. Has atheist Facci quoted the Bible to admonish a politician? No. About a year ago, Facci wrote an article claiming he hates Islam.
"I hate Islam, all of Islam, the Muslims and their religion, more disgusting than all other religions," he wrote. "I hate their hatred that's forbidden to hate. ... I don't hate what is different: I hate Islam because my (our) history ... is the history of a slow, progressive, tireless opposition to everything Muslims say and do."
In a recent article about the litigation, Facci observed, "I hate all religions. ... I have written extremely harsh criticism against the Pope and the Vatican ... and for that I've never had problems with the Order."
The silence from the bishops or from the Vatican towards Fr. Fanzaga has been total. As observed by La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, "[F]rom now on, whoever insists on standing up for the Truth ... knows that they'll be abandoned, if not attacked, by the shepherds who should be defending the flock."