Smear theater, last act (for now)

Editor-in-chief Dino Boffo, under prere from an Italian newspaper feud, has resigned as head of the Catholic daily Avvenire. Boffo has become the target of an "unspeakable media attack," according to a press release from the Italian bishops' conference. Its president, Cardinal Bagnasco, noted Boffo's resignation "with regret". Is this only a temporary climax of the feud between government and church?

Following critical reporting on Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Boffo was attacked by the daily newspaper Il Giornale for alleged homosexual relations. The paper, which is owned by the Berlusconi family, essentially based its story on an anonymous letter of libel. In addition, "Il Giornale" referred to a fine Boffo paid in 2004 for alleged telephone harassment of a woman from Terni. According to Boffo's account, the calls were made from an editorial cell phone, but by a different person. He had merely wanted to forestall criminal proceedings by paying the fine. Boffo denies both the phone calls and homosexual relations and rejects the accusations as "journalistic killerism". Pope Benedict XVI. and Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone had openly backed the now resigned editor-in-chief. The center-left opposition had previously repeatedly accused "Avvenire" of not condemning clearly enough contacts of the Italian prime minister with prostitutes and minors. The daily newspaper of the Bishops' Conference, meanwhile, had repeatedly stressed that the private lives of politicians like Berlusconi must meet moral standards.

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