April 14, 2008



Ironically, the party most vocal in supporting the Vatican's concerns for the sanctity of life is led by a former Communist and self-described "theist" who does not belong to any church.

Giuliano Ferrara, editor of the small-circulation but influential newspaper Il Foglio, started his explicitly antiabortion electoral list as an off-shoot of his campaign for a world-wide abortion "moratorium." Though he is not expected to win many votes, months of continuous coverage in his paper have raised awareness of the issue to perhaps the highest levels since the 1981 referendum that confirmed the legalization of abortion.

Church leaders have kept their distance from Mr. Ferrara's campaign, perhaps because they fear that a forthright push for prohibition could backfire, helping mobilize pro-abortion votes as it did in 1981.

Yet Mr. Ferrara's initiative is an example of the kind of alliance between Christians and sympathetic nonbelievers that Benedict argues is necessary for the spiritual revival of Europe and the West.

The Church can't have both.

The Atheist Urging Italy to Get Religion (RACHEL DONADIO, 4/06/08, NY Times)

He is Giuliano Ferrara, a Communist turned conservative who is Italy’s most operatic and most mercurial intellectual provocateur. A newspaper editor and former government minister, Mr. Ferrara is best known here as a television talk-show host. He combines the political theatrics of an Abbie Hoffman with the rhetorical flair of a William F. Buckley.

Italy’s political life has always been absurd, but Mr. Ferrara’s recent theatrics touch on something deeper. He is a cultural barometer, highly attuned to the desperation of the national mood. More than the real-politiking of the mainstream candidates, Mr. Ferrara, with his insistence on ideas, taps into Italian anxieties about the future of Europe, the loosening of national identities, the rise of immigration, the decline of Christian belief.

In his latest incarnation, Mr. Ferrara is running for Parliament on a small slate devoted to a single issue: “pro-life,” which he defines loosely. An avowed atheist and nonbeliever, he has called for a “moratorium,” but not a ban, on abortion, to call attention to the value of life.

“I’d like to win, it would be extraordinary,” he said in a recent interview here in Rome. “But it’s not the central thing. I’m a man in search of ideas, not votes. That’s only a means.”

Mr. Ferrara’s campaign is almost certain to fail in the polls, but his rallies have elicited an outpouring of support — and some protests. In Bologna last week, young protesters pelted him with tomatoes as the riot police held back crowds. Still, Mr. Ferrara has helped put social issues on the table — much to the annoyance of the front-runners, who fear they’ll polarize the electorate. Mr. Berlusconi, for one, has declined to include Mr. Ferrara’s list in his center-right coalition.

Mr. Ferrara, a longtime player in Italy’s political tragicomedy, was most recently the host of a popular prime-time talk show called “8 ½.” He gave up the show to campaign, but remains editor in chief of Il Foglio, the gadfly newspaper he founded in 1996 with seed money from Mr. Berlusconi.

The paper takes an eclectic line rare in Italy, at once neo-con, theo-con and civil libertarian; it is pro-America, pro-Israel, pro-Iraq war, intent on limiting the power of prosecutors and friendly to the Vatican.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 14, 2008 10:16 AM
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