The Italian job

Dysfunctionality seems to sum up the state of the Western world’s politics and economies, but nowhere is it more spectacularly displayed than in Italy.

The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI – the first resignation since Gregory XII in 1415 – was accompanied by an avalanche of Vatican scandal.

Scotland’s Cardinal, Archbishop Keith O’Brien, has resigned amid a sex scandal revealed by The Observer and Rome’s dailies are in overdrive with stories of a “gay Mafia” at the Eternal City.

The salacious headlines had an overtly political purpose: to support the drive by orthodox hardliners for the election of an ultra-conservative pope. Benedict XVI, aka Joseph Ratzinger, a shy and serious theologian, went a step too far when he altered cannon law to compel the church to notify police of reports of sexual abuse. (In the past, the complaints were handled internally i.e. with a lawyer’s cheque by way of compensation plus a non-disclosure agreement).

The Vatican’s dysfunctionality was then mirrored in the Italian election result – a slender majority for the centrists in the lower house accompanied by a respectable showing by comedian Beppe Grillo’s radicals, and shift to the right in the upper house with Silvio Berlusconi’s big business accomplices claiming a majority.

The overall result? A period of political paralysis and a short life for this parliament.

I contacted a long-standing Vatican-watcher for his prediction of the next pope after the conclave of cardinals meet in the Sistine Chapel where the conclave of cardinals will meet in March.

“The last two popes have been foreigners – a Pole and a German. The next one will be from the spaghetti and meatballs crowd. They are resuming control.”

There you have it: ultra-conservatives back in charge at the Vatican, a collection of non-entities (plus a comedian and corrupt media mogul) running parliament, living standards falling, unemployment growing and social unrest intensifying.

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