Rorate Caeli

La Stampa: Police now Used to Intimidate and Censor Critics of Persecution of Franciscans of the Immaculate - and critics' family members; Freedom of the Press Under Threat by Church Authorities

By the senior religious correspondent of Italian daily La Stampa, the startling news: those responsible for the intervention of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, after silencing their innocent victims inside the Church, now use the Police to intimidate journalists and bloggers -- and their family members ! -- in Italy.

It is probably the most serious attempt by an ecclesial authority to make use of the police forces (and police that are members of the military forces) to limit the freedom of the press or public free speech by laymen in Italy in living memory -- the attempt is based on scraps of a couple of past posts, but the intent and likely result is obviously to intimidate and limit (even by the sheer weight and cost of litigation, and the fear of having family members summoned by the military or the police) the future activity of the media on covering some suspicious ecclesial activities. The end practical result is plain censorship. It is a shocking new chapter in the grotesque soap opera of the intervention in the Franciscans of the Immaculate.

(Note: Exactly one year ago, the terrible news of the Intervention was first made public -- July 29, 2013: see Sandro Magister and Rorate.)


From the United States, we have been sent the text of a letter in which Francesco Colafemmina, the owner of a blog widely known and followed in the ecclesial camp, "Fides et Forma", tells his story: and that was being summoned, with his wife, by the Carabinieri [the Italian Gerdarmerie, the Carabinieri are the national military armed police corps and one of the four Armed Forces of the Italian military] following an accusation of defamation by Father Alfonso Bruno, the right-hand man of the Commissioner of the Franciscans of the Immaculate [Father Fidenzio Volpi]. This is Italy! This is the Vatican! The letter was in English, the translation is ours.
 by Marco Tosatti
[senior religious correspondent for Italian daily] La Stampa
July 29, 2014

From the United States we have been sent the text of a letter that Francesco Colafemmina, the owner of a blog widely known and followed in the ecclesial camp, "Fides et Forma", tells his story. This is how the author is presented by the blog: "A philologist, essayist, and writer from Apulia [Puglia], passionate for sacred art and architecture. Obviously for that art that embodies Catholicism and the tradition of the Church authentically. We live today in a frantic Western society in decadence and without memory. We live in a world where beauty is a simple speck, a moment destined to disappear, to be reabsorbed in the magma of images, of feelings, of emotions that discolor daily life in a film that has already been seen, boring and repetitive. My goal since the year of creation of 'Fides et Forma' has been that of giving voice to that ancient soul of Catholicism that was left buried under the layers of the rhetoric of aggiornamento. A strange dynamic inclined to wiping out the identity of the Church in a vaguely irenistic idea of modernity and progress reduced also sacrd are and architecture to mere senseless automatons."

It is therefore a blog of a traditional character. That took a stand vigorously against the intervention on the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, intervened without any specific accusation having been raised against them, but only that vague one of "crypto-lefebvrism", and with procedures, according to what has appeared in the newspapers, far away from the mercy proclaimed many times by Pope Francis.

This is the letter, which we have received in English and that we have translated.

[Rorate note: Since we don't have the original English text, we will make use of a translation of the Italian version published by La Stampa.]

"Dear friend,

Sorry for the delay, but last week something very sad happened to me. My wife was summoned by the Carabinieri for interrogation. Now, my wife is pregnant, and was really troubled by the summons. On the following day, we went to the Carabinieri, who interrogated her, and then interrogated me. The interrogation was concentrated on the internet and on phone structure at home. The contract with the phone company and for the internet are under my wife's name, and so they had the need to hear her.

After one hour of interrogation and absolutely trite questions such as, "have you got a router, have you got an antivirus, how many devices have you got...," I asked to know why they were making use of that procedure. They answered back, "a minute...", and they came back with this question: "Do you know Father Alfonso Maria Bruno?"

In a few words, this Fr. Bruno seems to have opened a procedure against me for defamation. sued me for defamation. And the Carabinieri in this very strange way were trying to certify that articles written by me under my name were really written by me. So, my wife's interrogation, [was] something that brought to mind stories of the Soviet, Cambodian regime... After all, I don't think that it is in the competencies of the Carabinieri to do things of this kind.

It was not granted to me to read the text of the complaint, but the officer was kind enough to explain to me that Father Bruno had written some pages of the complaint, accusing me of having defamed him "as a man and as a religious" saying that he was a "traitor".

They asked me to confirm that the two articles of Fides et Forma were mine.

Nevertheless, together with my lawyer I analyzed the two articles, and there's nothing wrong in them. Not a word that could be "defamatory". Just two documents: a letter signed by Fr. Bruno with complaints to the Holy See of the visitation. And a copy of  "Who is" in which it is certified that is his website.

I have written four letters to Vatican authorities and to the Pope. In Italy, even if, at the moment, there is only an inquiry, the offense of defamation is punished with a penalty of six months to three years of incarceration, and with fines, even though in the end no one -- except for Guareschi [Giovannino Guareschi, creator of Don Camillo] -- is punished with jail. This is all simply insane."