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Berlusconi Sex Scandal: Vatican Breaks Silence, Demands 'More Robust Morality'

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A top Vatican official has subtly but clearly rebuked Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi over allegations that Berlusconi paid a 17-year-old prostitute and other women for sex at parties in his villa near Milan. The remarks apparently signal an end to the church's quiet support for the controversial billionaire and media mogul.

"The Holy See is watching these Italian matters with attention and, in particular, worry," Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state and ranking church official after Pope Benedict XVI, told reporters on Thursday when asked about the charges swirling around Berlusconi.

"The Church pushes and invites everyone, above all those who hold public responsibility in any administrative, political and judicial area, to be committed to a more robust morality, a sense of justice and lawfulness," Bertone said, according to Italian news media.

On Friday, Pope Benedict himself weigh in on the theme, telling an audience of Rome's police chief and police officers that public officials must "rediscover their spiritual and moral roots."

"The singular vocation that the city of Rome requires today of you, who are public officials, is to offer a good example of the positive and useful interaction between a healthy lay status and the Christian faith," the pontiff said.

Also Friday, Italian media reported that the Italian bishops would discuss the Berlusconi scandals at a maeeting on Monday of the hierarchy's main decision-making body.

Berlusconi's ears might be burning, though he is not easily embarrassed.

The 74-year-old Berlusconi, for years the most powerful figure in Italian politics and society, has a reputation for making controversial remarks that have endeared him to many Italians and made him anathema to others.

But over the past two years the prime minister's public sexcapades with various women have begun to test the patience of even diehard supporters. He has come under increasing pressure to resign since magistrates accused him of paying for sex with an underage nightclub dancer who goes by the stage name "Ruby Heartstealer."

While a few Catholic publications and individual priests have admonished Berlusconi, the Vatican, whose influence in Italy remains formidable, has conspicuously declined to criticize the prime minister because the hierarchy feels his center-right government is supportive of Vatican positions on traditional morality.

Criticizing the Italian leader for having sex with a minor could also pose a public relations problem for the Vatican just as it is defending itself against ongoing revelations about its tepid response to the scandal of clergy who sexually abused children.

But Berlusconi's behavior seems to have become too much for the Vatican. As Reuters reported, the Vatican newspaper this week took the unusual step of publishing a statement by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano in which he said he was very worried about the effect the crisis was having on Italy's stability.

Italian newspapers have been reporting almost daily on stories of kinky parties at Berlusconi's villa that were described in phone transcripts as featuring showgirls wearing, among other things, nurse uniforms.

Ruby Heartstealer, a Moroccan native whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, is a focus of the investigations. She has said she was paid 7,000 euros ($9,390) by Berlusconi after attending one of his parties but had not slept with him. Italian media have published leaks of transcripts of wiretaps in which she asked Berlusconi for 5 million euros in exchange for her silence.

El Mahroug also denies that, and Berlusconi has denied having sex with her. He also accuses Italian authorities of waging a vendetta against him and this week said he would propose new laws to prevent investigators from pursuing elected officials.

A top court last week ruled that Berlusconi did not have automatic immunity from prosecution, and last month he barely survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament.

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Berlusconi has put himself in quite a mess. The Pope's message concerning a robust morality and a healthy lay status, may be valued in the context for what they were meant for. However Berlusconi's days of freedom may be threatened by prosecution. Unfortunately, it is very apparent that "Ruby Heartstealer" had set Berlusconi up for a fall and a fortune in ransom. What about being underage and and knowing all the catches. One could only suspect that there was a collective involvement.

January 22 2011 at 7:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to royrdy's comment

I could not remember the correct term at the time. Extortion, is the term to be applied instead of ransom.

January 22 2011 at 9:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This does not look good for Berlusconi. At his age and his responsibilities, why is he attending a nightclub that has pole dancing? A place like that is where the dancers strip to bare essentials or less and receive tips for an up-close look. Well, at least there are several word usages in statements given that create an atmosphere of humor. Robust was seen more than once, while an urge to have a healthy lay status was given. Both have occurred in more than one context. It is not my intention to embarrass or insult, but there is some humor in the statements and literature. Berlusconi may ponder his activities "maybe" when he is impeached or thrown out of office.

January 22 2011 at 7:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

when vatican intervenes in matters that need a heavy dose of morality the net result can not be very good. vatican carries a huge baggage of violence (inquisitions), immorality (child abuse accomplice), anti-science orthodxy (starting with flat earth) and plain dishonesty (missionaries targetting vulnerables of the 3rd world). and that is just the tip of the iceberg. pm burlosconi is probably smiling in his sleeves. let the rule of law take its course in italy to send this scoundrel of a pm to jail.

January 21 2011 at 5:18 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

When the Catholic Church can deal with its own "morality" issues, then perhaps they have a right to demand it from others...until then, they should steer clear.

January 21 2011 at 4:11 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Tepid? What do you want the Vatican to do in regards to the clergy scandal? They laicized the priests and apologized. What else can they do?

January 21 2011 at 3:30 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

$9390.00 and no action? Yeah right. Finally the church goes for the moral high ground.

January 21 2011 at 10:54 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

the last people to be giving advice on morality is the Vatican. This Pope has a lof explaining to do when he stands before God on judgment day.

January 21 2011 at 10:20 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

The writer states: "A top Vatican official has subtly but clearly rebuked Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi over allegations that...." and The remarks apparently signal an end to the church's quiet support for the controversial billionaire and media mogul." Yet the actual quotes do not say that. Perhaps it is "so subtle" the writer is reading into the remarks what he HOPES the Vatican would say. Tell Gibson we need to hear more of actual NEWS and less of his VIEWS.

January 21 2011 at 9:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

At the least, we all know what she is. And what she does.

Can we say the same about the young 'uns the Vatican factotums bang?

Vatican, Church,'re not in the sex business. Keep your observations to yourself. You've done enough damage for a century, all ready.

January 21 2011 at 8:28 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

I have heard christians use the words like antichrist if you dont follow their brand of Religion and that makes them sound retarded, Its like they use fear to try to control people, If their religion is a religion of love , why use fear to try to control people. Its make them sound realy stupid.

January 21 2011 at 4:39 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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