Berlusconi 'turning Italy into a moral vacuum'
The Roman Catholic Church said yesterday that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's scandalous private life threatened to turn Italy into a moral vacuum.
The country's most senior bishop, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, said Mr Berlusconi's conduct was sowing the seeds of an "anthropological disaster".
Young Italians would eschew abiding by the law and working hard in favour of easy money by "selling" themselves, he said.
Cardinal Bagnasco said the example set by Italy's leaders suggested that "cunning, social climbing, showing off and selling oneself" was the way to get ahead.
Italians were "horrified" by the conduct of politicians, some of whom needed a refresher course in "the ABCs of ethics", he said.
He was the second establishment figure to attack Mr Berlusconi in as many days. On Sunday, one of Italy's best known business leaders said Mr Berlusconi's actions had made the country a laughing stock.
Emma Marcegaglia, the head of the Confindustria employers' federation, said she spent a lot of time trying to convince foreigners that not all Italians behave like Mr Berlusconi, who is under investigation for abuse of office and paying for sex at wild parties.
"When I go abroad, I constantly emphasise that there is another Italy -- an Italy that goes to bed early and wakes early, that works hard, that is industrious and committed," she said.
Salacious wire taps have painted a different image of the country, in which nubile starlets compete with each other to cavort with the 74-year-old billionaire at "bunga bunga" sex parties.
Ms Marcegaglia said Mr Berlusconi was so intent on trying to quell the scandals that the country had been plunged into a state of paralysis.
"For six months the government has not been up to the job," she said. "In the next few weeks we will see if the government is capable of carrying out certain reforms, otherwise there will be a need to make other choices."
Opposition leaders have accused Mr Berlusconi of shaming Italy over allegations that he paid for sex. He denies the accusations.
A new survey showed that nearly half of Italians -- 49pc -- now want Mr Berlusconi to resign. (© Daily Telegraph, London)