Maiani’s confirmation at CNR stuck in the mud January 24, 2008Posted by dorigo in news, physics, politics, religion, science.
In a series of recent posts (Storm over rome, The aborted speech, Ratzinger divides, Maiani speaks)I discussed the decision of the rector of “La Sapienza”, a prestigious University in Rome, to invite pope Ratzinger for a Lectio Magistralis at the opening ceremony of the academic year, and the following events: the private letter of 67 physics professors to the rector criticizing the decision, the publication of the letter, the ensuing reaction by media, clerics, and students, and the final decision of the pope to decline the invitation “for opportunity reasons”.
The story does not end there, because some right-wing lacqueys of the clerics, always sensitive to the wind blowing from cardinals in Italy, have sensed that the events had created the occasion to exploit politically the wave of indignation in the country following a distorted reporting of the whole issue by the media. The designated victim: Luciano Maiani, a esteemed theoretical physicist, former director of CERN and INFN (the institute that pays my salary), a person with a stellar curriculum and undoubted experience and skills. The occasion: Maiani has been nominated to head the CNR, the most important research organization in Italy, and a confirmation of the appointment has to come from the Senate. The plan: use the fact that he was among the 67 who signed the letter criticizing the invitation of Ratzinger to subvert his confirmation.
I just read the transcription of the discussion which took place in the 7th commission of the italian Senate a week ago, when the due act of confirming Maiani was postponed and an interrogation of minister Mussi about the opportunity to hire Maiani as head of CNR was requested. You can find the italian version here, but I will give a few highlights. It shows something about the inner workings of italian politics and how the latter is influenced by the Church, albeit in a covert, indirect way.
On the proposal to appoint professor Maiani as President of the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche
Senator Asciutti (Forza Italia) asks that minister Mussi be called in commission to confirm the appointment of professor Maiani […] following the recent facts at the university La Sapienza in Rome. In reminding that the candidate is among the signers of the letter in which a small number of academics expressed their dissent to the presence of the Pope in occasion of the inauguration of the academic year, he holds that such position is incompatible with a balanced, laic behavior, the more so since at the top of CNR is needed a person representative of all opinions. […]
Senator Pellegatta (Green party) judges as non receivable the request of senator Asciutti, since it is instrumental, demagogic, and arbitrary. She expresses dissent with the attempt to link the expression of the judgement of the parliament on the appointment, essentially based on an evaluation of titles, with opinions of the candidate freely expressed in other venues. She points out that accepting the request would mean to create a dangerous vulnus.
Senator Sterpa (Forza Italia) in consideration of the statements in the debate, declares to abandon the room as a sign of protest, judging unacceptable the accusations of intolerance.
Senator Bianconi (Forza Italia) reminds that in the past the appointments in large public institutions have always taken place in a climate of ample agreement. […] She invites minister Mussi to confirm in the Parliament a choice operated before the contested facts took place. In the meantime, she auspicates that the same professor Maiani clarifies his position, while holding that his declarations already given are by no means appeasing.
Senator Soliani (Democratic Party) acknowledges the convergence on deferring the decision on the appointment. She also notes that a good part of the debate could have taken place in occasion of the appointment itself. She […] proposes that the convocation of minister Mussi have as a subject the guarantees for the full exercise of freedom of opinion in universities and research institutes. […]
I still think this is just an occasion used by the right to show off how much they care about pluralism and freedom of expression of… the pope, and that their objections to the appointment of Maiani will die out. Nevertheless, this skirmish also showed how difficult it is in Italy to obtain an agreement on appointments: even when the convergence is ample and the candidate is outstanding, ideology wants its share and may end up driving the decision.