Fat Tony’s “Vaffanculo” moment has consequences for the wrong person

It’s always so lovely to see when church authorities have their priorities straight. Take, for example, the case of a freelance photographer working for a diocesan newspaper and SCOTUS judge Antonin “Fat Tony Vaffanculo” Scalia:

A freelance photographer has been fired by the Archdiocese of Boston’s newspaper for releasing a picture of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia making a controversial gesture in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Sunday.

Peter Smith, who had freelanced for The Pilot newspaper for a decade, lost the job yesterday after the Herald ran his photo on its front page. Smith said he has no regrets about releasing it.

"I did the right thing. I did the ethical thing," said Smith, 51, an assistant photojournalism professor at Boston University.

Smith snapped the photo of Scalia flicking his hand under his chin after a Herald reporter asked the conservative jurist his response to people who question his impartiality on matters of church and state.


Smith wouldn’t give up the photo earlier this week but chose to release it when he learned Scalia said his gesture had been incorrectly characterized by the Herald. Smith, who was standing in front of the judge, said the Herald "got the story right."

Smith said the Pilot had an obligation at that point "to bring some clarity to it."

"I felt that same obligation," Smith said. "I had to say what I knew and come forward with it.."

The weekly Catholic newspaper made a "journalistic decision" not to run or release the photo, said Archdiocese spokesman Terry Donilon. "Because he breached that trust with the editor, we will no longer engage his services as a freelance photographer," Donilon said.

"It’s nothing personal," added Pilot editor Antonio Enrique. "I need to try and find people I can trust."

While news outlets from across the country sought Smith’s photo yesterday, the archdiocese said there’s no proof that Scalia uttered an obsenity in the church. Smith said Scalia said, "To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo,’ " while making the gesture. That’s Italian for (expletive) you.

The expletive in question is “fuck”. And the Italian phrase, “Va fa en culo”, means, more or less, “get fucked up the ass.” Always glad to help a censor out.

But y’know, I fail to see how Smith’s photo of the fat smirker wiping his greasy chin (which you can view at the link to the full piece) constitutes any journalistic breach of trust. Smith was only doing his job–which is to say, taking pictures and getting the story to go with them. Isn’t that what the editors of the paper were trusting him to do? And if it were in any way wrong, don’t you think a photojournalism prof such as he would be aware of it–and decide against releasing the picture and reporting what the judge did?

Nope, nothing wrong with what Peter Smith did; all journalists should be so scrupulous and honest. Well done, thou good and faithful servant.

On the other hand, this episode does tell us some things about the judicial trustworthiness of Hizzoner. And not very pleasant ones, either.

Maybe the atheists have a point after all: If there were a God whom we all should fear, wouldn’t this rotten theocratic judge (who likes to style himself as a defender of godfearin’ virtues) be struck dead on the spot for essentially uttering an obscenity in God’s house? And in any event, seeing the graphic evidence once again that God doesn’t work that way–shouldn’t we stop fearing God, and stop toadying to those who say we must (who are, themselves, playing God by doing so)?

And more importantly still: Shouldn’t the media, as servants of freedom and democracy, see it as a bounden duty to expose these whited sepulchres?

The truth shall make you free. But first, it will piss an unjust judge off.

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