The Polish drift of Italy starts from afar: who are the friends of Salvini, Fontana and Pillon?

From policies to combat civil rights and abortion, we come to question divorce and domestic violence

Luisa Betti Dakli
Luisa Betti Dakli
DonnexDiritti Network International Women Director

In Poland, the influence of the most reactionary and fundamentalist positions of the Catholic Church is by now evident and the attack on rights – especially those of women – is daily. Our country is also embarking on the same path: between Minister Fontana’s positions against abortion and gay rights, the motions of various municipalities in support of self-styled ‘prolife’ associations and the obscene Pillon bill on shared custody – which, in fact, questions the right to divorce – the signs of the reactionary drift are all there.

The European context

The rise of the right, inside and outside the government coalitions in Europe, with parties and groups that make direct reference to the principles of the Catholic Church as the founding points of their politics, has among its worrying effects the dismantling of rights, starting from those of women. There are many signs in this direction. Let’s line up some. 333 reactionary and ultra-Catholic associations from nine Central and Eastern European countries – such as Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine – have addressed a letter to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, asking for the revision of the Istanbul Convention to the fight against gender-based violence.

In Chişinău, Moldova, this year the World Congress of Families brought together all the main parties and NGOs that defend the natural family (man/woman) and oppose abortion, civil unions and the dissolution of the sacred bond of marriage: a gathering attended by the Vatican Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, and which Matteo Salvini greeted with a message read from the stage in which he underlined that: “in these times of destructive and irrational aggression against the founding values of our cultures, the efforts to protect the natural family are vital to the survival and development of humanity”.

In Poland, where Law and Justice (PiS) was reconfirmed as the first party in the recent administrative elections, with some losses in the cities, the right-wing government has repeatedly tried to narrow the scope of the law on voluntary abortion, inducing every time thousands of women to take to the streets to stop this project. It is a 1993 law among the most restrictive in Europe (in fact it allows abortion only in case of danger to the woman’s life, rape or serious malformation of the fetus) that the Catholic right-wing PiS would like to sweep away in a country which already every year about 150,000 clandestine abortions occur.

The attack on 194

A drift towards which Italy has been heading for some time due to the continuous attacks and sabotage against a law, the 194 of 1978, now almost impossible to apply given that 70 percent of doctors refuse to practice the voluntary interruption of pregnancy (IVG).


such as Malta, and increasingly distant from countries where objection is almost non-existent – such as England (10 per cent), Norway and Germany (6 per cent), France (3 per cent) – or entirely non-existent, such as Sweden and Finland. As if that weren’t enough in recent weeks Pope Francis has compared those who practice abortion to those who hire a hitman to solve a problem and pro-life motions have sprung up in various Italian municipalities. The first was Verona where the city council accepted with 21 votes in favor – including that of the leader of the Democratic Party, Carla Padovani – and six against, the motion 434 of the Northern League Zelger aimed at financing pro-life Catholic associations and describing Verona as «a city in favor of life».

A motion that has made converts and which, according to what was declared by the youth manager of the League, Roberto Todeschini, will be brought to all municipalities “with the aim of extending it to a regional and national level”. And in fact, a few days later, in the municipality of Ferrara, the councilor Alessandro Balboni of the Brothers of Italy filed a similar motion for economic support for women in order to distract them from the intention to practice IVG, proclaiming Ferrara « city that protects the defenceless», and a very similar one was presented, again by Fratelli d’Italia, to the municipality of Rome to proclaim the capital a «pro-life city» and prepare «resources necessary to support pro-life centres» .

Matteo Salvini and Lorenzo Fontana

Motion also arrived in Milan where the Forza Italia councilor Luigi Amicone, together with the League, asked to recognize “Milan as a city for life” and to provide in the budget “adequate funding” for pro-life groups; as well as in Modena, where the Northern League councilor Luigia Santoro asked the municipality to “propose initiatives and policies to support motherhood and the prevention of conditions that lead to abortion”. Ultra-reactionary Catholics also have supporters in government. In the front line for the safeguarding of traditional Catholic values is the Minister of the Family Lorenzo Fontana who, immediately after the inauguration of the Lega-5 Stelle government, made it clear what he is made of by declaring that “the family is the natural one” and that “unfortunately in our [government] contract there is no restriction on abortion”.


Roberto Fiore

opposed to “gender” and rainbow couples, while migratory flows lead to “a devastating watering down of the identity of the country that welcomes” and “the ideal society, for those who want to lead without anyone bothering, is a light dictatorship ». An extremist Catholic, linked to extreme right-wing groups in Verona, and a member of the No194 Committee, the Northern League member Fontana signed in 2011 to repeal the law on IVG and punish women and doctors with a sentence of between 8 and 12 years: a card claimed by the president of the committee, the lawyer Pietro Guerini, who publicly congratulated the minister on his inauguration. Committee which also has close relations with Roberto Fiore, leader of Forza Nuova, as evidenced by the participation of the latter, last October 13th in Milan, in the march against the 194 organized by the association.

Alessandro Fiore

An sympathy evidently also shared by Fontana, who in 2015, at the Verona Family Day, had himself photographed with Luca Castellini, leader of Forza Nuova, and has never hidden his sympathy for the friends of ProVita, whose spokesman is Alessandro Fiore, eldest son of Roberto, and whose president, Toni Brandi, organized the first Festival for life in Verona in which the minister also participated.


On the other hand, his spiritual father is Vilmar Pavesi, the ultra-reactionary monarchist parish priest who celebrates mass in Latin in a church attended by men only.

A new front: shared custody
Simone Pillon and Matteo Salvini

Today, however, in Italy, together with the historic one against abortion, there is another front that dares for the first time where others had not yet dared: that for the restoration of parental authority, canceled by legislative progress on the right to family, and the questioning of divorce. The project has the face of Simone Pillon, the neocatechumenal Northern League senator now famous for the impressive number of criticisms of the family law bill he presented to the Senate commission in the drafting session. A proposal that even bothered


and requested clarifications for its incompatibility “with the obligations of the Italian State in the field of human rights”. Fierce criticisms have come from everywhere, with the birth of No Pillon committees in Milan, Florence, Turin, while the Network of anti-violence centers (DiRe) has launched a petition for the withdrawal of the bill which has reached almost 100,000 signatures, and a national mobilization. It is not only civil society but also lawyers, magistrates and organizations that deal with children’s rights who are asking to quash the Pillon bill and who express strong concern: from the Italian Coordination of Services against Child Maltreatment and Abuse (Cismai) to the Italian Association of Family and Minor Lawyers (Aiaf), passing through the National Union of Juvenile Chambers, the National Association of Family Mediator Lawyers (Anamef) and the Democratic Judiciary.

Simone Pillon and Lorenzo Fontana

However, Pillon’s friends are also turning up their noses, with Fontana talking about corrections to the text and the Minister of Public Administration Giulia Bongiorno who wants to rewrite it, even if it is more the other part of the government coalition that represents an obstacle: for the pentastellata Maria Edera Spadoni, vice president of the Chamber, it is unacceptable that “cases of domestic violence against women are not foreseen by the articles” and for Vincenzo Spadafora, undersecretary of the M5S with responsibility for equal opportunities, “in cases of ill-treatment in family the Pillon decree does not help”, so much so that they too would like to write a new proposal. But what does the bill 735 propose?

There are four pillars: compulsory family mediation for a fee with a detailed plan which could include, in case no agreement is reached, even a coordinator (a figure to be invented); perfectly equal times with a minimum of 12 days a month with each parent and the child who will go back and forth with the suitcase; direct maintenance, which excludes the assignment of the house (possibly whoever stays pays the rent to the other) and the allowance, whereby each parent will provide for needs on the spot while adult children who need money will have to go to the magistrate; and finally the introduction of so-called parental alienation and false abuses.

This in a general loss of discretion on the part of the judge, who will have to apply what is established in the parenting plan, and in an overall increase in the difficulty of separating and divorcing which could make many couples give up making a right substantially inaccessible. A bill that would make those intending to separate and divorce even poorer, with the costs of compulsory mediation and a possible coordinator, entirely borne by the couples, which could become exorbitant. In a context in which, moreover, even now separating means an impoverishment for both spouses.


And this is due to an inefficient social system which, unlike the countries of Northern Europe, leaks from all sides and, in the event of separation, causes very strong imbalances. In a general crisis, still to be overcome, in which employment is increasingly precarious and the reintegration of mothers into the world of work is an obstacle course, the family nucleus in which the mother stays at home with the children and the father goes to work remains the backbone of the company. In fact, in Italy, one in three women stays at home after having their first child, while those who go back to work do it part-time and with salaries halved (according to Istat data), due to the now almost total absence of a welfare enable both parents to work full time without leaving their children on the street.

In fact, if the Italian State took care of those services that a family should be guaranteed and worked to facilitate the full-time employment of women/mothers with salaries equal to those of men, in the event of separation mothers and children would not only weigh on what today is often the only entrance to the house, namely that of the father, who, in turn, in these conditions, struggles to support the household economy when the couple separates.

Circumstances which even now lead many couples to remain as if “separate at home”, in order not to find themselves in a state of poverty: therefore a structural problem which certainly cannot be resolved, as the Pillon bill would like to do, by taking away the marital home from the minor, who he has the right to it regardless of which parent stays in it (sometimes the house remains with the child with alternating parents), nor leaving child support to chance or taking it away from them once they come of age while maybe they are still going to school. On the division of the permanence of children in their parents’ homes regardless of age – a three-month-old child is not like a 15-year-old boy – and on compulsory mediation for all, Pillon has already taken a step back, declaring that the design is aimed to that minority of couples (18 percent) who face a high-conflict separation, while the majority of couples (82 percent) today separate by mutual consent.


Vittorio Vezzetti

In article 11, cases of domestic violence that exclude shared custody are equated to the quality of the living spaces of former spouses. The hypotheses of «danger of harm to the psychophysical health of the minor» which do not envisage the shared are in fact listed as follows: «violence; sexual abuse; neglect; unavailability of a parent; evident inadequacy of the spaces set up for the life of the minor”, putting everything on the same level. In the same article it is specified that these reasons for exclusion of shared custody must be “proven and motivated” without clarifying whether, in cases of violence and sexual abuse, to define them in this way it is necessary the third level of judgement, for which in Italy it is necessary to wait years and years, in the meantime exposing the victims to serious dangers.

Andrea Coffari

In article 12, even in the face of serious cases of abuse which provide for exclusive custody to the caring parent, the text protects double parenting at all costs, forcing the child to spend the night alone with the non-custodial parent even if abuser or mistreat. Girolamo Andrea Coffari, expert lawyer for minors (to whom he dedicated the book Breaking the silence, Laurana Editore, 2018), underlines that «the bill 735 protects fathers accused of violence or abuse, and discourages mothers from reporting by punishing their children who speak and show a legitimate refusal towards the abusive parent who, thanks to these provisions, can still visit the child for at least twelve days a month and alone”.

A critical point on which Pillon has shown no intention of backing down, despite having declared that children “have the right not to be exposed to violence”, stating that he does not question “neither the protection order nor the precautionary measure of the ban on approaching»: measures which, however, clearly contrast with article 12 of its bill. In articles 17 and 18, written by the neuropsychiatrist Camerini, it is assumed that children are not able to discern and for this reason, if they refuse a parent, even in the absence of “evident conduct” of the other that could have led to this outcome, the the magistrate can remove parental responsibility from the latter, guilty of “parental alienation”, punishing him even if he has never spoken ill of the ex. Unheard of alter part,


In fact, these are articles in which domestic violence is minimized, if not even considered irrelevant, which instead represents 80 percent of cases of violence against women in Italy. Pillon therefore seems more concerned with punishing the parent who speaks ill of the other, rather than alienating the one who uses violence, because false accusations are closely related to parental alienation which, according to the minister, are real violence. «If the woman has the will to exclude the man or vice versa», says Pillon, it means that «the first one who makes the complaint takes the whole package: house, children, allowances, and all the rest» (Speech by Simone Pillon at the meeting «Shared custody: everything you would like to know about the Pillon bill», organized by the blog «27esimaora» of Corriere della Sera in the Senate on 17 October 2018).

“On the other hand”, declares the lawyer Teresa Manente of the anti-violence centers of Differenza Donna, “the cases of mothers who are acquitted on 388 of the penal code, when the fathers accuse them of not seeing their children because of their fault: cases won by the mothers on the basis of the ascertained non-response of what is accused, or because, if the woman has suffered ill-treatment together with her minor children, the mother is recognized as having the duty of parent to respect the will of the minor traumatized by the father and for this reason refused”.

Richard Gardner
Richard Gardner

Invented in 1985 by the American psychiatrist Richard Gardner, the Pas (Parental Alienation Syndrome) alias Parental Alienation, theorizes that if a child rejects one parent, the fault is invariably the other and that any allegations of violence are false because they are the result of manipulation by the parent alienating but, while for Pillon the one who alienates can be both the father and the mother (indeed for the senator it is more the fathers who alienate than the mothers), for Gardner it is always the mother who alienates the children from the father.

Andrea Mazzeo

That of the American psychiatrist, which Pillon wants to introduce into a law, is a theory rejected by the National Federation of Doctors’ Orders and by the Italian Society of Pediatrics, declared non-existent by the Higher Institute of Health, classified as unusable by the Cassation sentence 7041 of 20 March 2013 and not present in the D.S.M. (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). In the United Kingdom parental alienation has been rejected by experts of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales who have recommended not to use it (C. Sturge, G. Danya, ‘Contact and Domestic Violence: The Experts’ Court Report », Family Law, 2000, p. 615.), and in France it is forbidden to use it because, according to the V National Anti-Violence Plan, it «denies the status of victim by inverting responsibilities», without ever having been recognized by any scientific body official. Parental alienation, former syndrome (Pas), whose name “has been changed to escape the numerous rejections of the scientific community, thus transforming it”, explains the expert psychiatrist of Pas, Andrea Mazzeo, “from a serious illness of children to a relational disorder ».

Brian Brown, Matteo Salvini, Simone Pillon, Toni Brandi, Massimo Gandolfini and Jacopo Coghe
Who’s behind the Pillon bill?
Lorenzo Fontana and Jacopo Coghe

But where does this design come from and who really wants it? The Pillon bill has distant origins. Already after the approval of the current law on shared custody, the 54 of 2006, some associations of separated fathers began to write proposals to modify it: transversal proposals then presented by the various political alignments in which the pro-Pas lobby managed to infiltrate over the years. «It is quite evident», explains Mazzeo, «that the real objective has always been to introduce parental alienation in a legislative provision which would allow the automatic change of custody of the minor on the basis of this diagnosis formulated by the so-called experts in Official technical consultancy (Ctu), eluding any judicial evaluation: an attempt that is being proposed again today with the Pillon bill».

Of all the projects on the subject presented in parliament over the years, perhaps thirty, the one that has had a history similar to bill 735 is bill 957 which, with contents similar to the Pillon text, arrived in the Senate committee in 2008 and by a whisker, thanks to the mobilization of civil society, was rejected in 2012: a rejection that earned the opposing senators the furious reaction of the supporters of the bill who, after weeks of pressure and threats, verbally attacked them as they left Palazzo Madama.

Marino Maglietta

The father of the bill 957, as of almost all the proposals on the subject, is Marino Maglietta, an engineer who in 1993 founded the association Growing together and who, despite being one of the authors of law 54 (later abundantly amended), today he appears as the great excluded from the bill 735 due to the conflicts with Vezzetti, a friend of Pillon and, as we have said, a collaborator in the drafting of the current bill.

Vincenzo Spavone

The supporting associations are mostly associations of separated fathers and, even if they seem numerous, many are duplicates and some have doubts about their real existence: at the address of the Abducted Parents Association of Emilia Romagna by Roberto Castelli, for example, there is a postamat, while the association Parents separated from the children of Vincenzo Spavone, national head of the Biparental, separation and minor foster care department of the League (which primarily deals with conveying the Pillon bill on foster care shared), has three offices in Rome, one of which cannot be found within the Chamber complex in vicolo Valdina.

But there are not only fathers and, to disprove the idea that only they are victims of false accusations, the Women’s Movement for parental equality was born which, as can be read on the site, was created from the initiative of «some new companions, girlfriends, second wives, sisters, friends, mothers, grandmothers, daughters of separated fathers».

Simone Pillon, Marcello Adriano Mazzola, Roberto Castelli, Vittorio Vezzetti, Valeria Mazzotta

If the oldest is the Separate Fathers Association – founded in 1991 – the most important is however Adiantum (Association of national associations for the protection of minors), whose first president was Vezzetti himself who then founded Colibrì in 2012 (Coordination of free initiatives for both parenting and childhood reasons), which boasts 19 associations listed on its website (a pity that the link of the third refers to a pornographic page, while no news of others can be found).

Vittorio Apolloni

Adiantum was founded in 2008 on the initiative of seven associations, and National Councilor with specific delegation in the area of child abuse was Vittorio Apolloni who is a key figure in this story because in 2001 he had already created the False Abuse Documentation Center in Turin, with a site that no longer exists but which has helped to spread the concept of false reports of abuse in Italy. An association created by Apolloni after that


Valerio Apolloni

together with Vanda Ballario, former director of the structure. An activity, that of Vittorio, which goes on without respite by spreading the false theory, used by the entire pro-Pas lobby, according to which the reports of violence against minors would be 90 percent false, and which slows down only when , in 2009, his son Valerio was finally sentenced in Cassation. Apolloni, however, is not the only one to move for personal reasons. Even Vezzetti, who came to prominence as a guest on the Costanzo Show, is a separated father who in 2007 has his six-year-old son constitute a civil party in the trial against his mother in court, denounced by him for having alienated her son. Author of the book Nel nome dei bambini (Book Sprint, 2010), Vezzetti often with Pillon: in 2016 he was in Bologna at the conference «Shared custody: new acquisitions», and then, this year at the II Brugherio Big Parenting Festival together with Spavone.

Simone Pillon and Vittorio Vezzetti in 2016 he was in Bologna at the conference «Shared custody: new acquisitions»

Giovanbattista Camerini, Pillon’s other collaborator in drafting the bill, is instead a child neuropsychiatrist and psychiatrist, a court expert who boasts more than 200 expert witnesses, and it is mainly to him that we owe the full entry into our country of the thought of Richard Gardner, who in his books portrays children as demons who hate their fathers, arguing that “in custody disputes they act driven by base vengeful instincts” (R. Gardner, L’isteria Quattro Venti, Urbino 2013, pp. 148-149. 13 Ivi, p. 59). Next to them, according to the American psychiatrist cleared by Camerini, there will always be a malevolent mother who exploits the accusations by manipulating and alienating her children, even going so far as to offer her offspring sexually to the father since, according to the instigator of the bill Pillon and of the whole pro-Pas lobby,


Giovanni Battista Camerini

Mothers who, if they are honest, according to Gardner, prefer “to live in a situation in which their children are sexually abused rather than suffer the breakdown of their marriage”. As we can guess, Gardner talks extensively about pedophilia, saying that «there is a good reason to believe that the majority, if not all children, have the ability to reach an orgasm when they are born» (R. Gardner, True and False Accusation of Child Sex Abuse, ed Creative Therapeutics, Cresskill NJ 1992, p. 15.).

Camerini not only glorifies and applies Gardner, but goes further, arguing: «Various authors including Okami and Rind and others, have underlined the indiscriminate use of terms such as victim and perpetrator. […] Researchers have often confused the concept of abuse as harm to a child or adolescent, and abuse as a violation of social norms, whereas it cannot be assumed that a violation of social norms necessarily leads to harm. […] Legally prosecutable actions may not be perceived and experienced as traumatic» (G.B. Camerini, «The outcomes of abuse in the light of developmental psychopathology», in G. Gulotta, G.B. Camerini, National guidelines. Listening to the minor witness, Giuffrè, Milan 2014, p. 197).

«In a nutshell», says Coffari, «for Camerini, sexual abuse cannot be experienced and perceived by children as a trauma. It is no coincidence that he mentions Okami, one of the authors of Pedophilia. Biosocial dimensions, because the basic thesis is that sexual abuse is the one exercised with violence while in the case of seduction one does not necessarily have to speak of sexual abuse of minors” (for further information: G.A. Coffari, Rompere il silence, cit., pp 515 ff). In quoting Rind, Camerini also refers to the article «A Meta-analytic Examination of Assumed Properties of Child Sexual Abuse College Samples» by B. Rind, P. Tromovitch, R. Bauserman (Psychological Bulletin, 1998), a text which in 1999 the US Congress condemned with resolution 107 H.Con.Res, which reads: «Considering that all credible studies in this area, including those published by the American Psychological Association, condemn the sexual abuse of minors as criminal and harmful to children. […] Congress condemns and denounces all suggestions contained in the article […] that indicate that sexual relations between consenting adults and children are less harmful than believed”.

Marcello Adriano Mazzola

But in the entourage of the pro-Pas lobby there are also other characters, including the lawyer Marcello Adriano Mazzola, head of the legal office of Adiantum, who, thanks to the blog he has had on Fatto Quotidiano for years, has been conveying the positions of the aforementioned associations of separated fathers; the lawyer Guglielmo Gulotta, who together with Camerini was one of the first to bring Gardner to Italy; and Marco Casonato, a psychologist and former researcher at Bicocca who organized the conferences where the group often met together. Supporters of parental alienation who, especially at the beginning and for several years, many revolved around Adiantum, of which Vezzetti was president, and who in 2009 already partially met to meet again at the conference «The future does not wait» where we find, among others, the former minister Carlo Giovanardi, another champion of false abuses, and the aforementioned Vittorio Apolloni.

Guglielmo Gulotta

Gulotta was in fact the one who first brought Gardner to Italy, publishing in 1997, in a series directed by him, an article by the pedagogist, psychologist and family mediator Isabella Buzzi, in which we read: «Among the symptoms that the child manifest in these cases we find very often the declaration of the minor to have suffered from the father […] sexualized attention, touching and real sexual acts. Such denunciations, usually made by the mother to the therapist in cases of Ctu in progress, usually achieve the intended purpose which is to immediately interrupt the visits of the alleged abuser» (I. Buzzi, «La Syndrome of Parental Alienation», in V. Cigoli, G. Gulotta, G. Santi, edited by; Separation, divorce and child custody, Giuffrè, Milan 1997, within the series of Juridical and Criminal Psychology, directed precisely by Professor G. Gulotta).

Carlo Giovanardi

A path, that of false accusations, which started to hide cases of pedophilia, with Gardner in the USA and then with Apolloni in Italy, has been extended to accusations of domestic violence tout court using parental alienation to exonerate mistreaters and abusers, and to accusing mothers who report domestic violence of lying: a process that has already been used for some time by judges thanks to the expert witnesses made by psychologists, psychiatrists and experts from the Gardner school who have entered the courtrooms. We conclude with Marco Casonato, a psychologist and court expert who has behind him numerous expert witnesses containing parental alienation.

Marco Casonato

A staunch Gardner supporter and author with attorney Mazzola of Parental Alienation and Parental Alienation Syndrome, as well as organizer of many of the celebrity-attended conferences we’ve seen orbiting Bill 735, such as the “Highly Conflicted Divorce” conference, held at the University of Milan-Bicocca on 5 June 2015 in the presence of the current Senator Pillon. A career, that of Casonato, cut short on November 1, 2017, when he kills his brother Piero by running him over several times with the car for the inheritance of the family villa in Massa, to then end up in prison.


Investigation by Luisa Betti Dakli published in the Italian magazine Micromega in November 2018.


This is the english section of DonnexDiritti Network, that deals with International Human Rights matters, focusing on women and children. International Women is ran by the Journalist Luisa Betti Dakli, Human Rights Expert and DonnexDiritti Network Editor.

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