Paolo Roberto was arrested as he walked out of a brothel
Carl-Johan Karlsson

Long before his sex scandal took over the front pages, every Swede knew Paolo Roberto.

The son of an Italian father and Swedish mother, Roberto gained some notoriety in his teens as a street fighter, eventually earning a place on the police's national list of "10 most dangerous youths'. After turning things around following a lead role in a movie drama loosely based on his teens, Roberto would also earn a place in Swedish boxing history after two world championship title fights. He would ultimately become a national household name after retiring from the ring, thanks to a successful career as a cookbook author, TV personality, entrepreneur and occasional actor (he again played himself in the 2009 film adaption of Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Played With Fire).

And so everything turned again on May 15 when Stockholm police made the bust of the year. There he was, the 51-year-old former welterweight: caught on the bed— as the Swedish saying goes — as he walked out of the brothel with a four-man police squad waiting to take him away.

Would your God actually burn me?

For a Swedish-born spectator following from afar, there has been something disturbing about seeing a virtual mob at its most self-certain, vile and attuned. After all, there are so few things we seem able to agree on these days. But Sweden has remained united on the topic of Paolo: After spending 30 minutes with a prostitute, he was fired from the restaurant franchise he'd been running, he was bought out from his Italian food brand ($12), his ex-wife ditched him as partner in their entertainment studio, TV4 dropped him. Knock out.

This is all business of course: There's no marketing case for slapping a sex buyer's face on a can of tomato sauce. But as the denunciations continue to pour in on social media and in national newspaper columns, I can't help but ask myself a question far from the realm of business: Is there not a case for forgiveness?

The first time I made such a plea, the charge was simple (non-remunerative) fornication, with my own poor soul hanging in the balance. "Would your God actually burn me?" My deeply Christian high school classmate answered without a pause: "Absolut."

Roberto earned a place in Swedish boxing history after a youth as a street brawler — Photo: Paolo Roberto/Instagram

Burning eternally for such a brief event seemed to me somewhere just passed obscene. Yet in the years since much of our lives were moved online, it seems such unforgiving instincts have become our daily bread. I'll borrow from a friend of mine — once something of an internet troll but now a Facebook defector and licensed yogi — who referred to the hatred and contempt that permeates virtual debates as "online road rage," where we project the worst possible image onto any passing interlocutor, or transgressor.

If we continue to shame others, we strip them of the ability to take on guilt.

And so after Paolo went on air the day following the bust, describing his crime as the most ‘despicable thing you can do to another person," the tabloids diligently instructed to not accept his apologies and that he's not a victim. When he days later appeared on Instagram wearing training gear with the post's caption reading: "Time to pick up the pieces from a wrecked life," this ostensibly premature attempt at recovery courted so much opprobrium he soon deleted the post.

So what's at stake in this renaissance of punitive moralism? Last week I was talking about it by phone with my dad … who's also a Lutheran priest. I'd remembered his response 15 years ago to that high school classmate in southern Sweden, advising me not to waste my time arguing with fundamentalists who are, by definition, void of self-reflection. But about this new tendency for publicly shaming that's no longer reserved for religious fanatics or your scary math teacher, he said the harm runs even deeper: The broader problem is that if we continue to shame others, we strip them of the ability to take on guilt, which is the definition of goodness.

There is of course that spiritual element, but our shaming and canceling culture also has far-reaching social ramifications. Many of us believed that Donald Trump's run for the presidency would reach a definite end after the phrase "Grab her by the pussy" appeared in our news feeds. But this vulgar misogyny didn't put a dent in his popularity anymore than did his mocking of a disabled New York Times reporter. In a world where shame and shaming is infecting all of society, the ones who stand to benefit most are the shameless.

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La Sagrada Familia Delayed Again — Blame COVID-19 This Time

Hopes were dashed by local officials to see the completion of the iconic Barcelona church in 2026, in time for the 100th anniversary of the death of its renowned architect Antoni Guadí.

Work on La Sagrada Familia has been delayed because of the pandemic

By most accounts, it's currently the longest-running construction project in the world. And now, the completion of work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882, is going to take even longer.

Barcelona-based daily El Periodico daily reports that work on the church, which began as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. But a press conference Tuesday, Sep. 21 confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin).

El Periódico - 09/22/2021

El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world.

One tower after the other… Slowly but surely, La Sagrada Familia has been growing bigger and higher before Barcelonians and visitors' eager eyes for nearly 140 years. However, all will have to be a bit more patient before they see the famous architectural project finally completed. During Tuesday's press conference, general director of the Construction Board of the Sagrada Familia, Xavier Martínez, and the architect director, Jordi Faulí, had some good and bad news to share.

As feared, La Sagrada Familia's completion date has been delayed. Because of the pandemic, the halt put on the works in early March when Spain went into a national lockdown. So the hopes are dashed of the 2026 inauguration in what would have been the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.

Although he excluded new predictions of completion until post-COVID normalcy is restored - no earlier than 2024 -, Martínez says: "Finishing in 2030, rather than being a realistic forecast, would be an illusion, starting the construction process will not be easy," reports La Vanguardia.

But what's a few more years when you already have waited 139, after all? However delayed, the construction will reach another milestone very soon with the completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years and the second tallest spire of the complex. It will be crowned by a 12-pointed star which will be illuminated on December 8, Immaculate Conception Day.

Next would be the completion of the Evangelist Lucas tower and eventually, the tower of Jesus Christ, the most prominent of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated 13.5 meters wide "great cross." It will be made of glass and porcelain stoneware to reflect daylight and will be illuminated at night and project rays of light.

La Sagrada Familia through the years

La Sagrada Familia, 1889 - wikipedia

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