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May 12, 2007

ROME'S ANTI-GAY "FAMILY DAY"--a Letter from Rome

This first-hand report on the huge anti-gay demonstration in Rome today was written Judys_book_pompeii exclusively for this blog by DIRELAND's Rome correspondent, Judy Harris. A veteran expat journalist who wrote from Italy for years for TIME and the Wall Street Journal, Judy now writes for ARTnews and in June publishes a new book (right), "Pompeii Awakened: A Story of Rediscovery" (I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd.)

ROME – Everyone knows that the Italian family, the more dynastic and inbred the better, is the heart and soul of Italy—think Gucci, think Agnelli, think the Mafia. Hence the electricity in the build-up to today's (Saturday’s) celebration in the vast Piazza San Giovanni of that newest of Roman holidays, “la giornata della famiglia”, which in Italian is spelled, and written, “Family Day” (pronunciation: fam-ee-lee dai).

From the Alps to the immigrant-crammed Italian islets off Libya, half a million aficionados of the family today converged on the Eternal City on May 12 via parish-chartered bus, special train, automobile, motor scooter, roller skate and tricycle, for what is being presented as one of the greatest mass turn-outs in recent Italian history -- organizers later claimed one million came out today, while more neutral media cited a police figure of 250,000.

Rosi_bindi_2Leading the pro-family crusaders today was the stocky, solidly Catholic Minister for the Family Rosi Bindi (left). “Certainly, some clergymen will also wantGiuseppe_betori  to be there,” hinted Mons. Giuseppe Betori (right), Secretary general of the Council of Italian Bishops (CEI).

The event coincided with the day 33 years ago when divorce became legal. And indeed some of the secular-minded within the government ruling coalition, including the Radical party’s representative in the cabinet Emma Bonino (right) -- she isEmma_bonino  Minister for International Trade and European Policies -- are joining in a counter-demonstration today, three kilometers away in the Piazza Navona. The counter-demo hoped to serve, among other things, to remind Italians of the Radicals’ work on behalf of the other successful referenda back in the mid-Seventies which introduced, after divorce, legal abortion in public hospitals.

Francesco_rutelli Other cabinet ministers were somewhat torn between private Catholic conscience and secular convictions. Deputy Premier and Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli (left) has offended many in the Center-left government of Premier Romano Prodi by refusing to attend the Family Day although, as he announced, “if I were merely a Member of Parliament, I would” (i.e., not in the cabinet). Massimo_dalema_current From the Party of the Democratic Left's Massimo D’Alemma (right), himself a former premier, this brought a whiplash comment, in which he implied Rutelli is a hypocrite, “Even if I were a ‘mere’ Member of Parliament, I would not attend the Family Day demonstration," he said. One good reason: the DICO legislation under siege by the Family Day supporters today is a law promoted by that same government Rutelli is supposedly representing.

Berlusconi_worried As for the leader of the conservative opposition, former Premier Silvio Berlusconi (left) was hemming and hawing until the last minute, still uncertain whether or not to attend Family Day celebrations. He is in anPier_ferdinando_casini  awkward position: as leader of a rightist coalition Berlusconi is under siege by Pier Ferdinando Casini (right), the head of the powerful Catholic party UDC (Unione dei Democratici Cattolici).

Berlusconi is very much a family man, with one divorced wife in the shadows and another divorce in the wings, with children from both wives spanning an ample arc of time. This somewhat hypocritical position, together with the reputation of Italian males for two-timing, has generated the sole Family Day joke I’ve heard so far, apart from the concept. Here it is: “Giovanni will go down into the piazza for the demos--in the morning to Piazza San Giovanni with his wife, and in the afternoon, to Piazza Navona with his mistress.”

Like Berlusconi -- who in the end finally showed up --  the Church, the architect of this challenge to lay Italy, was in something of a quandary. Priests have been given official authorization to march in the piazzas, but, making a delicate distinction, bishops were denied by their superiors permission. Also, Following on the heels of this mega-event will be a national conference on the family to be held in Florence in late May, and the same sort of delicate distinctions mark the decision of the organizer, Minister Bindi, to exclude from it the presence of organizations like ARCIGAY yet welcome the Italian support group of parents of gay individuals, the AGEDO (Associazione di Genitori di Omosessuali).

Behind the scenes has been the fight for control of the event's TV coverage, which is the real crunch. Almost all networks are owned by either Berlusconi or by the Italian state. But the nation-wide state-owned RAI, with its three networks, is controlled by a 40-member oversight commission of busy parliamentarians. Through conservative finagling of quorum rules the oversight committee’s actions obliging coverage of both events has successfully been blocked, and the organizers of the pro-civil unions Piazza Navona event are in despair. Polls show that fewer than a third of Italians were aware of the rival event to the Catholic show of family power. And indeed, this pro-gay "rainbow" gathering managed to rally only a few thousand, compared to the hundreds of thousands who turned out at the Vatican's appeal.

In another setback, the International Day Against Homphobia (IDAHO) on May 17 was to have been marked by nineteen Italian cities, but, due to a contemporary visit by George Bush to Italy, the date of the Italian participation has been pushed back into June.

This would have something of the picturesque about it save for the fact that the heart of the matter is political. A bill known by its initials as the DICO, which would legalize non-traditional partnerships, including gay ones, is to go before Parliament, and the so-called Family Day is a de facto political plebescite in the piazzas for or against the DICO.

The Italian Church is going to the mattresses to fight this. ToAngelo_bagnasco  quote the rhetorical statement by controversial Mons. Angelo Bagnasco from Genoa (right), head of the conference of Italian bishops, “And shall we not say no today to forms of stable cohabitation which are alternatives to the family, when tomorrow incest is to be legalized, or pedophilia among consenting individuals?” When this made headlines, with its implying that the proposed new DICO --which would legalize gay and other stable relations -- is the gateway to legalized pedophilia and incest, Bagnasco’s spokesman said he had been misinterpreted (“summary syntheses which are only partial and misleading”).

Elsewhere Bagnasco claimed higher authority. “[Pope] Benedict XVI himself said that there is risk is in pursuing desires, expectations and dreams. The focus upon what one desires exposes the dreamer to the risk of the passage from behavior that is considered illegal to legal behavior. Only if we ensure that legal norms remain a strong foundation can we be certain that this does not happen.”

Said one politician from the Radical party today: “Never since the Seventies have we see the Church so mobilized.”

Giuseppe_anfossi Church spokesmen deny that they are exerting “undue pressure on the legislators,” however. The head of the Italian Bishops' commission on the family, Mons. Giuseppe Anfossi (left), also complained that the Church “simply” wants to defend the family and marriage from what is a “real lobby, beginning with that [lobby] linked to the world of homosexuality.”

“We are defending the simple folk," he added -- presuming, of Judy_hareris course, that they speak enough English to know the words "Family Day." -- Judy Harris (right) in Rome

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Comments

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Posted by: battery | Nov 2, 2008 1:12:38 AM

I'm always amazed at how the beautiful Italy can be so unkind and ugly on this issue. But...if we look at what the Catholic church has done maybe I shouldn't be surprised.

How could such a so-called Christian nation be the ground from which the Mafia has evolved? Only if in someway the Catholic church helped it on it's way. I mean to stay, the Mafia are Catholics too! That makes it OK then....OK to murder, and steal, and abuse, and foster hatred, and greed....etc, etc, etc.

And then we have the wealth of the Catholic clergy which goes unquestioned. Jesus did not live in the lavish way that these people do, so where do the priests get their example from? Certainly not from God's son.

The Catholic church only proves once again that they do what they want to do, and shove in "in the name of God" to try and make it all respectable. Because they are full of power and wealth, they know they have a huge element of control over people. They are sadly hypocrites who look for scapegoats in order to divert discerning eyes away from their hypocrisy. But one day all that wealth and pomp and prestige will mean absolutely nothing. God won't be impressed with it. It's humility he is impressed with. It's unconditional love that blesses him. The Catholic church has wielded it's arm of strength for century after century, engaging in atrocious acts of cruelty, lying, lust for power, lust for money, and on and on. It is obvious their addiction to these things has not changed. No AA group for them! Sad really. They could be a such an example for the world, instead people look at them and ridicule them and laugh at how they represent God.

They have oppressed the poor and the weak. They have stood against the fatherless and the widow. They have turned thousands upon thousands away from God's love by how they represented God and the Bible to impressionable hearts and minds. They have denied the rights of women and others who do not fit their mold.

God have mercy on the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.
B.

Posted by: Bennie | May 23, 2007 3:32:11 AM

I'm always amazed at how the beautiful Italy can be so unkind and ugly on this issue. But...if we look at what the Catholic church has done maybe I shouldn't be surprised.

How could such a so-called Christian nation be the ground from which the Mafia has evolved? Only if in someway the Catholic church helped it on it's way. I mean to stay, the Mafia are Catholics too! That makes it OK then....OK to murder, and steal, and abuse, and foster hatred, and greed....etc, etc, etc.

And then we have the wealth of the Catholic clergy which goes unquestioned. Jesus did not live in the lavish way that these people do, so where do the priests get their example from? Certainly not from God's son.

The Catholic church only proves once again that they do what they want to do, and shove in "in the name of God" to try and make it all respectable. Because they are full of power and wealth, they know they have a huge element of control over people. They are sadly hypocrites who look for scapegoats in order to divert discerning eyes away from their hypocrisy. But one day all that wealth and pomp and prestige will mean absolutely nothing. God won't be impressed with it. It's humility he is impressed with. It's unconditional love that blesses him. The Catholic church has wielded it's arm of strength for century after century, engaging in atrocious acts of cruelty, lying, lust for power, lust for money, and on and on. It is obvious their addiction to these things has not changed. No AA group for them! Sad really. They could be a such an example for the world, instead people look at them and ridicule them and laugh at how they represent God.

They have oppressed the poor and the weak. They have stood against the fatherless and the widow. They have turned thousands upon thousands away from God's love by how they represented God and the Bible to impressionable hearts and minds. They have denied the rights of women and others who do not fit their mold.

God have mercy on the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.
B.

Posted by: Bennie | May 23, 2007 3:31:40 AM

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