Vatican officials have prevented the opening of a photography exhibit depicting same-sex couples kissing in a number of famous churches, therein dealing a blow to Pope Francis’ apparent softer stance on gay rights issues.
The photo exhibition by Gonzalo Orquin comprised 16 photos, nearly all depicting either gay or straight couples kissing in Roman churches.
The Galleria L’Opera had been due to open the exhibit to the public on Wednesday evening until a letter arrived from the Vicariate of Rome, which is part of the Vatican, making it known that the Church opposes the exhibition because, the letter said, the exhibit could offend the “religious sentiment of the faithful.”
Vicariate Spokesman Claudio Tanturri told The Local that the photographs, in the Vicariate’s opinion, violate the Italian constitution and hinted that the Vatican was prepared to press the issue in court:
“Italian constitutional law safeguards an individual’s religious feeling and the function of places of worship.
“Therefore photos that are not suitable and do not conform to the spirituality of the place offend and infringe upon the advancement of man in the particular place for the expression of faith.”
The photos are at the moment covered, as this image taken from Orquin’s public Facebook post shows:
Reports say that gallery lawyers are now working to resolve the issue and explore whether there is in fact any case to answer.
That the Vatican believes it can wield as anti-blasphemy laws what are admittedly the Italian constitution’s worryingly broad religious entitlements is of itself concerning.
While undoubtedly the photos, putting a same-sex kiss alongside heterosexual kisses in a place of worship, is provocative and presumably deliberately so, this also serves to highlight the Church’s almost split public personality.
On the one hand ,we have Pope Francis who has seemingly gone to great lengths to improve the Vatican’s image on issues like homosexuality, contraception and abortion, only just a week ago calling for the Church to reorient its efforts into social outreach rather than morality crusades such as opposing a woman’s right to choose and rallying against gay marriage. The Pope has even gone so far as to reportedly offer indulgences in exchange for social media connections. This is a Pope whose ethos seems to be that times have changed and the Church must do the same.
Yet, and as many noted at the time of Pope Francis’ comments, the Vatican endures long after any one pope or official and while Pope Francis’ words are appreciated, they add up to very little unless the Vatican is actually willing to embrace the meeker, more pastoral-centered identity Pope Francis seems to be envisioning.
With this latest example of religious strong-arming, it appears that little of substance has changed. However, and while you can see the original and rather lovely photos that should have been on exhibit here, the blacked out images that are now on display and the accompanying news story of this censorship perhaps serves as an even more powerful commentary than the original images, not just on the Church’s bullying tactics but also on its apparent identity crisis.
Photo credit: Thinkstock.