Protesters from Ukraine-based rights group FEMEN staged a topless demonstration against the Vatican’s increasingly hostile stance on gay rights this weekend.
The four women, whose torsos were inked with messages like “In Gay We Trust” and “Shut Up!”, interrupted Pope Benedict XVI’s weekly Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday.
The women, who were standing with the crowd, doffed their winter attire with impressive speed while shouting their pro-gay rights messages. The prayerful crowd parted and police officers, with barely seconds having elapsed and so seemingly on boob alert, rushed in to roughhouse the women away, though the FEMEN members struggled and continued to protest even as they were bundled off in aggressive fashion. A video of the protest can be found here.
FEMEN is a feminist Ukrainian protest group based in Kiev. The group was founded in 2008 and has become internationally known –some might say infamous, but I’d prefer recognizable — for their topless protests against sex tourism, religious zealotry, sexism and other forms of discrimination.
This protest comes after the Vatican again last week decided to shove its gilded nose into yet another gay rights issue.
Italy’s Supreme Court ruled on Friday of last week that, yes, gay couples can bring up children just as well as their heterosexual friends, reportedly concluding:
“There is no scientific certainty or concrete evidence but only prejudice” behind the idea that “living in a homosexual family is damaging for the growth of a child,” the court’s ruling said.
This conclusion came in a case where a man had attempted to usurp his former female partner’s right to custody of their child because his former partner was now living in a lesbian relationship. He contended that, per religious law and Italian state law at this time, same-sex relationships were not the best platform for child rearing. The court, however, was not persuaded, and this ruling has been hailed by Italian gay rights groups and wider legal scholars as a landmark that has chipped away at the foundations of Italy’s anti-gay restrictions on partnership rights and adoption rights.
Of course the Vatican could not let this stand without comment, and yet again the Church has framed its opposition as if to say that gay couples are somehow less than human (and are apparently to be thought of as intrinsically incapable of being monogamous), with a representative for the Holy Sea reportedly writing in the the Vatican paper L’Osservatore Romano:
“But no one believes that these situations should be created just because in some cases they don’t cause damage,” wrote Adriano Pessina, director of bioethics at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart.
“The human is the masculine and the feminine … the monogamous family is the ideal place to learn the meaning of human relations and is the environment where the best form of growth is possible,” he wrote.
This despite no consensus-backed, peer reviewed studies ever supporting that there’s something magically better about being raised by parents in a heterosexual relationship, and a multitude of evidence to say that same-sex couples raise well-adjusted children.
The Vatican’s assault on gay rights — not just gay marriage — has in terms of general opinion seemed to cost it dearly in recent months, with a Dutch Catholic group setting up a website where fellow pro-gay members, disgusted with the Vatican’s onslaught on the same-sex family, are able to go and gather the materials they need to “de-baptize” themselves.
The website, which hit international headlines, has so far failed to drive home that such a naked attack on gay rights should not be the Vatican’s focus when there are ills in the world that are far more pressing than needing to voice baseless opinions on what makes a family. We will wait and see if protest via exposed torso is more effective.