Sorry, *Gay or Straight Friends in Rome*, this is just Rude

Wait, let me get my eyeroll over with, in anticipation of all the people who, knowing nothing about me, will nevertheless descend on this blog screaming “homophobe.”

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Now that that’s out of the way, Huffpo Religion did one of their attention-getting tweets about big, bad old Catholicism: LOOK: The photos of gays and lesbians kissing in church that the Vatican doesn’t want you to see

And then the breathless:

Despite Pope Francis’ earlier remarks about opening up the Church, the Vatican has firmly shut the door on artist Gonzalo Orquin’s latest exhibit, “Trialogo,” . . .The exhibit consists of photographs of same-sex couples kissing in churches mainly located in Rome, but the pictures have been covered up after the Vatican sent the gallery a notice threatening legal action and saying that “the church is against the exhibition.”

Quite a lede. Let’s pretend that Pope Francis, who sincerely wants to open wide the doors to the field hospital that is the church by opening wide the doors to Christ, actually meant that he wants to see people sucking face before her altars and tabernacles, but the baaaad old Vatican is thwarting him!


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And this, is supposed to make it all alright, then:

The photos were all taken in Rome churches save one, and both gay and straight people offered to pose for Orquin.

Having looked at the slideshow, all I can say is, “thank you, Vatican, for objecting” and I would say the same if the slideshow was a bunch of straight couples. Why? Because an altar, a tabernacle, a prayerspace is not the place for showboating or for demonstrating the wonderfulness of yourself and what you think is the most important thing in the world, which is you and your feelings.

It’s not a difficult thing to learn: everything is not always about you.

If I’m in someone’s house, I comport myself as a guest. I show respect for their values and their feelings, and if I cannot do that, I do not accept the invitation to their home. I certainly do not go through their open doors and then put myself and my feelings or beliefs forward in a way I know will discomfit them. Because I am not a perpetual adolescent, I would not rudely act out, just because I felt I had some point to prove.

Sorry. I’m sorry to sound like the Church Lady, but rude is rude. That “show” was adolescent and rude.

There is a time and a place for everything under heaven. And before an altar where the sacrifice of the Mass has been performed, before a tabernacle in which resposes the Body of Christ, is not the place for polisexual activism.

My auntie had a saying: you want to be treated like an adult, you act like one. You want to be treated with class, start by having a little, yourself.

I have a saying, too: grow up.

Or, if you can’t grow up, at least consider the fact that, as Chesterton said, “when you choose one thing, you reject everything else.. If you’re choosing to be adolescent and rude, you’re rejecting an open hand that has been directed toward you, just to make a point.

We only get so many choices in life. Choose wisely. Or at least, less rudely.

UPDATE: Note the asterisks in the headline*. A gentleman I have never spoken to — and who I doubt has ever read me before but seemed anxious to alert me that I might be a homophobe, sent me a tweet taking offense at the header — which read — “Sorry, Gay Friends in Rome, this is just Rude” — and asking if I was shaming all gay people in the whole world for the rude acts of a few. Well, for the record, the word “shame” appeared nowhere in this piece (because I hate when people go “shhhhaaaame on you!”) and of course I wasn’t; the headline was already “Rome”-specific. But he then asked if I meant to say that all gay folk in Rome were responsible.

Honestly, I more or less assumed — call it a good-faith assumption — that ordinary readers with a bit of common sense would understand that my Church Lady Finger Wag was directed to the people who created the rudeness and those who found it applause-worthy. I pretty much spelled that out, in the text.

But apparently very little is obvious in the world, and an assumption of bad faith must always be assumed…or something…and so I was urged to edit my header — and permitted to do so as I saw fit — in such as way as to insure that no one could misconstrue my meaning and possibly take a hurt via a bad-faith assumption that I was castigating every gay person in the world. Or in Rome.

Now, long time readers know that I am never happy to learn that I have unintentionally given offense — I try to always be very overt in my offense-giving because there is already too much confusion in a world clamoring for clarity. But after pondering the issue for a few minutes (and noting that I had clearly stated that I’d be offended whether the couples were gay or straight) I decided to amend the header to insure absolute lucidity on that point.

Because I’m very delicate in that way.

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  • Donna

    “… is not the place for showboating or for demonstrating the wonderfulness of yourself and what you think is the most important thing in the world, which is you and your feelings.

    It’s not a difficult thing to learn: everything is not always about you.”

    Excellent. Let the foot stomping and name calling begin.

  • Virgil T. Morant

    I am reminded of another Saturday Night Live reference from about the same era as the Church Lady: William Shatner deriding the young adults at the Star Trek convention. “Get a life, will you people! … Move out of your parents’ basements, get your own apartments, and grow the hell up!” Those who would treat the Vatican’s decision as an outrage or deride you for the content of this post likely have some silly and immature priorities in what offends them (and what offenses of their own they want to cause in the name of whatever they think they stand for).

  • leelu

    …but, aren’t you actually a kind of “Church Lady”?


  • leelu

    …but, aren’t you actually a kind of “Church Lady”??

  • Victor

    I wonder what ‘The Saints of The Day’ would say about “IT” all?

  • Dale

    According to the New York Daily News, the photo series involving the kisses was titled “Si, Quiero.” Apparently that phrase, in Spanish, is part of the marriage ceremony where in English we would say “I do.”

    The exhibition, which is titled “Trialogo,” was not closed. However, the photo series involving the kisses was covered up with black drapes by the artist in order to protest censorship.

  • Kelly Thatcher

    Nothin’ wrong with sounding like a “church lady,” Elizabeth o’ mine! (thus sayeth The Lady in the Pew) :-)

  • OldWorldSwine

    This on the heels of this British show where a gay couple plans to have sex live on air, ostensibly to dispel myths about gay bumpy-grindy, but ironically confirming the worst suspicions about the essential narcissism of gay culture.

  • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

    Tragically, their own constituency WILL find them heroic and make this another grudge against the Church.

  • kenofken

    Adolescent and rude though the art (and artist) may be, the government’s shutdown of the work through legal threats is really nothing to celebrate. If this gallery was in the jurisdiction of the Vatican proper, that would be one thing, but blasphemy laws have no place in any democracy.

    The artist was threatened with prosecution under some nonsense law about “insulting religious feeling.” That’s exactly the same theory used to prosecute Christians in Islamic regimes. The broader concept, which says that speech can be prosecuted for offending people, is also the same basis England was using to arrest street preachers for offending gay people (by reading Bible passages).

    On a purely practical level, the Vatican’s heavy handed legal approach ensured that the work would be seen by potentially hundreds of millions of people more than if it had just pass through the gallery without fanfare.

  • Manny

    First off why would anyone think it art? This is along the garbage of a crucifix in a jar of urine. Second, any of the sexual freedom crowd of advocates, but especially the gay lobby, know no bounds when it comes to crassness. Decency isn’t even in their vocabulary. From their point of view, anything that inhibits expression of sex is prudery. Ever been or seen a gay pride parade? That says it all. Good call from the Church, but this was a no-brainer.

  • Donna

    It’s similar in effect to law that is being used to civilly penalize Christians in the U.S. right now who don’t want their businesses used to promote gay marriage. It’s in the same spirit as the laws used to force Catholic Charities to close their adoption agencies. Funny how the gay movement won’t settle for tolerance but demands approval and actively uses civil law (and eventually the criminal law under hate crimes and hate speech legislation) to beat down and silence any opposition, yet cries so loudly when their deliberately provoking acts are not tolerated.

  • Manny

    LOL, she is!

  • Dale

    I looked up the press release for the Trialogo exhibition, simply to learn more about it. The subtitle of the exhibit is Suore, Matrimoni, Interni (Nuns, Weddings, Interiors.) Three different artists were each assigned responsibility for one of the three different words. Here is the description of the Nuns portion of the exhibit:

    “Hyper-realist painter Mauro Maugliani is fond of defining himself a conceptual artist, conceiving his painting as a point of arrival after along mental process. In this exhibition he presents the results of his research into the mysterious world of nuns. A large portrait toys with gender and identity ambiguity, depicting the face and bust of a young nun, who is however attired in a priest’s cassock. A sculpture in sugar evokes the idea of the sacred world and its relics. And still another installation invites the public to visualize a video from a prie-dieu,modified, however, in a pop-confessional mood like the environment that hosts it.”

    Orquin’s series of photographs are just one part of Kisses portion of the exhibit, to which he had been assigned The artist also has a work consisting of a “large canvas where a complex game of shadows and mirrors multiply the image of a young couple.” Presumably this work was unaffected by the Vatican’s objections.

    The idea of the exhibition came from journalist and art critic Edoardo Sassi. I do not know how much influence he has on the public, or how prominent the art gallery is. Perhaps those things factored into the Vatican’s response.

  • Gail Finke

    “I have a saying, too: grow up.”
    THREE CHEERS FOR THAT!!!! (can’t turn italics off, sorry)

  • Gail Finke

    Most of the couples on that show are NOT gay, showing the essential narcissism of human beings.

  • Adam Frey

    That’s some nice artwork in those churches. I wish the kissing couples would have gotten out of the way so I could look at it.

  • norcalrunner

    Yeah, I guess these folks should just get a blog and a twitter feed and then they can showboat and demonstrate the wonderfulness of themselves aaaaalllllll day long just like The Anchoress, who is so above us all she gets to point her finger and pontificate and carp and accuse and vilify to her idolatrous heart’s content…

    Everyone else is bad and evil and wrong and godless…everyone else is selfish and ill-mannered and idolatrous…everyone else is all about themselves…and on and on and on, 24/7, it’s all us, never her (oh, yes, she throws in the gratuitous disclaimer about how she’s some sort of vague “sinner”, too, but it’s pretty clear she doesn’t believe that for a second, nor do her hangers-on…).

    She is the consummate idolater, idolizing her precious, special, wonderful self ALL. DAY. LONG. on twitter, and on this blog. It’s all about her and her feelings about everything and everyone and, boy, does she get her granny-panties in a bunch if anyone DARES to suggest she’s the thing she’s calling everyone else. Such a delicate little flower, such a special, unique snowflake, is the great, almighty “anchoress”.

    Those of us who live in upscale condos are eeeeevil and bad and selfish and never walk among the downtrodden or poor or disabled or homeless…she KNOWS this, of course, because she knows everything…she IS God in her own mind. I guess that’s going to be news to the people from those condo towers who volunteer at food pantries and soup kitchens and shelters, and who donate millions of dollars to ministries the world over, and who buy meals for the homeless people they know by name because they actually bother to stop and ask. When was the last time she knew at least half a dozen homeless people by name, bought them coffee and breakfast and lunch and reading glasses and Advil and toothpaste and baby wipes (because, if she ever bothered to get off the computer for a minute and a half, she might realize that’s the ONLY way some people can maintain some semblance of basic cleanliness each day…oh, but how could I know that? I live in a glass tower, high above the great unwashed masses, keeping myself apart from them…of course I do, because she said so and she knows everything…)

    Because one small handful of gay activists pulled off a tasteless prank, ALL gay people everywhere are insensitive and rude, but NEVER her, not the one, the only, the most special high, holy Anchoress…nope, she’s not ever rude or insensitive…of course not…and how dare anyone suggest such a thing, why, how DARE they speak out against the holiest of holies, The Great Anchoress…?

    Whatever. Of COURSE it’s all the “other”, “them”, the gays, the rich, this one, that one, the people she gossips about, the people she “prays for” (aka flips the bird and mocks, Catholic-style), and never her and her besties, her sycophantic hangers-on, those who worship at the idolatrous little shrine she’s set up to her oh-so-special self. She’s definitely, ah, written the book on idolatry, that’s for sure…

    Hell will freeze over before Elizabeth Scalia just shuts the hell up, gets off the computer, and actually walks her talk. But that won’t happen. That’s the thing about setting yourself up as a idol…the second you take yourself out of the spotlight, another idol steps right up and the sheeple turn their attention to him…

    That idol thing will own you faster than you can say Golden Calf…

  • MeanLizzie

    LOL. Yep. I make it clear all through my book that I’m first among idolators, and with a full appreciation of all the irony to be found therein. The rest of this is poor reading, however. You ascribe overgeneralizations to me that are not in my writing and frankly you have no idea the amount of volunteer work I have done in my lifetime — quite a lot, but a great deal less now that I have severe arthritis. But yes, I’m an idolator, and I post and tweet way too much. It’s not news. A good reminder, though.

  • kenofken

    Deciding what customers you will serve in the face of anti-discrimination law and adoption are not activities which have ever been construed as free speech activities. Free speech is about the ability to say/express anything you want without fear of government prosecution.

    It has never been understood to allow people to do whatever they want and to disregard or exempt themselves from laws such as those governing commerce and discrimination or adoption.

    In the case of the New Mexico wedding photography business, the courts specifically noted that the owner’s free speech rights are intact. They can trumpet their opposition to gay marriage to the heavens and all corners of the Earth if they want – in print, digital media, or painting, if they felt so inclined.

    They could, for example, commission a series of photos of straight Christian people kissing in front of the gay community sites which are sacred, literally or figuratively. They could provoke the ire of gays and insult them in a calculated way, if they wanted to. Yes, the gays would howl bloody murder and launch boycotts, etc., but no government would have grounds to prosecute the expression.

  • kenofken

    If it wasn’t art, we wouldn’t be talking about it. That’s not to say it’s good art or socially redeeming art or even particularly creative art, but it’s art because its a vehicle of ideas and criticism of those ideas. Even if we accept the likelihood that the artist’s creation had no more depth than provocation, we are engaging the issue of how we should respond to such provocations, if at all.

    We’re talking about social convention and boundaries of behavior and transgression (is it inherently juvenile, etc.). We’re talking about vanity. We’re talking about the nature of sacred spaces and what actions may profane them, and what are the elements of that profanity? Is it about same sex couples defying the doctrine of the church in its own space, or is it about anyone carrying out a distracting, personal and attention-seeking act in a place of worship and contemplation?

    We can probably agree, many of us, that the underlying works are of no great originality and probably will not have the staying power of great art. Nonetheless, they have catalyzed (or inflamed) the debate about a major culture conflict at the center of Western societies.

  • Gail Finke

    The court was wrong on this. The couple argued that photographing the wedding was “compelled speech,” because they would be forced to create a work of art (photos, drawings, graphic design, videos ,etc. are also covered under free speech) that celebrated the event, implying that they agreed with it. Here’s an example in another context: A designer at an advertising agency, for instance, cannot be compelled to create ads for a political stance he disagrees with, even though the ads would not depict him endorsing the stance. The judges said that did not apply because (unlike in the political example) government was not doing the compelling, and because no one would see the photos except the couple so they were not being forced to “speak.” But that is not the criterion for determining compelled speech, being made to create the work in the first place is. By this ruling (in which the judge also said that once one engages in commerce he has no free speech rights), the judge in effect created one and only one class of people — homosexual people who want to have wedding-like ceremonies — who can compel anyone in business to work for them.

  • Manny

    Ok, I agree anything creative for enjoyment is in the strictest sense art. So i do concede that. I’m also reminded of an argument made that photography wasn’t really art since it’s purely passive to click a camera. But that’s a side issue. I’ll acknowledge the potential art. But as to your main point, just because art presents an argument (“a vehicle of ideas and criticism of those ideas”) does not necessarily make it art. If the argument is the essential part of the art, then the artist should have written an essay to be perfectly clear as to his message. There is a critical distinction between high art and propaganda.

  • kenofken

    The court rejected the “compelled speech” argument because nobody was being compelled to do anything. The photographers chose to go into that business as a public accommodation. Once you do that, you’re subject to the laws surrounding public accommodations, most of which have been in place since the mid 1960s. Unless reasonable people conclude that any subject a photographer documents translates to the photographer’s personal endorsement of it, (and they don’t), the line of business in question makes no difference for the court’s analysis.

    You don’t have to do anything special for anyone, but if you offer service x,y or z to the general public, you don’t have the power to refuse it to some customers based on certain characteristics of who they are – race, religion, national origin, and, in New Mexico, sexual orientation.

    This ruling created no special powers or privileges for gays. It upheld their inclusion in protections which have constrained business activity for half a century. One of the core concepts in civil rights law is that the dignity of persons seeking public accommodation outweighs the right of business owners to decide who they will do business with.

    The New Mexico high court also recognized that this places a burden on business owners with religious beliefs and expressed regret for that, but said the alternative is too costly to the excluded parties.

  • LisaB

    The photos are pretty lame – an amateur photographer could do significantly better. The pictures are not artistic in any way, the lighting is bad, the positioning is all wrong, the people look unnaturally stiff being forced to pose in a kiss, there is no aura of love emanating from the subjects. Worst of all, the subjects unknowingly diminish themselves. They are surrounded by authentic and transcendent beauty, a beauty in which they refuse to hear, understand or embrace. Too bad the photographer doesn’t understand that God is always the main focus in a Church and all other objects (human or inanimate) are they to revere Him – hence the reason the people in the pictures seem to come off as unnatural. I’m praying that Pope Francis is right – that just getting these people in the Church will soften their souls to our Lord’s saving Grace and they turn away from sin.

  • MeanLizzie

    I’m really glad you said it. I thought they were pretty meh, myself in terms of “art.” Yes, what’s behind is more beautiful and overwhelms in many ways.

  • Donna

    My point was the irony of the gay lobby’s insistence on their rights while at the same time actively working to limit the exercise of religious liberty for others. You know, the irony of demanding tolerance they deny to others. It’s a deliberate policy to lobby for state laws such as the one in NM that create competing interests between gay rights and the free exercise of religious liberty and then to deliberately seek out Christian businesses to force them to choose between continuing their business and exercising their religious beliefs. And yes, I’ve read the NM opinion and I understand the court’s legal analysis of the religious liberty issue.