(Photo: Reuters/Luca Zennaro)
The Vatican has sent a legal notice to an art gallery in Rome that was planning to hold an exhibition featuring photos of gay couples kissing at the altars of churches in the city this week. The gallery has decided to cover up the photos after consulting lawyers.
"A letter arrived from the Vicariate of Rome, an organization that is part of the Vatican, which said the church is against the exhibition," Spanish artist Gonzalo Orquin told The Local, of the exhibition opening at his Galleria L'Opera scheduled for Wednesday evening. "I spoke to lawyers and for security reasons we decided not to show the photos," said Orquín, who is also a Catholic.
More than a dozen photographs of gay and straight volunteers in local churches form the artist's exhibition. "We went to churches, took the photos at the altar and ran off...it's a bit like a flash mob," said Orquín. "A number of times we left because there were a people praying. It wasn't easy."
Claudio Tanturri, spokesman for Vicariate, which helps the pope carry out his functions as Bishop of Rome, said the pictures violate the Italian constitution. "Italian constitutional law safeguards an individual's religious feeling and the function of places of worship," he was quoted as saying. "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."
Gay rights groups are criticizing the Catholic Church for blocking the display. "In the images in which the church have seen provocation, I see an exchange of love, a type of public worship that creates harmony not contrast," Flavio Romani, head of the Arcigay group, was quoted as saying. "The indignation of the Catholic Church, therefore, is extremely grotesque."
The Vatican move comes a little over 10 days after Pope Francis remarked that the church had grown "obsessed" with abortion and gay marriage, which was understood by some as a stand against pro-life and traditional marriage activists.
"It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time," the pope said in an interview with an Italian Jesuit journal, La Civilta Cattolica, whose content is approved by the Vatican. "The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church's pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently," Francis said.
"We have to find a new balance, otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel," the pontiff added.
However, days later, the pope told a group of Catholic gynecologists, "Every child that isn't born, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, has the face of the Lord." He denounced the "throw-away culture" that condones disposing of lives, and added that doctors were being forced to "not respect life."