Possible issues that may provoke an impassioned bout of (publicity generating) letter writing, on the part of an Italian Catholic Bishop:
These are all very well, but Bishop Simone Scatizzi of Pistoia has other things on his mind. A ‘clash of civilisations’, as it were. Scatizzi is scandalised (has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?) not by some presumed clash between Christian and Islamic cultures, but rather by the predominant cultural values, in the west, that are dealing a death blow to masculine virility.
Using the Ruini-esque ruse of expressing his opinions, publicly, as a citizen*, though signing himself Bishop, Scatizzi has sent an indignant letter to the counsellors of Pistoia who have recently voted in favour of the official registration of civil unions amongst homosexuals.
“I know the majority of councillors are men. I don’t know if some of these councillors realise that they’ve dealt another blow against masculine virility”, comments the Bishop/Citizen before trotting out statistics about falling sperm counts and the increase in male cosmetic sales, all of which, it would seem, create a feminised cultural space that at best confuses young men, and at worst forces them into the clutches of homosexuality.
A formative education system “for the most part in the hands of women”, is to blame for the decline in virility, according to Scatizzi – though he never quite defines what he means by virility. Is it ‘manliness’, or ‘sexual potency’? He mixes the meanings interchangably, as a man’s man in a man’s world should, no doubt.
The letter, confused and confusing as it is (he appears to place homosexuals in the same category as paedophiles, mafiosi and terrorists*), is hardly notable were it not for a particularly illuminating editorial written by Francesco Merlo in today’s La Repubblica
In it, he places the letter in a cultural context where three leading male politicians from the Alleanza Nazionale party were caught recently on tape, in a bar, joking viciously about their leader Gianfranco Fini. Their comments were not published in full, on grounds of decency according to the newspaper that broke the story, suffice to say that their comments were of a sexual nature and suggested the Fini is ‘sick with love’, and thus unfit to continue as leader.
A sordid little story, but when placed in a wider context it highlights something important. In the recent, bitterly fought, referendum campaign on artificial procreation, Fini took the unusual step of declaring himself in favour of the referendum (on three counts). Following his (brave, in this monkey’s view) declaration, various newspapers published stories suggesting that, according to gossip amongst politicians, Fini was more than a little close to his fellow minister Stefania Prestigiacomo – one of the chief supporters of the referendum.
So, when someone of Fini’s authority (he is both leader of Alleanza Nazionale, and vice prime-minister) takes a position on a delicate moral/legal issue like artificial procreation, against the predominant establishment view, including that of the Church, it can be written off, with a manly shrug, as the work of a woman behind the scenes. An attitude that might seem acceptable from the politically ignorant masses, but from three senior ranking members of his own party?
The important thing is to be manly. Stick with the boys – who, needless to say, are in power.
While Scatizzi and his cabal of men (a major part of whom wear skirts – go figure!?!) worry about their threatened masculinity in this ‘feminised’ modern culture, Italy currently ranks 3rd from the bottom in terms of women representatives in Parliament (11.5%) in Europe, coming in front of Malta and Hungary.
Perhaps churchmen like Scatizzi are right. Perhaps the big issues like war, murder, and justice aren’t the place to start. Perhaps it is on ‘pelvic politics’ that you have to focus, if you want things to change…
*The Bishop warns against anyone suggesting that this is ecclesiastical interference into secular governance. He pays his taxes, and votes, and is an ordinary citizen expressing his concern, or so the story goes. In truth, a letter filled with pseudo science and homophobia wouldn’t be given the time of day by any official body were it not for the fact that it came from a Bishop – and he must know it.
** The placing of homosexuals on a par with paedophiles and mafiosi is interesting, given the church’s reluctance to tackle either of these groups. Bishops have repeatedly, silently, transferred paedophile priests to new parishes and new victims, while the Catholic Church’s official position on the mafia has at best been lukewarm (apart from one belated attack by John Paul II and the work of some courageous individual priests).
”So che la maggioranza dei consiglieri