In July, Pope Francis stated, with regard to gay men and lesbians, “If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?…They shouldn’t be marginalized.” In an interview with America, The National Catholic Review, published on September 30, 2013, the Pope expanded on his earlier statements. Referring to abortion, gay marriage, and contraception, he said, “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. 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…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.”
It therefore comes as a surprise that the Vicariate of Rome, which helps the Pope carry out his duties as the Bishop of Rome, sent a letter late in September 2013, threatening legal action against an art gallery in Rome for exhibiting photographs of gay men kissing in churches. A spokesman for the Vicariate stated that the photographs “could harm the religious sentiment of the faithful.” He alleged that the photographs violated the Italian constitution. “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 expression of faith.”
The photographer, Gonzalo Orquín (who is himself Catholic) visited a number of churches, mostly in Rome, and asked both straight and same-sex couples to pose kissing at the altars. He refrained from taking photographs if people were praying in the church at the time. Sixteen of the photographs were scheduled for exhibition at the Galleria L’Opera in Rome beginning September 25, 2013. However, after consulting with lawyers, Orquin decided not to exhibit the photographs while he considers a legal response.
Photograph by Gonzalo Orquin courtesy of eltiempo.com