All very Samson and the Philistines, except one wonders who the philistines are in this case. Award-winning military historian Dominique Venner, a far-right activist, Islamaphobe and anti-“gay” marriage campaigner in France shot himself dead beside Notre-Dame’s altar in front of 1500 people yesterday (21 May 2013). Although a note was found beside him, police have not revealed its contents. The only clue was left on his blog, criticising the twin evils of same-sex marriage and Islam:
Il faudra certainement des geste nouveaux, spectaculaires et symboliques pour ébranler les somnolences, secouer les consciences anesthésiées et réveiller la mémoire de nos origines. Nous entrons dans un temps où les paroles doivent être authentifiées par des actes.
“It certainly will require new, spectacular and symbolic gestures to shake the somnolent sleepiness, stir anesthetized consciousness/consciences and wake up the memory of our origins. We are entering a time where words must be authenticated by acts.”
He saw himself as a modern day western Samurai – the theme of his next book. In the 60s he had fought to oppose Algerian independence as a member of the Secret Army Organisation (OAS) which had then attempted to kill President Charles de Gaulle.
He scaremongered about Islam quoting an Algerian blog that predicted Islamic rule in France within 15 years, which would paradoxically overthrow the new French law on same-sex marriage, signed this month.
C’est ici et maintenant que se joue notre destin jusqu’à la dernière seconde. Et cette seconde ultime a autant d’importance que le reste d’une vie.
“It is here and now that our destiny is played out to the last second. And this final second has as much importance as the rest of life.”
Heidegger argued that how we question defines who we are, and that the being we seek should not be lost sight of in the philosophic questioning. He also wrote that the essence of being lies in its existence which Sartre interpreted to mean that existence precedes essence. Far from it, I would argue, humanity’s essence is free, we must question and campaign until our existence and laws (paradoxically and anarchically – why do we need laws to be free?) match our essence. Liberté, égalité, fraternité … ou la mort! I guess Venner chose la mort, “death”.
Rather than end on a morbid note, it is worth drawing attention to the fact that over 2 centuries ago, in the closing decade of the 18th century, the French were fighting for equal rights. Well fighting anyway!
The 1789 French Revolution adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. It asserted and assured that all men “are born and remain free and equal in rights” and that these rights were universal. The Declaration became and is a key human rights statement. It condemned discrimination and prejudice on the grounds of gender, race, class or religion. Protestants and Jews were for the first time given close-to equal rights with Catholics, thereby reducing the power of the Church. The new republic failed to extend those rights to women (LGBT rights was barely a public concern then). Nicolas de Condorcet said, “he who votes against the right of another, whatever the religion, color, or sex of that other, has henceforth adjured his own.” The lack of female equality led playwright Olympe de Gouges to publish her own Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen instead in 1791, highlighting the failure of the extension of equal rights across genders. So, liberté, égalité,.. but only for the fraternité!
We no longer debate slavery, at least in the West – except economic slavery, so why are racial and religious disharmony still prevalent, albeit we no longer condemn mixed race or religion marriages? Why are gender and sexual equality still being questioned over 200 years later? Why is our essence and existence not yet free, for all? If one is not free then we all are not free.
Twitter @pontifex “habemus papam franciscum” … but not certain about testiculos habet et bene pendentes, “He has testicles and they hang well”. Whether he has the orchises or avocados to change the Roman Catholic Church, or even the desire, is a far different matter from the alleged gender testing, James Bond style (Casino Royale), on a special chair with a hole, to confirm he is neither another Pope Joan nor a eunuch, intersex or third gender, a group of people the last Pope was firmly opposed to.
The more traditional announcement came 25 minutes earlier from the Papal balcony, “Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum… habemus papam!” – “I announce to you a great joy… we have a pope!” Pope Francesco I, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, from Argentina.
I was hoping for a Brazilian so I could make jokes about his waxing regime. Still, an Argentinian, so now Britain could be at war with 1.2bn Catholics and the Vatican over the Falklands, who in a far more democratic process voted, well all bar 3 did, to remain British this week.
He is last time’s runner up to Ratzinger/Benedict, from Buenos Aires, and the first Jesuit, a 76yo of Italian parentage. He is the first from the developing world, outside of Europe, in a millennium. He is in favour of the simple-life, taking the bus to work and cooking his own meals. He sees poverty and simplicity as a form of spirituality and some in his native Argentina have called on him to campaign more for social justice, anti-poverty, rather than to just embrace it as a spiritual rule.
More hopeful was his statement in 2007, “We live in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most yet reduced misery the least… The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers.”. Whether that will unlock some of the Vatican’s riches for redistribution.
He is no liberation theologian, another conservative, as evidenced by his traditional views on abortion, euthanasia and homosexuality. On the latter he has strongly opposed the pro-LGBT reforming agenda of the Argentinian government including same-sex marriage (2010) and the first country in the world to fully depathologise transsexuality and to fund without prejudice or psychiatric intervention gender reassignment transition (2012).
Argentina’s current and first elected female president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (known as CFK, so hope she wears a bullet proof vest!) has criticised Bergoglio, now Francis I, and the Catholic church’s opposition to her policies as evoking the tone of “medieval times and the Inquisition”. He weighed in against her forward looking policies saying that “adoption by gays and lesbians is a form of discrimination against children” and in a formal letter to Catholic monasteries, “Let’s not be naive, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”
So, a giant international leap for catholic-kind but barely even a small step in the right direction for true equality and diversity across all the strands of sexual and gender identity, gays and lesbians, women and trans, despite his past attention to social inclusion of those on the margins of society.
So homopaleohistoria and homoerotophobia, same-old-story and same-sex-love fear. New Pope, new hope, nope – same old story. Let’s see, do I have the patience? Many people have waited 2000 years for a church to fully embrace the equality and ethics of Jesus who welcomed sex workers, tax collectors, women, children, working class fishermen, rebels & revolutionaries (John the Baptist & Judas), ethnics (Samaritans, gentiles, Romans), lepers, eunuchs and more.
Diversity? The possibility of the modern era’s first black pope, yet this would be twinned with the more traditionalist evangelical stance of African Catholicism that would rather deliver and exorcise me of my “trendy alternative gender” identity! Gender and Sexuality are as difficult to change as the colour of one’s skin.
Turkson has said,
“We need to find ways of dealing with the challenges coming up from society and culture,” he said, adding that the Church needed to “evangelise”, or convert, those who had embraced “alternative lifestyles, trends or gender issues”. He added: “We cannot fail in our task of providing guidance.”
Cardinal Turkson has caused controversy in the past both by screening a video claiming that Europe faced being overrun by Muslims and by insisting that condoms were not the solution to preventing HIV.
I’ve met trans and intersex Catholics, one was indeed among many that the Roman Catholic church literally hounded out of convents and colleges, under the auspices of the current Pope when he was head of the Inquisition, I mean, Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei – the Doctrine of the Faith, of which Ratzinger was Prefect from 1981 till 2005.
“Under the influence of Paul McHugh, a transphobic Johns Hopkins psychiatrist and conservative Catholic ideologue (and advisor to the Vatican on sexual matters), the Vatican pronounced in 2000 that transsexualism “does not exist” – claiming that it is a form of insanity instead.” http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/CatholicTSDecision.html
The “mental instability” of transsexuals is constantly referred to in the Vatican document, allegedly rendering trans unsuitable for ministry, untrustworthy in marriage, and to be expelled from religious communities – permission for which was given.
Catholics who have undergone “sex-change” procedures are not eligible to marry, be ordained to the priesthood or enter religious life…”The key point is that the (transsexual) surgical operation is so superficial and external that it does not change the personality. If the person was male, he remains male. If she was female, she remains female…”
The document’s conclusions close one area of controversial speculation that arose in Italy in the late 1980s when a priest publicly announced he had undergone a “sex-change” operation.
Given church teaching that only males can be validly ordained priests, the question posed in newspapers at the time was whether a priest who undergoes a “sex-change” operation remains a priest — the answer is “yes” — and whether a woman who undergoes the procedure can be ordained — “no.”
So basically the church still has its knickers in a theological twist over gender. A transwoman remains a man in Roman Catholic eyes but is mentally ill and untrustworthy and therefore should not be in ministry and a transman remains a woman and women can not serve as vicars of Christ on earth.
It is time for the Christian orthodoxy to reflect on the statements of Jesus, such as Matthew 19:12:
“For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’”
And to look at the then current Jewish teaching on intersex and third gender including eunuchs and androgynous tumtum etc. Even the Hebrew Bible in the book of Isaiah, written centuries before the Church came into being, was more enlightened:
“To the eunuchs … to them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, And a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.” (Isaiah 56:4-5)
Isaiah does not proclaim healing, deliverance or expulsion from religious communities and ministry, but the granting of a name “better” than that of son or daughter, a recognised status as a third gender, whom Jesus and St Philip (Acts 8:26-40) further acknowledged as accepted in their existing state (born or made that way) and able to serve the community of believers.
As the UK passes the 2nd reading of the bill for Same Sex (but not fully equal) Marriage with a strong majority in Parliament but a minority of Tories, the very party introducing it, I’m left pondering what has marriage got to do with church or state, gender or sexuality? LibDem councillor and trans activist Sarah Brown has ably pointed out the areas of inequality that will still persist for trans, intersex and non-binary people, the eunuchs and tumtums of the biblical period. http://www.sarahlizzy.com/blog/?p=139