A few weeks ago, I wrote a post describing the escalating fiery rhetoric in a debate between the cardinal of Valencia, Spain, and several LGBT equality groups in that nation. Cardinal Antonio Cañizares had made highly derogatory remarks about gay people, and these statements were met by LGBT and feminist groups threatening to bring hate crimes charges against him for the comments. In that post, I urged reconciliation between these parties before the episode exploded into worse discourse than had already occurred.
They didn’t listen to me.
A Spanish feminist group petitioned the government to bring charges against Cañizares “for inciting discrimination and hatred,” according to London’s Catholic Herald. Cañizares responded with a statement comparing his situation to the persecution of the Spanish church and clergy in the early twentieth century. And he asked “Is it homophobic to defend the family?”
The verbal fisticuffs should have ended there. But things have gotten worse.
Edevant, an extreme-left political party developed a social media campaign inviting people to Valencia’s Pride celebration. The prominent image of the campaign depicts two traditional Spanish Madonnas–Our Lady of Montserrat and Our Lady of the Forsaken–engaged in a passionate kiss. Next to the image were the words: “Against the holy oppression, love as you want.”
Perhaps to no one’s surprise, Cañizares responded with a strongly worded statement. According to Crux:
“In the statement, read by Cañizares at Sunday’s Mass, he said that together with his auxiliary bishop, Bishop Esteban Escudero, they ‘energetically’ rejected the ‘desecration,’ calling it ‘unfair and gratuitous.’
“The two are calling for Catholics of Valencia to join them in praying the rosary and attending a reparation Mass on Thursday afternoon.
“They are also calling for Catholic universities, schools, parishes and ‘all citizens wishing for peaceful coexistence and respect for the convictions of all’ to join the act of reparation and to protest this ‘serious expression of intolerance and lack of respect for the religious beliefs of thousands of Valencians.’ “
The local incident has now become a national controversy. Crux reported:
“On Wednesday, the Spanish Bishops Conference released a statement supporting Cañizares’s reparation Mass. They refer to the Edevant campaign as ‘blasphemous,’ saying it’s ‘yet another episode in a spiral that attempts against the legitimate exercise of religious freedom, as to the freedom to preach the Gospel in a plural society.’ “
The verbal war of words did not end there:
“That same day, Edevant released a statement saying that they knew the campaign would cause the uproar of the Catholic hierarchy because ‘the freedom transmitted by the sign’s image reveals the obscurity and hatred they transmit.’
“In their statement, the organization says they ‘hit the nail’ with the picture, and acknowledges they decided on this image specifically as an echo against Cañizares ‘who signaled the “gay empire” as a social threat.’ “
My best response to the angry rhetoric of both sides is to quote the words of Rodney King:
“People, I just want to say, can we all get along? Can we get along?”
The public images of church and progressive groups are tarnished badly. Cañizares should have never made the remarks he did, but having said them, he should have apologized when he learned they caused offense. At the very least, he should have listened to the response of LGBT people. Cañizares justified his remarks by asking, “Is it homophobic to defend the family?” No, it isn’t homophobic to do that. But it is homophobic to create LGBT people as the enemies and destroyers of the family.
On the other side, did Edevant need to use an image intended to offend the sensibilities of people they oppose? Could they have not invited people to Pride in some other way? Instead of working to resolve an already tense situation, Edevant chose instead to escalate the tension. I am not trying to constrain what I regard as their freedom of expression or even their artistic license to choose to depict these traditional images as a lesbian couple. Instead, I am saying that they might have thought better than to use such an image during an already volatile moment. Just as Cañizares and the Spanish bishops could have opted for dialogue as a response to the image, instead of igniting a national protest campaign.
There is plenty of blame to go around here, and both sides share in it.
The lesson of Orlando that strong rhetoric can lead to strong and violent responses is one that both sides in this case need to learn before it is too late.
As for the legal case, Crux reported:
“On Tuesday prosecutors have announced they’re going forward with the investigation for ‘hate crime,’ and now have six months to determine if Cañizares’s homily, which defended Catholic teaching on family and echoed Pope Francis’ own concern over gender theory, constitutes a ‘violent behavior motivated by prejudice.’ “
As for this whole sorry episode: To be continued. Unfortunately.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry