Saturday, May 12, 2007

"The Family Speaks"... Contro il DICO

When the Pope hits the road, much of Rome's foreign press -- which, by and large, does double-duty in also handling the Vatican beat -- goes along. While, as a result, whatever happens in the Urb usually stays there during papal journeys, things are a little different today as, even from the center of the action in Brazil, events in the Eternal City are being closely watched out of the corners of more than a few eyes of the traveling Vatican pack.

The big happening in B16's backyard is "Family Day," the demonstration in the piazza of St John Lateran (Rome's cathedral) organized by the Italian church to protest the proposed "DICO" legislation, which would grant marriage-esque rights to unmarried, cohabitating couples, most notably of the same sex. Plugged for weeks in L'Avvenire, the daily paper of the CEI -- which has featured acres of daily space on the latest developments, oft-headlined "Family Under Siege" -- the paper's website has turned it up even more in recent days, offering a "Top 12" list of reasons to show up in yesterday's edition and, today, a liveblog of the event and photo gallery alongside testimonies from attendees.

The event has barely wrapped up, but the numbers game has already begun: while the wires are reporting the head-count in the "tens of thousands," organizers (who had earlier offered expectations of a crowd in the 250,000 range) have placed their post-game figure at 1 million.
"From the rally comes a message today: to hold a dialogue to respond to the needs of the family, which is one of the principle priorities of the nation," said Public Education minister Giuseppe Fioroni, who came to the rally with his son.

"Today’s rally is a large participation of the people that merits attention."...

Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s government has sponsored the bill to give more rights to couples who are not married, or not allowed to marry, on practical matters like welfare and inheritance.

The Church has attacked it as an assault on family values and considers it a ’Trojan Horse’ that could ultimately usher in civil marriage ceremonies for gays and lesbians.

Prodi urged Italians to recognise both the importance of family and the secular state.

"We must not manipulate religion," he told Italian radio. "In all modern countries, secularists and Catholics live together."...

The rally highlighted divisions within Prodi’s centre-left government, with various members of his Catholics-to-Communists coalition backing the "Family Day" rally or the "Secular Courage" counter-rally.

Some, like Family Affairs Minister Rosy Bindi said ministers should stay at home as a "matter of sobriety and correctness", but that did not stop fellow ministers like Justice Minister Clemente Mastella from attending the family values rally.
While the Rome event was intensively scripted to counter the DICO plan in an affirmative light, Latvia's top churchman has taken a blunter line in recent days, referring to homosexuality as "a form of prostitution."

In advance of the coming season of gay pride marches in the Baltic nation's capital of Riga, the city's archbishop, Cardinal Janis Pujats, wrote that "it is not [sic] wonder that homosexuals, now that they have noticed quite a sexualized society, are attacking us with their perversions." The 76 year-old prelate cited a report signed by over 200 doctors which said that "the dependency created by this immorality and the resulting perverse behaviors must be seen as a sickness," according to wire reports.

Saying that his flock "cannot be quiet," Pujats closed his letter by exhorting the faithful to "not be passive" and that "you must be prepared to go out into the streets" to protest the gay pride events, "not to create disorder, but to offer a disciplined position in support of the government.

"[O]n this very important issue of morals," Pujats wrote, "the government is on the side of Christians."