The confusion of ideas, as well as cultural and psychological subservience to other cultures and visions of life, have infected a large part of the Church in Italy and Italian Catholic public opinion.
An episode that occurred in Italy a few weeks ago is proof of such a statement.
On August 10, Michela Murgia, a famous Italian writer, died at the age of 51. She made her debut with Il mondo deve sapere, (2006), a novel inspired by her harsh experience as an underpaid and exploited call center worker. That story was also made into a film. But, in addition to her literary works, she was famous for her political and ideological battles, which she fought with articles in the press and interventions on radio and TV. Her most famous novel Accabadora (2009) is a literary apologia for euthanasia, and her final work was the manifesto God Save the Queer: A Feminist Catechism (2022).
Michela Murgia called herself a Catholic. She had studied theology in her youth and had also taught Catholic religion at school, with the necessary authorization from a bishop. She had also held leadership positions at Catholic Action, the oldest Italian Catholic lay association.
In 2014, she ran for the presidency of Sardinia, the Italian region where she was born and raised, but she won only 10% of the vote.
“I am 50 years old, but I have lived ten lives,” she told Corriere della Sera, Italy’s leading daily, on May 6th. In that interview, she revealed that she had only a few months to live before dying of Stage 4 kidney carcinoma. Her courage and strength in facing the pain of the illness and awaiting death was admirable. She was intelligent and was an outstanding talent, with an uncommon dialectical ability. Unfortunately, she chose to use her abilities to support causes that would be dishonest to call “Catholic”.
The funeral took place on August 12th in Santa Maria in Montesanto, the so-called ‘Church of the Artists,’ in the center of Rome where many funerals of well-known show-business and cultural personalities are often held.
To be clear, no one is questioning Michela Murgia’s right to a funeral according the Catholic rite. No one is trying to substitute God’s judgment. The problem does not concern Murgia; the problem is that the funeral became an ambiguous glorification of the political battles and ideological platforms for which she was venerated as a symbol.
And here it is sufficient to read again the interview quoted above, to understand what is being examined.
For example: “I hate the rhetoric of biological motherhood; the fewer children you have, the more you mysticize motherhood. Maybe one day we will all be born from an artificial womb.”
In the meantime, she was a staunch supporter of abortion and homogenitality, to the point of describing as “fascist” whoever opposed it.
“What is the boundary of fascism? Violence? Beating? Imposing that the child of two mothers is only of one of them, is not violence?”
The reference was to the government of Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the right-wing party Fratelli d’Italia (“Brothers of Italy”), who won the last Italian elections and became the first female Prime Minister in Italian history. That electoral victory was a strong snub for the main opposition party, the left-wing Democratic Party, and its very often ideological obsession with women’s rights. Therefore, they replaced the former secretary with a woman, Elly Schlein, a lesbian and fervent supporter of “LGBT rights.” She also took part in the funeral.
It is surprising that, after ten lives, Murgia had such an insensitive view of children: “They are annoying [ed. but the original Italian expression is ‘very rude’], all children! It’s not true what they say, that children are rude because of their parents; sooner or later a child, even a very polite one, will cry, complain, disturb, upset the train carriage I’m traveling in, kick the seat I’m sitting in, on a plane…”
Imagine replacing “children” with “the elderly,” “the disabled,” “immigrants” or any other category usually considered weak or disadvantaged; this would result in statements unacceptable in any newspaper. But is acceptable to insult children in a country in which the annual number of newborn babies is barely more than half the number needed to at least replace the generation. But Michela Murgia was not excited by these kinds of problems.
She actually had four children—but “children of the soul”, she was keen to specify, and not a family. Rather, a “queer family”, meaning, she said, “an atypical family unit, in which relationships count more than roles. Words like partner, son, brother are not enough to explain it. I have never believed in the couple; I have always considered it an insufficient relationship”. No matter that countless millions of people believe in the committed couple; she replied without hesitation that they “end up living by betrayal and lies, which become their secret and their shame”, without exception.
Between the interview given to Corriere della Sera and her death, Murgia was again in the news in mid-July, when she got married to Lorenzo Terenzi, one of the ten members of the “queer” family. “But no good wishes,” the bride asked, because “we did it unwillingly: if we had had another way of guaranteeing each other rights, we would never have resorted to such a patriarchal and limited instrument, which forces us to reduce to the representation of the couple a much richer and stronger experience, where the number 2 is the opposite of what we are. No good wishes, then, because the ritual we would have liked does not yet exist. But it will exist…”.
As soon as the news of her death was announced, another Italian writer and journalist, Roberto Saviano, Murgia close friend and companion in her same struggles, loudly invited everyone to attend the funeral, since “Michela had imagined her funeral as a political act.”
Then, at the end of the ceremony, still inside the church, he too was given the generous opportunity to read a long speech of his own, certainly lacking in religious references.
Before the funeral, there was a clear risk that the political significance of the event would cancel out the religious one, while the funeral was expected to be one of the main news items for the Italian press.
These considerations, however, were not reasonable enough to convince Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, the president of the Italian Bishop Conference and archbishop of Bologna, to not send the public message, read by the priest who performed the rite. And some of Cardinal Zuppi’s words did not go unnoticed, especially when he said that “Michela, with her passionate research, helped us to find the real reasons and not to be predictable or arrogant.”
Cardinal Zuppi was joined by several other voices of the Church, who made equally ambiguous statements. According to Father Enzo Fortunato, former spokesman of the Basilica of Assisi “we lose a voice that was able to provoke debate and dialectic in a world of photocopies.”
On the blogs and social profiles of journalists and opinion leaders on religious issues, the debate remained heated for days, refreshed by the generous and benevolent tones of some Catholic news outlets, including the newspaper Avvenire: “Michela fought for those whom she gradually considered to be the weakest, she did so with the strength of her words, of her bursting personality;” and, “The writer’s theological and intellectual research, which has never ceased, is not heretical; it has taken place in non-formal spaces and modalities that structurally struggle to be recognized in the key-places of the Church…,” and so on.
In short, a worrisome idea seems to have taken root in the Italian Church: there are no longer “Catholic ideas” that are incompatible with “non-Catholic ideas”. In any case, no one has the right to give or withhold a “Catholicity” certificate, neither to persons nor to ideas.
The debate will undoubtedly flare up again when some of Michela Murgia’s posthumous writings are published. In the meantime, out of more than 200 Italian bishops, only one has dared to speak up and offer a word of clarification: Monsignor Antonio Suetta, bishop of Ventimiglia and Sanremo, the city that hosts the famous Italian song festival. He directly criticized the handling of the funeral:
In the church, after the celebration of the funeral and again in a liturgical context and a sacred place, the floor was given to people who express convictions and thoughts that differed from Catholic doctrine and they also did so, in my opinion opinion, a little coarse, arousing a series of applause almost like stadium cheer and party attitude, which seems to me really inappropriate both in the circumstance of the funeral and above all in the context of a sacred place.
He said that Murgia’s “battles” were based in her convictions and experiences, “but her cultural contribution in many cases was openly in contrast with the teaching of the church and Catholic doctrine, in particular for the conception of the family and other very important topics such as abortion and euthanasia.”
“Freedom of thought and expression remains for each person,” observed Bishop Suetta, “and indeed this freedom can be a contribution to a dialogue. It is different to join in an almost unanimous chorus of approval, because his utterances and convictions correspond to the dominant thinking today and this is not correct to do so even from a Christian point of view.”
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