Italy is moving towards its first law on hate crimes against LGBT people, trying to pass a law that punishes discrimination and hate crimes against LGBT people. But the law written by Alessandro Zan, deputy and activist of the PD in Italy, is creating a lot of tension between State and Church, and in this article we will try to clarify these issues.
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What is DDL Zan
In a few words, the Zan DDL wants to allow is to extend protection in favor of those who are more subject to episodes of violence, discrimination (including at work) and aggression: homosexuals, transsexuals, women, but also physically disabled people, and this by extending the regulatory scope of the Mancino Law (June 25, 1993, no. 205) that sanctions “phrases, gestures, actions and slogans aimed at inciting hatred, incitement to violence, discrimination and violence for racial, ethnic, religious or national reasons.
The DDL Zan collects five law proposals drafted over the years, and also includes the crime of misogyny, or hatred against women. Italy currently punishes hate crimes for racial, ethnic and religious reasons, as well as neo-Nazi and neo-fascist actions and slogans, but with the new law, those who discriminate against homosexual and transgender people would be punished with imprisonment of up to four years, and in general any discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, as well as gender-based violence will be punished.
“Today we have a firm and decisive majority in parliament committed to passing this law, aware that in Italy there are serious problems of discrimination and racism against homosexual and transgender people”, this said the deputy Alessandro Zan.
During the past 25 years, several attempts have been made to create a law that would punish acts of homophobia and transphobia, and often among the major opponents has been the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI). “An objective analysis of the norms for the protection of persons in our legal system leads to the conclusion that there are already sufficient criteria to prevent and repress any violent or intolerant behavior,” this recently wrote in a note from the religious institution, stressing that there is no need for a law against homophobia. Specifically, there is a fear that this law would limit freedom of expression.
Why the Vatican fears DDL Zan
The Vatican’s official protest concerns the possible risk of violation of two points of the Concordat by this law, which should soon be discussed in the Senate. The first concerns the risk of freedom of expression, even though article four of the law itself denies this risk, while the second puts at risk the line and the educational programs of private Catholic schools, especially those that are officially recognized.
In this way, schools, even Catholic ones, should adapt to do education against homotransphobia, promote inclusion and fight prejudice. Yet the Church seems to be afraid to address this issue, excluding the possibility that in the place where the citizens and believers of tomorrow are formed, it is discussed.
But if the Church condemns aggression and violence in words, it seems not to want to officially recognize LGBT people, proving to be an institution still stuck in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah in dealing with the complexity of non-conforming sexual identities.
The internal conflicts of the Holy See
Also because of this topic internal conflicts within the Holy See are growing, on the one hand the CEI that has the blessing of Cardinal Ruini on the other hand the same Monsignor Gallagher, considered too soft and too close to Di Maio (5-stars populist movement) and above all a trusted man of Bergoglio. As if the protest to the DDL Zan was a spite to the work and direction of “reform” being carried out by the Pope, and that Bergoglio is not loved by the Roman Curia has been known for some time now. The work of the pontiff is also at odds with much of the German clergy, so much so that there is even talk of schism, and with the American bishops who carry on the crusade against abortion every day, especially now with Biden as president.
In Germany they seem to have clear ideas, “update” the doctrine on morality, celibacy, sex, women and family, trying to regain the trust of German Catholics wounded by the scourge of pedophilia, and for this lack of modernity the German clergy is disappointed, by the lack of openness of Bergoglio to these issues. This has led Cardinal Walter Brandmuller, president emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, in a recent interview with Franca Giansoldati, for “Il Messaggero”, to speak of a probable schism.
Bible and homosexuality
Yes, indeed the Old Covenant Bible declares:
“Thou shalt not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”
(Chapter 18 verse 22)
“If a man lie with a male as with a woman, both have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”
(Chapter 20 verse 13)
Chapters 18 and 20 of Leviticus are part of the Holiness Code and list the prohibited forms of sexual intercourse, and these two verses have historically been interpreted by Jews and Christians as clear prohibitions against homosexual acts in general, while more recent interpretations focus on the context of the passage as part of the Holiness Code, a purity code intended to distinguish the behavior of Israelites from polytheistic Canaanites. One such interpretation is by Janet Edmonds, who states:
“To interpret these passages in Leviticus, it is important to know that this book of the Bible focuses on ritual purity for the Israelites, and on setting guidelines for the Israelites to distinguish themselves from their pagan neighbors, the Egyptians and Canaanites, who lived in the lands before they were settled by the Jews. This is demonstrated in Leviticus chapters 18 and 20 by three specific scriptural passages (Leviticus 18, 2-3 ; 18, 24 & 20, 23) that state that the Israelites should never do what the Egyptians and Canaanites did.”
Analyses by Saul Olyan, Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Judaic Studies Program at Brown University, K. Renato Lings and others focus on the ambiguities embedded in the original Hebrew, arguing that these ambiguities may not prohibit all erotic expression between men, but rather prohibit incest between male family members. They argue that the English translators of Leviticus added to the original text to compensate for perceived gaps in the biblical text; but in doing so, they altered the meaning of the verse. Leviticus 18, 22 reads:
“w’eth-zäkhār lö’ tiškav miškevē ‘iššâ” (original Hebrew).
“And with a male you shall not lie the bed (miškevē) of a woman.” (Literal translation, i.e. formal equivalence, offered by Olyan)
“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman” (NRSV).
Lings argues that the inclusion of prepositions not found in the original text and the translation of Leviticus’ otherwise unattested miškevē in the context of Genesis (i.e. miškevē is only found in Leviticus 18, 22 & 20, 13 and Genesis 49, 4) is crucial to illuminating the incestuous connotation of the passage, and the translation of miškevē in light of Genesis results in the text of Leviticus 18 & 20 becoming more cohesive.
There could be written rivers of words about this delicate topic, but for now the intention of this article remains simply to remember that we humans cannot and shouldn’t judge anyone except ourselves. We are all too guilty of crimes far greater than the one recorded in the Book of Leviticus in chapters 18 and 20, and these grave sins are directed against humanity (pollution, world hunger, wars, etc.) and therefore we cannot ” throw the stone” at anyone. We are all responsible and condemnable, even the righteous, and this is only because we have not yet succeeded in eradicating the real evils that tear our society apart, and among these are not those concerning sexual orientation. Let us remember more often that we have no right to point the finger at anyone, if not at ourselves, not as criticism for its own sake, but as a warning to improve ourselves. Amen, may GOD always guide ourselves towards the good.