The Curmudgeon


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Unto Caesar

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that religious propaganda, in the shape of an instrument of painful and messy execution, is not an appropriate form of decoration for a children's classroom. The case was brought against the Italian state by a Finnish immigrant, and the verdict has caused great and noisy anguish among the natives. For its part, the Vatican has asked for time "to evaluate the reasons behind the decision", said reasons having to do with the rights of children to religious and educational freedom: concepts with which the Church has understandable difficulties. Nevertheless, a spokesbeing has anticipated matters by condemning the absence of propaganda as "partisan and ideological".

A correspondent of Britain's leading liberal newspaper, who has interviewed most Italians, writes that "most Italians argue passionately, as did their government's advocate in Strasbourg, that the crucifix is a symbol of national identity". Crucifixion was indeed the crudelissimum taeterrimumque supplicium of the Roman empire, which did indeed originate in Italy; but it is difficult to see why this should be a point of pride, even in a country which includes the Vatican and Silvio Berlusconi. It's as if the Mexican government were to insist on hanging an obsidian knife-blade in every classroom as a reminder of the good old days when a sacrifice was a sacrifice.

One Berluscrony blathered that the crucifix is "a universal symbol of love, meekness and peace"; which doubtless is why that paragon, the Emperor Constantine, went forth to battle under it, and why all the other religions of the world, many of which boast of their own love, meekness and peace no less than Christianity, have been queueing up to adopt it. "Preventing it from being displayed is an act of violence against the deep-seated feelings of the Italian people and all persons of goodwill" - none of whom, apparently, are acquainted with the Saviour's teaching on straining at gnats and swallowing camels, to say nothing of turning the other cheek. The leader of the Italian Democratic Party said: "An ancient tradition like the crucifix cannot be offensive to anyone"; the tradition of enforcing the crucifix in classrooms dates from the inoffensive days of Mussolini, who knew exactly what to do with those who committed acts of violence against the deep-seated feelings of the Italian people and other persons of goodwill.


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