Stanley Fish has a great Opinionator piece on the Lautsi vs. Italy ruling in the NYT. Read the whole thing; if I were so erudite, it’s what I’d have written in my post. Granted, mine was a sudden burst of WTF!? Fish nails it. (h/t goes to Stewart and Greg simultaneously!)
The comments are great, too. Here are some that stood out for me:
“While living in Italy a few years ago I felt sufficated by the constant displays of crucifixes — in my daughter’s day care center (Italy has excellent public pre-schools), post offices, city hall, etc. That, plus displays of the madonna, etc. in the same public places. I don’t know if this is the same case referred to by Mr. Fish, but I was rooting for the parents of a Muslim child who had brought suit that the presence of a crucifix at school discriminated against their child. The standard response — that the crucifix is a cultural symbol — makes sense to no one but Catholic Italians.” (mmsch)
“Italy is a Christian country. The cross is a symbol of Christianity. Why is it that you don’t complain or mention that in Islamic countries they have Muslim symbols in their schools and that in Israel they have Jewish symbols in their schools? Why is it that the Christians have to be tolerant of everyone else but you give a pass to the above mentioned religions? Do you think for one minute the Muslims or Jews would worry about offending Christians in their countries? I doubt it. How about an article on how tolerant the people of Saudi Arabia are and how they let non Muslims practice their religion in that country? And how Islam is so welcoming and tolerates non Muslims in their countries. Ask the Coptic Christians in Egypt about how they are allowed to display their faith at all without getting killed by Muslims. I missed your article on that one. Let’s just show how intolerant the Christians are and give others a pass on their prejudices. Yea let’s do that!” (vonvondavont)
“Given all that is going on in the world, this wasn’t worth reading. Of all the things to write about.” (Vern Edwards)
“How about this. The cross has been displayed there for years. You should be looking at the cross and thinking of that- thinking of what that means. If you don’t like it, leave. And that’s from someone who hasn’t been to church services in 20 years.” (MacBones)
“However flawed the court’s reasoning is about the crucifix, Italian parents have the right to have their children educated in the presence of Christianity’s greatest symbol. If the Vatican was headquartered on Long Island I would probably disagree with the court’s ruling. You’re analysis is superb, Dr. Fish! And the fish is also a great symbol of the Christian faith. I always knew you were one of us!” (Martin Yanosek)
I can’t quite follow the logic of that last one. Does Mr. Yanosek agree with the judges or with Fish? And how is the crucifix “Christianity’s greatest symbol?” And why does he think “Italian parents” are all Catholics?
I have people like him in mind when I write this blog; I’d appreciate it if more people got the simple idea into their heads that Italy is not a Catholic country populated exclusively by Catholics. It’s more diverse than that, even if the Strasbourgians have just fed the rest us to the lions.
19 thoughts on “Fun with comments”
Oy, how could I have read the article and skipped the comments? There are some more gems in there and others probably being added as I write. Reading them reminded me of why so few people can become judges. Then I glanced up at the article again and remembered how few even of those who do become judges have their heads screwed on right.
I still think there was coercion of some kind behind that ruling. They overturned the previous ruling almost 100%! That’s fishy, especially given the paltry reasoning behind it. I’m still waiting for Judge Tosti to post his comment on it…
Hello there, Mr. Di Martino! I agree with the court and, although I admire Dr. Fish’s analysis, I think Italian parents should be allowed to let their kids study in the presence of the crucifix. You’re right, though. I don’t know about “all” Italian parents. Only God does! You do believe in God, dontcha!?
Oh, Mr. Di Martino, I see that I missed answering your question about how the crucifix is Christianity’s greatest symbol. In its evolution as a symbol one must take into consideration the cosmic irony of the crucifix’s meaning over time. The crucifix’s meaning has evolved from that of a purely utilitarian implement of torture to today’s meaning of everlasting life. I think the tremendous irony inherent in the evolution of the crucifix’s meaning is what makes it Christianity’s greatest symbol. I hope I answered your question. Regards, Martin Yanosek
Martin, I appreciate you taking a moment to clarify your stance. That said, your position is still unclear. You wrote, “If the Vatican was headquartered on Long Island I would probably disagree with the court’s ruling.” Why is that? Were that the case, and by your logic, American parents would have the right to have their children educated “in the presence of Christianity’s greatest symbol.” Or is it okay if it’s in a country you don’t live in, but not okay when it’s in yours?
As for the symbol itself, does it matter at all that most Christian denominations don’t recognize the crucifix as their symbol? Not to mention non-Christians and non-theists – which is quite a lot of us, even here in Italy. Don’t we have the right to have our children educated in the presence of our symbols? Or are we expected to submit before the irony of the holy Roman torture device?
Long Island doesn’t have the tradition of Roman Catholicism that Italy does. Long Island has more of a Great Gatsby tradition. Without our traditions life would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof of St. Peter’s Basilica! We should submit to the irony of everlasting life! Peace be with you, Mr. Di Martino! Amen.
Just to recap, Italy has numerous traditions other than Roman Catholicism. It’s still just another religious confession, and it’s not even the oldest one we have. Shalom, Mr. Yanosek.
Marc, I think you neglected to answer the sentence ending in a question mark in Mr. Yanosek’s first comment.
No, I have to disagree – unfortunately, at present as in the post-Constantine past, Italy is or has been most certainly a Catholic/Christian country! Exclusively? No, maybe not, it does of course have and has had many others milling about within its tenuous borders and maybe one day…(but I highly doubt it)…But why are you so suprised that people might think so? What might it take to get people to entertain the “simple idea” that “Italy is not a Catholic country populated exclusively by Catholics”?
O Creator of the universe, this morning I shall not fail to offer you the incense of my childish prayer. Sometimes I forget it, and I have noticed that on those days I feel happier than usual. My breast expands, free of all constraint, and I breathe the balmy air of the fields more comfortably.
Please future posts on Mithras and further still the Magna Mater!
I think you’re giving too much credit to the Catholic Church. Italy, as a modern country, gained its independence largely through its opposition to the Catholic Church. Religious symbols and teaching in public schools became mandatory under Fascism (before which the popes wouldn’t even set foot on heathen Italian soil); Catholicism as religion of the state was abolished in 1984. The Constitution proclaims the secular nature of the state. It’s not a “Catholic country” (what percentage of Catholics would it take to make a country Catholic, I wonder?) Both Spain and France have divested themselves of the erroneous idea that they are Catholic countries. We have the Vatican; it’s taking us longer.
Are you of the opinion that a religious majority has the right to impose its cult on the minorities? That’s really the heart of this matter.
And I’m not surprised people think Italy is a Catholic country; I’m just offering a different vision of what Italy is, behind the curtain. You’ll never see anything other than the pope and Berlusconi if you watch television.
Yes, yes, but by most accounts the population of Italy is, more or less, about 90% Catholic and I disagree with you about Spain and France. On paper perhaps, as Italy. I think this is the crux of the matter with removing crucifixes. In any case, I am not for imposing anything on anyone, as you know, just simply disagreeing with your statement that “Italy is not a Catholic country”! Go on fighting the good fight, holmes
Again, shall the majority dictate to the minority? I think that 90% figure is way off, though. We have to look at self-declared adult Catholics, church attendance, etc…, not just baptismal records. By that same logic America is a “Christian nation”. Bollocks.
But, again, we’re straying from the issue. Even if Italy were 99% Catholic, as a constitutionally secular state it has the obligation not to let any religious confession monopolize the public sphere. That’s the basic idea behind secularism.
Which is not even to get into the moral issue of what a “Catholic country” might mean. For example, Vatican City is a Catholic country (well, sort of a country). In that “country”, only Catholics are allowed to live or work. Shall that be our model? Shall abortion and homosexuality be capital crimes in such a country? Would any of us like to live in such a place? It’s also a theocracy with an all-powerful monarch who answers to no earthly judge. There is not even the shadow of democracy or rule of law – unless Canon Law counts. It is a human rights disaster. Shall I continue?
Breathe, Marc, breathe. There is no argument here, there is nothing you have to convince me of, I just think you are just off with the idea of Italy being more progressive, or secular, or or than it is. That’s it. Even if it is “on paper”.
OK, fine, you’re not for imposing anything on anyone and that’s wonderful. But the state is. They are for imposing Catholicism on everyone, and they are using the excuse that Italy has a kind of Catholic DNA to do it. And I find that reprehensible. Not only does it completely devalue the religon and its symbols (not that I think much of them in any case) but it’s completely unfair to the many Italians who are on the other end of this weasel proselytizing.
I think Marc realises that Italy is a lot less progressive or secular than its constitution gives its citizens the right to expect and demand. And that is what bothers him, as it means people like himself have equality in name but not in fact.
Ive understood, and agree with, all of this. Please don’t proselytize to me! Once again, I just don’t think the majority of Italy’s citizens expect nor demand otherwise – and that’s the disturbing part, but unfortunately not surprising (to me anyway). Punto. And thank you, I would be included in that category of equality in name but not in fact!
“Isidore”, I’m not proselytizing to you and you know it. Stewart, you’re on the money. Is this difficult to grasp?