Vatican Censors Photo Exhibit of Gay Couples Kissing in Churches

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com September 30 2013 2:12 PM ET

Despite Pope Francis's recent comments indicating tolerance for LGBT people and saying the Roman Catholic Church can't focus only on opposing abortion and marriage equality, it's clear the church is still virulently antigay.

That position was reinforced when Vatican officials threatened legal action and shut down an exhibition in Rome this weekend because it featured photos of same-sex couples kissing inside Roman Catholic churches, according to The Huffington Post

The exhibit, titled "Trialogo" and produced by Gonzalo Orquín, a Catholic man from Spain, was scheduled to open at Rome's Galleria L'Opera last Wednesday evening, until the exhibit's curators received a letter from the Vatican threatening legal action and confirming that "the church is against the exhibition."

The Vatican cited the Italian constitution among its reasons for demanding the exhibit be shuttered, essentially claiming the national law protects religious people from seeing anything they might view as offensive. 

"Italian constitutional law safeguards an individual’s religious feeling and the function of places of worship," Vicariate spokesman Claudio Tanturri told English-language Italian news outlet The Local. "Therefore photos that are not suitable and do not conform to the spirituality of the place offend and infringe upon the advancement of man in the particular place for the expression of faith." The Vicariate is an organization within the Vatican that helps the pope carry out his duties as bishop of Rome.

Orquín told The Local that all but one of the 16 images in the exhibit were taken inside churches in Rome, and that the images featured opposite-sex and same-sex couples kissing. After receiving the legal threat from the Vatican, Orquín said he consulted with his own legal counsel and concluded it would be best for his safety to censor the exhibit. The photographer told The Local that he found Italy to be "a very homophobic country" in the eight years he lived there. "There aren't other countries in Europe of the West that are backward like this," he told The Local. 

Orquín posted a photo of the censored exhibit to his Facebook page on Wednesday, showing the images covered with black paper and displayed above black crosses that spilled onto the floor. 

"Here's what you'll see in my photographic work of kisses this afternoon," reads a Google translation of the caption Orquín posted with the photo. "Yesterday came a warning from the Vicariate of Rome. In the meantime, the legal study the thing I spoke covering my work, joy and love are going to hell. We the CENSORSHIP!"