I just know I’m going to get a lot of comments on this story, so I may as well just post it now, from the start, with comments open so you can do your job. It’s from the 8 June 2008 issue and I expect to hear from Christians and atheists alike:
Hey, Get a Room
A parishioner at a Roman Catholic church in Italy’s Cesena-Sarsina diocese called police after hearing “rustling and groaning” in a confession booth. Inside was a “goth-rock couple” engaged in sex. The 31-year-old man and his 32-year-old schoolteacher partner reportedly explained that they were atheists, “and for us, having sex in church is like doing it any other place.” Police charged them with an unspecified crime. Bishop Antonio Lanfranchi called the desecration “an outrage of notable proportions which bespeaks unutterable squalor,” and said a purification rite would have to be held before the confessional could be used again. (Italian National Associated Press Agency) …It could have been worse: they could have been using a condom.
It’s fairly obvious that I’m going to hear from Catholics and other Christians: it’s really a rude story. And I agree — it is. Some will complain about my tagline. Yeah, well, if you can get past the rudeness, it is a pretty funny story, so deal with it. I could have been much ruder myself with the tag, suggesting what the “purification rite” might be (bleach?), telling the scoundrels “Shame shame shame! You know sex in the confessional is limited to the priests and their altar boys!” or some such. I think telling them they should “Get a Room” and labeling their act “desecration” (note that’s my word, not the newspaper’s) gets my point across. So if you’re here to complain, don’t: as I said, it’s a funny story once you get over the anger at the people involved — don’t shoot the messenger.
OK, they’ll still wonder, why do I think atheists will have a problem with this story? Because such a ridiculous statement as the miscreants made in the story makes atheists look bad. (Substitute “Christian”: would that make Christians look bad? You bet.) Atheists may not believe in God, but atheists are regular people first, and decent people don’t go out offending others in this way. To them, “having sex in church is like doing it any other place”? Nope: I don’t buy it. They did it for the thrill of maybe getting caught, for the purposeful sacrilege, for the desecration. Atheists don’t run out to offend the religious on purpose; they are not interested in having religion shoved in their faces, so it makes no sense to do the exact same thing they don’t want (shoving “anti-religion” in the faces of the religious). Yes, atheists believe in “do unto others” too.
But enough from me: it’ll be interested to read the calm, rational debate among both Christian and atheist readers that is sure to ensue. But read the other comments before making your own. I won’t approve a comment when the concept has already been covered by someone else.
June 11 Update
Reuters reports today that the couple has apologized and “made peace” with the bishop. The charges were noted too, finally: “obscene acts in public and disturbing a religious function.”
Their excuse: they had been “drinking all night.”
- - -
This page is an example of This is True’s style of “Thought-Provoking Entertainment”. “True” is a newsletter that uses “weird news” as a vehicle to explore the human condition, and bring up questions about society — in an entertaining way. If you enjoyed this page, consider scrolling up to the top of the page for a free e-mail subscription.
To really support True, sign up for a paid subscription to the much-expanded “Premium” edition:
Q: Why would I want to pay more than the regular rate?
A: To support the publication to help it thrive and stay online, and this kind of support means less future need for price increases (and smaller increases when they do happen), which enables more people to upgrade. This option was requested by existing Premium subscribers.