Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Je suis Stefano, je suis Domenico (UPDATED - AGAIN)

Messrs Dolce and Gabbano are taking some criticism from the great and good over the content of an interview given to the Italian magazine Panorama. In publishing the text of the interview online (sorry, no time to translate), Panorama observes that much of the (international) controversy has arisen as a result of Elton John's intervention rather than from a reading of the text of the interview itself. Unfortunately, the words that provoked the ire of the great and good occur early in the interview thus losing a certain context that is gained by reading the rest of the interview.

The first context is a project of Dolce and Gabbano to gather images of families from all over the world: #DGfamily, with its strapline "The family is our point of reference". The #DGfamily archive is also the subject of a study at the Centre for Fashion and Cultural Production at the Catholic University of Milan. There is also a context in their recent presentation of their collection at Milan Fashion Week.

The recognition that it is not possible/appropriate that a relationship such as their own should be seen as a marriage or a family, or that it should issue in children, represent an interesting contribution to contemporary discussion on the family. The Panorama interview, seen as a whole, offers a fascinating reflection on the question of the family, from the point of view of two gay men (at one time in a relationship but now just professional colleagues) and from  the point of view of  their own experiences of lives lived in families. The interview offers an argument for a permanence in value of the "traditional family" - they do not believe there is any family other than that. Clearly Elton John - with two children conceived through IVF and carried by a surrogate mother - has a stake in trying to silence this point of view.

Which is why the most fundamental thing to be said in the context of the controversy following Elton John's intervention is said at the beginning of further coverage at Panorama online:
"Dolce e Gabbana sono liberi di esprimersi sulla famiglia e sui figli, nessuno ha diritto di censurarli, come hanno preteso di fare Elton John e altri"... [Dolce and Gabbana are free to express themselves on the family and on children, no-one has the right to censor them, as Elton John and others have tried to do...]
Or, as the title of this post says:
Je suis Stefano, je suis Domenico 
The Catholic theologian commenting in Panorama does not accept the description of IVF conceived children as "children of a chemistry" or "synthetic children" given by Domenico Dolce in the interview, wishing instead to refer to them as children who "remain human individuals ... who have a dignity and value as such". However, he insists that it is possible to remain critical of the means used to conceive such a child whilst still respecting and recognising them fully as human persons. Mgr Cozzoli goes on to offer a very capable exposition of a Catholic position for a general audience.

The whole original interview is worth reading, but I offer a flavour here. Domenico Dolce's reply to the question "Would you like to have been parents?":
Sono gay, non posso avere un figlio. Credo che non si possa avere tutto dalla vita, se non c’è vuol dire che non ci deve essere. È anche bello privarsi di qualcosa. La vita ha un suo percorso naturale, ci sono cose che non vanno modificate. E una di queste è la famiglia. [I am gay, I cannot have a child. I believe that it is not possible to have everything in life, if it is not possible one can say that it must not be. And it is also beautiful to deny oneself something. Life has a natural course, there are things that cannot be changed. And one of these is the family.] 
This article offers more comment on the Dolce and Gabbana vs. Elton John controversy, and usefully summarises the substance of the interview as follows:
The sexual complementarity of parents, the indispensability of the mother and father, and the centrality of love in procreative relationships, are serious issues, and Gabbana’s praise of the ‘supernatural sense of belonging’ in family life strike me as a charismatic endorsement of the family.
UPDATED: Thinking Faith has a post here that comments on the Elton John/Dolce and Gabbana flare up in terms of the nature of the internet and how St Ignatius might suggest we use that medium: #BoycottOnlineAnger: Elton John and Dolce & Gabbana . I quote from this post:
...St Ignatius’s advice to spiritual directors in the famous Paragraph 22 of the Spiritual Exercises, which says the following:
To assure better cooperation between the one who is giving the Exercises and the exercitant, and more beneficial results for both, it is necessary to suppose that every good Christian is more ready to put a good interpretation on another’s statement than to condemn it as false.
This is often referred to as the ‘Presupposition’, and it has a wider application than the Exercises: is a foundation stone for all civil communication. 
Whilst I have not followed events fully, it is apparent that Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have received more support for the position on marriage articulated in their interview than one might have expected.

UPDATED - AGAIN: see also this blog post at the Tablet website: Children raised by gay parents thank Dolce and Gabbana.

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