Toronto
2 min

International conspiracy?

Who would wage a war against the Catholic church?

PERVERTS VS PAGANS. You'll have to make up your mind about which is which after watching the doc on Catholics and homos in Rome, The Devil In The Holy Water. Credit: Xtra files

People say some pretty shocking things in Joe Balass’ documentary The Devil In The Holy Water about the conflict between World Gay Pride organizers and the Vatican during the Jubilee Holy Year festivities in Rome in 2000. According to a spokes-man for the Association Of San Luigi Gonzaga and for Christian Rome, the World Gay Pride festivities were, “an act of war against the Catholic Church.” This guy also goes on to say that gay people are aligned with “leftwing parties, radical parties, the Italian Masons and the Italian Jewish community” in their so-called war against Catholicism.



Guys like this make Balass’ film interesting to watch. I wish that World Gay Pride was a war on the Vatican! I also wish that the so-called gay movement was affiliated with any other party that might remind it how a minority rights movement differs from a flea-market. But judging by the footage that Montrealer Balass includes in his film of the event, the big “Yay I’m gay!” party in Rome looks much like Toronto’s embarrassing display of body glitter, rainbow flags and corporate sponsorship.



Nevertheless, the mayor of Rome, Francesco Rutelli, deemed the Pride celebration enough of a threat to withdraw his support for it at the last minute, which is what gives Balass’ film its dramatic tension. Organizers were left wondering if their international gay hootenanny would be loudly pooped on by the big ol’ Pope and the thousands of prudish pilgrims who were coming to get on their knees for Him.



As the clock ticks toward international gay Pride devastation, Balass speaks with nuns, priests, lesbians, traditional-family advocates and everyday Italians about the controversial double booking. He reveals that the international gay movement is attempting not to overthrow the Vatican, but to exercise its rights as a minority group with the freedom to demonstrate and celebrate its particular beliefs.



If you think about it, the two sides of the debate are actually kind of similar. The church’s jubilee festivities started in the year 1300 as an attempt to revitalize the crumbling community of Catholics. Gay Pride celebrations started similarly, albeit a bit later, in an attempt to galvanize the oppressed community of gay men and lesbians. Furthermore, World Gay Pride celebrants seem to like gold lamé capes and funny hats, as do the fellas at the Vatican. NAMBLA (The North American Man Boy Love Association) could easily fit in on either side.



Despite all these similarities, Catholics and gay people just can’t seem to get along, and Balass’ film underlines this fact. While this is not much of a newsflash, the rightwing reactionaries and powerful bureaucrats that Balass points his camera at, may be just what the doctor ordered for an “international gay community” that needs desperately to be reminded of what exactly it’s proud of.



* The Toronto premiere of The Devil In The Holy Water is at 4:30pm on Sat, Jun 14 at the Bloor (506 Bloor St W) in the Italian-Canadian Shorts program at the Toronto Italian Film Festival (running till Jun 15). Tix are $8; call (416) 516-2330.