An Italian bishop has ranted against the “vulgar and blasphemous” depictions of Christ presented by “liberal intellectuals”.

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Bishop of Trieste Giampaolo Crepaldi launched the tirade in a sermon for the Epiphany January 6, in which he denounced that the “exemplary profession of faith of the Magi in Jesus the Lord, King and universal Saviour” came under “unpredecented attack” in Italy over the Christmas season.

The attack, Benedict XVI-appointee and associate Crepaldi said, “unfolded in various forms: from the vulgar and blasphemous identification of his person with being gay, pedophile and a ‘Sardine’, up to more sophisticated interpretations of the scriptural texts that have deprived him of the divine nature”.

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Those rereadings of the Bible that would deprive Christ of his divinity, continued Crepaldi, “have been generally proposed by liberal intellectuals who, convinced that they are the custodians of who knows what arcane truth, claim to authoritatively exercise the mission of liquidating the regula fidei [rule of faith] on Christ to whom we we Christians refer with the recitation of the Creed, of course in the name of human progress of which only they have the access keys”.

Those usual suspect “liberal intellectuals” aim every year “to talk bigger and bigger rubbish, passing off Christological fakes in the name of progress”, the bishop complained.

“We Christians, on the other hand, will continue to be faithful to that regula fidei in Christ that a luminous and holy ecclesial tradition guards and hands down, imitating the Magi who worshipped the living God in that poor, humble Child who lay in a manger and deserved all their adoration, their faith and their prayer, convinced that the true lordship – the one that liberates, promotes and saves – was right there and only there, in that humble Child, the Word made flesh”, Crepaldi pontificated.

Why it matters

As for who exactly Crepaldi had in his sights in his angry homily, local media speculated that it could have been any one of the number of Italian intellectuals – Christians and Catholics among themthat have come out in support of the ‘Sardines’, the anti-fascist, pro-equality, anti-intolerance movement sweeping over Italy in protest at the politics represented by ultraconservative former Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini.

A former director of Vatican-approved Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica, the Jesuit Bartolomeo Sorge, went so far as to compare the Sardines to the first Christians, saying: “The fish in the squares today are like the fish of the first Christians”.

But probably also the object of Bishop Crepaldi’s ire was a provocative poster of Christ that appeared outside Rome’s Museum of Contemporary Art in December that showed Jesus in a state of obvious sexual excitement blessing a child on his knees before him.

The artist responsible for the poster said the artwork was a response to the guilty verdict on charges of child sexual abuse handed down against Australian cardinal and former Vatican treasurer George Pell, as well as a protest against the archaic blasphemy laws the artist was subsequently arrested on.

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