Early in the 1960s, when I was preparing my courses on the 17th century, the Golden Age of Spanish literature, a colleague of mine at New York University, the late Antonio Regalado, recommended that I read a moral treatise of that time, Moral Consultations and Exposition of Propositions Condemned by Innocent XI - in which, against the present background of a return to integrism, there is not a single wasted word.
The proposals (condemned ones, it is true) of certain confessors of the age, compiled by Fray Martin de Torrecillas, reveal a modernity concerning sex that would raise the hairs of the regressive Spanish bishops of modern times. I will mention only a few. "It is licit to procure abortion before the child is born, that the pregnant woman may not suffer death or ill fame;" "The fetus, while in the mother's womb, lacks a rational soul, and in no case is abortion a homicide;" "To place the virile member in the mouth of the woman does not constitute fornication," etcetera.
I mention this anecdote in connection with certain sermons that the Spanish ecclesiastical authorities, worried about the spread of impiety and laicism, have been regaling us with in recent years.
My personal favorite is the ineffable homily of Demetrio, bishop of Córdoba, on Unesco's secret plan to "turn half the human race homosexual" within the brief span of 20 years. This sermon tastes so strongly of science fiction and parody that it might seem to come from my own pen. Some readers thought it did. But I can assure you this is not the case. It comes from a real, live bishop.
Then there is the bishop of Alcalá de Henares, who in a televised sermon attacked women who abort, and gays, in terms that would tend to elicit a smile - if they did not occur in a context where the right wing occupies almost all the instances of government in Spain, and is ready to indulge all its old obsessions and phobias. According to this prelate, ideologies that do not correctly orient the human being lead him down the path of an "uncertain sexuality," to his eventual, certain perdition.
The same bishop had another go at moral relativism in a speech in May, when he condemned the "ideologies of gender that promote radical feminism and moral relativism," and revealed that sexuality is a "grace" from Jesus Christ.
Another Islamic jurist of similar bent, Abdelbari Zemzmi, gives his blessing to the sexual act when committed with the corpse of a dead wife
Perhaps some day he will tell us about the grace enjoyed by our ancestors who lived long before Christ, or those who even today live outside the fold of Saint Peter. We shall be interested to know.
According to the archbishop of our capital, cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, "a great deal of sinning goes on in Madrid." And, as if this were not enough, on the other shore of the Strait of Gibraltar, "tourists come from all over the world to Morocco to commit sins and turn their backs on God," in the words of the present Moroccan minister of justice, the integrist-leaning Mustafa Ramid. Religious creeds differ, but the prevalence of sin seems to be much the same.
Further enlightenment comes from the preachings of the Moroccan integrist Maghraui, now exiled in Saudi Arabia, and author of a fatwa that authorizes marriage with girls of nine - it seems they perform better in bed than women of 20.
Another Islamic jurist of similar bent, Abdelbari Zemzmi, gives his blessing to the sexual act when committed with the corpse of a dead wife, provided the body is still warm. Also licit, in the good preacher's view, is "the utilization of carrots and bottles as consolers, to help to preserve the chastity of the woman before marriage."
In times of anxiety such as ours, as we hang upon the ratings of almighty agencies that doom us to a vicious circle of unemployment and recession, I think we need a few shots of humor such as the above. Otherwise the only solution is to go off to Botswana and shoot an elephant or two.