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Michela Murgia: my faith is not a contradiction

Catholic and feminist

 Cattolica e femminista  DCM-001
07 January 2023

To enter the cone of light and reveal; yes, I am Catholic. I am Catholic and a feminist. I believe in God and I defend the queer perspective, that is, the possibility of not being labelled by gender and sexual orientation.

Michela Murgia’s movement in her God save the queer. Catechismo feminist [God Save the Queer. Feminist Catechism] (Einaudi Stile Libero) is the movement that from underground becomes visible, open to the gaze not only of believers but above all of non-believers, of the community of feminist intellectuals and philosophers within whose perimeter the writer lives, writes and thinks.

To them, Murgia finally feels the need to remove the secrecy on that stream that has enlivened her since childhood. A Catholic faith that to the laity, to non-believers, to those who feel close to the LGBTQI+ experience sounds like nonsense. This is an error. A trimming of the margins as Elena Ferrante would say.

The pamphlet, with an afterword by biblical scholar Marinella Perroni, delivers on its promise to answer the two questions: is it possible to be a believer, queer and a feminist? Yes, explains Murgia, drawing from the memory of her Sardinian childhood the images of a parish commitment held almost entirely in the hands of women “because Christianity (...) is not a religion for alpha males”.

Therefore, all contradictions are resolved? No, declares the author of Accabadora, who tries to reread from a historical perspective the semiotics of patriarchy penetrating the Catholic Church from the appellation Father to the whole iconography celebrated in Western painting of a bearded and powerful male God. Murgia shifts the curtain and shows a doubting God in Genesis and a Christ who never asks to be called Christ, a man who suffers insults, betrayal and death.

Yet Murgia does not succumb to the common temptation to go looking for the revolution of the Gospels by placing them in contradiction with the masculine and authoritarian concreteness of the Church, as it is often spoken of by those outside its walls. Murgia, on the other hand, casts aside, conceding no reasons to those who would see patriarchal ecclesiastical structures as a reason to leave the faith. However, “how do you defend yourself against those who try to propound to you only one version of God, the one that protects certain privileges?” The question stings.

Into her theological reasoning therefore surprisingly enters a Russian icon a copy of which Murgia found by chance in a shop in the suburbs, The Trinity by the medieval monk Andrej Rublev, where Father, Son and Holy Spirit are depicted around a table that seems to invite the observer to participate in a mystical communion that has no hierarchies of gender, rank, class. “Where the pyramidal Trinity seems to say You are here you are below, the circular one seems to say You are within”, Murgia observes, finally achieving that breath of belonging she had been searching for. Tu sei dentro (You are inside) is also the writer’s message to people in the intellectual milieu who, out of a sense of minority, keep silent about their faith. An invitation not to feel alone, nor excluded.

by Laura Eduati

The concealed addressee

“There is, however, a concealed addressee in these pages, one that I wish would not remain hidded. It is the Italian intellectual who believes. There are many more of them than we think, especially among those who write for a living, but their shyness in making their spiritual life a subject conceals the certainty that faith is such an intimate fact as to be unspeakable. To declare it would be a form of pornography, and certainly not a professionally prestigious gesture. These are people who experience varied spiritualties, conflicting or pacified, dissonant or adherent to the life of the Church, but in the majority of cases, they are united by the same relationship with the prejudice of others, that of the atheist who has studied literature and who, between the lines, assigns to people of faith a status of intellectual minority. Christianity - infantilized for decades as the faith of children and women, the obtuse doctrine of dogma that suspends reason, and the religiosity of processions and folkloristic miracles - arouses irony and often even contempt among men and women of letters. Driven to concealment by the fear of mockery and underestimation, writers who believe in Jesus most often protect their belonging, experiencing it as a private fact and renouncing to innervate their writing, except in rare cases that standout for their solitude. I do not apologize for being a believer and I refuse to think that this obliges me to continually prove the credibility of my intellectual capacity. I am ready to give the reason for my faith and today, at this stage of life, I am also ready to say that that reason is the same one that over the years has made me a feminist and opened my eyes to other possible ways of being the image of God”.