VALENCIA (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Spanish cardinal is decrying a "blasphemous" advertisement featuring two Madonnas kissing.
Commissioned by gay activist group Endavant, the ad displays a gratuitous image of Our Lady of the Abandoned, patroness of Valencia in eastern Spain, and Our Lady of Monserrat, patroness of Catalonia, kissing on the lips. The image, intended to promote a gay pride parade to be held in Valencia on June 18, features the caption: "Against Holy Oppression, Love As You Want."
Spread through social media, the graphic has sparked outrage within the country's Catholic community, prompting the Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE) to issue a statement declaring it "strongly condemns" the desecration, and impelling Cdl. Antonio Cañizares of Valencia to call for acts of reparation.
In a letter read Sunday, the prelate maintained both he and Bp. Esteban Escudero, auxiliary bishop of Valencia, "energetically" reject the "unfair and gratuitous ... desecration."
The cardinal also urged Spanish Catholics to protest the "serious expression of intolerance and lack of respect for the religious beliefs of thousands of Valencians" by praying the Rosary and attending a Mass of Reparation to be held Thursday.
Support for the acts of reparation came from the CEE in a statement released Wednesday, in which the conference labeled the Endavant campaign as "yet another episode in a spiral that attempts against the legitimate exercise of religious freedom, as to the freedom to preach the Gospel in a plural society."
The image has also sparked a campaign organized by a coalition of religious freedom groups to coutner the activist's efforts.
Endavant has since responded to the outcry, asserting its foreknowledge that the advertisement would provoke a reaction from the Catholic hierarchy, stating that "the freedom transmitted by the sign's image reveals the obscurity and hatred [the Church hierarchy] transmit." The image, they claim, was produced in response to recent comments made by Cdl. Cañizares in which he labeled "the 'gay empire' as a social threat."
The comments in question were part of a homily delivered by the prelate on May 13 in which he condemned attacks on the family. "We have legislation contrary to the family, the acts of political and social forces, to which are added movements and acts by the gay empire, by ideologies such as radical feminism, or the most insidious of all, gender ideology," he declared. "The family is being stalked today, in our culture, by endlessly grave difficulties, while it suffers serious attacks, which are hidden from no one. ... When the family is attacked or is diminished, the most sacred forms of human relationship are perverted."
The homily was read in a Mass celebrated at the Catholic University of Valencia the night before the International Day Against Lesbophobia, Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, and was spurred by a recent push within Valencia via "upcoming legislation" furthering gender ideology. "Valencia does not deserve that," he lamented. "It cannot be spearheading the implementation of such insidious ideology."
As a result of the remarks, the cardinal is currently being investigated by the Provincial Prosecutor's Office of Valencia and faces criminal persecution for allegedly inciting "hate crimes."
Endavant reveals it chose to use the upcoming pride parade to "denounce the role of the Church's hierarchy as a propagator of hatred against gay people" and counterattack the cardinal's remarks.
The gay front, however, is not united behind the ad, with multiple LGBT organizations distancing themselves from the propaganda and claiming the tactics do not correspond to the "diverse and equal" spirit of the pride parade.