The Vatican: power and the pursuit of happiness

Posted: February 21st, 2014 | Columns, Featured, North County Update | No Comments

Max Disposti | North County Update

I am not a fashion designer, a pasta producer, nor a culinary expert in Italian cuisine. I don’t buy labeled shoes or go to church on Sunday and my family does not come from the mafia. However, I am Italian.

Born and raised in the City of Rome, I pride myself in the history, the arts and the beautiful Mediterranean landscapes that surrounded me for 30 years.

Max Disposti

Max Disposti

I was also an activist, a leader in the national student’s movement and of course, an LGBT troublemaker. I have experienced first-hand the oppressive, chauvinist macho culture, witnessed the violence of homophobia, and struggled with the powers of “mother” Church.

Although I left 15 years ago, things have not really changed. Italy, along with Greece, has become an anomaly within the European Union.

There are no adoptions or domestic partnerships for LGBT couples, no hospital visitation rights, no hate crimes law, no antidiscrimination policies, nothing. Just a shameless silence, at times interrupted only by the news of another teen lost to suicide.

Despite the tireless efforts of local and national LGBT organizations and even the increasingly popular support for LGBT equality, nothing seems to be really changing.

There are TV and news programs where Vatican officials pronounce themselves on any social matters; mental health, sexuality, sociology, and even science. They shamelessly make up statistics as they go over the disruptive idea of an LGBT couple raising their child, and they are still addressing homosexuality as a curable disease.

Vatican City owns many radios, TV stations, a bank, and different political parties that have all been “governed” since the beginning of the Republic in 1948. They own priceless art and real estate all around the world, they draft legislation, push their political agenda with an army of religious activists that have been infringing on anyone’s religious freedom, all while dictating their own beliefs in Italy’s schools, government institutions and society.

As an example, their private schools continue to be financially supported by public funding and so are their private hospitals and services.

Even as Pope Francis is trying to brand a new image of transparency, inclusiveness and respect for the poor, the Vatican machine is still moving and often with taxpayer’s money.

For those of you that are still wondering, Vatican City is not a religion, it has never been. The Vatican is a historical institution and a political presence in Italy’s backyard with a CEO, a CFO and shareholders that trade for profit.

Certainly some progress has been made and mostly because of the international victories that have significantly helped the Italian LGBT movement. However, and despite the growing popular support, the lack of civil rights protections in Italy is becoming an embarrassment for the European Union as well.

Meantime in America, many have embraced Pope Francis as a true reformer. The Pope on the bus, the Pope that wears only old shoes, the Pope that writes letters to people and even tweets. Maybe so, but in Italy we have learned to be very skeptical. Italians have experienced the Vatican’s privileged and predominant role that has imposed itself for centuries. Scandal, sexual abuse, mafia, corruption and the arrogance of Vatican’s impunity really have people fed up. The Vatican has pursued the Italian LGBT community with homophobia, ignorance and isolation and targeted those few politicians that are trying to make a difference.

I would like to think that this is not about religion but justice, love and respect towards the life of every human being. The pursuit of happiness has inspired many of us in America, and that it should be held true in the rest of the world as well.

—Max Disposti is a human rights activist, a community organizer and the founder and executive director of the North County LGBTQ Resource Center. He has also served on Oceanside’s Community Relations Commission for several years and is a real estate broker in his spare time. He can be reached at



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