What sort of Dantesque contrapasso does this uber-PC group deserve?

You think you’ve heard nearly every stupid thing there is to hear and then someone even stupider comes along and lowers the bar again.

From the Daily Telegraph:

Dante’s Divine Comedy ‘offensive and should be banned’

The classic work should be removed from school curricula, according to Gherush 92, a human rights organisation which acts as a consultant to UN bodies on racism and discrimination. [You just knew the UN would be mentioned, right?]

Dante’s epic is “offensive and discriminatory” and has no place in a modern classroom, said Valentina Sereni, the group’s president.

Divided into three parts – Hell, Purgatory and Heaven – the poem consists of 100 cantos, of which half a dozen were marked out for particular criticism by the group. [I wonder if these chuckleheads have the slightest idea what Dante is doing in the Divine Comedy.]

It represents Islam as a heresy and Mohammed as a schismatic and refers to Jews as greedy, scheming moneylenders and traitors, Miss Sereni told the Adnkronos news agency.

“The Prophet Mohammed was subjected to a horrific punishment – his body was split from end to end so that his entrails dangled out, an image that offends Islamic culture,” she said.  [The Koran has a lot of things in it that offends me. The Koran should be banned.  I’m offended also by stupid activist groups.  Gerush 93 should be banned.]

Homosexuals are damned by the work as being “against nature” and condemned to an eternal rain of fire in Hell.  [And?]

“We do not advocate censorship or the burning of books, but we would like it acknowledged, clearly and unambiguously, that in the Divine Comedy there is racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic content. Art cannot be above criticism,” Miss Sereni said. [Face palm.]

Schoolchildren and university students who studied the work lacked “the filters” to appreciate its historical context and were being fed a poisonous diet of anti-Semitism and racism, the group said.


I can’t take it anymore.

I think I’ll have some Tuscan wine and read some Dante.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Capt. Morgan says:

    Steady on the Guns! Wait for the Roll!

  2. Denita says:

    I thought Dante’s plays were SUPPOSED to be like that. :/

  3. Charles E Flynn says:

    I hope you will consider the translation by Allen Mandelbaum and the commentary by many of the world’s leading Dante scholars:

    Lectura Dantis

  4. Jack Hughes says:

    So children lack the ‘neccessary filters’ as someone who is only starting his classical education at 23, I’d be glad if schoolchildren were learning Dante in High School

    This is utter insanity, these people are in clear need of help from men in white coats

  5. acardnal says:

    And they wonder why I drink. :-)

  6. Dave N. says:

    “…but we would like it acknowledged, clearly and unambiguously, that in the Divine Comedy there is racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic content.”

    And plenty of content that could be considered anti-Catholic—the hierarchy is also well represented in Hell after all—but I don’t see that Gherush is very concerned about that.

    I’ve taught Dante many times, and for better or worse I’m convinced this is one of the pivotal works in Western literature. (Some would argue for example that the Divine Comedy marks the beginning of the decline in metaphysical thought in the West.) But if “schoolchildren and university students who studied the work lacked ‘the filters’ to appreciate its historical context” then that is the fault of their teachers, not the fault of the students or the literature itself. Perhaps teaching students to read critically could be considered? It would make my job much easier.

  7. Clinton R. says:

    The UN was silent last year when an ‘artist’ displayed his blasphemy in France. Islamaphobia-bad,
    anti-Semitism-bad, persecution of Jesus and His Holy Catholic Church-perfectly acceptable. The UN must stand for Ungodly Nations.

  8. mwk3 says:

    Children and students also lack the filters critically to exclude pro-homosexual and anti-Catholic propaganda . . . Pass that bottle, Father!

  9. NoTambourines says:

    Seriously? I read Dante’s Inferno in part as a senior in a Catholic high school and then in its entirety in my first year of college, at a public university’s honors program. That would have been 1998, and I was 18 and a half. So, the excuse of lacking the “filters” or context to process the content seems just a tad lame, or education has really taken a dive in 14 years.

    Or maybe, this is really about something else.

    I think the people making the protest “lack the filters” to process the content, or maybe they should stop “filtering” other people’s reading.

    I gave up alcohol for Lent, among other things. Someone who didn’t, please knock one back for me.

  10. aspiringpoet says:

    The punishment for politically correct people who want to ban Dante is having to lie on an extremely soft mattress (one of those ones where you feel as if you’re going to drown in it) and be lightly tickled with feathers for all eternity while demons stand around you apologizing for everything.

  11. PostCatholic says:

    No book should be banned, period. A great American Catholic once said :

    “We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”

    You can hardly teach the Late Medieval and how it gave way to the Renaissance without touching upon Divina Commedia. Sure, the book is full of ideas and viewpoints of its day that in modern times the enlightened view as bigoted and offensive. Some of those ideas even the Catholic church has repudiated since. But what value is there in sanitizing history?

  12. No doubt this anti-Dante crowd is made up of the same people who celebrate “Banned Book Week” and lament the “censorship” (read: parental concern) that has cleared school libraries of substandard works of literature like Killing Mr. Griffin and The Color Purple.

  13. rodin says:

    And the good news–this is a British publication so it may be safe to assume they don’t vote here.

  14. Bookish says:

    When I was a Catholic high school English teacher, I taught Dante to senior high school students, most of whom seemed capable of understanding the text. I am currently an antiquarian bookseller. I spent three years building a collection of illustrated and unusual editions of Dante and writing and publishing a catalogue of the collection. When I read that a group is trying to have it banned, I was stunned and saddened (ok, and angered). Though I am sorry to hear how doltish some people can be, I can report that the demand for Dante in our day and age is strong. Many of the Dante books in my catalogue now have good homes in universities and on the shelves of individual book collectors. There are so many people who appreciate Dante’s work — in addition to Italians and Catholics — that I hope that a movement to ban Dante would never succeed. Dante’s work has not been out of print ever in 700 years.

  15. ContraMundum says:

    I think they should be subject to a version of the torment of Tantalus — allowed to roam freely in a huge library filled with fantastic literature, but it always disappears whenever it comes within reach.

    More seriously, I think in Dante’s scheme they would fall into Circle 9 with the sewers of discord, including, appropriately enough, Mohammed.

  16. wmeyer says:

    Tyranny is more easily accomplished if the masses are entirely ignorant. They strive for far more than socialism–a new Dark Ages would suit their purpose.

  17. James Joseph says:

    I haven’t read much of Dante but I can say that which I have read in Italian is absolutely beautiful!

  18. Kerry says:

    We are pleased to hear that the Islamists have a culture which can be offended. But the real reason “they hate us”, to paraphrase the “We have the Gatling and they have not”, we have Charmin.

  19. Titus says:

    No book should be banned, period.

    This is not quite as silly a proposition as that highlighted in the post, but it’s not far behind.

    I think in Dante’s scheme they would fall into Circle 9 with the sewers of discord, including, appropriately enough, Mohammed.

    Hmm, I hadn’t thought of that. I was thinking that they belonged with the wrathful, condemned perpetually to tear each others’ hair out. But you could also make a case for hypocrites, I imagine.

  20. Johnno says:

    Maybe this is a good thing!

    Maybe now after they’ve said such things, they’d have only succeeded in making more students curious enough to pick up and read Dante in the spirit of rebellion!

    But seriously, it’s amazing how these fools react to things. I recall during our college course ‘Philosophy of love and sex’ the Marquis de Sade was once required reading to explore and critique the various philosophies about sex. But apparently someone found it a bit too much and complained to the college, and now de Sade’s views were no longer taught in the course. Too bad… it would’ve certainly woken a lot of students up as to the logical consequences of what liberal and immoral sexual attitudes can inevitable lead to. I bet the one who complained was likely the sort who held very liberal views about sex and couldn’t face the facts.

  21. Centristian says:

    “We do not advocate censorship or the burning of books, but we would like it acknowledged, clearly and unambiguously, that in the Divine Comedy there is racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic content.”

    -Pope Nicholas III

  22. robtbrown says:

    It . . . refers to Jews as greedy, scheming moneylenders.

    Goldman Sachs released a statement assuring us that is not true.

  23. pm125 says:

    Consultation discontinued by the UN?

  24. Clinton says:

    This sort of manufactured outrage and offense is just a cheap way to try to grab moral high
    ground. Are we supposed to be impressed by Ms. Sereni’s moral antennae, which have found
    anti-Semitism and racism where no one else noticed them for centuries? Evidently, only she
    has the necessary moral tone to be sensitive to the outrages in the work– we clods have been
    overlooking them for generations. Such a burden her refinement must be, poor dear.

    I’d love to be there if she’s ever clued in on the plot of The Merchant of Venice!
    Can someone actually die from a case of the vapors?

  25. Phil_NL says:

    Whenever there’s something that involves the UN : Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate….

  26. Phil_NL says:

    Oh, and lest I forget: of course the appropriate Dantesque punishment for these groups would be in the 6th circle of Hell, where they have to listen to ‘Imagine’ 24 hours a day, without the ability to remove the earplugs.

  27. It’s true that children “lack filters.” The real issue is what we want filtered out. We want to filter out lies, they want to filter out the truth.

    What’s odd is that when it comes to the lies they teach in school, they claim that our influence in the home is sufficient to counter any curriculum we might deem offensive. They can’t claim the same for themselves, because they don’t have children and are only trying to influence the children of others.

  28. NoraLee9 says:

    I worked in a round High School for almost 14 years. I was a member of the English Department. The chair had posted over the door the “Abandon All Hope,” quote, in the original Middle Italian. When I became one of the Hall Deans (so-called because one walks the halls, over and over), I was able to contemplate Dante. We only had 4 floors, not 9, but it was enough, going around and around, all day…..

  29. Gregg the Obscure says:

    The appropriate consequence for these – absent their repentance – would be for them to share in the punishments justly wrought upon Moslems and those who engage in the unspeakable crime against nature. A week with Mohammad followed by one with the catamites, over and over.

  30. Legisperitus says:

    I suppose Mohammed in Hell in cartoon form would be even more offensive. But should it be expurgated from art history? http://zombietime.com/mohammed_image_archive/dantes_inferno/

  31. Darren says:

    I have never read Dante. However, I now strongly desire to do so.

    In fact, I want to buy 100 copies and pass them out to everyone I see! Just because…

  32. wmeyer says:

    ContraMundum: I fear that folks who favor the banning of books rarely read them. Pleasing as is the image conjured by your suggestion, I suspect they would not suffer for being unable to read, but for being unable to turn on the TV.

  33. albizzi says:

    That great nation (the US) which succesfully waged the wars against the nazism, the japanese and italian fascisms, and (last but not the least) the soviet communism, is quietly and unknowingly allowing a new fascism to install in its bowels.
    George (Washington) wake up! They are all going crazy.

  34. New Sister says:

    @Bookish, “I hope that a movement to ban Dante would never succeed. Dante’s work has not been out of print ever in 700 years.”

    I know everyone is attached to their Kindle, but with the direction “Dear Leader” and the Left are managing to move our Nation, I think that it is very important to keep people like you in business (except not selling the books, but buying/keeping them) — I sometimes wonder, what’s to stop these people from altering electronic books?

  35. ivan_the_mad says:

    Radicals seek to subvert the culture by hijacking the language. Disapproval of something is equivalent to an irrational fear of something? Really? Take back the language. Correct people when they erroneously append “phobia” to anything (or utilize the epitome of malapropisms, “gay”).

  36. TNCath says:

    I wonder where Dante would place members of Gherush 92? And the U.N., for that matter?

  37. Virgile says:

    In Italy, the UCOII (Unione delle Comunità e Organizzazioni Islamiche in Italia), an Italian Islamic association – and one of the largest Italy’s Muslim umbrella group, is “fighting” for the removal of Dante from all High schools and Universities : after him they will find another “anti-islamic” poet or writer, and another one, and another one…

    Of course, a representative of Gherush 92 or the UN is boarding on a plane right now, to ask the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to remove the Coran from High schools and Universities for its violent, Christianophobic and anti-Semitic content…


  38. persyn says:

    Don’t begrudge these people their double standards — they don’t have any other standards than those.

  39. gloriainexcelsis says:

    So – will Chaucer and Shakespeare be next????

  40. oldcanon2257 says:

    A Google search shows that “Gherush 92” is the same anti-Catholic group which in late 2009-early 2010 issued press releases in which they diabolically verbally attacking our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI (and attacking the memory of Venerable Pius XII and pretty much the entire Catholic Church) regarding Papa Benedict’s visit the synagogue in Rome in January 2010.

    Our Lord taught us, “By their fruits you shall know them.” (Matthew 7:16) Just examine their rhetoric, and you will have a pretty good idea what type of “human rights organization” they are.

    I wouldn’t be surprised when they seek to ban the New Testament next for what they will claim to be “anti-Semitism”.

    What does the word “Gherush” mean anyway?

  41. irishgirl says:

    I don’t drink alcohol at all, much less wine….but I would gladly share a bottle in commiseration with you, Father Z, and shake my head over and over in sadness (as well as in mounting rage) at a piece of nonsense like this. What the heck is this woman thinking of?
    Another reason why I despise the UN.
    I like the ‘punishments’ devised by aspiringpoet, Gregg the Obscure and Phil_NL. Perfect, you guys, perfect!

  42. mibethda says:

    The threat from proposals such as this lies less in the likelihood that some decisionmaker (school administration, library board, governmental agency, etc.) will officially adopt it, but rather in its quiet implementation by bureaucrats in such institutions as well as by publishers and authors of texts. That avoids the public fuss that might ensue from some type of official action. The function of a ‘study’ such as this is to announce a new canon of political correcness which all ‘right-minded’ people will be expected to follow.We have already seen a good deal of the Western Canon eliminated from the educational process by this tactic as well as a good deal of the historical heritage and culture of this nation and of the West.

  43. Batfink says:

    Why is it unacceptable to for people to be punished for sins they have committed collectively but not for sins they committed individually?

    Seriously … I’m not saying I agree with every person Dante pictures as condemned (in fact, I definitely don’t), but why pick him up for being homophobic, racist etc. and not for being discriminatory towards his political and family rivals?

    Is that the message of this organisation – that only what we personally have done matters, nothing that we do collectively? If enough people take part in a sin does it stop being a sin?

  44. Rich says:

    I studied Dante’s inferno in a classic literature class at San Diego State University. The teacher presented the work as good literature but discounted any strong religious imagery as Dante’s own personal opinion. I didn’t care whether the professor took this route, and the students went along with the work and its religious ideas for what they were, and none were offended because when it came to understanding that there was an option to accept the religious ideas in the work or not, the students GOT IT, and whether or not people were offended by it were neither here nor there. I wonder if indicating whether or not people have the proper “filters” to navigate personal ability to assent to the religious ideas in Dante’s work is another way of saying that people are stupid.

  45. Maltese says:

    Gherush 92 (wherever that name came from) wants to ban the second greatest writer in the history of the world (next to Shakespeare)?

    As Ace Ventura would say, “oh really”?

    What’s next, make illegal public display of Dr. Seuss’ sauce cartoons because they offend against prohibitionists? These liberals have no compunction when it comes to abortion and harvesting fetal body parts, but if they catch you smoking in a bar in LA, they will promptly call the police to promptly arrest you!

    We may not be living Dante’s Inferno (not yet, at least, if you are reading this, and hopefully not in the future if you are aware of extra ecclesiam nullus salus) but methinks we are starting to live Orwell’s 1984!

  46. Amyjo says:

    You should try some Mystic Monk coffee . Perhaps we could send some to the Gerush 93 and the UN?

  47. Bookish says:

    @New Sister,
    From your lips to God’s ears re: supporting the printed book. There are many in the antiquarian book trade who are concerned about the long term consequences of electronic books. Electronic media is helpful, and it will certainly change the way we use printed information, but we cannot allow it to completely displace print. I say that not only because print is my business, but because electronic media can so easily be tampered with.

    Additionally, one needs neither batteries nor electricity nor the latest computer upgrade to access the information from a printed book, as they do from an electronic reader. All you need to read a printed book is a pair of eyes — one is not dependent on the technology or energy of others to freely access information from a printed book. One reason printed books have lasted for so many centuries is because the format remains simple, durable, and relatively unchanged.

    I like electronic media, too, so I don’t mean to come across as entirely disparaging it. Indeed, it’s blogs like this one (read electronically) that have led me to think more carefully about my own faith. Even so, I say that there is still a place for the printed book in our electronic world, particularly the type of book that is an historical artifact. I urge people to consider supporting libraries that continue to give as much space to books as possible. More and more, the books in libraries, including research libraries at universities here in the U.S., are being removed from the stacks and being put in automated retrieval areas in order to make room for computers. These automatic retrieval systems are efficient but prevent people from browsing in the stacks. One must know the title of the book one wants the automated retrieval system to retrieve ahead of time. This makes discovery, an important part of scholarly work, much more difficult. There’s an interesting book on this topic, Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper, by Nicholson Baker. Recommended reading for any of you interested in this topic.

  48. Maltese says:


    Good points! Though no luddite (I have an iphone, ipad, and macbook pro), I don’t think you can replace the printed book (the first one being the Vulgate Bible, of course); the feel, the smell and the sustainability are irreplacable in books (notwithstanding a possible future EMP attack), and I love my old tomes which have that tissue paper over lithographs!

  49. Maltese says:

    Think the library of Alexanrdria; we take for granted how frangible our future book-resources are.

  50. irishgirl says:

    I forgot to mention that the only time I had ever heard of a reference to Dante’s Inferno was Tchiakovsky’s tone poem. ‘Francesca da Rimini’. The title character, caught in adultery with her deformed husband’s more handsome brother Paolo and murdered by him [the cuckolded husband], was condemned to an eternal embrace with her illicit lover in the 6th circle of Hell.
    Pretty crashing good piece of music, if I may say so.

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