“These provisions are an aggression to personal identity”. It is the determined reply of Fr Innocenzo Gargano, Camaldolese monk, expert in Judaism, commenting on the widespread call to ban the practice of ritual circumcision, which originates from the ruling issued by the Court in Cologne statinf that “ritual circumcision is a personal lesion that is against the child’s own interest”. On the same line are the provisions adopted in Switzerland and in Austria, while for the president of European rabbis, Pinchas Goldschmidt, “a ban on circumcision questions the very existence of the Jewish community in Germany”.
Father Gargano, first of all, what does circumcision represent for a Jew?
“It’s an ‘identity card’, like baptism for Christians…”.
So what do you think of the reply of the president of European rabbis to the ruling of the German Court and, in general, the growing trend in Europe to call for a ban on circumcision?
“It’s a legitimate concern. It were as if the State issued a law forbidding baptism because it violates hygienic norms or because it violates children’s rights. Provisions must not attack individual identity, under no circumstances. And in any case Jews should be heard before considering any other proposal, to understand what they consider important and what not. It can’t be decided externally. Since Vatican II we have been taught to let the other person define him/herself. If for the Jews circumcision is an integrating part of their identity, what right do we have to forbid it? Probably there are other motivations, sometimes unspoken”.
Islam envisages the practice of infibulation for women…
“Infibulation is different from circumcision, from Jewish circumcision in particular. For the Jews it’s a part of their identity, of a people chosen by God with a precise Covenant, which entails specific practices. Muslim circumcision or infibulation are not a part of their religious patrimony in the strict sense of the term. In fact such practices belongs to specific traditions, which have taken over in one or the other context. One thing is circumcision, for what it means for the Jewish people, another is circumcision or infibulation for the Muslim faithful”.
What about the alleged health risks?
“The State has the right to intervene for all that regards prevention and individual health. Yet there are boundaries that must be respected. If a doctor said that fasting and refraining from eating meat on Fridays may harm your health, while you were taught to express your faithfulness to God also via specific religious or ascetic practices, imposing the relinquishment of such practices is unimaginable. Laws cannot prescind from the people that are called to comply with them”.
The leitmotif is thus the respect of religious freedom?
“It’s the respect of individual identity, which is also religious. Within such respect we must find the ways to protect global health. Instead, we’re shifting the attention on individuals, expecting to make the technical practice infallible. Regulating such issues should be done in the full respect of everyone’s religious, ethnic and identitarian beliefs”.