The iconic cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris was evacuated on Tuesday after Dominique Venner, a 78-year-old far-right Catholic activist, shot himself in the mouth in front of the altar as a protest against France's new marriage equality law. Hundreds of tourists in the packed cathedral witnessed the grisly event.
Mr. Venner was a well-known essayist and a former member of a paramilitary group known as the Secret Army Organization (OAS), which waged a bombing and assassination campaign in the early 1960s to protest France giving Algeria its independence. He was also close to the anti-marriage equality movement and an outspoken critic of same-sex marriage, which French President François Hollande signed into law on Saturday.
Hours before his suicide, Venner published a homophobic, Islamophobic post on his blog denouncing the new law as "detestable" and condemning Islamic immigration from north Africa. (Venner did see a silver lining to an Islamist takeover of France, however: a hypothetical Islamist government would repeal marriage equality.) He also made reference to a planned May 26 protest against the law, writing:
It is not nice enough to organize street protests to prevent [marriage equality]... It certainly will require new, spectacular, and symbolic actions to wake up the sleep walkers, shake the anaesthetized consciousness, and awaken the memory of our origins. We are entering a time when words must be authenticated by acts.
And Venner made what seemed to be an ominous allusion to the symbolic action he planned to take later that day:
It is here and now that our destiny is played until the final second. And this final second has as much importance as the rest of a life. That is why we need to be ourselves until the very last instant.
I spoke with progressive talk-show phenom David Pakman yesterday about Venner's suicide. (Side note: if you're not yet familiar with Pakman's nationally syndicated political talk radio and TV program, The David Pakman Show, you'll want to be.) In the interview, Pakman wonders whether self-loathing homophobia may have fueled Venner's extreme anti-gay hatred.
Watch, after the jump.