Should this piece of "art" commissioned in 2007 raise an eyebrow or is it deserving of denunciation?
The mural was commissioned in 2007 by the diocese's then-Bishop, Vincenzo Paglia.
Before folks get all exorcised about what's been labeled a "blasphemy," let's not forget: God sent His only begotten Son to save all people from sin. That includes homosexuals, transsexuals, prostitutes, and drug dealers.
In the ensuring kerfuffle, art historians and critics have weighed in, some likening the mural to Renaissance and post-Renaissance masterpieces. Others have called the mural "pedestrian," "unimaginative," and "ugly." Some have argued that the depiction of Jesus' manhood pushes the boundaries of propriety, especially for a cathedral.
In response to the negative critics, others could argue that the mural turns Dante's depictions of sinners like these upside down, releasing them from damnation in Inferno and transporting them to the peace and joy of Paradisio. These critics would ask: "Isn't that why God sent His only begotten Son?"
The Motley Monk is neither an art critic nor a theologian. However, he would observe that the way these folks are depicted indicates pretty clearly that they haven't "turned from sin." Didn't Jesus teach that turning away from sin is a pre-condition for salvation?
That got The Motley Monk wondering: What could then-Bishop Paglia possibly have been thinking? After all, he commissioned the work, he may have periodically observed it being painted, and he certainly has viewed and approved the final product...including an image of Archbishop Paglia not preaching the gospel but engaged in what pretty clearly is homoerotic activity.
This pleased him?
Pretty troubling, no?
Maureen Mullarkey, one of The Motley Monk's faves who always identifies what's important in matters like these, has weighed in on the matter, explaining in her inimitable way precisely why this mural is not just blasphemous but worthy of condemnation. In a post to her blog, Mullarkey wrote:
Sunday morning, I took time to do what I should have done earlier. I read through the full article, looked more closely, and saw what I had missed in haste. This time, I was shocked. Though perhaps astounded is the better word.
Paglia’s narcissism—the urge to flaunt his liberation from the moral considerations he is pledged to honor—is stunning. It is a finger in the eye of congregants who trust in a priest’s fidelity to his vows. To place it in a public house of worship is treachery. It is also a declaration of Paglia’s own trust in his immunity from reprimand.
Let a priest, bound to celibacy, keep his sexuality to himself. Apart from all else, that is elementary manners. It is uncivilized to trumpet what any primitive tribesman understands: that there exists an inviolable boundary between what can be seen and what should be kept hidden. By forcing congregants to peep through a keyhole at his sexual inclinations—and suggested behavior—he mocks the moral sensitivities he is pledged to protect.
Abandoning reticence, Paglia disdains his own flock. He is taunting them. There is malice in that.
Ultimately, the core of the issue here is not about a mural at all. Not substantially. Nor is it even about Archbishop Paglia. It is about a degraded Vatican culture which props up a man like Paglia, awarding him authority when he should be handed sackcloth and ashes and packed off to a hermitage.
The true scandal here is the basis—which goes unmentioned—of Paglia’s confidence that he could broadcast his sexuality on a cathedral wall without fear of censure. On what protections did his certainty rely? Who are the enablers of this cocksure display of male bonding? From how high up the ecclesial ladder does Paglia’s insurance come? And why is the damned thing still there?
Let the discussion begin...
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