Of this artist, the Bishop believes "Like nearly no other artist, he is concerned about suffering and mistreated people ... and he expresses this in his work in a shocking way." The Bishop knows that the artist is a communist and an atheist, but believes “he nevertheless has a burning interest in the Bible."
These things being the case, you would think such a Bishop might take precautions before the art exhibit opens to ensure it meets up to acceptable Catholic standards, right? Just in case, right? Because, you know, there have been issues of this sort in times past, right?
And complaints started to come in.
Some people are now asking, “Is it art - or is it blasphemy?” But it’s a no-brainer, really.
Austrians are locked in a nationwide debate touched off by the brief display in a prestigious Roman Catholic museum of an etching that depicts Jesus Christ and his disciples having an orgy during the biblical Last Supper.
A chastened and chagrined Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the top churchman in this largely conservative and overwhelmingly Catholic country, has ordered the offending artwork removed.
The dispute began on March 12 with the opening of "Religion, Flesh and Power," a collection of about 50 paintings, drawings and sculptures - some with homo-erotic themes - by Austrian artist Alfred Hrdlicka.
"The exhibition does not mean that the cathedral museum identifies with all of Hrdlicka's works," Schoenborn said.
"Of course, I would not have agreed to the presentation of works which are blasphemous or pornographic. I therefore expressly regret that a picture of this kind - without my knowledge - was included in the exhibition. This picture, which is injurious to the faithful, was removed on my orders on March 20."
But prior to this, there were reports that the Cardinal had defended the exhibit.
It’s hard to say exactly what happened here but doesn’t the Cardinal have someone he pays to look after this sort of thing? Kaufmann, the curator, said he was caught off-guard by the intensity of the debate and Bernhard Boehler, director of the cathedral museum, said he was “surprised at the heat of the battle" over the orgy drawing.
Regardless, the whole mess falls in the Cardinal’s lap, where it truly belongs.
For example, exactly why does the Cardinal employ a director at the museum who seems completely insensitive and unaware of what’s at stake in such controversies? And make no mistake about it—what’s at stake is scandal and the salvation of souls.
Catholic Bishops as a whole need to be much more concerned about preserving the faithful from confusion and scandal. To me, scandals such as this, along with perhaps the greatest scandal of all—the ongoing desecration of the Holy Eucharist by dissenting Catholics—is one of the greatest causes today leading to a misrepresentation and misunderstanding of the faith by non-Catholics and Catholics alike.
In turn, the resulting obfuscation of the faith and the demoralization of the faithful leads to unbelief, heresy, atheism, and secularization.
Scandal has always been held to be a serious matter in Catholic teaching. It has the potential of deadening the conscience and sending people to Hell. And considering what Jesus Himself said about bringing offense to His little ones, Bishops more than anyone else should be keeping their eyes wide open and their ears close to the ground.
Although I’ve never been able to track down the actual reference, it is widely reported that St. John Chrysostom maintained, "The floor of hell is paved with the skulls of bishops!"
God help them to do better!