Wednesday, November 28, 2012


I got this from Fr Z's blog who got it from the Catholic League site ... that's the internet for you - incestuous or interconnected ... which ever you prefer! But basically, it's doing the rounds, creating a stir, & being called blasphemous. So - is it it? The artist, Michael D’Antuono, knows that it offends religious sensibilities but feels entitled to do so under US first amendment rights. But offending people's religious sensibilities is not the same as blasphemy. It gets up the nostrils of quite a few people I know when I make the sign of the cross; that doesn't make it blasphemy. I would have to say I am uncomfortable with the image. But again, my discomfort doesn't make it blasphemy.

So what is blasphemy? The Catholic Encyclopedia calls it 'gross irreverence  against the honour' due to God' and while normally spoken, it may also be expressed 'in thought or in act' (the article is a lot longer; I'm compressing it a wee bit here!). 

So it is certainly possible for this image to be blasphemous. But is it? What about the artist's intentions - do they matter? He says he meant it to be a political piece, not religious, & was surprised at the reaction he initially got.  He created the work in 2009 and put it on display after BHO had been in office 100 days. He withdrew it after it garnered particularly hostile attention, but has put it on display again. I don't know what he was trying to say politically ... since it was created just after BHO was elected, was it trying to portray him as a new messiah who would lead the US to the promised land of economic recovery? I guess that didn't work out, then ... Or was it something to do with the suffering of African-Americans? But then, that's the trouble with political art ... the artist says it's political & then leaves it for you to figure out what he's trying to say.

My take would be is that I think the whole point of religious references in political art is meant to shock ... & the shock value comes from the irreverence of the reference ... which means that at some level the intent is blasphemous (but perhaps there is a canonist who would disagree?). But then what? We don't live in a theocracy. Christians don't (or shouldn't) go on the rampage about this sort of thing. Not least because they are counter-productive. High profile protests only garner those concerned even more of the attention that they were seeking. Remember Dan Brown and the 'Da Vinci Cod(e)'? The more people shouted, the more people wanted to know what the fuss was about, & the more money a novel that would only have sold about 5000 copies otherwise (going on Mr Brown's previous track record) made. 

And remember Fr Ted & Down with that sort of thing? No ...?

Basically, ignore this kind of stuff ... & maybe say a prayer for those who create it. 

Or have I got it all wrong?


  1. Remember the film "The Last Temptations of Christ". When it was released in the States people protested on the streets and it became a best-seller. When it was due for release in Ireland people wrote to the censor. The censor allowed the film but it had to be accompanied with a warning that some people would find the film offensive. The first cinema (and the only one) was the Carlton on O Connel St. RTE turned up hoping to capture a protest but there was none. They waited until the film ended and a handful of people exited all telling how boring the film was. Within a few days the Carlton stopped showing the film as it was a complete flop.

  2. Excellent illustration, Father ... 'art' whose raison d'etre is to provoke shock/outrage falls flat when people simply refuse to rise to the bait.