A work of art by one of Vienna’s most celebrated artists has been taken down after offending members of the Catholic community.
The painting is part of a large collection of works that depict Jesus and his disciples engaging in homosexual acts.
To celebrate the 80th birthday of artist Alfred Hrdlicka, the gallery attached to St. Stephen’s Catholic Cathedral decided to put on a retrospective of the artists work.
There was surprise that the work received the endorsement from Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schonborn, who is known for his Orthodox views.
Entitled, Religion, Flesh, Power, the exhibition includes a number of works that depict Christ in a sexual context.
One piece that caused particular offence was a sculpture of Christ on a crucifix having his genitals fondled by a Roman soldier.
It was, however, Mr Hrdlicka’s portrayal of The Last Supper that caused the biggest outcry of anger from Catholics.
The paintings, loosely based on the original by Leonardo Da Vinci, depicts the 12 apostles engaging in a homosexual orgy.
The exhibition has prompted protests from Catholics worldwide, in particular America where a number of websites and bloggers have voiced their disgust.
The American Society for the defence of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), described the exhibition as, “an unimaginable blasphemy.”
“I honestly feel that creating a more offensive blasphemy would take a lot of imagination,” said TFP spokesman Michael Whitcraft.
“I can’t think of how it could be worse.”
The Society hit the headlines in America two years ago when they organised a 2000 strong protest against the film, The Da Vinci Code, claiming that the film was deeply offensive to Christians.
The museum’s curator, Bernhard Boehler, replied to the complaints saying, “I don’t see any blasphemy here. People can imagine what they want to.”
Boehler told Reuter’s news service, “We look for art on biblical themes, but we can’t always choose how the artist will interpret them.”
The verbal complaints from Catholics around the world were compared by Boehler and Hrdlicka to the riots, bombings and killings that followed the publication of the Danish newspaper cartoons of Mohammed.
US columnist Rod Dreher wrote on his popular conservative blog:
“I’m glad that we don’t have to worry about Catholic mobs worldwide burning down Austrian embassies and attacking screenings of The Sound of Music to protest this blasphemy.
“But quietism from church authorities in the face of something like this – and not only quietism, but tacit endorsement, given the venue! – sends a powerful message of how deep the rot has gone.”
The most offensive pieces have been taken down due to the massive international interest.
However, a spokesman for the cardinal refused to condemn the works:
“It is an act of respect towards those believers who feel this portrayal offended and provoked them in their deepest religious sensitivity.”
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