I’ve been thinking about this for a while and it hasn’t gone away so maybe it’s worth sharing. It could be offensive to anyone of a catholic persuasion, and it could be offensive and triggering for anyone who has been abused. So I apologise as it is not my purpose to be offensive but to discuss the issue, and the role of the artist as truth teller and prophet in this situation.
Last year in November, a Spanish artist, Abel Azcona, stole 240 consecrated hosts from the Catholic church by posing as a worshipper at a mass. He then used them to spell out the word ‘pederasty’ in spanish, a word meaning peadophile, in a public art exhibition in the city of Pamplona. The full story (as told by a Catholic news agency) here in the link:
The story was all about how he broke the law and how the exhibit would have to be taken down as it is in fact against the law in Spain to deface the consecrated host. He obtained the hosts by deception, and laid them on the ground (it is also against Canon law in the Church of England to place the consecrated host on the ground.) A member of the public who was also offended by the display collected up the hosts, effectively bringing the art installation to an end.
I tried to discuss this act with some people of faith at the time and their overwhelming and strong view was that this was an act of blasphemy, offense and violence against Christ and his body as found in the hosts.
For me, it was a painful and courageous act of truth telling – that the body of Christ, as represented by the hosts, is in deep agony and pain due to pedophilia and abuse by priests and ministers from any and all denominations, and from the church’s cover up attempts. That the offense is so great that is has reached heaven, and that the cause of women, children and men who have been abused by power and patriarchy needs to be heard.
This artist represented those who have not seen justice, he told their story in huge letters on the steps of a public art gallery. He showed that the pain and sacrifice endured by Christ has been desecrated by his own, trampled on by unchecked desire and control in his own representatives. It was entirely fitting that it was embodied by hosts, and entirely shocking (but unsurprising) that the focus of the story was the legal issue and not the abuse he was highlighting.
This is why we need artists, poets, and protesters, to be truth tellers and prophets, to illuminate what we are trying to hide, to bring us face to face with ourselves and our reality. We need to hear their voices more than ever in a world of manipulative PR and institutional game playing and point scoring. And we need to seek repentance, which is a gift from God, and enact justice for those who have suffered abuse at the hands of the church.