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Serrano and His Bodily Fluids

As was widely reported, Andres Serrano's controversial (and somewhat pedestrian) photograph Piss Christ was attacked and destroyed with a hammer during an exhibit in the southern French city of Avignon. The date of the incident -- Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week -- was not coincidental. According to an article by Anthony Hernandez (Qui sont ces catholiques intégristes mobilisés contre le "Piss Christ" ?, April 19) in Le Monde, the attack is related to protests against the exhibit that were mobilized over the weekend by a Catholic institute called Civitas. Many suspect that the attackers of the photograph came from among this group and its associated organizations.

On its Web site, Civitas says that its goal is a "political and social reconquest seeking to re-Christianize France." The group's general secretary, Alain Escada, told Le Monde that they want to "restore a Catholic France, to orient political decisions and laws in keeping with a Catholic vision." Political scientist Jean-Yves Camus believes that Civitas and groups like it are furthermore connected to far-right Catholic followers of Marcel Lefebvre, a traditionalist bishop whose Society of St. Pius X has long opposed the liturgical changes of the Second Vatican Council. After a long period under excommunication for the unauthorized ordination of bishops, the group was returned to communion with penalty was lifted by the Holy See in 2009.

In an interview with Le Monde, the director of the Collection Lambert in Avignon, Eric Mézil (Piss Christ : "Nous recevons des menaces de mort", April 19), said that the gallery has been inundated with complaint messages, by phone and e-mail, some containing death threats. Much of the rancor takes on anti-Muslim and antisemitic overtones. In spite of the possible danger, the gallery reopened to the public yesterday, intending to show Piss Christ in its now damaged form. When Piss Christ was exhibited in Avignon in 2007, there was no public protest. It is possible that the rehabilitation of the Society of St. Pius X has emboldened this sort of action; Mézil also points to politicians on the right encouraging Christian extremism -- Claude Guéant recently invoked the example of the crusades, and Nicolas Sarkozy, while on a visit to Le Puy-en-Velay, made a call to "take up the Christian heritage of France."


Margaret E. Perry said...

Thanks for this. I had not heard that the group is associated with the SSPX.

A quick note of clarification: the SSPX has not been reconciled to the Holy See, nor are it's members in Communion with the Roman Catholic Church. The excommunication was a canonical penalty automatically incurred because their consecration as bishops was done without a mandate of the Holy See. Though the penalty was lifted from these certain bishops, neither them, nor the priests or members of the SSPX are in communion with Rome, nor are they acting under the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church.

For more information check out Pope Benedict's lengthy discussion of this in the new book-length interview, The Light of the World, by Peter Seewald.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for news of these wonderful developments in France, the eldest daughter of the Church.