Saturday, September 15, 2012

Faith grapples with art, lust

From St. Louis-

In the middle of the 16th century, Catholic bishops and theologians met sporadically in the city of Trento in northern Italy to discuss the church's response to the Reformation. In periodic meetings over 18 years, the Council of Trent produced documents correcting abuses like indulgences and other corruption.

A surprising victim of the Counter-Reformation was Michelangelo, whose depiction of the "Last Judgment" in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel was altered as a result of the Council's dictate that "all lasciviousness be avoided; in such wise that figures shall not be painted or adorned with a beauty exciting to lust."

In 1564, the council ordered that certain naked figures in the "Last Judgment" considered "obscene" be painted over with loin cloths.

It will be difficult for critics to compare Michelangelo's nudes with the Rev. John Blair's. Just after the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri launched an investigation of the St. Louis priest Tuesday evening, many of his photos of nude models were removed from the Internet.

And yet the diocese's disciplinary board, whose members will decide if Blair's photography constitutes sexual misconduct, will try to answer the same question as Trent's participants 450 years ago: How does the church recognize the beauty of art that depicts God's creation — the human form — without seeming to condone, in the council's phrasing, "a beauty exciting to lust"?

More here-

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