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Author Topic: Illustration of what's wrong with western Catholicism  (Read 1791 times) Average Rating: 0
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The young fogey
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« on: May 05, 2003, 10:17:22 AM »

I can get away with such an observation, IMO, because I'm known for liking the Catholic Church so any criticism of it from me can be seen only in that context.

A picture is worth a thousand words.



1. I'm no prude. God likes the body and sexuality - He made them.

2. I'm not a fan of scary, hyper-abstract Byzantine icons, preferring the slightly hybridized, more lifelike 19th-century Russian style now out of favor with connoisseurs of the stuff.

That said, there is something really wrong with passing off a statue that rivals the much later Rodin in its sexuality - face it, it's of an attractive woman having an orgasm - as religious quasi-iconography. There's a place for that in art, but call it what it is.

Four centuries before Vatican II and AmChurch, the problems were there, begetting sequential errors, bastard children - the 'Renaissance', 'Reformation', 'Enlightenment' and secular humanism/PC today.

Orthodox critics would call it prelest', and they might be right.
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Brigid of Kildare
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« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2003, 10:42:56 AM »

Serge,

I'm baffled by this. OK, I agree that this is a very sensual image and begs questions about the nature of the ecstatic experience St Therese is undergoing. But I don't see how you extrapolate all the ills of western Catholicism from it.  I doubt whether the average Irish Catholic has ever seen it and my understanding is that it's well nigh unique.

Have I missed the point completely?  Huh

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Bríd Naomhtha, Mhuire na nGaeil, Guí Orainn
The young fogey
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« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2003, 10:47:35 AM »

It's just a symptom of longstanding problems, Brigid. Nothing more, nothing less.
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Schultz
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« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2003, 11:09:36 AM »

Serge,

How would you, as an artist, depict such ecstacy that Therese was going through?  I think it is more in the mind of the viewer who sees such a depiction as a "woman having an orgasm" than being taken over by the sheer joy of the Divine Presence or whatever she was experiencing at the time.

Didn't Christ say something about it's not what goes into a man that is sinful but what comes out?
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The young fogey
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« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2003, 11:15:41 AM »

Schultz,

You've found me out - I have nothing but sex on my mind!  Grin (What about everybody else who sees the same thing in that Bernini statue?) Seriously, your question could start a good conversation on how exactly one can depict emotional experiences in religious art, including Orthodox iconography. Can it be done? Can it be done well? How or how not?
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Schultz
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« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2003, 12:03:43 PM »

It is a very interesting question.  Your concern about the moral value of the Bernini statue echoes the concern that even some contemporaries of Bernini expressed.  IMO, ecstacy is ecstacy, be it a spiritual one or a physical one; our bodies can only express it in a certain way.  And whose to say that perhaps what Teresa was going through physically wasn't akin to the same feeling a woman in the height of sexual orgasm experiences?  Of course, Teresa was also experiencing a whole other plane of spiritual feelings that we can only begin to comprehend that would propel her ecstacy far above and beyond that of a mere orgasm.

I, for one, find Bernini's rendering to be quite brave on his part, considering the current of thought in Western Christianity at that time was almost on the verge of denying the saints any emotion whatsoever.  It reminds me of a sermon I heard on Good Friday at St. Alphonsus in Baltimore during the Seven Last Words/Three Hours of Agony devotions.  During a reflection on the words of Christ to John and to His Mother, the priest commented that many of the depictions of Mary at the Cross were "wrong", as they showed her fainting or being distraught.  He said that the Blessed Mother was a strong woman who faced watching her Son being murdered with an almost stoic disposition.  The thought of this appalled me, as even Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus.  If the Lord can cry at such a time, why would not His Mother be beside herself as she watches her Son nailed to a tree like a common thief?  Would she not be tearing her hair out and wailing, like any mother would?

Where am I going with this?  I'm not sure myself  Tongue  As you pointed out in your original post, God made the body and sexuality, so they must be good.  We can use them to convey certain messages, such as religious ecstacy, provided that we convey them in a proper context and with the proper guidance and disposition.
Anyone who only sees Bernini's statue in a sexual way has some major issues that s/he must deal with.  Of course every once in a while the thought that Serge expresses may spring to mind...after all, we're only human.  But one should also get the feeling that Teresa is experiencing something so much more than sexual pleasure, which I'm sure the vast majority of us would say is the height of physical pleasure.  The fact that Teresa is experiencing that, and so much more, without sexual contact or thought, but through the experiencing of God, is a wonderful and powerful teaching tool.
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« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2003, 06:05:34 PM »

western naturalism?
 Huh
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Keble
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« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2003, 12:45:17 AM »

If you showed the whole statue, though, the orgasm theory would be a bit less plausible. There is, after all, a second figure.

I believe that the statue refers to a specific incident in her autobiography.
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sinjinsmythe
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« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2003, 11:26:33 PM »

At first glance, I thought that the statue looked sensuous. Kind of like this emoticon :aktion031: But after reading the thread, I know understand a little more about it.  I agree with Keble, it would be helpful to see the whole figure.
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« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2003, 11:34:49 PM »



        In St Teresa of Avila's Autobiography, she records a vision in which an Angel pierces her heart with an arrow (this is depicted in the Bernini sculpture)  She realizes this as a dwelling of God within her soul.

        I had the privilege of seeing this in the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome several years ago.  It is a beautiful sculpture (hey, I like the Baroque! Smiley   and I remember being moved by it.
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For those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like!-

                            Maggie Smith "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie"
Seraphim Reeves
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« Reply #10 on: May 15, 2003, 03:42:08 AM »

While I find Renaisance Latin religious art to be far too naturalistic and sensual (with it's chubby faced cherubs and statues of Moses acting as thin veils for an opportunity to sculpt Jupiter), and perhaps even the forms chosen not appropriate for veneration (I don't see how anyone could venerate this statue for example), I do have to bring one point up... the Song of Solomon.  This book, which is taken to be an analogy of spiritual union with God, is incredibly sensual in it's depictions.  Perhaps too much so for many readers.  Yet by faith we know it's inspired, and truthful.

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