Image: The mural, commissioned by Archbishop Paglia for his cathedral Church in Terni-Narni-Amelia, depicts homoerotic themes, trangender persons, prostitutes, drug dealers and other material highly inappropriate for a church setting.
Last week on the 1P5 podcast, I talked to Joseph Sciambra about the revelation that Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, Pope Francis’ newly-appointed head of the Pontifical Academy for Life and Grand Chancellor of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, had commissioned an openly homosexual artist to paint a homoerotic mural in his cathedral Church in 2007.
Reactions to that story are now coming in from Catholic leaders, including former members of Paglia’s freshly-gutted Pontifical Academy for Life. At LifeSiteNews, Pete Baklinksi reports that the fallout from these revelations among Catholic leaders has been strong and vocal:
Critics are saying the work commissioned by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia is “blasphemous,” “disgusting,” and even “demonic.”
“There is a need for reparation for this blasphemous work. And it is blasphemy because of the effeminate depiction of Christ in a context that the artist himself said was meant to be ‘erotic,’” said Dr. Thomas Ward, president of the National Association of Catholic Families and former corresponding member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
“It is especially insulting that this image is in the presence of the tabernacle, in the presence of Our Blessed Lord. It is no stretch to say that in this context, and with the image’s clearly erotic content, it is demonic,” he told LifeSiteNews.
Paglia, former bishop of the Italian diocese of Terni-Narni-Amelia where the mural hangs in the cathedral, has been elevated to influential levels of responsibility.
After serving as President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Pope Francis appointed him last year to head the Pontifical Academy for Life and also made him Grand Chancellor of the St. John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family. As the former head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, he oversaw the development and launch of a sex-ed course for teens that experts criticized as “thoroughly immoral,” “entirely inappropriate,” and “quite tragic.”
Descriptions of the mural make clear the reason for the outrage:
The image of the Savior is painted with the face of a local male hairdresser, and his private parts can be seen through his translucent garb.
In one instance, one male can be seen with his hand between another male’s legs groping his reproductive organ.
Included in one of the nets is Paglia, the then diocesan bishop. Wearing his skull cap, he is depicted as clutching another semi-nude man who is tenderly embracing him.
Cinalli told La Repubblica that the naked people in the nets were meant to be “erotic,” although Paglia drew the line when Cinalli proposed to show people actually copulating.
“In this case, there was not – in this sense – a sexual intention, but erotic, yes,” Cinalli said. “I think that the erotic aspect is the most notable among the people inside the nets.” He later added, “The one thing that they didn’t permit me to insert was the copulation of two people within this net where everything is permitted.”
Answers are lacking as to why a man who would commission such a work would be put in such significant positions of influence within Church institutions responsible for the implementation of Catholic sexual teaching:
Dr. Ward questioned Paglia’s recent appointments to influential posts within the Vatican given his artistic sensibilities.
“Given that Archbishop Paglia is in the net of erotic figures going to heaven, and given that he discussed every detail with the painter, the question has to be asked by parents worldwide why was this man put in charge of a prototype of sex education aimed at Catholic children throughout the world?” he said.
“Catholic parents must look at the scale of evil [that has infiltrated the Church at the highest levels]. They have to wake up to what is going on: It’s a moral nuclear wasteland,” he added.
Christine Vollmer, president of the Latin American Alliance for the Family as well as a founding member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life, called the mural “disgusting.”
“This work is absolutely disgusting,” she told LifeSiteNews. “Added to this scandal is the huge debt Bishop Paglia allegedly left in his diocese. Given this, along with his elevation to key posts in the Church, it’s obvious that this man has high-ranking protection at the Vatican.”
Is the implication of “high-ranking protection at the Vatican” comparable to what Michael Brendan Dougherty described in his January 3rd column at The Week as pertains to clerical sexual abusers?
Pope Francis and his cardinal allies have been known to interfere with CDF’s judgments on abuse cases. This intervention has become so endemic to the system that cases of priestly abuse in Rome are now known to have two sets of distinctions. The first is guilty or innocent. The second is “with cardinal friends” or “without cardinal friends.”
Consider the case of Fr. Mauro Inzoli. Inzoli lived in a flamboyant fashion and had such a taste for flashy cars that he earned the nickname “Don Mercedes.” He was also accused of molesting children. He allegedly abused minors in the confessional. He even went so far as to teach children that sexual contact with him was legitimated by scripture and their faith. When his case reached CDF, he was found guilty. And in 2012, under the papacy of Pope Benedict, Inzoli was defrocked.
But Don Mercedes was “with cardinal friends,” we have learned. Cardinal Coccopalmerio and Monsignor Pio Vito Pinto, now dean of the Roman Rota, both intervened on behalf of Inzoli, and Pope Francis returned him to the priestly state in 2014, inviting him to a “a life of humility and prayer.” These strictures seem not to have troubled Inzoli too much. In January 2015, Don Mercedes participated in a conference on the family in Lombardy.
OnePeterFive reached out to Greg Burke, Director of the Holy See Press Office, for comment on the Paglia revelations. At the time of this writing, we have not yet received a response.
In our prior reporting, we’ve raised questions about the pope’s closeness to clerical sexual-abuse enabler Cardinal Godfried Daneels, as well as his appointment of accused abuser Bishop Juan Barros to the see of Osorno in Chile. We’ve shared allegations that Cardinal Reinhard Marx — Archbishop of Munich, head of the German Bishops’ Conference, and close adviser to Pope Francis — has been accused of negligence in dealing with clerical sexual abuse while he was the bishop of Trier. We have highlighted that the administrator of the Domus Sanctae Marta and papal-appointed liasion to the Vatican bank reform process, Msgr. Battista Ricca, has been accused of living a scandalous homosexual life in Latin America, and was the figure about whom the pope famously asked, “Who am I to judge?” We have noted that Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, whom the pope appointed as a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, advocates for Catholic acceptance of gay relationships and identity, women’s ordination, and has speculated about the “Eucharistic” nature of sodomy.
While this list is not comprehensive, the number of times such figures are appointed or honored by Francis pushes the suggestion that these are mere accidents beyond credulity. As the number of figures associated with sexual misconduct but nevertheless favored by Pope Francis continues to grow — with no remedial action in sight — hard questions need to be asked about whether any moral standards are being applied to candidates in positions of power in Francis’ Vatican. Or perhaps more to the point, whether noteworthy moral weakness is a characteristic preferred by the pontiff for reasons of his own.
Two Catholic psychologists of note — Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons and Dr. Gerard J. M. van den Aardweg — recently published an op-ed making the situation clear:
To begin with, the exposition of homoerotic art in Archbishop Paglia’s Cathedral from 2007 raises the important question of how he could ever have been chosen to lead the Pontifical Council for the Family and later the Pontifical Academy for Life and the John Paul II Institute for Studies in Marriage and Family. It is now clear that he opposes the Church’s teaching on sexual morality. This question in itself requires an inquiry as to the intentions and criteria used within the Vatican for appointments under Pope Francis.
Archbishop Paglia’s use of homoerotic art reinforces the earlier views, presented to the Vatican by several Catholic mental health professionals, that Archbishop Paglia should be suspended from his responsibilities at the Vatican and be required to undergo an evaluation required of clergy who abuse youth with a focus on psycho-sexual development. This request was made because the initial Meeting Point online sexual education program for youth, developed under Archbishop Paglia’s direction when he headed the Pontifical Council for the Family, contained homoerotic and heterosexual pornography which was like that employed by adult sexual predators of youth.
However, even more troubling is the role of Pope Francis. His apparent approval of the release of the Meeting Point program at World Youth Day with its homoerotic content and heterosexual pornography was severely negligent.
The authors conclude:
In the United States, a member of the hierarchy who deliberately places youth at risk of abuse by a known sexual predator is expected to resign from his Episcopal ministry. This norm is valid for all countries. In addition, such a Bishop would also face criminal charges of severe negligence for contributing to the sexual abuse of a minor, which could have been prevented.
With all due respect, it is time that Pope Francis takes a firm stand in favor of Catholic moral doctrine, publicly distancing himself from those prelates who favor homosexuality as an alternate form of love by removing them from positions of leadership in the Vatican.
This post has been updated.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have eight children. You can find more of his writing at his Substack, The Skojec File.