YORK, England (ChurchMilitant.com) - England's oldest northern cathedral has said it never considered culling the statue of Constantine, after cathedral officials were pilloried for engaging in an "orgy of buck-passing" and "hiding behind a wall of waffle."
The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter in York, known as York Minster, is reviewing Constantine's statue after complaints that the Roman emperor supported slavery, Britain's Telegraph reported Wednesday.
A day later, the former Catholic cathedral — which came under Protestant control in 1567 — denied reports of complaints but confirmed that a review of all monuments was underway in response to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
"Contrary to what has been reported, we have not received a single complaint about Emperor Constantine's statue," Sharon Atkinson, communications director for York Minster told Church Militant.
"We are not removing Emperor Constantine's statue. Nothing is happening: There is no discussion, action, intention or even thoughts about it," she insisted.
However, "the Church of England has asked cathedrals and churches to review their monuments and statues for specific examples of memorials which symbolize and reflect prejudices and discrimination being experienced by people today," Atkinson confirmed (emphasis original).
"The transatlantic slave trade is the most prominent example and has a contemporary manifestation. Constantine and the Romans do not fall into this category," she said.
Joseph Shaw, fellow of the distinguished Royal Society of Arts, told Church Militant: "While, like his mother Helen, Constantine is venerated as a saint in the Christian East, Western Christians often consider him a flawed individual who was nevertheless God's instrument in the Christianization of the Roman Empire."
"This was a development with enormous historical consequences, which ultimately included the lifting of many forms of oppression, including the persecution of Christianity, bloodthirsty gladiatorial shows, infanticide and slavery," Shaw said.
"More recent injustices, such as the vandalization and confiscation of historic Catholic churches including York Minster, and the imprisonment, torture and execution of Catholics by the English Crown and the Anglican Church would be a better subject for reflection," observed Shaw, an Oxford academic in medieval philosophy.
"These are wrongs so enormous that the notion of compensation in monetary terms fails," he said.
"At St. Alban's Cathedral we stand with the Black Lives Matter movement to be allies for change — building a strong, just and fair community where the dignity of every human being is honored and celebrated; where black voices are heard, and where black lives matter," a cathedral statement announced.
Titled "A Last Supper," the 12-foot painting reworks Da Vinci's renowned 15th-century mural by casting a Jamaican-born model, Tafari Hinds, as Jesus.
Artist Lorna May Wadsworth says that the disciples in her painting are "hot" young models she corralled into her east London studio — with the promise of food and booze — on a cold November night in 2008. Judas is a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy she came across in a cafe.
An iconoclast fired an air-rifle pellet into the right side of the "black" Jesus not long ago, Wadsworth claims.
"The St. Alban's painting of the Last Supper with a black Jesus is, unfortunately, an artistic failure, both in terms of style and in terms of cultural authenticity," Shaw remarked. "The contrived appearance is emphasized by the contrast between Jesus and the all-white Apostles."
"It makes perfect sense for African Christians to depict gospel scenes in their own cultural terms, as we see in many centuries of Coptic religious art, but this is in danger of being tokenistic," observed Shaw, who is also chairman of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales.
"Recently, BLM activists in the Netherlands vandalized a copy of the famous Polish image of the Black Madonna: an image historically blackened with age. It does not seem likely that the deeply anti-Christian attitudes of many radicals calling for racial justice will be placated by this depiction of the Last Supper," Shaw added.
"We're going to be looking very carefully and putting them [statues and monuments] in context and seeing if they all should be there," he added, after groveling over his white privilege.
The former Catholic abbey, now headed by the openly homosexual Anglican dean Jeffrey John, suffered iconoclastic vandalism in the wake of the Protestant Reformation and most of the buildings, including the shrines of St. Alban and St. Amphibalus were destroyed. St. Alban's relics were stolen.
British columnist James Delingpole pointed to apparently contradictory and ambiguous statements from York Minster on the Constantine controversy.
"And why is the spokeswoman for York Minster spouting this PC drivel?" Delingpole asked.
"Because she is taking her lead from the Church of England's spiritual leader, the preposterous and wet Justin Welby — who simply doesn't deserve the job of Archbishop of Canterbury, not least because he clearly has no sympathy with his Church's architectural and historical heritage," he excoriated.
Yale historian Noel Lenski explains that before the reign of Constantine, Roman officials who converted to Christianity were enslaved. This was a primary means for enforcing the previous Roman emperors' ban on Christianity.
The emperor Maxentius even "forced freeborn noblewomen into sexual servitude," he writes in Constantine and Slavery: Libertas and the Fusion of Roman and Christian Values.
Far from supporting slavery, when Constantine wrested power from Maxentius and Licinius, he "deliberately portrayed himself as their opposite, the champion of freedom," writes Lenski, noting that Constantine introduced freedom of worship in his Edict of Milan (313 AD).
"By freeing his subjects from the servitude of injustice ... Constantine was enacting God's plan for the universe," observes Lenski.
"A number of early Christian texts advocate in the broadest terms the 'freeing of prisoners' or 'ransoming of captives' as an act of Christian charity and others show the early Christian community actually engaged in the activity of ransoming those in prison or in slavery," Lenski adds.
"Once Constantine took the reins of government, he was able to implement the same mandate on a global, political scale and thus to endow a traditional, Roman good with Christian significance," Lenski stresses.