Polish Catholics Push Back Against Blasphemy

by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  November 30, 2017   

Backlash to liberal America Magazine causes Catholic site to remove crass image

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DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Polish Catholic website is under heavy fire after reprinting an article from America Magazine that blasphemes the Mother of God.

The original article was published August 3 in the Jesuit-run magazine, where Fr. James Martin is editor-at-large. Polish website Deon.pl released a Polish-language version this Monday.

The article's author, Michael S. Neubeck, discussed using paintings of the Blessed Virgin Mary to make her more relatable to students at the all-boys Catholic high school where he teaches literature. Near the end of the article, Neubeck wrote that one of his favorite images of Mary is Edvard Munch's "Madonna," an eroticized painting of a nude woman.

Deon readers reacted fiercely to the publication. They even organized a petition to get the Polish version removed from the site. The article is still on the site, but as of Wednesday the image of the nude painting has been deleted.

The naked female form in Munch's "Madonna" may or may not be the Blessed Virgin Mary, as Munch (who rejected Christianity) originally used the alternate title "Loving Woman" for the painting. Some have understood the image as a symbolic, psychological image — a common subject matter for expressionist painters. What some art experts see in "Madonna" is the painter meditating on his own unconscious attitudes toward women and sexuality.

Neubeck thinks the erotic figure is actually an image of the Blessed Mother and heaps praise on the painting.

Our Lady of Częstochowa

Readers in Poland were infuriated. Poland is a thoroughly Catholic country, unique among European nations. For instance, Poland's government declared 2017 a Jubilee Year in honor of the sacred image of Our Lady of Częstochowa.

The image has been kept for centuries at Jasna Góra, a monastery outside the town of Częstochowa in Poland. It is one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in the universal Church.

On Wednesday, just two days after the Polish-language version debuted, the editors of Deon published a brief write-up about the pushback they were getting from readers.

"The publication of the article caused controversy among some readers," the editors explained. "We received mail and telephone requests from some of them to remove the image from the material. Munch's image has been removed from the article."

The explanation concludes, "We sincerely apologize to all those who felt offended by the publication."

Another Polish Catholic website, Polonia Christiana, blasted Deon for featuring the article, saying it "crosses lines." It notes, "And the author ... praises and suggests 'celebrating' vulgar images! He calls them valuable!"

And the author ... praises and suggests 'celebrating' vulgar images! He calls them valuable.

Neubeck's controversial article opens by discussing the importance of using images of Mary to make her more relatable. After describing a few paintings of Mary that he and his high school students shared in class, he describes Munch's "Madonna" as a personal favorite of his outside the classroom:

Another image of Mary that I find increasingly compelling is Edvard Munch's presumptive "Madonna." Munch creates a balanced tension between the active and the passive. His painting's eroticism conveys a figure both deliberately engaged and also willing to follow. The moment, though, is entirely Mary's, pairing erotic ecstasy with the singularity of her position in history.

Neubeck then clarifies, "I have not shared this painting with my students."

In the painting, what looks like an orange halo can be seen above the nude woman's head. This apparent halo, combined with the name "Madonna," might explain why Neubeck believes it is an image of the Blessed Mother.

Using the term "erotic ecstasy" in reference to the Blessed Virgin Mary flies in the face of everything that Mary is for Catholics. The Mother of God was conceived without sin and lived without sin. She was perfect in all her virtues, including chastity and modesty.

Furthermore, many saints have touted Our Lady's intercession as a powerful safeguard against sins of lust, owing to Mary's most perfect chastity. Devotions to Mary, such as the Total Consecration and the daily Rosary, are especially helpful to those who struggle with habitual attachments to sins against chastity.

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The vice of impurity is rampant in the modern Western world, especially among young men like Neubeck's students. Ninety-three percent of boys view pornographic online content before turning 18. The sweeping hypersexualization of pop culture and the easy access to sinful online content have created a perfect storm; many people habituate sins of lust from a young age — getting younger every year, as childhood internet access becomes ever more common, typically unmonitored.

Another part of Neubeck's article says controversial things about the Blessed Mother in a more subtle way. Near the opening of the piece, Neubeck makes a dig against her Immaculate Conception and Perpetual Virginity, complaining that these dogmas of the Church make it harder for him to speak out against chauvinism and 'slut-shaming.' He wrote, "If I hope to inspire sympathy in the boys for the complexities and burdens experienced by women, celebrating the spiritual stainlessness of a woman who would then up the ante with a virgin birth does not help."

During her famous apparitions a hundred years ago, Our Lady of Fatima imparted the First Saturday Devotion. On the first Saturday of the month for five consecutive months, participants in the devotion attend Holy Mass and receive Our Lord in Holy Communion, make a good Confession, pray five decades of the Holy Rosary and spend 15 minutes contemplating the mysteries of the Rosary.

The reason it is five Saturdays, rather than some other number, is because the devotion makes reparation for five offenses against the Immaculate Heart of Mary. America Needs Fatima explains:

Sister Lucia's confessor questioned her about the reason for the five Saturdays, asking why not seven or nine. ... she related about a vision she had of Our Lord while staying in the convent chapel part of the night of the 29th to the 30th of the month of May 1930. The reasons Our Lord gave were as follows:

a. Blasphemies against the Immaculate Conception
b. Blasphemies against her virginity
c. Blasphemies against her divine maternity, at the same time the refusal to accept her as the Mother of all men
d. Instilling indifference, scorn and even hatred towards this Immaculate Mother in the hearts of children
e. Direct insults against Her sacred images.

America Magazine, a monthly publication run by the Jesuits, employs and prominently features pro-gay Fr. James Martin. It has a reputation for pushing leftist talking points. For instance, one recent article on the magazine's website was described as an "examination of conscience on immigration that all Catholics need to do."


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