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Dublin: 5 °C Sunday 21 September, 2014

A holy mess: Bishop and TD weigh on on controversial UCC exhibit

The exhibition features a bikini-clad Virgin Mary in a “provocative” pose. It’s part of a conference organised by the Mexican Studies Centre.

Alma Lopez's Our Lady print
Alma Lopez's Our Lady print

CATHOLICS IN THE US are being urged to participate in an ‘E-protest’ over a controversial exhibition which opens at University College Cork today.

The Bishop of Cork and Ross and a Fine Gael South Central TD have already criticised the exhibit – entitled Our Lady and other Queer Santas – which showcases the work of Mexican artist Alma Lopez.

It features an image of the Virgin Mary dressed in a floral bikini with her hands on her hips. She’s held aloft by a bare-breasted angel.

Bishop John Buckley has said that it is “regrettable and unacceptable that the exhibition seeks to portray the mother of God in such an offensive way” reports the Examiner. Bishop Buckley said that:

Respect for Mary, the mother of God, is bred into the bones of Irish people and entwined in their lives.

Lopez’s work is going on display as part of an event being run by the Mexican Studies Centre at UCC’s Department of Spanish Studies. The centre has organised a conference on Chicano culture, which refers to US citizens of Mexican descent. Lopez will also speak at the conference and launch her book Our Lady of Controversy: Alma Lopez’s Irreverent Apparition. She’ll screen a documentary called I Love Lupe, which details how Chicana artists have integrated the Virgin Mary into their own art.

There has been a significant amount of online criticism of the exhibition. The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property is accusing UCC of hosting “non-stop blasphemy” by allowing the “self-avowed lesbian” Lopez to display her art. The America Needs Fatima site urges people to tell UCC how shocked they are by signing a petition.

Cork Student News reports that Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer has criticised UCC over the exhibit for allowing “any one set of beliefs to be ridiculed”. He says that promoting religious tolerance is crucial and that the university must afford others the opportunity to “present an alternative and balanced point of view”.

On its Facebook page the UCC Atheist Society comments that it’s “interesting to see a government minister comment on the supposed controversy. One would think that he would have better things to be doing when you consider the current economic situation in the country”.

Ireland introduced blasphemy legislation in 2009, which defines blasphemy as “publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matter sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherent of that religion, with some defences permitted”.

What do you think? Is UCC right to allow this exhibition to take place?


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